Remington’s New R51 and John Pedersen’s Legacy

Remington R51It would be tough to find someone who doesn’t know, if not own, John Moses Browning’s seminal pistol, the M1911.  Not surprising, given that nearly 3 million have been procured for military service in the US alone, dozens of other countries use them for military service and untold numbers of the prolific pistols and its derivatives are in the civilian market.  Less well known is the Remington Model 51 designed by his contemporary, John Pedersen, who Browning described to US Chief of Ordnance Field Service Julian Hatcher as “the greatest gun designer in the world.”  Also not surprising, since only 65,000 were produced and only through the late 1920s.

The original Model 51, marketed as a pocket pistol and available in .380 and .32 ACP, never enjoyed widespread commercial  success despite many considering the locking mechanism to be superior to Browning’s design and describing it as ahead of its time.  Pedersen’s legacy, and that of the Model 51, lives on with Remington’s introduction of the R51 pistol at SHOT Show 2014.

Even with the current trend of small, easily concealed pistols chambered for .380 on the market, Remington stepped up the power of the R51 from its namesake in favor of the 9mm parabellum and plans to offer a .40 S&W version in the future.  With a steel slide and aluminum alloy frame, the R51 weighs in at 22 oz.  At 6.6″ long (with a 3.4″ barrel), 4.6″ high and just an inch thick, concealment shouldn’t be a problem.

Remington Model 51

R51’s forebear, the Remington Model 51

Drawing from concealment should also be smooth given the rounded, streamlined styling of the entire pistol.  Remington is marketing the pistol with the slogan “Point Instinctively, Recover Instantly,” a task made easier by the R51’s comfortable 20-degree grip angle.  The R51’s bore axis is kept low and close to the hand by wrapping the recoil spring around the barrel instead of a separate guide rod below the barrel.  In addition to keeping the pistol’s profile small, this should help reduce felt recoil and muzzle rise and get back on target.  And since the R51 has a locking breech, uncommon for blow-back firearms, the need for a heavy recoil spring or bulky slide is eliminated.

To accomodate both left- and right-handed shooters, the R51 includes a magazine release that can be manipulated from either side and a grip safety located on the backstrap.  The magazine catch/release is still exclusively on the left side but if you’re working the action like you should be (by pulling the slide with your weak hand, pushing the frame with your strong hand), operation is totally ambidextrous.

Displayed at SHOT Show were several R51 flavors that include the standard model, one with Crimson Trace laser sights and one with a suppressor attached to the factory threaded barrel.  The R51 will be available February 2014 with an MSRP starting just shy of $400.


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