Remington R51 Pistol: Return To Production

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William Smalley of Remington (and formerly of Para Ord) has been working on the R51 since its inception. I spoke with him about the R51’s troubles, and its planned return to production in early Summer this year. William is a “gun guy”, not a marketing associate or a booth runner; when a friend and I were looking at the interaction of the grip safety and the trigger, William field stripped the gun right in front of us and let us see how the mechanism worked.

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It was difficult to control myself when handling the R51 with the laser module. The urge to say “pew pew!” was overpowering.

 

William said the problems that plagued the initial R51 release – including out of battery firings in some examples, and especially tight locking blocks in others – were the result of a tolerance stacking error. Even with today’s high-precision manufacturing techniques, every part of each individual gun is slightly different from the same part in the next gun, and to allow for the mass manufacture and assembly of weapons, each dimension of a part is held to a standard: No bigger than X, no smaller than Y. If enough parts are close enough to X than Y, or Y than X, an individual pistol can have what is called a “tolerance stacking” problem: The parts don’t fit right, and problems result.

According to William, this is what happened to the R51: The locking block that is the signature feature of the R51’s hesitation-locked design is a low-tolerance part – in other words, X and Y are very close together. This means that if the dimensions of these locking blocks are not controlled correctly, tolerance stacking can quickly result.

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The new magazine baseplate features a rounded profile, and an extended lip for better purchase.

 

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The magazine body, however, remains the same.

Owners of the new R51 won’t notice much different than the old weapon; the new guns say “Huntsville, AL” on the side instead of “Charlotte, NC”, since Remington is closing the Charlotte plant, and moving all production to its facility in Huntsville. William is confident that Remington has put the time and work needed to solve the tolerance-stacking issue, and even with the blood, sweat, and tears (and four magazines!) that the new R51 comes with, he says the expected MSRP will be around $400.

 

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The guns at the Remington booth were all older models from the Charlotte plant. All R51s from the new production run will be made at the Huntsville plant. The place of manufacture is the primary way to distinguish between first and second production run guns.

As the beaming owner of an original .32 ACP Remington 51, made between 1921-1923, I really want to see this pistol succeed. Given its initial release, though, only time will tell.



Nathaniel F

Nathaniel is a history enthusiast and firearms hobbyist whose primary interest lies in military small arms technological developments beginning with the smokeless powder era. In addition to contributing to The Firearm Blog, he runs 196,800 Revolutions Per Minute, a blog devoted to modern small arms design and theory. He can be reached via email at nathaniel.f@staff.thefirearmblog.com.


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  • M.M.D.C.

    Skeptics, start you keyboards!

    In all seriousness, I hope it works. It seems like a neat design. I remember reading somewhere that the problems with the initial run were due to a rush to production over and against engineers’ warnings.

    • sam

      I hope it works too. I think it’s classy updating their old weird mechanism, if they can make it work. Even if not, you know, of course I wouldn’t be so sanguine if I’d bought one and had a bad experience, don’t mean to tinkle in anyone’s raisin-bran… but as a spectator I think it’s cool just that they tried it.

  • Slim934

    Hope it works….but I won’t be the one finding out.

  • Riot

    Wait they haven’t done anything about the aluminium on aluminium ?

    There should of been a change to this, Aluminium wears itself out very quickly – poor materials choice having two pieces in contact.

  • J.J

    Remington “because we suck and you should hate us”

    • Joe

      Remington “because we hate you and you suck”

      • Sam Schifo

        No, no, that’s HK’s motto.

  • G. Ann Tomas

    “Is it fixed?” Nope, it’s still a Remington pistol. Seriously, they should focus on making better rifles instead of the buy-and-send-to-your-‘smith models they sell now. And when they’re done with that, maybe they could figure out a different finish for their newer 870s, something other than the current rust-promoting “coating.”

    • Bill L

      Amen!

  • Amsdorf

    Good luck with that Remington….

    I’ll let a few thousand others be their “quality control” test dummies.

  • 3XLwolfshirt

    I really wanted one when it came out, but now I think I’ll stick with a Walther CCP if I ever want a single-stack nine.

    • Jason Flickinger

      The LC9 Pro shows promise in the single stack 9 category…..

  • Drapetomanius

    Sad to say I’ve sold off all of my Remington firearms, and have no interest in any of their offerings. They seem to have lost the spirit of craftsmanship, and I don’t think that they can regain that any time soon.

  • Remington Engineer

    This is entirely untrue and a complete coverup for the poor management decisions that rushed a nonvetted product to production… Classy move.

    -Remington Engineer

    • Would you by chance be one of the former engineers? Or—just trolling?

      • enufistoomuch

        Convince us of the true story behind this mess. Otherwise, declaring the obvious is hardly trolling, it’s looking out the window and reporting on the weather.

    • Vague as your comment is, wouldn’t you agree that saying poor management decisions led to a rushed product is a tautology? The product by definition was not ready for production if there was a tolerance stacking issue, and thus there was necessarily made a poor management decision – the decision to bring it to market.

      Remington knows this, and they know they’ve earned a black eye with the R51’s initial release. They are optimistic, though, that they will earn back their stripes; whether you agree is up to you.

      • M.M.D.C.

        I think they will do reasonably well with the pistol.

        Reading the maelstrom of internet posting over Ruger’s SR9 recall and peening issues, one would have thought Ruger’s rep was trashed and the gun was a basket case. The SR pistols now sell briskly as do pretty much everything Ruger brings to market. That’s my two cents, anyway.

      • Corey Amundson

        IMHO, their optimism should be directly coupled with a “bent over backwards” approach of appeasing previous purchasers whether they still own the gun, or sold it because it was a POS…

      • Independent

        The R51 is not the only “black eye” Remington is sporting these days. The trigger recall on my new 700 was extremely stupid. Having no desire to ship my 700 across the country and back, I just bought and installed a Timney. It’s safer, more reliable, and just a far better trigger than the X-Mark. Also, apparently 870s are the new “anode” you can buy, to collect all the rust in your gun safe. Makes me very happy I chose a Mossberg 590 pump and a Stoeger semi-auto. Remington products seem to be determined in becoming the boat anchors of the gun industry, of late.

  • mike

    I want this gun to succeed, but there is no excuse for the old R51’s issues

  • john huscio

    Still polishing the turd I see…….

  • enufistoomuch

    Well, the new R51 certainly looks fat and bloated next to an original 51 in .380ACP. Wish they had first come out with that, a modern version of the .380 from the old days long gone. I’d of bought one in the blink of an eye. Sizing it up to a 9mm+P just feels like a big fat leap.

    Even the model 53 prototype in .45ACP looked sleeker than the R51 in 9mm+P.

    Just the same, I do hope Remington succeeds. The company has had a slew of embarrassing failures from the very top of the pecking order, something I just hate to see. Maybe this R51 catastrophe will shake out some of the executive staff that failed to listen to the gun designing talent, get the company back on their game.

    Which is to make great guns. Not turn out paperweights.

    PS: Tolerance stack-up is a routine analysis in all manner of engineering disciplines. I do it in my work, a fundamental task of a design professional to build a quality product. I find it hard to believe the Remington engineers didn’t do their due diligence on tolerance stack-up.

    More likely some carpet dwellers stomped the accelerator on producing the thing and damn all consequences.

    • Tolerance stacking issues should in theory be systematically avoidable, yes.

  • Rusty Shackleford

    Any mention from the Rem reps about changes to the awkward reassembly of the slide stop or fixing the “false-positive” trigger reset?

  • Andrew Duffey

    I think this is a gun most people want to work but are too skeptical to go out an buy after the debacle from the original release. Might be a year or two before this “takes off,” and only if it’s actually been fixed. Just my opinion.

    • Independent

      The sheer ugliness of the R51 makes my Bersa Firestorm look pretty damn sexy…not to mention that it actually works reliably…

  • MR

    MSRP is about $400, so street price should be less? Hmm, depending on how much less, I might need to snag one to keep NIB as an investment. After Remington shuts down andthe bitter taste of poor workmanship slips from memory, people might actually want to own these again,”for old times’ sake”.

  • MR

    If the dimensions of low tolerance parts aren’t controlled correctly, that’s not tolerance stacking. That’s using out of spec. parts.

  • kingghidorah

    Re-name it the Remington R-51 Edsel .

  • Perry

    I am really wondering if the initial problems didn’t have something to do with teh Charlotte workers knowing that their jobs were going away with the move of the line & Para to Huntsville? Frankly couldn’t that have something to do with the rash of QC problems with most of the Remington owned brands?

  • Dragonheart

    Sorry, but I think this is too little too late. I got to put my hands on one of the first ones and I had great difficulty racking the slide, it was like metal grinding on metal, what a mess. Even if all the problems had not been an issue it still didn’t fill a niche for me. There are just too many better choices out there.

  • Independent

    Original model unsafe – check

    Fugly as all hell – check

    Remington’s once proud reputation circling drain – check

    = $400 better spent on just about anything else…

  • john

    I am in the camp of “I don’t get it”. You have a multimillion dollar company spending millions on R&D, millions on marketing and millions on production, yet they missed all the issues. They don’t create say 500 of them, test them extensively, give them to friends, relatives, strangers for Beta testing and THEN fix the issues they found?

    Or…did they just heed the battle cry of “Get it market, get it to market, get it to market!”

    I will, again, wait for it to be out for a few years before buying.

  • Walter__Mitty

    I would have thought an outfit like Remington would already be using GD&T.

  • Alexander Black

    Yeah that’s only kinda how tolerance stacking works. In any production run it will cause a few to have a bunch of parts that are at such opposite ends of the spectrum that they don’t work, this is how lemons are born.
    But if every thing that rolls of that line is running like that (just like the r51, not even the test guns worked) that’s just called having crap specs

  • Tothe

    If it works, I want one.

  • Hyok Kim

    I guess this means Remington is no longer ‘Made in China or Brazil’?