One of the most anticipated new releases of SHOT Show 2014 was the new Remington R51 9mm compact pistol based on the original Model 51 designed in 1915. Like its predecessor, the R51 employs a grip safety and a rather unique locking method developed by John Pedersen that differs from the popular Browning tilting-breech design found in most modern pistols.
The Pedersen “hesitation locked” breech appears to be a relatively simple design that seemed to work fairly well in the very few firearms that employed it. To my knowledge, only the original Model 51 and an obscure SIG MKMS sub-machine gun from the 1930′s used this system of lock-up until Remington introduced the R51. The Pedersen design offers one advantage, a low bore axis which should aid in recoil management.
The R51 isn’t particularly small or light based upon the short time I had to handle it. The fact it’s constructed of all metal, including its alloy frame, lends to its heft when compared to polymer framed pistols offered by the competition. This may appeal to some buyers as many traditionalists continue resist purchasing firearms with polymer components and prefer all metal construction for their carry guns. I’m not one of them though, I’m firmly in the “polymer is the future” camp.
The R51 features a 7 round magazine that offers a nice trim profile for concealment, but really isn’t anything special. It also features an ambidextrous magazine release.
Up until this point I’m fairly impartial to the new R51. It’s not bad, it’s not good, it’s just new.
Now let’s talk about the grip safety. It’s horrendous. I’ve read fairly positive reviews from blogs such as Guns America of the pistol most have never fired. The R51 was suspiciously absent from Media Day at the Range this year so most gun writers weren’t able to test fire it. Of the reviews I’ve read, no one has pointed out that the grip safety feels much like a reversed squeeze cock system of the H&K P7 pistol. It requires a conscious effort to engage the safety to allow the pistol to fire. You’ll know when you’ve squeezed tightly enough to disable the safety as you’ll hear a clear “click” as it pops forward. The first thing that crossed my mind while handling it was how easy it would be to not disengage the safety in a high stress situation. And that audible click? I hope you don’t need to ready your defensive pistol silently to gain a tactical advantage. As a general rule I despise grip safeties on firearms and believe they have no place on a modern pistol. The R51′s safety is particularly bad and this alone is enough to prevent me from giving this pistol serious consideration as a defensive arm.
The actions of the two R51′s I handled were gritty and anything but smooth. While this probably won’t affect function in any negative way, it adds to the pistols rather cheap feel. It doesn’t inspire confidence, at least in me.
The trigger? It’s fairly heavy, gritty, and not to my tastes. I’ve fired Hi-Point pistols with more palatable triggers. Perhaps the heavy trigger is by design to keep the lawyers happy. I can’t say why it’s the way it is, all I can say is that I don’t care for it. It’s not horrible, it’s just not good.
My final nit-pick on the R51 is the presence of heavy machining marks inside the slide/ejection port. I wasn’t able to disassemble the samples at the show, but what I could see inside of the ejection port was somewhat concerning. The inside of the slides had deep gouges that were both clearly visible and could be felt with my index finger. I thought perhaps these ruts were by design — perhaps to give grime a place to accumulate — but upon closer inspection they seemed to be somewhat random in nature. I wasn’t impressed.
With a street price estimated at less than $400 I’m sure the Remington R51 will find its way into many holsters in 2014 despite my observations. The price is certainly right for those looking for a relatively small concealment pistol and don’t want to get a second mortgage to buy one. As for me? I’ll pass as I believe better options exist on the market.