Racking a Pistol Slide: Devices to Supplement Your Technique

Racking a Pistol Slide Devices to Supplement Your Technique

Racking a Pistol Slide Devices to Supplement Your Technique

I have noticed and received comments from those who have difficulties racking a pistol slide. They desperately want some help, device, or tips for racking their semi-automatic pistol slide and operating their gun more easily and safely. Many are women and some are men with less upper body, arm, finger, and hand strength. Some are physically disabled or impaired by age because of certain medical conditions, syndromes, and diseases that directly affect gun manipulation, control, and use. Some say that if someone lacks the manual dexterity and/or strength to rack a pistol slide, they probably should NOT be using a firearm. Others strongly disagree and say that they are the ones most in need of help handling their pistol. This is a very personal and emotional matter. Usually and generally, I initially suggest a refinement and practice of their slide-racking technique because I believe, and have proven to myself, that most of the time shooters do not know the proper technique for racking a slide, or do not regularly practice it. See my previous article “Racking the Pistol Slide: Technique Not Strength” on this website on 1/7/13. But, certainly the solution is not always about technique and leverage because physical strength can be greatly diminished by severe medical conditions, personal abilities, and disabilities like arthritis and Parkinson’s Disease. Shaking hands, frequent twitches, stiffness,  pain, decreased range of motion, and diminished fine motor skills, etc. must be considered.

Brass Stacker Slide Pull Charging Handle

Brass Stacker Slide Pull Charging Handle

 

Before possible solutions are generated and the problem solved, the use or purpose for the gun must be understood, specific personal limitations that affect handling the gun recognized, the goal stated, and the specific problem defined. What is our primary use for the gun? Is it mainly for home defense or carry purposes? Understanding this may open up more alternatives to consider, like maybe a long gun option which might be better suited for some individuals and more controllable to use in the home, but certainly not for concealed carry purposes.

Handi-Racker Pistol-Assist Device

Handi-Racker Pistol-Assist Device

 

Perhaps, the stated goal is to be able to load, unload, clear stoppages, and operate the gun efficiently and safely. Realistically assessing the strength level and health of the individual and its impact on safely handling a gun is an important initial step. Some have pre-dispositioned themselves to believing that they cannot rack the slide. They may not have sufficiently practiced and trained in the proper technique to do it. Or, perhaps a gunshop salesman has convinced them that they absolutely need a revolver because they cannot rack the slide. But maybe that revolver has a heavier double-action press that is even more difficult than racking the slide and thus may affect accuracy because of the added movement. Maybe it is a grip problem. Be aware that becoming so focused on racking the slide may create safety problems, like not paying attention to safety rules and placement of the trigger finger on the trigger while racking. It varies so much and these variables relative to the goal must be considered individually.

Brief Summary of Over-the-Top (OTT) Technique of Slide Racking

Of the several slide-racking techniques, the OTT Technique of racking the slide works best for this old codger and for my arthritic wife. The force required to accelerate an object of a given mass by a given amount will always be constant, but the difference between pushing and pulling is that people are different with varying muscles, joints and tendons and related strengths. So our energy expenditure varies and pushing feels easier for most because the point of contact with the gun can be braced up against the body, allowing you to use your big driving muscles (quadriceps, etc.) much more efficiently. To me when you pull, you have got to try to keep your arms rigid to transfer more of your driving energy into the gun, burning more energy just in your arm muscles than when you push.

So here is the OTT Technique we use. For safety reasons, remember to keep the pistol pointed down range with the ejection port up and practice with an unloaded gun. Rest the gun above your waist and really close to your body for better leverage, while using your support hand to grasp the rear slide serrations over the top of the slide. The heel of your support hand should rest on the inside, left-side serrations (for a right-handed shooter), while you grasp the outside, right-side serrations with all 4 fingers of your support hand. Your support hand thumb is at the rear of the slide and does not grasp the slide. Then you PUSH the gun forward with your strong hand, rather than solely PULLING the slide backwards with your support hand. This method may not be as fast as the Slingshot Method, for example, but it does give you the most powerful grip on the slide because you are using more fingers and the heel of your hand for added strength. Again, the key is to PUSH the gun forward with your strong hand. It is best done with the pistol close to your body where the pistol is suppose to be when it is not being fired. This technique works quicker for me and seems more flexible and efficient for racking in many different situations. A lot of shooters agree with me, but you practice both and decide for yourself. Be aware and do not point the muzzle to your left (for right-handed shooters) or support side, while performing this or any slide racking method. This is dangerous and might harm other shooters in the area.

Slide-Racking Devices

In addition to the proper “push” motion and “close-to-the-body” aspects of a proper slide-racking technique, I am aware of two devices that might help those medically or physically-challenged with safely racking a semi-automatic pistol slide. There are probably others. The ones I am familiar with and have tried are the Brass Stacker Slide Pull Charging Handle and the Handi-Racker Pistol-Assist Device. Here is some information about theses two and my opinions.

Brass Stacker Slide Pull Handle- My Glock 19

Brass Stacker Slide Pull Handle- My Glock 19

 

Brass Stacker Slide Pull Charging Handle 

Brass Stacker Slide Pull Charging Handle

Brass Stacker Slide Pull Charging Handle

This tool to help with pistol slide racking is made of two metal halves machined from lightweight aluminum with a hard coat anodized finish. They are connected together with a pin and a bolt to form a handle with a loop that attaches to the rear of the gun’s slide. It attaches easily without any modifications by aligning the grooves in the handle to the rear last 3 serrations manufactured into the slide and then tightening the handle with the supplied hex wrench for a secure fit. It functions as an easy-to-grab loop at the rear of the slide to allow the shooter’s index finger of the support hand to grab the loop and easily and safely pull it to the rear, while the strong hand firmly holds the pistol in place. The handle did not come off when I shot about 20 rounds through my Glock 19 at the range and it seemed to be securely attached. I would think you would have to regularly check the screw tightness to ensure proper fit, function, and safety.

MSRP: $42.

Availability: Currently made for most Glocks and the Springfield Armory XD; others are being developed.

Some Considerations: I discovered that it is important to not put too much support index finger in the loop when grabbing it and starting to rack the slide. If so, there is a chance that you might cause a malfunction or stoppage, although a small chance. Practicing with the charging handle will develop your muscle memory to avoid this. For me, the handle loop I added to my Glock 19 for trial did sit high enough on the slide, so that it did not snap forward after racking and injure my hand or cause a slide “bite.”  Also, it did not obscure my sight picture. The handle does add about an inch or so of total length to the rear of the gun, so it complicates carrying some guns concealed. But you probably do not want to add this particular device to your gun for that purpose anyway. I found the slide pull charging handle to enhance the leverage when racking and I can see how it would help those with limiting medical conditions and weakness in hands, fingers, and arm strength. However, for me I felt much more comfortable racking the slide my usual way using the OTT Technique, but I do not have major medical conditions or weaknesses in my hands, fingers, or arms to really test its effectiveness. Some of my students, however, did find the handle to be helpful with their medical conditions and weak strength in their hands/fingers. Not having handles fitted and available for a wide variety of pistols is a delimiting factor at this time. I do recommend the handle for those with severe medical conditions and weakness in their hands, wrist, and fingers who have difficulty grasping slide serrations. However, this should not become a crutch or substitute for not learning the proper and safe technique for racking a pistol’s slide.

Handi-Racker Pistol-Assist Device 

This is a tool designed to help people rack the slide of their pistols. It is a block of plastic that fits over the muzzle end of the front of the slide. It has a cutout channel in the front to allow the front sight to fit there and is channeled to firmly press against the front of the slide and allow the barrel to protrude forward. After placing the Handi-Racker (HR) on the pistol, you place the HR against a hard surface and push the frame of the pistol forward to thus rack the slide.

MSRP: $24.99.

Availability: Currently 5 sizes available with some examples: Small: Keltec P3-AT, Ruger LCP, S&W Body Guard .380. Medium: Keltec PF9, Ruger LC9, Kahr CW9, Bersa .380. Large: Most Glocks, Springfield XD & XDM’s, S&W M&P’s, 1911’s. X-Large: .45 cal Glocks, Springfield .45 XD & XDM’s, S&W M&P’s .45, Hi-Point .45’s. Beretta and clones.

Some Considerations: This device is a very basic way to help folks rack a pistol slide very simply. Shooters can, as an alternative, simply hook the muzzle or front sight on a belt buckle or holster edge and push (with only their single strong hand) the muzzle of their gun downward quickly to rack the slide. Also, a lip of a table or a solid object’s edge can be used to accomplish racking the slide with just the strong hand and many practice this for an emergency situation. While the Handi-Racker device is made of a solid and quality plastic and functions well, it seems a shooter could use a less expensive block of wood or a surface’s edge to accomplish racking. However, someone physically challenged or with weak hand, finger, and/or arm strength could find this device easier and safer to use. A matter of personal preference and medical necessity. There are sights that have a steep enough angle to catch on a belt, holster, shoe, table top, etc. to help with racking. Some very reasonably-priced Ameriglo CLAW emergency sights for Glocks, S& W M&Ps, and Springfield Armory XDs have a curved edge that is designed to catch on objects when working the slide with one hand. Availability of 5 device sizes to fit a very wide range of pistols and simplicity of operation are advantages. Decide for yourself if the advantages outweigh the disadvantages of this device for your personal needs and medical condition.

Conclusion

I hope this information has helped you think about the proper technique of racking a slide, as well as some possible devices to assist and make it easier and safer for those of you with medical conditions or physical limitations to rack your slide. Of course these devices are not for everyone, so carefully decide for yourself if they meet your goals, purposes, and uses. They should not be a replacement for learning and applying the proper technique and how to properly and effectively rack your pistol’s slide, even in emergency, one-hand only situations.

Continued success!

Contacts

Chris McAninch
Handi-Stacker
www.Handi-Racker.com
Grimes, IA 50111
(515) 480-4905

Steve Wait
Brass Stacker Products, A Division of TGR Enterprises, Inc.
www.BrassStacker.com
Candler, NC 28715
(828) 665-4427

Photos by Manufacturers and author.

© 2015 Col Benjamin Findley. All Rights Reserved. This article may not be reprinted or reproduced in whole or in part by mechanical means, photocopying, electronic reproduction, scanning, or any other means without prior written permission. For copyright information, contact Col Ben Findley at [email protected].

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  • Dick

    One other thing to consider if you have slide rack issues, get a revolver. It worked well for my wife.

    • Col Ben

      Dick, Just a thought: Almost ALL DA revolvers have a longer and harder trigger press than do any semi-auto DA (or single action of course) pistol… making it more difficult to be accurate to stop the bad guy-gal because of the added movement to force the trigger to go bang. Frequent practice is necessary for accuracy with any gun, of course, but more so with a DA revolver. Folks can learn how to properly rack a semi slide and it is not just a matter of hand strength. So folks should not automatically conclude that a revolver is best; a positive attitude, a willingness to try before you buy, understanding proper technique, and hands-on practice before deciding are key. Whatever works for any individual, of course. Continued success!

      • bobfairlane

        Look at the Armscor .38s. The company makes a $200 5 shot .38 that has a very easy trigger press, and a transfer bar firing mechanism. It’s very light, too.

        • bjensen

          Armscor also makes quality items!

          • bobfairlane

            I thought it was pretty neat. Not a museum piece, of course, but something to take camping.

  • jar1807

    This is very informative. I’ve had left hand surgery that has reduced strength in that hand. Slide racking is doable but, as time goes by it seems to have gotten more difficult. Thank you, this helps.

    • Col Ben

      Randy C offers a good suggestion. I tried one on my Glock 29 and at first it worked great. However, once the set screw got a little loose the device wouldn’t reliably grab the slide. And worse, if it creeps down and in the way when you need it to work it can jam things up and get you killed under emergency conditions where speed is of the essence and there is no time to de-bug any parts that interfere with anything else. Thanks for your otherwise great writings. If I’m not whining about something or another, the other 99.9% has gotta be good.

      Come to think of it, if they added a strap of metal as part of the device that would ride over the slide to hold the thing up and correctly in place (like suspenders holding up a beltline) the thing would be a lot safer and more dependable.

      • bill

        If the racker is mounted as shown the slide will not move forward and pistol can not br dissambled

  • TexasJester

    Thanks for this info – I have forwarded the article to my mother, who is retired and disabled with a neuromuscular disease that weakens her muscles.

    Some days she has the strength to rack a slide with no problem; other days, she doesn’t. And those days won’t stop the baddies from giving her grief, so ….

  • Sir TuberKopf

    A method taught by IDF is to go down on one knee, same side as gun hand, and use the bottom of your shoe to operate the slide, by catching the rear sight on the heel of your shoe.

    This method is very reliable, and also has the advantage of potentially moving you out of the line of fire while racking the slide. It leaves you able to fire from a stable accurate kneeling position, or allows you to come up firing from behind cover. This alternate method for operating the slide is intended to provide a means to rack the slide if you are wounded, your other hand is otherwise occupied, etc.

    Even healthy uninjured adults may find it impossible to operate a slippery slide that has oil or even blood on it acting as a lubricant, a technique like this is important for everyone to practice. Put painters tape on your slide to protect it from scuffs and scratched during training if scratching your weapons finish is an issue.

    There are YouTube videos on IDF tactics that show how this is done!

  • Big Al

    One technique is to hold the slide and push the grip forward. A woman has a video on youtube showing this, and it does make it easier. The little “aids” that you show are OK for the range maybe, but if you carry your pistol, you need to learn how to rack a slide without any type of “aid”. Your life may depend on it.

    • Col Ben

      Al, Thanks for reinforcing the exact slide racking technique I suggest in this article and my previous article referenced about how to properly rack a slide… and exactly what I said in my Conclusion: “I hope this information has helped you think about the proper technique of racking a slide, as well as some possible devices to assist and make it easier and safer for those of you with medical conditions or physical limitations to rack your slide. Of course these devices are not for everyone, so carefully decide for yourself if they meet your goals, purposes, and uses. THEY SHOULD NOT BE A REPLACEMENT FOR LEARNING AND APPLYING THE PROPER TECHNIQUE AND HOW TO PROPERLY AND EFFECTIVELY RACK YOUR PISTOL’S SLIDE, EVEN IN EMERGENCY, ONE-HAND ONLY SITUATIONS.” Success!

  • kobe519

    Thank you for the info. It would have been great to see in the article how to 1 hand rack a slide such as if your injured, like using the back side of the knee/thigh or another object with a sight if it’s a must. But like always you still have great info.

  • Idahoan

    My wife EDC’s a Sig238. Among other personal choices she wanted in her EDC pistol, the slide on this pistol is among the lightest/easiest I’ve ever racked in all of my firearms experience. I’d highly recommend it for those who find it difficult to rack the average pistol and are looking for something with a high degree of concealability.

  • TRUBOOST

    i am of the belief that if u cant physically operate the gun EVERY TIME, then you are likely more of a hazard to others than what protection you can offer. If you cant rack a slide its also likely you arent goin to manage recoil very well. Sounds like a recipe for disaster. If anything i would recommend a very small caiber revolver. Something with a reasonbly light trigger pull like a ruger LCR in 22 magnum.

  • USACarry

    This has been fixed.

    • Cnon

      Thanks

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