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In many ways the story of Remington is the story of America, and that’s not surprising given that the company, sometimes known as Big Green, is nearly as old as the nation itself. In fact, it is celebrating its 200th anniversary this year. Brimming with Yankee self-sufficiency, Eliphalet Remington II was sent by his blacksmith father to purchase a rifle barrel from a neighboring gunsmith and study the process. This involved heating and hammering a long strip of metal around a mandrel that when removed gave the finished product its rifling and caliber.
Remington and his father set up the same system at their blacksmith shop and the young Remington built his own flintlock rifle from scratch. It was this first “Remington” that he used in a local shooting competition. He didn’t win, but the quality of the rifle so impressed other shooters that he left that day with a sheaf of orders for new barrels and the start of a brand new enterprise. Remington Arms was essentially born on that day in 1816.
By American standards, 200 years is a long time to still be in business and remain successful, but Remington has withstood the years and produced some impressive and extremely popular firearms. The latest Remington offering seems at first to be outside of their wheelhouse, which for decades was firmly ensconced in the rifle and shotgun market. The Remington RM380 is a distinctive pocket pistol chambered in .380 ACP and almost entirely the opposite of what Eliphalet first built.
- Chambering: .380 ACP
- Barrel: 2.9 inches
- OA Length: 5.27 inches
- Weight: 12.2 ounces
- Grips: Polymer
- Sights: Fixed
- Action: Double-action-only
- Finish: Black
- Capacity: 6+1
- MSRP: $436
This is not, however, Remington’s first pocket pistol. During the Civil War Remington produced a single shot derringer pistol as well as a rather clever six-shot derringer that used six independent rotating barrels. These were never produced in large quantities and examples are rare today. However, between 1866 and 1935 Remington did manufacture well over 100,000 two shot derringer pistols.
Of course Remington produced other handguns as well including the popular New Model Army cap and ball revolver used by both sides during the Civil War. During World War I Remington (then known as Remington-UMC) produced over 20,000 1911 .45 ACP pistols. There was one other early Remington that might be considered a pocket pistol, or at least a compact pistol. The Model 51 was chambered in .32 ACP and .380 ACP and made from 1919 to 1926. It was designed by John Pedersen who maybe best known for developing the rare Pedersen device that turned a 1903 Springfield rifle into a high-capacity, semi-automatic rifle. Remington brought a redesigned version of this gun in 9mm called the R51 two years ago which had some production issues that have since been reportedly resolved.
The RM380 however signals Remington’s full entry back into the handgun market (they already produce an array on 1911 pistols). With this pocket pistol they are covering the bases from full size to compact to sub-compact. The only thing missing is a revolver.
The RM380 is a semi-automatic pocket pistol chambered in .380 ACP with a six plus one capacity. This double action only hammer fired pistol features tilt barrel locked breech operation and all metal construction. No polymer here except for the grip panels which can be removed and replaced for a more custom look and feel. Remington’s own extensive testing found that the RM380 has a useful, no repair needed lifespan that is thousands of rounds past any of its competitors. Every pistol is fired with a full magazine before it leaves the factory and random production guns are put through extensive torture testing.
I shot an early prototype of this pistol, firing over 100 rounds on a gun that many others were also shooting. It was reliable and accurate with one problem. The right side grip panel had loosened with use and this was causing a trigger linkage blockage preventing the gun from firing. Remington has addressed this issue in their final production guns by adding a third grip screw and I tested the production gun again with hundreds of rounds fired by myself and others with no further issues.
The 2.9 inch stainless steel barrel is blackened like the slide and features an enlarged cone design for a tight lock up between barrel and slide, improving accuracy. The steel slide also features actual sights machined into it. These are very low profile and snag free but also a bit hard to acquire. Adding a bit of white paint to the front sight might improve visibility; however, adding higher profile sights would require dovetailing the slide.
The slide itself features and external extractor and wide serrations for easy manipulations and the frame is made from 7075 aluminum which keeps the pistol very lightweight but also helps extend the gun’s durability and longevity. Remington’s own testing of the RM380 against other polymer-framed pocket pistols revealed an operational lifespan thousands of rounds greater.
The front strap of the frame features aggressive checkering for a very firm hold, although I would have added checkering to the back strap as well. The trigger guard is undercut to allow for a higher grip providing better control of the pistol. The higher grip also brings the bore more in line with the hand helping to reduce perceived recoil and muzzle flip.
Remington has also optimized the grip angle for improved comfort and a more natural point of aim. The small but distinct beavertail at the back helps prevent slide bite and allows for a more instinctive grip. The polymer grip panels are also checkered for an improved grip and customizable aftermarket grips will be available.
Another pleasing feature is the slide stop on the left side of the frame. This securely locks the slide to the rear on an empty magazine or manually. It is rather small and difficult to use as a slide release but not impossible if so desired. The small triangle shaped magazine release is located at the rear of the trigger guard and is fully ambidextrous with a push button release. The magazine release sits below the thickness of the grip panels so there is no danger of the magazine being inadvertently released say during pocket carry. The magazine release is also aggressively checkered, easy to use and allows the steel magazines to drop free.
The steel hammer is bobbed flat with the rear of the slide for a very smooth and snag free draw. It should be noted that there are no external safeties on the RM380 while there is a passive internal block within the slide. According to Remington the RM380 has been tested using S.A.A.M.I. Jar-off, Drop & Rotation criteria and passed, so it is safe to carry with a live round in the chamber according to their testing.
There is a loaded chamber indicator window at the top rear of the barrel that can be seen from the ejection port. That said this is a double action only pistol and the steel trigger has a long pull that measured on my trigger gauge at nearly 10 pounds. It also requires a full release to reset so fire it like you would a revolver. The hammer fired system also allows for a second strike capability in case of a hard primer—a welcome feature.
Internally the RM380 features a dual spring recoil system around a steel recoil guide rod. This system works very well and helps to reduce recoil while also making the slide easy to operate, something those with weaker hands will appreciate. The clever dual spring design also extends the need for replacement to 2,500 rounds. Remington also includes a spare magazine with the gun which features a good sized finger extension that allows almost a full grip on the gun.
If the RM380 looks familiar to some that is no coincidence. Remington bought the rights to the Rohrbaugh R9 and based the RM380 on its design. However, Remington made significant changes, most notably the chambering in .380 ACP instead of 9mm (although Rohrbaugh did offer a .380 ACP version). If you look at the top of the RM380 magazines you can see a spacer as these are, or were, 9mm magazines as in the original design. Remington moved the magazine release from the heel of the grip to the more familiar position at the rear of the trigger guard, added the slide lock and changed the recoil spring system to make it much more durable.
The original Rohrbaugh R9 was a well-received pistol, notable as possibly the smallest 9mm pocket pistol available and featuring an extremely smooth double action only trigger. They were never produced in large numbers, however, and were also distinctly expensive with an MSRP of nearly $1,200. Remington not only improved the design they also cut the cost significantly to a much more manageable $436.
Disassembly of the RM380 is straightforward. Simply remove the magazine and check the chamber to make sure the pistol is unloaded. Then retract the slide slightly to line up the disassembly hole on the left side of the slide with the internal unlock pin. If you tilt the gun towards the left and tap it the pin will fall out or it can be pushed out from the other side. This will then allow the slide and barrel assembly to be removed out the front. The firing pin assembly can also be removed in a manner similar to that of a 1911. Reassembly is simple with one slight hitch; the rear of the guide rod must be lined up with the barrel block and above a very small guide rod lip. You will know right away if you did it wrong as the unlock pin won’t go back in. The manual is comprehensive, well-illustrated and easy to follow.
On the range, the RM380 I received for testing performed just as well as the production samples I had previously shot. I did have a slight hiccup at the start with the flush fit magazine. When fully loaded with six rounds the slide would lock open after the fifth round fired with another round still in the magazine. This odd malfunction occurred with the first three full magazines I fired and never again after that and it did not occur at all with the spare finger extension magazine. Chalk it up to a slight break in period, but if there is any doubt in your magazine reliability make sure to replace it.
The small pistol does an excellent job of absorbing recoil and only just starts to get slightly uncomfortable after 100 rounds or so. It should also be noted that Remington specifically warns against using any +P or +P+ ammunition. This was also a warning included in the original Rohrbaugh R9. The long trigger pull takes a bit of getting used to for those of us now accustomed to striker fired guns, but it is smooth and consistent with a clean break.
For accuracy testing I fired off hand at 7 yards. Better accuracy results could certainly have been achieved firing from a stable bench rest but that is not how this pistol is meant to be used. It is a defensive pistol and I tested it as such. Group sizes across three different types of hollow point defensive ammunition averaged about 3.5 inches at that distance and certainly good enough for any defensive use.
The Remington RM380 is not the smallest or the lightest or the cheapest .380 ACP pocket pistol you can buy, but it is could be the most durable and appears to be exceptionally well made. Remington planned the roll out of this gun very well indeed, and a Crimson Trace LG-479 red laser unit is available as well as several holster offerings including from Crossbreed and Recluse. The RM380 will also fit most any of the standard pocket holsters.