How Do I Lock Back My Pistol Slide?

By Paul Carlson
Posted in #Skills
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How Do I Lock Back My Pistol Slide?

July 17th, 2020

6:57 runtime

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.

Learning to safely and effectively lock back the slide on your pistol is a must-have skill.

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.

When locking the slide back on a semi-auto handgun, the slide stop lever needs to be pushed up toward the top of the slide.

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.

Paul likes to use the pad of his thumb to do the slide stop pushing when he’s locking the slide back.

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.

Locking back the slide is a two-part process. The slide needs to move fully toward the rear and the slide stop lever needs to be pressed up.

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.

The slide stop lever is the highest and most rearward control on the Hellcat.

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.

Here you can clearly see the notch in the slide where the slide stop will lock the slide.

Final Thoughts

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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Springfield Armory® recommends you seek qualified and competent training from a certified instructor prior to handling any firearm and be sure to read your owner’s manual. These articles and videos are considered to be suggestions and not recommendations from Springfield Armory. The views and opinions expressed on this website are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Springfield Armory.

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Paul Carlson

Paul Carlson

Paul Carlson is the owner of Safety Solutions Academy, LLC, a professional defensive shooting instructor, content creator in the firearms industry, and most importantly a husband and a father. Through Safety Solutions Academy, Paul teaches a variety of critical defensive skill courses in more than a dozen states annually. When Paul’s not traveling to teach and work in the firearms industry, you can find him with his family, either on the range or in the mountains.

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