March 25, 2011
When Remington announced last year that it was going to be making a handgun, it definitely got everyone's attention. Big Green, America's oldest gun maker, hadn't produced a handgun in decades, and this was going to be the first new 1911 from the firm in 91 years.
Everyone assumed its 1911 would be traditionally styled, especially considering the 1911's 100-year anniversary was rapidly approaching, and Remington did not disappoint. The R1 does have classic looks, but if you were one of those people hoping for an identical copy of its classic Remington-UMC, you're out of luck.
A lot of people like the looks of vintage 1911s but don't necessarily like shooting them. Their original style grip safeties hurt the hand, their minimalist "hump and a bump" sights are hard to see in direct sunlight, they are difficult to reload with any speed, and they can have reliability issues with anything other than FMJ ammo. Aware of these contradictions, Remington decided to put out a pseudo-vintage version of the traditional 1911 in hopes of pleasing everybody.
The American-made R1 has done away with the original sights and replaced them with simple three-dot combat sights set into dovetails front and back. The ejection port is marginally lowered and lightly flared to aid reliability, and it has a stainless steel barrel bushing for a distinctive look.
The mag well is lightly beveled, and the two provided magazines have improved followers reminiscent of the fabulous PSI ACT mags. The R1 has a short trigger compared to the original UMC's long trigger, a flat mainspring housing as opposed to arched, and there's no lanyard loop on the butt. However, it does sport traditionally styled double diamond-checkered walnut grips and original Government-style grip and thumb safeties.
The R1 comes with a Series 80-style internal firing pin safety. 1911s without that particular safety (which is the majority of them, including the original Remington UMC) are not unsafe, and the extra parts of a firing pin safety generally result in a grittier trigger pull--and increase manufacturing cost of a basic model--so I asked Remington engineers at a recent industry event what the reason was for that addition. They couldn't really give me an exact reason, so I'm assuming it was a liability-driven decision.
There is a tiny slot at the top rear of the barrel hood that Remington is calling a loaded-chamber indicator. While theoretically it can be used to see if there is a cartridge in the chamber, the slot is so small that I would much rather just crack the slide back and be sure.
At the industry event, Remington provided five R1s to a group of gun writers, and in just over an hour we put 2,000 rounds of full-power ammunition through those guns. The only problems encountered were one feeding jam (mostly likely due to limp-wristing), and one of the guns' front sights started to work loose in its dovetail.
A fellow writer and I shared an R1, and in 45 minutes we put more than 500 rounds through that one pistol. We had runners loading mags for us, and got the gun so hot the front of the trigger guard was nearly too hot to touch, but it did not jam on us. That said, it was not a torture test I'd care to repeat, as the R1's old-style grip safety bruised the heck out of my hand.
Modern manufacturing techniques have enabled the Remington engineers not only to make a relatively tight and surprisingly accurate pistol for an affordable price, but one that even with a Series 80 safety has a decent trigger.
After our torture test and a proper cleaning, the trigger pull on the provided R1 broke right at four pounds. Admittedly, it broke more like a carrot than a glass rod, but it was still a relatively crisp single-stage trigger--something that cannot be said about the triggers on the original Colt Series 80 guns.
The gun Remington sent me for accuracy testing had a mainspring housing that didn't quite extend down as far as it should have, resulting in the sharp edge of the frame digging a little hole in the heel of my hand.
None of the guns we torture tested had the same problem, so I'm guessing it was simply one mainspring housing cut a hair too short, and that was the only problem I found. If it was my personal gun, two minutes with a file would solve the problem.
The pistol digested all sorts of hollowpoints without a problem (try that with an original GI gun), although the owner's manual advises against the use of +P ammunition in the gun.
The name "Remington" has a history all its own, and for those of you interested in a classically styled 1911, the R1 should be at the top of your list.