Magnum Research Desert Eagle 1911 Undercover—A Tiny But Mighty Pistol


The 1911 U is a stunning blend of aluminum, steel, wood and nickel.

The 1911 U is a stunning blend of aluminum, steel, wood and nickel.

By Justin Opinion
Magnum Research
http://www.magnumresearch.com/

Say “Magnum Research” to a gun enthusiast, and you’ve just conjured up the image of the .50 caliber handgun that has become almost folklore. But the truth is that Magnum Research has been diversifying its offerings for some time, and now that continues with the ownership and backing of Kahr Arms. In 2014, the product line expands with a new 1911 offering called the 1911U, or Undercover. This small 3” 1911 is clearly intended for the personal protection and concealed carry markets.

There are those that hate 1911’s and there are those that think anything designed from 1912 onward is not a real gun… I fall somewhere in between. As a firearms enthusiast, I think that every town square in America should have a bronze statue of John Moses Browning. I adore the 1911 for its beauty, its design and its longevity, and I love to shoot them. But I’ve never been able to take the “cocked and locked” plunge and consider one for a carry gun. But I said all that, to say this—for the purposes of this review, this gun is a carry gun. Unless you are an avid collector of 1911’s, of which there are many thousands, of course, there is no practical value to a 3” 1911 in .45 ACP except to carry it for personal protection. From the moment I first picked up the DE1911U, I have thought of it first and foremost as a concealed carry pistol, and that is how I evaluated it.

The sights are good quality, and the rear is fully adjustable. But the author would prefer 3-dot night sights for a carry gun.

The sights are good quality, and the rear is fully adjustable. But the author would prefer 3-dot night sights for a carry gun.

The quality of the DE1911U is apparent at first glance and touch. The aircraft grade aluminum frame marries to the 4140 carbon steel slide beautifully, with a snug fit. The quality of the finish, lettering and mill work is very good. Adding some contrast and jewelry to the pistol, the trigger is a skeletonized aluminum, and the grip safety is a beautiful satin nickel. Add a skeletonized hammer and small touches like stainless steel grip screws, and the Desert Eagle 1911 Undercover is an attention getter.The sights on the Undercover remind me of target sights. That’s probably because they pretty much are target sights. The rear sight is large and adjustable for windage and elevation. It has horizontal serrations and a matte finish to eliminate glare.

The front sight is also matte finished with a serrated blade face. The sight fitment of front blade to rear notch is very nice, with just a little bit of air space. But the problem is this—there are no markings on the sights for the shooter. Good as the sights are, I feel that they don’t belong on this gun. For a self-defense gun, I would prefer a nice set of Novak’s or similar – preferably a night sight option with Tritium dots.

Ergonomics

Magnum Research got it right when it comes to the nice-sized thumb safety, slightly extended mag release, and well extended beavertail with the "memory bump".

Magnum Research got it right when it comes to the nice-sized thumb safety, slightly extended mag release, and well extended beavertail with the “memory bump”.

It’s a 1911. Looks like one, holds like one, feels like one. About the only things a gun maker can do to alter the ergonomics of a 1911 platform pistol are: Grips, Checkering, Beavertail/grip safety, Thumb safety, and Mag release.

  • The grip safety is in contrasting nickel plating and has the ubiquitous ‘memory bump’ configuration. Its beavertail extension is generous in length and curves nicely to cup the cocked hammer. It is otherwise smooth, and really becomes invisible to your grip—or at least it did to mine.

The checkering of the aluminum mainspring cover (backstrap) is deep and tight, with aggressive points. It serves well to offer a firm grip and prevent slippage. It is only bested by the checkering on the front strap—which is amazing. It was actually the first thing that impressed me when I picked up this pistol for the first time. I thought it had grabbed ahold of me, instead of me grabbing it. Aluminum always seems “grippier” to me than carbon steel anyway, and this ultra-fine and deep checkering is second to none. Specifications are not listed for the checkering, but I would estimate 30 lines per inch.

The aggressive checkering on the mainspring cover and front strap is perfection.

The aggressive checkering on the mainspring cover and front strap is perfection.

  • Grips—wider than I’d like, by a little bit. The grips are nice wood, with a honey-walnut colored finish and the traditional double-diamond pattern. Slightly thicker than some other 1911’s, this will not only relate to the shooter’s hand size, but also to how well the gun will conceal. Width is one of the crucial dimensions for concealed carry, and every fraction of an inch matters. If it were mine, I’d swap these out for a nice thin set of G10 grips.
  • The thumb safety (right handers only) is the now-standard “extended” size. I find the safety to be just right.
  • The magazine release is slightly extended and well checkered. It is on the stiff side, but it functions fine and I had no complaints with it.
  • The cocking serrations on the slide are very good. Visually subtle and ordinary, they are cut deep and provide an exceptional grip. Your hand won’t slip on this slide.

Function and design

Field stripped, the DE1911U shows design elements like a barrel crown and dual recoil springs.

Field stripped, the DE1911U shows design elements like a barrel crown and dual recoil springs.

Instead of a barrel bushing, the DE 1911U incorporates an 11-degree muzzle crown on the 3” bull barrel for a precision barrel-to-slide fit. A full-length guide rod is also used, with a dual spring combo of a captured and a free spring—held by a bushing at the muzzle. This pistol is a relatively light 25.8 oz. empty. It stands 5” tall from the seated magazine baseplate to the top of the rear sight. Overall length is 6.85” – and much of that is the extended beavertail.

The Undercover is a Series 70 1911, and as such it does not have a firing pin block. Without the additional mechanical friction, this adds to the smooth and crisp feel of the trigger.

The trigger of the DE1911U is worthy of the pickiest 1911 enthusiast.

The trigger of the DE1911U is worthy of the pickiest 1911 enthusiast.

Trigger

And speaking of the trigger: Even by 1911 standards, which can be excruciating, the trigger on the 1911 Undercover is one of the best I’ve ever shot. Observed trigger pull averaged less than 3 ½ lbs.

Reset is very short (I measured it at .050”), which can allow a skilled shooter to empty a magazine in under a couple of seconds. The trigger on my copy of the Undercover had zero over-travel, indicating a good fitment and adjustment at the factory. But there is a set screw for fine tuning it, if needed.

Recoil management of the Undercover was surprisingly better than expected.

Recoil management of the Undercover was surprisingly better than expected.

Shooting and Accuracy

I remember sliding that first loaded magazine of 6 rounds of .45 ACP into the Undercover, and thinking to myself, “this is going to be brutal”. A 3” barreled .45 ACP 1911 is bound to be, by anyone’s standards, snappy. And it is—I won’t fool you. But the gun shoots much better than I anticipated, and the recoil is controlled more than I expected. I think the fantastic checkering on the front strap and back strap have a great deal to do with that. Also contributing is the dual recoil spring assembly with very tight springs.

When it comes to expectations of accuracy with a 3” barrel, I grade on a curve. Not too much ammo is engineered to have optimum performance from such a short gun. At 15 yards rested on a bag, my results with five different brands and types of ammo were pretty good. No group exceeded 3 inches by much, and there were indications that one could reasonably expect 1.5” groups. I found it encouraging that Hornady Critical Defense achieved the best group. The worst group was a tie between Speer Lawman hardball and PMC Bronze 185 grain hollow point. The latter usually gives me very good results, but no two holes touched when shot from the Undercover. For the intended purpose of a defensive handgun, I was satisfied with the accuracy.

Less satisfying however, was the reliability of the pistol to feed and eject. During multiple sessions at the range, using a wide variety of ammo, I had several (maybe half dozen) instances where the DE1911U would not extract and eject the spent cartridge. I would not be able to place reliance on it as a self-defense option until I’d had a gunsmith work on that extractor and I’d fired at least 500 failure-free rounds afterwards.

Good 1911 concealment holsters, like this Blackhawk model, are abundant.  The Desert Eagle 1911 Undercover is well sized for concealed carry.

Good 1911 concealment holsters, like this Blackhawk model, are abundant. The Desert Eagle 1911 Undercover is well sized for concealed carry.

That aside, for all the other reasons to add another 1911 to the collection, the Desert Eagle 1911U has many fine qualities, and it is a remarkably nice shooter. It seems to be struggling to find its identity though, as the thick grip panels and blackout target sights belie its implied purpose as a carry gun.

The 1911 has been a concealed carry choice for more years than I’ve been alive (I’m proud to be able to say that on rare occasions), and there is no indication that it will not continue to be for many decades to come. I think the Desert Eagle 1911 Undercover could be an ideal self-defense handgun to carry concealed—but not until a few key issues are addressed—the primary being the extraction problems. The 3” barrel length allows you to even carry outside the waistband with a top quality holster, like the BLACKHAWK! ® shown. Longer barrel models move quickly into the “must wear inside the waistband” category if you don’t plan to always have a long cover garment. The Undercover would be easily concealed outside the waistband and under a light windbreaker or vest – even with just a sweatshirt pulled over it.

The Magnum Research Desert Eagle 1911 Undercover has an MSRP of $946. That puts it well below most of the competition.

The cocking serrations in the slide are extremely grippy and effective.

The cocking serrations in the slide are extremely grippy and effective.

Close-up of the 11-degree muzzle crown, and traditional barrel lugs.

Close-up of the 11-degree muzzle crown, and traditional barrel lugs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The light and crisp trigger averaged less than 3 1/2 lbs. on the bench.

The light and crisp trigger averaged less than 3 1/2 lbs. on the bench.

Performance was respectable with several ammo types, but best with Critical Defense.

Performance was respectable with several ammo types, but best with Critical Defense.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Clearing an un-extracted case from the chamber was too frequent an activity.

Clearing an un-extracted case from the chamber was too frequent an activity.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DE1911U-CONCEAL-02-1

The Undercover fits nicely and conceals well with business attire...

The Undercover fits nicely and conceals well with business attire…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DE1911U-CONCEALED-05-1

..or with casual clothing as well. The secret is getting a good holster.

..or with casual clothing as well. The secret is getting a good holster.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Having 7 (6+1) rounds of .45 ACP at hand is a comforting feeling.

Having 7 (6+1) rounds of .45 ACP at hand is a comforting feeling.

 

 

{ 28 comments… add one }
  • h weiford August 21, 2017, 2:36 am

    I have several 1911 pistols 4 and 5 inch in 45 38 super 9mm and 22 tcm most problems are easy to fix .1 buy a quality 1911 to begin with 2 buy good magizines. Wilson combat are the best but believe it or not tarus if you can find them are close 2nd.I have 2 4 inch Kimbers ,very good guns that I trust my life too but unless u just want to shoot 230 grn. ball Kimber mags suck!!! Im going to buy my 1st 3 inch 1911 and it will be a MR 1911U in stainless finish .and I am confident that if it does not run right straight out of the box. I will make it right. after all Mr J M B made them 5 inches for a good reason.

  • Alan Brooks February 8, 2017, 3:06 pm

    I just purchased a Desert Eagle 45 undercover and I believe that this gun is one of the finest compact weapons I have ever fired. I found it to be very accurate at 15 yards. Also, I was impresses with the over all appearance of the gun. The appearance is what caught my eye. I would recommend this weapon to any one.

    Alan Brooks

  • Robinson December 29, 2014, 3:10 pm

    I have the Old Double Eagle 3″. It is a fine gun and ahead of it’s time. I have features that are only now available .
    It is a fine gun and a great shooter.

  • John December 29, 2014, 11:33 am

    I have heard the mantra of “put 500 rounds through it and call me in the morning” for 15 years and I just don’t buy it. If a manufacturer produces a product, regardless if it is for target or self defense, it should work right out of the box. I never keep a firearm that has issues. In my 30 years of shooting and collecting I’ve only made one exception ang that was for a Sig 1911 compact Nitron that was a law enforcement trade in and had issues with light hammer strikes. I sent it to Sig on a Monday they rebuilt the slide and I got it back the next Monday and it has worked like a charm every since which is probably why the next 3 pistols I brought were also Sig’s.
    I’ be also had very good experiences with 4 Kimber 1911’s that I brought before the external extractor fiasco and the S&W 1911 E series just plain work. So a grand for a pistol with issues isn’t something I would consider.

  • Warchild_1950 December 29, 2014, 7:49 am

    After 10 in the Navy and 17 in the US Army NG the M1911A1 was my weapon of choice. ANY time a weapon that you defend your life with doesn’t consistently fire or eject is garbage. I can’t understand that the demonstrator wouldn’t bring this major shortfall up or even not recommend NOT buy this until these problems are resolved. As for concealed I would like to have the Kimber Ultra II or (If find one.) a S&W Mod 327. both pack a punch and when well trained are a crime stopper supreme.

  • Mikelasnicov April 21, 2014, 2:43 pm

    I’m really astounded and just find it shocking how tolerant people are about brand new $1000 1911’s having Problems with FTF or FTE. If I had to run five hundred or a thousand rounds through what I consider an expensive weapon for it to become reliable. Well I consider that weapon to be a failure. And that would go for a four or five hundred dollar weapon as well. I have heard that a lot of Kimber’s are like that as well. This is probably why some people have said that ” a Kimber is the gun you like to show off to your friends and the Glock is the one that you show to your enemies.”

    The 1911 pistol just doesn’t seem to tolerate the mass production manufacturing process. And these company’s don’t seem to be willing or able to spend the time with the hand fitment and testing necessary for highly reliable 1911 style pistols on a highly consistent basis. And just because some people are buying these guns and getting excellent reliability right out of the box, it doesn’t negate the fact that an alarmingly high number of them are requiring tinkering or breaking in. If it’s an extra tight purpose built target pistol in which they advertise it as needing breaking in and some possible work then that’s one thing. But if it’s marketed as a self defense weapon then it’s inexcusable, weather they tell you about it in the manual or not.

    • Zachary B May 2, 2015, 11:02 am

      I have a Ruger sr1911 and have put approximately 2000 rounds down range and I have had only 1 fte,that I can recall.Besides that I have shot various types of ammo:from steel case to aluminum,from 160grain to 230 and hollow points. I would say that seems reliable to me

    • MICHAEL LEWIS February 20, 2017, 10:26 am

      I would have no problem buying a gun that required a 500 rd break in so long as the manufacture furnished the Ammo !!! Mike

  • jojo64155 April 9, 2014, 9:16 pm

    Exactly Zerobias, had mine for years, put many many rounds thru it and trust it completely. For the price, it can’t be beat.

  • ctedder April 8, 2014, 5:03 pm

    Colt Defender

  • Zerobias April 8, 2014, 2:59 pm

    Please don’t overlook the Colt Defender. 3″, good balance and weight, and quite accurate for close-in work, which is why we carry concealed. I’ve put 700 round through mine with a mix of ammunition with no ftf’s or fte’s. Top quality, it’s a Colt, and can be had new for under $900.

  • Doug April 8, 2014, 8:30 am

    If you really want a 3″ 1911 as a carry gun, get your hands on a Para Ord Warthog! Double stack 10+1 makes for a grip you can hang onto, especially with wrap around rubber grips. The plastic “toe” on the bottom of the mag is a place to plant your little finger for a secure grip and makes all the difference. It does have a firing pin plunger block and very solid thumb safety making it very safe for the only proper way to carry a 1911 … cocked and locked! The extra 7 oz weight of the stainless does make a difference in felt recoil reduction but is not appreciably noticeable on your belt. It is adequately accurate at 50yds if the shooter is up to it and will go head to head with a full frame. The Warthog is by far the superior 3″ compact 1911 you can wear all day long and sit in the car or a chair comfortably without it digging into you somewhere like a full frame. Hey! It’s a 1911! and full of 11 rds of .45 ACP knockdown. What more can you ask for?

  • Bob Johnson April 7, 2014, 9:30 pm

    I put 500 rounds of varied ammo through my Sig 1911 Ultra right out of the box with no issues whatsoever. 230 grain RN, 230 grain JHP, and 185 grain JHP. Some of it steel case to boot. Less than a grand. Once you go Sig, you never go for anything less…

  • KenM April 7, 2014, 8:30 pm

    My son got me a Glock 30S in .45 ACP for concealed carry. It’s 10+1 in an absolutely reliable mechanism. Fits in my hip notch in a Galco inside the belt concealed holster that allows quick, easy access. Trijicon 3 dot sights make target acquisition easy in any lighting situation. Can’t beat it for price, comfort, number of rounds on board, and reliability.

  • LIbertarian April 7, 2014, 8:11 pm

    I’ve had a number of 1911’s, and I’m a die-hard Kimber fan through and through. I would much rather have my Kimber Ultra Carry or Pro Crimson Carry II (I have both.)

  • Yo Poppa April 7, 2014, 7:14 pm

    $1k? uhhhh no thanks. I will carry my Ruger SR40 with 15rds of .40 S&W and it was only $400

  • Milt Jines April 7, 2014, 4:07 pm

    I’ve owned (and fired) lots of guns (both hand and long) and the all-round best handgun I can remember is the Browning HiPower .40. What a beautiful piece of work from every aspect. I love that weapon and regret the day I sold it (even tho I sold it to a good friend).

  • Jack April 7, 2014, 12:17 pm

    I just found a NOS/NIB Springfield .45 micro compact loaded and grabbed it before it disappeared. I paid a little more than the MSRP for this one and am happy with it so far. Too bad SA replaced it with the 9mm and 40 cal versions, although I think they are fine pistols as well.

  • Rip April 7, 2014, 11:36 am

    For a thousand bucks i would buy a Springfield before a kahr/ MR anyday

  • Craig R April 7, 2014, 11:14 am

    Black out sights, huge thumb safety and extended beaver tail on a CC gun? I don’t get it.
    “Clearing an un-extracted case from the chamber was too frequent an activity.” Should be the title.
    How well does it conceal with a swim suit or sweat pants (w/ no belt)?
    I don’t see where the author listed the weight.

  • Mobius April 7, 2014, 9:12 am

    It has a jamming issue, weighs 2 pounds loaded, and a $1000 price tag, but it’s a great concealed carry candidate? I don’t think so.

    • TEXIZZ April 7, 2014, 9:30 am

      Exactly! Something has to work properly for me to even consider it!

      • lee333 April 7, 2014, 7:47 pm

        Then get $169.00 Jimenez.

    • Philip Damm April 7, 2014, 1:07 pm

      Unless it’s caused by junk ammo, a jam like that is intolerable for a concealed carry firearm.

    • Elkhunter April 7, 2014, 1:35 pm

      Agreed. I will stick to my Ruger P90. It is a bitch to conceal and weighs a ton, but never fails to fire or eject regardless of ammo. Plus it makes an excellent blunt force weapon if I run out of ammo.

      • h weiford August 21, 2017, 2:45 am

        Ruger P series are OK and go bang just about 100%. but so does a High point.and it costs less yuck.

  • Carl April 7, 2014, 8:48 am

    I was watching the video and saw where it Jammed while test firing.
    What was the reason? In a fire fight it could mean the difference between
    life or death.

  • Al April 7, 2014, 4:30 am

    Aside from a very narrow pricepoint, they’d have to improve upon Kimber’s “officer” models significantly, in order to impact the market. Although, I imagine there are enough MR fans to support their business model. I’d just like to see people actually evaluating quality, instead of just branding. For the record, S&W and Springfield also offer superior compact 1911s for around a grand. Buy what you like.

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