Micro Desert Eagle: Initial impressions and first 1000 rounds

| March 27, 2011 | 20 Comments

I’m not a big fan of small guns, but I could really use a gun small enough to carry when I go running, and last week I was having a bad week and decided, screw it, pocket guns are fairly cheap, and I could use a present. I’m not a fan of plastic guns, so I had two in mind, either the Micro Desert Eagle or the Sig 238. The combination of reliability concerns and a limited budget, I picked up the Micro Eagle.


900 reloads, 2.7gr Bullseye under a 95gr Missouri Bullet Co. LRN.
100 Winchester PDX1


Cleaned after every range session, lubed with FP-10.

The manual doesn’t give any suggested recoil spring change interval, and Magnum Research just gave me the not-so-helpful suggestion of “Just replace them whenever the slide starts to cycle improperly” so I’m going to wait it until it starts to screw up, then subtract 1 or 2 hundred rounds from that and use that as my change interval.


Zero. When it first came into my FFL I stripped it, lubed it, then gave it a reliability workout, running 500 of my filthy lead handloads through it in one go without re-lubing. No issues. Here’s a few pics of how dirty it was when I was done:

Fit and finish

Everything is very well fit – slide to frame is tight and smooth, barrel to frame seems to be good as well. There are machining marks visible everywhere on the gun. Those on the outside are almost polished away, but still readily visible close-up. Not really a big deal. The marks on the inside are far deeper, and also they don’t seem to affect function or the smoothness of the trigger pull or slide movement, they’re fouling magnets and rather difficult to clean.

I haven’t really had the gun long enough to assess finish durability, especially since my holster for it hasn’t come in. A little bit of wear on the barrel is all that’s shown up so far, everything else looks exactly like it did new, even the slide rails.


Surprising. With pocket pistols like this, everything about the gun is a compromise to cut size. There’s no sight radius to speak of, the grip is too short and thin to get a proper grip that isolates the motion of your trigger finger, and the trigger pull is designed for safety rather than shootability, so I wasn’t expecting much. Results were much different. Here are my targets from my first range session, the first at seven yards, the second at 15, 50 shots per bull, emptying each six round mag in 3-4 seconds:

The gun has excellent, full-size sights, and although the trigger is heavy (8 or 9 pounds, it feels like, and after a few hundred rounds of breakin, it feels like it dropped by a full pound) it is very smooth and it breaks with amazing crispness. I can’t understate how startling clean the break is, its on part with my tuned DAO S&W Model 64. The trigger also stacks slightly right before it breaks, so that combined with the good sights and crisp break make for a very shootable gun. What really blew my mind is when I was shooting at 100 yards with some friends, ran out of rifle ammo before and decided to play around with the Micro Eagle while I waited for a target change. It took two or three shots to get the holdover dialed in, but once I did, I was holding about a 24″ group and putting most of my shots in the 12×24″ cardboard box I was shooting at. Most of my misses were horizontal stringing from poor trigger control, so I imagine the gun itself is capable of much more.

General Impressions

The first thing that strikes you when you open the box is how tiny the pistol is:

And with my cell phone – if you have an iPhone or one of the flagship Android phones, it’ll be just a little bit bigger than mine:

I forgot to take side-by-side pics when my friend had his LCP at my place, but the Micro Eagle is actually slightly smaller. Its a fair bit heavier, though, but I consider that a plus.
For those of you not aware, the Micro Eagle is a licensed, American-produced copy of a Czech pistol, the ZVI Kevin. This has to be one of the most uniquely-designed pistols I’ve ever seen.
Its a delayed blowback, utilizing two little ports just in front of the chamber to blast gas into the the front of the ejection port, slowing slide movement:

Unlike most fixed-barrel blowback guns, it does not have a single recoil spring surrounding the barrel, but two guide rods and recoil springs held inside the frame rails. And unlike most guns with guide rods, they’re not held stationary in the frame during recoil, the reciprocate with the slide:

Also unlike most fixed-barrel blowbacks, the barrel isn’t attached to the frame. Instead, the barrel has a locking lug underneath the chamber that engages a coutout in the frame. To field strip the gun, you line up two notches on the frame and slide, which lines up the frame cut with a relief cut in the slide, then you rotate the barrel 180 degrees and slide come right off the front.

It also has a pair of little plastic recoil buffers to prevent the steel slide from peening the aluminum frame:


With a gun this small, there’s a fair bit of recoil force even with .380, and although its pretty straight back with little muzzle rise, the smooth front and back straps still let the gun move around a fair bit in your hands. I put grip tape on the front and back strap, as well as on the front of the magazine baseplate.

The shiny nickel-teflon finish makes the sights, especially the front, rather difficult to see in certain light. I masked off the slide and hit the front and rear with some black grill paint. Hopefully it will hold up well over time. We’ll see.

And one last pic of the gun as it is now, with 1000 rounds through it, front and backstrap grip tape, basepad grip tape, and painted sights:

About the Author:

I'm an engineering improvement specialist in the aerospace industry

20 Comments on "Micro Desert Eagle: Initial impressions and first 1000 rounds"

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  1. Jeff says:

    Nice choice. I went the opposite route and got a p238. I guess I lucked out, beccause after 1000+ rounds I’ve yet to have a break or malfunction. I still carry a j frame when I jog, but it was an excuse to buy another pistol.

  2. gary says:

    I have both guns and have had zero problems with either gun. Accuracy seems to be about the same with either gun. I prefer single action so the P238 is my preference in that regard but the micro has the best double action trigger that I have used thus far. I prefer the P238 in regards to the grip of the gun in general but the micro for its size is good as well. Buy the lowest priced gun I would say at this point.

  3. rob says:

    I had this gun for awhile and I gotta tell ya, im not a big mouse gun kinda guy! But this gun for what it is is more than adequate to get the job done! I had no jams I liked the design and I could rapidly put 7 shots fast on a paper plate at 7 yds/ 21 feet. Anyway I traded it along with another gun to get a Springfield trp. I do miss that Microsoft eagle tho!

  4. Just Me says:

    I have the full size Desert Eagle Mark VII .44 pistol. One of my favorite guns! But now looking for a concealed gun. I guess unfairly, I never even considered Magnum Research. for such a gun. However after reading this, I believe the Micro Desert Eagle will be my first choice. Very well written and extremely thorough, thank you!

  5. Mr. Gunwrite says:

    Bravo, What a detailed review! Your attention to detail is uncanny, kudos. I have been on the fence about buying one of these fine pistols and you have now cemented my choice. Do you plan to run some Hornady Critical Defense through the micro? The reason I ask is the ammo is advertised for use in small barrels. I believe with exception to the Seecamp 380 and maybe a Derringer style pistol, the micro has the smallest barrel. How would you feel about running Buffalo Bore +p rounds through this robust pistol? Again what a grade A+ review!

    Mr. Gunwrite

  6. Matt says:

    I have had almost every mouse/compact gun out there. Glock, Walther, Keltec, Diamondback in multiple calibers and that’s just in the past few months… In the end the MDE was the only one I kept.

    This gun is a compromise, it’s not terribly comfortable, it’s not so light and the sights are a bit hard to see BUT with all of that said, why has the MDE become my daily carry gun? Because this gun gets it right where it counts. It is the MOST RELIABLE, ACCURATE pocket pistol on the market and at the end of the day, isn’t the point of a concealed carry weapon to be able to be there when you need it and to work and work well when you do? If that’s the criteria, there’s nothing better than this little gun.

    I have young kids and would never carry a striker fired gun with one in the chamber with them around which is just another reason I like this gun.

    When building a priority list for a carry gun, if you really think about what you need it for, you will wind up with this at the top of your list… That is unless you really think you need 20 rounds of 45 for the zombie attack, but to protect from a thug, this will do perfectly and go bang every time.

  7. Sam says:

    Excellent article. With that being said, I picked up my MDE 14 months ago. It was my Christmas present from my wife which I picked out. I really needed a pistol fully compact enough to conceal in shorts and T-shirt. We live in Texas.
    I was searching for Double Action Only. I love my wifes 38 Special for reliability. Never a jam on a revolver, but even her 38 was a bit bulky. So I decided to go the .380 ACP route. I hated the idea though of having to charge a round. Those 2 seconds could easily be the difference of saving a family members life. Then I also hated the idea of leaving a round chambered and needing to take off the safety.

    I also hated having the slide catch and safety that may snag or catch on clothing.
    So after searching for 3 months I found the MDE…

    I can leave a round chambered. With the double action feature only coupled with the very long and heavy 10 lbs trigger pull there is No Safety selector switch to have to think about. Yes it is the heaviest .380 out there and will weigh down a pair of shorts but I always know that I have it and where I happen to be wearing it on my body that day. As mentioned above, the extra heft makes the recoil a lot less than my friend’s polymer .380 . This makes a double tap significantly a full 1-2 seconds faster to sight align, and after all isn’t self protection all about being able to put as many rounds in the target as quickly as possible?
    I have read many columns and blogs where people complain about the extra l9ong trigger pull and it’s 10 lbs needed to get a round off.
    I say HEY I know that when I pull it out of my pocket that my family jewels will still be there afterwards. Also if it fall on the floor there will not be a discharge.
    Anyway I have only had jam problems with some cheap hollow points. Sorry but I cannot remember what brand they were. I use really cheap full metal jacket for target practice, but carry Hornady Critical Defense. The HCD rounds have never jammed. I believe it is because the bullet is very much shaped as a FMJ.
    Anyway no matter what pistol you carry make sure you put a box of you defense rounds through it to ensure you will never have a problem when you need it.
    In the end I absolutely love my Magnum Research Micro Desert Eagle.
    Very easy to conceal as opposed to my 9mm.
    Very easy to carry 2 extra magazines. So 1 in the chamber 6 in the mag and two backups equal to 19 rounds that are so easy to conceal that you may almost forget you have them.

    If you are looking for a .380 but like the feel of a “REAL GUN” then I suggest you rent a MDE and try it out. Just holding it feels like a real gun even though it looks like a toy. I keep an extra magazine empty all the time. When home alone I will empty the gun and put in the dry mag. I then practice pistol draw and dry fire. Believe it or not because of the trigger etc… my dry firing has increased my range target grouping.
    I hope this has helped.
    Good luck and remember that guns to not kill. People kill. Many times because they are morons who do not practice full fire arm safety. All guns are thought to be loaded at all times.

  8. Jon Bodnyk says:


    The Micro Desert Eagle I purchased a few weeks ago is being returned for inspection and repair?it has never been shot except at the factory.

    The problem is:
    ? 1st time out?with a full magazine?it did not load Federal Premium? Personal Defense? – .380 ACP 90gr Hydra-Shok? JHP rounds.
    o It feeds rounds properly with less than a full magazine. My guess is it has a lot to do with the design and finish of the barrel feed ramp and the magazine needs to be modified to exert optimum force no matter how many rounds it needs to feed.
    o This happened the very first time I went to fire it and the slide jammed open.
    o It was extremely difficult to remove the jammed round ?and not very safe. This is ?because the pistol does not have a slide locking mechanism.
    o I showed the pistol to a friend of mine who owns a gun shop?I cleared the round in the chamber to hand him the gun. When he handed it back I inserted the magazine and when I went to chamber a round?it jammed again. He watched me attempt to dislodge the jamb and asked me to take it out of the store to do it.
    o We both considered this a severe safety concern
    The handgun is being returned to Magnum Research along with a new spare magazine for them to rectify the problem.

  9. Jon Bodnyk says:


    The Micro Desert Eagle I returned to the factory came back with the same malfunction.

    I called Desert Eagle’s customer service and asked what they did to the firearm. I was told they removed a burr on the barrel and replaced the slide and they put 12 rounds through it with no problem.

    I asked if they fed 12 rounds of a Federal Premium? Personal Defense? ? .380 ACP 90gr Hydra-Shok? JHP…each round from a full magazine…they replied no. They used another round and ran 12 consecutive rounds through it.

    Why did they bother to request what ammo the firearm malfunctioned with when I sent it in when they weren’t going to validate the repair with it.

    The problem was … AND STILL IS:
    ? 1st time out?with a full magazine?it did not load Federal Premium? Personal Defense? ? .380 ACP 90gr Hydra-Shok? JHP rounds.
    o It feeds rounds properly with less than a full magazine. My guess is it has a lot to do with the design and finish of the barrel feed ramp and the magazine needs to be modified to exert optimum force no matter how many rounds it needs to feed.
    o This happened the very first time I went to fire it and the slide jammed open.
    o It was extremely difficult to remove the jammed round ?and not very safe. This is ?because the pistol does not have a slide locking mechanism.

  10. TheWiryIrishman says:

    Thanks for the kind words everyone!
    Mr Gunwrite – I’ve never tried Critical Defense, but my gun eats Gold Dots and PDX1 just fine.

    Jon – I think the lack of a slide lock is the biggest drawback of the MDE. I can still clear it perfectly safely, though. Drop the mag first, grab the baseplate with your weak hand and pull it out if you have to. After that you’re free to manipulate the slide to your heart’s content to get the problematic round out. When I’m in a situation when I need to show clear, I just shove a chamber flag in. As for your feeding problems, JHPs can be finicky. Some profiles just don’t feed in some guns. Its an issue the internet typically associates with 1911s, but all guns can fall victim. Your Federals just may not work. Have you tried another JHP with a different bullet profile? If memory serves, the Federals have a flat, truncated cone profile. A bullet with a rounder profile might work better for you. My MDE eats Gold Dots and PDX1 just fine, they both have a more rounded profile. Every once in a while they will hang up on the feed ramp when manually racking in the first round from the mag. Its a problem all short-action pistols are prone to, since they need all the spring power from all their very short slide travel to chamber rounds properly, so anything you do to even minutely slow down the slide can lead to issues like this. When racking slides on guns like this, I don’t let the slide go when I rack it, I just pull the slide back fast and keep my hand moving, so the slide pulls itself out of my hand once it stops on the frame, thus giving the slide the full possible force of the spring on return. If it still hangs up anyway, just give the basepad a good whack, just like you’re seating the mag, and that tends to bump it loose and into the chamber. Once the gun is chambered, I’ve gone through around 1500 rounds of handloads, Gold Dots, and PDX1 without a malfunction. Of course, its certainly possible you just got a lemon, but I’d try new ammo and altering the way you manipulate the slide before you write it off.

  11. Tommy Tran says:

    I have owned this gun for 4 months and can say it runs like a sewing machine! Never skip a beat! Love this 380 and would not trade it for another 380! At first I wanted to get a p238 until I laid my eyes on the MDE…. Bought it and took it to the range and surprisingly I shot it as good as my p226 9mm! This is my EDC and I would not trade it for any other 380 out there! Simply because of the full metal frame, advance technology and the great accuracy it has! I would recommend this gun to anyone that is looking for a quality 380 that you can see and feel!

  12. TGent says:

    I’ve owned just about every pocket 380 in existence,the MDE,will run and can’t be stopped I’ve run staggered magazines of every defense 380 round available no stoppages of any sort .This eats anything including plus -p BBore. The only other 380 that is as reliable is the Bersa,although it’s larger. This gun outshoots even my Kahr 380. A keeper for sure 500 rounds put through it in a month.

  13. Samuel Bowe says:

    Agree with TGent, MDE, after polishing the feed ramp, was reliable and takes some practice to shoot well. Love this little 380 & after 4 yrs it’s still in my back pocket more than any other gun I own. Love my Bersa 380CC too though!

  14. Do you happen to have any photos of the chambered round indicator? I just bought one of these used and the indicator does not move with or without a round in the chamber. I’d like to see what it’s supposed to look like.

  15. Mike says:

    Let’s try this again. Hate auto correct. My point is that you do not trash a luxury car because it does not like your brand of gasoline. Plus the ammo that did not perform is not the latest and best out there.

  16. Allan says:

    Mike is on target. PDX1 or DPX are both better choices for personal defense and feed flawlessly in my micro.

  17. Allan says:

    Sorry Rufus, no photo but it probably wouldn’t show anyway. The extractor is supposed to lean out and show a red line with a round chambered. But it’s barely perceptible. Best to just assume there is always one in the pipe.

  18. Brett says:

    I?ve been carrying this gun probably 360 days a year, for at least 5 yrs now. It sits in a pocket holster, and goes completely unnoticed by me, let alone anyone else thanks to its somewhat odd shape, and lack of printing.
    I have worked for days in horrific environments, drenched in rain, mud, and sand. I go shooting the next day, and pull out the mde packed full of pocket lint, and filth to fire 5 mags with 0 malfunctions out of probably 2500 rounds at this point. I clean it every time I shoot, but that?s not always very often. The only spec of rust or corrosion is on the face of the grip screws, and I?m fairly certain the magazine spring of any gun would be prone to failure long before this gun itself had any mechanical malfunction arising from dirt or corrosion.

  19. Brett says:

    It?s also worth mentioning that the only negative feedback I?ve ever read is from people bemoaning it?s lack of +p rating, dealing with the small grip under recoil, and concern of a possible case where the slide cracked while using overpowered ammo…
    There is no official +p or +p+ Rated .380acp ammo. Anything labeled as such, is an unknown, nonstandard loading no manufacturer can honestly say their .380 gun is ?+p rated?. It?s also ridiculous to bother using more powder in a barrel less than 2 inches long! The bullet won?t go any faster, but the slide will, and there will be more carbon, and crap blasting through the gun, more recoil, a bigger fireball, louder bang, and with this unique blowback design, even some crap blowing into your face that the quality standard pressure ammo doesn?t seem to provide. There?s no advantage to +p pocket gun ammo, so don?t put any stock in those sort of reviews. It?s not an actual ?desert eagle? in the nonsense movie gun hand canon since, so don?t try to load it to those standards lol.

  20. Jasper Riley says:

    Have owned and carried my mde for about 4 years and carry almost every time I go out the door. I carry in an ankle rig so it gets a fair amount of sock fuzz and other stuff but has never failed to fire and I try to shoot then clean at least every 2 weeks. A prime example of the KISS principle.

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