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Remington Model 51 -- John Pedersen

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

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  1. Badger Arms

    Badger Arms Member

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    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.
    [​IMG]
     

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  2. mete

    mete Member

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    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 Member

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    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 Member

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    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

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

    Jim Watson Member

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    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 Member

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    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 Member

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    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.

    Jim
     
  9. Jim Watson

    Jim Watson Member

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    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 Member

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    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.

    [​IMG]
     

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  11. Daniel Watters

    Daniel Watters Member

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

    PCRCCW Member

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    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 Member

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    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:

    DO NOT TRY TO PRY OFF THE GRIPS!!!

    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.

    Jim
     
  14. Badger Arms

    Badger Arms Member

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    Found this tidbit online:
     
  15. Grayrider

    Grayrider Member

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    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.

    GR
     
  16. Lone Star

    Lone Star Member

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    Badger-

    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 Member

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    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.

    Jim
     
  18. Mike Irwin

    Mike Irwin Member

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

    Badger Arms Member

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    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 Member

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    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?
     
  21. dogtown tom

    dogtown tom Member

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    Value is dependent on condition.

    Although there are distinct "series" or "types" within the overall production of the Model 51, it doesn't seem to affect the value as much as condition.

    The blueing on the 51 leaves a lot to be desired. Most Model 51's will show significant finish wear (so would you if you were in your nineties).

    Do a search on GunBroker for "Remington 51" and then choose "Completed Auctions". Most seem to sell for as little as $325 up to $800+ with original box.

    Here is a good webpage with a history of the 51:
    http://unblinkingeye.com/Guns/Rem51/rem51.html
     
  22. Badger Arms

    Badger Arms Member

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    Wow, it's been a few years. Thanks for the bump. If anybody has a Remington 51 pistol and has not yet done so, please follow this link and fill out this short form. This information is very important to our research and helps us preserve the history of this fine arm and the company. Many thanks:

    http://www.remingtonsociety.com/rsa/research/Model51
     
  23. Guillermo

    Guillermo member

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    I have an old model 51 in the gun safe. Love that gun.

    I was told that Remington did extensive tests with plywood cut outs and a bunch of people to try to find the perfect size, shape and angle of the grip.

    Do not know if that is true but it is easy to imagine
     
  24. Badger Arms

    Badger Arms Member

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    Yes, the story has been told many times that significant research went into designing the shape of the grip. This is notable because in its day, ergonomic design was a rare thing. Firearms were oddly shaped and didn't fit any large group of people.

    Most notable among the "non-ergonomic" guns in my opinion is the Colt Single Action Army. Yep, the SAA everybody knows and loves. Why? Sam Colt was said to be left handed. Loading of the SAA is slowed because it is designed to be loaded with the firearm in the left hand. Even before I knew this, I would switch the gun to my left hand to unload and reload then swap the gun to my right hand, instinctively. You righties need to pick up your SAA and try this.

    Anyhow, Guillermo, if you could please pull your 51 out of the safe and go to the Remington Society link I gave you, we'd appreciate knowing about your gun. Thanks.
     
  25. Billy Shears

    Billy Shears Member

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    Actually, the reason the Colt SAA is designed for use by the left hand is that it was designed as a sidearm for the cavalry, and for infantry officers, who were trained to be able to use pistol and sword simultaneously if need be (controlling the horse with their knees), sword in right hand and pistol in left. You'll note that the military flap holsters of the period are worn on the right side, set up for cross draw with the left hand. This was even so with the cap and ball revolvers that preceded the SAA.

    Colt may or may not have been left handed, I don't know. But even if he was, he was not such a poor salesman as to design his product so as to favor a minority of his buyers and disadvantage a majority. The gun was designed for use by the left hand because that's the hand soldiers would often use to fire it. And if they needed to shoot with the right, it was easy to switch to that hand, and speed of reloading was not considered a major factor anyway (which is also one reason why the SAA was eventually retained over the faster reloading S&W Schofield.)
     
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