The Baby Desert Eagle


by R. K. Campbell

Photography by R. K. Campbell

January 26th, 2005




The Baby Desert Eagle is a rather large handgun to be called a baby, but a diminutive handgun compared to the full size Desert Eagle .44 Magnum pistols.  Still, the Israeli pistol has much to recommend and the connection with the larger and justly renowned Desert Eagle does not harm the pistol’s reputation.  After all each is a product of Israel Military Industries (IMI).  Most users call the pistols ‘Baby Eagles’.  I think I will resort to the nickname in this article for brevity. The pistols have also been marketed as the Jericho, as they are called in Israel, and even the Uzi pistol. They are the same rugged reliable handgun.  


The Baby Eagles are based upon the CZ 75 design.  While the CZ 75 owes much to John Moses Browning for its locked breech configuration and is loosely based upon the Browning High Power, the Czech built pistol is a fresh design with much to recommend it.  Colonel Jeff Cooper himself remarked that it was embarrassing the pistol was designed and manufactured in a communist country.  Our friends in Czechoslovakia, despite being enslaved by a totalitarian regime, showed flashes of brilliance and innovation in both the CZ 52 and the CZ 75.  Like most successful pistol designs the CZ 75 was cloned or copied in other countries.  Sometimes the clone is a poor second but other times the pistol is well made.  The CZ 75 pistol was difficult to come by in America but the Tangfoglio clones from Italy were widely available beginning in the 1980s.  These pistols varied considerably in quality, fit and finish.  The EAA Witness is now the most common and is generally a reliable pistol.  However, most shooters agree the Baby Eagle is the superior CZ clone and the only pistol of the type other than the original to have seen extensive military and police service.


The main complaint with the CZ pistol is the caliber.  While a fine reliable handgun with excellent ergonomics the CZ 75 was chambered in 9mm Luger cartridge. Americans demand considerably more smash from their handguns. The .40 CZs are of a different design than the original pistols and the .45 caliber CZ 97 an oversize, unwieldy pistol in my opinion.  In this regard, the big bore Baby Eagles are much superior handguns. While history is interesting and we like to know where the handguns come from, history is irrelevant unless the handguns are of high quality.  The Baby Eagles are of the highest quality.  In fact, the type has been the standard issue of many Israeli units, even the Israeli Special Forces.  I feel a strong affection for the birth place of my Savior, and a strong empathy for those fighting a common enemy.  The Baby Eagle is a proven pistol in every regard. 


The Baby Eagle pistol is assembled, fitted and finished in Israel from parts supplied from Tangfoglio in Italy.  The pistol differs considerably from other CZ types.  Many CZs feature a frame mounted safety.  The frame mounted safety is much handier if you will be using the handgun as a single action design and carrying the handgun cocked and locked.  A weakness is that the safety cannot be placed on when the hammer is down. The Israelis felt that a double action pistol would be well served by a decocker to allow the hammer to be dropped safely without touching the hammer or trigger.  Israeli policy demands that the pistol be carried chamber empty, or on some occasions be carried chamber loaded and safety off, ready for action.  I can live with the Baby Eagle system.  I carry the handgun ready to go, chamber loaded, with the safety off in complete confidence.  If you can rapidly manipulate the safety, then carrying the pistol safety off is a viable option. Compare the long trigger action of the Baby Eagle to the short Glock trigger or the SIG and you will agree the Baby Eagle has a degree of safety in this carry mode.


The Israelis have specified changes in the CZ type that allow the pistol to be easily downsized into a compact model or enlarged to chamber big bore cartridges such as the .40 Smith and Wesson or the .45 ACP.  Many of you may remember the original big bore Baby Eagle, the Jericho 9mm marketed with a .41 caliber Action Express barrel. Today, the pistol is offered in reasonably compact .40 and .45 caliber versions.  There are full size mid size and compact pistols. The pistols closely follow the design of the original CZ.  The pistols are a locked breech design, using angled camming surfaces.  The pistols are double action first shot pistols. After the first shot the slide recoils and cocks the hammer for subsequent single action shots. The controls include the usual slide mounted safety/decocker, a slide stop/slide lock, magazine release and take down lever.  The pistol strips quickly and easily by locking the slide to the rear and bumping the slide stop out, allowing the slide to run forward off the frame. Interestingly, the Baby Eagle slide runs inside the frame, the opposite of the 1911 and Browning High Power.  This should produce superior accuracy due to full contact of the slide and frame the complete length of the slide.   Also, the Baby Eagle features an enlarged dust cover that runs to the end of the slide, giving the pistol a silhouette  reminiscent of the original CZ 52 pistol.   This change over the original CZ gives the appearance of the handgun designed to handle very powerful cartridges. The pistol also features a lengthened grip frame or beavertail that makes for more comfortable firing with full power cartridges.


The pistol features high visibility fixed sights with white dot inserts.  The sights are prominent and not only give a good sight picture, they would be a benefit for those of the high speed low drag class that practice one hand clearance drills. These drills involve snagging the sights or ejection port on your belt or hip and racking the slide.  For the purposes of this evaluation, I obtained two Baby Eagles. One is a full size version chambered for the popular .40 caliber Smith and Wesson cartridge.  The other is a semi compact .45 caliber, with the full size grip frame but a short 3.7 inch barrel. This handgun and the .40 arrived in lockable padded plastic cases complete with trigger lock and instructions.  Both pistols display a high level of fit and finish. Barrel to slide fit and slide to frame fit is tight, but the slide functions smoothly.  All surfaces are finished in a subdued matte black.  Each trigger showed about thirteen pounds double action compression, while the single action trigger on each broke at 4 pounds according to our RCBS trigger pull gauge.  The double action trigger is especially smooth, due to an internal drawbar as opposed to the external type used on the Beretta and Taurus pistols.  Interestingly, while CZ pistols often have good trigger actions, the single action press of both Baby Eagles was free of the modest backlash exhibited by every other example of the CZ I have handled. The .45 caliber pistol had a bit of roughness in the double action trigger that disappeared after the first fifty rounds fired.


The grips of the pistols were comfortable to hold and in firing.  My average size hand was not stretched and I could reach the controls without shifting my hand. The sights provided a good clear image when the pistols were brought on target.  I prepared to test the handguns with an eclectic supply of ammunition.  Since I thought the full size .40 caliber would be more pleasant to fire, I used it first.  I had on hand several boxes of  Fiocchi ball ammunition. This ammunition has proven accurate, reliable, and clean burring, overall a good training resource. I began with the 180 grain full metal case bullet.  I placed several Shoot-N-C targets at 15 yards and began doing double action drills. I found I could hold the gun on target well and that recoil was minimal, subjectively as if firing a mild 9mm load. The weight and shape of the Baby Eagle certainly make for a pleasant firing handgun.  I found I could quickly fire the handgun and place all ten rounds in the target at moderate ranges.   ( My pistols were each supplied with ten round magazines  (high capacity types will hold fifteen .40s and thirteen .45s.)   Firing slow fire, with deliberate single action fire,  groups of three inches were obtained.  I also fired a few 170 grain MAJOR rounds.  This is the Fiocchi SWC that allows the .40 caliber pistol to make MAJOR rating in IPSC shooting.  This is a strong round, breaking over 1,000 fps.  Accuracy is excellent.


I found the Baby Eagle delivered the goods as advertised, offering good comfort and accuracy. There were no malfunctions of any type when firing several magazines of Fiocchi ammunition.  Recoil control, comfort and sight regulation are good.  I elected to run a few ‘combat courses’  will full power ammunition.  I switched to the Fiocchi 145 grain JHP and took aim at several full size silhouettes at ranges of seven to fifteen yards.  The pistol distinguished itself by earning the shooter a majority of Xs in rapid fire.  Transition from double action to single action fire was not difficult. Overall,  I was impressed. While the .40 is considerably more effective than the 9mm,  I had the impression of firing a 9mm pistol.  Finally,  I switched to Double Tap Ammunition.  Double Tap specializes in the 10mm cartridge but also offers good quality .357 SIG and .40 caliber Smith and Wesson ammunition. The Competition Electronics chronograph showed impressive results with the Double Tap loads: 1060 fps with the 180 grain Gold Dot load and 1170 fps with the 165 grain Gold Dot load. This is very strong for the .40.  I had the impression of firing a powerful handgun with these loads. Control was good but you had to maintain a good hold on the pebble grained grips.  These loads maximize the .40 and are a good option for personal defense.  As the accuracy table shows, they gave good results.  We performed the obligatory 25 yard accuracy shoot with the Baby Eagle and it acquitted itself well.


After such good results with the .40,  I expected excellent results with the Baby Eagle in my favorite caliber, .45 ACP.  Generally, the results obtained with the .40 were mirrored.  The double action trigger of the .45 was equally smooth but showed rough spots in mid action at first. This roughness disappeared with use.  I suffered two shooter-induced malfunctions.  During the initial firing stage, using Fiocchi ball ammunition, I failed to properly grip the handgun and suffered a limp wrist malfunction.  Later, when firing +P ammunition,  I allowed my support hand to contact the slide stop during recoil and locked the slide open.  By maintaining a solid locked thumb grip,  I was able to prevent any further malfunctions of this type.  The shorter pistol came onto the target more quickly at short range, giving an advantage in nitty gritty combat shooting.  The sights are well regulated for  230 grain ammunition and the pistol is mild to shoot. Momentum was greater when firing the .45,  but the pistol was not uncomfortable.  Overall, I enjoyed firing the short .45 very much.  To qualify the pistol for combat loads,  I used the Fiocchi 230 grain JHP and Georgia Arms 185 grain JHP +P.   The Fiocchi load is known to produce higher velocity than most 230 grain JHP loads, an advantage when using a short barrel .45. The Georgia Arms load uses the Gold Dot bullet, an excellent choice.  The 230 grain JHP load struck about two inches high at 15 yards, the 185 grain load was dead on the money.  Control and accuracy was good with this handgun.


Overall, the test program was impressive.  I would feel comfortable, even well armed with either pistol.  The full size variants are easier to shoot well and usually demonstrate more practical accuracy, while the compact pistols are handier to carry concealed.  I found the short .45 especially comfortable when carried in the appendix position. As the test program progresses,  I now have over five hundred cartridges through the pistols, with no malfunctions attributable to the pistols or their design.  Once I locate good quality leather for each - and there are a few makers who offer holsters for these handguns - they will become a part of my defense battery.  The .40 will likely be a home or truck gun.  The .45 is good enough to take it’s place beside my 1911s.   And that is something to write about!


25-yard bench rest accuracy results


.40 S&W  
Fiocchi 145 grain JHP 3.0  inches
Fiocchi  170 grain MAJOR 2.0  inches
Fiocchi  180 grain Ball 3.25 inches
Fiocchi   180 grain JHP 2.5   inches
Double Tap 165 grain JHP 2.5  inches
Double Tap  180 grain JHP 2.9  inches
.45 ACP  
Fiocchi 230 grain ball 4.0  inches
Fiocchi 230 grain JHP 2.9  inches
Georgia Arms 185 grain JHP 3.5  inches


For more information, contact Magnum Research at:


Magnum Research

71110 University Avenue NE

Minneapolis MN  55432


R. K. Campbell




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Click pictures for a larger version.


The author found the Baby Desert Eagle a good handling and shooting handgun with many good traits.



Specialist Matthew Campbell, SCNG,  found the Baby Eagle draws quickly from the Appendix position.



Specialist Matthew Henry Campbell comes on target quickly with the Baby Eagle.  It works for him!



The smooth trigger, ample grip and good sights of the Baby Desert Eagle make for a good handling handgun.



The safety of the Baby Eagle is readily manipulated with the firing hand.



The Baby Eagle is a handsome handgun with a business like appearance.



The Baby Eagle breaks down easily,  and it quite simple to strip and clean.



Note an absence of tool marks in the slide and cocking bar. Also, the Baby Eagle features a positive firing pin block or drop safety.



The grips of the Baby Eagle are ergonomically designed and will not require aftermarket replacements. They also proudly proclaim the country of origin.



If any one word describes the Baby Eagle, it is ROBUST.



The high visibility sights of the Baby Eagle are excellent designs well suited to combat.



The safety and slide lock are well placed for rapid manipulation.



The Baby Eagle .45 is well made and a good choice for concealed carry.