Big Green Goes 1911
Remington’s R1 And R1S Pistols.
When I heard Remington was bringing out a 1911 pistol, I actually did have this thought, “Well if any of the modern 1911 manufacturers besides Colt has a legitimate claim to seeing their name on 1911 pistols it is Remington.” Now understand this: I’m not referring to World War II US Model 1911A1s made by and marked “Remington Rand.” That was a typewriter company.
The 1911s I’m referring to were those contracted for by the US Government in 1917 with Remington-UMC, the arms manufacturer. President Woodrow Wilson had the United States declare war on Germany in April of that year, notwithstanding that America’s military forces were totally unprepared. The US Army possessed no machine guns, no tanks, no fighter planes, few rifles, and fewer handguns.
John M. Browning designed his self-loading, .45-caliber pistol for Colt. That company submitted it to the US Army’s Ordnance Board for trials. It was accepted in the spring of 1911 as the US Model 1911, chambered for the .45 Automatic Colt Pistol (ACP). Colt was aware they could not produce enough handguns to satisfy demand, so early on they agreed to license the government-owned Springfield Armory to also produce them, which happened to a limited degree. Then with the war emergency of 1917 Springfield Armory’s entire production capability was consumed in making US Model 1903 rifles. So a licensing arrangement was again formulated for Remington-UMC to produce US Model 1911 pistols. However, World War I’s hostilities ceased on Nov. 11, 1918; much sooner than expected. Therefore Remington-UMC’s contract for .45 pistols was cancelled after only 21,677 were produced (Source: Remington’s own website).
Over nine decades later Remington’s current hierarchy saw that 1911 pistol popularity was a continuing phenomenon and decided to enter the market again. Interestingly, where many current makers of basic 1911 designs have seen fit to reproduce the US Model 1911A1 version with its arched mainspring housing, Remington’s new Model R1 sticks with the older US Model 1911’s flat mainspring housing. Remington did concede to modern tastes with a Model R1S. The “S” stands for stainless steel.
Usually when I hear about the introduction of a new 1911-style pistol I start to feel drowsy. It’s not that I don’t like 1911s—I own about a half-dozen at this writing. It’s just that there are so many 1911 clones, copies, and replicas in today’s marketplace. I couldn’t begin to list them all. Actually, I’m sure I don’t even know of all of them.
When Editor JJ asked if I’d be interested in trying the new Remington .45 autos I said sure, so he decided to double my work and have me shoot both the Model R1 and R1S. Anyone already familiar with 1911s is certainly going to feel at home with Remington’s new pistols. They are just about dead-nuts copies. Here are some specs. Barrel length is 5″ with a left-hand twist rate of 1:16″. Overall length is 8.5″, height is 5.5″ and weight is 38.5 ounces. Remington bills the finish on the carbon steel R1 as “black oxide” instead of bluing. The stainless R1S version has a brushed instead of polished finish. Grips on both models are walnut with very nicely done checkering. Remington advertises out of the box trigger pulls as 3.5 to 5 pounds. My samples’ triggers were both between 4 and 5 pounds with no creep
Here are a couple of features the new Remingtons have that were not on original 1911s. One is that you had better be ready to catch the magazine when its release button is pressed because it comes popping clear all on its own. Even better, though, are the modern sights. If there is anything about original 1911s I find distasteful is their almost useless sights consisting of a tiny nub staked onto the slide at the front and a likewise tiny notch in a dovetailed blade for the rear. Remington wisely made both front and rear sights dovetailed. Both are high profile using the 3-dot system for low-light conditions.
Here’s something else different with the new Remington .45s. Upon first taking one of them from its plastic container I found a barrel-bushing wrench resting beneath it. Now, of the dozens of various vintage 1911s I’ve fieldstripped none had a bushing so tight it didn’t easily remove with my fingers. Remington has tightened up tolerances with their new 1911s in order to have them deliver good precision without custom tuning. I quickly found the bushing wrench was necessary to dismantle the pistol for examination and cleaning. Otherwise it comes apart just as John M. Browning intended them to 100 years ago.
For shooting these two .45s I gathered up three current factory loads and two handloads. The current factory loads were Black Hills’ with 230-grain jacketed hollowpoint (JHP) bullet, Winchester’s with 230-grain JHP and Remington’s 230-grain JHP named “Golden Sabre.”
The handloads were those I use commonly in my World War II vintage M1 Thompson and M3 “grease gun” submachine guns and also in my US Model 1911 and US Model 1911A1. Both use 5.4 grains of Hodgdon’s HP38 powder with bullets being 230-grain full metal jacket (FMJ) by Zero Bullet Company and 225-grain cast roundnoses (RN) by Oregon Trail Bullet Company. Chronographing all six of these loads from both Remington .45s would have been redundant because I’ve clocked them from all my .45s previously. They all give from 775 to 850 feet per second depending on the exact gun being fired.
The Remingtons were fired from sandbag rest at 25 yards and groups ran in the 2-1/8″ to 3.0″ range for the most part. I admit to not being the best sandbag-rest handgun shooter around so such groups are about what I expected. There were some interesting turns of events, however. The Model R1 shot about 1′ low at 25 yards, meaning it needs a much shorter front sight. Out of curiosity I also shot it 1- and 2-handed at steel targets at ranges from 10 to 30 yards and it likewise impacted low below my point-of-aim.
The Model R1S hit a couple inches above point of aim at 25 yards, which means it could use a slightly higher front sight. Since these guns were loaners I didn’t bother to attempt sighting them perfectly for the next shooter.
There was one minor glitch worth reporting. All jacketed bullet factory loads and handloads functioned perfectly from both pistols to the tune of a couple hundred rounds fired total. The same was true of my jacketed bullet handload. The cast bullet handloads also fired perfectly from the carbon steel R1 but gave some chambering troubles in the R1S. This was caused by the .452″ diameter of the cast bullets coupled with the case wall thickness of some brands of brass being too fat for the R1S chamber. Remington has rightly seen fit to build these commercial 1911s with closer tolerances than used in military 1911s in order to make them accurate. Bullets of .451″ are fine, fatter ones may give troubles.
From what I’ve seen Remington’s R1 and R1S are perfectly adequate 1911 .45s at a very reasonable price. It’s good to see such a major name in American arms-making on 1911s again.
By Mike “Duke” Venturino
Photos By Robbie Barrkman
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