Gun Review: Magnum Research Baby Desert Eagle II

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[ 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.

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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 The Baby Eagle was originally made in the image of the renowned CZ-75, the one 9mm pistol Col.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.

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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.

Construction

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Shooting

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.

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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.

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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.
Specs

Caliber: 9mm, .40 S&W, .45 ACP
Barrel Length: 3.93”
Height: 5”
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: DA/SA
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



katie.ainsworth

Katie is an avid shooter, hunter, military journalist, and Southern girl. Firearms are her passion whether at the range or on a spot-and-stalk after a big buck. She’s a staff writer at The Firearm Blog and writes about guns, hunting, and the military for various publications both online and in print such as Outdoor Life, Handguns, and Shooting Illustrated. Shoot her a message at ainsworth.kat@usa.com


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  • IrateBlackGuy

    Gun reviews by women are like food reviews by anorexics.

  • kalashnikev

    I guess we’ll have to wait until version III to ditch the stupid slide mounted safety… or buy a Canik T100.

    • erwos

      I bought a Jericho with a frame-mounted safety. The trick is to go on Gunbroker and buy one of the police surplus guns that Cole’s is selling. They won’t be new condition, but they’ll have the sexy IMI markings, no stupid “Desert Eagle” marks, and no apparent import marks… and a frame safety.

      • kalashnikev

        Polymer frame though…

        • raz-0

          CDI sales has a bunch of metal ones with frame mounted safety.

          • kalashnikev

            Nice! Just found them. I haven’t ordered since they were “gcoledist.”

        • erwos

          I checked right before I wrote that, and there were like 3+ Jericho 941Fs on GB.

  • Azril @ Alex Vostox

    WELCOME ABOARD KATIE!

    Anyhow, anytime I seeing Jericho, the first thing flashed is character from Cowboy Bepop, Spike Spiegel.

    • jamezb

      Yay Spike!

    • Katie A

      Thank you Alex – I admit, this gun does bring up a long list of tv and movie references!

    • Sneeky

      yus! get some laser grips on it and the chrome barrel/guide kit and its solid, an airsoft company made exact repo’s in the 90’s but sadly the run was only a 100 or so guns, always tempted to build either an airsoft version (living in ireland 🙁 ) or build one from a de-ac.

  • I just can’t buy a Jericho (I will never call it the baby eagle) while it has a slide mounted safety. C’mon even Taurus does frame mounted safeties. The only slide mounted safeties that work well are on Walther 380s.

    • Katie A

      I know some Army guys who would agree with you on the slide-mounted safety issue on their Beretta’s.

      • Yeah I was in the Marines as a Machine Gunner and had an M9 issued, outside of that terrible safety placement it was a great weapon, but it was better off left off safe carried hammer down. Welcome aboard Katie

  • erwos

    The “Baby Desert Eagle” branding is basically a crime against humanity, and someone at Magnum Research needs to be put on trial for it. Especially when the original “Jericho” name was friggin’ awesome. Hell, even CD’s “Uzi Eagle” branding was better.

    I wish IWI-US would start importing the Jericho B, or maybe get the Barak pistols back in the country. The success of the Tavor is excellent marketing for other Israel-branded guns.

    • Ironically, the current IWI US descended from KBI, the original US importers of the Jericho 941.

    • The Carden Chronicles

      It is not basically a crime- It IS a crime. This is the standard issue sidearm of several of the Israeli security forces (Shin Bet, army, etc) and it is used in anti-terror and combat roles, well, every day (after all, this is ISRAEL we are talking about). The name Magnum Research chose shows just how lazy they are at marketing. They could be Selling this gun as the Jericho 941 and selling its combat pedigree and the fact that if you are a nation of 6 mill surrounded by 600 mill who have sworn to annihilate you, you generally manufacture good weapons to issue to your people.

      I alternate carrying both the Jericho 941 steel frame. In both 40 and .45. They are reliable, comfortable and a dream to shoot.

  • brian

    used to be called the Jericho 941. guess some folks will buy it just because it says desert eagle instead.

    • Paladin

      It still is called the Jericho 941, at least the ones made in Israel are. Magnum Research just loves to rename everything to bank on that Desert Eagle cachet.

    • Hey, thats good PR, and we all know that good PR doesn’t necessarily have to be smart.

  • jamezb

    An EXCELLENT review – welcome to TFB!
    I always loved the lines of these pistols, regardless of branding.

    • Katie A

      Thank you, happy to be here. The BDE does have a nice no-nonsense appeal; it has a job to do, and it does it.

  • Welcome aboard, ma’am! Excellent article, and looking forward to see more from you.

    • Katie A

      Thanks for the welcome. I look forward to being around for awhile.

  • Patrick R

    Outstanding article, much better than the garbage that TFB has been posting and calling “content”.

    • Katie A

      Thank you, Patrick, I’m glad you liked it. Feedback is always nice to have.

      • Patrick R

        Quite welcome Katie, I hope this is a sign of changing times on this site. I am looking forward to your next article/review.

        • We went to the Remingtons new hunting and outdoor products event last week so we’ll have more on the way over the next week.

          • Patrick R

            Awesome! I am looking forward to some new content on The Firearm Blog, I miss seeing a few original articles a day.

    • Dan

      Quit crying around. No one is forcing you to read the garbage.

      • Patrick R

        So I shouldn’t bring the fact that a resource that was once great is being ruined by spamming bullshit “articles” in an effort to create the illusion that there is more good content than there is? I was under the impression that these folks are journalists, not a bunch of dickcheeses that re-post the entirety of the internet. The number of actual reviews and original pieces is far less than it has been in the past in my opinion.

        Maybe you should be “crying about it” if you enjoy the way The Firearm Blog used to be.

  • Paul

    I have a older “Jericho 941.”

    Carried it for years, and it is the first handgun everyone wants to shoot at the range. I have used it to introduce and teach quite a few people to firearms and shooting.

    It is a great handgun, point well and feels great in the hand. I have large hands with slender fingers, my wife has small hands – no issues with either.

    It is probably my favorite 9mm pistol I have owned/fired – and I have handled / shot quite a few.

    Mine has a ton of holster wear and at least 6500 rounds through it. Never had to replace anything, never had a failure, and it is still just as accurate as the day I bought it.

    Fantastic and under-rated handguns these are.

    • Katie A

      It is certainly a tough, dependable gun, and its weight lends it even greater accuracy than other 9mm’s. I can see why it would be your favorite.

  • Does this gun have anything to do with the original Desert Eagle? Like, do they use the same design, but scaled down for smaller calibers?

    • Anonymoose

      No. They have a similar front end appearance, but the front end on the the real Desert Eagle is fixed. The Micro Desert Eagle has a gas operating system kinda, sorta similar to the Desert Eagle, but it’s development was totally independent (it was Czech design that CZ-UB decided to pass on). The Desert Eagle 1911 is just a 1911 with “Desert Eagle” written on it. The Mountain Eagle and MR Eagle are just Rem 700 and P99 copies.

  • TangledThorns

    My first pistol was the Jericho 941S in 9mm and its ultra-reliable so its my main home defense pistol. Only issue is its weight so I use my Glock19 for conceal carry.

  • matt

    according to wikipedia…
    “The original Jericho 941 … built using parts supplied by the Italian arms house Tanfoglio,
    …….subcontracting much of the basic fabrication
    work to Tanfoglio allowed IMI to quickly and economically put into
    production a pistol that would have enough Israeli content to satisfy
    government contract requirements.”

    From the TFB post: “Manufacturing now takes place in Pillager, Minnesota”

    Manufacturing
    now takes place in Pillager, Minnesota – See more at:
    http://www.thefirearmblog.com/blog/2014/10/21/magnum-research-baby-desert-eagle-ii/#sthash.h95xoFgI.dpuf
    Manufacturing
    now takes place in Pillager, Minnesota – See more at:
    http://www.thefirearmblog.com/blog/2014/10/21/magnum-research-baby-desert-eagle-ii/#sthash.h95xoFgI.dpuf
    Manufacturing
    now takes place in Pillager, Minnesota – See more at:
    http://www.thefirearmblog.com/blog/2014/10/21/magnum-research-baby-desert-eagle-ii/#sthash.h95xoFgI.dpuf
    Wonder if “manufacturing” means “assembly” and if there are still Tanfoglio’s made parts into it.

    • I don’t think so. Normally they’ll say assembly or some such if they don’t make them there. That doesn’t mean that some parts may not come from somewhere else.

    • Katie A

      According to Magnum, since their being purchased by Kahr, all BDE’s are entirely made in the USA. Unfortunately, Wikipedia pieces are actually written and contributed to by the general public, and so sometimes are not properly updated. Thank you for bringing this up, it’s an important detail to clarify.

  • Pseudo

    Ok, I need my betters here to educate me. Correct me wherever I’m wrong. The Jericho was IWI’s take on the CZ75. This gun has absolutely nothing to do with the gas-operated desert eagle. Yes, this is iconic, but only because the CZ75 is iconic? I have (and love) a Canik 120. What does this bring to the table that the Canik or a straight clone of the CZ (or new manufacture 1st party) doesn’t?

  • Bob

    Welcome. Nice article! I have read on some forums that the black finishes scratches easy compared to other firearms with similar finishes. Has that been the experience for any of you?

    Was the finish applied nicely on the inside of the slide and the covered area of the frame?

    • We looked it over pretty well and the finish is uniform throughout. That finish is hard enough that they took a quarter and rubbed the barrel with the edge of the quarter. The raised edges of the quarter starting wearing down without damaging the finish.

  • SM

    A very nice article. Welcome, Katie. I think you’ll fit in just fine.

    I really wanted one of these as my first pistol, but the CZ P07 beat it out on price.

  • Drake

    My only issue Baby Eagle 2 is for being such big heave 9mm not rate for any +p rounds if fire any in gun breaks Magnum Research well void your factory warranty fix it. No bull in ever new factory manual for Baby Eagle 2 states Magnum Research say has
    right void your warranty if they determined you have used 9mm +p rounds
    in your Baby Eagle 2. Tristar makes handgun looks just like Baby Eagle
    called Tristar T-120 $250.00 bucks cheaper use CZ75B mags you can get easyer cheaper than Baby Eagle 2 mags. For those not fan slide decocking safety on Baby Eagle 2 Tristar T-120 safety on frame allows care cocked locked version IWI Baby Eagle that being used in Israel buy police. Link below is IWI factory video from youtube of them put Baby Eagle through some extreme conditions testing. There not doing any of testing in video with slide decocking safety Baby Eagle 2 in video only one year old video.

  • Drake

    Link below from 2011 NRA Annual Meetings where head sale marketing from Magnum Research reviews Baby Eagle two where there get them from.

  • ghost

    If you miss, no problem, the pistol will nag the bad guy to death.

  • RenHoek

    Welcome Katie! This was my first handgun, semi compact, still my favorite after all these years. The only thing I wish MR would offer would be a semi compact or full size without the rail.

  • oodles-of-noodles

    I have a Baby Eagle and the only gripe I have with it is the Double Action trigger pull. It is very long. Do you know of any way to remedy this other than just shooting it as single action?

  • GreekPreparedness

    that is a great way to start Katie! Congrats.

    been shooting the IMI Jericho for close to 8 years in IPSC. One must handle it to understand its virtues. Glockers that tried it never turned back.

    I am kinda perplexed with the CZ-75 magazines issue you mentioned. In my gun regular CZ magazines will not work cos they are a bit shorter for the well, and do not engage the magazine retention. Longer ones from CZ Shadow line are a bit longer than the Jericho ones, and work just fine.

  • ReaperHD

    I have the whole family from the 50 to uzi 9 except the 380 and these weapons have never failed me.

  • maodeedee

    That would be a nice gun if they made it in 10MM and made it available in S/A cocked and locked mode. XLNT review by the way.

  • MULDRID

    I own the Baby Eagle l and it is by far my favorite 9mm. What a difference when going to the range, trying to hit what I am aiming at with a KelTec PF9, then transitioning to the Baby Eagle. Night and day for the better.

    I’m not sure why everyone has a problem with the name. Who cares what the name is? It is a fantastic pistol. They can call it the “pretty pansy pea shooter” for all I care, it will still be my favorite.

  • ghost

    Can I just haz the latest Israeli super model? I will shave and go formal, I’ll wear socks. Hey, man can not live by guns alone.