Although an American idea, the "Desert Eagle" was developed in Israel by the IMI (Israel Military Industries) in the early 1980s. The first Desert Eagles were manufactured in Israel and started appearing on gun dealers' shelves in the US around 1985. Following a problem in meeting demand for the pistols in 1992 (and probably fearful of the prospect of government import limitations), Magnum Research started assembling parts of the gun in the US and currently is working toward full assembly and possibly manufacture of the guns stateside.
Given the fact that the IMI is best known for the Uzi series of submachine guns and the Galil rifles, it isn't surprising that the Desert Eagle departs radically from many other semiauto pistol designs, though the exterior belays this. The basic layout is like that of most other modern semiauto pistols (with the magazine release on the side of the grip, slide release on the left side of the frame, and a thumb-activated slide safety).
Internally things are different. The pistol is gas-operated with a system that is more like a rifle than the delayed blow-back systems used with most other semiauto hand guns. The gas system employs a fixed, shrouded barrel which stays in position on the frame during firing, with gas coming up a port just ahead of the chamber to operate a three-lug rotating bolt that rides in the slide assembly. The fixed barrel gives the gun a lot of potential accuracy, a potential realized with most of these pistols when fired with quality ammunition.
In addition to .357 Magnum, .41 AE, .41 Magnum, and .44 Magnum chamberings, the Desert Eagle is also available chambered for the .50 AE (Action Express).
The .50 AE uses a rebated cartridge head of 0.514 inch - the same dimension as the .44 Magnum rim. This made it practical to create a cartridge with a .50-caliber bullet without necessitating the production of a new slide assemble or bolt. The same slide assembly created for the .44 Magnum fits with the .50 AE. All that's changed is the barrel and a few other odds and ends of parts.
The .50 AE (also known as the .50 Magnum) is currently available from CCI and IMI with the latter ammunition being imported into the US by Magnum Research under the "Samson Ultra" trademark. The bullets with this cartridge are generally around 300 grains and have a muzzle velocity of around 1,380 feet per second (with a 6-inch barrel). This gives the bullet 1,260-plus foot pounds of energy, placing the cartridge well above the .44 Magnum in terms of power.
While the hammering of the shooter by a cartridge like the .50 Magnum can be awesome, the weight and gas operation of the Desert Eagle does a good job of reducing this kick, making it considerably less than might be experienced with a revolver chambered for the .44 Magnum. Muzzle blast and flash from the .50 Magnum is also extreme; for this reason it is best employed with a longer barrel whenever this is an option.
Unlike most other Desert Eagle pistols, the .50 Magnum models have a contoured barrel with an integral scope mount grooved into its top. There are currently three barrel lengths in all chamberings available for the Desert Eagle: 6, 10, and 14 inches long; earlier models also were available with an 8-inch barrel, but this length has since been discontinued. At the time of this writing, barrels with Mag-na-porting compensation vents are also available to cut recoil to even more manageable amounts.
When the various grips, barrel lengths, finishes, and chamberings available for the Desert Eagle are taken into consideration, there are about 5,000 possible configurations of this pistol right from the factory, without any modifications by a gunsmith or owner other than exchanging a barrel assembly, sights, or grip panels. While this makes these guns a collector's nightmare, they are ideal for those wanting a "custom" pistol without the high price tag such one-of-a-kind guns normally carry.
The Colt Python was officially introduced in 1955 as Colt's top-of the-line revolver. It was Originally intended to be a large frame, double action (DA), .38 Special target revolver, but at the last minute the chambering was changed to .357 Magnum. This fortuitous decision resulted in what is arguably the best all-around handgun in the world. Almost immediately the Python gained a reputation as the premium American revolver.
It is built on a .41 caliber size frame for extra durability. The action is fitted and hand-honed in the Colt Custom Shop to insure superior fit, smoothness, and a good trigger pull.
The Python has many special features. Like all Colt revolvers, the cylinder rotates into the frame for an extremely tight lock-up. The Python barrel has a ventilated rib on top and a full length underlug. Inside, Python barrels are bored with a very slight, full length, taper toward the muzzle for superior accuracy.
All Pythons come with excellent adjustable sights. The front sight is pinned to the full-length ramp atop the ventilated rib so that it can be changed (at the factory or by a gunsmith) if desired. The rear sight is an Accro target sight. These sights are durable and very accurate.
The full-length lug beneath the barrel was originally hollowed-out. Colt soon began leaving the underlug solid.
Even the finish on the Python is superior. Colt's Royal Blue is the ultimate polished blue finish for steel guns. No other blued production revolver can compare to the beauty of Colt's Royal Blue Python.
For many years the apex in beauty and protection was the bright nickel finish. This was a very smooth, very durable, nickel plating. The nickel finish was eventually retired after Colt perfected the mirror polished Ultimate stainless steel Python.
Colt offers two finishes for stainless steel Pythons, a conventional "brushed" finish, or the mirror-like Ultimate finish. The Ultimate is a stainless steel Python polished to degree similar to a Royal Blue gun.
Pythons have been produced with four standard barrel lengths, 2.5 inches, 4 inches, 6 inches, and 8 inches. At the 1998 SHOT Show I was told by one of the Colt factory reps that all Python revolvers would henceforth be produced entirely in the Custom Shop. In 2005 the Python was discontinued altogether.
The 2.5-inch barrel is the easiest to conceal. the 4-inch barrel is probably the optimum length for uniformed personnel to carry on duty, and also makes a very fine civilian self-defense weapon. The 6 inch barrel lets hot .357 loads achieve higher velocity, and is the most popular barrel length. A 6-inch Python is the ultimate all-around handgun, useful for target shooting, plinking, hunting, and self-defense.
The hunter's special is the 8-inch barrel. Scope mounts are available for mounting optical sights on all Pythons.
The accuracy of the Python revolver is legendary. I have owned Pythons with 4 inch, 6 inch, and 8 inch barrels, and all have been, literally, more accurate than I can shoot. Custom Shop Pythons come with targets fired on the Colt range. The target that came with my 4" Ultimate Python was a 3/4-inch, 6 shot group fired by hand at 25 yards, from a rest, with factory loads.
Subjectively, this finest of all DA revolvers is a "soft" shooter. By which I mean that most shooters feel that the Python kicks less than other DA magnum revolvers of comparable weight. I use the genuine Colt/Pachmayr target style rubber grips on all of my Pythons, which also helps to minimize the effect of recoil.
The style and features of the Python have been extensively copied by other gun makers, particularly the frame size and the full-length barrel underlug. For example, an "L" frame S&W will fit perfectly in a holster designed for a Python. However, no one has succeeded in copying all of the features of the Python.