Racking first cartridge


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Armchair Warrior
January 7, 2013, 10:13 AM
My wife has carried a S&W 36 for many years. I would like to get her comfortable with a 9, 40, or 45. Her issue is not with recoil but she has difficulty racking the first round and this is not good in a SD situation. My sig 226 and springfield 40 seem too difficult for her to rack without struggling. Does anybody have a technique suggestion or a model in these calibers that they have noticed is easier to pull the slide back than others? I think it might be more a coordination issue or possibly the grip she can get on the slide. She is not weak, she carries heavy stuff all day so maybe a method suggestion might be in order.

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Urban_Redneck
January 7, 2013, 10:30 AM
Instead of pulling the slide rearward, grip the slide and push the frame forward.

beatledog7
January 7, 2013, 10:32 AM
Racking the slide has more to do with technique than strength. I suggest: have her hold the pistol in front of her body at mid torso level (which will angle her elbows at about 90 degrees) with the muzzle downrange, grip the pistol in her strong hand, grip the slide overhand with her weak, and brace her weak side elbow against her ribcage. With this accomplished, have her then push the pistol away from her with her strong hand while keeping her weak side elbow firmly tacked up to her ribcage and her finger off the trigger. She may find that shifting her feet (strong side foot back a bit) thus getting a little bit of torso turn will make it easier to keep the muzzle downrange wile doing this.

As far as SD situations go, it's better to have a round already in the chamber, so no racking is required when a quick shot is needed.

David E
January 7, 2013, 10:41 AM
Racking the slide has more to do with technique than strength. I suggest: have her hold the pistol in front of her body at mid torso level (which will angle her elbows at about 90 degrees) with the muzzle downrange, grip the pistol in her strong hand, grip the slide overhand with her weak, and brace her weak side elbow against her ribcage. With this accomplished, have her then push the pistol away from her with her strong hand while keeping her weak side elbow firmly tacked up to her ribcage and her finger off the trigger. She may find that shifting her feet (strong side foot back a bit) thus getting a little bit of torso turn will make it easier to keep the muzzle downrange wile doing this.

As far as SD situations go, it's better to have a round already in the chamber, so no racking is required when a quick shot is needed.

Pretty much ditto, but make sure her left elbow is nowhere near the muzzle and that her trigger finger is well clear of the triggerguard.

If she still has trouble, move left arm enough to assist in the racking motion, so both hands/arms are pushing against each other for the racking process.

With any exposed hammer gun, cock the hammer first.

I agree the gun should already be chambered, especially if there's even a slight issue chambering the first round.

If you inexplicably insist on an empty chamber, then lock the slide back and store it that way. Decide if you want a loaded mag inserted into the magwell or not.

Or, take her out to practice more with her 36

TarDevil
January 7, 2013, 01:12 PM
I can't add anything, but will add a third vote for keeping one in the the chamber. I've shot a lot, and while running drills from an empty chamber I experience too many feed issues (operator error, not gun) to chance carrying that way.

Skylerbone
January 7, 2013, 01:27 PM
You'll also find that full size models tend to have a lighter recoil spring rate. The 1911 as an example uses (for the most part) a 16 lb. spring for the Government (5" barrel) model while an ultra compact 3" variant will often come with a 22-24 lb. spring. I run my Governments with 13 lb. springs which my 8 yr. old can manipulate though he's not quite ready to shoot them.

My wife had similar problems with an M&P compact I purchased for her, big mistake, which was alleviated with a long slide model. Technique will also work wonders but cutting 6-8 lbs. of resistance goes a long way. Consider also the serrations and their feel. Some women aren't partial to knife edge hyper aggressive slide cuts tearing their fingers up. Ditto with stocks.

Walt Sherrill
January 7, 2013, 02:30 PM
As noted above, in those guns with a hammer, cocking the hammer first can make a BIG difference. (My wife is struggling with this issue, now.)

Fryerpower
January 7, 2013, 02:34 PM
My wife could not chamber the first round in a blowback design gun (Makarov) until she brought it close to her chest, turned sideways as described above, and used BOTH arms to push. One pushing the frame forward, the other pushing the slide back. No issues after that.

Jim

JTQ
January 7, 2013, 02:35 PM
I agree with the recommendation to cock the hammer first if you have one.

This article in "The Cornered Cat" may be helpful.

http://www.corneredcat.com/article/running-the-gun/rack-the-slide/

Jim NE
January 7, 2013, 02:35 PM
When my Keltec P-11 was new, even I couldn't rack the slide with a thumb-index pinch. Grabbing the slide from the side with my left hand (as if it were a metal bar) was the trick. That way you're using all of your fingers AND your palm.

tuj
January 7, 2013, 02:41 PM
Turn sideways (to keep muzzle pointed downrange) and use both arms to rack the slide; one to push the slide backwards and the other hand on the grip pushing the frame forwards. (finger off trigger!)

It's all about technique. I once saw a 5'2" lady who was about 110 lbs pick up a dropped Gold Wing. You hold the front brake and use your butt and legs against the bike and anyone can pick it up.

BCRider
January 7, 2013, 05:42 PM
A hearty +1 on reading that cornered cat article.

A big part of the issue is that often folks are not willing to roll the gun to where their wrist is more in line with the work being done. The Cornered Cat article shows the gun rolled to various positions to let the slide hand contact the gun more solidly and directly. And that makes a BIG difference.

ATLDave
January 7, 2013, 05:43 PM
Is she trying the "overhand" method, or the "pinch" method?

hentown
January 7, 2013, 06:40 PM
I recommend the overhand method. If she still has trouble, buy her a G19 and install a lighter-than-factory-stock recoil spring.

eldon519
January 7, 2013, 06:58 PM
A 9mm in the same gun would have a lighter recoil spring which might be easier for her to rack.

bigfatdave
January 8, 2013, 12:10 AM
+1 for corneredcat

any adult without major hand injury/disability should be able to operate a service-caliber pistol's slide

gamestalker
January 8, 2013, 05:17 PM
My Wife has the same problem and no matter what we've tried she simply isn't confident having to rack a first round. We ended up putting her in a framed revolver, 38 spcl S&W 60.

So when I told my friend I got a S&W model 60 for my Wife, he replied "Good Trade". Ha ha

GS

Patrick Gookin
January 8, 2013, 09:28 PM
I know with 1911's, different firing pin stops can change the force required to rack the slide with the hammer down. The original ones had less of a radius on the bottom, making it harder to rack. JMB replaced them with larger radius firing pin stops, making it much easier to rack the slide with the hammer down.

sakata8242
January 8, 2013, 09:28 PM
I think you're missing the bigger picture. It's not just an issue of whether she can rack the first round in (there should be a round chambered anyway as there is no guarantee there will be time to even rack a round in when you need it)

If she's having trouble racking the slide on an autoloader she will have trouble clearing malfunctions as well. If there's a misfire or a stovepipe can she tap-rack the pistol? How about a failure to extract? Will she be able to lock the slide back or rip the magazine out of the pistol, rack-rack-rack to remove the offending casing, and rack again to re-chamber a round?

It also means she will have difficulty clearing the pistol as well. Turning the pistol sideways isn't always possible, and if you're not careful, you can end up sweeping yourself too.

See if you can get her comfortable using different techniques racking the slide. If she still has trouble, it may be better for her to stick with a wheel gun that doesn't have the above issues. How badly does SHE want an autoloader? You may be looking for a solution to a problem that doesn't exist...

Skylerbone
January 8, 2013, 10:26 PM
Per the OP, sounds like he's just covering bases by having her familiarize herself with auto loaders. Doesn't mean she has to trade off, only offers more options.

I don't own one, or any other Glock but 30 seconds at the gun counter with a G17 will probably tell you whether or not she can handle racking a slide. If she can, I'd suggest a purchase.

Hondo 60
January 8, 2013, 10:38 PM
Instead of pulling the slide rearward, grip the slide and push the frame forward.

+1000 You'd be surprised how many ladies take the class that I teach, that have a brand new .380 & have the same troubles.

Once I show 'em to move the frame (not the slide) the problem is solved.

hentown
January 9, 2013, 08:59 AM
Seems-to-me that, for the moment, the OP's wife's problem is psychosomatic. Her familiarizing herself with her pistol will cure that.

beatledog7
January 9, 2013, 10:10 AM
Seems-to-me that, for the moment, the OP's wife's problem is psychosomatic. Her familiarizing herself with her pistol will cure that.

I almost 100% agree with this. I've seen many women (and a few men) who could not rack a slide the first time they tried and right then decided they could not own that gun. I've seen nearly all of them learn how to rack that slide within a few minutes of being taught how to do it and subsequently buy that gun or another one that requires the same effort to rack.

My mother tells me that I gave up on tying my shoes when I didn't get it the first time I tried, declaring I simply could not do it. I was 4. At a gun show a couple of months ago I watched a 40-ish lady work her way down an entire table of semi-autos, even having the dealer un-zip them if needed, so she could try to rack their slides. One try with each, and she gave it back. How sad that adults reach this "I can't" conclusion about racking a slide after trying only once.

Armchair Warrior
January 10, 2013, 03:15 PM
Thanks folks. Lots of good ideas. You are right on several levels. I want to familiarize her with alternatives. You have provided me with different methods that we can use in the process of generally making her more comfortable with an auto. Worst case scenario she will just continue to use her revolver.

ATLDave
January 10, 2013, 03:45 PM
After thinking about this a bit: most full-size service-pistols will have recoil springs in the 12-16 pound range, with a few maxing out a 20 or so. Assuming a hammer or striker spring of normal strength, that's going to add another couple of pounds to the pull, if it's not possible simply to cock the hammer and remove that from the equation.

Either way, you're talking about needing to generate a differential in force between the left and right hands of about or below 20 pounds, which means 10 pounds per hand. If you can lift a ten-pound weight with each hand, you have enough pure strength to rack anything but very heavily-sprung compacts or 10mm's or the like.

So what's the problem? Grip/purchase. Since the hand on the grip of the gun has plenty of purchase, and since the frame will be pushing back into one's palm, that's not going to be the issue.

Ability to grab the slide and not lose grip has to be the source of the problem for all but those who are so enfebled as to have difficulty lifting the gun itself. The obvious first step is to have the shooter try every different (safe) way to grab the slide. Some people may get more grip with the overhand method. Many will get more with a pinch between the thumb and side of the index finger (the human hand was specially designed to apply force between the thumb and the fingers, not finger tips to palm). Maybe there's a fixed rear sight with a shelf to get more purchase.

If the slide still slips through the fingers, one could look for something with stronger serations. But that may be counterproductive. Many people's grip on things fail not because of a lack of strength, but because the friction or pressure on their skin becomes uncomfortable. Skateboard tape on the sides of the slide may be less painful than serrations.

If that still fails, you can add a slide racker. Slide rackers are common on race guns. They'd be unorthodox on a home defense pistol, but I can't see any problem other than that the pistol may not fit in a shallow drawer or in the original box or in some small safes.

In any event, if your wife has enough hand strength to pull a DA revolver trigger, and enough arm strength to lift, aim, and fire a gun, the requisite strength ought to be there. At least that's how it seems to me.

mljdeckard
January 10, 2013, 03:56 PM
The only exception I have found to this is my mother. She injured her wrist and it never healed properly, and she cannot grip a slide well enough to rack it with any technique.

460Kodiak
January 10, 2013, 04:11 PM
Instead of pulling the slide rearward, grip the slide and push the frame forward.
+1

But if she has carried a 36 for years and is happy, why do you want her to change it up? Or is she not happy and wants the change also?

If she is content, I say leave her alone.

ATLDave
January 10, 2013, 05:13 PM
The only exception I have found to this is my mother. She injured her wrist and it never healed properly, and she cannot grip a slide well enough to rack it with any technique.

Sure, that makes sense. Again, the grip strength is the problem. I wonder if she could do it with a slide-racker (not that you're going to push a race gun on your mom!).

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