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Racking the Slide on a Handgun

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Duration:   5  mins

Using two different sizes—a full-size and a compact gun—for demonstration, Mandy Autrey of Gunlady Defensive Firearms Training shows an efficient and effective method for racking the slide on a handgun.


Improper Techniques

Many people come to Mandy and say they don’t have the hand strength to rack the slide. The reason they think that is because they’ve been taught the improper technique. With the slingshot method of racking the slide, people grasp the slide with their thumb and index finger, meaning they have to push the gun away from them, and that takes some of the strength away as they are getting ready to rack the slide.

Additionally, most people do not have a lot of strength in just their index finger and thumb. Placing the gun too far away from the body while pulling the slide toward you means you lose a lot of dexterity and hand strength. Overall, it’s not an efficient technique.

Mandy then details two other improper techniques that lead people to conclude they are not strong enough to rack the slide. Here’s an efficient way to accomplish it.

Recommended Push-Pull Technique

To rack the slide during handgun training, practice, and defensive use, start from the high compressed ready position—the gun is in close to the body, where we naturally do tasks such as opening jars. Grasp the back of the slide with all four fingers on one side and the meat of the palm on the other side. Squeeze these together to get a good grip on the slide. Do not cup it or wrap the thumb around the slide.

With this solid grasp, push forward with the strong (firing) hand while pulling back on the slide with the support hand, and let it go. The slide will get into full battery and work.

On a full-size handgun, it’s easier because you have more mass to hang onto on both the frame and the slide, and the spring is not as tight as it is on a compact gun. But the technique is the same for a compact!

Share tips, start a discussion or ask one of our experts or other students a question.

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8 Responses to “Racking the Slide on a Handgun”

  1. steve matthews

    nobody pays attention to lefty shooters. ejection is on right side, slide rack meant for tight handers. I shoot very well left handed and will not change. I rack slide placing hand in from of ejection not behind since that is only way. Plus then you would have to purchase left ejection port guns. Sucks.

  2. Carol Jamison

    Great video! Thanks!

  3. Jeff

    <strong>Ticket 38363</strong> Are there any techniques for opening the slide? In other words, the push-pull process works well to rack the slide, but how does someone with poor hand strength (my wife) rack the slide to keep it open. For instance, she can rack the slide with minimal difficulty, but is not able to pull the slide back while pushing up on the release button to keep the slide open. Any ideas for that?

  4. Gil

    I thought someone would chime in with the best method. Her analogy with the pickle jar is correct and would be applicable to racking the slide, unfortunately she does not explain it that way. She is correct, that the closer to the body, the more leverage. You would not open pickle jar pushing away from your body. You would hold the jar close to your chest and twist parallel to your chest. If you have to turn your body slightly to stay range safe, that would be acceptable.

  5. Gary Sackman

    Thanks for the tip on cycling the slide on my striker-fired Ruger SR-9 (9E). I have had it for about two years and the spring strength is amazing. I previously owned a Springfield 1911 and the difference in spring tension is radically different. The magazines for the Ruger are also tougher to depress and load. I bought a loader from Ruger for my pistol and now I can get a full magazine (17 rounds, loaded to 15), without breaking my thumb. Why do striker-fired pistols have to have slide springs so stiff? The only drawback to the slide retraction technique, is that the slide-lock lever is so small that I can't engage it with my thumb on the firing hand with the magazine removed. Thanks again. Gary

  6. Rusty

    Spring pressure not as tight as it is on a compact gun. Shooting a 45acp it takes xyz number of pounds of pressure to hold it back, it does not matter what size the gun is, full size compact or sub compact slide pressure spring pressure will be the same! Started out sounded like you knew what you were talking about, stick to what you know not what you think you know! Loose your credibility with your last words.

  7. Stephen

    Or use the slide stop/release

  8. gil angelotti

    Well done video, but there are better techniques that can be employed. As she pushes the gun away from the body, leverage and strength diminish almost exponentially. The gun should stay as close to the body as possible to gain the most leverage and to leverage the individuals given strength limit. Her explanation was good, but there are better ways.

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