Get Better at Locking Back the Slide

Locking back the slide

Recently we took a look at why locking back the slide on your handgun was an important skill to have in your handgun skill set. I wanted to give you a specific set of steps that you could use to improve your proficiency in this area.

Like any skill locking back the slide can take time to learn and while learning there are some things you can do to speed up your improvement. If you want to get better at locking the slide to the rear read on and put the tips to use.

Locking back the slide

Simply getting out to the range can help you improve your ability to lock back the slide.


This one is simple. Get out to the range and practice your shooting AND locking the slide to the rear!

Get stronger

For some folks the best way to improve is to improve strength. With your unloaded handgun grip your handgun with your primary hand and grip the slide behind the ejection port with your support hand. Rack the slide fully to the rear by pulling with your support hand while pushing the gun away from your body with the primary hand. Hold it for a ten count, then slowly ease the slide forward. Repeat this ten times for a week and you will be surprised how much stronger you become when you try to lock the slide to the rear.

Locking back the slide

Place your hand on the slide like you are putting a saddle on a horse and press hard. This can help build grip strength.

If racking the slide to the rear is too much, begin with developing some grip strength. With your unloaded handgun in your primary hand, place your support hand on the slide behind the ejection port just like it is a saddle on a horse. Next press your support hand fingertips hard against the side of the slide. Press so hard that your hand shakes and that you live a nice imprint of the slide on the heel of your hand. Hold it for ten seconds then relax for ten. Repeat ten times daily for a week. Soon you will have the grip strength to hold the slide while you draw it to the rear!

Locking back the slide

Placing your thumb on the slide stop lever can help set you up for success. Practice pressing the lever up without worrying about racking the slide to learn the motion.

Develop dexterity

The toughest part of locking the slide to the rear is using your thumb to move the slide stop lever into the up position. So practice that independently of moving the slide. With your unloaded gun position your primary hand on the gun so that your thumb is in contact with the bottom of the slide stop lever then press up on the lever with your thumb ten times. Give it a rest and then repeat.

Become familiar

The anxiety that holds people back from locking the slide to the rear is real. The best way to overcome that worry is to become familiar with your gun. Shoot often and invest in learning. With time and effort your reward will be a significant increase in comfort with your handgun. Oh yeah, you’ll also be able to lock the slide to the rear with what seems like no effort.

If you or someone you know is struggling with locking the slide to the rear what do you think is going to help you the most? Jump into the comments below and share your tips!

Paul Carlson, owner of Safety Solutions Academy, is a Professional Defensive Shooting Instructor.  He has spent the past decade and a half studying how humans can perform more efficiently in violent confrontations and honing his skills as an instructor both in the classroom and on the range.

Through Safety Solutions Academy, Paul teaches a variety of Critical Defensive Skills courses in more than a dozen states annually.  Courses range from Concealed Carry Classes to Advanced Critical Defensive Handgun Courses and include instruction for the defensive use of handguns, rifles and shotguns.  Safety Solutions Academy regularly hosts other industry leading experts as guest instructors to make sure that SSA’s students have the opportunity for quality instruction across a broad range of Critical Defensive disciplines.

  • Eric N. Spear

    I find that the easiest way for me to pull the slide back and lock it is to use the primary hand to push the gun forward while using the supporting hand to hold the slide. I find this much easier than holding the gun still with the primary hand and pulling the slide back with the supporting hand. Just seems easier to me. I’ve practiced many times using both methods and still find that pushing the gun forward is easier than pulling the slide rearward. For me, it has to do with body mechanics I guess. I have more strength pushing than pulling.

  • Family1stDefense

    This is such an important skill! Thanks Paul for bringing up the topic. Great info here. Two things to share:

    1) I teach women and others who struggle with the slide on a semi-auto to perform the action cross-body, rather than perpendicular to the body. Of course, at the shooting range, this requires rotating the body 90 degrees so the muzzle points down-range, rather than toward the person standing next to you on the firing line.

    2) For those who still have trouble, I remind them that there are semi-auto handgun options available, specially designed for easy operation. The Smith & Wesson M&P Shield EZ comes to mind.