How Women (Or Anyone With Weak Hands) Can Easily Rack A Pistol Slide

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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 female 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 (and in the upcoming video)

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.

Check out the video below:

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 amount 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”.

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Caleb
Caleb Lee is the #1 best-selling author of "Concealed Carry 101" and founder of PreparedGunOwners.com. He is a civilian (no law enforcement or military experience) who shares information about self-defense and becoming more self-reliant. He's a 1st degree black belt in Taekwondo, NRA Certified Basic Pistol & Personal Protection Inside The Home Instructor, Concealed Carry Academy Instructor certified & also a graduate of the Rangermaster firearms instructor course. He's also the author of numerous online courses including the UndergroundAssaultRifle.com course.

21 COMMENTS

  1. On the whole, two very good videos. I have just two nits to pick. In the initial picture at the top of the page, the woman has her weak hand cupped under her firing hand. She might be better served by being instructed to take a full two-handed grip on the gun, especially as it seems to have a higher than usual bore axis, which usually means more perceived recoil. My other point is that in the second video, the young lady is demonstrating with a hammer fired gun that has the hammer cocked. She failed to point out the advantage of this method, which leaves the user compressing only the recoil spring, not recoil and hammer springs combined.I know these are minor points, but they’re not likely to be known by a beginner, who is the target of this message. You have an excellent site full of useful information. Keep up the good work!

    • Thanks John.

      As for the stock photo at the top **SIGHS** You wouldn’t believe how hard it is to find stock photos where anyone knows how to handle a firearm lol

      As for the point about the spring and the hammer — great point!

  2. I have been disabled for 23 years. So I have lost a lot of strength in my hands. Your video showed me away to rack the slide. The best part is that I can rack the slide faster then I did before. I Thank you this information will be extremely great to know if I wind up in a gun fight.
    THANK YOU
    Rick Peterson

  3. Another trick to rackng a slide, is to,..first,..cock the hammer, because, if the hammer is not cocked first, then you are adding the weight of the hammer spring, to the weight of the slide spring,..But by cocking the hammer FIRST you deduct the weight of cocking the hammer from the act of working the slid.

    Also, if your gun does not have a ,..hammer drop,..mechanism, as in a Colt 1911 & you will need to lower the hammer by pulling the trigger, while you hold the hammer back, this can be very risky, in that , while you need to hold the hammer back, & lower it gently while you pull the trigger, the gun will fire,..’IF’ your thumb slips off of the hammer spur & the hammer falls free,..

    So,..instead of trying to hold the hammer back with your thumb, put your pinky finger, or an object, such as a ball point pen, or even a rolled up piece of paper, between the face of the hammer, & the firing pin, before you pull the trigger., & then slowly remove your pinky, or the object & let the hammer down easy,..This will not hurt your pinky, as long as you wedge your pinky between the hammer & firing pin in such a way as the hammer cannot gain speed, before contacting you pinky,..

    And, ALWAYS, wear hearing protection, when practicing, not only to protect your ears, but to prevent developing a ,..flinch,..from the sound,or a shot, which, can, in & of itself, be,very painful to the ears.

    Be sure to practice, this, with an ,..unloaded gun, so that you are sure of what you are doing,..

    Be careful,..

    • no. just… no. NEVER PULL THE TRIGGER UNLESS YOU INTEND TO FIRE! You said it yourself ~ it’s very risky ~ so don’t do it, especially as advice to (most likely) novices on a “better way” to rack a slide.

      This is completely impractical in an active shooting situation. Train the way you will shoot. This includes the ability to quickly & safely clear any potential malfunctions.

      The potential damage to the firing pin by lodging a foreign object in front of it & pulling the trigger is simply not worth it either.

      If you just cannot simply rack a slide due to strength issues (medical or otherwise) then sell the semi-auto & buy a revolver.

  4. Thank you for the tips on to rack a slide…I will practice this and get it down pat..I have a Sig and the slide seems stiffer than the Colt I had….

  5. To Jacks reply above. My wife cannot rack any of my semi automatics. I had to get her a revolver. Some women do not have the needed hand strength to rack a gun correctly.

    • Check out the Slideforce at bamcollc.com. It allows you to rack your slide with ease and expand the line of pistols you are able to use.

    • Check out the Slideforce. It allows you to rack your slide with ease and expand the line of pistols you are able to use.

  6. There is a devise called a “Handi-Racker” that is a tremendous (and safe) help in racking the slide of semi-auto pistols. I am 77 years old and have lost much of my hand strength. The Handi-Racker fits over the top of the gun. Then, holding the gun by its handle, you simply push the device against any solid object such as a wall. The Handi-Racker takes the place of your hand on the slide and is very easy to use.

    They come in various sizes from Small to Extra Large to provide a snug fit on most any gun. They are inexpensive and a “must have” item for anyone who has difficulty in racking a firearm.

    See the website at http://www.handiracker.com.

  7. Well done videos, and good guidance for so many of the people who have recently become first time gun owners. My wife is a very experienced shooter and a woman who lifts weights, so she has no trouble racking any of our guns. But not everyone is like that.

    We should not make fun of people who have no experience or gun handling skills, we should teach them and help them make the most of their chosen guns. As a NAGR Front Line Defender, I’m glad to see them providing support like this.

  8. Thanks for the videos. I teach this “Scissors” method to ALL students regardless of gender, age, etc.! I also teach a slightly different grip on the slide (curl fingertips to “even” them on the slide and use thumb to re-enforce index finger) and “winding up” of the shooting hand back towards the ribs. Video #2 mentions “leverage” multiple times and that IS the key to these methods. I describe it as a “Scissors,” “cross body” or ‘push-pull’ motion as it allows use of more muscle groups than any other method I have tried (more muscles used = less effort for any involved muscle). Even an 80 y/o arthritic woman could do this on a S&W Sigma!!

    Comments on comments…
    Agree with: Cupped Grip lead photo. Hammer back is ALWAYS easier to rack slide (use support thumb to do so). No chamber check on 2nd video and gun placed ‘closed’ on table facing camera (when her ‘safe direction’ was always parallel to the counter).
    Sadly, some people simply cannot rack a slide (especially if they ignore the advice in the videos or of their instructor!! They will struggle with a revolver or any other style of gun!!).

    DISAGREE with: Never drop a hammer with your finger on the trigger (overrides most safety devices)! If you must do so to a loaded gun, don’t buy that gun due to its poor design!! (CZ 75, old Taurus 92’s, etc.) On unloaded gun? Simple, take a ‘perfect’ dry press for just a little more practice when putting them away.

  9. Thanks !! I love to read all the information about the different guns, slides and grips. Maybe i’m old by
    some standers.(60) But i’m not dead. And i’ll defend and protect whats mine till I am. I am learning a lot
    here by everyone’s comments. I appreciate it very much. I have a sig. 380 I like it very much. But wonder
    if it has enough fire power? I also have a Ruger 9mm but I think its too much gun for me.
    I don’t know a lot of people who own modern hand guns, so comments I can learn
    from are appreciated. My son’s and I are just beginning to go to the shooting range. (So far just out on the
    ranch.) I’m hoping that ammo is less expensive at gun shows than in town. I can tell you that the notion that
    there is a “GUN SHOW LOOP HOLE” is a joke. So when the government tells you that, its just another LIE.! There are real people there. Who follow the rules. Love their Country. And just want their second amendment
    rights!!!

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