Magnum Research Baby
Lots of rifle hunters pack handguns
along when they head for the boondocks. Some depend on them to take care of camp pests.
Others like to add a bit of fresh squirrel meat to the stew now and then. Occasionally a
beltgun comes in handy for finishing shots or, during emergencies, to fire signal shots.
Whatever the rationale, choice of sidearms seems evenly divided between light .22
autoloaders and heavy, long-barreled magnum revolvers. There is another category: what
used to be called pocket pistols.
Made in Israel and imported by
Magnum Research, the Baby Eagle is fairly typical of the new breed of pocket arms. Its
light, compact and powerful with a steel slide and barrel mounted on a synthetic frame.
Designed with safety in mind, it can be carried with the safety engaged, simultaneously
locking the firing pin, uncocking the hammer and disconnecting the trigger and sear. If a
hunter prefers, it can also be borne with the hammer down and the safety in the Off
position. In that mode, the pistol can be fired simply by pulling the trigger or the
hammer can be cocked manually, permitting the pistol to be fired single action.
Thats the way it was set up
when it was packed afield on three coyote hunts. The magazine was packed with CCIs
.40-caliber shotshells. August through October are the snakiest months here in Arizona.
State law forbids killing rattlers unless they are life-threatening. In my judgment, thats
6 feet. If a snake is farther away, its usually possible to beat a hasty retreat. If
hes 6 feet or closer, its either him or me.
Fortunately, no snakes were spotted
during any of the excursions in the local hills. No coyotes, either, sad to say. Even so,
the CCI shotshells patterned well at the range.
Birchwood Casey Shoot-N-See targets
were set up 6 feet from the muzzle. The sights were aligned with the center of the targets
middle diamond (1.5 inches top to bottom and side to side). One round put 26 pellets
inside the diamonds outline. They would have been more than enough to crumple a
snakes head at that distance.
A second target was set up. Two
rounds were fired at it just as fast as the trigger could be pulled. That punched 44
pellet holes inside the diamond plus 20 more that smashed into the diamonds border.
Had a rattler, even a grandaddy type, been coiled at that distance, hed have been
non compos mentis before the last empty hit the sand.
What the weight of CCIs
.40-caliber pellet load amounts to I cant say. One round at 6 feet put a total of 87
pellets through the Birchwood Casey target. Recoil of the shotshells, by the way, was
noticeably tamer than that experienced when popping away with the jacketed-bullet factory
loads. All CCI shotshells functioned perfectly too, feeding and ejecting flawlessly.
Front and rear sights are simple,
sturdy and highly visible against all types of background. In the rear, theres a
fixed vertical leaf, some .3 inch high, bearing a 1/8-inch wide square notch bracketed by
two large white dots. Up front, a flat-topped blade, also 1/8-inch wide, bears another
white dot on its rear face. No matter how dim the light, those three dots stand out,
enabling a shooter to align sights and target in remarkably short order.
According to the accompanying
manual, the sights were set for 25 meters at the factory. At the range, the target was
erected 25 yards from the firing point. Bullets from two of the three factory loads tested
landed slightly above the aiming point at that distance.
The initial range tests made it very
clear that the littlest Eagle was going to be very choosy about its ammunition. Both the
Winchester and Federal rounds grouped well. Speers 165-grain hollowpoints did not.
Of the 50 rounds of the latter brand that were fired, seven failed to feed, effectively
jamming the action. Although the exact cause was undetermined, those extra-wide
hollownoses were probably to blame.
Most of the Federal and Winchester
rounds grouped in 1.5 to 2 inches at 25 yards. Without exception, every flier was called.
Like most fresh-from-the-factory autoloaders, the Eagles trigger was nothing to
boast about. Its single- action pull was characterized by a plethora of uneven travel;
weight of pull varied from 3 pounds, 4.6 ounces to an even 5 pounds (according to Lymans
electronic trigger pull gauge). As I became more accustomed to the trigger and learned to
increase pressure against it very gradually, scores improved enough to convince me the
pistols accuracy potential was being frustrated by that bloody awful trigger. Anyone
who buys one of these pistols will regret it if he doesnt have a good pistolsmith
civilize its trigger pull.
Only one handload was made up to
discover if polygonal rifling would accommodate cast bullets: Oregon Trails
180-grain roundnoses were seated over 5.0 grains of Bullseye. Fifteen feet from the
muzzle, velocities averaged 1,043 fps with an extreme velocity spread of a mere 14 fps.
Ten rounds went into 4 inches at 25 yards - but half of them clustered in 1.5 inches. The
rest were blamed on that uncooperative trigger.
Oregon Trail bullets are cast very
hard, but they left streaks of lead just in front of the chamber. Ambient temperature was
92 degrees Fahrenheit during those tests.
Whoever designed the Baby Eagle must
have had a hand like mine, for the little autoloaders grip fit my paw like a glove.
There was never any need to shift the pistol around for a better fit. Each time my fingers
wrapped around that frame, they fell in the same place. Those grips fitted as though they
had been custom-made.
A few years ago, the Baby Eagle would have
been categorized as a pocket pistol - period. It can certainly serve that purpose, of
course, but the little autos inherent versatility makes it a good choice for anyone
heading outside the city limits. Compact and lightweight, it should be ideal for
backpackers, hikers, wildlife photographers and, of course, hunters. - Al Miller