Your gun runs dry and the slide locks to the rear…
What do you do?
Do you use the slide release lever…or slingshot the slide to bring the gun back into battery?
We’ll go over what each one means, the pros & cons of each, and what we recommend for different scenarios.
Slide Release / Slide Lock Method
First things first…”back into battery” means means the slide of an automatic pistol has fully returned to a closed position. In battery means the weapon is safe to fire and will reliably fire.
A slide release / slide lock refers to a small catch on the side of automatic pistols. Not all automatic pistols have a slide release/slide lock, but the majority do. And they come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and locations.
On most pistols the slide will lock to the rear when the last round is fired. The slide can also be locked to the rear manually.
The Slide Release method is to first drip the empty magazine, insert a fresh magazine ,and press the slide release downwards to shoot the slide forward.
And here it is in action:
And at speed (from the other side):
The second method, the Slingshot Method, is to drop the empty magazine, insert a fresh magazine, grip the rear of the slide, and pull it to the rear. The slide will then go back into battery.
Again at speed:
The Best Method
I’m genuinely torn between which method I prefer.
The whole reason I chose to write this article was to try and make my own mind up.
However, here I sit, neutral still.
Let’s clear this up early, this is a personal choice.
You can listen to trainers and experts, but one method is going to work better for you, and your firearms.
I practiced round after round and magazine after magazine with both techniques. I used a wide variety of handguns to include the CZ 75 and CZ P09, a Rock Island 1911, a SW99c, and a Walther PPS. I practiced each method with each gun ten times.
What I discovered was interesting…
Slide Release Advantages
The slide release method was ultimately the faster of the two methods.
Pushing the slide release down requires less movement, and there is less of a requirement to change your grip. I say less because for people with smaller hands, or with bigger guns, they may have to change grips to reach the slide release.
I have XL sized hands so I can reach the slide release with ease on any of my firearms.
I cut my teeth with the Beretta M9 and its famous wide bottom grip. My thumbs can reach them, and in some cases I can hit the slide release without a single change in my grip.
This isn’t the case for everyone, and I am well aware of that.
That being said, in many folk’s situations, they will barely have to change their firing grip to get the weapon in action. Even if you have to change your grip you are still creating less movement than using the alternate technique to send the slide into battery.
This method also has the advantage of requiring only one hand to utilize while staying almost on target. The other hand may be full, carrying a child, or holding one behind you. This is an important consideration for those with potential hand disabilities.
There is also the fact one hand can become wounded in a violent situation.
Slide Release Disadvantages
There is some concern about the weapon not making it fully into battery.
In my testing I never observed this, however, I only attempted this with 5 handguns for ten rounds each in my initial testing.
Over the years I’ve alternated using and teaching both methods and never seen an issue. I often teach both methods to give my students so they have different options. This allows them to make an accurate choice in the manner.
Another disadvantage is that the slide release may be difficult for some people to press downwards. Some of these releases can be stiff and for those with reduced hand strength it can be a real issue. The slide lever may also be difficult to reach for those with small hands.
Most guns have the slide release button on the left side of the gun to accommodate right handed shooters. Left handed shooters may find this method difficult if the weapon doesn’t have ambidextrous controls.
One disadvantage I don’t buy into is the slide release is too small to activate. If you can activate that small magazine release button you can find the slide release.
Slingshot Method Advantages
If you view that little nub as a slide lock and not a slide release, your method includes grabbing the slide and pulling it rearward.
For all you enterprising Dennis the Menace gunslingers the slingshot method is perfect if you are left handed. This method is completely ambidextrous.
Also remember when I said some pistols don’t have a slide release? Well this method takes care of those to.
The slingshot method requires less hand strength and is better suited for shooters with smaller hands. It’s often easier to grip and rip the slide than press the magazine release for those with small hands.
There is also a certain efficiency of training you accomplish when using this method. Loading and clearing a malfunction involves pulling the slide to the rear. This is one more technique that makes use of the same movement.
In the process of writing this Eric brought up something incredibly important. This method applies to every automatic pistol.
Some pistols don’t have a slide release. For example the Kel Tec P32 doesn’t have a slide release, and the only method possible is the slingshot.
Slingshot Method Disadvantages
One of the disadvantages of using the slingshot method is speed. It is slower than simply engaging the slide release.
There can also be a training issue I’ve seen a lot with smaller guns, especially pocket 380s. People tend to forget to release the slide, and walk it forward. This is a sure way to ensure the slide doesn’t go into full battery.
The last disadvantage is the overall movement required to utilize this technique.
You have to release one hand from the weapon, grip the slide and pull it rearward, and assume a new grip. This is a lot of movement, it requires balance and proper training.
Throw in having to move in a gunfight and things get even more complicated. Not only that, but you have to readjust into a proper firing grip for maximum accuracy.
As a Marine machine gunner, I trained with the Beretta M9 quite often and this method could easily activate the safety on it due to the slide mounted safety. Slide mounted safeties on Berettas, some Walthers and other guns makes this technique an issue.
The gun community often seems to be a take it or leave it community. Meaning choose one method and train it as hard as you can in this situation. I personally hate limiting myself.
I like Glocks and 1911s, AKs and ARs, and I even like both 9mm and 40 S&W.
Why limit myself to one method when I could be good with both? Who knows when I’ll need one method over another?
My advice is to be adaptable.
Survival of species is often based on their method to adapt. In some situations using one technique or the other primarily is just common sense.
For left handed shooters carrying guns without ambi controls it makes sense to slingshot. For those with big hands like me the slide release method is lightning fast.
I’d personally prefer to learn both methods and realize the strength and weaknesses of both. Try not to bogged down into one side or another.
What’s your take…train with one for all guns or go the adaptive route?
20 Leave a Reply
I use both. As a lefty, slingshotting is generally friendlier. Additionally, slide lock/release is awkward for a left-handed shooter anyway, so the time lost on slingshotting is pretty much irrelevant, as it is pretty much evenly matched either way. I can and sometimes do, however, release the slide lock with my left hand. So, as seems to be the consensus, it's a matter of individual preference for me.
The more tools you have the more survival options you have. I train my students in both methods and educate them on the benefits and pitfalls of each. The advantage of slingshot in training is that is has common motor skills with malfunction clearing. The advantage of slide release is speed. Case one, fewer techniques to learn and be proficient with. Under stress this has the advantage. Case two, slide release gets you back in the fight a few fractions of a second faster. It could matter. Honestly, I like pistols that will slide release with an authoritative magazine insertion mitigating both methods. But then again, I have all three of these tools in my tool bag and am proficient in all of them.
fastest way of all will be having the slide release when you slam in the fresh mag. Now how to get that to happen every time not just once in a while.
So I only have a couple issues with these “different” types of styles for re-loading your firearm. My biggest and main concern is that using the slide CATCH (not release) is primarily for range style shooting or shooting in a controlled environment. Military and police are trained to use the method of grabbing the slide and pushing the weapon platform out and into the shooting position because in an uncontrolled rapidly evolving situation your body naturally begins to dump endorphins and adrenaline into your body and you begin to naturally pump your blood to vital organs (heart). This then causes you to lose most if not all of your fine motor skills. So I’m my opinion using the slide catch to release your slide is a fatal error you should not train yourself to do.
My second point is one that is allot simpler. A slide catch is there to catch the slide when the weapon is empty or for you to manually lock the slide to the rear when cleaning/clearing your weapon. Using the catch to release the slide while there is tension on the catch can in some cases damage the weapon.
Lastly, and most importantly train like you fight. That being said, static training is good for fundamentals but you should always train as if you were in a fire fight or situation where you’d have that “adrenaline” dump.
But alas that’s just a young cops opinion, take it for what it’s worth. Pardon the spelling errors
Trigger is fine motor skills. Aiming is fine motor skills. Mag release is fine motor skills.
Well, we’ve got to have a better conclusion to this question than merely ‘Yes, and no’. Furthermore the so-called ‘Slingshot Method’ is actually two methods rather than only one. The first method, quite literally, imitates the thumb and index finger grip that is used to draw back the rubber straps on a slingshot.
This method is, most often, used on smaller sized pistols that a large grasping hand might have trouble acquiring full purchase on. For instance, on occasion, I’ll carry a secondary size Walther PPK-S. This smallish pistol requires the use of the true slingshot method in order to quickly release the slide.
The second so-called ‘Slingshot Method’ is often referred to as the ‘Hand Over Top’ (HOT) method of quickly closing the slide. This is the type of rapid return-to-battery that many police officers and military personnel are trained to use. It is, also, the slide closure method that I, personally, strongly prefer to use.
‘Why’? Well, because if a pistolero should ever be unfortunate enough to find himself with ooey-gooey blood all over my hands, straight-off, I think he’ll be amazed at how remarkably slippery blood can be. Blood, or even lots of sweat, can make a small slide release/stop (You choose!) especially difficult-to-use.
So the ‘slingshot method’ is actually two methods, and not just a single way to return a semiautomatic’s slide to battery. The mantra goes something like this: ‘Take a firm grip and pull hard.’ ‘All the way back until the slide stops and, then, quickly open your hand/fingers, and let the slide snap forward under its own power to return to battery all by itself.’ (Do NOT ever ‘ride’ the slide forward with your grasping hand, OK.)
Which brings us to the third method of returning a slide to battery: Using your ‘strong side’ thumb in order to press downward on the the slide stop/release. Make no mistake! Using the slide stop like this is the FASTEST WAY to return a slide to battery. Consequently, and in my own experience, most ‘gun gamesmen’ favor using the slide stop.
Me, personally? For gun games I don’t care; but, if you accept the premise that ‘You will fight as you train,’ then it is equally true that ‘You will fight as you play (gun games)!’ I always use the hand-over-top method on large semi-autos, and the slingshot method on smaller semiautomatic pistols — The determining factor is the size of the pistol. (A large pistol goes ‘HOT’; and a small pistol goes ‘slingshot’.)
There’s, also, another consideration: I carried 1911, and P-35 style pistols for more than a quarter century. The slide stops on these pistols do NOT have the appearance of being ‘afterthoughts’ in the same way that too many of today’s pistols do. 1911 and P-35 slide stop/releases are very solid; and, they markedly contrast with the frequently seen flimsy sheetmetal stops and their anemic little operating springs that are presently in wide use, nowadays.
Now it might (might) be a language thing; but, during the first 15 years that Glock pistols were on the market, Part #26 (on the factory schematic) was labeled as being strictly a ‘slide stop lever’. It wasn’t until the rise of the GSSF that, all of a sudden like, Part #26 began to appear in Glock literature as a ‘slide stop/release’. (The reason ‘Why’ should be obvious; ……. it was all of those gun gamesmen using their right-hand thumbs in order to more quickly return their slides to battery!
There’s just one problem, though: Prior to the Gen5 Glocks, one of the most commonly seen broken parts on Glock pistols was this flimsy little lever, and/or its spring. (Happily, though, a Glock will still run with its slide stop/release broken. So will certain other pistols.)
When I, myself, realized just how flimsy Part #26 is on my Gen3 Glock pistols I was even more reluctant to resort to using it. Then, one day, I ended up with blood all over my own hands; and, after surviving the experience, I firmly made up my mind that the hand-over-top method of slide release was the best and only sure way to go. Today, if I play gun games, (and, sometimes, I do) then I always play as I fight; and I avoid thumbing Glock’s now, renamed ‘slide stop lever’.
Do other ‘gun gamesmen’ operate their slides faster with a thumb than I do by using my whole hand? Well, quite frankly, YES they do; but that’s not the right way to practice for CQB pistol combat; now, is it!
You WILL fight as you train; and you will, also, fight as you play, too.
David took my thoughts on this and actually typed them down. Total agreement here. Good article here.
I would say it really depends on the gun your using and the situation at hand during the time of reload.
What I mean by which gun you’re using is, certain manufactures actually recommend using the slide lock/release, such as Kahr Arms. Some people complain about failures to feed and/or go into battery using the slingshot method on some Kahr’s. Although, most people do not slingshot aggressively enough and “ride the slide” as you noted, causing issues. Kahr’s are built to tight tolerances and following their directions helps alleviate some “problems.”
As far as the situation, what I meant was, are you doing something with the other hand or have use of it? You also eluded to that in the article. Great reason to have rear sights with a flat edge so you can combat rack the slide (on a holster, boot, pocket, ledge/table/counter, etc) if you only have use of one hand, especially if it’s one of those guns that don’t have an external slide lock/release, such as a Beretta Nano.
Great points, Scott!
My M&P 9F automatically goes into battery every time I insert a new mag with reasonable force and I have come to like that feature although for whatever reason my new M&P 40 compact does not do it.
I recently read that H&K has a feature where it automatically releases the slide when you insert the magazine with some force. I tried it on a VP9 but found it worked about 70% of the time (I admit I really didn't want to keep slamming it in - but it definitely worked when using some force).
Hey Russell, thanks for writing in. I have that feature on my new M&P but haven't shot/reloaded enough to have a good estimate on the reliability of it but so far 100%.
I took a CCW class this weekend. My law enforcement officer instructor advised us not to use the slide lock to engage the slide. His reasoning was that there is a risk of the striker hitting the primer during a reload. I can't see how this may be an issue but I took him at his word. That said, at the range i have always used the slingshot method. When I'm clearing my pistol to put back in the safe i just release the slide lock.
Hey Jon, yea I'm not aware of this problem.
Eric, wish I would have asked. Had I read this before the class I might have thought of it. I'll see if I can contact him for further details. I've gained a ton of knowledge from this site from back to when it was called gun noob. I'd love to be able to give back if I can. Thanks!
It's all good Jon and keep on commenting!
Utter nonsense in a modern striker fired pistol...if the striker hits the primer prematurely there is something mechanically wrong with the pistol! And one would have much bigger problems I would ask for specific examples and referenced statistics! I am curious did this instructor also insist that every handgun should have a thumb safety as well? Even your personal defense weapon?
Holmes, this instructor was a big Glock fan, so I doubt he insists on thumb safeties lol. He also demonstrated what he called a "tactical reload" in which he slammed the mag in to bring it into battery. Not sure how I feel about that one yet. Think I'll just stick to the two handed approach unless circumstances dictate otherwise.
Hi, I was told by a gun instructor that the slide release consists of a notch in the moving part and if you constantly use the slide release it can cause wear on the notch and eventually it will not work anymore. My view. You may have to do this a few thousand times before the notch shows any wear. Anyway, something to consider.
Thanks for the insight Peter...I could see that it would take many times before there's some wear.