BigLoneSmall

Everyone recognizes the Desert Eagle, but the single-shot Lone Eagle is Magnum Research’s other pistol. If you’re old enough to remember cruising the aisles of video rental stores, you’ve probably seen a Lone Eagle or one of it’s lookalikes on the cover of a direct-to-video action movie even if you’ve never heard of it by name. And if you’re too young for that, you probably saw it briefly in the first season of 24. What is this strange gun, and where did it go? . . .

The Lone Eagle is a single-shot pistol intended for silhouette shooting and hunting. It was chambered in a variety of centerfire rifle cartridges from the .22 Hornet through the .30-06 and up to the .358 Winchester and .444 Marlin. There was a lot more interest in handgun hunting and metallic silhouette shooting back in the 1980s and 1990s than there is now, and manufacturers were busy trying to stuff the most improbable rifle cartridges into hunting pistols. The cannon-breeched Lone Eagle was among the more exotic guns of that era.

The Lone Eagle featured a rotary breechblock similar to those found in naval artillery. This design provided enormous strength for the high-intensity rifle cartridges it fired, and provided a more precise and repeatable lockup than the break-barrel design of the Thompson/Center Contender and Encore pistols. It also allowed for a much shorter action than bolt-action pistols like the Remington XP-100.

The rotary breech carried two disadvantages, however. It centers much of the pistol’s weight over the shooter’s wrist, and it contains no self-cocking mechanism. After chambering a cartridge and twisting the breech closed, the shooter had to manually cock the gun using the sidelever at the left front of the grip assembly. The Lone Eagle did have an ejector, which tossed empty cases and unfired live rounds with equal enthusiasm and often right into the shooter’s face.

The Lone Eagle has been out of production for more than ten years. The design was bought by Competitor Arms, which improved the design and added an automatic cocking mechanism. Competitor seems to be all but defunct now, and their website looks like a barely-functional relic from the age of dialup ISPs. The few parts that seem to be available are not compatible with earlier Lone Eagles nor with the SSP-86, another iteration of the same rotary-breech design.

All of these similar firearms were ridiculously overbuilt, and many handgun-hunting enthusiasts still like them for their extreme accuracy. They were never built in great numbers, but very few of them seem to have worn out and there are still some to be found on gun auction sites. Prices start around $500 and go up to over $1,000 if you really must have one.

Would-be hand cannoneers should be prepared for violent recoil, five-foot muzzle flames, and a deafening concussion that requires double hearing protection during shooting and heavy doses of Ibuprofen afterwards. Handloaders can mitigate these problems with lightweight bullets for their calibers, faster-burning powders and moderate velocities.

These kinds of hand cannons are much less popular now than they were twenty or thirty years ago. Perhaps it was a trend that we’ll see again, but I think the industry moved away from them for a reason. There are rifle cartridges that work well in SBRs like the .300 BLK, the 6.5 Grendel or the 6.8 SPC, and there are special subcaliber pistol rounds like the 5.7×28 that work well in PDWs.

But 99% of us don’t have an SBR or a PDW, and for us traditional rifle cartridges perform best in rifles.

55 Responses to Obscure Object Of Desire: Magnum Research Lone Eagle

  1. If you’re old enough to remember cruising the aisles of video rental stores

    Actually, the videos I was renting were kept in the back.

      • It’s the act of trying to find a video rental that you, your girlfriend, and your two best friends all want to watch at the same time. It wasn’t much fun and was often futile, but us old-timers had to do this before the Age Of YouTube And Netflix.

  2. Yeah sounds fun but I think I’ll pass on lighting off .358 Win in a “pistol”

    Although the intermediate calibre rifles and SBRs may have had an effect, I’m thinking heavy hunting revolvers like the .454 and .500S&W probably killed these single shot hunting pistol monstrosities.

    • The “hunting” the XP-100/ThompsonContender/SavageStriker did was generally prairie dogs, paper, or steel. All at silly hundreds of yards.

      It’s not like they were chambered in .460 Weatherby. The recoil isn’t bad even in .308 Win, especially since you’re generally working off a sandbag or some sort of rest.

    • I’d say you’re right. The big, single-action, heavy revolver situation pretty much satisfies most everything the handgun hunter wants/needs these days.

  3. One of my LGS(southern Indiana) has 2 of them for sale. They’ve been there for several years and I don’t know what calibers they are but I could find out if anyone is interested.

  4. Funny, I have recently been considering a handgun for big game. My trusty Remington 700 chambered in .30-06 has been my go to, but a handgun would offer much more of a challenge. I’m not too fond of single shots like the T/C series, perhaps a big bore revolver would do the trick. ..460 S&W hand cannon anybody?

    • My .460 is fun to shoot, and is a pretty accurate revolver to boot. Just don’t shoot one without hearing protection. Ever.

  5. This is the first pistol I ever purchased approx. 17 years ago in .308 caliber for under $400. At the time rifle hunting for big game was a no go where I lived, but throw that rifle round in a 10″ barrel and you were good. It was very fussy with .308 rounds due to hard military primers in some ammo, however a quick throw of the cocking lever and you were back in business. The gun is still very accurate however the recoil seems to get worse the older I get (must be more powerful ammo).

    • Tom, I love Contenders, but not so fond of the cocking lever below the trigger guard. I can get 1/2 MOA if I’m careful loading (.223, 5 shots, not 3)

  6. I had a chance to shoot one of these back in the early 90’s – this particular one in the .357 Maximum cartridge. I believe this was before the design was acquired by Magnum Research, it had a different name, with “Ordnance” in it (though not Auto or Para….)

    Nice pistol actually, and very accurate. It would be a great candidate for a suppressor.

  7. I think the 454 and 500 s&W did them in. but if you must go rifle cartridge, there is always the BFR.
    launching a 350 grain bullet at 1800 fps from a 10 in barrell in 450 marlin. just bracing I’m sure

  8. There is one at my LGS in 7mm-08. Looks very clean. Stainless with an AK-74 style muzzle device (factory) on it.

      • If at all possible, try before you buy. Personally, the only way I would take one is as a gift. And then I’d sell it if the giver wasn’t a close friend.

        I had one way back when, and compared against a T/C or XP, the Lone Eagle was but a marketing ploy for suckers who think Taco Bell sells Mexican food. Seriously, it sucks to shoot in most any scenario I can think of. Rotary-breech is great for a roll-your-own $100 gun, it sucks if you paid actual money. The balance is just garbage, unless you’re in a full rest. It did shoot OK, but to me, there’s far better guns of the same stripe out there for that kinda cash.

        YMMV…

  9. “Would-be hand cannoneers should be prepared for violent recoil, five-foot muzzle flames, and a deafening concussion that requires double hearing protection during shooting and heavy doses of Ibuprofen afterwards.”

    5 foot flames are a total myth, there can be significant flame from unburned powder if the shooter does not know how to handload properly.
    I have never found recoil to be violent in any of them, nor ever used double hp.
    Guess that must be for the pepsi generation.

    • Obviously, you have never fired one chambered in .444 Marlin sans muzzle brake.
      Put 38 grains of H4198 behind a 300 gr. XTP and I guarantee it WILL get your undivided attention.

      • Agreed. I shoot desert eagle .50ae mostly in 300 and 400 grain and 25-33 grains of h110 and I get actual fire rings that shoot out a good foot or two and a recoil most would run from.

    • You’ve obviously never shot a Mosin-Nagant M44 with Yugoslavian Heavy Ball ammo, or you would understand the thrill of overly-short rifle barrels firing standard rife loads with heavy bullets and slow-burning powders.

  10. I really like the idea of a rotary breechblock on a small arm. Take it off of the stock and mount it on one of those miniature cannon carriages.

  11. I had a Lone Eagle in 44 Magnum to go along with a pre-lock 629. It was a perfect test bed to hone my reloading skills. The pistol is long gone, but I kept my reloading recipes. Maybe one day I’ll get back to them. I never liked the way the trigger worked in this pistol. It was simple, but not easily adjusted.

  12. I own two of ’em- an early SSP-91 in .444 Marlin and an MRI Lone Eagle in .30-06.
    As delivered from the factory, they were butt-ugly and had a horrendous trigger, but with a bit of elbow grease, better sights, and a few dollops of Bondo, they make very servicable hunting rigs for those of us who prefer to don backpacks and venture to places far away from Boobus Americanus Giganticus and their gasoline powered Mart Carts.

  13. The .308 version I owned had intermittent extraction problems, so I generally used it as a range toy vs. a serious hunting handgun. Recoil was stout, but manageable, and muzzle flash was quite impressive with ball powders. Eventually someone offered me far more money that I had paid for it, and I sold it. I don’t really miss it, but it WAS rather unique, so I’m glad I had a chance to own one.

  14. I have a half dozen DE .50ae’s that can do 275-400 grains at 1900-1400fps. I’m good on the hand cannon front but if I can across one of these at a show and I had some money to burn, maybe.

  15. the design was originated by competitor firearms which was owned by a man named al straitif. he sold the design to magnum research. i have one of the original cometitors in .458 winchester mag. the original design did cock the action when the rotary breech opened and closed, mine does. no external cocking lever is present on my example. recoil on this thing is significant but manageable with little muzzle flip, recoil seems to be mostly strait back.this caliber will stop a 6 ton elephant therefor no bear species is is a problem for this thing. the reason for it is simply that it fits in a holster out of the way so the carrier can conduct his business in bear country without the hassle of having to lug a rifle around with him. with the compensator al mounted to the muzzle of this thing recoil is much less than anyone has any right to expect when firing a belted magnum cartridge through a 14 inch barreled handgun. when i bought this gun mr straitif informed me this was the third one in this caliber he had built.

    • John Foote of stetson maine “ordnance Technology” sold a passable design to Magnum research not Al Straitiff.
      The ord tech and mag research guns can not be compared with the brilliant, well designed, self cocking, multicaliber, hand built Competitor Corporation (groton ma and Jaffrey NH) cannons. We lost my friend Al last week, I hope his pistol will live on.

  16. I have a 223 lone eagle that is jammed. I
    need anyone with knowledge as to how to dismantled it. Or anyone with parts diagram.

  17. I own one in 7mm/08 have never had a jam but I did need to take it all the way down to clean it.I called Magnum research in MN. And they sent a down load to my email. It did take more then one phone call.I will say this, it is a fine fire arm to hunt with beats lugging a rifle in heavy timber and will get out to 175yd with the right load.

  18. The bigget problem I have had is finding a holster for my Lone Eagle (I have 2, 7mm and 7mm-08).

    • I have 2 lone eagles, 223 &7mm 08.Bought them new in the States in 1995.Have a original black holster .Contact me if you are interested.

  19. Not sure if your page is still active, but I have a question you may be able to answer. I’ve fired some, but yet still limited exposure to the cooler/novelty firearms. I’d like to find a Lone Eagle in 30-06, but I have yet to see a listing. I’ve seen the pistols in different calibers, and 06 barrels by themselves, so am wondering if you know if the base gun is the same for all, and can accommodate any barrel?

    Thanks, Mike

    • Michael, i just came across your comments from last year and I hope you have found your Lone Eagle in 30-06, however if you have not and your still looking then contact me and we can talk. Mine if problem free, cosmetically clean and kicks like a scalded mule.

      • I’ve seen a couple come & go through gunbroker that exceeded what I could justify spending, but am still interested in one. I’ll attempt entering my email (MJLiptak@Gmail.com), but if this a site that blocks them – it’s MJLiptak at Gmail dot com.

        Thanks, Mike

  20. I bought a lone eagle in 7mm-08 back when they first came out. It is very accurate with my hand loads. I do not have the skill but my buddy can hold 1″ groups at 100 yards with my gun. I did get it with the muzzle beak and have a good 2.5 – 7 scope on it. There are a bunch of deer that wish I had never found this gun. But now I want some other guns so I am thinking of selling this one.

  21. Bought one new .308 when they came out. I was into single shot just about everything at the time. Cool pistol. Put a LER scope on it. It climbed a lot. Maybe it’s just me or my girly hands, but I pretty much had to keep a death grip on it to make sure it would not come out of my hands. It also caused eyeballs to pop out and fetuses to spontaneously abort all through the valley if you weren’t the one shooting it. Concussed the eff out of the firing line outside. I liked it, it was kind of unshootable for me at 100 yards because of the grip. I traded it. I wish I had bought one in .22 hornet.

  22. Those SSP-91 pistols had a very dangerous design problem as I found out. The single locking lug on the bottom of the barrel is silver soldered on and could fail by cracking and detaching from the barrel. I had one in 44 mag and once while shooting it felt a strange “click” in the recoil but the gun seemed fine. Next shot felt the same thing and knew something had to be wrong. Upon tear down and inspection found the lug in question had completely detached from the barrel and the only thing that kept the barrel from coming back into my face was the jaggard sawtooth like failure of the silver solder. I was able to just lift off the barrel from the frame of the pistol. By this time the company had gone bankrupt and nothing could be done but I sure came close to being injured or killed by this dangerously poor design. If you own one of these guns be very beware of this issue but I would never fire one again.

    Mark

  23. The above post I mention a locking lug but properly should be called a barrel to frame mounting block that is silver soldered to the underside of the barrel and is secured to the frame via a allen head fastener.

    Mark .

  24. Actually, I found my Lone Eagle to be much more pleasant to shoot than my T/C. I have my LE in a .308 and my T/C in a 30-30… I could shoot the Lone Eagle with much less punishment and much less muzzle flip than the T/C.

  25. I walked into my local gun store last year and to my surprise there was a stainless LE chambered in 308 for $400. I bought it and mounted a Leupold handgun scope to it. It shoots very nice groups while at the bench and the guys at the range love to shoot it. Always wanted one and consider myself very lucky to had found it. Only complaint is that sometimes the empty case will not eject and I have to use a small flat blade screwdriver to pop it out. I oiled the heck out of it, any suggestions on how to help extract the empty case?

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