Burning Bridges... While Standing On Them.

nick leghorn
Nick Leghorn. Image via YouTube.

It is understandable that people can have widely differing opinions on a model of firearms, based on their differing experiences with the specific firearm or firearms in that model line that they have personally fired.

After all, neither design nor manufacturing nor quality control are perfect. This variance in quality is especially pronounced when a new model is introduced. That is why most people either refuse to buy “bleeding edge” technologies, or understand that if they do buy something that is new, that they can expect glitches, flaws, and yes, recalls.

I’ve typically refused to be a first adopter of new technology/new models for that very reason when it comes to completely new operating systems (does anyone remember Microsoft Bob?), electronics and computers, cars, and yes, even guns before it became my job to test them.

I’ve also come to understand that when new models of anything are introduced, leaders in the industry media are typically chosen for a “sneak preview.” This is often done by bringing media to a test location, where they are invited to test samples of the product. These are often pre-production samples. Engineers have typically spent a good deal of time tweaking this pre-production samples to get them “just right,” and then they try to pass along the tweaks they’ve made to the production line staff. Sometimes those tweaks are incorporated seamlessly. Other times they are not, or they are implemented haphazardly, so that some products work exactly as designed, and some don’t.

remington R51 pistol
The Remington R51 sample tested by Bearing Arms.

That seems to have been the case with the roll-out of the Remington R51. Members of the media were brought out to Gunsite Academy in November to test-fire the gun, and to a man, every journalist that I’ve read went on the trip gushed with praise for the pistols they tested. These were pre-production guns.

Several months passed between this shoot and the passing of the embargo date (a standard fact of life is that when you get to test cool new things, you sign an agreement not to write about them until the company is ready to make a formal produce release), and the writers who attended were finally able to published their reviews leading up to SHOT Show. The first generation production model pistols themselves were released, and it didn’t go well. MAC had bad experiences with several individual pistols, and while we saw great potential for the pistol in out own review, we also documented many troubling flaws.

As I noted at the time, the pistol I tested and samples that others had reported problems with wasn’t yet ready for “prime time,” but I felt that the design certainly held promise.

My overall first impression is that the Remington R51 is fun to shoot, accurate, attractive, and that it has a lot going for it. It may turn out to be a solid performer at it’s price point once it gets through the normal birthing pains that typically occur in the first year of the release of a new design.

Would I bet my life on it as my primary carry gun? No, not yet. But if the design becomes more reliable over time, I may very well have to consider the R51 as a good option for concealed carry.

This was (and is) my opinion of the early production run R51… take it, or leave it.

Other writers have had different experiences with the R51, and Richard Mann (who I haven’t met) apparently got an R51 that lived up to the promise in the design that so many of the early reviewers reported from Gunsite. I haven’t read his review in the print edition of Shooting Illustrated, but I’m sure I will eventually.

What I have read is one online writer’s reaction to the Mann’s review of the pistol, which was apparently glowing. That Mann wrote a positive review over a sample of the pistol that seemed to work well for him without mentioning the problems others had experienced was apparently enough to send this writer, Nick Leghorn, completely off the deep end.

Leghorn apparently felt that Mann’s review must have been dishonest, and that it represented a form of corruption that applies to all print gun magazines. If you want to read Leghorn’s rant I’m sure you can find it. I’m not giving him any traffic.

Are there problems with print gun magazines and their business model? I honestly don’t know, because I’ve never been in print in a gun magazine (my monthly print column Bearing Arms is featured in Townhall Magazine, which is not a gun magazine). I do recall that subscription-driven gun review magazine Gun Tests was established because of that theory.

I also know that Mr. Leghorn apparently has an axe to grind with Shooting Illustrated that seems quite personal, as noted by Sheriff Jim Wilson:

While I don’t know much about the R51, I do know a good deal about Richard Mann. He is my friend. We have hunted together from Africa to Newfoundland. He knows guns; he knows terminal ballistics; he knows hunting; and he has a fine family who are also my friends. More importantly, Richard is an honest and honorable man. If he says the R51 shot well for him and he likes it, then I believe him. But… wait…. there’s more.

According to Mr. Leghorn it would seem he thinks that all of us in the firearms print industry are on the take. But he went on to let something slip… what we in law enforcement used to call a clue. You see, Mr. Leghorn just recently applied for a job as an editor at NRA Publications and Shooting Illustrated and was turned down. My question to Mr. Leghorn would be, “If we are all lying bastards, why are you trying to go to work with us? Do you want to be a lying bastard, too?”

Like Mr. Mann, Sheriff Wilson has a reputation as a straight shooter.

I think he just nailed Nick Leghorn where it counts.

5/23 Update: Michael Bane of Downrange.TV and Kevin Creighton of Misfires & Light Strikes both weigh in with their opinions on the subject.

Bane: Conspiracy Theories, Alien Abductions and Slander
Creighton: Nick Leghorn Doesn’t Read This Blog