Cannon Action Single Shot: Magnum Research Lone Eagle
Gun aficionados and hunters instantly recognize the company that makes the powerful Desert Eagle and BFR handguns. But only a select few know – or have fired – the Lone Eagle, an early single shot from Minnesota-based Magnum Research. Guns.com takes a closer look at this rotating-breech hand cannon.
What Is the Lone Eagle?
From the company famous for “eagle” named handguns, like the Desert Eagle, Baby Eagle, and Mountain Eagle, also comes the lesser-known – albeit no less fascinating – Lone Eagle. Quite simply, the Lone Eagle is a single-shot handgun designed to handle the pressures of what we traditionally know as centerfire rifle cartridges. It uses an instantly recognizable rotary action and boasts an unconventional appearance. The Lone Eagle found its purpose as a silhouette shooter and hunting handgun. In the heyday of single-shot hunting handguns, the Lone Eagle competed with guns like Remington’s vaunted XP100 and Thompson Center’s Contender.
Lone Eagles were available in a wide array of chamberings, from .22 Hornet and .223 Rem to hard-hitting .30-06 Springfield, 7mm-08 Rem, 7mm BR, 7.62x39, .280 Rem, .30-30 Win, .358 Winchester, .444 Marlin, and our test .308 Winchester. The guns could be purchased piecemeal, grip frame and barreled actions separately. Many original buyers opted to “change calibers” by buying other barreled actions, though that was most of the cost of a new rig.
Depending on the caliber, barrel length, and options, complete guns originally cost in the $375-$500 range. Lone Eagles have appreciated in value over the years, but obscurity keeps them lower than they likely should be based on a history of accuracy and reliability.
History of the Lone Eagle
While the Magnum Research name is instantly recognizable, the history of this handgun is not quite so simple. In fact, it was originally produced as the Ordnance Research SSP-91 with roots dating back to 1986. The Lone Eagle’s story is a lengthy one, coming first from Ordnance Tech as the SSP-86. Following design changes and improvements, it was re-named the SSP-91 in 1991. Fast forward to 1993, when Magnum Research acquired both the design and rights to the platform. For a brief transition period, Ordnance Tech manufactured the firearms for Magnum Research, as denoted on the barrels of guns from that time.
Is the Lone Eagle Literally a Hand Cannon?
Why do we refer to the Lone Eagle as a hand cannon or cannon action? That’s due to the rotary breech action, also known as a cannon breech. Many naval weapons used similar actions on a much larger scale. Because of the design, the result is a much shorter handgun sans traditional bolt or space-taking mechanism. The Lone Eagle’s design is both a strong and simple one, whereby the action is opened and closed by twisting the rear breech knob roughly 100 degrees.
The unique thing is that simply loading and closing the action does not actually cock the firing mechanism. In order to put the gun into battery, shooters must utilize the cocking lever at the left front of the stock. A cocking indicator protrudes from the front of the pistol, while a mechanical safety sits just above the trigger and protects once the gun is manually cocked. Upon rotating the action back open to the full lock position, the ejector will kick spent casings clear of the firearm.
From the Guns.com Vault
Our test gun comes from the Guns.com Vault as the Magnum Research Lone Eagle made by the company in Minnesota, as marked on the barrel. This throwback is chambered in .308 Winchester and came to us topped with a vintage quality Burris handgun optic, highlighting its potential for longer-range accuracy. Even with its 14-inch barrel, the gun measures only 15 inches overall, a testament to the incredibly compact size of this action design. Our version has blued metalwork with a black synthetic stock, which was by far the most common. The most desirable today remains the stainless variant, many of which wear muzzle brakes.
There have been two major knocks on the design. First, the handgun is hefty, with our test gun tipping the scales just over 4.5 pounds. While many guns are scorned for being front-heavy, this one is the opposite. Nearly all the weight sits at the rear, right over the shooter’s wrist. Secondly, though the action is compact and strong, it must be manually cocked. This can be both a plus and a minus. On the upside, the gun can safely be carried with a round in the chamber, as the firing system must be manually charged. On the reverse, cocking is extra effort – and noise – for hunters in the field.
We found the gun immediately interesting due to a combination of its scarcity and reputation for accuracy. We fired several different types of hunting ammunition and found exceptional groupings with each. A more practiced single-shot handgunner would likely find even greater results. The Burris 3x optic mounted on our test gun certainly aided accuracy with its finer reticle and clear glass.
Our test gun’s recoil, however, is rather stout, though some of that can easily be mitigated with specific loads and powders. There’s little doubt the Lone Eagle’s unique pistol grip design fits some shooters better than others in terms of comfort and managing recoil. However, like anything, range practice builds both comfort and confidence. At the end of the day, the Lone Eagle is one accurate handgun and requires a shooter who can bring out its best.
The ejector is a lively one, launching empty cases with gusto when the action knob is rotated into position. Shooters quickly learn to move their faces before twisting open the action. A practiced shooter can reload quite quickly. The Lone Eagle, with its potent chamberings, solid action, and accuracy potential, makes a unique and capable hunting companion.
If you’re a hunter, target shooter, or gun collector who favors something just a bit out of the norm, the Lone Eagle should be on your radar. It’s accurate, reliable, and powerful. Plus, it darn near guarantees you’ll have something your hunting and shooting buddies have never seen – unless you have some especially cool and knowledgeable pals.