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Posted: 2/17/2006 10:18:44 AM EDT
Hello everyone.

What is the proper method to rack the slide on an automatic handgun - specifically for female shooters with small hands?

I ask because my wife cannot rack the slide on anything other than a 22 auto, and she has tried at least 10 models.

The method she was using was:
Hold the grip normally with the right hand, finger outside the trigger guard
Place left hand thumb on right side of slide towards the rear of the slide
Squeeze left hand together so that the fingers and thumb grip the slide
Pull left hand rearwards - this step has been tried in many different forms - arms straight out, straight down, folded at elbow ...

She can get a fullsize 1911 slide about a half inch back, an XD40 slide almost all the way, a Sig P220 part way ... I have difficulty watching her be unable to operate an automatic, and just can't seem to comprehend not having the strength to pull a pistol slide back. If you have any suggestions, please offer them. She's a great shot with her Buckmark and a 38 revolver, and isn't weak by any stretch of the imagination, so I'm inclined to think that this is a technique problem.

If there is a website out there that covers this topic with pictures please point me towards it.

Thanks!
J.
Link Posted: 2/17/2006 10:25:44 AM EDT
Try grabbing so that the gun is in the right hand pointing to her left side infront of her stomach. Her left hand will grab the slide so her 4 fingers are on the right side of the slide and her thumb is on the left side close to the back of the slide by the hammer. She might be able to get more force this way by her arms and hands pushing in the oppisit direction. Good luck and have fun.

If all fails get her a revolver.
Link Posted: 2/17/2006 10:27:15 AM EDT
[Last Edit: 2/17/2006 10:28:03 AM EDT by TheFreepster]
has she tried doing the same thing with the right hand but with the left hand: grip over top of slide so that finger tips (not thumb) are on right side of slide and palm is against left side of slide. Then squeeze slide between fingers and palm and pull the slide back. You have more leverage this way.

edit: someone beat me to it, what he said.
Link Posted: 2/17/2006 10:28:13 AM EDT
[Last Edit: 2/17/2006 10:29:31 AM EDT by ALPHAGHOST]
try this:

(for right handed folks)

--grip the gun in right hand, normal, firm grip
--with your left hand, have your palm pressed on the left side of the slide
--thumb on left side of the slide or semi around the back side of the slide (where the hammer hits)
--wrap your other 4 fingers over the top of the slide/rear sights area and grip the right side of the slide w/ your fingers
--apply force (mainly on the palm/left side) and pull back

your palms should be able to apply more force on the slide

also, while you are pulling back w/ your left hand, you might push forward w/ your right hand....

oh....

you can also just make your left hand stationary (palm on the slide) and push forward w/ your right hand (watch the slide/ejection port, dont get your hand caught up!)
Link Posted: 2/17/2006 10:29:14 AM EDT
Have you tried helping her by using you hands to help her work the slide??? Maybe if it is technique she would be able to feel what it is shes doing wrong by feeling how you do it right. I'm not saying that she is weak but women dont typically have the grip strength and fore arm strength that men do. Maybe if you find that it is a weakness and not a technique problem you can let her practice working the XD until its easy for her to rack. Then work her way up to the next gun which I think you said was the Sig and finally the 1911. Basically she'd be working out by using your guns which is kinda cool. GL
Link Posted: 2/17/2006 10:29:18 AM EDT
Is she holding the gun straight up when she is pulling the slide? Maybe she could hold the gun horizontally, that might make it easier.
Link Posted: 2/17/2006 10:29:20 AM EDT
I've seen this problem before. Some folks actually cannot pull the slide back on a semiauto.

BUT, don't give up just yet on your girlfriend. It could be technique as you suggest. It's surprisingly difficult to pull the slide back if you "pull" with a gradual or timid and slow pulling motion. This is probably what your girlfriend is doing as women typically just aren't aggressive enough with certain mechanical devices. They are afraid they'll "hurt" it.

Tell her to pull FIRMLY, SHARPLY with one continuous motion. Show her how and emphasize when you do it the speed and firmness with which you force that slide to move.

Good luck!
Link Posted: 2/17/2006 12:56:27 PM EDT
#1) Pre-cock the hammer if the pistol has one. (This isn't the safest answer due the possibility for ND.)

#2) Which muscles are letting her down? Grip? Bicep/tricep?

If it's the bicep/tricep problem she can lock her elbows with the gun in front of her. Assuming she is right handed grip the gun normally with the right hand and grasp the slide with the left hand with the left thumb on the right side of the slide. With the gun in front of her and her elbows locked she will find she can use the more powerful muscles of her shoulders to move the slide. Draw the left shoulder back while pushing the right forward.

I'm going to assume it's more likely a grip problem as most recoil springs are in the 14 - 20 lb range plus the force hammer spring. Applying this level of force should be doable by most average healthy adults. Can she handle a 20lb bag of flour, pet food, or other common heavy household object? If so, then she could use the edge of a table on the rear sight (assuming is not a sloped Novak type) to push the slide back. The main problem is this is hard finish of both the table and the gun.

Kent
Link Posted: 2/17/2006 4:02:09 PM EDT
Work out.


If that's not an option, my GF takes her left hand and places her palm on the left hand of the slide, grasps, and moves her hands together to "rack it".
Link Posted: 2/17/2006 4:17:07 PM EDT
[Last Edit: 2/17/2006 4:20:33 PM EDT by Slappyjack]
Hold the slide stationary with elbow locked. Push the frame forward and then release the slide. Works for my wife.

ETA: Similar to the last line in ALPHAGHOSTs post.
Link Posted: 2/17/2006 6:52:35 PM EDT
Insert mag.

Hold pistol with right hand, point down, away from feet, finger off trigger. (I angle it so if I were to extend my arm forward, I'd be using the homeslice grip to give you an idea of how the handgun should be oriented)

Grab slide with left hand (whatever gives her the most grip)

Lock both elbows

Use shoulders to manipulate the slide. They're probably stronger/offer more leverage, if that makes any sense.

Link Posted: 2/17/2006 7:40:53 PM EDT
I'll admit I have problems from time to time racking the slide on my auto. It's 100% grip related as the serations along the slide do not provide enough for my hand to bite into. My left hand is also very weak from a car wreck so that adds to the frustration. When my hands get sweaty and I start to have difficulty I just use my entire left hand to grip the top of the slide and push/pull with my right hand (holding the gun right handed).
Link Posted: 2/17/2006 10:11:15 PM EDT
Jeff - don't have her pull the slide back - have her grip the slide and push the pistol forward!
Link Posted: 2/18/2006 6:57:36 AM EDT

Originally Posted By lokt:
Jeff - don't have her pull the slide back - have her grip the slide and push the pistol forward!



There is some wisdom in this post IMHO. If she is using the overhand grip like the guys above described, she should have no problem if she executes using her major muscle groups. Like lokt said, she needs to learn to 'rip and tear'. She should be pushing forward with her gripping hand, and pulling the slide back with her slide hand. If done correctly she will be using almost all the muscles in her upper body to rack the slide.

Have her put the pad of her palm at the base of her thumb on the rear of the slide. Her thumb should be pointing at her body. The fingers of that hand should come over the top of the slide, and contact on the opposite side of her slide giving her four fingers gripping on that side. She then pushes and pulls with the major muscle groups, and the pistol should end up racked and in a strong hand only firing position at the end of the movement.
Link Posted: 2/18/2006 8:31:56 AM EDT
Thanks for all the replies!

I don't own a semi auto pistol, but am considering purchasing one ... however, at this point considering finances and family situation I am somewhat reluctant to purchase a pistol that my wife cannot operate. That is what precipitated this thread. She also wants to be able to operate an automatic, so it's not like I'm trying to teach someone who is uninterested. She works out - running and lifting - three or four times a week, kneads bread, gives great back massages, etc, so I'm pretty sure that it has more to do with the amatuer instruction she is receiving than anything else.



Originally Posted By Green Canoe:

...If it's the bicep/tricep problem she can lock her elbows with the gun in front of her. Assuming she is right handed grip the gun normally with the right hand and grasp the slide with the left hand with the left thumb on the right side of the slide. With the gun in front of her and her elbows locked she will find she can use the more powerful muscles of her shoulders to move the slide. Draw the left shoulder back while pushing the right forward.



She has tried this and a number of variations without success. She has not tried grabbing the slide between palm and forefingers with left thumb point towards her as suggested in several posts and giving the pistol a tearing motion. We'll be able to try this on a number of different models at the gunshow that is coming to town in a couple of weeks.


Thanks again!

Jeff
Link Posted: 2/18/2006 2:34:21 PM EDT
it just takes practice. shell get it.
Link Posted: 2/18/2006 5:47:34 PM EDT
There's only so much "technique" to cycling a slide, so I sincerely doubt that it's a technique or training problem. I'm guessing this is a finger/hand strength issue. My 6 year old easily has enough muscle strength in his arms to rack the slide on his Walther P22, but he lacks the hand/finger strength to hold onto the slide to get the job done. Here's a test....As your wife grips the slide with her left thumb on left side of the slide (i.e., the "arms locked" position") put your fingers on top of hers to gently apply extra grip pressure on the slide, but don't help with the actual slide movement. I think you'll find that with the grip assistance, she'll have no problem. If that's the case, get her a "stress ball" or other hand-exerciser. With a few weeks of daily hand strengthening, she'll be good to go.

Good luck.
Link Posted: 2/18/2006 5:59:45 PM EDT

Originally Posted By jchewie:
She can get a fullsize 1911 slide about a half inch back, an XD40 slide almost all the way, a Sig P220 part way ... I have difficulty watching her be unable to operate an automatic, and just can't seem to comprehend not having the strength to pull a pistol slide back. If you have any suggestions, please offer them. She's a great shot with her Buckmark and a 38 revolver, and isn't weak by any stretch of the imagination, so I'm inclined to think that this is a technique problem.

If there is a website out there that covers this topic with pictures please point me towards it.

Thanks!
J.



I would reccomend she sticks to revolvers, if she cannot rack a slide without putting a tremendous effort into she is a danger to herself and everyone around when she shoots.
Link Posted: 2/18/2006 11:30:18 PM EDT
Have her try the methods mentioned above.

My wife had a hell of a time racking the slide on a few of my pistols. It looked like she was putting so much effort and strength into it, but the slide just wouldnt move. I just kept showing her different ways to do it. Finally I just told her to grab the grip with her right (strong) hand, hold it straight out and try to pull the slide off of the back of the gun. It worked, I think before she was babying the slide and was thinking she only had to pull it back part way. Tell her she's not going to hurt the pistol any.
Link Posted: 2/19/2006 3:37:26 AM EDT
I use two different methods. As I have stronger fingers than hands (figure that one out) I do the following:

- Grip pistol in right hand, finger off the trigger.
- Place left hand on top of rear slide so the knuckle of your forefinger (the one that connects your finger to palm) is just in front of the rear sight.
- Thumb on the right of the slide.
- Curled forefinger on the left.
- Squeeze the slide with the left hand.
- Push grip forward with the right.

This works for me as my third and fourth fingers are relatively weak (pussy-boy). This method provides me the easiest way to rack the slide without putting my hand over the ejection port of small framed pistols. I can do the traditional overhand grip, but my fingers sometimes slip. This method allows the use of your stronger fingers, and your knuckle against the rear sight for leverage. However, the angle is fiarly awkward for "tap, rack, bang" drills. The most comfortable way is to tilt the pistol to the laft a bit, gangbanger style.

In my experience:

- Long slide pistols are easier to rack as the recoil spring is longer and weaker
- Instead of pulling the slide back, just hold onto it and push the pistol frame forward

And as other people have mentioned, if she can't do it reliably, it's revolver time.
Link Posted: 2/19/2006 3:43:44 AM EDT

Originally Posted By 2IDdoc:

Originally Posted By lokt:
Jeff - don't have her pull the slide back - have her grip the slide and push the pistol forward!



Have her put the pad of her palm at the base of her thumb on the rear of the slide. Her thumb should be pointing at her body. The fingers of that hand should come over the top of the slide, and contact on the opposite side of her slide giving her four fingers gripping on that side. She then pushes and pulls with the major muscle groups, and the pistol should end up racked and in a strong hand only firing position at the end of the movement.



The problem with this method is that it now places her hand right over the ejection port.

1- A spent case can bounce off her hand and back into the chamber causing a FTE style jam.
2- A live round can partially eject, slide forward, pop the primer having an out of battery discharge. With the hand over the ejection port, nasty damage can happen (shredded palm).

While I haven't seen it happen myself, I know of several people who have, including an IPSC RO (happened at a match).
Link Posted: 2/19/2006 1:57:07 PM EDT

Originally Posted By NoAim:

Originally Posted By 2IDdoc:

Originally Posted By lokt:
Jeff - don't have her pull the slide back - have her grip the slide and push the pistol forward!



Have her put the pad of her palm at the base of her thumb on the rear of the slide. Her thumb should be pointing at her body. The fingers of that hand should come over the top of the slide, and contact on the opposite side of her slide giving her four fingers gripping on that side. She then pushes and pulls with the major muscle groups, and the pistol should end up racked and in a strong hand only firing position at the end of the movement.



The problem with this method is that it now places her hand right over the ejection port.

1- A spent case can bounce off her hand and back into the chamber causing a FTE style jam.
2- A live round can partially eject, slide forward, pop the primer having an out of battery discharge. With the hand over the ejection port, nasty damage can happen (shredded palm).

While I haven't seen it happen myself, I know of several people who have, including an IPSC RO (happened at a match).



Not if it's done properly. That's the key. If you screw anything up badly enough you can have a problem.
Link Posted: 2/19/2006 1:59:30 PM EDT

Originally Posted By Coolio:
I've seen this problem before. Some folks actually cannot pull the slide back on a semiauto.



What? They must be doing it wrong, it doesn't take that much force. But yes like the other guy said hold the slide and push the pistol forward.
Link Posted: 2/19/2006 3:51:21 PM EDT

Originally Posted By NoAim:

Originally Posted By 2IDdoc:

Originally Posted By lokt:
Jeff - don't have her pull the slide back - have her grip the slide and push the pistol forward!



Have her put the pad of her palm at the base of her thumb on the rear of the slide. Her thumb should be pointing at her body. The fingers of that hand should come over the top of the slide, and contact on the opposite side of her slide giving her four fingers gripping on that side. She then pushes and pulls with the major muscle groups, and the pistol should end up racked and in a strong hand only firing position at the end of the movement.



The problem with this method is that it now places her hand right over the ejection port.

1- A spent case can bounce off her hand and back into the chamber causing a FTE style jam.
2- A live round can partially eject, slide forward, pop the primer having an out of battery discharge. With the hand over the ejection port, nasty damage can happen (shredded palm).

While I haven't seen it happen myself, I know of several people who have, including an IPSC RO (happened at a match).



As an RO, the thing that bothers me about this method is, if you are not cautious, the muzzle tends to be aimed to the left for a right handed person making me very nervous the shooter will muzzle sweep the shooter on their left. With careful technique, such as turning the body to the right while performing this proceedure it can be done safely. However, it is one of the most common safety infractions I find.

Kent

Kent
Link Posted: 2/19/2006 8:35:34 PM EDT

As an RO, the thing that bothers me about this method is, if you are not cautious, the muzzle tends to be aimed to the left for a right handed person making me very nervous the shooter will muzzle sweep the shooter on their left. With careful technique, such as turning the body to the right while performing this proceedure it can be done safely. However, it is one of the most common safety infractions I find.

Kent



Sorry to keep saying things like this, but if they are doing this method correctly, the muzzle stays pointed down range. Having been taught this method by professional instructors many times, I have never once seen one of them point the pistol in any direction but down range. If the muzzle is moving they are no longer following the overhand method.

Maybe we are talking about two different things. I suppose it is good that you pointed this out, because the little detail of where the gun is to be pointed was never mentioned. I guess everyone assumed that the user would exhibit proper muzzle discipline. Being an RO I bet you see some really crazy stuff though, and never assume that someone will do the right thing. Glad you said something.

If done correctly, and shooting with a right strong hand, the left arm, to the elbow should be pointing almost straight out, and almost parallel to the ground. The left forearm should be at about 90 degrees from the rest of the arm, positioning the left hand over the slide. The strong hand with pistol should be close to a compressed ready with pistol pointing down range. The strong hand presses out with the pistol to end in a temporary strong hand only shooting position. The weak hand pulls back with the slide until the grip on the top of the slide is overcome by the force of the movement releasing the slide, and then can rejoin the strong hand on the pistol to form a two handed grip, or can stay at the chest for a strong hand only stance, or what ever you want it to do.

This method of charging the pistol can be used even with a light in the weak hand. There is a simple and easy technique that makes this possible. The charging hand never covers the ejection port, and during a malfunction drill you can 'tap rack and roll' the pistol, something that is almost impossible with the sling shot method. Meaning that as the slide is pulled to the rear, you can tilt the top of the pistol to the right(for righties) to aid in expelling a cartridge. This still keeps the pistol pointed down range. With the slingshot method, the ejection port is facing up, and gravity is working against expelling a cartridge. That in itself can cause or worsen a malfunction.

The method that I think is most to blame for people pointing their pistol away from the target is the slide stop method of charging. To reach forward to depress the slide stop you have to angle the pistol as the thumb is not long enough to reach it on most pistols and with most non ape-like shooters.

I hope I'm not getting off track, and as always, YMMV. I'm not an expert, this is just my humble opinion. If I said anything that needs correction please feel free to let me know(as if an ARFCOMer is going to hold back). I'm still learning too.
Link Posted: 2/19/2006 8:56:33 PM EDT
The Beretta M9 9mm, and the HK Compact 9mm were found to be the easiest to rack. Have her try those using the techniques explained.
Link Posted: 2/19/2006 11:41:21 PM EDT
My little brother used to have problems racking slides, but since he's gotten older, he's gained the necessary arm strength (he's 10 now). My girlfriend used to have the same problem, I had to get her used to the idea of ripping back on the slide with a lot of deliberate force (she did think she would break the gun at first) until she was able to get it. My girlfriend is much better at chambering shotguns and rifles, so that might be a thought. If you don't really need the compactness of a pistol for your intended purpose (home defense ?) get some sort of carbine or a shotgun. On the other hand, I've heard women like Glock 19's a lot. I know my girlfriend sure does and that's what I taught her to rack. In fact, a 1911 is actually easiest for her to rack overall, but she prefers the shooting characteristics of the Glock 19, probably because of her hand size.
Link Posted: 2/20/2006 6:19:10 AM EDT
[Last Edit: 2/20/2006 6:19:48 AM EDT by Green_Canoe]

Originally Posted By 2IDdoc:

As an RO, the thing that bothers me about this method is, if you are not cautious, the muzzle tends to be aimed to the left for a right handed person making me very nervous the shooter will muzzle sweep the shooter on their left. With careful technique, such as turning the body to the right while performing this proceedure it can be done safely. However, it is one of the most common safety infractions I find.

Kent



Maybe we are talking about two different things. (By your description of the technique, we are talking two different methods.) I suppose it is good that you pointed this out, because the little detail of where the gun is to be pointed was never mentioned. I guess everyone assumed that the user would exhibit proper muzzle discipline. Being an RO I bet you see some really crazy stuff though, and never assume that someone will do the right thing. Glad you said something.

If done correctly, and shooting with a right strong hand, the left arm, to the elbow should be pointing almost straight out, and almost parallel to the ground. The left forearm should be at about 90 degrees from the rest of the arm, positioning the left hand over the slide. The strong hand with pistol should be close to a compressed ready with pistol pointing down range. The strong hand presses out with the pistol to end in a temporary strong hand only shooting position. The weak hand pulls back with the slide until the grip on the top of the slide is overcome by the force of the movement releasing the slide, and then can rejoin the strong hand on the pistol to form a two handed grip, or can stay at the chest for a strong hand only stance, or what ever you want it to do.



If the instructions I highlighted in red were followed, I'd have no problems. Unfortunately, I find some people bring the handgun to their chest (90 degrees to down range) with both their elbows pointed to the sides and the hands close to their sterum. This tends to make the guy to the left of a righty a little jumpy.

Kent
Link Posted: 2/20/2006 6:54:14 AM EDT
Some women just don’t have much upper body strength. I have found that my USP Compact 9mm is the easiest gun I’ve ever tried racking the slide on, yet my girlfriend had a lot of trouble doing it. We didn’t try very much or very long. If we went shooting I would have had her practice more. It’s really incomprehensible to me how somebody could be unable to do something so easy with physical force, but the fact of the matter is, it is pretty common.

True story. We have an older admin lady that runs errands and stuff for us. One day soon after she started, we sent her out to run an errand in our Ford Taurus wagon. She came back up saying the car wouldn’t start. We sent her in a different vehicle and I went down stairs to jump start the Taurus so I could take it to get the battery replaced. I get in and turn the ignition over just to make sure… car starts right up. She just was not or could not apply enough force to turn over the ignition! She had driven this car before a few times too!
Link Posted: 2/20/2006 12:32:23 PM EDT
1-Place fullmagazine in a full size 1911 with out a guide rod.

2-Place the barrel bushing on the edge of a table in a manner that the end of the barrel is not obstructed.

3-With the finger outside of the trigger guard push straight down untill the dust cover hits the table.

4- Point the muzzle in a safe direction, apply the safety and holster.
Link Posted: 2/20/2006 12:49:59 PM EDT

Originally Posted By nyeoj:
1-Place fullmagazine in a full size 1911 with out a guide rod.

2-Place the barrel bushing on the edge of a table in a manner that the end of the barrel is not obstructed.

3-With the finger outside of the trigger guard push straight down untill the dust cover hits the table.

4- Point the muzzle in a safe direction, apply the safety and holster.



1911's have a "dust cover"
Link Posted: 2/20/2006 9:23:52 PM EDT

Originally Posted By Bob1984:

Originally Posted By nyeoj:
1-Place fullmagazine in a full size 1911 with out a guide rod.

2-Place the barrel bushing on the edge of a table in a manner that the end of the barrel is not obstructed.

3-With the finger outside of the trigger guard push straight down untill the dust cover hits the table.

4- Point the muzzle in a safe direction, apply the safety and holster.



1911's have a "dust cover"



the most forward part of the frame. the rail on a railed frame.
Link Posted: 2/21/2006 4:11:53 AM EDT

Originally Posted By BillofRights:
The Beretta M9 9mm, and the HK Compact 9mm were found to be the easiest to rack. Have her try those using the techniques explained.



THe Taurus Milleniums are also have a very easy slide mechanism. My wife has one.
Link Posted: 2/21/2006 2:47:02 PM EDT

Originally Posted By Alien:
Some women just don’t have much upper body strength. I have found that my USP Compact 9mm is the easiest gun I’ve ever tried racking the slide on, yet my girlfriend had a lot of trouble doing it. We didn’t try very much or very long. If we went shooting I would have had her practice more. It’s really incomprehensible to me how somebody could be unable to do something so easy with physical force, but the fact of the matter is, it is pretty common.




yup, I think if I worked with those clamp thingies that exercise your hands then I would be able to do it easier, and I think also a lot more practice and self confidence would have helped.
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