The Remington Original Model 51

The Remington Model 51 is an example of how added complexity results in additional benefits to the shooter without compromising reliability. These .380 or .32acp pistols sold reasonably well over the course of about a decade, and is arguably one of the most interesting pistols ever made (sharing elements of gas and recoil operation). So how does it work and what makes it special?

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Alex C.

Alex is a Senior Writer for The Firearm Blog and Director of TFBTV.


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  • ostiariusalpha

    A little surprised that you didn’t mention anything about the grip safety, but entirely forgivable. The M51 is a sweet piece of design and engineering, easy to shoot and suavely handsome looking; a contemporary gentleman’s gun for the jazz age to be sure. Unlike the porkier design of the R51, which pays only the slightest lip-service to the slim lines of the original.

  • Spencerhut

    I’m up to four of these guns, love them. Best .380 I’ve ever shot bar none. I still carry one as a back up gun to this day. I’ll replace it when it dies or I find something better.

  • AD

    I seem to recall reading somewhere that prototypes were made in .45 ACP and were found in military testing to be superior to the 1911? Or am I confusing the R51 with something else here?

    • ostiariusalpha

      LOL! You are confusing the R51 for the M51, which is the pistol Alex is showcasing here (nobody wants to see an R51 anytime soon). The .45 ACP version of the M51 is the Model 53, and it was indeed found by the Navy in 1918 and the Army in 1920 to be a more inherently precise handgun than the 1911, also with less felt recoil than Browning’s design despite that it was the lighter gun. The Navy was all set to adopt the pistol, but couldn’t accept the high initial cost to tool up (Remington was already producing M1911 pistols, and would have needed to create a new, separate production line), and ended up losing interest when WWI ended; the Army was already committed to the M1911, so no further interest came from them.

      • Spencerhut

        What a colossal blunder. We should start building the R53 now. As good as the R51’s still are 100 years later, I’m sure the R53 would be awesome.

  • HSR47

    If you ever decide to detail strip one of these pistols, make sure to heavily document the process in pictures and video: The only documentation I was able to find the last time I had to reassemble one of these pistols (it came into the store as a box of parts) were some parts diagrams that didn’t exactly match the gun or each other, and a set of assembly instructions that could only be described as short and vague. It wasn’t quite as bad as having to solve the Saturday NYT crossword puzzle with only your sense of smell would be, but it was close.

  • maxsnafu

    I have one of these guns and LOVE it! That said, it is in need of a thorough cleaning. Do any of you know of a gunsmith who is familiar with these and would have no trouble detail stripping & cleaning?