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Author Topic: A Brief History of the R51  (Read 453 times)


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A Brief History of the R51
« on: April 25, 2020, 01:59:48 PM »
In commemoration of the upcoming 200th anniversary of Remington Arms in 2016, Big Green looks to its past for inspiration on a new generation of handgun.  America’s oldest gun maker will set out to modernize the nostalgic pocket pistol model 51 produced from 1918 through 1927 in .32 ACP and .380 ACP calibers.  Introduced in a time when the American demand was for revolvers, the magazine-fed model 51 was, perhaps, ahead of its time.  With limited commercial success Remington decided to pull the plug on the model 51 as the Walther PPK and others gained popularity. In 2014, the all new model R51 will be offered in 9mm and utilize the innovative Pedersen hesitation lock design found in its nearly century-old progenitor.  With the goal of breaking into the growing market of 9mm, subcompact, single-stack, concealed handguns it’s the perfect time for Remington to right the wrongs of the model 51, but is it too late?  History may show that the introduction of the new model R51 may have been, once again, too early.

The following is an attempt to chronicle the events leading up to and the seemingly end of the polarizing model R51 handgun:

•   January 2009 – Para Ordnance, a small company specializing in making model 1911 style handguns, moves it’s manufacturing from Markham, Ontario, Canada to Pineville, NC, a suburb of Charlotte, and becomes Para USA.

•   January 2011 – Remington, headquartered in Madison, NC, re-enters the handgun market with the centennial 1911 R1, an updated version of the 1911 Remington made for the US government during World War I, made at the Ilion, NY plant.

•   January 2012 - Remington (the Freedom Group) acquires Para USA to expand its handgun line.  Research & Development begins at Remington’s so-called ”Rock” in Elizabethtown, KY for the model R51 and will be produced at the Para USA plant in Pineville, NC.  Chip Klass is the project lead and Adam Walker is the lead design engineer.

•   December 2013 – A seminar for the media is held at the Gunsite Academy in Paulden, AZ where the model R51 was shown to critical acclaim.  Reports of performance and reliability are all positive.  This is most likely due to Remington sending eight bench tuned prototype/pre-production units for media testing & evaluation.

•   January 2014 – The new 2014 Remington catalog shows the new model R51, “the most intuitive concealed handgun on the planet”, with accessories including magazines, wider grip panels, and black nitride finished threaded barrels.

•   January 2014 – The model R51 is unveiled at the SHOT Show exhibit in Las Vegas.  However, Remington withholds the handgun from the invitation only event “Industry Day at the Range” for media and buyers to test.  The model #96430 (all black) and #96432 (CT laser) are displayed.  There is a CT model displayed with a Ti-RANT-S 9 silencer from AAC.  According to staff, optional threaded barrels from Storm Lake, Ti-RANT suppressors from Advanced Armament Corp., night sights from Trijicon, laserguards from Crimson Trace, holsters from Crossbreed, Fobus, Bladetech, and Galco will all be available.

•   February 2014 – Remington announces that it will open a new state-of-the-art, “center of excellence” manufacturing facility in Huntsville, AL- a former Chrysler electronics plant adjacent to Huntsville International Airport.

•   February 2014 – the model R51 is released for retail roll-out and is received with mixed reviews from flawless performance to several reports of performance issues and malfunctions including, but not limited to:

    o   Failure to feed, failure to extract, failure to go completely into battery
    o   Magazine issues
    o   Pins drifting loose
    o   Sights drifting loose
    o   Poor milling on slide and breech block causing jams and rough action

•   April 2014 – the model R51 is shown at the NRA convention in Indianapolis, IN.

•   May 2014 – Remington announces it will close the Para USA Pineville, NC plant by August 2015, affecting its current 65 employees.  Quality immediately declines and warranty claims rise.  This may explain why some handguns perform well while others do not.

•   May 2014 – Remington announces it will close the R&D Center in Elizabethtown, KY, known as the “Rock”, and integrate it into the new Huntsville, AL plant.  Over 50 employees are affected by this closure.  Five of the former engineers decide to form their own R&D, Consulting, and OEM manufacturing firm known as Atlas Development Group.

•   July 25, 2014 – Remington issues a voluntary recall for the model R51 claiming that there were “complications during our transition from prototype to mass production”.  Customers are offered a replacement model R51, 2 additional magazines, and a custom Pelican case.  They are also offered a full MSRP refund or an exchange for a model 1911 R1 handgun.  Remington states that replacement model R51s are expected to ship sometime in October 2014.  According to Remington, roughly 1/3 opt for the replacement, 1/3 opt for the R1, and 1/3 opt for the refund.

•   October 2014 – The expected ship date comes and goes with no explanation from Remington as to when the expected date of re-release will be.  However, it is clear with internal corporate struggles, quality control issues, the looming Para USA plant closure, and the new Huntsville plant transition, the delay will continue into the foreseeable future.

•   October 2014 – Adam Walker, the lead design engineer for the model R51, is no longer at Remington.  Michael Snyder becomes the new lead re-design engineer.

•   January 2015 – The new 2015 Remington catalog still shows the model R51 in hopeful anticipation of its re-release.  Despite Remington’s best efforts, original owners will not see their updated model R51s in 2015.

•   February 2015 – Remington announces that Para USA will “integrate” into the new Huntsville, AL plant beginning in March 2015.

•   March 2015 – the Huntsville, AL plant is up and running.  The first handgun to roll off the line and bear the Huntsville mark are model RM380s, originally planned to be made in Charlotte, NC.  Now that the new engineering lab is up and running, the model R51 is being redesigned by the engineers.  Further testing & evaluation of the handgun continues.  Modifications to existing parts produced in Pineville are worked out or scrapped altogether.

•   March 2015 [this date needs verification] – The Para USA plant is permanently closed in Pineville, NC ahead of the August estimate.  All production for the model R51 is moved to the Huntsville, AL plant eight months after the recall.  It is only assumed that the Pineville plant was continuing to make parts for the model R51 during the dark period.  This may explain why there are so many new version model R51s with Charlotte, NC markings.

•   April 2015 – Remington shows the newly redesigned “Gen 2” model R51 at the 2015 NRA convention in Nashville, TN.  Visible differences are the slide has been revised with new logo placement and the sights have set screws.  Handguns are shown without magazines.  At this point, it is unclear what internal mechanisms have been redesigned.  Representatives claim all the problems have been fixed.  It is speculated that pending litigation, manufacturing transition, further testing, and quality control keep the redesigned handgun off the market.

•   September 2015 – Remington releases a statement that the new R51 is currently being re-engineered at the R&D center at Huntsville and are working to have it back on the market as soon as possible.

•   January 2016 – The model R51 is absent from the new 2016 Remington catalog as the re-release date of the model R51 is still unclear.

•   January 2016 – The model R51 is not displayed at the SHOT Show exhibit in Las Vegas, NV.  At the 200th anniversary historic handgun display, the original model 51 is shown and the RM380 has taken the rightful place of the model R51 in the display as the new generation in handguns.

•   June 23, 2016 – Remington begins to ship the new version model R51, commonly known as “Gen 2”, to original owners that sent their handguns in for replacement.  The handguns are still marked with Charlotte, NC, the R51 logo on the slide has been relocated closer to the ejection port, the magazine has a thicker base plate, and the sights now have a set screw to lock them in place.  The packaging is also different than the original.  These are the only noticeable exterior differences on the new handgun.

•   September 12, 2016 – Remington begins the retail roll-out of the Gen 2 model R51 to consumers.  The first boxes sent to dealers are marked “Not for Sale or Display Until August 12, 2016”.

•   January 2017 – The model R51 is shown in the 2017 Remington catalog with the following “enhanced” features to address the revisions to the handgun:

    o   Enhanced slide operation – updated internals ensure superior slide performance
         and smooth function.
    o   Precision engineered extractor – built to withstand abuse, extractor precisely
         engages case rim for sure and forceful extraction and ejection.
    o   Snag-free sights – locking snag free sights for fast target acquisition.
    o   Finely-tuned recoil spring – force-balanced for impeccable slide feel and positive
         closure into battery.
    o   Action spring bushing – hard chromed action spring bushing for extreme
    o   Superior trigger – crisp, single action trigger provides unmatched shootability
         and enhanced accuracy.

•   January 2017 – Model R51s are now marked Huntsville, AL on the frame instead of the previous Charlotte, NC.  The serial number format has changed from 0007333R51 to H007333R51 to designate Huntsville.

•   January 2017 – The model R51 is shown at the Shot Show exhibit in Las Vegas, NV.

•   February 2017 – Remington offers a $35 mail-in rebate for all model R51 and RM380 handguns purchased between February 1 and March 5, 2017.

•   March 2017 – Several dozen employees including, Chip Klass, the Director of Product management for handguns and project lead for the model R51, have been “released” from Remington.  Other high ranking positions let go are: Director of Defense, SVP of Product Development, and Sr. Retail Specialist.

•   August 2017 – James Marcotuli, CEO of Remington, resigns due to “personal matters”.

•   October 2017 – the following executives at Remington leave the company: SVP/GM of Firearms and Accessories, SVP of Ammunition, and SVP of Sales.  Anthony Acitelli is named new CEO.

•   November 2017 – Remington offers a “Pre-Black Friday” $100 mail-in rebate for all model R51, RP9, and RM380 handguns purchased between November 1 and November 18, 2017.

•   January 2018 – The new 2018 Remington catalog shows a new variant to spark more interest and sales of the model R51- a two-toned “Smoke” colored frame with black slide and grip panels, model #96234.  These models begin with the serial number ~H023000R51 through ~H027999R51.

•   January 2018 – The model R51 is shown at the SHOT Show exhibit in Las Vegas, NV.  The new smoke model is on display along with the black model.

•   March 2018 – Remington files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

•   May 2018 – Remington exits bankruptcy after a restructuring plan is supported by its creditors.

•   September 2018 – Production of the model R51 comes to an end in Q4 2018.  Remington says that production has been suspended, leaving it open for a possible return and potential recalibration to .40 S&W (R52?) and .45 ACP (R53?) as initially announced.

•   November 2018 – After navigating the company through bankruptcy, Anthony Acitelli resigns as CEO.

•   January 2019 – The model R51 is absent from the new 2019 Remington catalog.  However, the catalog still shows that magazines, grips, and optional sights are still available for the model R51.  The handgun is still shown on the website as available for purchase.

•   January 2020 – The model R51 is absent from the new 2020 Remington catalog.  However, the catalog still shows that magazines, grips, and optional sights are still available for the model R51.  The handgun is still shown on the website as available for purchase in the all-black model #96430 and the all-black with Crimson Trace laserguard model #96432.

For now, this is where the chronicle ends.  In hindsight, the gun of the future should have been prototyped and manufactured at the plant of the future.  So in the end, and much like its predecessor, the success of the model R51 was doomed from the beginning amid the corporate turmoil at Big Green.

Prior to the Great Depression of the early 20th century, the model 51 only had a total production of 65,000 units.  It is believed that the new model R51 also had a total production of approximately 65,000 units (according to known serial numbers).  Approximately 37,000 units marked Charlotte, NC and approximately 28,000 units marked Huntsville, AL.  An interesting coincidence shared between the two models.  With only a sporadic five year run from 2014 through 2018, will the model R51 be remembered as a total disaster or will it be remembered as the coolest looking handgun on the market with instant collectability?  This model R51 owner thinks the latter will be the case.  But, as they say, time will only tell.
« Last Edit: June 23, 2020, 03:24:53 PM by sebvox »
- Erik


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Re: A Brief History of the R51
« Reply #1 on: May 25, 2020, 03:55:09 AM »
Production photos
« Last Edit: May 25, 2020, 04:24:30 AM by sebvox »
- Erik


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Re: A Brief History of the R51
« Reply #2 on: May 25, 2020, 03:57:33 AM »
Production photos
« Last Edit: June 13, 2020, 06:33:26 AM by sebvox »
- Erik


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Re: A Brief History of the R51
« Reply #3 on: May 26, 2020, 07:51:37 AM »
Are those photograbs from the Tom Gresham tour?

Peace favor your sword,


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Re: A Brief History of the R51
« Reply #4 on: May 26, 2020, 09:07:09 AM »
Yes, and other Huntsville tours. There are also some photos from Elizabethtown R&D center.
« Last Edit: May 26, 2020, 04:16:46 PM by sebvox »
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Re: A Brief History of the R51
« Reply #5 on: June 12, 2020, 02:18:13 PM »
More Photos
« Last Edit: June 13, 2020, 06:36:11 AM by sebvox »
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