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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 think Remington wanted to cash in, on the compact pistol craze, but got too clever with the design, and had sloppy quality control issues & bad management overall. They’ve also tried to resurrect Rohrbaugh..lol

Yes, and other than being “too safe” with the DAO trigger, they have done one hell of a job! In my opinion, they made that trigger too long in the pull department.
So long, and so far back, very close to the rear of the trigger guard, that it can be uncomfortable for some of us old geezers with stiff fingers.

The RM380 is otherwise dead reliable, right out of the box, while the R51 requires at least minor break in.

@Glenn Beecher

I tend to agree. I too actually thought the design was clever. In fact that is what attracted me to it. Finally a company was trying to rethink pistol design rather than just improve on a standard Browning gun. Unfortunately, I now fear that the improvements they need to make might well price them out of the concealed carry market. Couple that with the costs of the thousands of recalled guns hanging over their head and I’m beginning to wonder if they aren’t just writing off the pistol all together.

By stringing along their “recalled” customers while at the same time offering refunds or an R1 as a replacement, they get to spread the financial impact of the recall out over several fiscal quarters. Slowly, affected customers give up hope and accept the refund or replacement and the financial impact on their balance sheet is small. If, however, they announced that they had scrapped the R51 altogether, then all of the affected recall customers would expect immediate compensation, which would cost Remington Millions of $.

Believe it or not, I just received my “replacement” R51 (Finally) on July 5th.

And I just bought my second, second model!
Loving the first one!
After only a slight modification to the two original magazine followers, (shortening the bottom of the legs that guide the spring, stack height problem, it hasn’t missed a beat!
And the new magazine that I bought off E-bay, needed no rework at all.
Eats anything I feed it!

Hi Jug,

Just clarifying – to make the factory mags more reliable you should reduce the length of the legs on the magazine follower? I hadn’t seen that anywhere else. How much shorter do they need to be?

Thanks!

Richard, a number of us have fixed magazine problems by doing so.
I believe that the second model pistol is actually very good, (but does need a minor break in period), except for “some magazines”.

I am not sure, but I have the idea that there is at least 3 magazine models out there. I certainly have found different spring strenght, at least.

Two things seem to have done the most good. First, check the slide for lock up or excessive “drag” with a fully loaded magazine and the slide closed/forward. If it is lovked up or fairly hard to pull it back, shorten those legs on the follower by 1/16″ to 3/16″.

The other thing, check that little “bend” in the magazine’s front feeding lips. It is there to stop the follwer at the top of its travel, BUT some mags have too much bend there. Make sure that it is not quite 90 degrees vertical when inserted.

And sand/polish the bullet side and top edge of it. Some folks have found them bent over that straight up amount! Bad deal, the bullet nose isnt going to rise up a reverse slope!

Boning the customers who jumped on the bandwagon and paid the premium for buying “the new thing” is the best argument I could think of for NOT EVER becoming a Remington customer. Nothing like shelling out some big coin for a small bag of nothing.

And as far their pistol goes, who would they sell it TO at this point? Anyone in the market for a concealable US made 9mm has already bought the Ruger LC9.

So now it’s Remington’s turn to be left with pallets and pallets of expensive nothing…see how that works?

Too bad that Remington rushed the production, the piece might have made a good rival for the LC9, but now it’s got the reputation of a stinker, and the only way to get market share is to sell it at such a deep discount that Remington might lose money on each piece sold.

They waited too long, Ruger has the LC9s out now, striker fired. It is a dream to shoot and I have
never had a Ruger jam me up.

Sticking to the original 32 ACP and 380 might have been a winner- the 9mm has always been the dividing point between gun types of blowback (and modified blow back) and pistols with locking actions of various types and it appears the new R51 did not make that threshold.To bad, I would have bought a R51 in 380.

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