Web Extra: MRI’s Micro Desert Eagle


A Gas-Brake .380!

J.B. Wood

Eagle 1

A lock, a manual, cleaning brush and rod, and a
fitted hard-polymer case are all part of the deal.

It’s sort of appropriate, really, the sub-compact .380 pistol had a resurgence in recent years, as 2008 marked its 100th anniversary. Way back in 1908, Pieper of Belgium introduced the Bayard, chambered for the then-new 9mm Browning Short, which came to be called the .380 in America. Having an unlocked action, the Bayard used an internal buffer spring to lessen the felt-recoil.

Between 1915 and 1936, a few of the Spanish makers had small Ruby-pattern .380s, with quality ranging from very good to marginally functional. Then in 1974, John Raymond Wilkinson designed the .380 Back-Up for AMT. It also had an unlocked system, but its all-stainless-steel construction gave it a comfortable shooting weight and pretty much started the modern .380 movement.

The Colt Mustang came along in 1986, and it had a classic falling-barrel locking system. The Davis in 1989 and the  Accu-Tek in 1990 were unlocked types. In 1997, the Colt Pony was locked with a falling-barrel. As most readers will know, any sort of locking system makes a tiny .380 more pleasant to shoot.

Eagle 3

J.B.’s one-handed 7-yard group was certainly fine for this sort of thing.
He found the Micro Eagle ran great with Speer Gold Dot.

The New Breed

Now we come to this Century, and the “new wave” of little .380 pistols. The Micro Desert Eagle from Magnum Research is one of the latest. It’s markedly unlike any of the earlier .380s, and the most prominent difference is the method used to tame the felt-recoil — a gas-brake system.

In the Micro Eagle, there are two gas ports in the barrel, just forward of the chamber. These are angled toward the front, to direct the ported gas against    a slide flat at the front edge of the ejection port.

It works perfectly. The felt-recoil is still significant, but it doesn’t hurt the hand. While there’s room for only two fingers on the frontstrap of the grip frame, the back has good ergonomics, and the polymer grips have full checkering. The slide is 4140 steel, the frame a strong aluminum alloy, and the finish is teflon nickel. I have to admit it fooled me — it looks exactly like    stainless steel.

There is ample room inside the trigger guard, even if you are wearing a glove. The trigger has vertical grooving, and some will like this, but I don’t. I’m glad to say the DA-Only trigger system is continuous, not reset, so you can pull it again if you encounter a hard European primer. The trigger action is short, smooth, and quick. Pulled slowly, there’s a hesitation point, and you can use the  sights.

Eagle 4

One recoil spring unit (of the two used) was left on the frame so you could see
how they are placed. J.B. says recoil was very manageable.


For a personal protection gun of this size, those sights are very good. The front is a long serrated ramp starting at the front edge of the ejection port, while the rear is a square notch of ample dimensions. They are non-adjustable and integral with the slide. Other slide features are good, wide-spaced grasping grooves and a loaded-chamber indicator — an extractor that setting out and showing a red line.

To keep dimensions small, two recoil springs with long guides are located at the sides of the frame, just above  the slide rails. You may notice at the muzzle, the barrel has an octagonal shape. This is just to give a gripping surface during field-stripping for cleaning.

Test-firing, I used the Speer 90-grain Gold Dot load. The distance was seven yards, with a one-hand hold, using the sights. All shots were well-centered in the 8″ black of the Champion VisiColor target, and the best group was 5 ¼ ” horizontal and 3″ vertical. The hollow-point loads gave no problems in the Micro Eagle.

The pistol was designed in the Czech Republic by ZVI of Prague, and that firm is supplying the small parts. The major parts are made by Magnum Research in Minneapolis. The combination of Czech precision and MRI quality means it’s always going to work. With a mag capacity of 6-rounds, around 14 ounces-lite, and 4.52″ overall, it’s small and handy, with an MSRP of about $535.

The Micro Eagle does cost a bit more than some others, but then, you get a lot.
For more info: Magnum Research, Inc., www.magnumresearch.com

Eagle 2

J.B.’s one-handed 7-yard group was certainly fine for this sort of thing.
He found the Micro Eagle ran great with Speer Gold Dot.