Feature Article

The Return of Remington’s R51 Semi-Auto: How Does It Fare?

The Return of Remington’s R51 Semi-Auto: How Does It Fare?
The Remington R51 malfunctioned from the outset. The hull stuck in the ejection port is from a Federal 115-grain Federal Syntech load. One round that ran well in the R51 was the Federal American Eagle 124-grain load in the background.

We recently tested four single-stack 9mm Luger defense-oriented handguns, among the most popular carry guns in America. Three were single-action pistols and one was a double-action-only model. The spread in expense was pronounced, from less than $200 to more than $700. As always, when we’re evaluating carry pistols, handling and accuracy mean a lot, but reliability is the bottom line, and we start with a pistol that has had a mark beside its name for being unreliable. In the lineup was a pistol taking its second bite at the apple, Remington’s R51 96430 9mm Luger, which has undergone a recall and revamp and is now back on dealer shelves. Pitted against it were a SIG Sauer P938 Engraved Rosewood Micro-Compact 938-9-ESR, a Taurus 709 Slim 1-709031FS, and a Kel-Tec PF-9.

All of these handguns have a history with us. Most recently, the R51 did well in its initial test in our pages, but was recalled shortly thereafter. In the August 2014 issue, we said, “The Remington R51 was a handy, comfortable pistol of just the right size for its power. Felt recoil with the hottest ammo was amazingly light, and muzzle flip was almost non-existent. It had an odd takedown procedure that was easily mastered. The gun had enough accuracy for its intended purpose. It worked well, was not too expensive, had a great trigger and great sights, and we really liked the concept.

“Though our FFL advised us that other shooters were having function problems with the R51, our test gun simply did not exhibit those problems. Because we only report what happens in our tests and base our grades on our own experiences, we could not fault the R51 for issues other people were having.

“However, after publication of the August print issue, we learned that the R51 had been recalled by Remington. We adjusted the grade on the R51 to an F and returned our test gun to the factory under the recall program.”

Then, late last year, Remington Arms Company announced that the R51 had returned to the market with enhancements that included updated slide internals, precision-engineered extractor, locking snag-free sights, tuned recoil spring, hard-chromed barrel bushing, a single-action trigger, and two semi-flush 7+1 round magazines. At the time of the re-release, Remington said the pistol had been extensively tested. The company again touted the R51’s features and benefits, including a lightweight aluminum frame with rounded edges for comfortable conceal carry, a grip safety, low bore axis for reduced recoil/muzzle flip, a concealed carry trigger that was a light, crisp single action, low slide racking-force for ease of manipulation, an ambidextrous magazine release, locking drift-adjustable sights, and optimized grip angle. Our test gun, a full replacement of the original, has a suggested retail price of $448.

The last time we looked at the Kel-Tec PF-9 9mm was in April 2011. Of the PF-9, we said, “All business-like flat black, the blued Kel-Tec PF-9 is slim and easily concealable. It was a bit too big for most trouser pockets, but would fit most overcoat pockets. The fixed sights gave an excellent picture that we thought could be improved by widening the rear notch. There were three white dots. The rear sight was adjustable for windage, and by shimming for elevation. An Allen screw secured it. Both the front and rear sights were polymer, as was the trigger and, of course, most of the frame.

“The integral grips had a coarse checkerboard pattern that provided excellent traction, and the front and rear grip straps had vertical serrations. The magazine release was a steel button that was not easy to hit accidentally, but let the mag come out easily when intentionally pressed. The gun could be fired with the magazine removed.

“In our testing we came to love the trigger of the Kel-Tec. We had no trouble whatsoever with short-stroking the trigger in rapid shooting. In fact, the recoil seemed to blow the gun backwards and our trigger finger forward. We were unaware of the trigger needing to be carefully allowed to go all the way forward. We essentially had no problems at all with the Kel-Tec PF-9. We had one failure for the slide to lock back on empty with the first magazine-full through it, but that never happened again. We think this is one mighty fine 9mm handgun, but it is not for the recoil-sensitive person.”

About a year later (March 2012) we test-fired the Taurus 709B Slim No. 1-709031. Back then, we said of the handgun, “We never suffered a failure to ignite or any other type of malfunction, so all shots in our tests were performed using the single-action trigger. From the 10-yard bench, only two groups measured 2 inches wide or larger. Overall average size for all groups fired in our tests computed to about 1.5 inches.

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