Wednesday, May 07, 2014

Remington R51

Since Remington first announced the production of the R51 9mm pistol it stirred quite a frenzy amongst gun writers and the firearms related social media sites.  Everyone wanted one.  A group of select writers were invited to the Gunsight Academy last December where they were allowed to fire a few not-ready-for-primetime prototypes and they gushed with excitement.  When the SHOT show commenced in January even more raves for this pistol erupted despite that there were no production models available for the media to shoot.

Quite frankly the anticipation was well deserved.  The R51 is a sleek, good-looking pistol that appeared to be well designed and well placed in the market.  In fact, as Glock introduced their single stack .380 ACP model 42 at the SHOT show it appeared that Remington had trumped them with this compact, value-priced single stack 9mm.  The 2014 firearms stage was set and ready to anoint the Remington R51 as the best innovation since high-speed wireless internet...then they started shipping the production models.

As the shooting public got their hands on them social media erupted like a bad diaper rash relating numerous problems with the pistol.  Oddly enough the gun writing media has mentioned virtually none of this.  Out of the six magazine articles I have read about the R51 only one of them mentioned any problems.  In that one article the writer said he had some feeding problems which he determined was due to a faulty magazine.  The rest of the articles gave glowing reviews.  Now then, publications that review any product walk a narrow tightrope; their writers want to give you a straight evaluation report on the product but if their evaluation is negative the magazine risks having the manufacturer pull their advertising.  This causes the editor to either not run the article or soften the criticism by saying "we found such and such a problem with this device and reported it to the manufacturer who told us that they have identified and fixed the issue".  Social media can play an important role by providing truthful evaluations.  The only problem is that some of the social media reviewers aren't objective or are novices that don't have the training or experience to truly evaluate the product in question.  Be careful who you listen to.

So it was with great trepidation that I purchased an R51 so that I could determine if it was as good as the firearms media says it is or as awful as reported by social media.
(I do love the look of the muzzle)

Let start with the specifications:

22 oz
Barrel Length
3.4 in
Overall Length
6.6 in
4.6 in
Magazine Capacity
7 Rounds
3-Dot, Drift Adjustible

Now there were two things that we were told about the pistol from every early on:

1. The slide was very easy to rack
2. The trigger pull was between 4 and 4.5 pounds

Neither of these were true on my specimen.  The spring is large and stiff making the ability to rack the slide much more difficult than I had expected and the trigger pull averaged 8 pounds 8 ounces.  8.8 pounds is perhaps a good pull from a tuned up revolver but it is a good 3 pounds heavier than what I expected on a single action pistol.  I will say that I detected no problem in firing the pistol due to the heavier than expected trigger.

Features of the R51

Let's look at the R51's features"

The Sights are 3-dot drift adjustable.  They are large and the rear sight has been cut extra wide making the front sight easy to see.  Night sights are not offered from Remington but this is a value-priced pistol and I would not have expected them at the $400 price of this pistol.  The sights are good and may be the best feature on this handgun.

The Slide Stop is fairly flat in order to keep the width of the pistol at 1 inch.  It gave me some problems later on and I will get to that in another part of the review. The slide stop disassembly notch is woefully narrow and it is  a little difficult to align it properly under the tension of the heavy spring.

The Magazine Release sits slightly recessed in the grip frame.  That is great for concealability  but makes it difficult to to access and depress with the shooting hand. For some odd reason whenever I needed to release the magazine my left hand automatically went to the butt of the grip looking for an old fashioned heal release and quite frankly that would have worked better than the frame mounted recessed release that is currently on the pistol.

The Trigger Guard is nicely undercut and was well designed.  The Grip Panels are checkered plastic and are replaceable.  It is reported that there will be other grip panel options available such as rubber, rosewood, faux mother of pearl and pink.

The Trigger is skeltonized and the finish began wearing off during the drive from the gun shop to the shooting range.  The trigger must be fully released between shots as I did not detect any shorter reset after round was fired.

The Backstrap is actually an integral grip safety which is hinged at the bottom. It worked well.  There is no checkering on the backstrap.

The Frontstarp is checkered and the checkering is small and sharp.  If you need to finely grate some Parmesan cheese the front strap is well suited for that purpose.


If you are looking for a frustrating experience just try to reassemble one of these pistols. Here are the disassembly and reassembly steps:

1. Make sure the pistol is unloaded
2. Retract the slide until the disassembly notch aligns with the slide stop hinge.  This must be precise.
3. While continuing to hold the slide over the slide stop hinge push the slide stop pin out of the frame.  The slide stop pin is recessed so you will need something to get it started.  The nose of an FMJ 9mm round works well.
4. After removing the slide stop, continue to keep the slide retracted and grip the threaded portion of the barrel and pull it forward.  The barrel and slide will come off the frame.
5. After removing the slide and still keeping it retracted, reach in with whatever hand you have free and remove the breach block.
6. After removing the breach bloc and still keeping the slide retracted line of the spring bushing with the bushing notch on the interior of the frame.  This will allow you to finally pull the barrel backward and out of the frame.  You can then remove the spring and bushing.

As if that wasn't fun enough you have to reverse the process to reassemble it and you don't have the luxury of the slide and barrel being attached to the frame so.

1. Place the spring and bushing back into slide.

2. Lift the bushing upward so that you can place the barrel into it.

3.  Depress the bushing and spring until they line up with the bushing notch on the interior of the frame.  Insert the barrel.

4. Once the barrel is inside the frame keep the barrel and spring assemble depressed and put the breach block back into place.  You must make sure that the block is all the way down and as forward as it will go or the slide assembly will not slide onto the frame.

5. Keeping the barrel and spring assemble depressed slide the frame onto the slide.  You will need to check that the barrel has not twisted to either side or the slide assembly will not slide onto the frame.

6. If all has gone well at this point you are ready to re-insert the slide stop pin into the frame.  There is still one more thing that can go wrong.  If the slide action spring has slid down during this process you must pull it up so that the tab on the slide release and slip under it.  If you don't and the tab goes over it then the slide will lock backward after each round is fired.

How R51 Ran At The Range

In the first 100 rounds my only problems were 9 light primer strikes.  The gun went click instead of bang.  In my second 100 rounds the problem was less frequent, but still occurred.  The light primer strikes all happened on the first round.  The problem turned out to be releasing the slide stop to charge the first round versus using the sling shot method to retract and release the slide.  When using the slide release the slide just doesn't return to battery completely.  The amount of non-return is very slight, so slight that you will not see it if you are aiming the pistol.  If you look at it from the side you can see that it is not fully in battery.  From that point on my next 350 rounds were trouble free.

As mentioned earlier, one of the strong points of this pistol was supposed to be the accuracy of it's fixed barrel.  As you will see from the targets below it is merely average.  Not bad mind you but it does not live up to the pre-production hype.

Here are two targets shot at 21 feet with 115 grain Blazer Brass ammo:

And here are three targets fired at 35 feet with Blazer Brass and Magtech full metal jacket ammunition

While I don't think the accuracy is excellent the pistol does shoot consistently.  You can almost lay those 35 foot target over each other and most of the holes will line up.

This leaves us with the last issue which is primer pressure overflow.  This is caused when the pressure in the primer can't escape forward so it pushed backward causing the primer to bubble up around the firing pin.  In the photos below the rounds on the left were fired from a Glock Model 19 and you can easily see the firing pin strikes in the primer.  The photo on the left were the rounds fired from the R51 and you can see how the area around the primer strike has bubbled up.

Now the jury is out about regarding the safety of this issue. Some of the internet writers feel this condition makes the pistol unsafe.  Two gunsmiths I talked to this week don't think it is a problem.  The Gun Magazines have not addressed this issue at all.

So, if you want a compact pistol that is easy to disassemble and maintain then get a Glock or a SIG.  If, however, you are the type of person who enjoys a challenge and likes to work jig saw puzzles then the R51 may be the pistol for you.


Anonymous said...

No thanks, I'll stick with an XDs9

Richard said...

I shot an R51 recently and had only one failure. Unfortunately, I had a lot of slide bite and the same primer flow problems. Remington said the primer flow was normal, but...

I like the look and feel of the gun, but I don't find a compelling reason to buy one instead of something like the XDS or Shield.

Anonymous said...

Please tell me why this design was pursued by Rem. Why did they think that after 100 years of handgun failure they could enter a very limited MKT. with this abortion, did they think it would springboard them into the 1867 Rem New Army Mkt?
Why would anyone buy a cluster-F***K 380 when there are better pocket 9mms selling @ $250 New?

Anonymous said...

The primer flow issue is interesting. I have a keltec pf9 that leaves the same flow pattern on the primers. It is not a gas delay blowback design so I'm not sure how this happens. The PF9 has always ran 100% problem free.

Anonymous said...

Very interesting design with a lot of possibilities for those who would like a thin, relatively small concealable non-polymer pistol, similar in size and use to the Makarov, PPK, Bersa Thnder and other popular smaller blowback CCW pistols. But in the more powerful 9MM Luger caliber. I am a fan of the Makarov in 9MM sized cartridges, and had hopes for this designs. Lots of promise, but sadly a lack of execution, so far.

Shot one and my experiences were similar to yours. I will wait a year or so to see of they can work out the kinks and make this a viable possible option.

Until then will patiently to see what catches m eye next.

Rivrdog said...

My R51 came from the factory with a cruddy firing pin channel, which eventually stopped the pistol from firing. I had to detail-strip the bolt, without any instructions. It involved driving a tiny pin out. The channel has several chunks of manufacturing detritus in it, including the tip of a small milling tool. Re-assembled, the pistol has run fine ever since. This gun MUST be used by trained, disciplined shooters only, because when charged, pressure on the grip safety renders it into a cocked and unlocked condition. No Serpa holsters or similar must ever be used, because the trigger finger must stay totally clear of the trigger until bearing on the target.

Unknown said...

Residue in firing pin channel is most revealing. A problem at the factory. Parts should Be CLEAN before assembly. New buyers need to clean gun first, to look for this and other problems, then fire.

tawcat said...

I purchased one of these, so far I have put about 500 rounds down range with it. Experienced the same battery issue, but now I check it.

For me, I like it. I like that it is not a plastic gun, nothing against them, just rather a metal piece.