Best Slide Lock Reload Method: Slide Release vs Slingshot

Your gun runs dry and the slide locks to the rear…

What do you do?

Slide Lock, Crank
Slide Lock, Crank

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.

 

Glock 17 Diagram of Parts
Glock 17 Diagram of Parts

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.

Slide Release on a CZ
Slide Release on a CZ

And here it is in action:

Slide Release, TheOl1911
Slide Release, TheOl1911

And at speed (from the other side):

Slide Release, Range Time
Slide Release, Range Time

Slingshot Method

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:

Slingshot Method, Range Time
Slingshot Method, Range Time

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.

Testing Procedures

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.

Slide Lock Reload Guns
Slide Lock Reload Guns

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.  

Beretta_92_FS
Beretta_92_FS

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.

Lone Survivor, Slide Lock
Lone Survivor, Slide Lock

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.

Small Hands
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.

Conclusion

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?

11 Comments

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

      1. 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!

    1. 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?

      1. 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.

  3. 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).

    1. 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%.

  4. 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.

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