Though it might seem like minutia, and ultimately probably is, there is great debate in the firearms training community about how one should rack the slide of one’s pistol. The contention arises over the cost/benefits of each method with regards to speed, robustness, general applicability over wider set of circumstances, which pistol is used, left/right hand appropriate, fine/gross motor skills, hand strength, and a host of other points.
I have no intention of settling any debates. I want to show you several different methods and give you the pros and cons of each method. You’ll decide which to practice and implement.
As a general rule, all slide manipulations should be done in the 24″ or so sphere in front of our faces where we have extra dexterity, visual acuity, and where we can still see what is happening beyond the gun in the background.
Overhand Rack Behind Ejection Port
This one is the gold standard in many entry level (and advanced) fighting firearms training programs.
- This works on most guns for a wide array of issues that guns have. It works for a stoppages, for a reload at slide-lock or slide-forward if you happen to ride the slide stop lever.
- Because it works for multiple problems, there’s less to think about. It’s more ROBUST.
- It works when you’re muddy, bloody, sweaty because you get maximum skin contact on maximum slide grooves.
- You can get a lot of racking force if your hands are weak by pulling with the slide hand, while punching with the gun hand. Creating force vectors in opposite directions.
- Touted as ‘gross motor’ and easier to perform under stress because you grab a chunk of slide and then try to rip the slide off the gun. As opposed to hitting little buttons. (I take issue with that ‘gross motor’ argument, since the trigger and mag release are also little buttons we access under stress… but I digress.) Photo time!
- It’s demonstrably slower. Your hand has to move from the gun, to your chest, and back to the pistol to reestablish grip.
- It can activate the safety on a slide-mounted-safety pistol (Berettas for instance)
- Requires two hands
This is the solution for slide-mounted safety guns.
- It really works on almost all semi-auto pistols.
- It requires more grip strength to pinch the slide with 2 fingers instead of the four finger clamp of your hand. When I was having grip issues a few years ago from chemotherapy, I couldn’t do this method.
- Requires two hands.
C-Clamp Grip in front of Ejection Port
I saw Frank Proctor doing this method in a youtube clip. He talks about it in his ‘deliberate load’ video. Relevant info starts at 1:13
- It’s fast. Your hands only need to fold back together to a full firing grip
- Can fix malfunctions and manipulate slide just like in the overhand and sling-shot method.
- Allows good view of chamber for press-checking status of gun.
- The proximity of muzzle to shooters hand is a little close for comfort. I could see a non-dedicated person flagging themselves easily.
- Requires a lot of hand strength. I DEFINITELY couldn’t do this method when I was grip-compromised. Forward cocking serrations are a plus.
- Double action guns, where you must overcome the spring tension of the hammer, makes this technique a little more difficult. Try thumb-cocking the hammer before attempting this.
- Requires two hands.
I used to shun the use of the slide stop (or release) button to get the slide to go home after a slide-lock reload. I was being a Tactical Timmy. I was dumb. And slow.
- The fastest way to send the slide home from slide-lock
- Can be done one-handed
- Can be done with either strong or weak thumb (if you’re right handed) depending on your digit length.
- It’s only good for letting a locked slide go forward. It doesn’t solve any other pistol issues (stoppages, etc)
- Some small framed guns with stiff recoil springs require an inordinate amount of thumb strength to release the slide with the button. My S&W shield is a culprit of this.
- Left handed people will need to use their trigger finger for this. Or not at all. (H/T Steve W. for reminding me of lefties)
Off of a nearby surface
This is a method of necessity and extenuating circumstances. By catching the rear sight or ejection port on a nearby surface, you can safely run the slide. This is a last resort measure.
- Minimal hand strength required. All you need to do is catch a surface with your gun, and lean on it. Your body weight and gravity are on your side. This was literally my ONLY recourse for running a slide when I was at my weakest in early 2015.
- Only needs one hand
- Any Surface will do. e.g. Belt, Holster, Car Door, Table, Face of scumbag you’re shooting, etc.
- Benefits from a flat ledge on the rear sight to get good purchase on your chosen surface.
- Muzzle direction can be an issue if you’re not careful. (Down and Away when racking off of your body/gear)
- Possibility of malfunction if you don’t keep ejection port clear when performing.
While it really shouldn’t make a difference for your practice, I generally prefer the slingshot method for most slide manipulations when the slide is forward, the Proctor c-clamp method when press-checking the status of my gun, and the slide release/stop button for slide-lock reloads. But don’t take my word for it. Test it for yourself. Both on a timer, and then after many many repetitions under varying conditions to see how high percentage it is. If your preferred method works only 60% of the time, but it’s faster than another method that works 95% of the time, I’d probably go with the higher percentage move. But that’s me. I’m risk averse.
Thanks for reading.
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