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.
WHAT IS THE RACKING OF THE SLIDE?
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.
RACKING THE SLIDE OF YOUR GUN TECHNIQUE
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.
Continue Learning How To Shoot A gun here: Making The Decision: Part 4 – How Do I Use A Gun?
*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)
20 thoughts on “Racking The Slide Of Your Gun”
That you so much for sharing this technique. I immediately got out my hardest racking gun which is a CZ Shadow, which I struggle with every time I use it. Using your technique it was a breeze. Again Thank You!
thank you as a concealed carry and gun safety instructor I demonstrate and show all my students as I feel that is just as important as other operation of the pistol
I love my hellcat but racking the slide is so hard, my one on one instructor said it would get easier with use. I had it taken apart for me and oiled it real good but still really hard. Sooo I bought a S&W 380 which is so easy, I love it too. But ammo is impossible right now. I will try your method with my hellcat, because this what I want to carry 13+1. Thank you, for sharing.
Good information. I was putting one in chamber and not using the slide. That meant I was only getting only that one and none from the magazine cause wasn’t racking slide. I thought it was misfired. When I first begin procedure on maintenance. I learned how to clean it and keep it safe. I carry concealed(in my purse. ). In holster. Now I feel more relaxed now that I realize it was me and not the weapon. Thank you for clearing that up
What is the tool called the “spider” to help with racking?
The Slide Spider is a great tool that creates a textured slide for a better grip. Here is the link for you Barbara: https://thewellarmedwoman.com/product/the-twaw-slide-spider/
Personally, I’d just buy a S & W Shield 380 EZ. Period.
I agree. I have this and racking the slide is indeed EZ.
Very hard to find. I’ve been looking for month’s
I bought last month Cabellas and my daughter bought this month also at Cabellas. Academy Sports also in stock. You can actually order online practically anywhere and have sent to a dealer near you for pickup . We found reasonably priced ammo from three different sites.
Absolutely love my S&W MP 380 Shield EZ. My daughter just bought identical model. We practice with Snap Caps by BDummies and use live practice rounds sparingly. Found several sites with Winchester JHP and FMJ without price gouging.
I have no idea where the term “racking” the slide came from or who coined it, but it sounds like it was coined by someone desperately groping for a term to describe the action of cycling the slide. Oh, what a great idea. How about “cycling” the slide. It sounds so much more professional and not like something one does to billiard balls. Does this sound like a peeve for me, like calling a magazine a clip, a cartridge a bullet, etc.?
Probably just a peeve for you. Never heard anyone else have a problem with it.
This is just the article I was searching for to let my wife get over her fear of “racking” her pistol. Thanks.
looking for a device for my Delta Colt 10 MM, to help with the pull back of the slide action for an elderly man with weak arm strength. NO DRILLING INTO GUN AS THIS MAY WEAKEN THE METAL….Plastic or rubber device is desired, Self clamping to end of slide action, also soft for CCW…NEED NAME OF COMPANY OR PHONE # ……If you Know of such device. Thank You.
Hi Cheryl, please check out this article, it touches on a few guns that are just what you are looking for! Best Guns for Women with Arthritis
I’m searching for a new gun to buy and finally realized I will have trouble racking the slide. (I’m 63) So now I need to find a gun that is easy. I have a Beretta 950bs with the tilt-up barrel but it’s so small every time you shoot it, you really feel it in your hand so I was looking for something somewhat bigger to reduce the recoil.
Did you find a handgun? I got the S&W M&P Shield 9mm EZ. Love it. Racking and mag loading are like using a .22. So easy.
Do you notice with the 9mm EZ shield that you can feel the rack retract to chamber the next round? I’ve never felt this before with other guns and was wondering if there was something wrong with it
Great explanation of the racking process! Thank you for putting this together and posting it~