Known as the SSP-91 in an earlier incarnation, the basic $350 Magnum Research handgun will really shoot with another $50 to $300 of improvements.
1991 Magnum Research, Inc., began to market a unique and affordable handgun designated the SSP-91, the letters in which stand for Single Shot Pistol. In 1993, the handgun underwent a name change and today is called the Lone Eagle Single Shot Pistol. Chambered for a range of high-pressure “factory rifle” cartridges, including the .22 Hornet, .223 Remington, .22-250 Remington, .243 Winchester, 7mm-08 Remington, 7mm BR, 30-30 Winchester, .308 Winchester, 30-06 Springfield, .357 Maximum, .35 Remington, .358 Winchester, .44 Magnum, and .444 Marlin, the gun’s appeal derives not only from its cartridge range, but also its simple design and strength. Still, the discriminating high-power handgun hunter will want to look past the basics and learn how the gun can be tweaked.
A Close Look At The Lone Eagle
The gun itself is slightly over 15 inches long and weighs nearly 5 pounds when fitted with a variable handgun scope. The rotating breech contains much of the gun’s weight, which helps prevent the gun from being muzzle heavy. Barrels for all calibers are 14 inches long. Yet, due to the design of the forward-mounted grip, the handgun handles better than a Contender with a barrel of the same length.
The trigger pull on two older versions of the handgun we sampled broke smoothly between 6 and 8 pounds. We noticed a little slack in both triggers. (It’s possible to dry-fire the handgun without damaging the transfer bar and firing pin as long as the breech ring is in the open position. The gun should also be stored with the breech open so the shooter can look through the breech down through the barrel.)
To get a better grip on older Lone Eagles, shooters should consider changing out the gun’s stock. A new streamlined grip that accommodates both left- and right-handed shooters was introduced in 1995; this new grip is longer, which makes it easier to secure the handgun over a tree branch for a steadier shot. Also, the cocking lever set into the front of the grip has been redesigned so it doesn’t protrude beyond the stock, which now protects it. Located in the finger groove below the lever, a red cocking indicator displays that the gun is ready to fire. We also added slip-on grips from Uncle Mike’s. The rubbery material produced a tackier grip surface than the unadorned stock’s GE Lexan material, and only cost $9.
The 6-pound triggers on our test guns, though crisp with almost no creep, were still on the heavy side, and the factory won’t adjust them. Therefore, we asked a gunsmith to do a trigger job on one of the handguns, a .358 Winchester. We paid $50 for the service. Because this is a hunting gun, we did not want it reduced to an unsafe poundage, so we requested the trigger weight be dropped to 4 pounds. We found that dropping the pull weight 2 pounds helped us shoot the gun much more accurately.
The Lone Eagle hunting handguns can be ordered with an adjustable hunting sight, an adjustable silhouette sight with 69 threads/inch for windage and elevation, or a 7-inch-long scope base that is secured to the barrel with seven screws. It retails for $14. If you want to buy one of these guns and plan to shoot optics on it, be sure to buy the factory scope bases. Or if you have the gun with one of the iron sights and want to add an optics package, stay with the factory scope bases. In our view, the Magnum Research factory base will stay in place as well as or better than comparable aftermarket products, and it’s inexpensive. The base has six evenly spaced grooves an inch apart to allow the use of Weaver-type rings. Though strong and with enough grooves to allow the shooter to mount a scope in various positions, the base can be improved by positioning the cross-cut grooves closer together, which would make it easier to add a third ring on the scope. With variable-powered scopes, especially short ones, there is not a lot of room to secure an extra ring. Having more grooves spaced 1/2 or 3/4 inch apart gives you more mounting flexibility. We had a machinist cut an additional groove into the base for $10. In our opinion, you should not attempt to perform this operation with a file. If the cross-cuts are not exact, the rings will not mount properly.
If you do not want to get additional grooves cut into the base, then find a scope that will accommodate three rings on the factory grooves. Why three? In guns that recoil heavily, a third or fourth ring on a solidly mounted base assures that the scope will work when you need it. One variable that did mount up well without any base modification was a Simmons 2.5- to 7-power variable.
When mounting optics on these handguns, we used special Millett rings that allowed us to see open sights above the scope. Thus, we have a backup sighting system. We recommend the $65 three-ring Scope-Site product with 1-inch rings.
Depending on the cartridge, a lot can be done to tame a gun’s recoil. We recommend you fit Eagles shooting rounds .30 caliber or larger with some type of recoil-reduction device. Otherwise, the recoil is just too stiff. We can recommend SSK Industries’ SSK Arrestor Brake and the Mag-Na-Port Mag-Na-Brake as aftermarket options, and Magnum Research’s factory integral muzzle brake, which became available in 1994 and can be ordered for about $150. The aftermarket services also cost about $150.
Performance Shooter Recommends
In our view, the base Lone Eagle handgun is an adequate hunting arm, but for an additional $50 to $350, you markedly improve its performance. The handgun, which retails for $344, needs at least a $50 trigger tune up. If it’s not ported at the factory, we think that’s worth another $150, unless the gun is chambered for the .22 Hornet, .223 Remington, .22-250 Remington, or .243 Winchester, and possibly the 7mm-08 Remington and 7mm BR. Both the newer, deeper stock designs and the older Lexan stocks can benefit from a slip-on grip that runs only $9. Factory bases for a scope are generally a good investment as well, we think, and cost $14. Another $10 will give you mounting flexibility. Also plan to spend another $65 for the Millett three-ring Scope-Site product.
Last, if you plan to use the gun in the field, consider buy a $30 bipod. These changes and upgrades, which you can make at your own pace—and as your budget allows—can turn the serviceable Lone Eagle handgun into a top-flight hunting or competition handgun.