Remington’s New Old Model 51

by Wiley Clapp. American Rifleman  |  published on January 28, 2014

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“…fits your palm like the hand of a friend.”

Thus read Remington’s advertising as the old-line gunmaker embarked on the promotion of a new pistol. It was 1918 and the bold pronouncement was no idle boast. The company’s new pistol was designed to compete with other guns from Colt, S&W, H&R and Savage, as well as many Europeans. Legendary designer John Pedersen applied his considerable skills to developing a pocketable defensive automatic pistol and the result was the Model 51. Long before gun writers began to bandy about the term “ergonomics,” Pedersen’s slick little .32/.380 had ergos for the ages. It was an all-steel, single-column, 7+1 with multiple safety features. Pedersen’s efforts produced a very useful pocket auto. It had a unique breech locking system and a shape that seemed to fit every hand. But it was an expensive gun to make and Remington discontinued the model in 1927. The company did not make a true repeating handgun until its recent introduction of a 1911 style pistol a couple of years ago.

That is until Remington invited a group of gun writers to Gunsite just before Christmas of 2013. Many new products were introduced, but the highlight was a new version of that decades-old Model 51. It is called the Model R51 and there’s no doubt where the name originated. Although there are many changes, the R51 of 2014 bears a strong resemblance to the older gun. It has a very similar butt shape and grip angle. In the hand, it feels much the same. Inside, the locking system is also inspired by the earlier gun. Engineered from the beginning to take the .40 S&W cartridge, the R51 initially goes on sale as a 9 mm Luger. Understandably, it is slightly thicker.

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