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Big green goes polymer
From a small blacksmith shop that produced rifle barrels, Remington has become the largest United States’ producer of shotguns and rifles, and is not-able as the only American company to domestically produce both firearms and ammunition.
Remington has also developed or adopted more cartridges than any other gunmaker or ammunition manufacturer in the world. Today, its products are distributed to more than 60 countries, making its distribution base and availability wider than any of its competitors.
While most shooters are familiar with Remington’s long guns, many are unaware that the company has a long history of producing handguns. Beginning in 1858, it offered percussion and center-fire revolvers and single and multi-barrelled cartridge firing derringers.
During the First World War, Remington made M1911 pistols for America’s war effort. Between 1917 and 1927, it marketed the Model 51 pocket pistol. The unique bolt action XP-100 pistol, introduced in 1963, was famous for being chambered for high-performance, rifle-type cartridges.
In 2010 Remington re-entered the lucrative 1911 business with its 1911 R1 line which has grown considerably since then. More recently, we saw the release of the 9mm R51 and .380 RM380 pocket pistols, which diverge from the present trend in their all-metal construction.
I’m sure most readers will understand that by “present trend” I’m referring to polymer frame pistols. Since the introduction of a certain Austrian pistol in the early 1980s, most handgun makers of note have added polymer frame pistols – and in some cases revolvers – to their product lines.
It is obvious to anyone who reads gun magazines, belongs to a gun club or regularly attends shooting matches that today’s civilian, police and military handgun markets are dominated by so-called ‘plastic’ or ‘Tupperware’ pistols.
So it came as no surprise to me that a mere six years after re-entering the pistol market Big Green (Remington’s well-known nick name) announced the release of its first polymer frame pistol – the RP9.
I guess I’ve become a bit jaded in this line of work because when I first heard about the RP9 my initial reaction was, “Oh whoopie doo, another polymer frame pistol”. But after ruminating upon it for a while I realised that Remington was taking a big chance in entering the most crowded segment of today’s handgun market. If it was to succeed, the RP9 had better be able to compete with an awfully crowded field of competitors.
The RP9 differs from much of the competition in that it uses a steel chassis inside the frame that performs a number of functions. It provides strength and rigidity to the pistol, and has four integral steel rails that the slide reciprocates on. The trigger and sear mechanism, disconnector, safety bar disconnector and an ejector of truly impressive proportions are all located at the rear of the chassis.
An integral Picatinny-style rail graces the frame’s dust cover and allows for mounting lights, lasers or other tactical accessories. The RP9’s stainless steel slide has a lowered and flared ejection port, a massive extractor, dual grasping grooves and an extremely practical set of sights.
The front is a steel blade with a white dot insert while the rear is a ledge-style sight with a squared-off lip that allows one, in an emergency, to rack the slide one-handed against a belt, pocket or other gear. Both are mounted in dovetail cuts and can be adjusted for windage.
Breech-locking is via the front edge of the chamber hood bearing on the front edge of the ejection port. When the pistol is fired, the barrel and slide move together a short distance, before the barrel is cammed down on a shaft in the steel chassis, allowing the slide to continue to the rear, extracting and ejecting the spent case.
A captive recoil spring located under the barrel then pulls the slide forward, stripping the next round out of the magazine and chambering it. As the slide goes into battery the barrel is cammed up and its hood enters the ejection port, locking the two units together.
As is standard operating procedure with most polymer frame pistols, the RP9 is striker-fired. As the slide runs forward, a tail on the striker engages the sear which holds it in the cocked position. A complete stroke of the trigger trips the sear, allowing the striker to fly forward and fire the cartridge.
It is replete with safeties. The only manual safety is a paddle or lever on the face of the trigger which must be completely depressed before the trigger can be pulled. Two other passive safeties provide...well, more safety. A disconnector prevents firing unless the slide is completely in battery, while a striker safety can only be overcome by a complete stroke of the trigger. Lastly, an oval cut-out on the top of the barrel hood allows the shooter to see whether there’s a round in the chamber.
The trigger on the pistol I received to test had a short take up before a slightly gritty let off with 2.5kg of pressure. The reset was short and could be both felt and heard, which is a nice feature for making precise follow-up shots.
All RP9s come with three backstraps - small, medium and large - which can be changed simply by driving out a roll pin on the heel of the grip and lifting them off. You then install the desired backstrap and reinstall the pin. After trying all three I found the pistol fitted my hand best with the smallest one installed.
Shooters with small hands will be happy to know that the RP9 has the smallest grip circumference of its class of pistols on the market today. With the smallest backstrap installed, the grip measures 146mm just under the trigger guard, and 133mm at the bottom. These dimensions should allow a secure purchase for all but those with the daintiest digits.
Most polymer pistols have textured grips that range from rather smooth to others that feel like they’ll take the skin off your hands after a couple of dozen rounds. The grip on the RP9 looks smooth, but in fact provides a secure – but painless – purchase which greatly enhances recoil control.
Those shooters who use a grip with the support-hand trigger finger wrapped around the front of the trigger guard (are there any out there anymore?) will be happy to know that the texturing runs all the way to the front of the guard.
You southpaws out there will be happy to know that the RP9 comes standard with ambidextrous slide stops, however the magazine release cannot be switched from port to starboard sides.
Personally, I don’t see this as a shortcoming because left-handed shooters can manipulate the magazine release with their left-hand trigger finger, which is often faster and requires less movement than a right-handed person can do it with their thumb. By the way, the RP9’s all- metal magazine holds 18 rounds of ammunition – the highest capacity for 9mm pistols of its class.
To see how the RP9 performed, my wife Becky and I test fired it for accuracy from an MTM K-Zone rest at 15m with four brands of 9mm ammunition. The sights provided a sharp, clear picture and with a bit of nursing of the trigger I produced a series of well-centered groups, several in the under two-inch range.
We then moved over to the next berm and ran drills with it on a series of steel plates, firing from 10m. Thanks to the RP9’s nice trigger and large, easy-to-see sights, I was able to ring steel at a steady cadence. Recoil was very soft, allowing me to make fast, accurate follow up shots. Becky and I ran about 300 rounds of 9mm through the RP9 that afternoon without a single failure to feed, fire or eject. So much for a break-in period, eh?
All in all, I was impressed with Remington’s entry into the pantheon of plastic pistols. I believe it will be a player in the police and military markets, and would be equally suitable as a defensive handgun for licensed civilians. It should also be a contender for action pistol shooting.
Check it out. I don’t believe you’ll be disappointed.
Extra features: three interchangeable palm swells, ambi slide releases, accessory rail, spare magazine, cable lock, padded box and owner’s manual.
NOTE: Group size is the best of three, five-shot groups fired from an MTM K-Zone rest at 15m. Velocity is the average of five rounds chronographed 4m from muzzle.