Have you ever felt like a fragile flower because you had trouble racking the slide on your semi-automatic handgun?
Do you pass your weapon off to your boyfriend/brother/husband/grandson when you need to rack the slide?
Worried you won’t have time to do that in a real self-defense situation? (Hint: You won’t.)
“Excuse me Mr. Violent Rapist, could you hold on just a second while I call my boyfriend to come rack this slide for me?”
Thankfully, there is a secret to racking a slide for those of us with weak hands, and it doesn’t involve hitting the free weights at the gym.
It’s all about technique. Not muscle.
If you’re sporting a semi-auto pistol and having a hard time snatching that slide all the way to the rear, keep reading. We’ve got some tips to help you rack your sidearm like a badass, even if you have weak hands.
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You Don’t Need to Hit the Gym
You don’t need man hands and big biceps to rack the slide on your handgun. It actually takes very little muscle when you do it right.
There are plenty of shooters with man hands and big biceps that are doing it wrong.
The difference between them and us (Yes. I have felt like a fragile flower, too) is they have enough upper body strength to muscle their way through it.
The problem occurs when those big, strong guys (with plenty of testosterone on their side) pass their pistols to their sister/wife/girlfriend/grandma.
Unfortunately, they can’t walk her through the process of racking the slide because they don’t know the proper technique.
When she can’t muscle the slide back like they do, the guys chalk it up to weak hands or bird arms. While it may seem funny to you big guys, it leaves those poor girls feeling inadequate, helpless, and incapable of handling a modern pistol.
Don’t worry, ladies (or anyone else with weak hands). We’ve got you covered.
Here is a step by step breakdown of the proper technique for racking a slide. Practice up, and you’ll be racking that slide like a pro in no time.
Proper Technique for Racking a Slide
The secret to racking the slide on your pistol is to focus on pushing the weapon with your dominant hand rather than pulling the slide with your weaker side.
Sounds counterintuitive, doesn’t it? Trust me. Just follow these simple steps:
Grasp the handgun firmly by the grip using your firing hand. Keep your finger off the trigger and the muzzle pointed in a safe direction.
Place the heel of your support hand on the slide serrations and wrap your fingers over the slide. Grasp the serrations on the opposite side with the four fingers of your support hand. Do not cover the ejection port.
While holding the slide firmly, punch the firing hand forward. This isn’t the time to be dainty. The movement should be fast, strong, and forceful…like a good old-fashioned bar room punch.
Although you may pull the slide back slightly as you punch, the focus should be on punching the gun forward (or slightly angled to the side), not pulling the slide back.
Once the slide reaches its rearmost position, let it go. Don’t ride the slide forward or with your support hand.
Just let the spring do its job. I promise it doesn’t need your help. Riding or following the slide forward can cause a frustrating jam.
Other Tips and Tricks
If you’re still having trouble racking the slide even after following these steps, here are a few other convenient tips and tricks.
Don’t be Afraid of Your Gun
These weapons definitely deserve a healthy dose of respect, but I’ve seen far too many newbies handle their sidearm with nothing but their fingertips. It’s like they think the firearm might reach out and slap them if they aren’t gentle.
It’s okay to handle your weapon with some authority. If you don’t feel very authoritative, fake it ‘til you make it.
I promise you aren’t going to break your pistol. Those things are designed to withstand an internal explosion that produces internal pressures of somewhere near 27,000 psi every time you fire a shot (and that’s if you’re shooting standard 9mm).
A little hand pressure isn’t going to cause your pistol to crumble in your fingers.
Keep It Close
Humans are naturally stronger at their midline, so pull your pistol in toward your belly button to harness more essential muscle strength.
Also, make sure not to flare your elbows out to the side. Keep them tucked close to your body.
Use Your Shoulder
Still having trouble? Lean forward slightly and point your shoulder as you throw that punch with your dominant hand. You can also think about punching downward at an angle rather than straight out in front of you.
It’s easy to get caught up in the goal of racking the slide and in the process get careless with gun safety. Consider this a friendly reminder to always play it safe.
Resist the temptation to wrench the muzzle in unsafe ways. It’s easier to punch the pistol at an angle to the side than it is to punch it straight out in front of your body.
This keeps the pistol close to your body, so you can harness some extra core body strength. However, fellow shooters on the firing line don’t usually take kindly to muzzles pointed in their direction.
If you need to use this motion to rack the slide, turn your body sideways in your shooting lane, so the muzzle is always pointing safely downrange.
Finger Off the Trigger
Keep that booger picker indexed along the pistol’s frame, well away from the trigger. You want it high and out of the way.
As you strongly squeeze the slide with your support hand, your natural instinct is to also squeeze the gun with your shooting hand, which could cause you to subconsciously slip that finger into the trigger guard and pull.
This is called the sympathetic grip reflex, and it is seriously “no bueno.” The best way to prevent it from happening is to keep that trigger finger high up on the frame and well away from the trigger.
Don’t Cover the Ejection Port
The ejection port is the part of your pistol that all that hot brass comes flying out of when you shoot.
Never cover the ejection port with your hand.
Covering the port can trap a spent casing and prevent the chamber from being emptied when you rack the slide. This can cause a frustrating malfunction.
Even worse…you could be struggling with the slide and accidentally punch a primer causing the case to split (This is admittedly rare but not outside the realm of possibilities).
When the round detonates in the palm of your hand, it will cause an awful mess of blood and tissue that will really piss off your friendly neighborhood range safety officer.
If you still find yourself struggling even after following our tips, keep practicing. I promise it gets easier over time. Not only will practice help you master the technique, it also helps loosen up the pistol’s recoil spring.
Newer pistols have stiffer, stronger springs. With use, these springs tend to loosen up, making it easier to rack the slide.
Owning and carrying a firearm is a huge responsibility, and shooters need to be able to operate their weapon self-sufficiently. Follow our tips and you’ll be racking the slide like a rockstar in no time.
Have you ever had trouble racking the slide on your pistol? Did these tips make it easier? Do you have any tips of your own? Hit us up in the comments.
Looking for some handgun recommendations for women (that don’t involve copious amounts of pink)? Check out our Best Handguns for Women.
25 Leave a Reply
Can the spring be weakened on semi-auto type pistols?
Thanks for the terrific tip! Also glad to hear that the recoil spring will loosen up a bit over time. The one on my pistol is still pretty stiff.
I have Walther p99. It is so hard to rack the slide that it takes all of my strength to do so. I use your method and technique. Can this problem be fixed with a different recoil spring, lube? What? it has only had 30 rounds through it and has since new i have had a stiff racking problem. But now it is worse!
I recently switched over from shooting with my dominant (right) hand to my weak (left) hand, as I recently discovered I am left eye dominant and have trouble keeping my right eye on target when using it. I am a big, strong guy... And racking the slide with my right hand holding the firearm in my left was nearly impossible the first few times I tried it. Horribly sloppy and sort of comedic every time after. Admittedly, my hands are small for a man's, but very strong. Its been humbling, for one. Secondly, this article was immensely helpful - been around firearms on and off since I was 19 and no one, no one, has ever explained this. Another great topic covered by pewpewtsctical
My problem, thanks to arthritis and father time, is not so much racking the slide, but trying to hold the slide as I break it down the gun to clean the weapon. I have a Kimber Micro-9 Raptor.
Silicone pad for placing hot pots on the kitchen counter and grabbing hot handles. They'll fill out your hand so you don't have to close it as tightly and provide extra grip and friction on the metal.
Check out "silicone trivet" on Amazon for some ideas. Heck, you may already have some in the kitchen.
My problem, thanks to arthritis and father time, is not so much racking the slide, but trying to hold the slide as I break it down the gun to clean the weapon.
My trouble is that I recently suffered a severe spinal injury while I have mobility i no longer have the strength to rack my glock 17 Springfield Armory 1911a1 or my Walther ppk/s and the therapists don't know if I will get it back any suggestions
I had my left elbow injured in a car accident, so I couldn't rack a pistol slide for awhile. On Amazon they sell this gadget you put over the end of the pistol, push against a table/wall to rack the slide, it works. It's called the Handiracker (about $20, comes in two sizes, so double check before ordering. The 1911, cocking the hammer also makes it easier somewhat to rack the slide.
thank you! i have alot of trouble with my hands. loading and racking! i got a speed loader and its still kinda hard so i figured out to sit it on a hard surface first. maybe you have some tips for that too.
This is, indeed a good way to rack the slide, but is far from best.
Many weaker shooters cannot execute this effectively.
Best is to:
1. Rotate 90 degrees, weak side toward the target.
2. While rotating bring both hands to the sternum (center of chest). Arms touching body!
3. Strong hand holding pistol at ready pointed down range across shooter's body
4. Weak hand over top of strong hand and slide.
5. Grip the slide serrations between thumb & forefinger as if gripping a hammer handle or large knife.
6. Simultaneously push both hands across each other.
7. This is waaayyy easier than the method shown and much stronger where the strength is needed. Even smallest, weakest people can do this with even well known hard-to-rack guns.
Jim, I covered this technique four days ago, in fewer words. Just sayin'.
Agreed. Using the thumb greatly increases strength of grip on the slide. If the hammer is down on my 1911, I cock it first. Every little bit helps.
Always had a problem racking my 1911A1 - after viewing the pix's no longer a problem. Thanks!!
There's actually a correct way to rack the slide. Who knew? Thanks.
Thank you, Marcus. I feel a whole lot better about this now. Be safe.
So glad I found this training! It much easier, but now I still cannot flip up the safety with my right thumb after racking the slide back! I have a Sig Sauer P365. Any suggestions for the safety? Thank you, Muffycat
"Any suggestions for the safety?"
If your Sig P365 has one, don't use it. Good trigger discipline is sufficient.
My wife had a problem pulling back the slide on her Walther PPQ 9mm. She replaced it with the Walther CCP 9mm. Not only is the slide easier but it has less recoil even though it is a smaller lighter gun. Kudos to Walther for this clever design.
So easy, I had no idea I was doing it wrong all these years. Thanks for the very helpful article.
As you push forward with your dominant hand maximum your support hand's force by following through. If you hit your dominant hand's shoulder on the follow thru you are maximizing the flexion of your biceps and forearm. As always practice with an unloaded weapon: you ARE dry-firing at least once a week aren't you? :)
Very similar technique to the one above: Pointing in a safe direction, hold the pistol close in and across your mid-section, grip support hand over the rear slide serrations and push your hands in opposite directions to maximum rearward slide travel. Then quickly release the support hand.
Lock the slide open before inserting a loaded mag. Do this by using the slide lock, or by using a empty mag.
Good article. Also on pistols having an external hammer ( 1911, p226 ) cocking the hammer first reduces the amount of force necessary to run the slide.
Please practice this technique with an empty weapon