September 2014

Remington R51 Follow Up

Our ‘A’ grade of this new self-defense pistol drew criticism from several readers. Now, the company is offering an exchange program for its first-production-run R51 pistols.

Remington R51 Follow Up
Several readers have contacted us about the review of the Remington R51 pistol in the August issue, most of them criticizing our grading the pistol as an A. Because Remington began offering an exchange program for dissatisfied owners after our review was printed, we can no longer recommend that our readers buy the R51, and we’ve amended our online content to change the grade to an Incomplete. Even though our pistol didn’t have the function problems many other R51s have shown, we have returned our test gun to Remington as part of the exchange program offered by the company (see adjacent text), and we’ll do a follow-up review once the R51 has been exchanged. Remington told our dealer that the new guns won’t be available until October.

The Freedom Group Family of Companies’ Manager of Press Relations Jessica Kallam pointed out that Remington’s R51 exchange program is not a “recall” or a “safety recall.” She said production of the R51 has been put on hold to fix performance problems some customers were having. She also pointed out that while the company recommended Remington and Barnes brands of ammunition, the R51 was “made to function will all ammo that is within SAAMI specifications for 9mm and 9mm +P.”

To give this as thorough an airing as possible, we compiled all the points from readers who wrote in about the review and selected letters that represented those points. Then, for the sake of space, when a follow-up reader raised points already covered, we credited him, but we didn’t duplicate covered comments.

First up is Remington’s exchange program notice, sent to us by readers Brent Hoffbauer, Barry N. Schmidt, D.D.S., and James R. Wickman. — Todd Woodard

Remington Clarifies R51 Status
Earlier this year, we launched the innovative R51 subcompact pistol to critical acclaim. During testing, numerous experts found the pistol to function flawlessly. In fact, they found it to have lower felt recoil, lower muzzle rise and better accuracy and concealability than other products in its class.

However, after initial commercial sales, our loyal customers notified us that some R51 pistols had performance issues. We immediately ceased production to re-test the product. While we determined the pistols were safe, certain units did not meet Remington’s performance criteria. The performance problems resulted from complications during our transition from prototype to mass production. These problems have been identified and solutions are being implemented, with an expected production restart in October.

Anyone who purchased an R51 may return it and receive a new R51 pistol, along with two additional magazines and a custom Pelican case, by calling Remington at (800) 243-9700.
The new R51 will be of the same exceptional quality as our test pistols, which performed flawlessly.

Where Did You Get Test Gun?
Having just purchased an Ithaca 1911, I was pleased to see your positive review with an A grade. However, I was disappointed to see the same grade given to the R51, considering the many negative reviews that followed its introduction. What’s the story? Did you get your test gun directly from Remington? If so, I suggest following the policy of Consumer Reports and buying from a gun shop.—James Mamer

FFL Product Coordinator Kevin Winkle purchased the Remington R51 from Military Gun Supply, a dealer in the Fort Worth, Texas area (MilitaryGunSupply.com). It was a dealer-to-dealer sale conducted at a Houston Gun Collectors Association Gun Show, and he paid $339.95 for it. Product Coordinator Winkle said, “I contacted Remington about the recall and waited on hold for 40 minutes. They told me the deal applied to all Remington R51 pistols. They only made one run of them. They told me they would send me a packet now if I wished and return the pistol at their expense. The packet would be good for 30 days. However, the soonest I would get a replacement pistol would be October.” — tw

Enjoyed the article on the R51. I read the blogs and watched the videos over the past six months or so, and despite the many negative comments, I decided to give the R51 a try and bought one a few months ago.

I guess I was lucky and bought one manufactured in the middle of the week. I’ve had one failure to feed on round 63 and have fired approximately 400 rounds of ball and hollow points of various brands of factory ammunition, but no reloads. The pistol points well, sights are easy to acquire, trigger is different and requires a little getting use to, recoil is light, accuracy is better than I expected and what you reported, and it is comfortable to carry. Disassembly and assembly require care the first few times, but then becomes routine, Everything positive about the R51 you wrote I found was true. The negatives I have not experienced to the degree, or at all, that your staff and others have experienced.

There are owners who have obviously experienced problems with the R51, and there are those who, for whatever reasons, do not like the pistol, and that is true of about anything. I am glad to see Remington is addressing the problems. The R51 is affordable, a pleasure to shoot, and, in my experience, reliable.
— Vernon Carr Always SAFE LLC Universal City, Texas

I must take issue with your A rating of the Remington R51 (August 2014) and also join with letter-to-the-editor writer Charles Wilkins in my utter disappointment with this pistol, a term I use loosely describing this abomination. I experienced the exact same issues with this gun, and in addition to the fail to feed, fail to eject, and finally complete lock-up, I also find that the rear sight has drifted halfway out of the dove tail. I fired 30 rounds total, never more than four rounds in a row without a failure. I admitted defeat and boxed up the gun, took it home and finally got it apart.

The gun that “can’t possibly be put together wrong” (from your article) was indeed put together wrong direct from the factory. Apparently, the little spring that retains the slide release will fit above or below the slide release and cannot be seen when putting the gun back together, so you must test the slide release by pushing up on it to see if it springs down to make sure it is in the proper position. If you do not do this correctly and the spring is on the wrong side of the slide release, the gun will in fact go back together (wrongly) and the action will work, though the slide is more difficult to retract. It will also fire and ultimately seize up after a few rounds.

I returned this gun to its place of purchase (Bass Pro Shops) and had them send the gun back to Remington for repairs or replacement. I also found out at the time that the only other R51 that BPS had sold was also sent back to Remington for the same issues. After six weeks and no word from Remington, I did a little investigating and found that there were numerous complaints regarding this pistol and little to no response from Remington. So, I initiated a BBB complaint and ultimately received a full refund for the gun. I visited several other gun stores in my area and found that they had to return every R51 they sold and were refusing to carry or even special order this gun for anyone, due to it’s well known (apparently not to the Gun Tests reviewers) issues.

Lest you think I’m some noob who doesn’t know which end of the gun the round comes out, I am a retired police officer/firearms instructor and departmental armorer, factory trained by Beretta, Glock, Remington (shotgun), and Colt (AR-15). I normally agree with your reviews and findings, many times knocking down a gun for very minor issues, but your testers were so off the mark on this gun, I began to think they had a man crush on this gun and glossed over its many shortcomings.

Gun Tests obviously did not do its due diligence in investigating the myriad of consumer complaints and reported issues involving this gun and now are faced with explaining how they came to a conclusion that a gun removed from production for safety and reliability issues would or could be rated A when the evidence and the gun makers own actions proved otherwise. I can’t wait to read your response.
— Mark Hurley

Both Kevin Winkle and I were aware of problems users were reporting about the R51 prior to our publishing, and I communicated that to Ray when Kevin shipped the pistols to him. But that was only to alert Ray to potential problems, which simply didn’t materialize in his handling of the pistol. So he did as we always do — report what happened and offer his team’s impressions of a gun based solely on data they collected. There are substantial legal reasons why we don’t allow internet buzz, rumor, and innuendo to color our evaluations when our own physical experience with a product’s performance don’t bear out such criticisms. However, Charles Wilkins, a Gun Tests reader who bought an R51, told us why he didn’t like it. That’s fair game and valuable information for readers who might have considered buying one. Remington offered the exchange program around the date the August issue mailed, well past when the issue was printed. Had the exchange program occurred when we had a chance to consider it, we would have graded differently. — tw

I found it very interesting that the August 2014 edition gave the Remington R51 an A rating when Remington just announced a recall of all sold R51s. This is not a criticism, rather it is an observation on the vagaries of mechanical devices like handguns. I will give you two examples of what I mean.

I purchased a Kimber Solo CDP LG to use as a carry gun here in Sarasota, Florida. It is easily concealed wearing my Sunshine State uniform of shorts and a T-shirt in an N82 holster. My gun will function with any decent 9mm ammo, even 115-grain loads.

One of my best friends liked the Solo so much he bought the identical model. His would not function with any ammo, jamming after three rounds. He sent it back to Kimber, and it is now reliable with two brands of defensive ammo.

I happen to like Paras, STIs, and other models of Kimber. I own four Paras, two STIs, and five Kimbers, and I have never had a problem with any of them in thousands of rounds of use. Yet I hear from gun-store staff and folks at the ranges how they are finicky and problem plagued and should be avoided.
— Roger J. Jambor

Your article on the Remington R51 and its ancestor, the Model 51, goes some way toward explaining the reasons for customer dissatisfaction with the new version. Most users seem to want a new gun to work with whatever ammunition they can buy cheaply, and the R51 seems to be ammunition sensitive.

It is obvious from the article that the writer really does not know how the guns work. That is not surprising, since the system is not simple or easily understood. There is no “floating chamber” and the slide is not “withdrawn” except in manual operation. Nor is it a “locked breech” in the conventional sense. The barrel is solid, fixed, and does not move, and there is no mechanical lock between the barrel and breechblock. Here is how the guns work.

First understand how a blowback pistol works. When the cartridge fires, the pressure of the powder gas within the case pushes the case backward as it pushes the bullet forward. In a true blowback, the breechblock (usually the slide) is heavy and its inertia will keep the cartridge motionless and the pressure in until the bullet leaves the bore. Then it will move backward under residual pressure and its own inertia to eject the case and cock the hammer/striker. Then a spring will force the breechblock forward into battery, picking up and chambering a fresh round on the way.

But not in the Pedersen design. At rest, cams in the slide are holding the separate breechblock forward and down into a frame recess. Instead of the breechblock going backward under pressure, it is stopped by a sloped shoulder in that recess after about 2.5mm (.10 inch) travel. (The cartridge case may be said to act as a short-stroke piston.)

During that travel, the breechblock hits the slide a blow that starts it moving back. But the breechblock, being lighter, stops before the heavier slide really gets moving. At that point, the breech-