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After the infamous 1986 Miami shootout the FBI convinced itself that its agents were under-gunned. Special Agent-in-Charge John Hall of the Firearms Training Unit channeled his inner Scotty, declaring “we need more power!” The Agency adopted handguns firing Smith & Wesson’s how-about-this-then necked-down 10mm cartridge. Yaysayers claimed .40 S&W offered more stopping power than 9mm and greater carrying capacity than a .45. True, but…

.40 S&W round is snappier than Chelydra serpentina. Reflecting government efficiency, it’s only taken 26 years for the FBI to acknowledge the round’s recoil “issues” and transition to 9mm handguns firing improved hollow-point cartridges. With other law enforcement agencies following suit, the .40 S&W is a dead caliber walking.

Magnum Research/BUL Ltd. Baby Desert Eagle III (courtesy thetruthaboutguns.com)

Before you go, say hello to my little friend: the Magnum Research polymer-framed Baby Desert Eagle III in .40 S&W.

By “little” I mean “full-sized.” The Baby Desert Eagle III stretches a full 8 3/5″ from beavertail to snout (including a rifled 4.43″ barrel). It’s also a heavy old thing. Load up the polymer-framed firearm to max capacity (13 + 1 in this version) and the handgun tips the scales at 28 ounces. That’s 10 ounces less than the fatter-handled BDE II — and just three ounces lighter than the 10mm GLOCK 20.

Profile Magnum Research/BUL Ltd. Baby Desert Eagle III (courtesy thetruthaboutguns.com)

Yes, well, GLOCKs don’t look nearly as cool as Desert Eagles. The all-black BDE III’s newfound angularity would make a fashion model’s cheekbones jealous. Celebrating the Baby Deagle’s 30th birthday (mazel tov!), the gun’s designers deployed the cuts to good use, hiding the BDE III’s sky-high bore axis while providing a billboard for Magnum Research’s new supplier (now that IWI is selling the Jericho).

As you’d expect from a ballistic riff on the CZ-75, the BDE III is a perfectly proportioned piece. The stippled finger indents add a dash of panache to the gat, making the nose-heaving handgun a joy to hand and to hold. Along with the wonderfully finger-friendly flat, apostrophe-shaped trigger.

That said, all is not well in ergonomicsland.

Three-dots on Magnum Research/BUL Ltd. Baby Desert Eagle III (courtesy thetruthaboutguns.com)

The BDE III’s enlarged, left-side-only slide stop is beyond thumb reach for smaller-handed folk (who may have wanted to use it as a slide release). Worse, the small, pointy-ended, ambidextrous safety/decocker is hard to disengage, and renders combat racking the BDE III’s slide uncomfortable to the point of inadvisability. Best practice: turn the gun sideways, grab the slide by its “ears” and pull. While pleasantly gangsta, the technique requires non-ideal sight realignment.

The BDE III’s 12 – 13 pound double-action trigger pull is longer than War and Peace. Unless you’re a police officer trained to shoot a New York trigger-equipped GLOCK — and even if you are — the Baby Deagle’s Falstaff-stout trigger pull presents a worrying accuracy challenge. Half-cocking the trigger only serves to halve the epic journey

On the positive side, the trigger’s silky smooth and breaks cleanly. Better yet, the BDE III’s single action trigger pull falls to a user-friendly 4.5 lbs. There’s a short take-up leading to a wall o’ break. No grit, no slop, just click BANG. Best of all, the BDE III’s trigger reset is as short, crisp and controllable as the SIG SAUER Legion, the reigning king of DA/SA handgun trigger reset.

Target, Magnum Research:BUL Ltd. Baby Desert Eagle III (courtesy thetruthaboutguns.com)

Thanks to its not-inconsiderable size and weight, hand-friendly grip and first-class single-action trigger, the BDE III [finally] tames the S&W .40 cartridge’s much maligned recoil. In single-action mode, the gun made holes exactly where I aimed. (target at ten yards, sucky shooter, closed course.) And continued to do so for 500 rounds of mixed ammo, without fail.

All of which answers the “what” and “how” but still leaves “why” on the proverbial table.

Ergonomically challenging slide stop and safety/decocker on Magnum Research/BUL Ltd. Baby Desert Eagle III (courtesy thetruthaboutguns.com)

Wouldn’t you rather carry a more easily concealed full-size .45-caliber 1911? You’re “only” giving up four rounds and the “safety” of a DA/SA trigger. And as sexy as the BDE III is compared to its GLOCK equivalent, John Moses Browning’s single-action brainchild is a similarly weighty tack-driver that makes subsequent gun designs its bitch.

By the same token, you could buy a 13-round GLOCK 21. If Deagles are your thing you buy a .45-caliber Baby Desert Eagle III. Or gain plenty o’ capacity and controllability with the 9mm version. Or go mad, buy a full-on Desert Eagle and fire .357 Magnum, .44 Magnum or .50 AE cartridges. With a black tiger stripes! Or gold accents! But not both . . .

Magnum Research/BUL Ltd. Baby Desert Eagle III in .40 S&W (courtesy thetruthaboutguns.com)

All that aside, if you want a reliable, comfortable, controllable .40 S&W firing handgun, the Magnum Research Baby Desert Eagle III fits the bill. Perhaps not as well as the less expensive .40-caliber IWI Jericho PL with its frame-mounted, sensibly designed safety/decocker (a la CZ-75). But that’s a comparison for another day. For now, the BDE III is a perfectly usable, completely reliable “fotay.” How great is that?

SPECIFICATIONS:

Construction: Polymer frame, carbon steel slide and rails
Finish: Black textured polymer frame, black oxide on slide Black textured polymer frame, black oxide on slide
Caliber: .40 S&W
Barrel Length: 4.43”
Height: 5.75”
Weight: 28 oz (38 oz. in all steel)
Overall Length: 8.375”
Slide Width: 1.53” 1.53”
Trigger: Double Action/Single Action (DA/SA) with slide-mounted safety and decocker
Sights: White three-dot, fixed Combat,
Magazines: 2 13-round mags
MSRP: $646 ($691 in all steel)

RATINGS:

Style: * * * * *
Well-judged slide cuts and perfect proportions.

Ergonomics: * * *
A pleasure to hold, but the slide stop’s too far away for small handed-shooters and the tiny, awkward safety/decocker “ears” makes it unsuitable for combat racking.

Reliability: * * * * *
No problems.

Accuracy: * * * * *
Spot on. In my case, ridiculously so.

Customize This: * * *
A standard rail under the barrel mounts lights and lasers. Can’t replace three-dot sights without serious ‘smithing.

Overall: * * * *
The .40 S&W round tamed via weight, size, ergonomics and a smooth, quick-reseting single action trigger. Awkward slide-mounted safety mars an otherwise stellar package.

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60 Responses to Gun Review: Magnum Research Baby Desert Eagle III in .40 S&W

  1. I never understood the appeal of the .40S&W round. It seems to be the proverbial jack of all trades, master of none. A well designed 9mm cartridge will give you very similar terminal performance and easily 50% more capacity while a modern .45ACP or 460 Rowland will kick its ass in terms of performance with a slight sacrifice in capacity. (and in the case of .45ACP superior recoil profile)

    I’ve shot a few 460 Rowland guns and they seem to kick around the same as the .40S&W and a bit less than 10mm, but I’ve never shot a .40S&W gun that felt nicer than a .45ACP (which is a large portion of the point of the exercise).

    Maybe some of the diehard .40S&W fans can explain what I’m missing?

    • 10mm for sissy (female) cops. Can’t “discriminate” against 110lb chicks just because they wannabe but aren’t able.

      • Most 460 Rowland guns are compensated and built as heavy steel guns. Comparing the kick to a Glock 22… Yeah, they kick less.

        • Please compare one thing at a time, don’t go telling up how 460 only kicks as bad as a 40. 40 SW race guns hardly kick at all, I wonder why? FYI I have a few hard cast 45 supers for my 625 that are running 11 gr Longshot, so I know what I’m talking about.

    • *** A well designed 9mm cartridge will give you very similar terminal performance and easily 50% more capacity ***
      What? 50% more capacity? How? In a single-stack subcompact, the Springfield XD-S in .40 carries 6 rounds, in 9mm it carries 7. In a full-size service pistol, the Glock 22 in .40 carries 15 rounds, G17 in 9mm carries 17 rounds. The 9mm has a one- to two-round capacity increase vs. .40. Nowhere near 50%!

      As for terminal performance, the simple mechanical fact is that a .40 delivers about 33% more power than a 9mm. It’s a bigger bullet, it’s a heavier bullet, and there’s more power behind it. It was developed because the 9mm sucked horribly back in the ’80’s.

      The .40 is a better 9mm (in terms of damage potential) than 9mm. It’s a little bigger, it’s quite a bit more powerful, it just does more. The 9mm is weaker, which is why it recoils less.

      As for the reputation of it being “snappy”, when you take the exact same gun (like a G26 vs G27) and put in a round with 33% more power, yeah, that’ll feel snappy. Just like if you take the exact same gun (a J-frame revolver for example) and fire .357 out of it instead of .38 Special. For the same reasons — same size gun, more powerful round, more recoil.

      *** while a modern .45ACP or 460 Rowland will kick its ass in terms of performance with a slight sacrifice in capacity. ***
      The sacrifice in capacity between .45 and .40 is about the exact same as the sacrifice between the .40 and the 9mm. Look at the Glock; in .45 it holds 13 rounds, in .40 it holds 15, in 9mm it holds 17. Or the XD-S: in .45 it holds 5 rounds, in .40 it holds 6, in 9mm it holds 7.

      *** Maybe some of the diehard .40S&W fans can explain what I’m missing? ***

      It’s really simple. The .40 is halfway between the 9mm and the .45. In size, the 9mm is a 9mm bullet, the .40 is a 10mm bullet, the .45 is an 11mm bullet. The .40 sits halfway between the .45 and 9mm in terms of capacity, in terms of weight, in terms of power. The .40 is a “super 9mm”, it’s like a 9mm +p+p+p+. It does everything the 9mm does, but it makes a bigger hole with a lot more lead and a lot more force (and, commensurately, a lot more recoil) than the 9mm, at a very slight capacity disadvantage. And the same can be said for the .45 vs. the .40, the .45 does everything the .40 does but makes even bigger holes with a lot more lead, a lot more force, and more recoil, at a slight capacity disadvantage. The difference is, .40 guns are frequently repurposed 9mms, so the recoil is felt a lot more, whereas .45’s are purpose-made to be .45’s, they’re generally heavier, and the grip is a lot fatter, which helps spread out the recoil impulse.

      • Damn, you need to take a class in physics. A 45ACP is not more “powerful” than a 9mm, 115g 9mm is typically 340-400 ft-lbs where a 230g 45 is 365-390 ft-lbs. The 45 just dumps more energy because it is going slower and is bigger.
        A 165g 40 round is 450-500 ft-lbs and thus more snappy.

        • And why oh why would you use a 230gr bullet? Target practice? Plenty of 45’s in 165-185gr which have 500footpounds of force. Like a 40…

        • I talking about “standard” ball ammo rounds that people typically shoot. We can get into a huge discussion about bullet weights and chamber pressures, but this is is a comment thread. FYI run 45 Auto+P 220 in my 1911, your point is…..

        • *** Damn, you need to take a class in physics. ***

          Mmm hmm… perhaps you need to research the difference between “kinetic energy,” “power,” and “force”? They’re very different things. And I said nothing about kinetic energy, I was talking about power.

          Or, here, I’ll make it real easy — just look up the IPSC “power factor”; apply that to common loads and even that will tell you what you’re missing.

        • So what did I type that is WRONG in ANY WAY? Who was even referring to WW 1era ball ammo in a 45??? I guess if you want to walk around with a big slow bullet you are entitled…all I hear about is how great 9mm is with so-called “modern” ammo. So is every other caliber…

        • And Critical Duty STILL doesn’t hit 500foot pounds. I get 464 on Cheaper than dirt-which is fine but hardly better than that “snappy” 40…

    • During fireamrageddon in 2013, I could still get .40 when 9mm and .45 was sold out. Glad I had a .40! I actually have a few .40’s. Plus nobody picks up .40 brass at the range so I can knock myself out. I do prefer to carry 9mm for capacity.

    • The 9MM was dead a decade or so ago until it came back from the zombie grave with new ammo. Now the .40 is dead …until the ammo makers come up with the next gen .40 ammo that will kick less and have better terminal performance. Why would they do this? Because of the millions of .40’s still on the market. They aren’t going to let it die because the eternal battle between 9MM, .40 and .45 sells a lot of gun magazines, and fits the nature of Americans – choices!

    • Currently, yeah.

      .40 S&W was one of those cartridges that was in the right place at the right time.

      30 years ago when it was developed, JHP tech was not as advanced and reliable as it is today. 9mm was a notorious underperformer, and when the FBI wanted something that would punch bigger holes but be a little more carryable than a 10mm, .40 was right there.

      About the same time, the AWB hit, WonderNines vanished into the ether, and everyone was looking for a handgun that had a good-performing cartridge and a capacity of right around 10 rounds without being overly huge. Again, .40 S&W stepped up, dominating with the Gen3 Smiths like the 4000 series. Why carry 10 rounds of 9mm when you can carry 10 rounds of .40 in a gun that’s the exact same size and weight? (good high-capacity .45s were pretty much nonexistent at this time, and even today are a bit big for a lot of hands)

      Now that everyone is loading to the FBI gel performance protocol, and high-tech engineered barrier-blind JHPs, one major caliber performs pretty much, within a few percentage points, of any of the others, so the clear choice is towards capacity and quick follow-up. It just wasn’t so clear 20 years ago.

    • … jack of all trades, master of none.

      I hate this saying. Somehow knowledge in just one area is good, but in all areas is bad. The self reliant man is a renaissance man. A man of much knowledge in many areas and that is always a good thing – not a bad one. Somewhere along history it became a negative idea to not specialize in one area.

      Master of none? Why not be a master of all?

    • “but I’ve never shot a .40S&W gun that felt nicer than a .45ACP”

      Then you haven’t shot a gun from IWI in .40. I’ve had at least a dozen people try to buy my 1st gen all steel version of this gun off me because it’s one of the most pleasant pistols you’ll ever shoot.

      As for .40 ammo, two JHP’s in the chest and you won’t care what you got shot with. It’s a perfectly viable round.

      People who complain it’s too snappy obviously are pistol noobs or just decided they don’t like the round for some reason. Were I to blindfold you and hand you my pistol with 165g Hornady Critical Defense in it and then hand you another gun with 115g 9mm of the same type, you’d tell me the 9mm was “snappier” because it is. The Baby Eagle pistols handle recoil amazingly well.

  2. Wow what a huge Honker. And only 10 rounds? I’ll pass. If I want a large 40 I’ll just get a GLOCK 22…(and I never thought 40 was snappy-work out a little)…

    • TAG is being lazy? They are using CA Magazines, the 40 is 13 rounds the 9mm is 16. Standard for a full size CZ clone.

      • That makes sense since my original IMI Desert Eagle Pistol (Baby Eagle) is 12 + 1 in 40 S&W. I also never understood the 40 is snappy thing, it seems on par with 9mm and 45 in IMO depending on the gun.

        • 40s have about 10-15% more muzzle energy than a 9mm or 45. It you want the same power, you go with a +p in 9mm or 45. (notice that there is no such thing as a 40 S&W +p)

        • @Matt:

          I agree. I actually find the 1st gen of this gun handles .40 better than most pistols handle 9mm. It’s nice and smooth, no chop, no snap just a nice roll right back to where the sight was.

      • LOL-none whatsoever James! I’m just semiretired and jump on TTAG pretty often. Now if RF would send me some guns to review 🙂

        • “Now if RF would send me some guns to review.”

          From personal experience, I can tell you to check your e-mail more than once every two weeks.

          Cuz, I didn’t, and I blew my opportunity to test a Cabot .45…

        • Hey Geoff I DO check my e-mail nearly daily. I belong to a bunch of Fakebook sites and get a gazillion replies to wade through…

    • The .40 S&W is a wussified version of the 10mm that the FBI thought they needed but then realized they couldn’t handle.

      And the .40s that I have shot seemed pretty tame, compared to a .357 magnum.

    • Yes and no. This gun is really the third generation of the BUL Cherokee, which is not quite the same as the Jericho. I own the first couple gens of the Cherokee, and they are very nice guns. Admittedly, it’s a bit like Tanfo vs CZ-75, but some people like one vs the other.

      Unfortunately, MR has yet again decided that slide safety/decockers are the only thing consumers would ever want, which is pretty much the opposite of what the US market desires… so the BDEIII series isn’t even going to be in the running compared to the new IWI Jerichos. Too bad, really.

  3. “Load up the polymer-framed firearm to max capacity (10 + 1 in this version) and the carbon steel frame and slide handgun tips the scales at 28 ounces.”

    So which is it? A polymer frame or a carbon steel frame?

    Methinks the writer was too busy being cute to organize his words in a lucid manner.

  4. It’s usual sheep following sheep. If the FBI switched to Hi-points everybody would be singing the prases and drinking gallons of kool-aid quickly dumping what ever handgun/caliber they now have. Ever since they all switched to semi-autos it’s been a cluster.

  5. Wait….Is that young man old enough to shoot such a power firearm ?!

    And if I’m “channeling my inner-Scotty”. I’ll take the Phaser over the .40 s&w any day. [“Set to Heavy Stun ! “Blap!Blap! Take that ISIS ! ” What what prisoner ? No, I Don’t know where that smoking pile of ash came from! “] ~~~~sorry, want to see Star Trek Beyond with my pappy !~~~~~~

  6. Man, this article is crap. Refers to a .40 S&W as a “necked down” 10mm?? Its the same bore, same projos, just a shortened case… not necked down. Then repeats the meme about .40 being “too snappy”… sure its no .22 , its not like shooting a 230 gr .45 from a fullsized metal frame gun. But its not unusable or unmanageable even from lightweight small framed guns. My Kahr CW40 is easier on the hands to shoot than a lot of sub-compact 9’s or even moderate sized .357s, yet somehow millions of people manage to shoot those every day. Then he declares the .40 a “dead cartridge walking”… seriously?? Might not be the new hotness like it was for awhile, but I guarantee people will be making pistols in .40 S&W for decades to come. This article is poorly written, with almost no content other than Robert trying to be “cute” or stir up debate. Right, a caliber war in the comments section, its cutting commentary like that that really draws the viewers!

    Just to be clear, not a .40 fanboi. I have pistols and revolvers in at least a dozen different calibers from .22 to .50. I use em all, and depending on the day and my mood my carry piece could be a .40, a 10mm, .45 ACP, .45 LC, 9mm, or .38/.357.

  7. I really dislike these smart allicky reviews. Just the facts bozo, just the facts. Also, what’s-with-the-gluttonous-over-use-of-dashes-all-of-a-sudden? It’s obnoxious and uncalled for.
    As far as .40 S&W goes, I personally prefer the round as a happy medium between 9m and .45 acp in both weight, capacity and ft. Lbs. Of torque. My edc is a Walther PPS in .40 and my go to full size is a Beretta 96FS. The first open carry state I lived in years back I carried a IWI steel frame baby d.e. in .40 S&W and it wasn’t overly heavy or cumbersome, so I fail to see what the problem would be carrying this poly frame d.e.
    Lastly, all you recoil baby’s need to get a tissue and a gym membership…my god, it’s not like your shooting a .45-70 revolver.

    • “I really dislike these smart allicky reviews. Just the facts bozo, just the facts.”

      I read TTAG reviews for the information they offer, AND, for it to be presented in an interesting or humorous style.

      The boring gun blogs are a few doors down the hallway on the right… 🙂

    • TTAG is one of the only places to go for irreverent humor in gun reviews. If you just want facts and specs (and puff), you can get a free copy of American Rifleman with your NRA membership.

  8. FormerWaterWalker, The weights and energy’s I listed are typical range ammo. That is what people typically shoot. That is what people get their preconceptions from. With “typical” range ammo, the 40 puts out 10-15% more energy. That is why people feel the 40 has more recoil, because it has. Also I DON’T want my defensive ammo to hit 500 f-lbs unless I dealing with bears or something bigger than a man.

    • Fair enough. I WANT my handgun to be as powerful as possible. I shot Pow’rball out of a lowly Taurus Millennium Pro in 40 and had no problem(AT ALL) with muzzle flip or accuracy. Or followup shots.Likewise Winchester pdx1(still not far from Corbon). And my next gun may be a 357 with a 4″ barrel…

  9. I have the first generation of this gun in all steel and it’s one of my daily carry guns. Love it. Fits my hand perfectly and shoots just as well as my .45USP at half the price (I paid $554 after taxes).

    It was my 2nd pistol purchase and out of the 16 handguns I own it’s still my hands down my day-to-day favorite.

    As for .40 vs other rounds I fail to see the arguments against it holding water. Two JHPs in the chest and you won’t know or care what you got shot with and in terms of reliability this pistol is on par with $1000 guns.

    I’ve had a dozen people try to buy it off of me after shooting it which tells me that it’s not just me, the gun is easy to fall in love with. It shoots so smoothly and will digest any ammo you give it with no problems. IIRC I’ve never had a malfunction with the gun that I didn’t intentionally cause (like purposely inserting a spent casing into the action), it’s only hit a few bunk primers.

    Honestly, at it’s price point it’s one of the best guns you can get and it comes in the “big three” calibers so if you have something against one of them you can always get different caliber. It handles recoil better than a Glock and shoots just as well as a Sig, HK, Ruger, FN etc.

  10. Huge ugly overpriced clunky meeskite gun (with absolutely no retained, trade-in, or resale value) in a creepy snarky review unworthy of RF’s writing talents. DMD

  11. I don’t want to sound like a hipster but the IWI guns seem so much better. The safety is placed on the frame, and no finger grooves.

  12. Can’t review a 40 without putting the cartridge down. But I guess it’s cool to diss 40 in the firearms community. You have to make your small 9mm feel bigger with ego.

    Everyone will be switching back to 40 in 5 years. It works best in duty sized firearms. I guess you could say the same with 45. I can only carry 10 rounds in my state. Hence I carry the biggest bullet that I can and still have 10 rounds. Handguns don’t do energy damage. The deal crush damage. Crush requires the largest expansion with the deepest penetration. So the 9mm will always do less damage than the 40 who will do less than the 45. The discrepancy is that handgun shootings have many variables. Some people can take a bunch of 45s and others drop from a single 9mm. But blood loss and central nervous system damage are what drops people. I will carry what is most likely to do just that. Within my personal carry parameters. Exactly what I would expect others to do.

    That baby eagle is a beast. I would snag it if only to feel like Spike Speagel.

  13. Having held and shot both, I’d go with IWI for the win. Both are nice guns, though, so if you like something about one more than the other, so be it.

    Specifically regarding the “review” if you’ve handled a Beretta M9 or 92, you can deal with the slide safety. And if you’ve never shot a 40 and are willing to put a few hundred rounds through the gun, you can deal with 40.

    ***TRIGGER WARNING***

    Unless you are a wuss.

  14. the list of sidearms that came into production for sale in the u.s. due to the czech design being largely unavailable is considerable. israeli, swiss, italian, american (p9) even the turks got in on it.
    but you can buy a cz now…

    • I have a CZ 75 Shadow for the range and a Canik C-100 for carry (better than a PCR, and I hate decockers) and have a Witness P as bug out gun (unlike polymer CZ, will use the same mags as my other CZ types and the witness 22 slide is 10 times more reliable than a CZ Kadet conversion). I love CZs, but sometimes for a job, the clones are better.

  15. With regards to the Baby Eagle being pointless with the Jericho being on the market, consider some of us like, prefer, or need ambidextrous controls (the left-handed are underappreciated by some), so the sllde-mounted controls were set up to resemble the Desert Eagle’s, and serve a useful function. The Jericho, as I understand it, only has a left-side (only) mounted safety, so like the 1911, makes it’s a bit awkward for leftie use.
    As for the .40 S&W being “snappy”, I found found full power loads out of a light weight polymer “subcompact” (S&W’s own Sigma 40V) to be every bit “snappy”, but downloaded to more tolerable levels, it wasn’t as bad. To, keep in mind that folks with arthritic hands would consider such a thing important, as I do. A Full-size, all steel .40 would soak up the recoil a bit better . . .
    Yes, there is still a place for the .40 S&W cartridge, in recreation shooting, competition shooting, and self-defense.

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