POTD: The Original Remington 51

Nathaniel F
by Nathaniel F

Below are some photos of my personal Remington 51, made between 1921 and 1923. It’s in remarkably good shape for a gun that’s over 90 years old, and is definitely the best condition Model 51 I’ve ever seen in person or in photographs (so, naturally, I had to buy it).

My Remington 51 is in .32 ACP, the rarer caliber of the two that the 51 was offered in (the other being .380 ACP, which I frankly would have preferred). The Model 51 is a unique design among handguns, using a floating, skeletonized breechblock as both a locking piece and a piston to drive the slide rearward. It also had a few other strange features, such as the grip panels being held on to the frame by removable rivets, and the grip safety doubling as a slide lock. Of course, such a weird design could only be the product of the genius of John D. Pedersen, whom Browning called “the greatest firearms designer alive”.

If you want to learn more about the original Remington 51 handgun, Unblinking Eye has a great article on it.

Nathaniel F
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. He can be reached via email at nathaniel.f@staff.thefirearmblog.com.

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11 of 45 comments
  • Roguetechie Roguetechie on Sep 01, 2015

    considering how much effort Pedersen put into things like the grip angle, graspable but thin serrations, and low bore axis specifically to make a gun that is a natural instinctive shooter....
    Yeah what Remington did, is very major and stunningly stupid honestly.
    I mean pedersen did ergonomic studies before that was even a thing!!
    I mean you are talking about a guy who is pretty much the sole reason the U.S. was able to successfully have many companies building the same gun for ww2 and yet the parts are shockingly interchangeable!
    Because in addition to being an amazing gun designer and engineer, the man actually INVENTED a field of engineering which literally makes the modern age possible...
    btw Nathaniel, can you dig up his paper detailing that?
    it has charts and information tables that would be invaluable to many of us to this day!

    • See 6 previous
    • Ostiariusalpha Ostiariusalpha on Sep 02, 2015

      @Tom You're very right. Modern CNC has vastly reduced, thankfully, the need for much hand fitting over the older tooling machines. But, not completely eliminated it, especially on camming designs like the Pedersen. Something the executives at Remington had refused to take into account, in addition to disrupting their work force by moving the factory and cutting back on QA. Those didn't help either. They nickel & dimed the R51 into a dangerous piece of junk.

  • POWNV POWNV on Sep 01, 2015

    And is it entirely necessary to put the model number in large ugly font on the slide? Why can't we leave the poor slide alone?

    • See 1 previous
    • Tom Tom on Sep 02, 2015

      @POWNV Could of been worse, something like "dangerous read owners manual before use".