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S.P. Fjestad's Lethal Blogging
  S.P. Fjestad is the author of the Blue Book of Gun Values, and has been following the firearms marketplace for nearly 30 years. Fjestad is also the publisher for several other firearms-related titles and he also serves as an editor for many of them. He attends several trade shows each year including the SHOT show, NASGW show, and the Tulsa Arms Show. He also serves on the NRA publication committee and writes “What’s It Worth” in Field & Stream, and “I Have This Old Gun” in the American Rifleman magazines.

In “Lethal Blogging,” Fjestad will report on several firearm-related subjects including news from trade shows, auction results, and other interesting subjects that arise in the gun industry. Check back regularly for information that many people outside of the gun industry might never hear about!
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Blue Book of Gun Values 2014 Top Ten Firearms Industry Awards - Part 1

Every year, armsmakers and others in the firearms industry roll out their best and brightest new products at the annual SHOT Show, and it always seems that there are a handful of standout new guns and products that either rewrite the book on the physics of gun-making or dazzle us with unorthodox engineering. We are always drawn to those that exhibit exceptional innovation or are of historic importance. In every instance, there is something very interesting about the gun/product featured here and why it is worthy of mention in this article. Prepare to be astounded, enriched with history, and enticed to add to your collection.

Image courtesy Remington

Remington R51

This is a new design based on a very old design and a very old armsmaker, E. Remington & Sons. When you look at the new R51, your eye immediately notices the semi-auto pistol’s retro chic lines and you think, “Where have I seen that before?” If you are a collector, the immediate answer is in the gun’s name, R51. The basic design and engineering of this new 9mm +P pistol dates back to the early 20th century and the original Remington Model 51. Although the Model 51, built from around 1913 to 1926, (it was not formally introduced until 1917 but was designed in 1913) was a smaller caliber pistol chambered in either .32 or .380 ACP, the 21st century R51 version has stepped up to 9x19mm. The R51 is retro in appearance but right in step with the latest 9mm +P semi-autos on the market. Built with an aluminum alloy frame and stainless steel slide, the gun is a modern version of the John Pederson design scaled up to handle 9mm and provide all the modern features demanded by today’s shooters including ambidextrous magazine releases, and the original-style grip safety to eliminate the need for a manually-operated safety lever or integral blade-type trigger safety. A contemporary of John Browning, Pederson designed a handgun with an extremely low bore axis and that too has been maintained in the new R51. Features include a modern version of the Pederson block design to absorb recoil energy, smooth, rounded edges for ease of carry, and classic Model 51 styling updated with an undercut triggerguard, interchangeable grips, drift adjustable front and rear sights (and an optional Crimson Trace Laserguard version), low resistance slide effort for easier chambering and clearing of the gun, and a light trigger pull. The original Model 51 was known for having a very heavy trigger pull. The R51 measures just 6-5/8 inches in length (exactly the same as the original gun) with a 3.4 inch barrel, has a height of 4-5/8 inches, weight of 22 oz. (only 1 oz. greater than the 1917 pistol), and 7+1 capacity. To say that the Pederson design is historic in nature may be giving the gun too much credit, as it was not overly successful in the post-WWI era. The design, however, is a classic and a collectible firearm that has, in its own unique way, transcended time and its own demise to be reborn in the new century. Bravo to Remington for combining heritage and modern technology in a new 9mm pocket pistol. Retail price for the standard model will be $420.

Boberg XR45

The “wow” factor in gun design cannot only come from styling, but size. Make something really big and it will almost always attract attention, but remake or reengineer that same idea into something really small and it will attract a following! This is the world of arms designer Arne Boberg. Today, there are very few manufacturers who have truly redefined the basic operation of semiautomatic handguns like Boberg. His semi-autos use an innovative reverse magazine feeding system and rotating barrel, locked breech design. The subcompact models put down a smaller footprint than semi-autos with comparable barrel lengths and calibers, without compromising power, accuracy, or creating a firearm that has harsher recoil. While new technologies in guide rod and dual recoil spring designs have helped mitigate this to some extent, the vast majority of 9mm or larger semi-autos employ a variation of the John M. Browning short-recoil mechanism. The Boberg doesn’t, but John Browning’s genius is still a part of the Boberg’s innovative engineering. The gun uses a variation of Browning’s 1897 patent for the rotating barrel system [1], but the Boberg magazine loads rounds from the back, nose forward, angled down, and the magazine sits under the barrel rather than behind it! When it is fired, the next cartridge is drawn from the rear of the magazine and brought up to the level of the rotating barrel and then inserted straight into the chamber. This design eliminates the need for a feed ramp (which, according to Boberg, increases muzzle velocity by approximately 5%), and allows a longer barrel length in a smaller frame and slide, essentially a barrel that is greater in length and equal in proportion to the length of the cartridge and feed ramp. On average, the Boberg’s barrel is more than one inch longer than a comparably-sized subcompact pistol. So here’s the kicker. The latest model unveiled at the SHOT Show is chambered in .45 ACP, making it the smallest .45 Auto ever designed! The gun measures just 5.77 inches in overall length with a 3.75 inch progressively-rifled barrel, 4.4 inches in height, and just over 1 inch in width. Capacity is 6+1 with a carry weight of 21.5 oz. (empty). For its innovative design the Boberg, priced at $1,199, is a significant new handgun.

[1] To be fair, a rotating barrel is also used by Beretta in the PX4 line derived from the Beretta 8000 Series Cougar models first developed in 1995. But long before Beretta, Steyr used a rotating barrel in its Model 1912 produced through the end of WWII. Today, rotating barrels are also used in STI’s GP6 series manufactured in the Republic of Slovakia and based on that maker’s Grand Power K-100. So while the concept is hardly new, the way in which Boberg has adapted it certainly is.

Image courtesy Boberg

Click here for Part 2 of Blue Book of Gun Values 2014 Top Ten Firearms Industry Awards.
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