Remington Model 51

A 20th Century Pocket Gun that was ahead of its Time

At the beginning of the 20th century semi-automatic magazine fed pistols were a novel concept. However, this era gave us the iconic M1911 and the German Luger just to name a few. There were many others that popped up into the scene but were left behind as time went by. One pistol that was forgotten but had a really good design was the Remington Model 51 which was developed during the prohibition era of the United States.

At this time John Browning may have been the most well known firearms designer. But, a lesser known John Pederson, who in his own right should have had the same notoriety. John Pederson had collaboratively worked on many successful guns with different designers (including J Browning), his most successful is the Remington Model 51 that reached full production level.


Pederson designed the Model 51 in 1917 as a pocket gun which at the time the market was dominated by the cheaper and reliable revolvers. The pistol was somewhat successful, it did not dominate the market.
The U.S. military did take a look at the Model 51 as a possible combat handgun before WWII. From a production level perspective. The more cheaper and reliable direct blow-back design was the order of the day. The Model 51 production eventually wound down.

Remington Model 51 Features

The Model 51 was design as a pocket pistol. The exterior is sleek and smooth. -The sights were filed down to be snag free when drawn from the user’s pocket.
-Another fine feature is the “safety,” which was created from the entire back strap of the pistol, held in the hand comfortably with no sharp edges. When depressed, it lines up smoothly with the rear edges of the grip.
-The grip uses a smooth single stack magazine like the M1911.
-The original Model 51 houses 7 rounds of .380ACP cartridge and the magazine release the same as the M1911.
Due to the Model 51 sleek design, the revolvers were no match from a concealability stand point.

Marvelous Internal
Many people like the looks of the Model 51 but gunsmithers will appreciate the internals design of the gun. The design uses a fixed barrel design vs a barrel-base short-stroke recoil system of the time. The breach itself tilts to impart momentum so the slide can effortlessly carry through the operating cycle.

Disassembly – Breaking down the Model 51 is really different and can be looked at as a little complex to the newbies. Here are the steps from N Leghorn of TruthAboutGuns:
  • -Remove a crossbar pin to unlock the barrel.
  • -The user then grips the end of the barrel and pulls it forward to unlock the mechanism and remove the slide.
  • -From there, the internal components can be removed by sliding it back and tilting it out, which allows the firing pin and the spring to fall free.
So here’s why gunsmiths will appreciate the internal designs that was created for better concealability:
The barrel doesn’t tilt, so there’s no need for a separate guide rod for the return spring. In the operating cycle most semi-automatic pistols of the era used an under-over placement for the return spring that provided the forward pressure to chamber the next round. This increases the height of the handgun (a bigger pistol), and makes it a little harder to conceal in a pocket or holster.

With the recoil spring around the barrel the gun could be much thinner with an extremely low bore axis…an edge over the competition. A huge advantage for concealed carry.
Another advantage is the felt recoil. The original Model 51 lower bore axis reduces felt recoil, makes it softer shooting and allowing for quicker rapid shots.

Not many gun enthusiasts or collectors had the chance to run this gun, so we can’t say what the majority would say. This perspective and experiences is from N Leghorn when he took this original Model 51 out on the range.
“The Model 51 is chambered in the .380 ACP cartridge which was considered more powerful than the .32 ACP – which was the pocket gun competition at the time.

The recoil is incredibly tame. It feels like you’re shooting a rimfire cartridge than the centerfire .380 ACP.
There’s a tiny bit of take-up in the trigger. After that, the break is crisp and clean. Once cycled, a short reset gets you back in firing condition. Something noticeable in this design: there’s a tactile reset. You feel and hear a small “click” when the trigger is back in firing position. That removes all doubt about whether you need to release the trigger any further and discourages “short stroking” (where the shooter will try to pull the trigger again without fully resetting the gun)”.

This shooter claims the 103 year old pistol runs like a charm and was able to put a 2 inch groupings at 15 yards. Which is efficient for personal defense.
Another writer/gun enthusiasts (E. Buffaloe) claimed:
“Very few guns feel so much like an extension of the hand as does the Remington 51. W.H. B. Smith says: “With the sole exception of the Luger, and the new German Walther P38, the Walther PPK, Sauer-38 and Mauser HSc (all foreign developments) this Remington 51 is probably the best-balanced, most-instinctive-pointing pistol ever made.”

Re-Design Model 51
Parting Shots
The Remington Model 51 may have been lost through the times, but Remington did release a remake design of this awesome pistol a while back, thanks to the efforts of a couple of its employees. Here are the good points of this awesome pocket gun which is ahead of its time.

Accuracy – 4 Star
For a pocket pistol with tiny sights the gun isn’t half bad. Two inches at 15 yards is nothing to sneeze at in the compact handgun world, even among modern firearms.
Functionality – 5 Star
Runs every single time. The action is smooth and the recoil is light.

Here’s what some are saying about this awesome pocket gun:
PeterK says:
Such a cool piece of engineering. I can see why JMB thought so highly of Pederson.
Andrew Lias says:
A gun on my bucket list. I have 2 savage 1907s that need a friend. I hope parts are easier to find.


Tom in Oregon says:
Sweet piece of nostalgia. Also on my “need to have if the price is right” list.
jwm says:
It looks remarkably like a hammerless Makarov. From that era I judge pocket pistols when compared to the Colt 1903/08.
Michael Case says:
One of the classics, I would love to add this to my collection if I can find a descent one.
Charles Gallo says:
I have a well functioning M51 ! My fathers daily carry ! We head to the range with a 357 SnW 19 too and my guns I just keep loading for 20 minutes straight while pops shot them , I’ll treasure my M 51 the memories at the range with dad ! RIP 5/27/19 Korean Veteran Air Force.

Review by J Hines and Photos from Sources from E Buffaloe, N Leghorn, Wikipedia