When the great handguns of modern times are discussed, the go-to list of reliable handguns that I completely trust is short. The Colt 1911, FN High Power, Czech CZ 75 and the Glock are among these. There are many copies and clones of these handguns. Some are ironmongery but others are excellent firearms. Among the close copies of the CZ 75 that has earned a good reputation worldwide is the Israeli Jericho pistol, otherwise known as the Baby Desert Eagle.
The pistol is marketed in the United States as the Baby Desert Eagle. Since Magnum Research offers the Desert Eagle—a self-loader chambered for Magnum handgun cartridges—the Baby Desert Eagle moniker makes sense. The present rendition of the Baby Desert Eagle is offered in both steel frame and polymer variations and in 9mm, .40 and .45 caliber. Although the Baby Desert Eagle is based upon the CZ 75 design, the original CZ 75 is a rule beater in many ways. Designed and manufactured while Czechoslovakia was still under communist control, the CZ 75 proved to be a reliable, well-made pistol with many vocal supporters. This handgun certainly shows inspirational design.
The CZ 75
The CZ 75 features a double-action first-shot trigger. A long initial trigger press both cocks and drops the hammer. After the first shot, the CZ 75 is cocked for subsequent single-action fire. The pistol features a safety that allows cocked-and-locked carry. This is hammer cocked and safety on. The author feels that the primary advantage of this safety is that the pistol may be placed on safe during tactical movement. After the first shot is fired and you are in a gun battle, you would not wish to decock the pistol.
The CZ allows a superior tactical safety and features a slide design that rides inside of the frame rails rather than inside the frame rails. This allows for greater contact between the long bearing surfaces and greater accuracy potential. These design features are maintained in the Baby Desert Eagle pistol. The Baby Desert Eagle is a close clone but not exactly the same as the original.
The Baby Desert Eagle
The Baby Desert Eagle features a frame that extends farther toward the muzzle than the original pistol. This gives the pistol a unique appearance. The pistol’s fit, finish and the material used show attention to detail and high quality. The pistol has an appearance more in keeping with a high-end civilian pistol rather than a mass-produced military pistol.
The Baby Desert Eagle’s full-length frame rails and high-grade finish make for a feeling of exceptional smoothness when the slide is cycled by hand. The slide rides lower in the frame than conventional handguns and lowers the bore axis. This design results in less muzzle flip.
The iron sights are excellent combat-style designs with a white, three-dot insert. The barrel is 3.9 inches long. The Baby Desert Eagle is supplied with a polygonal rifled barrel. Polygonal rifling is cut shallower than conventional rifling. Adherents feel that this rifling imparts less damage to the projectile and produces a better gas seal behind the projectile. Theoretically, accuracy may be improved although this is difficult to demonstrate. A caution when choosing ammunition… this type of rifling is NOT friendly to lead bullets. There is little depth for lead deposits to build up. When deposits build, pressure may be greatly increased. Lead bullet handloads or commercial reloads must be avoided with this class of handguns. Plated or jacketed bullets are the choice for practice ammunition.
The Baby Desert Eagle features bushingless barrel lockup and an angled camming wedge for lockup. The safety departs from the CZ 75 in that it is mounted on the slide rather than the original position on the frame. The slide-mounted safety is also a decocker. This safety mechanism seems the preferred type for institutional sales. The Baby Desert Eagle incorporates a positive firing pin block into the action.
When handling the pistol, the first impression is good. The trigger action is smooth enough with a double-action press of about 12 pounds, and single-action press at four pounds. The double-action press is smooth, and the single-action trigger is free from creep. The single-action trigger exhibits the modest backlash common to CZ derivatives.
The frame features good hand fit. Despite the double-column magazine, the grip isn’t overly large or bulky. The S-curve of the grip fits most hands well. The metal portion of the grip strap is checkered for additional abrasion and the grips are pebbled. The grip tang is extended compared to the original CZ 75.
On the Range
Most who fired the pistol found it more comfortable than the original CZ 75 due to modest improvements in the grip design. The pistol has a solid feel. The weight distribution and heft are good. Due to the low bore axis, the pistol’s recoil is straight back. Muzzle flip is subdued. Despite a relatively compact grip frame the Israeli produced pistol features a 10-round double-column magazine. It was difficult to load more than nine rounds but possible. For most of the test program, I loaded nine rounds for convenience. The magazines are of high quality, with well-designed followers and strong coil wire magazine springs. This ensures that feed is positive.
During the initial firing test, the pistol was fired with the Federal American Eagle 230-grain FMJ. This is an affordable loading, always reliable, with good accuracy and a clean powder burn. Personal defense drills were conducted by drawing and engaging combat-style targets at five, seven and 10 yards. The double-action trigger is smooth enough that rapid center hits were possible with good speed. Once the first shot was broken, the subsequent shots were fired single action. The Baby Desert Eagle exhibits excellent control in the single-action mode. It was no mean feat to empty a magazine of .45 ACP into one ragged hole at seven yards.
The cadence of fire is never set by how quickly you are able to press the trigger, but rather how quickly you are able to realign the sights after controlling recoil. The pistol’s relatively low bore axis, good sights and smooth trigger allowed good control. During these drills a number of rapid magazine changes were attempted. The magazine latch was quickly actuated, and the double-column magazine is tapered to allow rapid insertion of the magazine. The Baby Desert Eagle handles as quickly and as well as any double-action first-shot pistol.
In moving to personal defense loads, several jacketed hollow point loads were fired. The Baby Desert Eagle never failed to feed, chamber, fire or eject. The Federal 230-grain HST proved accurate and controllable. It was decided to try at least one +P loading. Many otherwise reliable handguns will short cycle or fail to function with +P loads. What occurs is that the slide’s velocity outstrips the ability of the magazine spring to feed. The Baby Desert Eagle was fired with the Speer Gold Dot 200-grain +P. This load exhibited 950 fps from the Baby Eagle’s polygonal rifled barrel.
Function was excellent in firing two magazines of this loading. Overall, the function and handling of the pistol cannot be faulted. In firing the handgun from a solid bench rest, the Baby Desert Eagle exhibited excellent accuracy potential. In short, this is a quality firearm with much to recommend. Those wishing to own a quality handgun of traditional material that is accurate and pleasant to fire will find much merit in this handgun.
Firing from a solid bench rest shooting position – Five-shot group at 25 yards
|American Eagle 230-grain FMJ||3.0 inches|
|Federal 230-grain HST||2.0 inches|
|Speer Gold Dot 200-grain +P||2.5 inches|
|Nosler 185-grain JHP, Titegroup powder||930 fps||2.25 inches|
|Montana Gold 200-grain FP, WW 231 powder||920 fps||2.5 inches|
The primary advantage of the new Baby Desert Eagle over the old is the ability to mount a light or laser. The Viridian combat light proved to be an ideal match for the compact .45’s rail. As for leather, Don Hume has been up and running on most of the Baby Eagle Line for years.
Are you a Desert Eagle fan? What about the CZ 75 variants? Share your experiences with CZ 75 or Desert Eagle line in the comment section.
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I have had a Tanfoglio Witness in .45 ACP, but mine was the Match model. It features single action in lieu of double action and no de-cocker, but is a Pro-Shop build meaning all parts are fitted and the slide to frame is like butter. It’s the most accurate semi-auto I’ve had in my arsenal and shot a 2.5″ group at 50 yards. I consistently put it on a 10″ gong at that range first and wanted to see just how good it grouped. I was amazed. It is a great looking pistol and really has me liking the CZ clones. I do like the slide to frame versus the 1911 style, although I still love those also.