Radical ‘90s Rimfire: Magnum Research Mountain Eagle Review
With a muzzle shaped like the beefy Desert Eagle yet weighing almost the same as a few sticks of butter and gobbling up rimfire rounds just as smoothly, Magnum Research’sMountain Eagle is a surprisingly short-run design. This radical polymer piece is now all but forgotten – except to those lucky enough to find them on the used market. Here’s why you may want to start the hunt for the vintage Mountain Eagle.
Mountain Eagle: Made in America
Not to be confused with Magnum Research’s current production rimfire rifle by the same name, the .22 LR Mountain Eagle pistol was the first to hold that regal name. This space-age-looking polymer wonder is in fact a well-designed semi-automatic blowback pistol chambered in .22 LR only. The guns were produced for less than a decade in fairly low numbers, beginning around 1990. They were built by Magnum Research in Minnesota.
The majority of models were built with a 6.5-inch barrel, though the company did produce lower numbers of an 8-inch-barreled target version. The guns are fed by a 15-round single-stack magazine, though 20-rounders were available at some point as well. There’s a bold orange front sight along with a fully adjustable rear winged iron. The receiver is drilled and tapped, with a grooved optics rail available. Grips are one-piece, injection-molded affairs with aggressive grip checkering on both the side panels and front and rear.
The standard Mountain Eagle measures 10.6 inches overall and weighs a mere 21 ounces. Per company advertising, it retailed for $239.00 back in the day. The target model, meanwhile, shows similar lines but uses a longer 8-inch barrel, along with what the company calls a “2-stroke target trigger” and a jeweled bolt and range case. That one carried a retail premium of $279.00. Inflation has its way with most things, and the Mountain Eagle is no exception, though they can often be had for significantly less than their actual worth today. Finding one under the $350 mark is quickly becoming a rarity, with clean specimens sometimes commanding in excess of five bills.
The Unusual Magazines
If the gun itself were not unusual enough, its magazines are a notable piece of the strange Mountain Eagle puzzle as well. They are fashioned from transparent polycarbonate resin for a clear round-count view. Instead of being driven by a coiled compression spring that pushes the rounds upward, this design uses a constant force spring that unrolls and actually pulls the follower and rounds upward.
They load easily with the red assist button, though loaders with larger fingers may struggle with the smallish assist tab. Our test gun came with one flush-mount 15-round magazine and another with an extended baseplate that adds to the grip length but not capacity.
Our test model is the standard version with its 6.5-inch barrel, lugged with faux cutouts. The barrel is marked on one side with “Magnum Research, Inc MPLS, MN” and the other “Mountain Eagle 22LR.” Magnum Research branding covers the piece, with an “M” on either side of the front site, the soaring eagle astride the grips and again at the rear of the charging handle. In addition, the factory magazines wear a baseplate with the company’s name and logo.
While the bright orange front blade appears borderline obnoxious, it does the trick. If more pinpoint target accuracy is desired though, there’s no doubt adding an optic would be a legit boon. We were lucky to come by a lightly used specimen that already has the optics rail in place, but for those who don’t, we’ve seen them come up occasionally at online auction sites. For an uber-featherweight pistol, the ergonomics fill the hands quite nicely and the balance is a pleasure, too.
The controls are unique – in both shape and placement – but actually make sense with surprisingly little practice. The slide release is a smaller round button that is depressed downward to engage. Meanwhile, the safety is a grooved lever that actuates in a half-smile pattern, forward to fire and rearward for safe. The magazine release is standard at the rear of the trigger and drops the mag free with ease, while the magazine baseplate wears enough of a lip to easily grasp if needed.
The molded grooving at the front of the trigger guard is ideal for shooters with larger hands able to reach it. The grip checkering is plenty sharp, and both fore and aft horizontal grooving allow for ample purchase. The bolt locks open after firing the last round. Further, there is no magazine drop safety, which may be even more appreciated on a defense piece, but we were pleased to see it here as well.
On the range, our Mountain Eagle cycled almost everything with ease. As is always the case, reading the manual first would have cleared up the minor issues. It gobbled up CCI, Remington, Blazer, and Federal in both round nose and hollow points. The only issues arose with Aguila, quickly attributed to the bullet type. The Owner’s Manual clearly states that “truncated head ammunition may cause feeding and cycling problems.”
We opted not to fire from the bench but rather offhand at targets from 15 to 25 yards. The gun grouped just as well as its users would allow, though perhaps a slimmer front sight would yield slightly superior groups. Even in a gun measured in ounces, there’s no recoil from a .22 LR, and the balance is pleasantly even.
Cocking or opening the action on the Mountain Eagle is not unlike that of the Ruger Standard and Mark series of rimfires, also showing a similar bolt-stop pin. Field stripping can be accomplished quite simply by using a 1/8-inch hex wrench to remove the rear takedown screw. The bolt, barrel, and receiver sub-assembly lift free and can be further disassembled without tools.
Life and Times of the Mountain Eagle and Its Relatives
At varying times, both the optic mounts and additional magazines were available through Magnum Research – as evidenced by the 1990s order form we discovered – and also through Ramline. Whether the decline was due to the Mountain Eagle being too light, too radical, too far ahead of its time, or due to stepping on the toes of other patented designs, the one reason we can rule out is its function. The Magnum Research Mountain Eagle performs better than it looks, and it is in fact a respected range companion, hunting pistol, and unique collector’s piece.
If you feel like you’ve seen a very similar pistol of a different name, you’d be awarded for astuteness. In addition to the Ramline relationship, the Syn-Tech Exactor pistol is as close to a clone as there ever was. Though of lesser value and collectibility today, the Syn-Tech has a smallish cult following as well and may scratch the itch for those antsy to run some rounds through this lightweight gem.
A Wish List Rimfire?
According to company advertising from the mid-1990s, the Mountain Eagle was marketed to target shooters, plinksters, and hunters alike. Regardless of the category, desire, or need, the cool factor of owning a Magnum Research is too much to resist. Since taking this one to several local ranges, we’ve turned up several previous owners, each quick to lament selling their specimen and not a single one claiming to ever have an issue with its operation.
The gun looks a little like a toy – and feels like it too at only 21 to 23 ounces – but it functions like a dream. One of our favorite views of the Mountain Eagle is from the muzzle, and it should go without saying to verify a cleared and safe firearm first. That look summons memories of the thick stainless business end of the company’s revered Desert Eagle pistols – a stark opposite to the Mountain Eagle in weight, chamberings, and longevity.
Whether you’ve since decided to add the oddball platform to your firearm wish list or think it well relegated to the dust bin of firearms past, the Magnum Research Mountain Eagle generates interest, opinions, and causes our supply of rimfire ammunition to dwindle.