In my opinion, there aren’t too many firearms handling skills that are terribly difficult to execute once you figure out the details. That’s the thing. The details are important. If you miss just a couple of the fine points, something that is relatively straightforward can become difficult.
I think that is exactly the case when it comes to locking back the slide on a semi-auto. It is one of the more complicated skills, but when you figure out those details locking the slide to the rear isn’t as tough as many think.
Why Is It Important?
Locking back the slide is an important skill to have to run a semi-auto handgun like the Hellcat. I routinely lock the slide to the rear on my Hellcat to ensure that the gun is unloaded. Having the slide locked back makes it very easy to visually and physically verify whether the gun is unloaded or not. It is also the way I typically store a handgun. When I see a gun with the slide locked to the rear, I know that it isn’t in a state where it can fire. It is also easy to check its status when I pick it up.
The Hellcat has been very reliable for me, but some semi-autos could experience malfunctions. Locking the slide to the rear is an important skill to deal with some potential malfunctions.
Why It’s Hard
Plain and simple, humans aren’t the greatest multitaskers, and that is exactly what is required in locking the slide to the rear for a relatively new gun owner. It’s several tasks that, when added together, can become frustrating.
For some folks, just racking the slide can be a challenge. When you add to that the need to press a small lever up at the same time you are racking the slide? It can be tough.
The good news is that you can get good at racking the slide. In fact, with a bit of practice, it will become one skill that is easy to perform whenever needed.
How To Do It
Pull Back and Push Up: When I work with students, I find that a lot of folks have a problem locking the slide to the rear because they are unaware of exactly what needs to happen for the slide to actually lock back. So, let’s clear that up first. There are two things that need to happen at the same time for the slide to lock back. First, the slide needs to be racked ALL THE WAY back. Partway won’t cut it. There is a notch in the slide that needs to be matched up with the slide stop lever. If the slide isn’t all the way back, the two parts won’t match up. When the slide is all the way back you have more work to do. The slide stop lever needs to be pushed up into the notch in the slide. Remember, it is a two-part process.
Position Your Thumb First: You need to figure out the best position for your thumb to push up on the slide stop lever, and you need to get your thumb there before you start to pull the slide to the rear. You should also start pushing up on the lever. Once people start worrying about the slide, that tiny little lever can get lost in all the fun. So, position your hand so your thumb can do the work.
Rack It Right: Bring the gun close to your body. Grasp the slide with your support hand like you are saddling a horse, and push with your primary hand while you pull back with your support hand.
Cheat When Necessary: You might find yourself in a situation where you don’t have the strength and dexterity to lock the slide to the rear. You might suffer from arthritis or have limited mobility. You could be injured. Maybe you only have one hand available to do the work. Whatever the circumstances are, there is a shortcut to locking back the slide. Insert an empty magazine, and rack the slide to the rear. The magazine follower has a notch that uses the magazine spring pressure to push up on the slide stop lever. When your abilities are diminished, you can use this cheat to do half of the work for you and allow you to focus on pushing the slide to the rear. This is also what causes the gun to lock open when you run out of ammunition.
I really do believe that most gun skills are deceptively easy. When we find quality instruction, we can learn about the finer points of gun handling and solidify our skills. If you are new to owning a semi-auto handgun or if you simply want to get better, seek out quality instruction. Then practice what you learn until it becomes easy.
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