Eliphalet Remington’s world initially revolved around flintlock rifles at the time, and while early versions of the basic semiautomatic platform started surfacing in the late 1800s, the semiautomatic pistol didn’t really catch of eye and attention of the American consumer until 1911, the year the John Browning-designed Colt 1911 won the U.S. Government contract for the military sidearm.
Keep in mind, prior to 1911, the horseless carriage was in its infancy and Henry Ford hadn’t put a plan in place to mass produce Model T or Model A automobiles just yet. Horse and wagon still ruled the roads in most of rural America, and hunting and informal and formal target shooting (traditional European Creedmoor and Schuetzenfest matches were becoming popular in the U.S.) were still looked upon as sports where you used a long gun — muzzleloader or cartridge rifle. But that was all about to change in dramatic fashion.
With the U.S. Army adopting the Model 1911 .45 ACP pistol, Americans took note. Suddenly the demand for this pistol was on the rise. And it remained on the rise from World War I through World War II, through Korea, Vietnam, through Desert Storm (even after the official U.S. sidearm contract went to Beretta’s M9 9mm pistol in 1985), and remains as a popular and respected sidearm today, as it was more than 100 years ago.
John Browning’s genius remains intact 100-plus years later, and Remington/UMC had an early hand in helping launch the platform by producing pistols for the war effort. But after the war, production of the Remington/UMC pistol was halted, and the company’s focus returned to rifles and shotguns.
Only one pistol was offered by Remington (the Model 51 .32 ACP semiauto pistol was produced from 1919–1926) over the next eight-plus decades, and in fact, Remington wouldn’t manufacture another handgun until the radical-looking XP-100 was launched in 1962.
And Remington didn’t really become a major player in the handgun category again until it announced its new 1911 R1 in 2010 — a straightforward, standard 5-inch blued 1911 that conjured up images of the 1911 Remington-UMC produced almost 100 years earlier.
For shooters loyal to the Remington brand, the traditional 1911 R1 .45 was like a dream come true.
But since the official launch of the R1, which Shooting Times’ June 2010 issue featured on the cover as an exclusive, Remington had each and every year made deeper inroads into the 1911 category with numerous line extensions. And in 2014, it announced another new handgun, the R51 9mm. The tide had clearly turned regarding Remington and handguns, and in concert with its acquisition of Para-USA in 2012, it served notice that it was going to be a player in the semiauto pistol category.
Once the 1911 launch took place, Remington didn’t waste any time quickly expanding its handgun lineup. A 5-inch-barreled stainless 1911 R1 with checkered walnut grips, flared and lowered ejection port, flat mainspring housing, beveled magazine well, and standard G.I. thumb safety, grip safety and magazine release were standard, as was the solid aluminum trigger that came with a 3½- to 5-pound trigger pull from the factory.
In 2013 the 5-inch match-grade barrel Model 1911 R1 Carry was announced, and with it came dehorned carbon steel frame and slide, beavertail grip safety with checkered memory bump, checkered front strap and mainspring housing, ambidextrous safety, skeletonized trigger, Novak sights with tritium front sight, and checkered cocobolo grips.
It was dressed “to the nines,” even though it was a .45.
Other new models introduced included the Model 1911 R1 Enhanced with threaded barrel, featuring high-profile three-dot sights, blackened aluminum skeleton trigger, black oxide finish and the stainless Enhanced version, which carried the same features but in stainless steel.
In 2014, Remington’s 1911 line continued to expand in a big way by offering a Commander version. The 4¼-inch stainless barrel model had dehorned steel frame and slide and came with two seven-round magazines. It weighed in at just a hair over 38 ounces. One major option was the platform was also available with Crimson Trace laser, as was the R1 Enhanced Crimson Trace model, which marked the first time in Remington history that a handgun with the Remington name on it came with built-in laser sight.
Without question, the major handgun launch in 2014 was the R51.
Remington used four words to describe the R51: “Point instinctively. Recover instantly.”
That pretty much summed up the R51 in the hands of a handgunner. With the lowest bore axis of any pistol, it reduced muzzle rise by an average of 25 percent. It featured an optimized grip angle and Pedersen block design to reduce felt recoil and increase shootability. It carried a match-grade 3.4-inch barrel and CCW trigger system that has a light, long and crisp pull, with undercut trigger guard. It had a grip safety, ambidextrous magazine release, checkered frontstrap, checkered interchangeable grips, and drift-adjustable sights. Chambered for 9mm +P, the aluminum subcompact frame and flush 7-round magazine, along with numerous rounded edges, make this Remington’s first-ever readily concealable subcompact pistol.