WARNING! If profanity offends you you’d best skip this one.
Last week was the forty-first anniversary of my departure for Basic Training in the United States Army. I’m pushing sixty, and I figured it was time to adopt age-appropriate ways of thinking. To be in solidarity with others of my ilk; an advocate of time-honored things and traditions. Yes, I’m talking about Fudds.
You know what I mean; those older folks that really have the good grip-handles on reality. Men that know what’s what. Real men. Manly men that get it. So buckle up buttercup, ’cause here we go!
What? Yeah, that’s my EDC. It’s a man’s gun in God’s Own Caliber. What’s that? Are you kidding? It begins with a four like any real caliber and ends with a five. That’s right, son, .45 ACP, straight from the mind of God’s true prophet, John Moses Browning!
What is it? It’s a Detonics Combat Master, a cut-down version of JMB’s greatest creation, the gun that fought two world wars. What? It’s heavy? Goddamn right it is! 36 ounces loaded with seven bullets in it. That’s a man’s gun, son! Heavy! (snort) A man don’t mind the lower back pain; cost of doing business, princess. But you young folks with your plastic wonder-guns wouldn’t understand that.
Yeah, seven rounds, I said. Six in the mag, one in the chamber. What? Your plastic POS carries as many rounds as all three of my magazines? Good thing, because your gonna’ need ’em with that peashooter. 9mm! Hah! Hell son, you ever shoot me with that and I notice I might be pretty cross about it. If God meant us to carry double-stack girly guns in 9mm he’d of had John Moses design one! What? He did? You just shut up, I ain’t finished!
Yeah, that’s a leather holster. Not like this ki-decks crap all you young-uns always go on about. Yeah, it probably weighs more than your whole gun, but it’s worth it. A real man wears a dead cow on his hip. A fella can trust a cow. Who trusts a piece of plastic?
Hell, son, you still rattlin’ on about capacity? A man don’t need a lot of shots! Sheeeit, one of those there flying ashtrays hits a fella anywhere and he’d best make his peace with his dear and fluffy Lord! That there bullet will drop a bull moose in his tracks. Tear you damn arm clean off, it will.
The handle? That’s antler, son. Comes off a deer, like the one I shot with my .30-06 last fall. That’s an honest caliber! Proper rifle, too. Hold five shots. Five, son, not twenty or thirty. Sheeeit, a man needs more than one shot for a deer he needs a new hobby! But you cupcakes with your A-Rs wouldn’t know about…
ENOUGH ALREADY! Muhgawd, I can’t even pretend to be That Guy without being in real danger of parting ways with my latest meal!
Yeah, I like old guns. Carry ’em too. I like .45 ACP, but it’s because I like the feel of it when fired from a 1911, not because of any delusion that it’s better. Yeah, a lot of the old guns are damn heavy, but I’m a big guy and it’s what I’m used to. I like to shoot those old guns, and a gun you like to shoot is a gun you’ll practice with.
But make no mistake, I get the attraction of modern guns and recognize their utility. If I had to go back on duty I’d say, ‘hand me one of those Glock 17s, please, and put a red dot on it if you don’t mind!’ Technology has moved on, and it’s done so for a reason. Modern guns are lighter, hold more rounds and are mostly more reliable. Qualities that I would appreciate if I were called upon to carry the thing 8-16 hours a day.
Back in the way-backs I worked in a small town in the foothills, and most people carried revolvers on duty back then. Me? I had a double-stack sixteen-shot 9mm with two spare mags. When your back-up might be twenty minutes away I figured it was prudent to do whatever I could to stack the odds in my favor.
So yeah, I’m getting on in years, but my brain is still chugging along just fine. I might carry old, but that doesn’t mean I have to think old.
This was all meant in good fun, so I hope I didn’t offend any of you. Not because I’m so much worried about your feelings, but because if it offended you you’re probably a Fudd yourself, and I like to think better of my readers than that.
Stay safe and take care… and don’t take yourself so seriously.
(This is another of the ‘lost posts,’ and is reprinted from 11 July 2021)
I have long thought that the Remington model 51 was among the most elegant of all automatic pistols. In the early decades of the 20th C. people were turning to automatic pistols for self-defense, and Remington wanted in. They enlisted the talented and innovative John Pederson to design one for them, and he applied his genius to good effect. The new gun was offered in both .32 and .380 ACP.
John Browning himself considered Pederson to be one of the best firearms designers of their era. During WW1 he designed the never-issued Pederson Device, which allowed a Springfield 1903 rifle to be converted on-demand to the world’s longest, heaviest submachinegun, firing a .30-caliber pistol cartridge from a stick-magazine that protruded from the ejection port at an angle.
The model 51 was a slim, sleek pistol, and was relatively light compared to it’s main competitors, the Colt 1903/08 and the FN 1910. This was owing to the fact that Colt and FN were straight-blowback guns, requiring heavier slides to contain their modest power. The Model 51 had a system that Remington referred to as a locked-breech, but in reality was a delayed-blowback. Simply put a hollow breech-piece, separate from the slide, tilted to engage a recess in the frame to slow the slides rearward travel.
This produced a gun that was not merely lighter, but much softer shooting than it’s contemporaries. Great attention was paid to the ergonomics; dozens of mock-ups of the grip were tried to get just the right angle and proportions. Remington wanted the gun to point naturally and actually referred to it as self-aiming, which was a bit optimistic. It does explain the sights; they are tiny.
Smooth Operator, Strange Operatior
The gun is a single-action auto with a concealed hammer, and superficially it is simple to use. Insert a loaded magazine, rack the slide and you’re ready to go. The grip safety is the primary safety; the lever at the left-rear of the slide simply prevents the grip safety from being depressed when rotated upwards.
It’s unlike any other grip safety I’ve used. When pressed in the safety disengages with a distinct, mechanical click. It’s more like you have thrown a switch than more familiar grip safeties. There is also a magazine safety; a magazine must be inserted before the trigger can be pulled. Another peculiarity is that you cannot rack the slide unless the grip safety is depressed.
The slide does not lock back on an empty magazine, but it is possible to lock the slide to the rear. Weird, but possible. First depress the grip safety and start the slide to the rear, then release the grip safety and pull the slide back until it locks. Depressing the grip safety will drop the slide, and if you have inserted a magazine it will chamber a round. It’s awkward and not all that useful.
The manual safety seems to just lock the grip safety from being depressed. It is neither very difficult to manipulate nor particularly handy. It’s useable, but not great. There’s a bit of slack to take up on the trigger, and it’s not light but it breaks well and the reset is short. An the sights… you almost wonder why they bothered. The gun does shoot to point of aim if you happen to spot the front sight but that’s more a matter of chance than design, at least with my eyes.
Among it’s quirks you can banish any thoughts of replacing the unexceptional plastic grips with something more attractive; they are permanently fixed to the frame by rivets.
The Model 51 was produced from 1918 to 1926, with some 65,000 made, the majority of those chambered in .380 ACP. Rumor has it that some guns were assembled from leftover parts in the 1930’s, but I have been unable to confirm this.
Disassembly is not particularly difficult, but it can be a bit perilous and requires attention. It’s easier to show than describe, and this video from Brownell’s walks you through it nicely.
The Model 51 was reliable and accurate, but it was also complicated to produce and expensive, retailing for between half-again and twice what it’s competitors sold for. In the end, despite the guns modest success, Remington decided to focus their energies elsewhere and ceased production.
OK, someone’s going to mention it- General Patton was apparently a fan and often carried one in his pocket.
Sights?! We Don’t Need no Stinking Sights!
The rumors are true- this is a soft-shooting gun for it’s size and caliber; not at all snappy like guns such as the PPK. I took a couple boxes of handloads to the range, using 100gr. TMC/round-nose bullets over 4.0gr. of Power Pistol with CCI 500 primers.
Long story short the gun is very nice to shoot. Between the sights and my eyes precision was just not going to be a thing, so I didn’t try all that hard. Still, the results were not at all bad.
I started out at seven yards doing my best, then repeated the process rapid-fire. The targets looked more or less the same. I fired about 100 rounds all told without any issues… except for the fact that I have fairly large hands. The gun likes that. Hungers for them in fact. It chewed a hole in my hand in short order. Investigation showed the bottom corner of the slide was knife-sharp. The things I do for you folks…
I ended my session by running a target out to five yards and, with the gun lowered in a two-handed grip, raised it and pointed it at the target without aiming and double-tapped it. I repeated this four times, and the results were not bad. Likely it would have been effective enough.
This gun likes to double-tap. The crisp trigger and short reset makes it sound like a two-round burst from a submachinegun. I have no doubt that with practice I could make smaller groups. If called upon to defend myself with this centenarian I would not feel abused or lack confidence.
The Ill-Starred Model 53
Alongside this pistol Remington also developed a larger-caliber model, the Model 53. This was apparently simply a model 51 scaled up to use .45 ACP! It found great favor in trials with the Navy, who found it more reliable, accurate (presumably it had better sights) and softer shooting than the 1911. They were keen to adopt it, but before a deal could be struck we entered WW1. Damn those pesky Germans! You don’t change horses midstream so the deal was dropped in favor of 1911 production. After the war the Colt was firmly, uh, entrenched and in the end nothing came of it. Very few were produced, and I don’t know if any still exist. I imagine if you happened across one it would be worth a King’s ransom.
A Sad Postscript
In 2014 Remington jumped back into the pistol market with the R51, a modified and updated version of the Model 51 chambered in 9mm. A very few people reported getting one that functioned well, but they were a tiny minority. A second version was developed to correct the issues, but it had limited success in doing so.
It looked the business and was well-priced, but it was plagued with reliability and quality control problems and dropped out of production when Remington went bankrupt in 2018. With the well poisoned by negative reports it seems unlikely that production will resume.
Despite it’s hunger for my flesh I really like this gun. It ticks all the buttons; compact, reliable and quite usable despite the sights. Though many will feel it sacrilegious to modify a classic such as this, I discretely blunted the edges on the bottom corner of the slide and inside corner of the bottom of the slide rails so it will hopefully stop goring me quite so much. I’m also going to paint the front sight bright orange in the hope that it will increase it’s usability.
The conventional wisdom states that you want your hand as close to the bore-line as possible on a pistol to compensate for muzzle rise between shots. It’s true; physics and physiology dictate this, and the amount of upward rotation induced by recoil can be measured. It genuinely makes a difference in absolute terms. The question is how much difference, and how much does it matter in practical terms?
The answer is… it’s complicated. People are different; people differ in skill, there’s always some variation in physiology. In the interest of science I decided to see what difference it makes for me by staging a very unscientific test.
I wanted two guns that differed primarily in how high a grip they allow, so for my test I selected two J-frame revolvers, a S&W Model 37 and a model 642-2. The latter gun allows a significantly higher grip, so with all things being equal it will have less muzzle rise under recoil, which allows for faster recovery times between shots.
Of course all things are seldom equal. For example the 642-2 weighst 14.7 oz. while the Model 37 weighs 13.6. Does that 1.1 oz. make a difference? Don’t know. Both have nice DA triggers, but the trigger on the Model 37 is a bit better. How much difference will that make? Don’t know.
The ammunition, at least, I can control. For the test I loaded an Xtreme Bullets 158gr. Copper-plated SWC over 5.0gr. of Universal with a Federal #200 primer. This is a relatively stout load, but is not max-pressure or +P. I wanted the load to have a bit of bounce so recoil would be more of an issue.
The first test was one shot/second at 7 yards. I aimed at the Bullseye with the 642 and at the bottom of the target with the Model 37. The results were not particularly illuminating.
OK, time to push harder. I tried two cylinder-dumps at seven yards with each gun. This means I emptied the guns as fast as I could while aiming center-mass of the target.
The cylinder dumps seemed to go about as fast from one gun to the other. We don’t know exactly how fast they were because I got a new phone and forgot to download the shot-timer .app. Oops. Let’s just say the difference was not conspicuous.
OK, maybe distance will tell the tale. I ran targets out to 25 yards and fired one shot/second (I do have an .app to make my phone beep every second.) I thought that perhaps this will show the difference. OK, it does. Sort of. Maybe.
At a glance the groups are close, but I missed the paper once with the model 37, so technically the 642 wins. But I only did this once, they are pretty close and the sample size is too small to definitely say there’s a difference.
I tried panic-fire at three yards, where I point the gun without using sights and empty it as fast as I can. No definitive difference between group sizes. Five yards, same result. Despite knowing that there is a difference I simply could not demonstrate it real-world practical terms.
Does this prove it doesn’t matter? No, it simply indicates that it matters little or not at all for me with these two specific guns as they are presently configured. But as my wife pointed out I am a large, very strong man, and fair to say a pretty good shot with snub-nosed revolvers. It might be different for someone of slighter build with lesser grip strength and/or less experience. I’m going to see who I can enlist to repeat the test and find out…
It’s almost physically painful to me to admit this, but for me at least the higher grip made no real difference. I honestly expected it to. I know in straight-up leverage it’s true; it’s just the difference isn’t enough to noticeably affect my performance. Needless to say your mileage may vary, and more testing is needed across people with different physiques and skill levels.
The upshot is that gripping your revolver as high as you can manage is good advice, but that changing guns to take advantage of an even higher grip might not make enough difference to matter. I’ll keep looking into this.
Take care and stay safe.
Michael Tinker Pearce, 23 August 2021
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