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Beauty And The Beast

Beauty And The Beast
Big-Nose Deagle Meets Rosie.

Two questions, okay? First, who was it at Magnum Research who stood gazin’ at a “standard” Desert Eagle .50AE, this massive crew-served hand-howitzer, scratchin’ his head an’ rubbin’ his chin and then muttered, “Ya know, this thing just needs to be a little bigger and heavier”? Huh? Who? And if it’s the same person who decided the “bigger and heavier” part should consist of an integral muzzle brake/compensator that looks like it belongs on the main gun of a Turin-designed Italian battle tank, I’d like to tell ’em “Bravissimo! You got it right!”

The second question occurred to me when I opened Rosie’s box an’ peeped her. I saw a Kahr PM9 with a highly-polished slide bearing an engraved black rose and flourishy lettering. Admittedly, I’m a guy, of the not-so-evolved variety, and the little thought-bubble over my gourd read, “So? Is that it? Shiny, with a flower?” I got two answers there.

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The Back-Beat Story

If you’ve wondered how articles like this come to happen…

Magnum Research and Kahr Arms are distinctly different companies, but they’re owned by the same uber-outfit, ya know? And they chat with each other from time to time. It seems the folks at Magnum were waxing eloquent about their latest model, the DE50MB, and how it had sorta “gentled the beast,” and the Kahr clan were braggin’ on the beauty of their little Black Rose Edition, and all that talk about beasts an’ beauties and gentling and … well, my phone rang.

Our Publishing Potentate was on the line. He pitched me the “Beauty & The Beast” angle. Well, actually, he told me — didn’t really ask anything.
“But why ME?” I asked. “I don’t know nothin’ about ’em and they ain’t my, uhh …”

“Your genre, is the proper word, your cuppa tea, your thing?” he volleyed. “Listen: If it performs as they say it will, I’m betting this Desert Eagle will appeal to a whole new crowd of shooters, not just the dyed-in-the-wool Deagle fans, one of whom you’re obviously not. The Black Rose has special appeal to the fastest-growing demographic of first-time handgun buyers and new concealed-carriers. If you don’t get it, show it to Helena and Little Red. They’ll set you straight. So this won’t be for the established-interests folks, but mostly for people taking a first look at ’em — like you. In this case your ignorance — umm, I mean your lack of familiarity — is a plus.” Okay, I got it.

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Meet The Big-Nose Deagle

Actually, I had handled and shot a Desert Eagle .50AE years ago: one minute, two shots. It was interesting but unpleasant, and I thought, “I’m not planning to handgun-hunt for Buicks, Brinks trucks or Brontosaurus, so …” My pal Van Zyl did the same. He said “Nussing wronk wit dis gun zat a twelff-inch barrel, a foldink buttschtock and a turty-tree round makazeen voodn’t fix.” Well said, buddy.

But the Big-Nose Deagle is a very different critter. Note: Among hard-core Desert Eagle shooters, it’s a “Deagle,” and we christened this one “the Bignose Deagle.” No offense, Magnum; it became a term of endearment. I wasn’t really looking forward to shooting it. I’ve outgrown that youthful desire for pointless punishment.

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Nuts & Bolts

Under the skin of this foot-long, four-pound, 12-ounce hand-cannon lie some interesting components. It’s a gas-operated system rather than blowback or recoil-operated. Gas bleeds off a port on the underside of the bore and drives a piston, which flings the massive slide rearward. Two hefty captive recoil springs drive it forward again, with gusto.

The bolt, which looks like it belongs in a machine gun, is a 3-lug rotating design locking up solid in recesses in the chamber. This arrangement allows for a stationary barrel — no tilting and unlocking — which enhances inherent accuracy. The safety system is certain, blocking the hammer and disconnecting the trigger; it can’t fire unless the safety is off, you’ve deliberately pulled the trigger past break and the bolt is fully engaged — nice. Believe me, you don’t want a round of .50AE goin’ off under any other conditions. Think “mini-hand grenade.”

The chamber is chrome-plated for smooth extraction, and the bore has polygonal rifling to reduce barrel wear and achieve a better seal between bullet and bore. That’s six “ribs,” one turn in 19″. Important note: Because the Deagle is gas operated and polygon-rifled, you should only feed it full-power jacketed ammo, which completely encapsulates the slug’s base. Otherwise, accuracy will be degraded and the gas port could become fouled.

The ambidextrous slide-mounted thumb safety takes a little getting used to, as you sweep it down to “safe,” and push forward with your thumb to release. Minimal practice will snap you in, and the safety’s action is crisp and certain. Sights are a U-notch rear and serrated ramp front, clean and drift-adjustable. A generous rail section at 12 o’clock accommodates optics, lasers and lights, and possibly a backhoe and diesel generator — just kidding, okay?

The Deagle’s trigger was a treat. There’s very little takeup; just enough to let you know you’re on it, and the break is very clean, measuring 4.5 pounds consistently on my Lyman electronic pull gauge. The reset is short; about 1/4″ or 3/8″, but I don’t advise “working the reset,” especially shooting the Big-Nose Deagle 1-handed. Concentrate on holding that trigger to the rear until you’re back on point. Otherwise, given the smart recoil, muzzle movement and sheer mass and weight of the gun, you might accidentally launch a high-angle artillery round: “indirect fire.” I don’t think you’ll need double-taps with the .50 AE anyway.

The Deagle is a big handgun by any definition, but we found the grip is excellent and doesn’t require huge hands. The “trigger reach” is just 2.75″ — not that long at all. The magazine release, too, is easily reached and positive in function. When shooting 2-handed, try punching it with your support-hand thumb while retaining master-hand grip. Note: When the 7-round mag is inserted to lock, there’s about 1/8″ of “play.” This is part of the design function. Do not jam it in hard, rest the weapon on the magazine when shooting or “cup” the butt with your support hand. This will create friction drag and possibly damage the magazine lips.

Overall, the machining is precise, fit and finish is high quality, and though the dual springs require strength to cycle the action, it’s surprisingly smooth in every regard. Disassembly is “different,” but simple, yielding five easily cleaned components plus the mag. A handy 5-function tool is included, along with clear instructions both printed and on a DVD — a first-class job.

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Firing The Big-Nose

The Really Big Deal about the Bignose Deagle is, with its integral muzzle brake/compensator, the fearsome recoil generated by the .50AE round in a “standard” Deagle becomes — No Real Big Deal. No kidding. If you’ve shot .357 Magnums through lightweight snubby revolvers, you’ve felt way more kick and handled more muzzle whip. True, the Big-Nose is a tad over 1″ longer and six ounces heftier than its brother, with all that up front in the snout, but that doesn’t explain such a significant change in manners. The muzzle brake works.

Oh, you’re still gonna get recoil and the muzzle’s gonna move. Even in a five-pound gun, launching 300-gr. jacketed hollowpoints at 1,450 fps means recoil, and movement is inevitable. But with the Big-Nose Deagle, it’s more punch than whack, if you shoot it right — and you must.
Deagles are literally designed and their actions tuned to be fired with two hands in a conventional “push-pull” grip, with your arms extended straight out from the shoulders. You take the recoil directly into your shoulders, not “breaking” the action with your wrists or elbows, or allowing the muzzle to whip upward, as you might with a big-bore revolver. If you do, the weapon will malfunction.

Mechanically, there are big, heavy parts moving violently inside a big gun, and a stable firing platform is required to keep those parts moving properly, both actively and reactively. Shoot it right, and it’ll run like a freight train. We tried the wrong ways, and the manual was right about ’em. Deagle no likee that.

For example, by its sheer size, the Deagle invites being benched on a sight block, with your elbows resting on the bench. Don’t do it. The gun chokes, and shoots patterns, not groups. To our delight, we found even shooting the Big-Nose 1-handed, arm straight out at 90 degrees, was perfectly manageable (not the case with a standard Deagle) and a ton of fun! One of the range rats, Big Paul, shot a 1-handed, 5-shot group at 15 yards featuring one four-round hole and one less than a 1/2″ out. Then he went all giddy and kept repeating it — with my ammo!

Once we settled in, accuracy was excellent. We were shooting Magnum Research’s 300-gr. JHP’s, and Big-Nose loved ’em. My best five at 25 measured 2.75″ and groups averaged 3.4″. The 8″ steels rang painfully and consistently at 50, and using a red-dot optic at 100, you can keep ’em centered in a silhouette. With a proper variable ’scope mounted you should do much better. Considering that the 300-gr. .50 AE load delivers about the same thump at 100 yards as a .44 Magnum does at 10′, that’s deliverin’ the mail!

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Redheads + Black Rose

Roy was right about the ladies settin’ me straight on the Kahr PM9 “Black Rose Edition.” The instant my Red Squad saw it, their eyes went all sparkly and they made those weird “Oohh!” and rising “AwwwWW!” sounds men can’t even imitate. Then Helena did that high-speed gun-girly thing where they grab it, drop-the-mag-rack-the-slide-peep-the-chamber-drop-the-slide-pull-the-trigger-hand-to-daughter-repeat-repeat so fast a man-brain is still on “she grabbed it” when they’re sayin’ “SO cute! Smooth! Nice! Mommy wants!”

I reached for it. Little Red stuck out her lower lip, went mega-pouty and whipped it behind her back. Dang! I had to ask: Kahrs are nice, well-made, efficient little pistols, but what’s the “Oooh-factor” with this one?

“Poor dear; it’s a girl-thing,” she said, patting me gently. “For us, this is tactical jewelry, see? Having a reliable, effective purse-or-pocket pistol is one thing, but making it pretty and obviously intended for a lady, to us, that takes it to a new level.” Well, silly me. Duh.

“And the bright polished slide? Like it or not, we dump these pistols in purses and car consoles, which tend to be ‘black holes,’ and under almost any lighting conditions, that bright slide is easier to see — and grab!” Double-duh.

Kenny, my go-to gunsmith chimed in. He’s been on the Kahr-wagon since the mid-1990’s, and a PM40 resides permanently in his right front pocket. Charming the Kahr away from Little Red, he deftly stripped it and pointed with his pen:

“See? The high-polish job is inside too. Check the innards, the feed ramp, even the magazine catch. Makes it run smoother and slicker; it even cleans up easier. The beauty goes more than skin-deep.” Okay; a rare and profound Triple-Duh. I stand enlightened.

So much has been written about Kahr pistols I’m not gonna regurgitate it here. Suffice to say they’re slim, light, made for concealed-carry, trigger-cocking, DA-only, recoil-operated and mechanically locked, with an automatic striker block. Kahrs are known for their long-pull and smooth triggers, and Rosie’s trigger weighed in at six pounds, but felt lighter. The reset is almost the full length of the pull, so when used as intended, as a purely defensive pistol, you “roll” the trigger for best results.

Rosie’s a 9mm, packin’ 6+1 with the flush-fit mag and 7+1 with her grip extension mag, which offers a pinky-grip for larger hands. Only .90″ at the slide and weighing just 14 ounces empty, her 3.1″ barrel has polygonal rifling like her distant cousin, Deagle. Her sights are drift-adjustable white bar-dot combat sights; altogether a svelte, nicely contoured combination of textured polymer frame and stainless steel slide. She’s petite at only 5.4″ long and 4″ high, but she doesn’t get lost, even in my big mitts. For most shooters, and virtually all ladies, she’s sized just right for her role.

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Rockin’ With Rosie

Kahr stipulates a break-in period of 200 rounds before buyers should consider their pistols fully reliable, and the experiences of countless customers bears this out. After rapidly-decreasing coughs and stutters, they become ultra-reliable. Rosie ran right from round one, quite likely another benefit of her extra internal polishing.

After establishing she points well, shoots straight and digests loads from 95 to 147 grs. with equanimity, what else is there to do? Answer: Ask her to dance. It’s most likely she’ll be drawn from clothing — a pocket or IWB holster — and used in close, fast, violent low-light encounters from one foot to a maximum of a couple of yards, but range safety officers get downright sticky about drills like that. So, we stuck some 1.25″ diameter dots on paper at center-mass level at seven yards, then starting from a low hold, quickly poked her out in front of us, got a flash sight picture and just went squeeze-squeeze-squeeze in 5-shot strings cadenced at about one second per shot. We didn’t get any surprises, but had a little fun — and she did too.

Groups of Cor-Bon’s 95-gr. DPX ran from 1.5″ to 2.5″. Recoil was sharp but light with a little muzzle whip. Using Hornady’s 115-gr. Critical Defense FTX ammo, groups ran 1.25″ to 2″ — outstanding! Federal 147-gr. HST Tactical rounds ran from 1.6″ to 3.25″ — still excellent for pretty fast work. HST’s produced the greatest felt recoil, but all were very controllable. Then we just went nuts with rapid strings of head shots on zombie Nazis at seven, got squinty to crater a cannibal-clown’s nose at 15, and Rosie loved it. Champagne and summa that patty duh fooey-graw, gar-kon!

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The Wrap And The Rap

Kahr’s Black Rose Edition of the PM9 is undeniably a sweet little carry-gun, and yes, now I get the shiny-with-a-flower message: It ain’t just frippery. Smart ladies won’t accept any less than precision and reliability, but the additional touches combine practicality and a certain cachet. The downside is, I’ll be paying for it, but probably won’t be seeing much of it. Okay: it’s an investment in red-headed happiness, and that, folks, has cachet for me!

There are compact cars with bumpers lighter than the .50 AE Bignose Deagle, but crowds won’t gather to see them. The mere sight of this version of the iconic pistol turns heads at ranges, and for those not in line-of-sight, the first BOOM! whips their heads around and pulls ’em like a big magnet. You don’t have to set out hors d’oeuvres (horse dooverz); they’ll settle for just staring — with fingers poked in their ears.

I think Roy was right. As word gets out about this kinder, gentler giant, some handgunners who wouldn’t have given it a second thought will be lookin’ at one with longing. Those who pony up should be prepared, though. People will inevitably ask, “But what’s it really for?” Rehearse your response, something like:

“Rabid polar bears. Engine blocks. Alien battle cruisers. Whatever.” Say it with a small, sly smile.

“Practical” uses? Take one gravel pit. Add 12 water-filled plastic jugs, 10 cinder blocks, four “bleeding zombie” targets, eight pumpkins, six watermelons, a dented steel trash can lid for long shots, a brace of shootin’ buddies — and you’ve got a party! Connor OUT
By John Connor

For more info: www.americanhandgunner.com/index and click on the company name.

Desert Eagle Mark XIX Model DE50MB
Caliber: .50 Action Express
Barrel Length: 7.2″
Overall Length: 11.95″
Height: 6.25″
Weight: 4 lbs. 12 oz.
Construction: High-quality carbon steel frame, barrel and slide
Trigger: Single action, approx. 4-lb. pull
Sights: Combat type, fixed
MSRP: $1,594

Kahr Arms PM9 Model PM9093CSBR
“Black Rose Edition

Caliber: 9mm
Capacity: 6+1, 7+1
Operation: Trigger-cocking DAO, lock breech
Barrel length: 3.1″
Overall length: 5.42″
Height: 4.0″
Slide width: .90″
Weight: 14 oz. / Magazine: 1.9 oz.
Sights: Drift adjustable white bar-dot
MSRP: $1,049

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  1. ira Scott says:

    John, had to shake my head about your “misfortune” because now you will have to buy TWO Kahr Black Roses. Well, better than furniture and a dishwasher like my wife bought. should not complain, since I wash the dishes around here and I might get to sit on the new couch one day after the new wears off.

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