During my short stint working retail gun sales at Vance Outdoors in Columbus, Ohio, I frequently had my eyes, and sometimes hands, on the 9mm Remington R51.
Why? I’ve mentioned in the past that I prefer unique handguns that stand out in a crowded field (in this case, a very crowded field of concealment-oriented handguns). The R51 was different than anything else that was displayed in the case at the time — and it still stands out. Its almost futuristic lines regularly drew my attention when business was slow.
Introduced in 2014, the R51 is an enlarged and updated version of the original Remington Model 51 pistol (a .32/.380 ACP pistol using a locking system designed by John Pedersen). The Model 51 was introduced in 1918 and was manufactured through the mid-1930s. General George S. Patton owned one and reportedly liked it.
The initial R51s had some major teething problems, which resulted in a suspension of production in July 2014. Production resumed in 2016, with Remington reporting that the reliability issues had been solved. Defective pistols already in the hands of the consumer public were replaced with new R51s, and it appears that the fixes have been successful.
Unlike the current crop of 9mm concealed carry handguns, the R51 is built on an anodized aluminum rather than a polymer frame. It definitely gives the R51 a very solid feel. Polymer grip panel inserts provide a non-slip checkered surface.
Other primary features of the R51 are as follows:
- Seven-shot single-stack magazines (two are included)
- Pedersen action, which racks easily and reduces felt recoil
- Low bore axis, which helps maintain rapid-fire controllability
- Optimized grip angle with curved backstrap to ensure easy pointability
- Match-grade 3.4-inch barrel and chamber that is +P rated
- Crisp single-action trigger made possible through the use of an intuitive grip safety (there is no separate safety lever or trigger safety that needs to be engaged or disengaged as part of the firing operation)
- Trigger pull weight of 4.5 to 6.5 pounds
- Ambidextrous teardrop-shaped magazine releases
- Narrow width (1.08 inches), which aids concealability
- Weight of 22.6 ounces
- Snag-free, three-dot dovetailed sights
- Easily accessed slide release lever for quick reloads
- Rounded edges on the slide, which help provide a snag-free draw
As you can see, the R51 has a lot going for it, which is the reason I found myself continually drawn to it in the gun display case. Nothing else quite feels like it. However, in light of past issues, the R51 would need to be proven at the range.
I took the R51 and several different loads to a friend’s private range for testing. Neither one of us had fired an R51 — or even the original Model 51 — before.
My test ammo was the SIG Sauer Elite loadings in three bullet weights in FMJ practice and V-Crown defensive configurations. Weights were 115 grains (in the 365 FMJ practice and V-Crown loadings) and standard-pressure 124- and 147-grain V-Crown loads. All testing was done two-handed (standing) at 25 feet. So that I can determine practical — rather than intrinsic — accuracy, I never shoot a pistol off a bench rest. I want to see how the handgun is likely to perform under realistic conditions. After all, most people don’t have to take lifesaving self-defense shots from a shooting bench using a rest.
I tested the R51 right from the box, with no additional lubrication added. I do it this way because I believe many new gun buyers will do the same thing in their eagerness to start shooting.
The R51 performed best using the SIG 365 115-grain 9mm loadings. They were the smoothest-shooting rounds of the three test loads primarily because of the velocity rating of 1065 feet per second. If you have any concerns about recoil, the 365 loads are the ones to pick. The FMJ loads functioned flawlessly, while there was one failure to feed with the 115 V-Crown load.
The 124-grain and 147-grain V-Crown loads performed well, with one failure to feed of the 124-grain ammo. My friend and I both noted the increase in felt recoil with both of these loads over the 365 ammo. It was by no means uncomfortable and, as advertised, shot-to-shot recovery was easy because of the R51’s design features. The grip safety operated flawlessly, and I didn’t have to think about it — I simply grasped the pistol with a standard shooting grip to disengage it. By simply adjusting the pressure of the palm of your hand, you can move your pistol on and off safe as the situation dictates.
The R51 shot just a bit low at our test distance. Using the X-ring as the point of aim on the B27 silhouette target, I had to hold the top of my front sight at the 12 o’clock portion of the X-ring in order to drop the rounds in dead-center. There is no elevation adjustment available on the rear sight. Some individual experimentation with different loads might be necessary to find a load that shoots dead-on to the point of aim. I did not have any Remington ammo available for testing.
Both of us averaged six-shot groups in the 3.5- to 4-inch range. The best group was right at 3 inches using the 115-grain SIG 365 loading. This is more than acceptable accuracy for a pistol this size at the distance we tested it from. We expended approximately 100 rounds in our testing.
I found R51s for sale online for an average of $270-$280 at www.Gunwatcher.com. Remington lists a model available with a Crimson Trace laser as well.
There are a number of holsters available for the R51, including the DeSantis Mini Scabbard, (www.desantis.com) what I often use to carry my Bond Arms BullPup 9. Checking other sources, it appears that there are more than enough carry options available for anyone purchasing the R51.
It appeared from our testing that Remington has ironed out the kinks in the R51 design. I’d say that two malfunctions out of more than 100 rounds fired from a basically dry gun are of no concern.
If you are looking for a single-stack defensive pistol that offers light weight, easy carry, reliability, quick shot-to-shot recovery and reasonable accuracy, the Remington R51 might be the pistol you are looking for.