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Remington R51: Impending Demise?

Remington R51

It seems that the R51 will hang around Remington’s neck, much like the albatross around the Ancient Mariner’s. Whether the gun community will shrieve Remington of this perceived sin remains to be seen.

The latest word from the customer service department at Remington is:

Currently we don’t have a timeframe for the re-introduction [of the R51 pistol] but our Huntsville R&D center is working to have it back on the market as soon as possible.

So, more than a year after the voluntary recall of all modern R51 pistols, Remington does not appear to be even close to delivering a working product. I think the fundamental question now becomes, is it reasonable to expect that Remington will ever deliver updated R51 pistols?

The R51 Timeline

Before we discuss the future of the modern R51, it might be best to take a look at the short and turbulent history of the gun.

Remington R51 timeline

December 2013

Remington Arms hosted a number of writers and other gun media personalities at the Gunsite Academy to give them an early look at the unannounced R51 pistol and other products. All of the reviews I read on the guns were positive. Once problems with the gun became obvious, there was a backlash against some of these writers who had posted such glowing reviews. In fairness to these writers, I was told by a Remington representative at the 2015 SHOT Show that these guns were pre-production pistols, and that the problems in the production guns were not present in these guns.

January 2014

Remington formally launched the R51 pistol at the 2014 SHOT Show.

Spring 2014

In the Spring of 2014, the production guns began to ship. A number of people reported problems with the guns and published photos and videos to support their claims.

During this time, I shot a privately purchased production R51. I experienced numerous reliability problems with the gun. I was also injured while shooting the gun. The web of my dominant hand was cut as if I was getting a particularly bad case of slide bite. However, other shooters filming/photographing me shooting the gun said it appeared hot gasses escaping the chamber were essentially flame cutting the top of my hand.

Primer Flow on R51 Pistol

 

All of the primers in the spent cases I shot showed significant dimpling, or primer flow. Primer flow was present in all 11 of the factory loads I shot. These included both standard pressure and +P ammo from eight different manufacturers.

Many others reported problems with the R51. For example, The Late Boy Scout had problems keeping the magazine in the gun:

The Military Arms Channel had problems with a privately purchased R51: the slide action was very rough, and the rear sight was loose in the dovetail. After getting a T&E gun for replacement, MAC posted this video:

MAC had problems with bulged cases and reliability problems – skip ahead to about the 7 minute mark and watch for the next few minutes. You will see some of the problems for yourself.

June 2014

An Idaho man was accidentally shot while loading his R51 pistol. According to court documents, the man did not press the trigger, nor did he depress the grip safety. Yet, the gun allegedly fired and struck him in the abdomen when he inserted a magazine.

July 2014

Remington announced a voluntary recall of the R51 pistols. Remington stated, in part:

While we determined the pistols were safe, certain units did not meet Remington’s performance criteria.

To encourage people to return the guns, Remington offered a free Pelican case and two additional magazines for every gun that was exchanged. At that time, Remington stated the company expected to resume production in October.

(Ed. note: The use of the term recall in this article refers to the common meaning, not a specific legal definition.)

July 2014

The day after the R51 recall was announced, The Truth About Guns (TTAG) published an article alleging a “known safety issue” that was ignored by Remington management when the gun was launched. Citing “trusted sources,” TTAG stated that engineers objected to selling the R51 because:

The reason for the objections was a major safety issue identified in the testing process, namely that the slide would bind up so badly that a chambered live round would be impossible to unload.

October 2014

R51 pistols did not ship.

January 2015

Remington showed the new R51 pistol in the company booth at the SHOT Show. The company rep I spoke with advised new guns were expected to ship in mid-Summer of 2015. I was told that the problem with the guns had been “tolerance stacking.”

April 2015

At the NRA Annual Meetings and Exhibits, I spoke with another Remington representative. I was told by the representative that the problems with the R51 had been fixed, and the only delay was getting the new factory in Alabama spooled up for production.  This is important, as I was later told in September that the R&D team had not achieved a fix for these guns.

I was told that the new R51 pistols would ship in June, with the possibility of some replacement units being delivered as early as May.

June 2015

R51 pistols did not ship.

July 2015

Richard Corbett, the injured party in the accidental shooting in June 2014, filed a lawsuit against Remington Arms claiming the R51 was in “defective condition” and was “unreasonably dangerous” to consumers.

August 2015

Remington customer service stated:

We appologize [sic] for the delay of the R51. It is scheduled to be released at the end of August/beginning of September.

Mid September 2015

R51 pistols did not ship.

Remington customer service states:

We appreciate your patience as we continue our efforts to re-launch the R51. Currently we don’t have a timeframe for the re-introduction but our Huntsville R&D center is working to have it back on the market as soon as possible.

Future of the R51

Does the modern R51 have a future? Maybe, but I’m beginning to think not.

It sounds like, contrary to what I was previously told by Remington, the problems with the design have not yet been solved. If the R&D team is still working on the design – more than a year after the company was alerted to the problems – I have a suspicion that the guns will never enter production again.

I will be surprised if Remington shows the R51 at the 2016 SHOT Show if it does not ship working guns before Christmas.

Remington, I Hardly Knew Ye

Much like the fictional Johnny in the old English song, I’m afraid I simply don’t recognize Remington any more. While all of its bits and bobs may not have been shot off, it certainly doesn’t seem like they are the same company that I always thought took care of its customers.

I’ve yet to see anything from Remington that suggests the company is taking this situation seriously. At the time of this writing, the company still lists October of 2014 as being the expected production restart date on its website.

What is particularly damning is that this unanswered review sits on their Facebook page:

I bought the R51 pistol when it first came out in early 2014 and sent it back as part of the volunteer replacement option due to some manufacture problems. I sent it back in July 2014 and to this date I have not received any correspondence from Remington as to the timeline on the replacement. How can a company this big have such poor communication? According to the website the replacements were to be shipped in October 2014 yet there has been no communication or public announcement that I’m aware of as to the status of the replacement R51s. Terrible way to service your customers! (May 25, 2015)

Unfortunately, instead of responding to valid customer complaints, I’ve seen Remington posting photos of corpse flowers, rainbow lightning and even its own laundry detergent there. #socialmediafail

 

R51 Malfunction

Sure, bad stuff sometimes happens. But is there any excuse for poor communication with your customers?

Maybe the problems come from the fact that it has grown too big. Perhaps the issues were with the management team that was recently replaced. Or maybe even Remington is doing the right thing, but it just stinks at getting its message out to the public.

Regardless, here’s to hoping that Remington can get its act together and ship these pistols. Right now, however, progress on delivering a new R51 looks as idle as a painted ship upon a painted ocean.

By Richard Johnson

Richard Johnson is a gun writer, amateur historian and - most importantly - a dad. He's done a lot of silly things in his life, but quitting police work to follow his passion of writing about guns was one of the smartest things he ever did. He founded this site and continues to manage its operation.

16 replies on “Remington R51: Impending Demise?”

I purchased the first R-51 to hit town. Then the fun began. It actually liked some locally remaned ammo, but not much else. There is one giant screw up in this design. If you hold the miserable thing upside down, its easy to work the slide. But this is because the breech block stays, (down), in the slide all the way back. Upright, it digs into the aluminum frame shelf, and then it won’t go all the way back, unless the grip safety is tripped. Why they put this interlock in, I have no freakin idea. What finally caused me to sell in on GunBroker, is that when they shut down Charlotte, they put all of the spare parts in a truck, and it drove away and disappeared. So then there were no spare parts either. If they change much of anything in the re-boot, then the new spare parts won’t fit in the first run of this pistol.

I bought this for my wife who has a rough time jacking a slide back. The Remington video of a woman doing this with only her thumb and index finger, was deceptive, in that you can only do it, holding the pistol upside down. Now who on Earth, in a crisis, holds any pistol upside down??? Then I purchased some Turk 9mm NATO ammo, at Wally World, and it wouldn’t chamber, period. Now I was told to find or buy a set of 9mm head space gauges and a finish reamer to rechamber it. Nah! I put it and a letter on GunBroker, explaining that with just the right ammo, it would work as a bedroom gun. But reloading would be completely verboten. The lady who purchased it hasn’t written back, cussing me out, so I’m guessing she will hold out until she can turn it in for a replacement.

The original Pedersen design used a breech block which starts out in the slide and then is cammed down into opposing sockets in a steel frame. Then as the slide continues back, its cammed back up out of the frame. This is John Pedersen’s true hesitation breeching. I would say that the R-51 is more of an inertia locking breech, as it transmits a bunch of energy into the frame, before the breech block is cammed up and out of the frame contact.

In the R-51, I think they lifted some more out of the 45 cal. M-53. Only a shelf on the aluminum frame stops the breech block from moving, until the camming slots in the frame lifts it up, and out of frame contact. FWIW, this P.O.S. might be retrofitted into a neato 22 L.R. pistol, by pinning a R.F. breech block solidly into the slide, and letting it become a true blowback..

One of my local gun shops clued me in the R51 two years ago, and said it was a piece of cow droppings.
UP till that point, I was hot to trot for one. I figured if he was giving up a sale, I did not want anything to do
with the R51. I now have an RIA Baby Rock 1911 .380.

I had a chance to shoot one of those Baby Rock pistols also. I don’t know how well you like yours, but the one I shot was crazy accurate and fun to shoot. I didn’t know if I would like it, but wound up impressed by it.

-Richard

I work at an LGS and I knew the R51 was doomed the moment I first laid eyes on it. Why? Easy. Anybody who genuinely cares about buying a truly trustworthy CCW buys at least a Glock or a SIG first. If they’re especially patriotic, they buy a Smith M&P or Shield. These are all proven, police-approved CCW platforms with widespread acceptance based solely on their performance in a market segment (CCW pistols) that is already very tight simply because they’re so good.

The R51, on the other hand, had literally no performance data that could be trusted, and nothing going for it except the corny, fake nostalgia of a “real STEEL Remington pistol, made by Union Labor in America”: that wasn’t even true, but a certain sort of person is easily motivated by that line of promotion, usually the same kind of intellectual who’ll chew your ear off about “sh**ty German plastic” vs. his sapphire-plated Kimber .380 because one’s made by strange foreigners and the other’s twice the price and made in good ol’ Yonkers.

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