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Remington Model 51 -- John Pedersen

Discussion in 'Handguns: Autoloaders' started by Badger Arms, Dec 6, 2003.

  1. Badger Arms

    Badger Arms Well-Known Member

    I mentioned the Pederson locking system in another thread and it was brought to my attention that this is not common knowledge. This thread is intended as a forum for this unique and outstanding pistol; any comments from owners, admirers, or the curious type are welcome.

    The Remington Model 51 was the only production pistol with the Pederson type of operating system. Basically, the system is similar in layout to a Walther blowback style (like the PPK, Makarov, etc.) with a fixed barrel and the recoil spring surrounding the barrel. It differs in that it has a separate bolt inside the slide. This is a tilting bolt that locks into recesses in the frame on either side of the magazine. When 'locked' the bolt is actually a fraction of an inch forward of the frame recesses. When the gun is fired, the bolt and slide move together for that fraction of an inch during which time the gun is acting as a blowback. When the bolt lugs stop, the slide continues to move back. This allows chamber pressure to drop to safe levels. Once the slide moves back far enough, it lifts the bolt from its locking recess and continues the firing cycle. This is a truly locked breech. One can insert a dowel in the barrel and push on the bolt. It will move a fraction of an inch and stop against the lugs. Retracting the slide opens the gun as you would expect.

    This system has the following advantages:
    -Fixed barrel for accuracy, reliability, and simplicity of construction.
    -Ability to handle greater pressure than a blowback yet without the size and weight penalty of other locking systems.
    -The recoil spring can surround the barrel instead of occupying space below the barrel for a shorter profile gun.
    -Due to its semi-blowback system, the gun handles a wider variety of load pressures.

    This system also has some disadvantages:
    -The frame needs to be either made from steel, or contain a steel insert of some sort in the locking recesses.
    -Machining the bolt and slide is difficult and takes many more operations than a more traditional system.
    -Because the Browning and Beretta locking systems are SO pervasive, building and marketing this 'strange' system would be difficult.

    John Pederson worked in concert with John Browning to design the Remington Model 17 which survives today as the Ithaca 37. He also designed the 'Pederson Device’ that converted the US Model 1903 into a semi-automatic intermediate caliber rifle! What he's probably most remembered for is providing the competition to John Garand with a toggle-locked semi-auto rifle.

    The Remington Model 51 enjoyed limited success. Made in 32 and 380 calibers, it was marketed as a pocket pistol. It was more expensive than the Browning designed competition and not overly much smaller. While Pederson was brilliant, he also tried to flaunt it with this pistol. The many safety features included a grip safety that operated as a slide release and many other kooky ideas. The grips were held on with spring-tensioned studs and I'll be darned if I can find a screw in the whole gun. From my point of view, he over-designed the Model 51.

    The Pistol was sound-enough in design to be accepted as a substitution for the 1911 during the First World War as the scaled-up Remington Model 53. It offered many advantages in size and shootability over the 1911 but was never put into series production... production on the 1911 kept pace with wartime demands.

    About thirty years ago, an inventor named Ross Rudd attempted to market another 45 pistol based on the Pederson design. This gun failed mostly because of a lack of business sense on the inventor's part.

    Any comments?

    Note: This picture has been altered to conceal the Serial Numbers.

    Attached Files:

  2. mete

    mete Well-Known Member

    The M51 is beautifully designed and made.It is properly called a momentum block action. Pederson went to great pains to design a grip that would fit many hands, I would call it excellent design not over design. I always regret that I had to sell mine .I didn't know that the M53 had a number but you forgot to say that it was also in 45acp. Too bad the 1911 had already been chosen, I always wondered if the two were to compete which would have been chosen. ..I've also found that the M51 is not known by most shooters. It also has for some odd reason never had much of a collectors interest or value. It's a winner.
  3. Daniel Watters

    Daniel Watters Well-Known Member

    FWIW: My sources indicate that the US Navy wanted to adopt Pedersen's .45 pistol in 1917. However, the entry into WW1 nixed these plans.

    Pedersen was also responsible for Remington's Model 10 pump-action shotgun, the rimfire Model 12 pump-action rifle, and the centerfire Model 14 pump-action series of rifles.

    Hatcher claimed that Browning once told him that Pedersen had the potential to become a greater gun designer than even himself.

    During WW2, Pedersen was involved in a venture to produce M1 Carbines. However, this effort was mismanaged and its operation was eventually taken over by Saginaw.
  4. Gordon

    Gordon Well-Known Member

    This my favorite old pocket pistol. I got rid of the Colt 03s &08s, deepsixed the 1908,1910, 1922 Brownings,the Savage and H&R autos, traded away the weird CZ, Walther, and Dryse , Frommerstops ect.,, Kept a 1900 Browning .32 in 100% condition AND my Rem Mod 51s in .32 and .380! This is one slim gun and I feel OK with a loaded chamber in a good holster! Thanks for the great and interesting post!:)
  5. Standing Wolf

    Standing Wolf Member in memoriam

    Definitely nifty! I had no idea.
  6. Jim Watson

    Jim Watson Well-Known Member

    One subtility of the P51 design... the setback of the internal breechblock before it locks up is equal to the thickness of the solid casehead of a .380 as then made. No exposed casewall under pressure. The one I had was a good shooter with ball, but would not feed modern JHP.

    Gordon, do you carry yours with the tiny little thumb safety on or off? I had the idea that the thumb safety only blocked the big grip safety out and thought it might MIGHT be safe to carry unlocked. Never got brave enough to take it completely apart to look, though.

    Complex as the design is, maybe the Navy was better off with the Colt.

    After listening to my neighbor the gunsmith, I would not want responsibility for design of the Remington M-10 pump gun.
  7. Gordon

    Gordon Well-Known Member

    The thumb safety block the sear, allright, but pretty well blocks the mechanism like a 1911. I only carry mine when I want the nostalgia, I have an old Berns-Martin (Georgia) holster for them. Makes a good funeral or Wedding concealed piece. Never saw any body nut act at a funeral however! I really like the Model 14 , 14 1/2 and 141 Remington pump rifle, I consider it THE woods gun in .35 Rem , and my 14 1/2 44-40 is kinda fun! Pederson did NOT invent the Mod 31 Remington shotgun, which is IMHO the best of the pumps. :)
  8. Jim K

    Jim K Well-Known Member

    Hi, guys,

    I too like the little Remington, but would be under no illusions that it could ever come back; it would simply be too costly. And no real advantage over a simple blowback for the .380 and .32.

    But perhaps Badger Arms will permit a couple of comments on his description of the firing cycle. When the gun fires, the breechblock is locked into its recess behind the magazine well (not on either side), held forward and down by the camming surface on the inside of the slide (which is held forward by the recoil spring). The dowel rod test without the barrel will show that the breechblock does not move without the slide moving as well, so it is not a short movement of the breechblock that functions the gun. Several writers have said that, but it is not true.

    The breechblock at rest is solidly backed by the slide and cannot move independently. When the gun fires, the breechblock and slide are driven back together, just as if they were one piece, as in any blowback pistol. But as the breechblock reaches its maximum rearward travel at the back of the locking recess in the frame, the movement of the slide unlocks the breechblock (not vice versa), withdrawing it from the recess and pulling it back. The barrel does not move and is not locked to either the breechblock or the slide, so the Model 51 is not really a locked breech pistol. The system is usually categorized as a delayed blowback.

    Does all the complication really work? Yes, but it is not necessary for the cartridges involved, although it might allow a lighter slide.

    The real (and only) reason for that pistol design (and the S&W .35 pistol that came out at about the same time) was to get around Browning's (Colt) patent on a slide that surrounded the barrel and had the breechblock built into it. Pedersen made his breechblock separate from the slide, and S&W used a small breechblock and no slide.

    As to the Remington Model 53, it was intended to supplement, not substitute for, the Model 1911. With its complications, and reported wicked recoil, it is probably better that it did not go into service. AFAIK, there is only one and it is literally priceless, since it is in the Remington museum and not for sale.

    One more point. The Pedersen rifle that competed with the Garand in the early days was not "toggle locked". It was not locked at all, but its toggle joint was set up to be at a mechanical disadvantage; Hatcher describes it accurately as a "retarded blowback". It is, by the way, a real pussycat to shoot, and there is never any doubt when the rifle is empty.

  9. Jim Watson

    Jim Watson Well-Known Member

    I have no resource on the Remington-Pedersen 53 except Hatcher's Notebook.

    It was the Savage with the (slightly) rotating barrel that had such sharp recoil. Hatcher said ..."the Army had issued 300 .45 caliber Savage automatic pistols, and when they were withdrawn and sold as surplus I bought one of them. On firing this the recoil was found to be excessive, much worse than that of the M 1911 pistol. Then some firing with the Remington .45, designed by my close friend J.D. Pedersen, had revealed that this gun had a notably mild recoil."
  10. Badger Arms

    Badger Arms Well-Known Member

    If you can get hold of it... and I have... there is a wonderful article in the 1979 edition of Gun Digest. It's 14 pages long and authored by Donald M. Simmons Jr. This outstanding article has a grainy photo of the Remington M53 as seen below. This was the only prototype made and was tested by the Navy, but not made. Thanks for the great replies, I'm learning something today.


    Attached Files:

  11. Daniel Watters

    Daniel Watters Well-Known Member

    A slightly better version of the photo is in Hatcher's Notebook.
  12. PCRCCW

    PCRCCW Well-Known Member

    Guys you had to post this thread.........didnt you! :scrutiny: I played with a very very good condition R51 in Idaho on a sales trip years ago. I DIDNT know what it was at the time....it was in very good shape and they wanted just over 150$ for it :what:
    Ive since fallen in love with the guns lines and romantic history and havent found 1 for under 600$ that was even close, NOT EVEN CLOSE to the shape of the one I passed on in ID.
    Great little gun, rare, collectable and still romantic IMO..............
    Shoot well.......
  13. Jim K

    Jim K Well-Known Member

    Hi, Jim Watson,

    My bad on the recoil; wrote from faulty memory. Just shows I should check everything before writing.

    Badger Arms, that Gun Digest article was very good, and I just reread it to refresh my memory.

    One thing he mentions only in passing that I would like to really emphasize:


    The grips have metal backing plates that fit into cuts in the frame. To remove the grips, press in (upward) on the hammer spring plug at the bottom rear of the grip. With the plug depressed, push the cross pin above it flush with the frame on one side. The grip on that side can now be slid down and disengaged from the frame. Repeat the process with the other side, pushing the pin flush with the frame on that side. Re-install in reverse.

  14. Badger Arms

    Badger Arms Well-Known Member

    Found this tidbit online:
  15. Grayrider

    Grayrider Well-Known Member

    I love the lines of those early 20th Century pistols that were designed around the notion of carrying concealed. This gun, Savages, and Brownings designs have a certain elegance that Kahrs and such just don't share. One of these days I will pick one up. I passed not so long ago on a lovely FN .32 that would have been a great example. I don't recall which Browning design it was, but the price was too cheap for me to have passed on it. If any of you are fans of Bogart movies, he frequently is toting such a pistol whether he is on the right or wrong side of the law. Makes me nostalgic whenever I see one.

  16. Lone Star

    Lone Star Well-Known Member


    THere are photos of Patton with both the Colt and Remington .380's, and with a Colt Detective Special .38. However, these are all taken (the ones that I've seen) in rear areas.

    When going into battle zones, he still wore the Colt SAA .45 and/or the S&W .357 Magnum.

    Lone Star
    P.S. The Remington M51 grip was said (by Col. Charles Askins, who was once US military attache in Spain as well as a gun writer) to have inspired the grip on the Star Model S and Super S .380's. They indeed have VERY comfortable handles!
  17. Jim K

    Jim K Well-Known Member

    Askins also reported a potentially embarassing incident at a diplomatic ball in Madrid. He was carrying a Remington Model 51 in his waistband, and it slipped down his pants leg and skidded across the floor. A Spanish general picked it up and handed it to Askins, saying, "Su pistola, Senor".

    And I have no doubt that the incident happened just as he told it. It was not at a diplomatic ball (don't get to many of those), but I was shopping for a Christmas tree and carrying a Model 51 when the same thing happened. Luckily, no one noticed and I was able to scoop up the pistol (along with some snow) and drop it in my jacket pocket. I figured it would rust before I could clean it, but it turned out no worse for the wear.

  18. Mike Irwin

    Mike Irwin Well-Known Member

    I remember that story, Jim, but thought that it happened not in Madrid, but in Vietnam...
  19. Badger Arms

    Badger Arms Well-Known Member

    Yes, this is partially a 'bump' but I did find an article on the Remington 51 that I thought I'd pass on. It's from the "American Rifleman" December 1976 issue on page 20. I haven't read it, but if anybody has a copy of the magazine or knows where I can get one, could you please respond? Thanks.
  20. Alimony Bob

    Alimony Bob Active Member

    My grandmother kept a M51 under her pillow until the day she passed away at age 98. After that my Dad had it for many years. He gave it to my brother and when I found out he had the pistol in one room, the clip in another and no ammunition I asked him if I could trade him an H&R 22 for it. So I wound up with what was nothing more then a family heirloom and didn't realize the neat history behind it. I saw my Dad kill a squirrel in a pine tree with it when I was a kid (he cojld do anything!) and I've shot it a few times. It's pretty accurate at around 10 yards or so. Not very good for two handed use though unless you want to lose some of the flesh on your thumb. My usual CC pistol is a derringer but I've used the M51 several times and it serves this purpose very well. Does anybody know what the values are it?

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