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Shooting Illustrated had been pimping the Remington R51 hard. They put it on their cover, they gave it a glowing review, and even after a plethora of negative reviews of the firearm started coming out they issued a full-throated defense of their actions and conclusions. As I noted, this situation is the clearest illustration of the lack of integrity among dead tree publications. But there’s now a problem: even Remington admits the R51 was a debacle. In light of that new development, Shooting Illustrated had this to say . . .

Clearly, however, many production models of the R51 were riddled with problems. Had we anticipated these problems in production, our coverage would have been handled differently.

We can only report that which we see in testing. To that end, we try to test production models whenever possible, but unfortunately that is not always an option, particularly with brand-new firearms. In the future, we will indicate whether a tested model is a production unit or a pre-production sample to provide the most complete and transparent information to our readers.

The specific nature of this problem was that Shooting Illustrated – like the other gun mags — were given pre-production versions of the R51 to test, guns that were hand-selected by Remington’s engineers and finely tuned to operate perfectly. Shooting Illustrated’s review gun worked flawlessly because the engineers took their time and ensured that it would. Clearly, no one at Remington took nearly that much care with the final production versions of the R51.

When Shooting Illustrated published their review — well after problems became evident — the backlash from the internet was swift and severe. Actual customers who had already purchased the firearm (and then returned it due to the problems) rightly pointed out that SI’s review divorced from the reality gun buyers were seeing. The finished products for which they had forked over their cold hard cash bore little resemblance to the exemplar of reliability and shootability that graced the pages of their magazine. SI’s initial response was to stand by their story — their author’s credibility was beyond reproach, and they had simply published what he had written based on his experience with the gun.

Now that Remington has admitted that there are serious problems, Shooting Illustrated also has a problem. As long as Remington had their fingers crammed in their ears screaming “LA LA LA,” SI could claim that there was no problem and their review was accurate. Whatever problems were being reported were outliers, not indicative of the true nature of the firearm.

Now that the reality of the situation has come to light and the R51 has been acknowledged as a glitch-riddled paperweight, Shooting Illustrated’s R51 review is a problem. In order to salvage some credibility they’re blaming the issue on Remington — claiming that they accurately reviewed the pre-production gun they were sent, but blaming Remington for pulling a bait-and-switch and promising to note in the future when pre-production guns are used for reviews.

That explanation doesn’t hold water, though. Shooting Illustrated’s review of the R51 was published months after Tim Harmsen and I (separately) reviewed the full production R51 and found it, well, lacking. They had plenty of time to revisit their review’s conclusions and ask Remington questions about the inconsistencies between the review guns and the versions in the wild. Instead of doing any real journalism they deferred to their advertisers and ran the review as-is. Most of the gun-buying world knew about the R51’s production version problems. And yet, Shooting Illustrated claims ignorance and promises that if they had known about them their coverage “would have been handled differently.” Why am I not convinced?

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76 Responses to Shooting Illustrated on Their Remington R51 Review: Oops

  1. that’s the problem with most magazines and most shows on guns nowadays. they get sent a product that has had most of the bedbugs work out of it on the ship it to him sometimes with a buncha ammunition to s*** in here review this gun instead of going out and actually getting a gun off of production line or at a store and taking it on and reviewing it now actually doing more than shooting a hundred rounds through it I haven’t seen a good gun review and probably 3 years other than a couple of guys off the internet on YouTube that actually shoot the firearm with a bunch of different types of ammunition and put it through a s*** load ammo.just my 10 cents worth

    • Only two periods in that whole comment? I stopped reading on the second line. Dude, just…don’t.

      • You gotta play fast and loose with spelling and grammar if you want to get the first comment. At least it’s a semi-coherent thought and not just “First!”.

      • Hey, go easy on him. Of the two capital letters he used in the entire post, he indeed used them properly.

      • Dude, this is TTAG, not fifth-grade English. Thoughtful, intelligent commentary doesn’t always require perfect punctuation.

        • Is punctuation “necessary”? No, but it sure helps others to understand what point it is that you’re trying to get across. Like previously stated, after about the 3rd line I gave up trying to decipher where one sentence ended and the next one began.

        • Perfect punctuation, or merely enough so that you appear to have at least made it through fifth grade?

          There’s a very appropriate joke involving a panda, punctuation, and a house of ill-repute. Sadly, it doesn’t fit our family friendly guidelines. I can’t bring myself to post the bowdlerized version…

        • It’s a great joke. It illustrates the value of punctuation quite vividly.

        • Very funny, guys. I mean, literally, very funny. I googled that joke. Point taken.

  2. When you run a consumer oriented magazine, the reader is the product, not the customer. The advertisers are the customers. SI was simply delivering product.

    • As I have stated many times before Gun Rags have all the journalistic integrity of Tiger Beat Magazine or any number Women’s Magazines

      • In many ways, the print gun rags are akin to the bond rating agencies that contributed heavily to the recent economic recession. There, customer’s would stop giving those agencies bonds to rate if they gave them low scores, so the agencies ended up scoring worthless crap very high.

        Print magazine revenue is mostly derived from advertisements, not sales. If the magazines gave poor reviews to company X, company x would no longer advertise in their magazine.

        I wonder though, how many “real” collectors actually purchase these rags, as opposed to bored teenagers at the airport or the like?

    • Years ago, I had a friend who was an engineer at Fisher Stereo In Long Island City. (Okay, it was a LOT of years ago. It was the 1970s – the “Golden Age” of stereo equipment.)

      Audio and stereo review writers would come by for a visit, they’d look at a product, listen to some Doobie Brothers, smoke a few doobies and the engineers would just hand the writer spec sheets and graphs suitable for publication. Then, someone from Sales or Marketing would take the guy into Manhattan to get him loaded and laid.

  3. Don’t mistake for malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity.

    To play Devils advocate here; maybe Harmsen wrote the article, submitted it for publication months in advance, and then went about his business. No one at SI has any real motivation to check up on the story before it goes to print, and so they grace us with a glowing review of an obvious POS.

    • Don’t mistake for malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity.

      I’m inclined to believe Occam’s Razor is more applicable here. It’s well known that in the paper magazine world that reviews are purchased by manufacturers as additional advertisement space. With very few exceptions you won’t find negative product reviews in ANY print media for the simple reason that advertisers are the true life-blood of print media, NOT the readers.

      Leghorn is quick to point out this issue for a few reasons:

      A. It helps sell HIS product. Pointing out that print media isn’t trustworthy is a good way to bolster his business’ reputation for “journalistic integrity.”

      B. He got slammed pretty hard by a lot of the old guard when he not only reviewed the R51, but took print media to task over their reviews that were the polar opposite of not only “new media” reviewers but the consumer base. While I am not above questioning and taking jabs at Leghorn, some of the shit that was said was nasty. So I am personally glad he’s been vindicated to some degree.

  4. Screw off SI you got caught writing BS reviews for cash and now have zero credibility. Reminds me of reading a review of the annual call of duty when ign runs giant banner ads for the
    game they are reviewing than surprisingly give the game a high score

      • It went straight downhill after building up to 4, and from there simply crashed right through the bottom of that cliff and into some negative dimension of horribleness.

        — Shameless Battlefield fan boy.

        • Yea, cuz Battlefield has been the poster child for quality product. When was the last time they actually completed a game and fixed critical issues that existed in the Alpha/Beta stages? Oh yea, not once… But Hardline will be out in a few months, don’t forget your premium pass for early access to expansions!

          -A disgusted gamer who’s tired of AAA developers

        • If it requires more than a joystick and a single button it’s all about the hardware and not about the game…

          -Shameless Asteroids pilot

        • Pfft, look at all the pretty boys and their techno toys.

          -Shameless tincan and stick fan

        • Tin can and stick? Hah! We would have loved to have a tin can and stick. We couldn’t even afford a rock. We had to go sneak a rock out of our neighbor’s garden.

          -Shameless ‘4 Yorkshiremen’ fan

        • Give us the girl, wipe away the debt

          -Shameless Bioshock fan

          (oh wait. my head seems screwed on wrong)

  5. I bet that the reason they ran with their original review is because the checks from Remington had already been cashed.

  6. At the very very best, this is the problem with the lag time found in dead tree reviews.

    As an avid car guy, I see the same issues in that industry, too.

    TTAG’s reviews (or TTAC’s) hit the public the next day…magazine reviews show up weeks later. Once the article is in the can for printing, I don’t know how much editing/rewriting/cancelling can be done…even in a major screwup like this.

  7. I’ve mentioned on TTAG to not believe the glossy magazine-rack publications advice or reviews on guns before. There’s so much more to learn about guns and shooting than these magazines will ever publish or dream of publishing.

    Well, folks, now Nick has caught them red-handed for you. To his high credit, Nick is being very nice and professional about catching them in their act. Were I in Nick’s position, I probably would not be so nice, but then I’m not a nice, cuddly gunsmith.

    But the fact remains, as Nick has pointed out: Nick & Tim spotted real, functional problems with the R51 before SI’s review ran. If SI had been paying attention (or, more likely, if SI took online reviewers more seriously), they would have noticed that their guns functioned so much better than the ones from the distribution channels that were being reviewed so negatively, and asked Remington “Um, what gives? Why does ours work and theirs don’t?”

    Many of these glossy magazines have far too cozy a relationship with the gun makers, just as glossy auto magazines have too cozy a relationship with the auto companies.

    • The editors of “good” Glossy auto magazines get invited to annual galas where food, booze & sometimes even hookers are provided. The editors of “bad” auto magazines don’t get invited.. You’ll find the text in most auto “review” magazines closely mimics the manufacturer’s press releases.. If the editors had to write anything original, it would interfere with drinkin’ time, and we can’t have that!

  8. I have been distrustful of the dead tree gun magazines for a very long time. They were giving glowing reports to Century products even though some peoples experience proved otherwise.

  9. If someone picks up a gun rag and doesn’t realize it’s basically just gun porn and look at it for more than the pictures…same with any trade rag…

    • The new media world is BEGGING for things like gun porn. Guys like Stickman do a decent job, but they’re one-trick ponies and focus a little too heavily on their branding while their photography in general is fairly dull. Another unfortunate byproduct of the digital photography revolution.

      P.S. What’s the new email for the complaints department around here? I know it got changed…. The auto-refreshing of the advertisements is getting so outrageous that it’s lagging the comment input box and dicking up my browser overall.

  10. Neither dead tree media nor Fudds can be trusted in any way, shape or form. Metcalf sold out. Zumbo sold out. Recoil’s Tsai sold out. And when it came to the R51, damn near everybody sold out.

  11. I really do hope that Remington doesn’t give up on the R51 and decides to diligently redesign and properly engineer production of this pistol. I really wanted to like this pistol. I held one at a gunshow and it felt really good in my hand. It also was the first 9mm I’ve seen that my wife could comfortably operate. If she doesn’t feel comfortable with it, she’s not going to be interested in shooting it. I hope the fiasco this premature introduction caused doesn’t kill it.

  12. I like gun porn. But there is plenty of that on the Net. Just type in “Ruger Blackhawk pictures” in a browser. Oh! Oh!! OH!!!

  13. Vindication tastes sweet, doesn’t it Nick?

    Your stock went up about 100 points with me when Remington acknowledged production guns were crap. Thank you for your unbiased report, untainted by advertising contracts and other fringe benefits.

    Good work.

    While the Obama economy has put the brakes on new firearm purchases for me, I do appreciate good, honest reports. Gun Tests Magazine now has a peer in Nick Leghorn.

    John

  14. This is funny.
    And they wonder why people like us no longer subscribe…
    I get shotgun news. And AR. That’s it.
    If I want gun porn, I’ll open up the safe.
    Or read some of Joe Grine’s articles here.

  15. The September issue of “Guns” magazine has the pistol on the cover. Sure, you can talk about long lead times. However, you have to wonder how long this praise of a junk gun will go on?

  16. Looks like the September 2014 issue of GUNS magazine didn’t get the word on the R51 either. It labels it a ‘Classic Resurrection’. More like ‘Classic Zombie’.

  17. How is this risk isolated to print magazines? Aren’t all trial & evaluation items provided by manufacturers, regardless of the reviewing organization, subject to vendor manipulation?

    This is why I try to read many reviews from multiple sources. The trick with individuals’ reviews, though, is being sure the reviewer has actually owned the product. Sometimes, maybe many times, people will just repeat whatever they’ve read elsewhere.

    Overall, the best approach for me has been to let the market as a whole have its say. Let the early adopters take the big risks and let the manufacturers work out the kinks in first models before gaining market acceptance.

    • Jonathan – Houston wrote:

      “Aren’t all trial & evaluation items provided by manufacturers, regardless of the reviewing organization, subject to vendor manipulation?”

      AFIK Consumer Reports does not. They buy retail anonymously.

  18. I was pained that a much more trusted source, Gun Tests – an advertising-free printed newsletter – delivered their edition that rated the R51 an “A” within a few days of Remington announcing the paperweight status of the production R51. O-U-C-H ! Oh, et tu, Gun Tests? Et tu?

  19. Why any gun rag would review a gun that was not stock is beyond me. Like a food critic who is bought & paid for by a restaurant. I’ve only been at the gun thing for a bit over 3 years and can’t believe this crap. It makes me appreciate the non-whores.

    • former water walker wrote:

      “Why any gun rag would review a gun that was not stock is beyond me.”

      Simple – They get to be “The first kid on their block to have one.”.

      IE, “exclusive scoop”.

  20. What found funny youtube all so had many so called trust gun reviews pass R51 as safe reliable handgun. Well many other people on youtube at same time where make videos documenting all quality issue flaws they had with R51 they bought from there gun store where not safe or reliable. What bad is that ever gun magazines out there gave R51 glowing review with out even check out claims that people where have with R51.

  21. “Clearly, however, many production models of the R51 were riddled with problems. Had we anticipated these problems in production, our coverage would have been handled differently.”

    Maybe instead of basing your reviews on “anticipation” of results, you could just conduct a LEGITIMATE review of the product. How about handle THAT differently! You know, not be a fraud and and a shill and all that.

  22. Another reason why I dumped all of my classic car and muscle car magazines. Every new part got a glowing review and always made the most horsepower. There are a few that still have good how to articles but I’ve been playing with cars long enough that I don’t need to see them that much. If I need to know for sure I hit up my favorite Ford and Mopar sites on how to do whatever it is I need to do. Gun magazines are probably no different. I can find whatever they are talking about in an internet forum months before their article gets published.

  23. Ive found a great way to skip on spending money on gun mags but still having a magazine beside the toilet. My LGS gets these product catalogs with reviews, previews, rundowns, and cool little historical articles on a paticular gun. Pretty much the same as a gun mag, but they’re free and the pics are prettier. CZ is the best so far.

  24. As Doc Holiday once stated:
    “My brown nosing,.. Er uh,, hypocrisy only goes so far.”

    Remington screwed up BIG time on this. Hopefully, this albatross can be cut loose and the curse lifted.

    By the way, did I mention my old 870 is doing just fine?

    Sucking up to manufacturers paying for full size ads, in your rag, only works when they are not a POS.

  25. Gun Tests gets no money for advertisements. Their positive review is a reflection on the poor manufacturing processes Remington has, which results in inconsistent quality on “finished” products. I know a couple guys with R51’s, one has a nightmare, the other has a working pistol.

    Gun Tests will occasionally re-test firearms it gives a downgrade to, but that’s hardly pandering to manufacturers. DON’T BUY is a Gun Tests recommendation that cracked me up the first time I saw it.

    For that matter, I’ve never seen a review of buying a used vs. new firearm, but I see that kind of article in Gun Tests a couple times a year. What manufacturer wants to remind consumers a used gun is pretty much as good as a new one, for less money?

    I know a fellow who was planning to carry an XD-S in 45 ACP to replace his Glock 36. He couldn’t get it to shoot a full magazine without a jam across three factory mags. Does that mean an XD-S is as crappy as an R51? Nope. Does that mean MOST XD-S’s are going to be problematic? Nope, and next time I see him I’ll ask if SA Inc. made it right.

    The R51 reminds me more of the Kimber Solo, which got great reviews but sucks as a carry pistol. MANY people have had problems, what makes this Remington issue that much different? Gun Tests reported two jams with Kimber recommended bullet weights – does that sound like a paid for ad?

  26. @Nick: “Why am I not convinced?” Umm, because you know what bull$h17 smells like? That would be my guess. If I were you, I’d bask in this schadenfreude moment as it is completely justified.
    @Ralph: Recoil’s review pissed me off too.

  27. Oops-my a$$……….The gun rags are not worth the paper they are printed on, and the information held within is worth even less.

  28. I also remember the glowing reports on the Smith & Wesson Sigma. I bought one in .40 and it had to be the biggest POS gun I ever owned. It would always have a failure to feed on the 12th or 13th round. I almost gave up completely on S&W products. But owning a 4566 and firing the M&P restored my faith.

  29. And I’ll bet the Australian dead-tree press will have glowing reviews of the R51 in their next issues. Otherwise no more freebees from Big Green and their local importers.

    I think the R51 is a sign of an ongoing issue where engineers are ignored so marketing and seasonal deadlines are met to meet bottom line forecasts. And this is happening in aviation as well as other manufacturing.

  30. Somebody will take the fall for putting this junk on the market. He better pray they use an R51 if he gets the firing squad!

  31. typical Remington ! been going Down hill Since the Brits owned them, as for the rag their creditability is lacking,

  32. Same as any other product review mag except Consumer Reports and I dont trust their reviews either.

  33. When I was a staff writer and shooting editor for The Arizona Outdoorsman magazine (now defunct) I didn’t get “free” guns to review..I had to buy them. I bought and tested the Walther P-22 and found major problems with it. But…the big name magazines,with the big name writers,gave it rave reviews..best thing since sliced bread and all that. I was more than a little ticked off because they knew the problems were there but, because Walther was a customer they covered it up.I finally approached Walther at the SHOT show with my review and they didn’t want to talk to me. They knew too but let the problems continue. I got rid of that gun so I don’t know if they ever corrected it or not.

  34. Specific to the SI magazine testing results, does “flawless” function in their review include the obvious failure observed in their own video at the 16 second mark?

  35. I used to like Gun tests – but they are now on my “do not trust” list as well. The R51 says “9mm Luger +P” on the box, in the manual, and on the barrel. Despite whatever little disclaimer Remington puts in the manual about using only their ammo, Remington is a *member* of SAAMI. You know, the “Sporting Arms Ammunition Manufactures Institute”? (check the “member companies” page link provided – companies are listed in alphabetical order…) There are *well published* SAAMI specs for 9mm Luger cartridge (as well as MANY others), that it is my understanding are the industry standard for manufactured ammunition and firearms. If the gun does not run with *any* SAAMI spec ammo, in my opinion it is the gun that is the problem, not the user or the ammo. Gun test seems to be missing the boat on this and has completely lost credibility with me due to this. I have measured 9mm factory ammo I’ve run through my R51 with a micrometer. Based on the SAAMI spec (link below) it was within the standard – yet had issues in my R51.

    Here is the SAAMI member companies page:

    http://www.saami.org/member_companies/index.cfm

    Here is the link to the SAAMI 9mm Luger “CARTRIDGE & CHAMBER DRAWING”:

    http://www.saami.org/PubResources/CC_Drawings/Pistol/9mm%20Luger%20-%209mm%20Luger%20+P.pdf

  36. Just got off the phone with Remington. They are now offering the standard R1 as a replacement for the R51. They expect production for the R51 to begin in 2Q 2015.

    Now, I have to do my homework on the R1.

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