Desert Eagle Pistol FAQ

Desert Eagle Pistol - Is it a good choice for self-defense?


The following is strictly author's personal view regarding the subject of using Desert Eagle Pistol for self/home defence. Your opinion, experience and abilities may be different.
Gator, 1999...



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The reason I wrote this article is an increasing number of emails I am getting, asking the same question: Is the Desert Eagle Pistol a good choice for Self-Defense? Honestly, I am no big expert in that area, nor I am a professional shooting instructor or tactical ops operative. Besides, there's plethora of the information on the internet alone, where you can get all the information and opinions. However, since this site is mine and I've managed to collect quite some information about DE, I guess I have to say few words about the subject too. The following is strictly my opinion based on my experience with different caliber Desert Eagle Pistols, evaluation of different books and articles regarding self-defense and tons of the information on the net.
    Personally to me, the short answer is - No. The Desert Eagle Pistol is not a good choice for self-defense. For several reasons, I'll discuss them below.

One of the main reasons this question is asked so often is obviously the Hollywood :) Probably because DE is loved by Hollywood moviemakers so much and every other tough guy (& some of the tough girls like Nikita) shoot .50 AE Desert Eagles without a blink, some get simply mislead about magnum caliber handguns in general and DEP especially ;) Either way, movies are no good source for that type of information.

I don't believe DE can be a good choice for self-defense or Combat. It's too "different" for both purposes. Let's not forget that the original designation of DE pistol was silhouette target shooting, and that is the area where DEP excels the most. It is an excellent handgun for what it was designed for. Well, hunting too :), though many argue about hunting with DE, hundreds of DE enthusiasts prove the opposite, successfully hunting down different games including bears :) Ok, enough about hunting, let's get back to the subject at hand, self-defense.
    I will not be discussing any aspects of self-defense or home defense in general. I'll try to motivate my opinion why the Desert Eagle Pistol is not the best choice for the self-defense purposes. Given the typical self-defense situation, or let's say the most probable scenario, it'll be indoors with the low visibility, dark or murky, something like that. Most of the firings in self-defense situations were 7-9 feet or less. We've got the general picture here, let's check the evidence now.

Accuracy - As we can see the distance of 7-9 feet is rather close or very close, so one of the greatest DE assets, its great accuracy, plays no important role here. Of course you want more accurate handgun, it can't hurt to be more accurate, but at what price? In general people shoot much worse than their handgun can perform, at 7 feet even that is irrelevant.

Reliability - The most important thing. Ok, you are like Arnold and have no probs handling heavy weaponry and recoil seems to be no big deal to you. You don't care about muzzle flash either, but if your gun jams :((( You'll find yourself in a tough position. Every self-defense and tactical classes will teach you how to clear a jams fast and more or less efficiently, but still the difficulties vary from handgun to handgun, and a lot depend son it. Yes it can happen to ANY handgun, but then again, everything is comparative and clearing a jam on DE is significantly more difficult than, let's say on my Para-Ordnance Limited. It's very simple, the slide is much harder to pull back. There are some other, DE specific details those make it worse, like longer rounds, free floating magazine (forget that you can't depress the magazine butt, and there goes your potential jam), breech location and size, etc.
    I have said almost on every DE page and I repeat that here, DE is a very different handgun to shoot. It's nothing impossible, everyone can do it after some practice and with a little attention, but still different. Technically it sounds so simple, don't allow your wrist to "limp", hold it tight, straight elbow and absorb the recoil with your shoulder and do not press the magazine butt. However, for starters it takes some time for most of the people to shoot DE properly even at the range, now throw in the high stress situation, like self-defense is, I doubt many will remember any of those rules at all or will be in the mood to perform everything right, I personally admit here that I have same doubts regarding myself. So, the conclusion is you want something less finicky and more forgiving then Desert Eagle pistol is.

The following topics are large caliber handgun round specific, those apply to DE as long as it comes in 3 different, very powerful calibers .44 magnum, .50 AE, .440 Cor-Bon. Big caliber handguns have its proponents and opponents. Personally I think it's not a very good choice for self-defense, I prefer .40 SW, famous .45 ACP or 9mm parabelum. .357 Magnum has an excellent record but I don't like revolvers and DE is not a good choice either.

Weight - Not really DE specific, there are lots of heavy handguns. If you check DE specs page you can see that DE in .50 AE caliber weights a hefty 72.4 oz(more than 2 kg). While this weight is a great help with the recoil at the shooting range, the more weight means more difficult handling, everywhere. This includes draw and aim. Apparently a handgun that weights half of that even loaded is much easier to deal with, especially under stress.
    Size - DE is a fairly large handgun, e.g check this picture to see Desert Eagle and Para Ordnance P-40 S.W Limited together and you'll get the idea. It's quite hard to conceal, though this is not of a big importance at home, yet the large size plus its significant weight make it more difficult to handle DE.

Muzzle Flash - This has been a discussion topic for years. Don't know about .440 Cor-Bon but with .50 AE the fireball is just immense. On hotter loads it few feet long and lights the whole room and Cor-Bon is no candy either, having more powder behind the bullet, it's rather the opposite. In short, you'll be blinded for some time after firing a shot, if it makes you feel any better so will be the assailant. Now imagine 2 persons with the guns and half blinded with the flash... Definitely this is not the thing you want happening to you, especially under extreme conditions.

Recoil - Another well known fact, what you want in the extreme situation and is very important to you - shorter recovery time. In other words, the less time you have to spend to fire next AIMED shot, the better to you. And again, this is not only about DE, just DE is even more powerful. Yes, I have said many times that DE does an excellent job to reduce the recoil, but still, let's not forget that .50 AE is some 40-50% stronger than .44 magnum, .440 Cor-Bon is even stronger. Now compare .44 magnum, that is at least twice or three times more powerful than the most of the conventional ammo, you've got the idea already, right :)?. I've seen it many times at the range, when the novice shoots .50 AE, his first shot is more or less good, like somewhere 8-10, but after being hammered by that first round, all the attention goes not to aiming, but "HOW DO I HOLD THIS GUN NOT TO HIT MY HEAD". Let alone the fact that many times DE just jams because of the improper handling and that becomes the reliability issue which I have already addressed above.

Stopping Power - Well, .357 magnum is one of the best man stoppers in the world. Despite of that fact, other factors are still in power, sure .357 has much less of the flash than .44 and above, yet it has plenty of it, believe me :) The recoil felt with .357 DE is very low, lower than in many conventional handguns with smaller calibers, but still, reliability and the weight are very important. In regards of big calibers, I'll have to repeat myself here again :) There's lots of info on the net why extremaly powerfull rounds should be avoided for self and home defense. .50 AE is enough to go through class II bulletproof west. Now, unless you are sure you have a very good reason for not accepting anything less, this is simply an overkill. If the assailant is not wearing that west, your bullet will go through him and it will still have too much power to punch holes through the few more walls. All you can do then, is to hope that no one will be in its way. .440 Cor-Bon will be worse in that aspect, firing .44 magnum bullets with better aerodynamics(compared to .50 AE) and with more gunpowder... So, in short, simply more power is not the best thing in self-defense. Let's not forget that you are (and will be held) responsible for every shot you fire during the gunfight.
    There's an objection to that, stating that hollow point rounds can be used and that decreases the risk of secondary incidents. However, if you miss you don't really want your bullet flying couple miles and retaining lethal power, then unfortunately there are no ideal bullets, and hollow points have their troubles as well. I mean, often they simply fail to expand as designed even after successfully hitting the target, and with the .50 AE or .440 Cor-Bon that is getting much worse.

Fear Factor - This is one of the biggest pros of Desert Eagle in terms of self-defense use. I've simply overlooked that aspect in the first version of this article, and later several people pointed this out. You see, looking at .50 caliber Desert Eagle pistol from the "wrong" end is very "impressive" for most of the people at least. You can have a look to get the idea. Chances are pretty good that simply displaying something of that size can turn the bad guy back. However, I wouldn't really count on that. Of course this is the best case scenario right after "no bad guys at all", but relaying on that... Probably you'd be much better of packing a 12 gauge shotgun then :) It has both, intimidating looks and very good for self defense use.

Epilogue - I guess I've explained why I think DE is a bad choice for the self and home defense. Well, if there's nothing else it'll do the job too but we're talking about choices here. Anyways, I am far from saying that DE is a bad weapon, as you could see almost all subjects were not DE specific. Desert Eagle is a great design for its purpose, target shooting & hunting that is, just less suited for the other use. DE is no good as a potato peeler either, but that doesn't make DE or any other handgun a bad one right? ;) Most of the advantages DE has are less important in self-defense situation, like it's exceptional accuracy, all it's specifics with shooting become drowbacks, because of the high stress and danger. Simply, everything has it's place and time ;) and Desert Eagle Pistol is no exception. Now, said all of that, the choice of course is yours. If you know for sure what you are doing it's your business and yours only. Basically despite of all controversys & contradictions as everyone agrees the best self defense weapon is the one you can use the best ;) Just be sure of what you are doing, plinking and shooting targets is one thing, but everything will change dramatically when your life and the lives of your loved ones are on the line.

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