Gun Review: Remington R51 v 2.0, Take Two

After many years (decades?) of concentrating on shotguns and rifles, Remington finally got back into the business of handgun production. Today Remington makes a variety of successful handguns including a slew of 1911s, as well as the duty-size 9mm RP9 and the pocket-sized RM380.

But there was a big hiccup on the way back to handgun production for Big Green. Remington decided to resurrect the old Model 51 a few years ago as the R51. The retro-styled pistol had all manner of problems and was eventually recalled. A year or so later, the nation’s oldest gun maker brought it back as version 2.0 (see TTAG’s original review of redesigned R51 here). the  I won the latest version of the R51 a while back and put it through its paces.

The aluminum framed R51 comes from a nearly 100-year-old operating mechanism developed by John Pedersen. Yes, the John Pedersen, of Pedersen Device fame. You can read at Wiki how the R51’s unique operating system works. Anyway, the system supposedly makes the gun softer-shooting and the slide easier to rack.

When I opened the box and took out the pistol for the first time, I had very positive first impressions. I like the snag-free sights; three big, white circles easy for old eyes to see. Additionally, the grip angle, with the incorporated grip safety, and low bore axis, lends itself to natural pointing. Double-checking that it was unloaded, dry-firing brought a slight grin. The trigger broke smoothly and consistently without creep.

Plus, the gun just looks cool, like something James Bond might carry with its streamlined, vaguely futuristic lines. I could definitely see people buying this slim pistol for snag-free concealed carry. Meanwhile, southpaws will appreciate the ambidextrous mag release.

Looking it over again, I noticed how everything felt smooth on this little pistol. Possibly a little too smooth. With wet or bloody hands, it could be a slippery rascal. Your perceptions might vary.

The first time I took the gun to the range, though, it didn’t go entirely smoothly. Lots of little things made it frustrating. The R51 was hard on the webbing of my hand and I had several malfunctions as well. Some folks told me it needed more of a break-in, so a break-in it got. Since then I’ve shot it some more and gave it a good scrubbing.

Just breaking down the R51 for cleaning elicited more than a few swear words. Putting it back together brought forth a few more and a trip to YouTube for a video demonstration. In the end, I remember sighing, “That was harder than it should be.”

But sure enough, after almost 300 rounds and a good cleaning, the malfunction issues settled down. But a few minor demons remain. While none of the issues are deal-breakers, they keep me from really liking this gun.

First off, racking the steel slide on that fully-loaded magazine proved difficult. How difficult? Hard enough that it took me three tries to hold onto things tightly enough to pull the slide fully to the rear so it would catch that top round. My good friend, a retired FBI special agent and Fibbie firearms trainer had similar issues when I handed it to him.

I’ll admit I’m not 18 years old any more, nor do I look like Mr. America. But the slide proved quite a little bugger on that full magazine. It’s the polar opposite of S&W’s new M&P EZ when it comes to the ease of racking the slide on a loaded mag.

Ejecting a seated topped-off mag on a closed slide proved tough, too. I can’t imagine a lot of scenarios where I would dump a mag like that in a gun battle, but it happens now and then on the range. That’s something that may smooth out over time.

Additionally, for those of you who use the slide stop instead of pulling back on the slide to load and make ready, you may find the R51’s slide stop a tad too shallow. Especially if one you find yourself with flipper fingers courtesy of an adrenaline dump when the S hits the F.

Are any these deal-killers? No. However, they can prove pesky, especially for those without a lot of grip strength.

I shot the Dot Torture drill with the R51 just as I do with every handgun I review. It gives me an apples-to-apples comparison for how well I can shoot a given pistol compared to my everyday carry gun. By my count, I dropped 15 from perfect (50) at five yards. My typical score lately hovers around 45 out of 50.

Taking a break, then really bearing down for maximum accuracy, the R51 showed it can definitely shoot minute of bad guy at five yards. The trigger reset happens at nearly a full-release and without much in the way of sound or tactile notice.

On the whole, the R51 left me insufficiently impressed. While I like the design and the guns carry-ability, I’m left with the feeling that it could have (should have?) been done better.

Specifications: Remington R51 (version 2)

Caliber: 9mm para, +P rated
Barrel Length: 3.4 inches
Overall Length: 6.6 inches
Width: 1 inch
Height: 4.6 inches
Weight: 22 oz.
Capacity: 7+1, ships with two 7-round magazines
MSRP: $448 (street price about $385)

Ratings (out of five stars):

Reliability: * * *
Following a 300-round “break in period” and a good cleaning, the R51 did much better. It ate all but one of the (mostly Federal) 9mm ball ammo I fed it. While one malfunction doesn’t spell disaster, the gun’s previous malfunctions caused me to mark it down two stars instead of one.

Accuracy:  * * * 
I couldn’t shoot the R51 anywhere near as well as I shoot most other handguns. The gun certainly performs to within minute of bad guy specs. At the same time, if I can’t consistently put them where they need to go, all that doesn’t matter.

Ease of Use: * * 1/2
Charging the gun from a closed slide requires real effort and concentration – when it should require neither. Ejecting a full mag on a closed slide requires some effort, too. Cleaning proved to be a drag. Probably not a gun for beginners.

Trigger: * * * *
So much of the ability to land shots on target rests with a good trigger. For a factory trigger without any work, Big Green’s R51 ranks as good. I’m a bit of a trigger snob (despite an edit by my editor in a previous review), and the R51’s stands as a bright spot with this little pistol.

Value: * * *
While the gun lists for just under $450, I’ve seen them under well under $400 on the shelf, occasionally as low as three bills. Not bad.

Overall: * * *
Bottom line: Let’s not make shooting harder than it has to be, Remington. You’ve got a stylish pistol with a good trigger and easy-to-see sights that points nicely. The exotic action makes it a pain to clean without bringing any tangible benefits to the table. The magazine tension makes racking the slide on a full magazine harder than it should be.

 

comments

  1. avatar st381183 says:

    This review is a little late, don’t you think? The R51 v1 and v2 have already come gone and died an agonizing death about a year ago now. Don’t buy this gun! I worked for a cerakote place that disassembled one and we could not get it back together. We sent it in to Remington and they were also unable to reassemble. So they just sent us a new one at no charge. Good customer service but not a good gun. Failure prone and the mags were lousy.

    1. avatar Larry Macneal says:

      Leghorn reviewed this back in 2016 gave it 4 stars. What gives?

      1. avatar Bloving says:

        Different perspective, I guess?
        I still say it’s a sexy lil’gun and I want one. Yes, I would totally carry it too – especially after I change those grip panels to something more exotic to suit my vanity.
        A bunch of expensive car problems this year is the only reason I’ve not already done so.
        🤠

        1. avatar AdamTA1 says:

          My wife got me one for Christmas back when they were around $300. Mine is very accurate but the top portion of the grip safety definitely wears on the webbing of the thumb above ~50 rds. I didn’t have any malfunctions out the gate but last time I shot it the slide would lock back after every shot no matter how many rounds were left in the mag. Disassembling and reassembling fixed it somehow but I’m not sure what was causing that. Disassembly process is a nightmare and reassembly is worse, I’ve done it probably 100 times now and it never gets easier. I’ve not put enough rounds through the firearm, between time and finances, to be willing to carry the firearm although I’d like to it’s a sweet looking pistol in my opinion. May end up being a safe queen I wouldn’t sell it since it was a present.

      2. avatar John Boch says:

        Different people have different takes. Because different perspectives. Frankly, I felt *very* generous giving it three stars overall. For $400, folks can do a lot better for CCW.

        How and why this thing graced the cover of gun magazines is beyond me. Unless it’s all about ad revenue.

        1. avatar SouthAl says:

          True enough about different perspectives. Much like bloving above, I wanted one for the same reasons. Plus I wanted to do my little part to support Rem’s move to Alabama. Malfunctions went away after about 30 rounds-no failures since then-about 300 rounds later. I find its carryability outstanding, quickly became my edc. For me the assembly and mag release issues are the biggest bothers. Bought mine new while rebate was available, all in price with shipping and transfer was $240.

    2. avatar Geoff PR says:

      “This review is a little late, don’t you think?”

      I’ve seen a fair number of them *used* in gun shops…

  2. avatar former water walker says:

    Hard pass. A huge # of similarly sized guns that are BETTER-and cheaper. And NOT Remington…

  3. avatar Big Al says:

    Am a fairly newcomer to the Shield arena. Have 3, looking for more. Most I EVER (used) is $350. Absolutely NO problems. Magazines are superb! I owned an original R51 in 380. Loved it, but I live where it is HOT much of the year, thus I must have a corrosion resistant firearm.

  4. avatar Andrew Lias says:

    What amuses me is why they even used this action. It was basically made to evade Browning’s patents.

    1. avatar barnbwt says:

      Well, mine recoils as hard as a P35 Hi Power that weighs twice as much because of how it dissipates recoil over a larger duration, so there’s that.

      +P ammo feels almost imperceptibly different, too, which is also different from Browning action designs

      The barrel is fixed, which is ideal for silencer or comp use if Remington could just remove their heads from their cheeks and make some threaded barrels

      The mag well is long enough for 10mm and 45acp variants

      The safety design is more positive/detectable than a Glock, but just as intuitive

      So there’s a handful of things that make the Pedersen action a compelling option, not the least of which is it looks better

      1. avatar AdamTA1 says:

        Threaded barrels are available for around $100. Not from Remington but aftermarket. I don’t have the info on my phone I bookmarked it on my pc.

    2. avatar Dyspeptic Gunsmith says:

      Um, no.

      The R51 is Remington evading their history, that of the original Model 51, which was designed by John Pedersen, who designed the Model 51 a bit earlier than Browning was working on what would eventually become the High Power of 1935 and later. Browning’s High Power design needed lots of assistance after Browning’s death in 1926 before it saw the light of day. The first patents filed on ideas in the Model 51 were back in 1915 or 1916, if my memory serves, with more patents issued before 1920.

      The Remington Model 51, however, was a viable pistol in 1920, and was even examined by the US Navy to replace the 1911 post-WWI.

      All Remington had to do here was duplicate the Model 51 design. Remington being Remington, however, they had to make it cheap, cheap, cheapest. Remington’s corporate philosophy seems to be “We will screw up any gun design by making it cheaper!” and so it was here. The R51 design cheapens the M51 design significantly, and what you get is what we have here.

      The original Model 51 was an excellent little pistol in .380, and would scale up to 9×19 quite nicely.

  5. avatar Rokurota says:

    While the gun lists for just under $450, I’ve seen them under well under $400 on the shelf, occasionally as low as three bills. Not bad.

    Not good, either. Rugers, Caniks, and the S&W SD9VE go for $300 with no issues. I bought a used Beretta PX4 Compact Inox (which JWT raved about yesterday) for $350 incl. shipping and FFL a few months ago, and that’s a top-flight handgun. No need to settle for meh.

    1. avatar John Boch says:

      Agreed.

    2. avatar Mark N. says:

      I just bought my daughter the Ruger EC9 for $250, including shipping of $35.

    3. avatar jwtaylor says:

      I know it’s a differnt gun entirely, but I’m finding G40s for under $250 at my local cop shop. It’s not a gun I wanted, but for that price, it’s the gun I bought. Ludicrously cheap ammo too. All police turn-ins.
      I already have a LWD 40/9mm barrel to drop in it. So this just went into one of my “things have gone awry” bags.

  6. avatar Timmer says:

    For a self-defense firearm, I want something simple, not this. If you ever have an occasion you have to use it, you can be sure Mr. Murphy will be hanging around.

  7. avatar ironicatbest says:

    Thanks s cheap enuff, it looks like a cZ 52 to me. I wish Americans would have kinda took a better liking to the 7.62x 25. With good bullets and loaded hot it’s a kick ass cartridge.

    1. avatar Gun Free School Zones are a crime against humanity says:

      The x25 is a hot round. It pretty much requires a full size service weapon to handle it. I can’t see it being a good fit for a conceal carry weapon.

      Now, design a new carbine to use it with 30 round mags and you got something.

      1. avatar barnbwt says:

        The R51 takes +P despite a light compact size slide. The 9mm mag is a gnat-hair too short for x25, unfortunately, or I would have done a conversion by now.

        Remington wasted so much potential with their incompetence

  8. avatar Swarf says:

    It’s a damn shame, because I sure do like the looks of this pistol.

    I’ve learned the hard way, though, that looks aren’t enough.

  9. avatar little horn says:

    no need for such a complicated internal design. no thanks. not to mention the PD was retro fitted to the OUTSIDE of rifles so i wouldn’t want that inside a handgun.

    1. avatar barnbwt says:

      Totally different system from the handgun, and the P Device replaced the rifle bolt

  10. avatar JW says:

    Take one, take two, take ’em all – better you than me! 🙂

  11. avatar Clyde Rice says:

    Have two!
    Other than magazine problems, pretty much problem free. Certainally about the best damn “Natural Pointing” hand gun out there.

    Those magazines do require some adjustment, major part of the “loaded magazine & slide stiffiness” scenario.

    Someone either miscalcluated space for fully loaded internal space, or the spring binds inside it’s chanel.
    I have had success with either/both, improving internal space, “Dremal Moto Tool”, or shortening the legs on the follower. (Same tool use!)
    Hell, same fix in reality, “reduce stack height of ammo column”!

    Must get some “leftover” compression space in the loaded magazines.

    The above, plus some of them need adjustment of the little bent lip, supposedly designed to be a follower, stopper. (Completely unneeded in the first place!)

    Damn magazines, the “make or break” of any pistol!

  12. avatar Jerry says:

    I bought one after reading Leghorn’s review. Some of his test and some of this test prove to be the norm. For me, it’s not the best trigger. Remington said shoot more. Not much trouble racking the slide, but ejecting the full mag was a test, but then I have the same situation with my PPK. The first round tends to slide forward enough to make ejection difficult. Cure? Sure! Tap firmly on the back of the pistol. Please point down range or safe place when you do. I also found the accuracy to be less than some other’s in the safe, but adequate. I blame the trigger for this.

  13. avatar Ralph says:

    Remington has a lot to make up for. Frankly, I wouldn’t buy a Remington product with your money.

  14. avatar Tec's Dad says:

    I tried one of these and it is not what I would spend my money on, there are too many choices between, Glock, SW, Walther, Kahr, etc. I did buy the RM380 and she is a runner… the R51 V1, V2 …nope

  15. avatar Luke R says:

    I have one. Picked it up at a good sale price from Cabela’s, and used it as my daily carry for a while. But it was the butt of many a joke from my gun buddies. I’ll give some of my takes here for the comments-section lurkers.

    She doesn’t like hollowpoints. Shooting her has been mostly fun and mostly reliable. The mag release is a monumental pain in the ass. Stiffer than a board. Trigger reset is thoroughly meh. But recoil? Good. Fun even. She shoots plenty straight too. The real problems are the thirty ton elephant in the room (disassembly) and the shitty plastic grips. Luckily I got some zebrawood ones for mine.

    As to disassembly, I have twice had mine completely jammed up on disassembly and had to fetch WD40 and a hammer to get it unstuck. It’s not an easy pistol to work with. Take-down is hard. Reassembly somehow manages to be even harder. You’ll have a few moments where you fire the first shot with your offhand in case something ‘goes wrong.’

    Despite that, I’m not selling it. I’m gonna do a cerakote job and bling it out so in the future some museum has a reaaaaal oddball piece.

  16. avatar tiger says:

    Everyone keeps saying it is “hard” to take down & reassemble???? Are these people who generally ignore Instruction manuals or are just used to other designs?

    1. avatar Jerry says:

      tiger, have you tried? I’ve read and tried to follow the “manual.” I’ve gotten better use from the video, but still, it doesn’t slide together like a 1911, or glock.

  17. avatar Lucy in the sky says:

    I have the first one garbage I would not buy it again and they did not recall it . Only if you wanted to return it mine is in a shadobox on the wall .saying this is what killed remington

  18. I have carried for over 40 years military and law enforcement. Have had my R51 for about 300 rounds now. Its a hardball gun which is fine with me, hollow points are always more expensive and quite a bit of the time do not function like they are advertised in real shootings situations, shot placement is the key. The gun shoots very reliably and accurately with the reduced recoil previously mentioned after breaking in (100 rds or less). No kabooms, loose or breaking front sights, two positive safety devices perfect grip angle, easy slide racking and only a gen 2 not gen 95 like another brand.
    Highly recommend the gun for EDC

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