Just words “Rack The Slide” can sound like fingernails scratching on a blackboard or can cause you to feel pain in your arthritic hands. Racking the slide of your gun doesn’t have to be so. Believe it or not, it’s not about strength! You don’t need manly hands and arms to rack the slide effectively. It is all about TECHNIQUE. Many instructors don’t teach the proper technique because the technique isn’t as important to the stronger, larger handed male. They just do it. Well, for many women – that just doesn’t work.
The type of gun does play a role, typically the larger the caliber the firearm, the tighter and more challenging Racking the slide of your gun can be. Usually, .380’s and 9mm (and anything of a lower caliber) have fairly smooth racking. This IS something to consider when purchasing a gun and why it is so important to handle and try any gun before purchasing. You must be able to work all of the mechanisms properly on a firearm for effective and safe gun handling.
A semi-automatic pistol uses the energy generated by the firing of the first round and uses it to expel the spent casings and draw in the rest of the subsequent rounds from the magazine. The first round must be chambered manually to get the whole process in motion in a semi-automatic. To accomplish this, the first round held in the magazine, which holds the round and is inserted into the grip of a semi-automatic, must be “pulled” from the magazine and aligned with the barrel in the chamber.
Take a look at the video below which shows the action of a semi-automatic. (it is in slow motion so you can see the action, it is much faster in live shooting) You will notice that the slide moves to the very back of the frame and then slides forward and draws the next round into the chamber. As stated above, the energy that is expelled in the firing of a round is used to perform this action. Obviously, a “first” round has to be fired to set this all in motion. This is why we manually “rack the slide”, to get the first round into the chamber. Once the sequence is in motion, only a pull of the trigger is required to fire the firearm. Most semi-automatics will lock its slide open, automatically after all rounds have been fired from the magazine. Once a new loaded magazine is inserted, the slide only needs to be fully released to chamber the first round from the new magazine.
The most important thing to remember when racking the slide of your gun is this. PUSH not PULL.
The proper technique to Rack the slide of your gun is to PUSH your dominant hand firmly, the hand gripping the gun forward while holding the rear of the slide NOT pulling the rear of the slide backward. Here are the steps:
1. Grasp your gun with a dominant hand, with your trigger finger outside the trigger guard and with your non-dominant hand grasp the upper and rear end of the slide. Position your hand so the heel of your hand is nearest you with your other four fingers over the slide and grasping on the outer side. Not pinching it from the rear between your thumb and index finger. CAUTION: do not let your hand cover the ejection port as your hand can get severely pinched in it during the sliding action and blocking the ejection port can cause a jam.
Safety Note: As you grasp the slide, your trigger finger will naturally clasp as well, you must consciously prevent your finger from moving onto the trigger while you work the slide.
2. Bring the gun toward your middle belly (midline) keeping your muzzle pointing in a safe direction. Keep your dominant elbow braced in your side. Simply drive your gun hand and punch firmly (very firmly) forward while holding the slide firmly in place with your support hand toward your midline. Your support hand should not move. Think of this motion as punching the gun forward, not pulling the slide backward. CAUTION: No matter how much you struggle with this movement, do not let your trigger finger slip into the trigger guard.
3. Once the slide is pulled back to its rearmost position, release the slide completely. Do not “follow” or”ride” the slide with your support hand, let it go. The slide must slide unrestricted to properly chamber the round.
4. Bring your hands together at your chest and extend your firearm with a solid 2 handed firing grip and aim down the sight at the target.
I want to mention an alternative firearm for those of you that just can’t manipulate the slide effectively. There are 4 handguns that have what is known as a “tilt-up barrel”. These types of semiautomatics require no racking of the slide. You can tilt up the barrel and manually load the first round. It is the energy generated by the firing of the first round that is used to expel the spent casings and draw in the rest of the subsequent rounds. This is why the first round must be chambered manually in any semi-automatic. Once the first round is in the chamber – either by racking the slide or in the case of a tilt-up barrel, manually placed in, and the gun fired, the rest of the rounds are chambered “automatically”. Hence the name Semi-automatic.
*Important note: These are lower caliber handguns and I encouraged you to learn and master the above technique if possible. These alternative firearms range in size from a .22 through .32 caliber. Something to consider is that you give up stopping power with a lower caliber gun. In the event, you simply can not rack the slide of a traditional semi-automatic, the .32 is likely the better choice. But… Any gun is better than none when you need it! Carry what you are comfortable with and can shoot effectively and safely.
Taurus makes a model 22 and a model 25. Both are tilt up and the reflect their caliber.
Beretta also makes two models the Beretta Bobcat (.22LR & .25ACP) and the 3032 Tomcat (.32)