[ I’d like to introduce you to our newest writer Katie A. Katie has an extensive background in writing gun reviews as well as articles on military topics. This is Katie’s first review for TFB and I hope you enjoy it!
– Phil ]
The Desert Eagle has seen use by Hollywood in numerous movies including RoboCop and The Boondock Saints and television series such as Supernatural and Revolution, but while the full-size handgun may have opened the door, it’s the somewhat smaller Baby Desert Eagle II that has charged through. When Magnum Research, Inc., halted importation of the Baby Desert Eagle II in 2008 after having supplied it to the U.S. market via Israel Weapons Industries for nearly two decades, the forced lull in availability caused a sharp rise in demand. In came Kahr Arms, buying out Magnum Research, Inc., and reintroducing importation of the gun in 2011. Manufacturing now takes place in Pillager, Minnesota. The new Baby Desert Eagle II made its debut at the 2011 SHOT Show, and since then its popularity has remained fairly solid.
The Baby Desert Eagle II, which we’ll refer to by its nickname of “Baby Eagle” for the remainder of this review, first hit the market in 1990. Its manufacturer is Israel Weapons Industries (IWI), an Israeli company once known as the “Magen” division of Israel Military Industries Ltd (IMI). Privatization of Magen in 2005 led to IWI’s stand-alone status; prior to 2005 IMI was the Baby Eagle’s maker. In Israel the Baby Eagle is known as the Jericho 941 and even the Uzi Eagle, perhaps because IWI is best known for its creation of the Uzi submachine gun. The Baby Eagle was originally made in the image of the renowned CZ-75, the one 9mm pistol Col. Jeff Cooper felt was outstanding.
For this review I used the BE9915RS, the semi-compact, steel-frame 9mm Baby Desert Eagle II. The gun came in a hard shell case with 1”-thick foam cut out for a precise fit to the pistol’s frame. With the Baby Eagle are a slim plastic cleaning rod, two steel bore brushes, a cable lock with two keys, and two 15-round magazines. It has a high-quality carbon steel frame and a matte black oxide finish.
Visually the gun has a nice presentation; the matte finish is smooth and evenly applied and it has a clean, if utilitarian, appearance. The slide resembles that of the original Desert Eagle and is flush to the frame with the slide rail grooves sitting inside the frame. Many semi-autos’ slides sit atop the frame and wrap around, and the Baby Eagle’s fitted craftsmanship gives it an aesthetically pleasing appearance. Standard factory sights are three-dot combat sights, which are low and designed for durability and speed. The sights were off and needed an adjustment for accuracy. Within the slide is the polygonal-rifled barrel, which is 3.93” long and has an integral ramp. The slide design is bushing-less, so the barrel is locked and unlocked using a curved slot that is cut into the lug under the chamber. I worked the slide for extended periods on multiple occasions over a period of two weeks and found its initially stiff, rough movement began to smooth out, implying that with enough time it could lose its stiffness altogether.
The safety on the Baby Eagle is ambidextrous and located at the top of the slide directly below the rear sights. It works by dropping the hammer and blocking the firing pin, which means the trigger is de-linked from the firing mechanism. Pressing downwards engages the safety and exposes a white dot; pushing upwards disengages the safety and exposes a red dot. The safety worked simply and smoothly on both sides.
The trigger guard is rectangular with an oblong cut-out and has grooves on the front. Although the grooves at the front are meant to prevent slippage if you prefer to rest your finger there, it will not be a natural resting place for the majority of shooters; my hands are fairly large and my fingers quite long, and resting my finger there was unnatural and uncomfortable. The Baby Eagle is a double-action pistol and has a smooth, curved trigger designed to make firing well balanced. When firing double-action this gun’s trigger pull measured at just over 13 pounds; single-action the trigger measured at 4.5 pounds. Firing DA the trigger is noticeably stiff, while firing SA it’s quite smooth; the contrast is significant. My longer fingers meant curving my index finger out to properly rest my finger on the trigger, which was surprising given the larger frame overall.
The grip is polymer and has a non-slip surface with the IWI logo etched midway down on each side. It is similar to that of the CZ-75 it was modeled after and fairly slim despite its double-stack magazine. The front and back straps are ergonomically curved and grooved for improved grip, and the heel of the frame swells slightly for stability. There is a beaver tail at the top to prevent those with larger hands or a higher grip being cut by the slide. Holding the Baby Eagle is comfortable for those with larger hands, but it’s still a bigger gun than many compacts and will be a stretch for smaller hands.
You’ll find the magazine is the standard CZ-75 style, which is widely available. Although these magazines are listed as 15-rounds apiece, one magazine held 16 and one held 17. The magazine release is located as usual near the top of the grip right at the rear of the trigger guard and releases easily. Dropping the magazine several hundred times smoothed out any initial stiffness and the magazine released smoothly each time with no catching. The base of the magazine does not sit flush to the base of the grip but leaves a ¼” gap. The springs in the magazines were surprisingly loose, offering almost no resistance. When loaded, the magazine seats snugly.
Although the manufacturer lists the gun as weighing 37.7 ounces with an empty magazine, it weighed in at 41 ounces. In addition, the specs listed the gun as 7.75” in overall length but this gun was just shy of 7.5” long. It is also worth noting the 5” height is without the magazine and doesn’t include the sights.
Fieldstripping the Baby Eagle was straightforward and simple. Simply drop the magazine and confirm the gun is unloaded, setting the safety to the “Fire” position and manually cocking the hammer. It was a simple matter to push the slide back with one hand to align the two dimples at the rear of the slide and frame; the top dimple is immediately behind the safety. While holding the slide in that position, press the slide release on the right-hand side of the barrel and move the slide forward to remove it from the frame. Unlike some pistols that require lengthy examining of the manual and multiple tries, the Baby Eagle was quick and easy.
In order to assess the gun’s functionality thoroughly I prefer using a variety of ammunition. Any gun can cycle flawlessly with high-quality rounds, but we’ve all had a gun finicky about certain ammunition. All test firing took place at an indoor range at distances between 10 and 25 yards using paper targets. Prior to hitting the range I dry-fired the Baby Eagle at great length, simply sitting down in a safe location and working the trigger.
When I did finally take the gun out, I started with the lightest-weight *ammunition: 115 grain FMJ from PMC. The recoil was minimal, as expected. As noted above the sights had to be adjusted at the start, and accuracy was good out to 25 yards. Next was 147 grain FMJ from Federal’s American Eagle line followed by 147 grain FMJ from Remington UMC, both of which performed well, and the greater weight of the ammunition produced only a negligible difference in recoil. Finally, defense rounds: 124 grain XTP from Hornady, which was a pleasure to shoot, and 147 grain JHP’s from Remington’s Golden Saber line. Due to the overall size and heft of the Baby Eagle neither defense ammunition created significant recoil, and accuracy was easily maintained.
There were no failures of any kind, and in the end this gun had 250 rounds put through it on one day and 500 rounds on a series of other days. For an experienced shooter this gun is going to be easy to handle, and for a newer shooter it would make a decent first gun due to its manageable recoil and the simplicity of sighting in. Follow-up shots are easy to make and tight groups under 4” are also possible, making this a nice choice for self-defense use whether at home or for personal carry.
One con that came to the forefront was the gun’s reaction to changes in humidity here in the South, moving from the air-conditioning of the house to the heat and damp of the outdoors: this is a steel gun, and it may be prone to rust. Removing the rust was a matter of fine steel wool and FrogLube CLP while preventing future rust is a matter of storing it in a silicone sock.
Overall, this gun is a pleasure to shoot. Although breaking it in might take some time, it seems worthwhile. Yes, it is a big gun, heavy and solid, but those very things some might see as a flaw also serve to make for fast accurate shots. In a self-defense scenario you need to be able to execute quick follow-up shots with excellent placement, and with the Baby Eagle, you can. The downside for concealed carry is, of course, its size; it is not a simple gun to conceal and its weight will be a negative for many who prefer less downward pull on their beltline throughout the day. Regardless, it’s a reasonably priced, well-made option for target shooting, and if you are able to conceal it, do. I would recommend this for both new and experienced shooters not afraid of a break-in period; it’s a well-made gun capable of delivering fine accuracy.
*Ammunition for testing was provided at no charge by AmmoForSale.com.
Caliber: 9mm, .40 S&W, .45 ACP
Barrel Length: 3.93”
Weight w/empty mag: 37.7 ounces; empty mag 3.2 ounces
OA Length: 7.75”
Slide Width: 1.125”
Construction: Carbon steel frame and slide
Finish: Black oxide
Trigger Pull: 12-13 lbs (DA), 4.5-5.0 lbs (SA)
Trigger Reach: 3”
Locking System: Lugs to slots, barrel lugs to slots in slide
Rifling: 6 RH grooves
Safety: Slide-mounted safety and decocker; ambidextrous
Firing Pin Block: Yes
Sights: Fixed white 3-dot
Magazines: 10 and 15 rounds