By Rob Aught
I once joked that my ideal handgun is a CZ-75 chambered in .45 ACP that costs $1. Well, no handgun costs a buck and CZ doesn’t make the CZ-75 in .45. They do make the CZ-97, which is a great gun if you don’t mind trying to carry a howitzer. The Magnum Research Jericho series, currently called the Baby Eagle II but also known as the Uzi Eagle and Desert Eagle Pistol, is based on the CZ-75 design and takes a lot of lessons from it. The .45 ACP chambering isn’t as much of a compromise as it is in most up-chambered weapons since the original Jericho was designed to fire the now defunct .41 Action Express cartridge. While I’ve always had a fascination with the Jericho series of pistols I still did a great deal of research before making their .45 ACP version my own. Everything looked positive so I took the plunge two years ago . . .
The Baby Eagle series takes few visual cues from the CZ-75 it’s based on. You’ll notice more similarities with the EAA Witness series but even then, the Baby Eagles look sleeker. Aside from the underbarrel rail mount found on the newer models, there are no real hard angles on this weapon. Due to the slide riding firmly inside the frame, with full length rails no less, the overall design is fairly slim despite the .45 chambering. The .45 version is a little meatier on top, which just gives it some curves versus its supermodel thin 9mm sibling.
Looking closer, there’s nothing radical about the design. The Israelis didn’t want to reinvent the wheel, but they wanted to incorporate what they knew would work. Modern Baby Eagles also feature a slide-mounted safety while the originals were frame mounted. The magazine release, slide release lever, and slide release pin aren’t radical designs and probably resemble what you’ve seen on a majority of similar handguns out there. Somehow the Baby Eagle manages to look compelling while at the same time familiar. It’s the exotic foreign girl next door of handguns.
Like most CZ-75 derivatives, the Baby Eagle is a natural pointer. The gently curved trigger rests perfectly for easy purchase when the hammer is down. Trigger pull from double action is simple, smooth, but firm. I’ll throw in a disclaimer here: I do have oddball hands with long slim fingers so I can grip the thickest of handguns without a problem. With that in mind, I found the grip of the Baby Eagle to be excellent and comfortable even after extended firing. There is nothing spectacular about the controls, but they should all be familiar to experienced shooters. The slide release lever is firm, but not stubborn and the magazine release is exactly where it should be.
The trigger on the Baby Eagle is outstanding and maybe far better than it ought to be for a gun of its price. As mentioned previously, double-action pulls are smooth, but firm, though not overly long. Firing from single-action also provides a nice smooth trigger pull that can easily sneak up on you. The hammer isn’t completely bobbed, but it’s short enough to not catch on clothing if you were considering the gun for concealed carry. Yet the hammer is also long enough that you can manually engage it easily if you so desired. That’s not something I typically recommend, though, as you can only engage the hammer when the safety is off.
Serrations on the back of the slide make up for how slim it is, which can make it difficult to get a good purchase on when working the action. This is the downside to the slide riding within the frame; it’s almost too thin. Not bad enough that I’d knock it, but its worth noting if you’ve been firing more conventional handguns.
I will, however, knock it for the slide mounted safety. I admit that this is a personal preference, but if a gun will sport a slide-mounted safety, it should only take an easy flick of the thumb to disengage. The Baby Eagle’s safety is a bit smaller than it should be and definitely a little stiffer than it has to be. Fair warning: like many guns the safety acts as a decocker when engaged. That means you can’t carry the Baby Eagle in condition one. The other knock on the BEII is that loading magazines requires you to push very firmly or it won’t catch properly. This is easy to overcome but my son, who was a new shooter, struggled with this and I had to make sure he was seating the magazine properly before he began to shoot.
The barrel is a tad under the standard 4” and the design is described by Magnum Research as a “semi-compact”. Despite its relatively smaller size, the Baby Eagle produces tight groups for a handgun. At 20 feet I can hit dead center mass or place head shots all day long. I let a friend fire it who doesn’t suffer from my eye problems and he was practically putting rounds on top of each other. I’ve never seen it miss or seem off that wasn’t my fault. This is one of the more accurate centerfire handguns I’ve ever fired.
Roughly half the ammunition fired down the tube has been 230gr Tulammo FMJ’s. I typically shoot the cheap stuff, but I’ve fired a mixture of brands, 185gr, 230gr, FMJ’s, JHP’s, steel and brass and no issues. I stopped keeping close track of how many rounds I’ve fired through the gun somewhere around 600. I would guess I’m still a little shy of 1000 rounds without any problems despite the fact that I typically shoot the dirtiest, nastiest, cheapest ammunition you can find.
Breaking down a Baby Eagle should be familiar to most experienced shooters. There is a marking on the slide that you line up and then engage the slide release pin, which is actually part of the slide release lever. It does take some work to get out and can be a real bear to disengage. I’d say it was one of the more difficult slide release pins I’ve ever had to disengage. Once you have the slide release pin out, the rest of the gun field strips easily and reassembly is simple.
I love my Baby Eagle. It has been an outstanding weapon. Sure, there are a few things I wish it had like a 12-round magazine and a frame-mounted (rather than slide-mounted) safety but there really isn’t any single feature that detracts from what it is. For the most part it does everything well.
If you’re looking at the Baby Eagle series from Magnum Research, it’s worth noting that the .45 ACP only comes in Semi-Compact and doesn’t have a polymer frame version. One other gripe is that among the Baby Eagle series, the .45 ACP version is not well supported. If that’s an issue they do have 9mm and .40 S&W that opens up many other options.
(All the following are the specifications for the Semi-Compact Steel Framed .45 ACP Pistol)
Action: Short recoil locked breech semiautomatic
Caliber: .45 ACP
Weight: 37.9 oz.
Barrel: 3.9 in.
Magazine Capacity: 10 rounds
Sights: 3-dot sights
MSRP: $656 (Street price is usually around $525 to $600)
Ratings (out of five stars):
Style: * * * * *
The original CZ-75 was always like the awkward update to the Browning Hi-Power. I’m happy the Baby Eagle ditches the CZ-75 and Witness stylings to make itself cosmetically similar to the Desert Eagle series. I’d say they failed at making it resemble a Desert Eagle in the least, but the result is still a work of art.
Ergonomics: * * * *
A natural pointer that feels good in the hand and an excellent trigger make for a great firearm. The small and stiff safety switch and stubborn magazine catch means I cannot give it a perfect score.
Reliability: * * * * *
Closing in on 1000 rounds with everything from low grade to high quality ammunition and not a single problem even when used by an inexperienced user. If it had even one failure in over 500 rounds I’d probably still make it a self defense piece but so far I haven’t seen a single malfunction. What more can you ask for without someone subsidizing a 10,000 round test?
Accuracy: * * * * *
Definitely shoots beyond my skills. When I do everything perfect shots go exactly where I want.
Customize This: * * * *
There is a standard rail under the barrel so it can mount quite a few different lights and lasers. There is also a custom stock available for it. Unfortunately, finding a good holster is difficult and your options will be limited. The Baby Eagle can use magazines from the EAA Witness series, which gives it some flexibility but not sure how much benefit it is that it can use magazines from another uncommon series of handguns. Despite some of the flexibility I feel compelled to knock it a star just because of its oddball nature and the difficulty of finding a holster specific to the series.
Overall: * * * *
I’m tempted to say 4 and a half but it feels like cheating. This is a great pistol but between the ergonomic issues and limitations around your options to customize I can’t give it a perfect score in good conscience. If you’re looking for a quality .45 ACP with a DA/SA set-up that won’t break the bank, the Baby Eagle is a fantastic gun.