|No, not mine. This is a picture from Remington's web site.|
As long-time readers of this blog know, I've been waiting for over two years for this pistol to come out. It had some serious problems when it was initially released in 2014, resulting with what was essentially a recall of the defective pistols. After moving production to another facility and some changes to the design, the "Generation 2" was released this summer: initially to people who had purchased the first generation and wanted replacement, and then, on August 12, 2016, to the public generally. I went around to various gun stores on August 13, 2016, wanting to at least handle it (some of the early reviews made me somewhat cautious about it) but couldn't find any. This past weekend, I lucked out and, after handling it, decided to give it a go. Although the MSRP is about $448, I picked mine up for $380 before sales tax.
I had hoped to provide an accuracy comparison against a couple other similarly sized handguns: a Glock 26 (Gen 3) and a .38 Special S&W snubby, but with gusting wind knocking the target stand over several times or causing it to twist, I decided to forego that and just focus on my impressions and experience.
As an initial matter, the handgun ships in a box (rather than a case) with two 7-round magazines and a gun lock, together with a manual with rather detailed instructions on the take down and reassembly of the firearm. Interestingly, the manual is copyrighted 2015.
The finish and fit on the pistol seemed to be pretty good. The only marring I saw was some finish worn off on the bottom of the mainspring assembly on the butt of the pistol. A minor blemish on what was otherwise a nicely finished firearm.
Size wise, the R51 reminds me of the Walther PPK in .380, although much lighter because of the aluminum frame. Compared to the Glock 26, the R51 is slightly longer through the barrel and slide, but the same from top to bottom when including an extended finger grip for the Glock 26. However, it is lighter than the Glock 26, and noticeably thinner. Because of that, I believe that the R51 will be superior to the Glock 26 for concealed carry.
The feel of the handgun was very good. The R51 uses an aluminum frame, which is still fairly lightweight, but seems to balance out the weight better than a polymer firearm (e.g., the Glock 26). The pistol grip is long enough to provide good purchase for all of my fingers, but because it was a single stack magazine, it provided a more solid and comfortable grip than the fatter grip of the Glock 26. The front of the grip is nicely textured, and the grip panels have a faux checkering pattern that provide a fairly good grasping surface. Not as good as the Glock Gen 4 stippled texture, but better than many other firearms, including the Glock Gen 3 firearms. There is no texture on the back of the grip, but this is probably because of the grip safety. The grip safety did not present any issues, and you could easily feel when the safety disengaged. I think that those shooters that like the feel of a 1911 style pistol would like the feel of the R51.
Ergonomics is pretty good. This gun is an excellent, natural pointing weapon for me. In fact, that is why I decided to buy it instead of waiting to see additional reviews. The slide-release lever is a bit of a stretch for my thumb, so I had to turn the gun slightly to get to it, but no worse than many other handguns, and better than the 1911. The magazine release is recessed slightly to prevent accidentally jettisoning the magazine during carry, but that makes it a bit more difficult to get to when doing reloads. If this had been a firearm for home defense or competition, this would be a negative. But since the firearm was intended for concealed carry, it I see it as being a positive.
The sights are probably the best I've seen on an out-of-the-box concealed carry handgun. They are just 3-dot, but well designed, and nicely rounded so they don't snag either on drawing or putting the gun away. They are set up for a six-o'clock hold for aiming. The pistol initially seemed to shoot high at 7 yards, but after I had gotten use to the pistol and the sights, it seemed fine. Both the front and rear sights are held in place with dovetails. There were problems with the sights loosening on the original R51s, but these have locking screws to keep them in place.
The trigger is made of polymer--about the only polymer on the firearm--and feels somewhat cheap as a consequence. As other reviewers have noted, there is some side-to-side play in the trigger. However, the trigger break was excellent for an out-of-the-box firearm, being pretty crisp and not too heavy. While other reviewers have complained that there is no tactile indication of trigger reset, I've never been someone that was that sensitive to trigger reset; I've never felt the trigger reset with any of my other handguns either. Consequently, this was a non-issue for me.
Of course, the meat of the matter is how it performed when shooting. My shooting regime for this was simple. My oldest son and I took turns shooting some 150 to 200 rounds through it, using mostly Winchester white-box ammo, with some odds and ends of various self-defense rounds I had accumulated over the years, some Speer 124 grain Gold-Dot (the self-defense round I use in 9 mm) and some left over hand-loads (90 grain bullets over 6.4 grains of Unique). Since I was using partial boxes of what was lying around, I don't have an exact figure of how many rounds I put through it.
A few things became apparent on this firearm. First, when chambering a round, it is critical to pull the slide all of the way to the back and let go. Some guns will let you pull most (but not all) of the way back, and still cock and chamber a round; others will let you ride the slide slightly. Not the R51. Probably because the breach block "floats." However, it always worked fine when chambering a round by releasing the locked-back slide. My recommendation for anyone loading this gun is to first lock the slide back, insert the magazine and then release the slide, just to be sure it is cocked and a round chambered.
Second, although I could not satisfy myself completely that this was necessarily the cause, it does appear to be sensitive to limp wristing. My son had sporadic issues with ammunition that worked fine for me, but I noticed that he had bent the wrist of his firing hand and flexed both his arms more than he probably should have. (The problem was always just the first two rounds in the magazine, though, which is why it might have been a magazine issue).
Third, my R51 at least, was picky about its ammunition. I had no problem with the Winchester white-box stuff, but, as I mentioned, my son had a few problems where it just didn't feed into the chamber.
It did not like Federal Hydra-Shok and consistently failed to feed it. (This is not surprising to me, though--I think I've mentioned before that I have never had as many feeding problems with ammunition as with Hydra-Shok, such that I simply won't use it anymore). It also seemed to not like the few rounds of lighter 115 grain Federal Hi-Shok that I also had.
It really liked the Speer Gold-Dot--not a single problem with it, whether at the beginning of our shooting, or toward the end when I decided to run some more through the pistol. In fact, the R51 seems to prefer the hotter loads. Notwithstanding, I happened to have 5 rounds of Winchester 142 grain Black Talon as part of my mixed bag of left over ammo I was using, and the R51 functioned flawlessly with those as well.
Finally, although my Glock 26 would not feed my 90 grain hand loads, the R51 did fine.
After my test/break-in, I am satisfied that it would work without problem with the Speer Gold-Dot, so I have no qualms of employing it for concealed carry with that particular type of ammunition. Obviously, if you were to purchase an R51, its tastes may vary somewhat, so please test it out using your choice of ammunition before relying upon it for concealed carry.
About 4 or 5 weeks ago, I noticed that Midway was closing out Galco holsters for the R51, so I had ordered one for $16, figuring for that price, if I ended up not purchasing the pistol, I wasn't out too much. I'm glad I ordered it. I also will be looking for a pocket holster or appendix holster for it.
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Update: Apparently the issue with the first one or two rounds is not something unique to this handgun. See "Nosedive And Feed Angle In The 1911 .45 ACP"--American Handgunner (h/t Active Response Training). Information on why cartridges may "nose dive" and fail to feed in not just 1911 pistols, but any pistol using a single stack magazine.