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What Makes A Pistol Go Out Of Style?

The world is full of firearm designs, models, variants and options, and we should be glad for it. But, the ones we have are the ones that “made it.” Some promising designs had problems of one kind or another, and they just dropped out of sight. Not all were due to poor quality—sometimes it was just bad luck or poor business decisions having nothing to do with the gun itself. Here are three pistols that, had things taken a slightly different turn, could have been major platforms in the gun world. Let’s take a trip back in time, shall we?

Hudson H9

When the Hudson H9 was announced, it was the best of all worlds in a 9 mm pistol. It had a 1911-like trigger—one that moved straight back. It was a striker-fired pistol with an internal drop safety. The barrel-locking system was arranged so the bore axis was lower than any other pistol, and the recoil system was lower still, making felt recoil distinctly (barely) upward. The magazines were derived from the Smith & Wesson 5900 series, so that alleviated those worries we all have about a newly designed pistol having untested, potentially unreliable or simply unavailable magazines. All this, and despite being an all-steel pistol it was no heavier than the general class of aluminum-frame 9 mms on the market at the time.

With the steel-frame version no longer in demand and the aluminum-frame model not shipping, you didn’t have to be a business-school graduate to anticipate the results.

I shot an H9 at the 2017 SHOT Show Industry Day at the Range, and then tracked down the company’s owner and told him, in no uncertain terms, he had to send me one for testing. It was that cool and exciting. He did, and I tested it, found the production pistol to be the equal of the demo model and wrote it up for several magazines. I even loaned it to another gunwriter so he could review it, that’s how hot a deal it was. It was the handgun of the hour, for sure. Taylor Freelance, the magazine-extension company, immediately put out a set of better-than-original baseplates for the H9 given the crazy demand for the handgun.

I suspect that enormous demand was part of the reason for the downfall of Hudson. As near as I can piece together the timeline (I’m a gunwriter, not a business writer), Hudson had a problem with the huge success of the H9’s launch: the company didn’t make all of the major components of the pistol. Its subcontractors could not deliver anywhere near what was needed to meet the volume of the orders Hudson received. Then, at the 2018 SHOT Show came the killing blow—something at the time I suspected was a big mistake, but hey, I’m just a gunwriter. Hudson announced its next pistol would be an aluminum-frame model. Just like that, orders for the steel-frame pistols evaporated. Who wants steel when you can have something even lighter? Hudson H9The aluminum-frame H9, the H9A, was going to shave 8 ounces off the original H9’s weight, making it the same weight as a Glock G17. But, the aluminum-frame model wasn’t ready and could not be delivered at all, let alone as fast as people wanted it. With the steel-frame version no longer in demand and the aluminum-frame model not shipping, you didn’t have to be a business-school graduate to anticipate the results.

In 2019, Hudson declared bankruptcy. I didn’t hear about it when it happened—I was busy writing—and by the time I was ready to send the sample H9 I had back, the company was no more. The gun was now an orphan.

While that particular gun might have nowhere to go, Daniel Defense bought Hudson’s assets in the bankruptcy sale, and this year introduced the Daniel H9 to much fanfare. It may yet revive this once-vaporware product.

Remington R51
Remington R51

Back in the 19-teens, John Pedersen designed a compact pistol for Remington called the Model 51. Chambered in .32 or .380 ACP, it was a pocket pistol with class. It had sleek lines—racy even—and it pointed superbly. At a time when point-shooting was still held in favor, the Remington Model 51 was much sought after. Alas, it cost more than its competitor from Colt, which was also racy and pointed well. That turned out to be a fatal blow, and the Model 51 ended its run in 1926.

The production pistols, however, had faults. A lot of them. So many faults that Remington quickly offered a recall for repair, replacement or cash back.

In 2014, Remington (at the time a part of what was known as Freedom Group) announced the R51, a compact 9 mm pistol aimed for the everyday-carry market. With a steel slide, an aluminum frame, a grip safety and an internal hammer, it had a lot going for it. It used an updated design variant of the same Pedersen hesitation-lock system that the original Model 51 had. As a bonus, it was lightweight at only 22 ounces, which made it lighter than even some polymer-frame 9 mm pistols. The R51 had a very low bore axis, and thus recoil did not end up with muzzles pointed at the sky. Remington tested the pre-production samples, and the company was satisfied. So satisfied, in fact, that it gathered a group of gunwriters to show it off to, and let them thrash the pistols on the range. Everyone was happy. Afterward, Remington sent samples out for review. All was still good.

The production pistols, however, had faults. A lot of them. So many faults that Remington quickly offered a recall for repair, replacement or cash-back. Gunwriters and magazines got savaged for offering positive reviews of a faulty pistol, which was unfair, as the guns they had tested all worked and worked quite well, but the reaction to the reviews not matching the poor quality of the production guns was understandable.

When the initial production rollout happened in 2014, consumer reaction was almost immediate, and R51s poured back to Remington for repair, replacement or refund. It wasn’t until the middle of 2016 that replacement R51s started heading back to their owners. With the problems solved, the “Gen2” R51s worked. However, with the model name now suspect, sales were—to be very kind—sluggish. Its failure, along with grotesque mismanagement, certainly contributed to Remington’s eventual downfall. By 2020, Remington Arms was no more, and the R51 passed into the pages of history.

How did this happen? One could point to the design and production problems of a pistol being a new product for a company that had been, for two centuries, largely dominated by designing and producing rifles and shotguns. But, Remington’s owner had purchased pistol manufacturers under the Freedom Group banner and had the skills and knowledge of those companies to call upon. Perhaps if testing had proceeded a bit further, it might have seen the problems.

Again, the Gen2 models, should you come across one, are reliable. One marketplace problem that would not have been obvious at the time was the shift in demand from single-stack to double-stack magazines in carry pistols. The R51 would not fare well today against a Springfield Armory Hellcat or SIG Sauer P365, as it lacks their capacities. That said, the R51 Gen2 can now be found for a mere $200 in some listings, and that’s practically a steal. Just be sure to stock up on magazines for your Gen2, since the R51 is unlikely to make a return anytime soon.

Remington R51 specs

CCF Raceframes
CCF Raceframes

Today, we accept customized Glocks as the new normal. We are even beginning to see metal-frame, striker-fired pistols coming to the marketplace. What if we could have had them a couple of decades ago? CCF Raceframes had that chance. The company was doing a complicated, but actually simple thing: It was offering aluminum and stainless steel frames made for Glock parts. You had to provide all the Glock parts to complete assembly, mind you, but being a Glock in all but name (and material), that wasn’t difficult.

CCF was between a rock and hard place. It could not lure away a top shooter, and as long as the top shooters kept winning, people would buy what they were using.

USPSA added Production Division in 2000, and all shooters in that division began looking for every advantage, real or imagined. The CCF Raceframes were not an imagined advantage. Adding weight to a Glock would shorten split times, reduce muzzle rise in recoil and improve scores.

You could have a G17/G34-size one for 9 mm or .40 S&W, or one specifically for the .357 SIG cartridge. CCF Raceframes added advantages like an extended beavertail, a 1911-style grip angle, replaceable backstraps and a lifted frontstrap. In the stainless steel version, the CCF G17 clone weighed as much as an all-steel 1911, and when built as a 9 mm, it was a pussycat in recoil. The company even added 1911-like rails on its frame, so the Glock slide would have a longer bearing surface, which theoretically boosted accuracy. It certainly didn’t hurt.

I had to have one, and in short order I did—stainless steel, of course. The first time I built it out, I simply stripped all the parts out of my G17, and I was ready to go. After that, it went through multiple iterations of slides, barrels and upgrades, with all the original G17 parts migrating back to the parent frame one by one. An extra detail that no one seemed to think about until they had tried a CCF was an improved trigger pull. Regardless of which connector/spring combo you used, it was better in the CCF than in the Glock. The polymer Glock frame “squishes” and moves a tiny amount each time you press the trigger, and the rigid aluminum or steel CCF Raceframe didn’t, making the CCF trigger pull cleaner.

So, what happened? Judging by the echoing void of information on the end-times, it wasn’t poor quality, it wasn’t bad design and it wasn’t poor marketing. Bad PR doesn’t seem a likely suspect—CCF Raceframes were featured on the cover of multiple gun magazines. I’d wager it was a simple thing: skill at shooting. The top shooters will win, more-or-less regardless of the equipment they have. Go ahead, trade pistols with
Rob Leatham at a match and see if it matters. It will not. (At least not to your standings. Leatham might win by a smaller margin using your pistol, but he’ll likely still win.) A top shooter has sponsors, and leaving one means foregoing that support. CCF was between a rock and a hard place. It could not lure away a top shooter, and as long as the top shooters kept winning, people would buy what they were using.

I am reminded of a scene from the movie “The Big Short,” where the investor played by Christian Bale refuses to sell, saying, “I’m not wrong, I’m just early.” The retort from his boss sums it up: “They are the same thing.” Sometimes, when early is too early, things just don’t work out.

CCF Raceframes specs

As you look in the counter of your local gun shop and see a pistol that you’ve never heard of—or have seen only in magazines—do not assume it failed because it was bad. Sometimes it was early. Sometimes it was a victim of bad luck. Sometimes it was designed by a poorly managed firm. And sometimes it was marketed so poorly, you never heard of it.

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