with Lindsey J. Bertomen
Product Review: Magnum Research Baby Eagle
When it comes to selecting a combat handgun, no one disputes the effectiveness of the .45 ACP, and a medium framed .45 made entirely of steel is ideal. I recently tested Magnum Research’s Baby Eagle in .45 ACP and determined its suitability as a tactical tool.
Before I get into the details, this review has to begin with the reason that the Magnum Research Baby Eagle is worthy of being sworn in: I was able to shoot it accurately and reliably one handed, using duty .45 loads like Winchester 230 grain RA45B cartridges. Every peace officer that handled it agreed: This is the ideal kind of handgun for the ballistic shield bearer on a dynamic entry.
The Baby Eagle is essentially a clone of the CZ 75, a design made originally in the Czech Republic by Česká zbrojovka (CZ). The CZ 75 is an original design with a distinct taper in the backstrap part of the grip that gave it a reputation as a combat gun with instinctive pointing capabilities. Although several CZ75 “clones” exist, it is well known among experts that the Baby Eagle is one of the best versions of the CZ 75, having been refined by users like Israel Defense Forces (IDF) and several other counter intelligence agencies.
Magnum Research of Minneapolis, Minnesota is probably best known for one of the most powerful auto guns in the world, the Desert Eagle. Its unique profile makes it one of the most recognizable as a favorite in numerous “action” movies. The Baby Eagle is the younger brother, which comes in three calibers and 11 variants, including several polymer versions.
The Baby Eagle has obvious design advantages. First, unlike conventional autos, the slide fits in the frame, not the other way around. Thus the frame and slide are flush, giving it a sleek look. This is inherently stronger as the slide rail runs the full length of the slide, instead of at certain points on a polymer gun.
My .45 ACP Baby Eagle has a 3.93” barrel and weighs 2 lbs 7.8 oz, making it generally heavier and larger than comparable duty guns. It has a non reflective matte black finish and uses roll pins in critical pivot areas.
Competitive shooters carefully choose weight distribution and balance as the starting point for handgun selection. The Baby Eagle balances low in the web of the hand with a wide form filling grip.
I spent several range sessions rapid-firing the Baby Eagle. I noticed an unusual aspect of this gun: The spring and slide combination was so successful at dampening the velocity of the slide that I could feel the cam action of the gun locking and unlocking, almost in slow motion.
After a couple of boxes of ammo, I field stripped it and added Jardine’s Extreme, a gun lube with excellent properties for pistol slides. This kind of lube is recommended when one does not want the lubricant quality to drain off the mated parts. Firing this gun had a unique cadence and I was tempted to give it a go in an IDPA event.
I tried a variety of ammo, including 230 grain military ball and several brands recommended for police work. No one would be surprised that it preferred Cor Bon 185 grain DPX and Winchester’s 230 grain powerhouses. From 25 yards, my benchrest targets never exceeded three inches. This is good news as the bullets with superior terminal performance also were the most accurate. I was unable to induce any kind of failure after 700 rounds. Although Magnum Research does not market the Baby Eagle for +P cartridges, John Browning designed the .45 ACP as a relatively low pressure cartridge. Our Baby Eagle devoured any .45 ACP round it was fed.
The Baby Eagle has a slide mounted safety/decocker, rather than a frame mounted safety. There are two other safety mechanisms, an active firing pin block and a long double action trigger pull on the first shot. Some shooters had to shift the gun slightly in the hand to decock because the safety was a little high, a characteristic of slide safeties. The trigger disengaged when I tried to fool it into firing out of battery. I could not get any safety mechanism to fail, even when shooting without cleaning it.
The trigger has an aggressive curve, which allowed for gloved hands and larger fingers. It had a long double action pull and a short sear reset. No one would mistake this trigger for one on a target gun, but it was consistent and reliable. The Baby Eagle has an external hammer with a flat top that has a half cock sear, although decocking the gun sends it all the way forward, not in half cock. If I had an engineering suggestion, I would have the hammer always return to the half cock position to minimize the hammer travel and reduce the double/single action transition.
Magnum Research supplied this test gun with several magazines which had thick stable followers and slick steel bodies. Empty or full, these magazines shot out of the well abruptly when disengaged and seated soundly when shoved home. The lightweight gun crowd could take a lesson from the inherent strength of these mags.
The accessory rail is longer than their polymer or alloy counterparts with crisp milled slots which allowed for larger dedicated lights and accessories. This gun is a prime candidate for light/laser combinations. Our 45 came with low-profile front and rear sights that fit into recessed dovetails. The rear sight uses to set screws to mate it to the slide. The rear sights shot loose until I used a thread locking compound to fix them. The sights are sturdy and easy to pick up in rapid fire strings.
This gun is definitely accurate. The accuracy is not just the product of good steel on good steel. Is also from the excellent design and the fine machining of parts that normally are not seen when users field strip the tool. The Magnum Research Baby Eagle is built with pride in workmanship that solicits pride in ownership.
Combat accuracy is subjective. If a shooter can hit a silhouette target out to 25 yards consistently, the gun is satisfactory as long as this accuracy does not infringe on reliability. Although the Magnum Research Baby Eagle can never be mistaken for a target gun, it put large bullets where I sent them without fail. Some 25 yard targets had bullet holes that touched. Rapidfire sequences at CQB ranges were subjectively faster than some duty 9mm high-capacity guns. If one wishes to mow down steel plates, this Baby can do it with great satisfaction.
I had a little trouble finding a duty holster to test with this gun. This is kind of ironic for a gun that has more combat time than half the guns sold for law enforcement. Condor Outdoor provided their new 143 Fanny Pack, which is a deceptive outdoor pouch. It does not look like it could hold a pocket gun, let alone a full sized .45. It has a recessed area behind one of the three utility pouches which hides the gun barrel. Condor Outdoor also has tactical vests with holsters installed ideal for S&R and tactical entry.
The Magnum Research Baby Eagle is a solidly-built combat handgun with real world practical features. For officers who like launching decisive bullets, the Baby Eagle does the job.