Like many people I have craned my neck to watch the car fire that is the Remington R51. I read the reviews and watched the youtube videos following the initial release. The schadenfreude was strong. All the same I did like to looks of the gun and before the reviews came out I had considered purchasing one. Despite some more shaky reviews of the re-engineered R51, I went and bought one at a gunshow recently. I still like the looks of it and given its ruined reputation I felt like I would at worst have a forgotten oddball in a few years (someday I'll get that Colt New Agent DAO of my dreams). At approximately $400 it was worth the risk.
When I got it home the first thing I did was disassemble it. Let me say this was a chore, I have taken down some odd guns before but it is obvious that this pistol takes its design cues from and gun made in the 1910's. It has gotten easier the more I have done it, but it will never be a Glock or even a 1911. I loaded and unloaded the magazines. While I was manually unloading the magazines the nose of the bullets kept catching on the lip that holds the follower in. I think this is the origin of most of the issues with this pistol. I also dry fired it a few times to get a feel for the trigger. No surprise the oddball pistol has an oddball trigger. It feels fairly light and is very crisp, but there is no discernible reset. If the hammer is down the trigger is all wobbly and squishy. Its not bad its just weird.
One of the things that first attracted me to the pistol was that it was all metal. Steel slide and aluminum frame. The frame is made of a seemingly similar aluminum and finish to what you find in most AR15's. The frame is more prone to nicks and dings that most AR's I have used. I don't know if it is the metal itself or the finish, but as a whole the frame isn't quite as durable as I would expect.
After a week or so of fondling my new pistol I had to go to the range and actually shoot it. I bought a few boxes of different name brand range ammo and one box of primo hollow points and headed out. I won't lie after reading all the reviews and watching all the videos I was a bit pensive; but nothing horrible happened.
On this trip to the range I shot 214 rounds and had only 2 malfunctions. I started with the browning 147gr. Both malfunctions were in the first magazine. The second round didn't fully go into battery and the seventh and final round failed to feed correctly. After that I had 207 rounds with no problems. Again I feel the magazine is the culprit. All I did after that first magazine was slap the magazines to make sure the heads of the cases were completely against the back of the magazines. I shot 50 rounds of 115gr fmj, 100 124gr fmj, 50 147gr fmj, and 14 115gr +p hp. It is too soon to make a definitive statement, but I feel that at least with my pistol the only thing it needs is a good smack on the magazine. This may still preclude the R51 from being a carry gun, but that is a decision each person has to make for themselves.
All in all I feel like I got a good gun and one that I will keep. As far as the reputation goes I think the likes of Glock have set a new bar for reliability that has made persnickety guns no longer acceptable. This is a fairly new thing, I can remember reading gun magazines in the 80's and 90's give glowing reviews to guns that were just as finicky as the R51. Those reviews were not shilling or sources of controversy. It was just accepted that some guns were only reliable with certain brands of ammo, or would only work properly with first party magazines, or etc. 20 or so years ago the people I know wouldn't buy steel case ammo at any price, now everyone does so without a second thought. If this were a wired article I would coin a new term: Glockification, because that's what happened. Guns like Glocks were made such that they could eat any form of ammo. Remington probably should have taken that notion into account when they produced the R51.