Friendly and Certified Firearms Training for Women Since 2011

Top 3 Tips for Slide Manipulations

Arguably, the most frustrating part of shooting semiautomatic handguns for new shooters is slide manipulations. Feeling as though you can’t safely rack the slide, overcome its inherent resistance thanks to the recoil spring, and simultaneously keep the trigger finger and muzzle under control can be a significant deterrent in maintaining women coming back to the range. Usually, this is due to needing to be appropriately introduced to the three tasks related to slide manipulation. Women don’t necessarily need more physique or physical strength to manipulate the slide; it’s the correct technique. 

*Note: certain conditions such as previous injury to the hands, wrists, forearms, and shoulders or medical conditions like carpal tunnel or arthritis may significantly limit what physical strength a shooter has to manipulate the gun. Working with lower-racking-force guns and calibers may be part of the solution for these individuals. 

The three slide manipulations critical to handgun functioning and safety include:

  • Releasing the Slide: closing the slide to chamber the first round.
  • Racking the Slide: chambering a round, clearing a malfunction, and closing the slide for storage/transportation.
  • Locking the Slide Open: extracting/ejecting a chambered round, clearing a malfunction, locking open for inspection and benching of firearm, locking open for insertion a chamber flag.

Before discussing tips and techniques for each task, let’s define a few key features of the slide itself.

SLIDE SERRATIONS: Strategic grooves cut into the slide surface, while appearing decorative, are actually important functional details. These serrations act like tread on a tire to increase traction and a positive grip between the hand and the slide’s surface. They help prevent slipping on the smooth metal surface to ensure the user can successfully and safely operate the gun. 

SLIDE STOP LEVER: A spring-loaded lever interfacing between the slide and the frame on one or both sides of the semiautomatic slide. When this lever is moved upwards into a notch in the slide, it allows the slide to be held open. When engaged so that the slide is open, downward pressure on this lever allows the slide to be released and closed. Some models have ambidextrous Slide Stop Levers, such as the GLOCK Gen5 and the Walther PDP and PDP F-Series semiautomatic models. 



Can you reach the slide stop with the firing hand thumb? Can you reach it and apply enough downward pressure to release the slide? Most importantly, can you reach and press without shifting your grip while maintaining trigger finger discipline? If yes, outstanding! You are in a well-fitted gun for your hand. If not, good news: you have two thumbs. Utilizing the non-dominant hand thumb to reach and compress the slide stop lever is a viable option for many shooters. Place the support hand thumb on the lever, brace the knuckle of the support hand pointer finger beneath the trigger guard, and pinch the lever with downward pressure to release it. You can even tack your firing hand thumb on top for added force. 


Simply put, feel free to “chicken wing” the elbows to enhance the ability to rack the slide. Keep the wrist of the firing hand straight with the forearm, c-clamp over the top of the gun’s rear serrations with the support hand, and here’s the bit tip… elevate the support hand elbow so that it is elevated to a 90-degree “chicken wing” hight. A high elbow and straight wrist takes the strain off the wrist and hands, enabling the whole forearm to draw the slide back to rack it. A subtle forward push with the gun hand toward the target or safe direction can also take a bit more strain off of the shooter’s body. These are two little details that may exponentially increase overall strength and safety!

Bonus Tip: be sure to firmly GRIP the slide serrations before pulling back in the action of racking the slide. Preset slide grip pressure ensures the strongest possible racking action and prevents unnecessary abrasion on the hand.


A natural firing hand reach to the slide stop lever, is essential but only partially necessary. For this task, when not under the stress of speed, a slight adjustment of the firing hand grip can be made to both reach and press with the firing hand thumb. This little “shimmy” can be achieved by relaxing the grip, pointing the trigger finger away from the gun, and sniffing the grip slightly so the thumb can reach the slide stop lever. This thumb needs to be able to reach and apply upward pressure on the lever to lock the slide open successfully. Finding the right reach and area on the thumb that can press up is a big first step. One of two options exists to lock the slide open. Choices are a wonderful thing! 

a. 1 Movement – Simultaneously apply upward pressure under the slide stop lever while racking the slide back. 

b. 4 Moves – Prep the thumb under the lever, rack the slide back and hold, maintain upward pressure on the slide stop and release slide, and then release pressure on the slide lever. 

Still can’t reach that lever? Aftermarket accessories are available for some makes and models to extend and enhance the lever. These replacement levers are physically larger, increasing their surface area for better reach and leverage. For some shooters with shorter fingers, an extended Slide Stop Lever can be a game changer, allowing them to still reach the lever without compromising or changing their grip. When considering changing a firearm component, please consult with a reputable and trusted gunsmith for correct and safe installation.