If you happen to have weak hands, or even if you’ve just never done it before, the simple act of racking the slide on an auto pistol can seem like an impossible task.
As a young, gun-loving male with a lot of experience, this simple fact is easy to forget but I see it almost every time with new shooters or really anyone that doesn’t have great hand strength and dexterity.
So how do you deal with racking the slide on an auto pistol without accidentally shooting yourself or someone else?
The Dangers of Having a Hard Time Racking the Slide
First off, the operation of a semi-automatic pistol requires that you rack the slide to load it. So, it’s an essential movement.
What’s more: the malfunction clearing techniques that you use with the pistol all rely on slide manipulation, so you’ll need to know how to do it.
It’s just a simple fact, if you’re going to shoot a semi-automatic pistol, then you need to know how to rack the slide easily and confidently any time you want.
Secondly, and more importantly, if racking the slide is hard for you then you are more likely to break the two most important safety rules — you might accidentally put your finger on the trigger or point the muzzle of the gun at someone while struggling with trying to manipulate your slide.
Don’t do it.
It’s necessary to practice the technique of racking the slide with a safe and unloaded (triple-check!) gun.
Racking the Slide Is A Technique That Anyone Can Learn …
There are a few keys to racking the slide that you need to understand, that will be explained more completely in almost any demonstration of how to rack the slide.
First, you are fighting the recoil spring in the gun. This is the spring in an auto pistol that sends the slide back into battery after firing a shot. Different guns have different strength recoil springs, and just as important, new(er) guns have stronger recoil springs (because these springs get weaker the more you use them).
In short, the more you rack the slide on your gun and the more you shoot it, the easier it will be to manipulate the slide.
This also means that some guns have easier to manipulate slides just by virtue of their design (more on that later).
Luckily, you have enough strength in your upper body (your chest, shoulders, and upper arms) to overcome these little recoil springs … but only if you use the right technique.
The Keys to Easily Racking a Slide …
One, use your strong hand to PUSH the gun instead of trying to pull the slide …
Two, use your bodyweight and hips to help push the slide. Your body weighs more than weight of the recoil spring, so you can do it if you put your weight into it …
Three, keep the gun in close to your body to increase your leverage …
If You Still Have Trouble Racking the Slide …
Then you probably just need practice.
One thing you should know is that, like all exercise, the more your practice racking the slide — the stronger you’ll get at that technique.
That’s because you’re building strength. It’s just like any exercise when you are working out. The first time you do a pushup your body has no idea how to do it and you’re really weak at it. Then you do it more and your body learns the movement and strengthens the muscles needed to perform the movement.
After practicing for a good number of hours …
If you seriously, legitimately, have put in a LOT of practice and you simply have bad grip strength in your hands due to worsening arthritis or some other medical issue then it might be smart to look into gear changes to help deal with the issue.
In short, different guns have different levels of difficulty manipulating their slides. For example, in this article there appears to be a Sig .380 pistol with a VERY easy to use slide that Tamara says is a great “Grandma Gun”.