Slamming the Slide

Slamming the Slide

Slamming the Slide

On a semi-automatic pistol, is it all right to allow the slide to slam into battery without a round chambered?

Whether or not I am familiar with a semi- automatic pistol, I will hold the slide while releasing it and then hold it to let it slide slowly forward. Some guns are susceptible to breaking stuff (extractors mainly) if the slide is allowed to slam into battery with no round chambered. On some pistols, slide damage could occur (or damage to those components that are stressed due to the slide slamming closed on an empty chamber).

If the pistol has an external hammer, I hold the hammer while pulling the trigger and then slowly lower the hammer. I do the same with revolvers; I never let the hammer fall on an empty cylinder.

Consider this; with a loaded pistol, and when releasing the slide, its forward momentum is buffered to an extent. (This is one of the reasons most manufacturers recommend pulling the slide all the way to the rear before releasing it to chamber a round. The slide travels a greater distance, overcomes the resistance, and fully chambers the round. If you release the slide by using the slide lock, and depending on the recoil spring tension, the round may not fully chamber.) A round is picked up from the magazine (a resistance), the round enters the chamber mouth (another resistance), and slides into the chamber (hopefully a slight resistance) as the slide moves forward. The extractor(s) slides over the rim, and the bolt face comes to rest against the “chambered” round. You can actually feel and hear these events taking place. With no round chambered there is nothing to “buffer” the slide’s forward momentum and you usually hear metal-to metal contact. That is not a good sound.

Hollywood loves to have slides slam home on pistols and rifles, and cylinders spun and slammed home on revolvers, because it is a dynamic effect for the audience. I cringe every time I see this.

In my opinion, allowing a slide to slam home on an empty chamber is not a good thing to do. Other opinions may differ. However, I do follow the rules that follow when handling guns that belong to others as well as those I own:

  • Do not let the slide or action slam forward in Automatic Pistols on an empty chamber. I hold the slide and then allow the slide to close slowly.
  • Do not allow the hammer to fall uncontrolled on an empty chamber. I use the thumb of the shooting hand, or hold the hammer with my left hand, and control its fall.
  • Do not fling or slam the cylinder shut on Revolvers.
  • Do not let the bolt slam forward in Semi-Automatic Rifles and Shotguns. (unless chambering a round).
  • Do not quickly and forcefully close the bolt on bolt action Rifles, Lever action Rifles and pump action Shotguns and Rifles.
  • Close break action Shotguns, Rifles, and Pistols with care.

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  • While I agree with most of what is said here, it would seem to be user preference when it comes to dry-firing revolvers.  Smith and Wesson even specifically says that this will not harm a center-fire revolver, I believe, and I also think it’s helpful to improve your trigger-squeeze skills.  That being said, the comment about Hollywood and spinning cylinders — has it ever bugged you that they ALWAYS make the ratchet sound when someone spins a revolver’s cylinder while it’s hanging out to the side of the revolver?

    • Jwalker3181

      That noise drives me crazy!

  • Anonymous

    ok

  • Alf

    Many action competitions require that semi-autos dry fire (pull the trigger without touching the hammer) to insure the chamber is empty.   

  • Anonymous

    I’ll go with user preference.  However, there is absolutely nothing wrong with the above suggestions.

    Alf, the only way I would dry fire my semi-auto to insure the chamber is empty would be if I had personally removed the magazine, locked the slide back, visually checked the chamber, and returned the slide to battery myself.  Then, with the weapon pointed in a safe direction, I would consider dry firing.  You describe exactly how an unloaded gun kills someone…Just sayin’

  • Lynque

    The “Hollywood” technique illustrates the missing of a basic point about responsible gun ownership and handling.

  • Gregg Sheehan

    An Australian shooter who beat me in last year’s New Zealand National Service Pistol Champs gave us some coaching while he was here. I brought up the concept of “snap-caps” to use while dry firing our S&W 686’s for practice. He said not to bother with snap caps. He personally has dry-fired his revolver in excess of 1 million times per year for the last 5 years with no ill effects. In fact he used that revolver to beat me and create a new record in the process!

    • Derby

      ” He personally has dry-fired his revolver in excess of 1 million times per year for the last 5 years with no ill effects.”1 million times per year equals 114 times per hour — every hour of every day in the year.  If he dry fires that often, when does he have time to shoot actual ammo?  Or sleep?

  • Mark

    I do precisely as recommended EXCEPT when in timed competition, I close the break action shotgun a bit enthusiastically because I’m in a hurry…

  • Fourthrowe

    I always released my slides gently until one day my friend was handling my Para P14 and dropped the slide. I watched in horror as the hammer followed the slide and came to rest on the half cock notch. I had a condition common to 1911’s known as hammer follow, and if the half cock notch had failed I would have discharged a round (or a magazine) next time I loaded one. I reassembled the trigger (correctly this time) and will always drop the slide empty to check for hammer follow.

  • Jaypaesch

    great info..Thanks

  • Jack

    Being new to guns, I slammed my slide on a band new semi-auto pistol about 40-50 times, thinking I was helping to break-in the pistol. Is it possible that I damaged my pistol?

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