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Remington R51 Review: It’s Second Coming is Just Better than the First

The Remington R51 is a small-town girl with big dreams who headed off to the big city. It’s Remington’s successor to the hundred-year-old Remington Model 51. The original was designed by John Pedersen and introduced the odd, but kinda genius, hesitation-locking action. It was an adaptation of the day’s popular straight blowback action, allowing the 51 to run higher-powered ammo than its contemporaries.

THE UNTOLD ROLE OF AAC

The 51’s novel design is appreciated by gun geeks — silencer guys in particular due to the stationary barrel. The hero in our story is Ethan Lessard, who in 2010 was working for the suppressor company Advanced Armament Corporation, at the time a subsidiary of Remington. AAC had military customers who were always looking for new, interesting ways to help the world through the focused application of violence, and there was a standing request for small integrally suppressed guns.

Lessard says the hesitation-delayed operation and fixed barrel of the Remington R51 weren’t only ideal for an integral, but AAC was also looking for a unique design for its first compact pistol offering. Pedersen’s action held promise on both fronts, and AAC made a couple of prototypes.

It wasn’t a straight blowback system, which is generally loud AF when suppressed by nature. A full, locked-breech system makes a pistol far quieter with a can, but requires a booster to cycle. “The Pederson system is like an in-between,” says Lessard. “It gave me the advantage of a fixed barrel.” So, he didn’t have to add the volume, mass, or complexity of a Nielson device.

While the Model 51 integral project showed promise, 300 Blackout and the Honey Badger concept were blowing up at the same time. So the 51 was shelved, and Lessard left AAC a year later. He doesn’t know how his prototypes became the basis of Big Green’s R51, but he says, “What they shipped is not what we worked on.”

THE REMINGTON R51

AAC’s seed ended up at Remington, which labored for a couple years before birthing the first-generation R51 in 2014. It fell flat and was relaunched a couple years later, after the company addressed reliability and other concerns. However, the Gen 2 R51 never shook that back-of-the-bus stigma. Unsold R51s languish in warehouses, while used guns sit orphaned on the bottom shelves of consignment cases.

remington r51 split

The fixed barrel and hesitation-locking action make the R51 an excellent silencer host. But, Remington didn’t make threaded barrels, and aftermarket options are scarce.

This brings us to our R51. With a little looking, $200 will get you NIB, while lightly used examples will cost you as much as a good steak dinner.

WORTH IT

For a couple hundred bucks, this gun is totally worth it. Not as a carry gun — hell no — we wouldn’t trust this gun to hurt someone if we threw it at them. But, as horrible as the Remington R51 is, history will never forget it, even if it tries. It’s the Britney Spears of firearms — full of promise out of the gate, utterly gorgeous, if not a bit formulaic, but ultimately a first-class train wreck waiting to happen on stage, viewed by millions.

The Awesome: The Remington R51 displays an inspired aesthetic. Its ray-gun look, all-metal construction, and ergonomic enhancements like front strap checkering, lazily arcing slide serrations, recessed grip panels, and distinctive sights are a welcome departure from the brutish designs of the Glock era. It’s devoid of snag points without looking like a dehorned version of itself.

The OK: The gun is slim. At the time of its debut, it’s the gun we all wanted. A small, slim, single-stack in a non-mousegun caliber that beat the Glock 26 on concealment, even if it lost on capacity. But 7+1 in a package this big is a non-starter for defensive use in the modern age of double-stack, micro-nine P365s and Hellcats.

The Awful: There’s a lot going on in the action. Running the Remington R51’s slide feels like rubbing a bag of dimes against a bag of marbles. While the top end is simplified by a fixed barrel that doubles as the recoil guide rod, the number and complexity of the parts housed in the grip is impressive.

Pederson’s original hesitation-locking action was complicated and challenging to manufacture. This was one of the downfalls of the Model 51; the cost of production priced the pistol out of the market. Maybe 2014 Remington thought computers and CNC machines were the cure for what ailed 1917 Remington’s execution. But, even with all the latest industrial horsepower, it’s not uncommon to find production Remington R51s that fail to feed or extract. Our R51 often likes to lift the second round from the mag above the chamber and lock the slide open.

Oh, and as awesome as the narrow frame is for concealment, it’s not much fun to shoot. After three mags, the web of our hand feels like it was beaten with a baton.

REMINGTON R51 BOTTOM LINE

Like Britney, the Remington R51 is a beautiful disaster that tried hard — twice. But at least Britney can still go gold. We give Remington props for having the balls to bring this amazing mixture of novel action, retro looks, and solid feel to life. It’s not a lifesaver, but the infamous Remington R51 is worth a couple of hundred bucks for anyone wanting a gun that firearm history can’t forget. In fact, it’s one pistol you’ll save money on, since you’ll never need a holster for it.


Remington R51 Stats

Caliber: 9mm
Weight Unloaded: 23 Ounces
Capacity: 7+1
Length: 6.5 Inches
Barrel: 3.4 Inches
Available For: $199


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One response to “Remington R51 Review: It’s Second Coming is Just Better than the First”

  1. Jim Sidebottom says:

    Rob Curtis is an idiot. I have 2 R51’s, one with the laser and one without. It is a fine, quality pistol I use for EDC. It is also not a $199 pistol. The going prices on Gunbroker run closer to $450.
    Maybe he should actually look at one or shoot it before making stupid comments.

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