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Technique & Skills

How To Rack The Slide On Your Semi-Auto Handgun



Racking the slide of a semi-auto handgun can get frustrating to new shooters, especially women. Read on and learn the proper technique to make racking easier than you ever did.

Semi-Auto Handgun | Racking Tips and Techniques

Racking a pistol slide is also called “running” or “working” the slide using manual effort. When you shoot a semi-auto handgun, gas pressure resulting from the firing cartridge racks the slide automatically. Manual racking is necessary to load and unload a gun or clear a malfunction. If you intend to carry a semi-auto, you must understand how to accomplish these things with the proper technique.


1. Setting Up the Perfect Slide Rack

Many people, with the good intention of keeping the muzzle in a safe direction, bend over, extend their arms, and point the muzzle at the ground in front of them. This is a physically and tactically weak position, which negates your peripheral vision and makes you an easy target for attack in a chaotic environment. Extending the arms puts the gun farther away from you, making it easier to steal in a criminal situation, and making the act of racking harder.

2. Primary Hand Grip

Grip the pistol correctly, with the web of your dominant hand as high as possible on the backstrap, and plant your trigger finger straight and on the frame. This gives you maximum control and leverage.



3. Stand UP!

Stand up straight, with upper arms rested on your sides. Bend your elbows so the gun is within a foot of your face. Notice you can still keep the muzzle downrange or whatever direction is safe. You can also see and maneuver quickly if needed.

4. Support Hand Grip

With your support hand—not the hand that presses the trigger, grab the slide on the serrations the manufacturer put there. The correct place is on the rear of the slide, behind the ejection port. The ejection port needs to be clear and free to release any round or brass you want to get out of the gun. And of course, you don’t want your hand pinched in the port when the slide snaps shut. Grab the slide using an overhand grip, with your palm facing the ground and your hand, wrist, and forearm in a single straight line.

5. The Train and the Tunnel

With the gun gripped in your dominant hand, close to your body as described, and your support hand over the slide serrations, drive the firearm forward powerfully—like a train steaming down the track. Imagine your grip on the slide being like a tunnel, one that’s too low for the train. Use the power of your core in this motion, pushing your gun-side shoulder forward.


Here's a short video about how to rack a slide by National Association for Gun Rights:

Remembering and practicing these techniques are useful in any situation requiring you to draw and shoot. The firing range is the best place for you to develop your skill in racking a semi-auto handgun. Follow the instructions as much as you can because you'll never know when you'll have to do this in a gunfight or a defensive situation. It's a whole different ball game when you're facing someone with intent to kill.

What can you say about these semi-auto pistol racking tips? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

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  1. Pingback: Gun Control | 5 Guns The Government Will Ban First - Gun Firing

  2. Charles E. Howard

    May 24, 2017 at 6:18 PM

    if you carry with one in the chamber, all you have to do is cock it.

    • Sheldon

      May 24, 2017 at 8:07 PM

      You still have to get one in the chamber.

      • JobRon

        May 25, 2017 at 12:13 AM

        Sheldon: After the last bullet is shot, the rack is open and locked. inserting a new magazine into the gun, all you have to do is release the slide and a bullet is chambered; end of story.

        • Sheldon Fingerman

          May 25, 2017 at 11:35 AM

          True, but before you can do anything, an empty gun must be racked to put one in the chamber. AND, not all semiautos lock open after the last round is fired.

  3. Robert Parker

    October 29, 2016 at 10:20 PM

    WRONG!! You are teaching a technique that has a high probability of being unsafe. Your description can and will be unwittingly adjusted to where the ease of motion will get easier as the racking of the slide gets closer to the body and the muzzle becomes pointed to the left down the line of fire, placing everyone to the shooters left in danger. Racking the slide should be done by pointing the pistol down range with one hand and canting it to the left in a 9o’clock 3 o’clock position (like you would be laying it on its side). Then using your non-firing hand place your thumb and forefinger on the serrated part of the rear slide, squeeze like you would a lemon. then holding the pistol steady, pull back on the slide with strength and quickness, allowing it to return into battery sharply. Make sure the slide is pulled back to rear and past as the slide spring will return the slide quickly and sharply.
    Thank you for being safe.
    Master Sergeant RL Parker USMC Pistol Team; competitor, coach, and Team Captain 1994-1996.

    • Robert Parker

      October 29, 2016 at 10:38 PM

      I am going to reply to my own post. There is no substitute for safety. If you can’t control your firearm safely, you shouldn’t have one; or just use a revolver. No shame in being safe. Easier does not mean better. Think about this next time you rack the slide and ‘for ease’ your pistol begins pointing down the line covering those next to you. Or watch the shooters to your right……… are they pointing their pistols towards you when they do it easier…. ? Stand back and watch… safety violations are very common. You can do everything right and still get shot. When you go to a range the safest place is to the right of the line.

      • Fred Flintstone

        November 2, 2016 at 6:12 AM


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