Thoughts on Remington Model 51?


January 9, 2003, 02:21 AM
I've seen a Remington Model 51 sitting on the shelf at a local dealer's store for a few months now. It looks like a very flat classy old gun (didn't Patton have one of these?)

But, how do these things shoot? How does it compare to other .380's like the P232, or CZ-83? Trigger, recoil, accuracy?
Does it hold up well to modern ammo, or are there parts that are going to wear out quickly (that I will be hard pressed to replace)?


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January 9, 2003, 06:53 AM
I've only ever handled the M51, never actually fired one, so I can't comment on its reliability/longevity, but I've never heard of it having a particular flaw. Of course, with any used gun of any era, my policy is "try before you buy." If I found a good one (and had the $$$ available), I'd snap it up; I passed on one years ago and still regret it. Though I don't know if you'd plan on using it as a CCW, you might take heart to know that my 1918-manufactured Colt M1908 .380ACP feeds several brands of hollowpoints without a hiccup. (I stay away from "+P" loads, of course.)

There are sources of *some* M51 spare parts, should they be needed, but I believe it's nigh on impossible to find an original magazine (though somebody may have a repro still in stock).

Though we always think of Patton with his SAA .45 and S&W .357, he did carry smaller guns as back-ups and when in secured areas. Among others, he was known to carry the Remington M51 .380ACP, an early Colt Detective Special .38 and a Colt M1903 .32ACP.


January 9, 2003, 09:08 AM
The Rem 51 shoots very well. My experience with one, and my knowledge of two others owned by a friend, indicate they are quite accurate -- about as good as you could expect from a small gun with such small sights. Recoil is minimal. Trigger pull is decent, but not match grade.

These are nice collector's guns, and decent shooters. I can't say anything about unusual parts wear, but in any gun that old, and produced in relatively small quantities, finding spare parts could be iffy.

Repro mags are available, and seem to work pretty well.

As already noted, Patton did own one.

David Roberson
January 9, 2003, 10:34 AM
These are oustanding little heaters. I've had one for many years, and its only limitation as a shooter is the sights. If you are happy with the .380 caliber, the Remington 51 is worth consideration as a CC gun.

January 9, 2003, 12:34 PM
I have kicked myself for selling my M51. It is a beautifully designed pistol .He spent a long time just to design the grip so that it would fit many hands. Its delayed blowback ( momentum block type ) will have less recoil than any other 380 ( I've tested that) . Its slim design makes for good carrying. BTW they also made a prototype in 45acp but the military had already chosen the 1911. You'll love it.

Harold Mayo
January 9, 2003, 01:39 PM
WONDERFUL guns. I do not own one but my father owns several in both .380 and .32 caliber. I have not fired the .32 caliber, though.

Recoil is almost non-existent. Sights are poor but adequate for slow fire accuracy that is really great. The gun was really meant, I think, for point shooting at close ranges, anyway.

I would not use any hot ammunition in them, though. Even regular loadings from some manufacturers might be too hot, but maybe not. I have had one Model 51 break on me when shooting it and the slide was locked SOLIDLY in place. It's fixed now but I never did bother to ask my dad what was wrong with it. He is friends with an OLD man who is a gunsmith from WAY back who is familiar with the weapons and got it back working in short order.

If the price is reasonable, I'd say you should go for it.

Jim Watson
January 9, 2003, 05:47 PM
I wish I had kept mine as a fascinating piece of machinery. As a sidearm, it would not run JHPs, the safety was tiny, the sights were small and the trigger pull was tough. I have heard of them cracking the breechblock but don't know how frequent a problem that might be. If it happened to yours, you would be out of luck. My Colt Government .380 is a better shooter. My 1903 Colt .32 is awful good; but a friend's 1908 Colt .380 has more recoil than the hesitation lock Remington.

The Remington/Pedersen .45ACP came along in 1917 for the US Navy. Why the Navy figured they should have a different sidearm from the Army, I don't know. But before they could finalize the deal and start making them, we were into WW I, the 1911 was in production and deployed, so Remington-UMC built 1911s instead.

Best I can tell, the Navy did not bring the matter up after the war but Remington had already scaled the design down to .380 for commercial sales, because the M51 is listed as coming out in 1918.

Jim K
January 9, 2003, 08:55 PM
In my experience, they are maybe too flat. I was carrying one in the waist band and had it slip down and out on the ground. Luckily I was able to pick it up and pocket it before it was noticed.

I recall a similar story about Charles Askins (Jr., I think) who had the same thing happen at a formal diplomatic ball in Madrid, where he was military attache. The Remington slid out his pants leg and 10 feet across the polished floor. A Spanish general picked it up, handed it to him with a bow, and said, "Su pistola, Senor."

Actually, the Model 51 can have things happen to it (like broken breech blocks) and parts are about impossible to get. I think I would put it in the collector category and carry something newer.


Bottom Gun
January 9, 2003, 11:43 PM
I regret selling mine.

January 10, 2003, 02:59 AM
Broke the extractor on mine (.380) when shooting it. Had a heck of a time finding a replacement.
Very impressed when I took mine apart to replace extractor. Internals were very well made but seemed overly complex and over engineered for what should be a unlocked breech, straight blowback pocket pistol.
This one had for want of a better word a "Floating Breechblock" that presumably delayed the slide from functioning when the breach pressure was to high.
Only thing I can think of that would cause Remington to use a "Rube Goldberg" mechanism like this, was that Colt still had the Browning Patents in effect and this was the only way Remington could get around them to get a piece of the handgun business?

January 10, 2003, 06:07 AM
Rufe - The thinking in those days was that while the 22,25,32, could be handled by a straight blowback design the 380 might be better with a delayed blowback or locked breech. So we have the M51 , or the CZ24 (rotating barrel locked breech ) or various colt/browning locked breech pistols.

Jim K
January 10, 2003, 11:10 PM
The handling of the .380 may have been a consideration, but the main problem for Pedersen* (Remington) and Searle (Savage) was getting around Browning's patents, which included a breechblock made as part of the slide and a straight blowback action. Both designers had one heckuva time working around the simplest and most obvious (and best) ideas, since JMB had had them first.

Of course, both companies touted their "advanced" designs and their supposed advantages; both knew they had been beaten by the master.


*Yes, that Pedersen; he was Remington's main designer for years before and after the "Pedersen device".


January 11, 2003, 08:31 AM
I thought the 380 ACP 9mm Browning Short was specifically designed to work in blowback pistols like the Colt.

January 11, 2003, 02:01 PM
It's nice to consider the smooth, curved contours of pocket pictols from that era. Those designer knew what they were doing, and understood that the lines of the handgun would assist concealed carry and manipulation of the gun. It's unfortunate that current handgun desing has turned to the squared cross section for slides, such as the Glock and Kahr, where the profile of the gun works against concealed carry and compact holster design.

I would buy it just to have around.

January 11, 2003, 09:53 PM
I actually had one for about 2 years. (A gift from my Ex's family -
I let it go back with her...). Great shooting gun! Sights were
small but very precice. Shot to POA and the locked breach did
cut down on the felt recoil. The safety was not as positive as
the one's you find today but I believe I remember a grip safety
that cut down on that issue. Gun felt great and was THIN.
Worked well for concealment but did not like hollowpoints.
(No suprise there!). Took me a while to figure out how to
take it down though... found the answer in an old book.
I recomend it.


May 22, 2007, 07:04 PM
I was recently willed one of these and wanted to find any older documentation or books covering the parts, breakdown, etc. I was also interested in finding where I might find repro magazines if anyone knows. The one I have looks to be in great shape, but I wanted to know a bit more about the mechanicals before I did any shooting. Any suggestions are welcome...

May 22, 2007, 11:13 PM
A wonderful gun, very strong but not particulary long lived with high round counts. The Colt 1908 will go 3 times as long. They are a safe to carry chamber loaded gun (IF you follow the rules!!) and conceal wonderfully and are accurate. Mine actually shoots modern HPs well. I don't shoot many, it is a COLLECTORS tem and an ANTIQUE!;)

May 23, 2007, 08:22 AM
This gun was actually a scaled down version of the Remington 45 pistol that the Navy wanted to adopt. Of course money was tight and they received the Colt just as all the other branches did. Remington was trying to recoup their money with the .380.

You can see the gun in Handguns of the World (IIRC) It looks just like a big Model 51.

May 23, 2007, 08:34 PM
There is a wonderful article in the 1979 Guns Digest 33rd Anniversary Edition that is a very detailed study of the weapon.

May 25, 2007, 01:15 PM
I inherited a 51. It is a 32 caliber, and looks completely new. Every picture I have looked at shows a relatively pitted gun. Should I contact Remington and offer them a picture of it? It literally is shiny and unscratched. BTW, I inherited it from a step-father named Pedersen, but haven't had any time to look up relatives to see if he's related to the designer. Also, for anyone buying one, be careful with the two handed grip. I still have a scar from the early 80's (the only time the gun was shot, I think).

May 31, 2007, 01:01 PM
jerud, I have a couple pages on the breakdown for a Remington Model 51. Email me.


December 29, 2007, 10:23 PM
I have some factory literature and some gun-mag articles on the 51 if anyone is interested.

Yes, I have one. Shoot it once a year or so. Shot it yesterday.

My favorite small pistol, bar none and the very last I would ever sell, including my Colts and Walthers. The triggers are said to be all over board, but mine is quite nice.

The ergonomics are superior to anything produced today. A natural pointer and easy to shoot well as close ranges. Beautiful lines. As Penman points out, today's designers just dont get it. Too much group-think and following the herd.

I dont shoot hot loads in mine, although I might load them when in CCW mode.

Anyone got a line on (good) repro magazines?

Billy Shears
March 17, 2008, 11:15 AM
I've got one of these. I love it. What a great pistol. Ergonomically, the only thing that needs improvement is the safety lever; it's too small, and describes a downward and forward arc of motion that I think would be very, very difficult to execute under stress with such a small lever. I've got a Colt 1908 pocket model in .380 which has a much better safety, but is otherwise inferior to the Remington (except for its sights, which are slightly better, though that's not saying much, as the Remington's sights are the smallest I have ever seen on a pistol).

I don't carry it anymore, but have in the past. Both it and the Colt feed .380 Hydra Shoks with 100% reliability, and I've fired over 300 rounds of those through each pistol. I love them both, and would never sell either one, but I like the Remington a little more.

If they could scale this design up to 9mm it would make a great compact carry gun, a good alternative to a Kahr, but given the amount of machining that would have to go into it, I'm sure it would never be competitive in the marktetplace. What a shame, since it's such a neat little design.

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