The 1911 is one of those guns that comes with all sorts of lore and often sparks internet fighting.
One such 1911 topic is whether you can drop the slide on an empty chamber.
Seriously, internet people on gun forums love to argue about it.
You’ll see people say that dropping a slide on a 1911 a single time will ruin your trigger/sear/barrel alignment/credit score.
Others will tell you that John Moses Browning, the creator of the 1911, is like God in that he didn’t make junk — there’s nothing we mortals can do to hurt his design.
So, today we’re breaking it down and looking at whether it’s actually safe to drop the slide or whether that’s a cardinal 1911 sin.
Come see which side of the internet is right…
Table of Contents
Dropping the Slide
If you’re new to guns or you’ve never heard this before, you might be wondering what exactly we’re talking about.
When people talk about “dropping” a 1911 slide (or any slide), they’re not talking about letting it fall to the ground.
It’s a reference to the gun going into battery using the power of the recoil spring – all while the chamber remains empty.
Imagine you just unloaded your 1911 (and the gun is clear). The slide would be locked back, and you want to send the slide forward.
At this point, you can either hit the slide release or pull back on the slide, letting it slam forward. This forceful motion forward is called dropping the slide.
Alternatively, you can “ride” the slide, which means you pull the slide rearward then use your hand to gently slide it forward into battery.
But the issue lies with dropping the slide as some people see real issues with doing so on an empty chamber.
Some argue that dropping the slide on an empty chamber wears down the sear, which can lead to hammer follow — where the hammer falls to the half-cock position as the slide goes forward.
It also has the potential to wear a groove in the sear, leaving your trigger feeling gritty and heavier than it should.
Is it a Problem?
While wear and tear can be problematic, how likely is it to happen?
Here’s the thing about 1911s….there are a lot out there, and they’re all different. And as with most things in the gun world, it really depends on the make and model of your specific 1911.
If you have a crappy trigger job, a sub-par gun, or low-quality parts, then repeatedly dropping the slide could cause wear and tear rather quickly.
Poorly hardened sear engagement surfaces on cheap parts and/or engagement surfaces that have been polished or aligned incorrectly by a “gunsmith” who doesn’t really know what they’re doing are going to wear faster.
(This is where we pause to remind you that the value of a good gunsmith who knows what they’re doing can’t be understated.)
Alternatively, a finely tuned match gun with a light trigger faces potential issues…but dropping every once in a while probably won’t kill it anytime soon.
Not to mention, your Wilson Combats and your Colt Gold Cups feature better internals, so they’re likely to hold up better over time.
For mid-range 1911s outfitted with mil-spec triggers that feel like they’re full of sand already…well, you probably won’t notice a difference unless a hammer follow issue arises.
As with most contentious issues in the gun world, the answer to this question is…it depends.
There’s not a one-size-fits-all answer because there are a lot of 1911s of various quality and metallurgy on the market.
But if you want to guarantee you don’t run into problems down the road, then play it safe and don’t drop the slide on an empty chamber.
In the case of whether to ride the slide or drop it like it’s hot…well, as with most things in firearms, the truth lies somewhere in the middle.
At the end of the day, it’s your gun — so do with it what you will. But we highly recommend at least reading the manual and sticking with the manufacturer’s suggestions.
Do you drop the slide on your 1911? Want to yell at me for saying to use the slide catch as a release? Let me know in the comments! You can also read more 1911 stuff in our Best 1911 Upgrades or see which 1911s we recommend at the Best 1911 Pistols.
10 Leave a Reply
Wilson Combat expressly says, in writing, in the manual: do not drop the slide on an empty chamber. It voids the warranty.
I can't tell you how many times slides have been dropped and the 1911 continues to work as designed. I spent 23 years using the 1911 in the US Navy. Most of those rattled quite loudly when shaken and most of them shot great at 50 yards. When I went through SAMMI training they spilled out 20 1911s from a 20mm ammo can, those were the guns we shot for medals--I shot Expert with the gun that bounced across the table toward me. It was old, well worn, missing some finish, and rattled louder than an empty canteen...
I've known people who had "competition" guns that made this claim, but most of them didn't shoot any better than I did with that "piece of junk" I shot Expert with.
It’s ironic that you used Wilson Combat as an example of a gun capable of taking this abuse. Bill Wilson, himself, advises against dropping the slide on an empty chamber. In a YouTube video, he explains the damage done not just to 1911s but striker fired guns, as well.
I ride. Unless you're seating a round there's no reason to harden the mating surfaces. But I even release the tension when closing a pocket watch to not wear out the cover.
We did it all the time with our M9's but ride the slide forward with all of my Semi-Autos. Force is Force when it comes to the spring's power slamming that hunk of metal into battery and I'd rather not subject any of my guns to unnecessary wear
Good read i don’t drop the slide I glide it with my hand to slow it up always have done that no matter what kind of automatic I have
Wilson Combat will not honor their warranty if you like to drop your slide on an empty chamber.
Do what you want but the reality is it's harder on firearms over time. It's like being a gentleman or dressing like a sloppy pig, it all depends on one's standards. I promote best practices because I don't think much of iconoclasts or slobs.
So is this an issue on 1911s or on any semi-auto? Why wouldn't the same potential issues apply to any semi-auto?
We did it all the time in the Navy. That's how we were taught. It never occurred to me to do it any other way. Now realize that I was a submariner standing topside watches. Shot the weapons once a year to qualify.
Just like any other mechanical device, a babied gun will last longer than an abused gun. Know which kind of person you are, or decide which guns to baby and which ones to not, and accept the consequences. Some guns will take more abuse than others so understand the reality of what you own or buy and, again, accept the consequences.