Slide Operation

At Gunsite with several writers, Colt, Galco, XS Sights and Trijicon and I am learning like I always do when I am here.

So how do you operate the slide on a semi-auto handgun?

Gunsite teaches the palm down, thumb to the rear method but the thumb forward method is popular.

Gun Nuts Media Guy Caleb Giddings performing the Gunsite method of slide operation.

Caleb Giddings using the thumb forward method popular in competition.

Its true you can manipulate the slide easier in the retention position with the Gunsite method but I and others feel the thumb forward technique is faster.

Is it faster enough to matter?

Does it compromise the security of the handgun?

I honestly cannot say. What I can say is that Gunsite teaches things for a reason and that’s reason enough for me to give it an honest try.



About gunwriter

Born and raised in the West Virginia hills, Richard literally grew up in the woods. He has chased coon hounds until daylight, waited out whitetails perched high in an oak, canoed the New River and hunted from the Montana Mountains to the Green Hills of Africa. During service in the Army and later as a municipal police officer and Special Agent with the railroad police, Richard obtained numerous certifications in small arms instruction. He has trained military personnel, law enforcement officers and civilians in the application of firearms for defensive, competitive and recreational use. Richard won the West Virginia Governor’s Twenty Award for law enforcement, the West Virginia National Guard State Pistol Competition and earned his Distinguished Medal with pistol. Badge turned in, Richard is now a contributing editor for several magazines. He was the compiling author of the book, Rifle Bullets for the Hunter and conceptualized and contributed to Selecting and Ordering a Custom Hunting Rifle. Richard also contributed a chapter to the John Velke book, The True Story of the Baldwin-Felts Detective Agency. Richard has patents on a riflescope reticle and a revolutionary bullet testing media. A hillbilly at heart, Richard lives on Shadowland - his shooting range in West Virginia - with the most understanding wife in the world, their three kids and a very protective ridgeback hound.
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3 Responses to Slide Operation

  1. Larry says:

    I ran across the same thing in training from two different instructors, both of them advocate the thumb to the rear, Gunsite, method for two different reasons. Both of the instructors have been under stress during OEF/OIF deployments. During times of personal stress when one encounters tunnel vision a person tends to loose their fine motor skills and that is what is primarily used during the thumb forward method. The second reason is that a shooter has the capacity to exert greater grip strength on a pistol slide by using a thumb rear grip and pressing all four fingers and the heel of the hand against a pistol slide versus just using a thumb and finger to rack a slide.

  2. Larry says:

    We actually did a training drill where we had to rack a slide with wet hands, typical of what a person who CCW’s could possibly encounter if out in a storm and needed to operate their weapon. Almost impossible to perform a slide operation with wet hands by the thumb forward method.

  3. Karl says:

    The thumb forward method works great if you have a thumb. Because the hands are often near the body’s centerline when they are in use (as in shooting a handgun) that places them in line with center mass, where your attacker is probably shooting. In FoF training I see lots of students get shot in the hands. Assuming that you will have two hands, or that one specialized finger on your hand, in a fight, and training to a technique that requires that finger, may be a bad idea.

    Also: if you screw up and pull the trigger while you are manipulating the slide thumb forward, the slide will slam into your hand. If you make the same error using the overhand technique, the damage to your hand is likely to be much less severe.

    Problem #3. The thumb forward technique encourages you to work the gun farther away from your body where you are weaker. If you have been shot and lose upper body strength, it’s not a good idea to rely on a technique that needs it. Spend a couple years teaching older women with limited upper body strength (and sometimes, arthritis) how to shoot semiauto handguns and observe how much easier it is for them to make the overhand technique work – that will convince you that the overhand technique is much more robust across a wider range of strengths and dexterities. (And no, the answer for those ladies is not a revolver, since their limited strength and dexterity make the 8-12 lb DA triggers on revolvers just as problematic as the semiauto slide, and in a fight, the shooting part is more important than the gun manipulation, so I’d rather give them a better fighting chance with a trigger they can pull and a gun that holds more than 6 rounds.)

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