January 03, 2011
By Bart Skelton
After 91 years, Remington is back in the 1911 business, and the new-for-2010 R1 is a modern version based on the classic 1917-vintage military pistol.
By Bart Skelton
Remington's involvement in the production of 1911-style pistols goes back to World War I and World War II, but the company's role in said production is somewhat confusing. What's not confusing is the new-for-2010 1911 pistol that Remington has just announced. As it turns out, it's a nice pistol that continues Big Green's legend.
At the onset of World War I, there was a clear demand for military firearms. Remington contracted to manufacture small arms for France, Britain, and Russia. During this time, Remington played a significant role in the development of the U.S. 1917 Enfield rifle. Russia defaulted on payment for significant numbers of Mosin-Nagant rifles, leaving Remington in financial straits. The Army had adopted John Browning's 1911 semiautomatic pistol design, manufactured by Colt. Since the military anticipated the need for more 1911 pistols than Colt or Springfield Armory were able to produce, alternative producers, including Remington UMC, were sought out. In 1917 the company was contracted to produce 150,000 1911 pistols. Remington began production but never reached the original contractual obligation, producing 21,677 1911s. These pistols were identical to the original Colt 1911, though they were marked "Remington UMC" and "Manufactured by Remington UMC Co. Inc./Bridgeport, Conn. USA." All other markings, including Colt patent dates and U.S. Property, were the same as Colt's.
After World War I, Remington UMC remained in business, concentrating on a line of sporting products. The company was purchased by DuPont and later purchased the Peters Cartridge Company, forming Remington-Peters. At the onset of World War II, Remington again stepped up, providing significant ammunition for the war effort. In addition to the ammo, the company produced 1903A3 rifles for combat use.
Remington Rand had been launched in 1927, concentrating on its typewriter business. The company was later contracted to produce 1911 semiautomatic pistols for use in World War II. Initially, the company agreed to produce more than 200,000 pistols, but by the time the war was over, something like 850,000 were produced. Initially, the going was tough. Remington Rand had never made pistols in its shop and therefore relied on Colt, Springfield, Union Switch and Signal, and others who had made guns and parts to help out. The first batches of Remington Rands sent to the government drew complaints on a number of issues. Remington management reassessed the manufacturing process and started again. The end result was a fine firearm that gained a reputation for durability and accuracy in the field. On top of that, they turned out to be the least expensive 1911 pistol to produce. Remington Rand earned itself a reputation on the battlefield as one of the finest fighting pistols ever made.
As all shooters know, Remington has continued to manufacture fine sporting firearms. The company is now headquartered in Madison, North Carolina, and it is the only U.S. manufacturer to produce both firearms and ammunition. It is a major supplier of sporting goods to the hunting and shooting market, along with law enforcement and the military. It is currently the largest domestic producer of shotguns and rifles.
Remington hasn't produced a semiautomatic handgun since the fine little Model 51--until now, that is. Many would wonder why Remington has stayed out of the market for so long, and upon returning, what type of handgun would it choose? With the extensive number of designs and licenses on the market these days, the choice would be clear: the 1911. And why not? Yes, there are a multitude of companies producing the 1911 these days, making one wonder if introducing yet another is a worthwhile venture. Considering the ongoing popularity of Browning's design, plus the military history of the Remington 1911 pistol, the answer is yes, it's worthwhile, particularly in the way Remington has chosen to do it.
Unlike the original 1911, the new R1 utilizes white-dot combat-style sights.
The R1 Up Close
I just received a sample of Remington's new pistol, dubbed the Model 1911 R1 . Upon seeing it for the first time, one impression came to mind--United States military wartime fighting pistol--a version of the handgun that epitomized the combat pistol that served faithfully in two world wars, Korea, Vietnam, and countless other engagements. Though there are some strong differences between the 1911 R1, the Remington UMC, and the Remington Rand pistols, this new number brings back the nostalgia of its ancestors.
Remington will be offering the 1911 R1 as an entry-level pistol, actually the first auto pistol since the Model 51 and the first real Remington 1911 in 91 years. The company's intentions weren't necessarily to make a reproduction of the original wartime pistol, but to make a modern version based on the original that can then be built upon. Therefore, the 1911 R1 is the first of a line of 1911 pistols to come.
The first thing that really jumped out at me about the 1911 R1 was it's nicely done diamond-pattern checkered walnut stocks. Patterned after the stocks fitted on Government Model pistols by Colt from the beginning, they are great looking grips and provide a great touch on the R1. Original UMC and Remington Rand pistols were fitted with synthetic stocks of the same diamond checkering pattern made by Keyes Fiber Company. I've always found them somewhat unattractive, though they certainly served their purpose. Remington's choice of the walnut adds a touch of class to the pistol, even if the grips aren't entirely authentic to the original Remington pistol.
In handling the new Remington, I found it to lock up very tightly. There was no play anywhere in the pistol. During World War II, Remington used several different barrels in its combat pistols, including tubes from Colt, High Standard, Flannery Bolt Company, and Springfield Armory. Remington elected to go with its own match-grade, stainless-steel barrels sporting heavy-duty bushings for the new 1911 R1.
In further inspection of the 1911 R1, another noticeable characteristic is that the controls are true to the early original guns. The grip safety is the standard short government model variety--no beavertails here. The thumb safety is the short spur, and the slide release is the old style. The steel mainspring housi
ng is of the knurled variety, though it's not arched. The 1911 R1 components are made in-house by Remington. Carlos Martinez, Remington's production manager, advises that the grip safety currently on the pistol is tumbled, but the production guns will feature a beveled safety.
The 1911 R1's sights are of the fixed variety and feature the white, painted three-dot system. While original Remington UMC and Remington Rand pistols didn't have the white dots, this configuration is very popular on modern combat-style pistols. The front sight is dovetailed in the standard Novak style. Remington will be offering a variety of aftermarket sights for the 1911 R1 after initial production.
The pistol is finished in a satin black oxide, which is basically a bead blast finish with the black oxide coating. The pistol is marked with the "Remington" logo on the left side and "1911 R1" on the right.
A handload featuring a semiwadcutter lead bullet shot quite accurately through the R1, providing this group at 15 yards. Unfortunately there wasn't enough ammo to allow a full set of groups for average, so the load is not included in the chart.
Ready For Action
At the range, friends Beau Johnston and Kevin Speer assisted me in breaking in the 1911 R1. We started off with 500 rounds of Black Hills 230-grain FMJ. The prototype pistol performed well, though there were a few failures to eject. We later fired a few rounds of lighter handloads loaded with 200-grain LSWC bullets. The pistol loved this ammunition and shot it flawlessly. It produced a tight five-shot group at 15 yards that was a single ragged hole.
A thousand rounds more were run through the Remington with help from my son Jake and friend Will Schmitz. Black Hills 230-grain JHPs and Remington 230-grain JHPs were used for this shooting. Again, the preproduction R1 performed well, though some failures to eject and stovepipes were experienced. Accuracy remained good.
Law enforcement friends Adrian Flores and Luke de la Garza, both combat 1911 shooters, assisted me in burning up an additional 500 rounds of Winchester 230-grain JHPs. The 1911 R1 shot this ammo very accurately, and we noticed a significant difference in the pistol's trigger pull after the 1,500-round mark. The trigger had smoothed out nicely and felt smooth and crisp, assisting accuracy a great deal. The R1's trigger, basically a Series 80 aluminum system, performed very well. My trigger pull scale measured it at 4.25 pounds after 2,000 rounds fired.
The 1911 R1 handled as any quality 1911 pistol would--great pointability and that good feeling you get when you wrap your hands around it. Recoil was minimal, even with the hotter loads we fired. My range helpers were very much impressed, as I was, with the way the R1's trigger smoothed out after considerable shooting. As I mentioned, the trigger pull out of the box had a bit of creep that seemed to disappear entirely by the end of the testing.
I fired the 1911 R1 from a 25-yard bench using Black Hills, Remington, Winchester, and Hornady factory loadings, and after having been broken in with the 2,000 rounds, then cleaned, Remington's pistol performed nicely. The results are listed in the accompanying accuracy chart. Unfortunately, my chronograph malfunctioned and so I was not able to gather velocity data.
Remington's designers' approach with the R1 isn't to make an exact reproduction of the old wartime pistol, but to make a similar gun to the original as a platform for more versatile offerings in the future. For example, they wanted to fit the R1 with traditional looking sights but add the three-white-dot system. I'm not personally a big fan of the three white dots, but many shooters like them. The R1's original-style grip safety did become a little uncomfortable after shooting several hundred rounds, and all of us had a little hide chewed off the web of our strong-side shooting hands. The R1's black oxide finish gives the pistol a nice, satin-like appearance that, in conjunction with the walnut stocks, makes for a very handsome, nicely fitted handgun.
The 1911 R1 will make a great pistol for anyone who admires the old warhorse 1911 Government Model handgun but doesn't want to doctor up an original with add-on components. Remington will, at some point, be offering a number of aftermarket features for the R1.
The new 1911 R1 is a great new pistol from one of the oldest firearms companies in the United States. While we experienced a few common malfunctions with our prototype gun, it must be understood that making a new production gun function, feed, and extract flawlessly is an extremely difficult undertaking. Colt experimented with perfecting this for decades, as have countless other manufacturers of 1911-style pistols. In my estimation, Remington has done a fine job with its new 1911-market entry so far, and I have every expectation that they'll get better and better. The company is striving to produce a good, interesting pistol at a fair price. At $699 MSRP, it has done just that.
The author found Remington's new 1911 R1 natural in the hand with good pointability and easily controllable recoil.