At The Range With Remington’s R51

While I knew it was coming and had the chance to handle prototypes, nothing compares to taking a gun to the range. In this case, I am referring to the new Remington R51 pistol. My expectations were high, and the gun did not disappoint.

This is the 198-year-old company's first attempt at a compact personal protection gun since the John Pedersen designed Model 51 was discontinued in about 1926. The .32 or .380 ACP Model 51 was an advanced design for its day, having excellent ergonomics and slim, streamlined lines. As a matter of fact, it was a favorite of no less a personage than General George S. Patton.

The new R51 is a compact carry gun built on an aluminum frame that measures a mere 6" long by 4½" high, and is less than an inch across. It uses a form of delayed-blowback operation called the Pedersen lock or an impingement lock. What that means is that there is no familiar Browning-style tilting barrel, and the recoil spring surrounds the barrel. When firing the 20-oz. gun, it did not behave in the hand like the small gun that it is. Recoil was extremely manageable and straight back, with minimal muzzle rise. By going with the Pedersen lock, Remington’s engineers were able to keep the bore axis low. Combine that with the high grip in the back, allowing the shooter to really get into the gun, and you will find it easy to get back on target quickly.

The gun has and internal hammer and a crisp trigger—without a safety built into the trigger blade—that delivered a consistent pull weight. There is enough grip frame there to hold onto, and Remington will offer oversize grip panels that will bulk the gun up for trips to the range.

There is no manual mechanical safety, but rather a very positive grip safety in the backstrap must be depressed as part of a firm grip. This may take some getting used to by experienced shooters as it is somewhat unfamiliar. But so long as the shooter maintains a firm grip on the backstrap—much like fans of the H&K P7 must maintain a firm traps on the frontstrap—there should be no issues.

One of the biggest issues facing those without a of strength in their hands and upper bodies when it comes to semi-automatic pistols is the cocking effort required to fully retract the slide. Remington addressed this with the Pedersen lock. According to Remington, the R51 only requires 16.78-lbs of cocking effort, and even slight women I handed the pistol to were able to properly and confidently work the slide. Running the gun and its controls are crucial in a personal protection pistol, and I believe this to be one of the most significant pluses of the R51.

The accompanying video was done on fly on our test range, and I'll admit my mouth got ahead of my brain. I said “Model 1951” instead of 51 at one point.  For the record, the Model 1951 is a post-war open-topped, single-action semi-automatic pistol design from Beretta. Its slide design is familiar because it was carried over to the Model 92 series of pistols. You can learn more about it here.

Look for a feature article in the pages of American Rifleman on R51 by Field Editor Wiley Clapp later in the year. Wiley was part of an elite group of gun writers that wrung the R51 out at the Gunsite Training Center in Paulden, Ariz. R51s are in the final stages of production at Remington's handgun facility in Pineville, N.C., and I am told the first batch should be shipping at the end of this month.

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16 Responses to At The Range With Remington’s R51

Larry Wallander wrote:
April 11, 2014

After waiting and almost lusting for an R51 I found and purchased one. I can only say I am not pleased with what I got. The pistol was shipped in a plastic bag from Remington and looked like it was dipped in oil before boxing so I was not really all that ready to handle the pistol in the store. When I arrived home I wiped the pistol down with a rag and could not get the slide to pull back. As a test I clamped the frame and hooked a scale on the rear sight to measure the required force to rack the slide. 10 pulls the average was 36 lbs. Not in any way acceptable. I took the gun to the range thinking maybe some rounds through it may help. 150 rounds later there was no change in the cocking effort. The pistol had no malfunctions of any kind while shooting. I stripped the pistol for cleaning when I returned home and found the anodizing on slide rails on both sides of the frame was already gone and the locking surface for the breach block was peened and worn much more on one side then the other. This can only be from the frame or breach not being machined square. The breach block cam surfaces show deep dimples from contact with the slide cam surfaces. At this point I do not any hopes for this pistol being a long term high round count gun. From the wear that is visible now this pistol will be worn out in a couple of thousand rounds. I did find that ignoring Remington's recommendation to use Rem Oil as a lube will fix the hard cocking problem. I used gun grease on all contact surfaces of the breach block and the pistol cocks with minimal effort now. If you really want an R51 buy it but don't expect typical Remington quality because you will not get it.

ChrisB wrote:
April 10, 2014

Hello, as I read the many comments about the R51, I wonder what there expectations where. I own one currently, works great, shoots like no other since it's action is very different than conventional semi auto pistols are. And I enjoy shooting with it. In time, like all things, any product will get better. Look at how many generations of Glocks are out there, Gen 4 now right? So this being new, not bad out of the box. I will be keeping mine and using it as one of my many carry weapons. Guns are only as safe as the users are. Be educated, practice, practice, and be aware of your surroundings. That will make you a better gun owner and better shooter.

billybob wrote:
April 05, 2014

I think some of you don't understand that the new guns have been modified from the original. whether they are more or less effective will be determined over time. I also wish to impress upon you that NO gun is totally safe all the time. If you try to pocket or Mexican carry ANY pistol you are looking for a trip to the emergency room or worse. Like the sports clown who shot himself in the thigh with the pocketed Glock in new york city, unholstered guns are an invitation to disaster.

Dragonheart wrote:
March 19, 2014

Maybe you should check out the video 'R51 Problems' before considering a purchase. The real production guns have problems that appear to make this gun a disaster for defensive use.

Jerry Dunford wrote:
March 10, 2014

I like nearly, everything about the R-51 except the fact that to carry a concealed pistol, I want a bullet in the chamber, but with the R-51 that would be very dangerous and also in addition, doing this would likely weaken the hammer spring. Yikes, wish the hammer was exposed.

Don Long wrote:
March 04, 2014

On Feb. 7th, Mr petru sova wrote: Not a safe gun to carry except in a hard shell leather holster. Then his last remark was: Only use this gun In a holster when a round is In the chamber. I am not a gun smart person but, wouldn't it be safer to carry this gun with a round out of the chamber?

Mike wrote:
February 08, 2014

Mark Keefe, you mentioned the first batch should ship the end of this month. Did you write this piece in January, or do you mean the expected ship date of Feb 1 has been pushed back?

John Allen wrote:
February 07, 2014

Charles Ross, I get where you are coming from, but think yourself lucky you are at least in the Republik of Kalifornia. As a lifetime shooter, I have finished up in the Union of Soviet Socialist U.K. where the very mention of 'Gun' sends everyone into paroxysms of panic and paranoia and having one gets you four years hard time for possession. The new Remington looks great - but I can only dream....!

Rich wrote:
February 07, 2014

Obamunism won't get your fix, Charlie Ross

Charlie Stone wrote:
February 06, 2014

to Charles Ross: How long has Obama been P.O.T.U.S.? I'm still amazed that people keep blaming Bush for the economy. Anyway, looks like a fine pistol to me. And affordable even in this economy.

Charles Ross wrote:
February 06, 2014

I am very interested. Unfortunately since I live in the Republik of Kalifornia, I will have to wait until I can move; soon as we recover from Bush/Republican trashing the economy!

petru sova wrote:
February 06, 2014

Not a safe gun to carry except in a hard shell leather holster. Its exactly like carrying a 1911 .45 with the hammer cocked back and the manual safety in the off position. But people never take the time to learn how a gun actually works. Since they cannot see the Remingtons concealed hammer cocked back they see no danger. When shoving this gun in a waist band or pocket the grip safety will be deactivated allowing the trigger to move back if caught on anything and the gun will fire. Only use this gun In a holster when a round is In the chamber.

Andy Marston wrote:
February 05, 2014

I had a few originals in my collection. They were fun but were jamomatics regardless of ammo. Would not trust my life with one, but for plinking they were fun. Felt good in the hand but nothing like a 1911 or a Luger. I traded all 6 of mine for a first generation Colt SA and never looked back. It was fun, just not reliable.

Chris James wrote:
February 05, 2014

This looks awesome. Can't wait to get more info.

Greg Topp wrote:
February 05, 2014

I have two originals, one that is brand new, both made in 1919. I carry my 'used' Model 51 as my main carry gun, using only standard FMJ ammo in it as that is the ammo the pistol was originally designed for. No problems with the original, and the ergonomics are perfect. Will wait to see how Remington did on the New Models coming out.

John Thayer wrote:
February 05, 2014

Unfortunately, both of my Model 51s in .380 have cracked breech blocks. Hopefully this will not be a problem with the new model.