Friendly and Certified Firearms Training for Women Since 2011

Racking the Slide

Racking the Slide, Safely!

Racking the slide is necessary to learn to function in a semi-automatic handgun. The term racking the slide means to manually cycle the slide backward and release it to go forward into the battery. By manually cycling the slide, we can achieve several critical tasks. Racking the slide allows shooters to chamber a round and clear a malfunction; after removing a magazine, racking the slide can allow a shooter to clear the chamber of the gun. For some, racking the slide can be frustrating at first and, if not done correctly, can cause a common range boo-boo, slide-bite. However, with the correct safety and technique and a few detailed tips, racking the slide can be done with success!

  1. Keep the firearm pointed in a safe direction.
  2. Keep the trigger finger indexed straight along the slide.
  3. The support hand’s palm should firmly press against the rear slide serrations, with the fingers folding over to press into the serrations on the opposing side. This technique ensures a secure grip and prevents the hand from slipping during slide-racking.
    1. SAFETY NOTE: The support hand should NEVER cover the ejection port. Keep the palm and fingers away from the port to prevent a “slide bite,” where the slide closes on the skin and can cause abrasions or cuts.
    2. SAFETY NOTE: The shape makes a C-clamp or Rainbow shape over the top of the gun. Again, the hand should not touch the top of the slide to prevent slide bite and abrasion from rear sight. 
  4. Apply a firm grip with the firing hand and a firm grip with the support hand. Only when grip pressure is set does the support hand pull sharply back toward the shooter’s body, allowing the slide to release from the hand on its own.
    1. TIP 1: Do NOT try to hold onto the slide until it stops and then release. 
    2. TIP 2: Do NOT hold onto the slide until it stops, and “ride the slide” forward before letting go. Both of these 
    3. TIP 3: Do NOT try to be gentle! The firearm is designed to operate under the explosive energy of the round being fired. Your job is to replicate that energy in a sharp and aggressive pull to provide the necessary force to cycle the gun properly. 


Always follow the firearm safety rules at home just as closely as you would at the range. Confirm the condition of the firearm and any supporting magazines to ensure they are free of live ammunition before practicing dry-fire activities. Racking the slide can be practiced by utilizing snap-caps loaded into a magazine. These “dummy rounds,” aka snap-caps, enable the semi-automatic to cycle, allowing multiple reps to practice racking the slide.