remington-r51-fIn July of 2016 Remington reintroduced one of the most controversial firearms ever manufactured. The R51, originally released in 2014, was first met with a lot of anticipation because it was a lightweight, compact, +P capable, single action, 9mm handgun, built on a metal frame, with a very low bore axis, and a contoured profile optimized for concealed carry.

Due to production problems, it didn’t take long for public opinion to turn. What initially looked like one of the most innovative new defensive handguns became the root of a deep controversy—one that tarnished Remington’s reputation and cast a shadow of uncertainty on the integrity of gun magazines and those who contribute to them.

remington-r51-1The History
In December of 2013, the R51 made its début at Gunsite Academy and journalists in attendance communicated high praise. I wasn’t there but conducted the first independent field test of the R51. I was impressed and in my July 2014 article called it the “best new compact 9mm handgun on the market.” What I didn’t know was the pistol I’d received was a pre-mass production model. When the R51 began hitting shelves, bad reports surfaced. This wasn’t too unusual. Often journalists receive pre-production firearms and, just as often, initial mass-produced firearms have issues. Pre-Internet, these problems were fixed, and most never knew they existed.

What happened next was unusual. A blogger, who’d been passed over for employment by the publisher of the magazine my article appeared in, called my integrity into question. He even insinuated gun magazines lie to make manufacturers happy and earn advertising dollars. This led to an Internet firestorm. You would’ve thought Remington unleashed 10,000 pieces of junk and the gun magazines lied while knowing they didn’t work.

remington-r51-4The Facts
First, let’s address Remington’s mistakes. It wasn’t prepared to mass-produce the R51 with its novel architecture. Its mechanics were unique enough to prevent standing quality control procedures to detect or limit production issues. This resulted in just over 3,000 potentially problematic R51s being shipped. The second mistake was not taking swift ownership of its bungle.

By not announcing a reliability recall immediately, Remington left consumers to speculate that trusted firearms journalists had deceived them. Several loyal readers contacted me wondering how I could endorse a pistol with so many problems. My only defense was that I could only report on the pistol I’d received. Incidentally, my R51 review occurred only a few weeks after my clairvoyant powers had left me. When I tested the R51, I had no way of knowing what was to come.

As for lying gun writers and gun magazines, which are allegedly bought and paid for by advertisers, this is patently false. As in any profession, I know charlatans exist in mine. Might some writers lie on occasion, or even more often? Without question. Your loved ones lie to you too; dishonesty is an unpleasant fact of life. However, given the editorial checks and balances in print publications, I’m sure lying occurs on the Internet at a higher frequency. I know this because I’ve worked in both venues for more than a decade. Something that occurs even more often are gun writers refusing to report on products that just plain suck.

remington-r51-2The Fix
Remington finally acknowledged the problem. In July 2014, they voluntarily recalled the R51. Remington offered unsatisfied R51 consumers three options: First, they could accept the aforementioned return in exchange for a new R51, with two extra magazines, and a Pelican case.

Second, they could exchange their R51 for a 1911 R1 at no additional cost.

Third, they could return their R51 for a refund at the full-suggested retail price.

This was an unprecedented step. Had I been one of the unsatisfied, I’d have opted for the more expensive R1 and purchased another R51 when the bugs were worked out. But my R51 worked just fine; I didn’t want to send it back. I carried it often.

remington-r51-velocityAll this occurred while Remington shifted manufacturing from North Carolina to Alabama. Complicated with the implementation of some of the most stringent quality control processes ever instituted in the industry, this took time. I’m sure some felt Remington had abandoned the R51 and the replacement offer. In truth, they were just making sure they got it right. I’m certain Remington has spent so much money fixing the R51 they’ll never recoup their investment. When I asked Remington’s new CEO, Jim Marcotuli, why the company went to such great lengths, he said, “We are America’s oldest gun maker; it’s a matter of pride.”

After touring the new Remington factory at Huntsville, Alabama, and watching the R51 being made, I spent some time on the range with one. It worked. While addressing quality control and mass production issues, Remington tweaked the design slightly. They engineered a new disconnect, installed set screws in the front and rear sights, hard chromed the action spring bushing and switched to a force-balanced recoil spring, designed a new extractor, and modified the magazines. It’s still the same pistol, operating on the same unique Pedersen design; it’s just better.

remington-r51-3The Test
Remington shipped me a promised production gun, a ton of magazines, and 1,000 rounds of ammo for an in-depth test. Results are found in Table 1, but I’ll summarize. The first 50 rounds were 124-grain Federal HSTs. The first shot stovepiped, and attempts 37 and 42 failed to feed (50 additional rounds of HST were fired between shots 484 and 630 with no issues). Attempt 69—Remington 124-grain Golden Saber—failed to feed. There were no stoppages in the next 1,015 rounds, which included nine different loads. Based on this, a 100-round break-in for the R51 seems advisable.

The new R51 exhibits all the features that made it so desirable initially. Its low bore axis keeps muzzle rise down. It also changes perceived recoil; the gun kicks just as hard, but recoil is directed straight back. The trigger was crisp and consistent at 4 pounds. Trigger reset was not audible but could be felt and was natural. I had no trouble firing seven shots into a 10-inch kill zone at 3 yards in just over a second.

remington-r51-testI did not conduct bench rest accuracy testing for two reasons. One, it seems to be a ridiculous exercise for a defensive carry pistol. Secondly, after firing more than 1,000 rounds through almost every conceivable defensive handgun drill, I was confident the pistol was plenty capable of providing better than adequate precision.

I had one complaint: At 10 yards, the pistol shot about 1.5 inches low and to the right of my point of aim. The rear sight is adjustable for windage, but there’s no end-user solution for elevation. At 20 yards, this offset was double, but inside 10 yards, where most of the shooting was conducted, the offset was inconsequential. This didn’t negatively impact testing. A Crimson Trace Laser Guard can be purchased with the R51, and for most shooting this was the primary sight.

Parting Shots
Two years after the initial launch, the Remington R51 might not be the “best new compact 9mm handgun on the market,” but I think it’s certainly one of the top choices. This pistol has a suggested retail price of $448, but street prices are about $100 less. After a short break-in period, it proved perfectly reliable, and in the arena of affordable, concealed carry handguns, it has a lot to offer. I now have two R51s, and I trust them both.

Specifications:

r51-specsRemington R51
Caliber: 9mm Luger +P
Barrel: 3.4 in.
Height: 4.63 in.
Width: 1.08 in.
Length: 6.68 in
Weight: 21 oz. (without magazine)
Finish: Satin Black Oxide
Capacity: 7+1
Accessories: Two magazines, lock, and owner’s manual
MSRP: $448 ($648 with Crimson Trace Laser Guard)
Manufacturer: Remington

Editor’s Note: This article is an excerpt from the September 2016 issue of Gun Digest the Magazine.


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6 COMMENTS

  1. Reviewed By: KIM K H on 07/01/2017
    Rating: 5 of 5 Stars! [5 of 5 Stars!]

    My R 51 pistol arrived in a few days via Fedex to my local gun shop. I walked out the door within 10 minutes with my new 2nd generation Remington R 51 pistol. I fired 100 rounds of Federal 115 grain ammo and loaded 5 rounds in each magazine. The R 51 performed flawlessly. I also fired 20 rounds of Federal 124 grain HST, as well as 20 rounds of Federal 147 grain “High-Shock” ammo. It fired all ammo with no jams or problems whatsoever! The R 51 was never cleaned during this shooting session, or after I received the pistol, other than wiping of any excess oil when I opened the box. The R 51 is one of the most accurate and finest pistols I have ever fired. There is a lot of negative press because of the problems of the first generation R 51 pistol, which had many problems. Remington corrected all problems with this fine pistol on their 2nd production run. With the Remington rebate of $50 dollars, and Buds great pricing I walked away with this pistol for only $250! I did purchase an extra magazine with the pistol. This R 51 is now my everyday carry pistol and I would bet my life on it!! I am happy as can be with my purchase!! I carry it in a fanny pack, and it replaces my M40 Firestar, which was at the end o

  2. I am 64 and been shooting & reloading to support my habit and an NRA Life member since 1975. I’ve subscribed to read most gun magazines available since then. Most were credible or went out of business. The same applies today.

    I now research most purchases before making them. I use the Internet extensively as well as magazines. Actual ratings by verified purchasers are usually best. Forums and online “experts”, not so much.

    It seems that the Internet has too many self proclaimed experts that parrot opinions and hearsay without personal knowledge. Forums often reflect ONLY negative reviews. Why? Angry, frustrated, uninformed and/or ignorant people. Happy people are lazy. They often don’t post.

    A case in point: older “Saturday Night Specials”. None work. Not so. Some don’t work, most will. They were/are inexpensive and often need adjustments, a different mag or sometimes just break in. I recently had a guest at my home range. He had a Jamanez 380 with one mag and a box of 100 WW FMJ ammo. Did it work? After a good cleaning, lube and 75 additional rounds. After break in it shot well. First 25? Jam-O-Matic.

    Another regular shooter had a really nice Para 45 stovepipe the last loaded round in the mag. Every time. Yikes! His carry gun. Different mag, problem solved. Ding in the feed lip from being dropped last week.

    Most recently: everyone knows High Powers suck. No necessarily so. Clean, lube and break in. Buy an extra mag. They work great. Low price and low experience go hand in hand. I’m looking for one in 9mm that looks like roadkill, just to bring out at the local gun club and out shoot that guy with a Wilson Combat and poor skills. Incidentally, my Kahr PM9 sucked for the 1st 150 or so rounds. Nothing worked for a whole mag (I tried all 5…yes 5 mags). Instructions said “200 round break in period required”. After 250 rounds, everything I tried worked.

    Remington screwed up. Gun writers wrote about their experiences. The guns worked. Remington had problems, they moved and we’re swamped. Did they fix them? Yes. Was it timely? Maybe under the conditions. Ruger has had problems. Everyone in every business has problems. What seperates good from the rest is their response. Did R51 buyers lose money? No. Did they lose the gun? No. Those that waited got new guns, before distribution to retailers. And they got goodies.

    Did I buy one? Nope, too cheap. I was waiting for the price to drop from MSRP to “street” price. Will I buy one? Yep. I need one to go with my 2 original 380 Model 51s. When prices drop….still cheap. If I had bought one of the 1st ones, I’d have taken the R1.

      • I agree with and support Mr. Mann. I am 64 and been shooting, reloading to support my habit and an NRA Life member since 1975. I’ve subscribed to and read most gun magazines available since then. Most were credible or went out of business. The same applies today.

        All writers usually guard their reputation, online and print. They literally stake their reputations on their experiences. Guns they receive are often preproduction. Sometimes they don’t work so well. A writers will usually state that a gun is preproduction or production if they are aware. Do they sometimes get a custom tuned loaner? Sure, sometimes. Everyone gets bitten sometimes. Did Remington set out to cheat their customers? SURE (sarcasm font), that’s what kept them in business all these years. Bad products and worse customer support.

        I research most purchases before making them. I use the Internet extensively as well as magazines. Actual ratings by verified purchasers are usually best. Forums and online “experts”, not so much.

        It seems that the Internet has too many self proclaimed experts that parrot opinions and hearsay without personal knowledge. Forums often reflect ONLY negative reviews. Why? Angry, frustrated, uninformed and/or ignorant people. Happy people are lazy. They often don’t post.

        A case in point: older “Saturday Night Specials”. None work. Not so. Some don’t work, most will. They were/are inexpensive and often need adjustments, a different mag, feed ramp polishing or sometimes just break in (feed ramp polishing the hard way). I recently had a guest at my home range. He had a Jamanez 380 with one mag and a box of 100 WW FMJ ammo. Did it work? After polishing the feed ramp, a good cleaning, lube and 75 additional rounds. After break in it shot well. First 25? Jam-O-Matic.

        Another regular shooter had a really nice Para 45 stovepipe the last loaded round in the mag. Every time. Yikes! His carry gun. Different mag, problem solved. Ding in the feed lip from being dropped last week.

        Most recently: everyone knows High Points suck. No necessarily so. Clean, lube and break in. Buy an extra mag. Go online and see how to tweek it. They work great. Low price and low experience go hand in hand. I’m looking for one in 9mm that looks like roadkill, just to bring out at the local gun club and out shoot that guy with a Wilson Combat and poor skills. Incidentally, my Kahr PM9 sucked for the 1st 150 or so rounds. Nothing worked for a whole mag (I tried all 5…yes 5 mags). Instructions said “200 round break in period required”. After 250 rounds, everything I tried worked.

        Remington screwed up. Gun writers wrote about their experiences. The guns worked. Remington had problems, they moved and were swamped. Did they fix them? Yes. Was it timely? Maybe under the conditions. Ruger has had problems. Everyone in every business has problems. What seperates good from the rest is their response. Did R51 buyers lose money? No. Did they lose the gun? No. Were they stuck with the gun? No. Those that waited got new guns, before distribution to retailers. And they got goodies.

        Did I buy one? Nope, too cheap. I was waiting for the price to drop from MSRP to “street” price. Will I buy one? Yep. I need one to go with my 2 original 380 Model 51s. When prices drop….I’m still cheap. If I had bought one of the 1st ones, I’d have taken the R1.

        Thanks Mr. Mann for your article.

  3. Mr. Mann, I am not picking on you directly. In this long-winded comment you will see that I am on your side. I am just providing a consumers’/readers’ point of view and perhaps I’ve just reached a point in my firearms learning journey where I no longer get a lot of value out of reading online magazines being fortunate to have worked hard for a couple of decades and can afford to purchase and attend the best training available to responsible citizens.

    Maybe I can connect some dots.

    First, magazines such as Gun Digest exist because consumers are looking for information in order to make purchases. In the old days we went to the magazine rack at the grocery store and bought a real magazine. These days it’s reading on the Internet. If we consumers/readers didn’t do this there would be no magazine and no magazine writers. We consumers/readers bought the paper magazines and read the online magazines. Advertisers pay the magazines for our readership eyes. We consumers/readers would read about products and buy those products. Our purchases made it a profitable enterprise for companies to buy advertising in both the old print and new online magazines.

    We consumers don’t like being screwed by reading positive spin on products then get burned when we make a purchase. As a magazine and a writer you have two customers 1) the readers toward whom the advertisers want to spend their advertising money and 2) the advertisers themselves who spend the money. You don’t have a magazine or employment if either the reader or advertiser is not present.

    Consumer/reader experience #1.

    Quoting the article: “What happened next was unusual. A blogger, who’d been passed over for employment by the publisher of the magazine my article appeared in, called my integrity into question. He even insinuated gun magazines lie to make manufacturers happy and earn advertising dollars. This led to an Internet firestorm. You would’ve thought Remington unleashed 10,000 pieces of junk and the gun magazines lied while knowing they didn’t work.”

    Pulling out the important phrase: “He even insinuated gun magazines lie to make manufacturers happy and earn advertising dollars.”

    As a consumer/reader not looking for a job I can say with almost certainly that gun magazines want to make advertisers happy and keep the checks flowing. I’ve had problems with products I purchased after doing my online reading homework and been burned by a bad piece of equipment. I would comment about the product I purchased in the online magazine articles I read that helped me make my purchase decision and those comments would never make the cut – they would be deleted or never appear.

    From this consumer/reader perspective magazines do indeed shape what appears in online or paper print to paint a favorable picture of products that will keep an advertiser happy and spending money.

    Since we consumers/readers do use your written word to spend our hard-earned money you may want to consider stepping back and look at your articles from our perspective. We’re pissed off because we got burned – great write-up, terrible product. Your good word leads me to spend my hard-earned money.

    Consumer/reader experience #2.

    I bought a Remington 870 shotgun during the same 2013-2014 time period of your original R51 review. The shotgun itself was defective and two levels of warranty repair could not fix the problem. After exercising industry contacts I was able to get executive names at Remington whom I pressured to replace the gun with a new one. These executives were good people working under difficult circumstances who immediately did the right thing, which coincidently was exactly what happened to the R51 – defective product gets replaced. This whole process took over 15 frustrating months.

    Remington indeed did have a ton of problems when you got your original R51 in December 2013. In consumer/reader experience #2 I am describing here is the manufacturing problems or producing guns. As we’ll see in Consumer/reader experience #3 Remington also had ethical issues in its marketing and market-facing communications and I believe this is where you got burned with your original R51 in December 2013.
    Consumer/reader experience #3.

    One product were I got burned was with an optic from the new SIG Electro-Optics line of products (Consumer/reader experience #1). I had done my magazine reading homework and made a purchase. The product I received was not usable for all practical purposes. Defective? Not by the dictionary definition. Usable in the real world? Only in the low speed, high drag environment of the slow fire covered-for-shade square range.

    The problem was all of the marketing messaging was high-speed, low-drag, tough-as-an-Abrams tank serious piece of equipment, you know as good or better than an Aimpoint but for less money. Tactical teams all over world use these products so why don’t you?

    I was furious with having been duped by the sales crapweasels especially since I thought I had done my homework reading. (Reading….that’s gun magazines and gun magazine writers.)

    This was in the 2015/2016 time frame.

    Exercising more industry contacts one individual described that many marketing people from Remington had moved over to SIG. It was also noted that the distribution chain quietly talked about the ethical problems of these formerly Remington and new SIG people.

    Final Thoughts – Connecting the Dots

    Remington did have manufacturing and quality problems as they transitioned manufacturing to Alabama. Your R51 and my 870 are examples. Most reasonable people would sympathize with moving a manufacturing operation from communist New York to freedom-loving Alabama..

    Quoting the article: “The second mistake was not taking swift ownership of its bungle.
    By not announcing a reliability recall immediately, Remington left consumers to speculate that trusted firearms journalists had deceived them.”

    It’s my conclusion from my own personal experience and resulting conversations that specific people left consumers to speculate firearms journalists had deceived them, and those same specific people didn’t announce a recall immediately, and that again those same specific people did not “take ownership of its bungle.” In December 2013 those specific people were employed by Remington and sullied Remington’s and gun writers reputations. Those specific people are now at SIG or SIG Electro-Optics burning consumers the same way they did Remington.

    You gun writers got burned by specific people once at Remington who are now at SIG.