Should You Use The Slide Release?

pns_pistolreload

A topic that has been debated again and again in one of the industry professional groups I am a member of is should you use your slide stop to send the slide home when reloading a handgun. Some experts say absolutely, it is a time saving measure that will get your pistol topped up faster than the slingshot or power stroke method. On the other hand some manufactures as well as professionals on the other side of the argument act like you just peed on their couch when you mention the term slide release.

Personally I don’t have a dog in the fight as I am far from an authority when comes to shooting a pistol fast in either self defense situations or competition. For whatever reason I have gravitated towards the slingshot method of releasing the slide, but is that right?

Bill Blowers from Primary & Secondary put together a pretty good instructional video highlighting the benefits of the slide stop method. LANGUAGE WARNING, it is a bit profane at times but Bill is very skilled and has some great information.

Travis Haley makes a pretty good case for the power stroke method as well. He points out that moving between different handguns often (like I do) the power stroke method can save some time instead of hunting for that slide stop.

What method do you guys think is better or are they equally valid? I want to know how you reload a pistol and why you chose to do it that way.



Patrick R

Patrick is a Senior Writer for The Firearm Blog and works in the shooting sports industry. He is an avid recreational shooter and a verified gun nerd. With a lifelong passion for shooting, he has a love for all types of firearms, especially handguns and the AR-15 platform. Patrick may be contacted at tfbpatrick@gmail.com.

The above post is my opinion and does not reflect the views of any company or organization.


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  • BattleshipGrey

    Never heard of the M&P issue with slapping the mag in hard. Having heard Bill’s opinion of it I tend to agree with him.

    I actually use both methods between using my strong hand thumb and the power stroke, though I favor the power stroke. I had one guy tell me that using the slide stop as a release will eventually round out the notch. I suppose that would happen if I were in a competition league or just blasting through thousands of rounds a year, but in most people’s cases I doubt it would round out enough to render the slide stop useless. Even Travis didn’t really knock it for guns you know and own.

  • Al

    That was the only way to do it as far as my instructors were concerned. Nobody even considered power stroking. Time and the ability to use your left hand was above all.

  • M1911

    My Gen 2.5 Glock 34 reliably drops the slide when I insert the mag.

    For my other Glocks, I use strong hand thumb on the extended slide stop. For me, the power stroke is slower. In cold weather, it is easy for your hand to slip off the slide. The argument that the power stroke is a gross motor skill is bushwa. Any time you are manipulating an object with your fingers, it is a fine motor skill.

    A well sized and well placed slide stop is easily located if you practice.

    Either technique will work. Choose one and practice.

    • Anon

      “Take the elbow, hit the magazine release”.

      • Harry’s Holsters

        Only way a real operator would do it.

        Long live Phuc Long!

    • “Choose one and practice” is honestly the correct answer to about 90% of “Which one of these should I use for…” questions.

  • Anon

    Is it just me, or did this debate for the most part start because Glocks and a lot of other polymer pistols have a less than ideal slide release?

    • Some Guy

      No that’s pretty much it. Glock builds a crappy slide release and then says: ‘We didn’t screw up. You’re just doing it wrong’ and people apparently bought it.

      • Chris22lr

        How dare you! Glock is THE PERFECTION!

        Though in my limited experience with Glocks (I mostly shoot revolvers in target matches) their slide lock works fine as slide release.

        • Anon

          I never said it didn’t work, I just said that it was less than ideal, because I’ve had my thumb slip off of the slide release trying to use it, which is something that probably wouldn’t have happened with a Beretta 92 or a CZ 75.

          • I have dumb short fingers and my shooting thumb doesn’t reach the slide release on anything I’ve ever fired without turning the pistol halfway out of a firing grip, so I just retrained myself to hit it with my support hand as part of the same motion of seating the fresh magazine and regaining a two-handed stance, just like running an AR.

    • M1911

      Which is why I run a Glock extended slide release on all my Glocks.

  • Renegade

    I wasn’t aware that this was a debate.

    It’s a slide release. It releases the slide. Why is this a question?

    • Simon

      On some gun (M&P Shield, looking at you) it’s a slide lock, not a release. It’s not designed as a release, is unreliable as such, and the manual states to use the slingshot method.

    • Harry’s Holsters

      On a glock it’s actually a slide lock. Glock didn’t intend it to lock back the slide. I personally use it as a release though.

      A khar it’s a slide release and they recommend you use it as such.

      • law-abiding-citizen

        Every Glock Certified Armorer I know has said Glock does not recommend using the factory slide stop to release the slide. The factory slide stop tends to bend when used as a slide release.
        It’s one of the reasons replacing the factory slide stop is one of the first upgrades many Glock owners do.

        • mrsatyre

          I wasn’t aware of that. Thanks for pointing that out.

        • nova3930

          Which points out my position, the “debate” is a matter of knowing your platform and how to operate it correctly and efficiently, and practicing as such.

        • Paul Hurst

          It tends to bend? When should I expect this to occur, since it has not yet happened to my Glock 17 in the 25+ years I have been doing it.

          And if Glock does not intend for it to be a slide release, why do they have an extended version?

          Hey if you are against using it, don’t; but no need to make crap up.

          • George

            My 19 I’ve had since… Crap, 1993 I think, is doing fine with the release as well…

        • Never had any problems at all with it on any of the three Glocks I’ve owned and two I’ve been issued. My early Gen3 Glock 23 would actually refuse to return to battery as often as not if I tried to slingshot it instead of using the release.

      • Joel

        Glock puts an extended slide release on competition models specifically so that it can be used as a slide release. Glock does call it a slide lock on non comp models, but this is somewhat repudiated by their slide “release” on models 34 and 35.

      • Marcus D.

        Yup, not only that, mine seems to lock back all the way, with not enough wiggle room to power stroke it. And then there is the fact that the slide release is right under the right thumb, and it is sharp, so there is no need to search for anything. First time I shot mine, my thumb got pretty sore!

    • ExMachina1

      Most handguns going back to the earliest days of auto-loaders refer to such a part a a slide stop/lock.

      The fact that people confuse the terminology so much is precisely why there is “a debate”

    • Blake

      Well besides it not being a slide release (it’s a slide stop), you clear all standard malfunctions by power stroking and being efficient is all about muscle memory. Why introduce secondary action sequences when you can just do the same sequence for every situation?

      With me personally, I don’t like the possibility of accidentally hitting the slide stop before the magazine is fully seated when trying to run fast and under that kind of adrenaline.

  • Anton Gray Basson

    I am a lefty, I basically only have one option…

    • hikerguy

      As am I. But be careful….Somebody may tell you just to get over it since it isn’t what the majority of the market demands….

      • Jwedel1231

        I think market demand is the reason that lefty-friendly features are present on basically every new gun to debut in the last decade. Were you told to get over it recently?

        • hikerguy

          Yes, but I need not tell who. I have been out of handgunning for a while, and I am about to purchase my first since 1985 once I am approved for concealed carry in my state. It’s actually ambi as well, even though I will have to slingshot it. It appears things have gotten better.

        • Cmex

          In the interest of this debate, I use the release when I shoot handguns with the right hand, and the slide when I shoot with the left hand — different techniques for different body positions. My left hand is pretty badly always messed up, so I can do the slide stop, it’s just difficult and will make my tendons act up fierce.

    • Jwedel1231

      Using a gun with a slide release on each side? Like an M&P or a newer CZ? Wait, that’s two options. But with both of those, you could still power stroke AND sling shot, so that’s two paths with 3 options each.

      I have no idea what you are implying.

      • Rick O’Shay

        Lefty carrying an M&P here. No idea why anyone would think “there’s only one option,” especially given the increasingly lefty-friendly market within the last 10 years.

    • Harry’s Holsters

      Try grabbing the front of the slide instead of the rear. It’s faster but only really works with serrations.

      • Lowe0

        The front of the slide is where bullets come out. I like to keep my squishy finger meat away from there often as possible.

        And yes, I keep my finger out of the trigger guard during reloads, but why add any unnecessary risk?

        • rob in katy

          A man’s got to know his limitations…

          • Lowe0

            Having learned my limitations with 5 digits, I don’t want to relearn what they are with 4.

    • Sean Glenville

      I am a lefty as well. I actuate the slide release with my left trigger finger. It wouldn’t work on all pistols, but it works with my CZs.

    • …Revolvers?

  • Bob

    I was taught by a couple of cops who ran the training for their department to avoid use of the slide release. I thought it was just one of those “Do this just in case the slide release might one in a million fail on you”, but actually my father found that his Glock doesn’t always feed the first hollow point in a mag if he uses the slide release, so there does seem to be a reason for their warning. I personally have never had any problems with the use of a slide release, but I followed their training and rarely use it, so what do I know…

    • Bob

      Some other thoughts….
      1. The police department I’m talking about had lots or guys who would carry a Glock on duty and then switch to a 1911 off duty, so I imagine the concern about slide releases being in different positions was a big deal for the department in training.
      2. I have been known to use anything from Glocks to a Makarov, so this is also a concern for me.
      3. My father’s experience could be a PSA. Imagine had he tried to save money by shooting ball on the range and only loading up with hollow points for carry, never testing whether or not his gun (It’s a Glock, which is the AK of handguns, right?) could eat HPs under all circumstances. Get in a fight on the street and the reload just goes click? Don’t want that…

      • Jwedel1231

        #2: If you are going to be using anything besides one specific gun most of the time, power stroke. It works on every gun, every time, so good on you.

        #3: That would be a PSA for checking the status of your weapon every single time you pick it up, especially if you depend on it for serious social work. Imagine a mediflight helicopter not having its fuel checked before take-off!

        • Bob

          This is true, but as he generally strokes it on the first loading and then uses the slide release trying to be fast when reloading, the problem might escape notice until he actually needs it bad. (Remember, I’m talking about making sure you test fire the self-defense ammo you intend to use and supposing that my father had not done so…)

  • gunsandrockets

    And then there are some pistols like the HK4 which automatically drop the slide after a loaded magazine is fully inserted.

    • Jwedel1231

      That’s really the best option. All these “pistol technique” videos and lessons should be renamed “Glock and similar pistol techniques”.

      • JumpIf NotZero

        You know there is a reason all guns don’t do this right? It’s absolutely not “the best option”. It’s usually an unintended design bug that most people treat like a feature.

        • Jwedel1231

          I think I didn’t explain myself clearly. A gun that drops the slide automatically (on purpose) like the HK4 or Cobalt Kinetics rifle, THAT is the best option. There is no fighting over the best way to release the slide, the gun does it automatically. My M&P ‘s slide drops when I hammer a mag home real hard, but that is not what I’m advocating.

    • LG

      Look at the Grant Hammond pistol. It automatically ejected the magazine when the last round was fired and automatically dropped the slide when a new, fresh magazine was inserted. That is nice. It is just a shame that all the bugs in the remainder of the weapon could not have been satisfactorily worked out.

  • Harry’s Holsters

    On technique I didn’t see was grabbing the slide in front of the chamber. If you must grab the slide this will cut a little time off as your hand is moving a shorter distance.

  • Harry’s Holsters

    If I’m having to reload from a locked back slide in a competition or life and death encounter then every hundredth of a second will count.

    That’s why I use my primary thumb to drop the slide. I also drop the slide while moving to full extension. This lessens my chance of dropping it before the magazine is seated. I you’re really afraid of dropping before you seat the magazine use your support hand thumb to drop the slide release or lock.

  • stephen

    Instead of being so set in one way, we should consider the shooter. I know some people that can’t manipulate the slide release so they opt for the power stroke. Others have a hard time with a power stroke so they find it easier to use the slide release.

    Final word of advice…Do what works consistently for you.

    Personally I have over 10,000+ rounds (stopped counting after 10K) through my G23 and I always use the slide lock/release. Never once had a time when it did not work. Never fumbled with it, or had to try it twice to get it to work.

    Reality: shows that in self defense situations the majority of people never fire a shot. Of those that do fire their gun, the average rounds shot is 2.6. So is reloading a big concern for home defense? Apparently not as criminals are looking for an easy score and don’t want a confrontation. After years of reading the NRA magazines with the bits about everyday citizens defending themselves I cannot remember even on report where John or Jane Q. Public reloaded.

    Just saying.

  • Leo Guy

    It’s a slide stop only to hold the slide open, Glock intended the user to manually rack the slide.

    • M1911

      Right. Then why does the Glock extended slide stop have a ledge on top of it so that you can easily depress it with your thumb?

  • Will P.

    I think it’s all what you train for, and that pretty well goes for everything in these type debates. The problem is all these instructors think their method is the only right method for everything. But as I was always told, “There is more than one way to skin a cat.”.

  • Evan

    I prefer to use the slide release on a pistol or bolt release on a rifle when the opportunity is there. As a lefty, I cannot use the slide release on Glocks specifically and some other pistols as well, and hence I’m forced to use the slingshot method by default.

  • IndyToddrick

    I simply cannot do the power stroke well in a hurry, I only do it for locking the slide back carefully. I always use the slingshot method for releasing the slide. After owning dozens of hands guns I gave up on using the slide release long ago. As others have mentioned, not only is the lever in different places and different sizes and shapes for each model, many models use slide stops, not made to use as slide releases.

  • Edeco

    I slingshot it; less wear, less hollywood-ish, and I one hand it mostly so slingshotting allows me to keep the right thumb planted.

  • Friend of Tibet

    Am I the only who felt a bit short on breath when watching Travis Haley’s video?

  • Big Daddy

    You use what works best for you. Everybody runs a different setup and gun and everybody has different sized hands and length fingers. I have big palms, short fingers and my hands are arthritic, I use the power stroke. For me it works best I get the most consistent reload.

    I do agree it’s not a good idea to use the slamming of the magazine as a slide release and one reason I did not like the M&P. If your slide doesn’t go into battery you push the back of the slide forward. I was surprised he didn’t mention that. That’s the drill for me, slide not into battery hit the back of the slide, it always works.

  • Anomanom

    I prefer to use the slide release (and on the USP it is definitely a slide release) deliberately with my strong hand. Partly because it’s a deliberate action which makes it easier to practice. Slingshotting or power stroke require much more movement of the hands.

  • Ron

    People get way to wrapped around the axel around TTP. There are no best ways, just various ways that fit one circumstance better.

  • Martin Grønsdal

    The HK P30s that the Norwegian police uses have no slide release, it has been cut down to just beyond the lock. Idiotic, since the same device also helps stopping the slide when clearing the gun.

    • Patrick R. – Staff Writer

      I had to look into that.

      “And yes, the levers are shortened because a significant percentage of the officers who evaluated the P30 had the slide fail to lock back, because their thumbs hit the lever during recoil. This again caused the infamous lawsuit by the Glock importer (who lost the contract, obviously): they contended that the pistols should be tested and evaluated exactly as delivered, while the HK entry got modified (by taking an angle grinder to the levers or something) mid-trial. No modifications were done or suggested to the Glock, so the importer argued that they, too, should have been given a chance to customize their product before the final decision was made.” – HK Pro member Vargen

      Photo also courtesy https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/9c97316292ce41000137bda34563837e355dd744d3f5e732d26f2c6a4f423ce4.jpg of Vargen.

      • Martin Grønsdal

        Correct gun in the photo. While I would advocate for female officers in the police all day long, most of them, and some male cops, have small hands. This is a major drawback when clearing this gun. You just don’t have a thumb long enough to reach the slidestop.

  • retfed

    When I was an instructor at a major LE academy, we only taught the slingshot method. Damage to the slide stop wasn’t the issue. Gloves are.
    If you live north of the Ohio River or the Mason-Dixon Line, you’re wearing gloves at least 3 months every year. You have to train in a way that works all year. If you train to use the slide stop all the time, it works fine bare-handed. Not so much with gloves, especially with the flat slide stop levers on modern pistols. Try it, you won’t like it.

    • Rusty S.

      Having experienced fresh snow every month of the year, I’d have to agree. It’s reliably below freezing at night 10 months out of the year many places in the mountains.

  • Scott Tuttle

    seems like if its a gun you’ve trained with the slide release is faster for mag changes than stroking. mag is in and slide dropped without waiting for the loading hand to get to the top and then do something else.

  • Dr. Longfellow Buchenrad

    I prefer to do the power stroke since its more reliable and uses less fine motor skills, but I do think it is important to know from memory where the slide release is on your gun (and use it enough to break it in) in case you dont have free use of your other hand.

    • M1911

      That’s a bunch of crap.

      It isn’t more reliable. I have seen a master level shooter have his support hand slip off the slide twice while trying to do a power stroke in competition. If your strong hand thumb can push the mag release button, why do you think your weak hand thumb can’t push the slide stop?

      The gross vs fine motor control argument is wrong. It is used by the proponents of the powerstroke to sound scientific and this authoritative. The terms fine motor control and gross motor control come from child development studies, watching children learn to walk and to manipulate things with their hands. By definition, gross motor control involves large muscles, like your legs. Anything involving your fingers is by definition fine motor control.

      The proponents of the powerstroke assert that it is a gross motor movement. It isn’t. They assert that it is less likely to fail under stress than using the slide stop, but they offer no evidence to support that assertion.

      If you can hit the magazine release, then why can’t you hit the slide stop?

      I’ve competed for a number of years, first in IDPA and now in USPSA. Under that mild stress I have had the opportunity to watch people screw up in many ways. I have yet to see someone miss the slide stop. I have seen people fumble the powerstroke (their hands slipped off).

      Using the slide stop works (provided you have a decent slide stop). Using the powerstroke works, though it is slower. Choose one and practice.

      • iksnilol

        using the slide lock isn’t recommended by most manufacturers. So I try to avoid voiding my warranty or in general messing the gun up.

        • M1911

          Void your warranty by using the slide stop? Making up crap doesn’t help your argument.

          • iksnilol

            Some manufacturers do that.

            Besides, I don’t always use the same gun so it helps to have an universal technique to some extent.

          • M1911

            Baloney. Provide a documented instance where a manufacturer had denied a warranty claim because some used the slide stop to release the slide.

        • Cmex

          Got pix? Scans? I’ve never heard this before — WHY WOULD THEY PUT A CONTROL ON A WEAPON THEY DON’T WANT YOU TO USE!?

          • iksnilol

            Because it is intended to lock the slide back, not intended to launch it forward. Just like the clutch isn’t meant to be used to drift the car but it can be useful for that purpose.

  • R H

    I strong hand rack the slide using my sights on my instructor belt, like any real tactical tactician operator operating from the 101st Chairborn Ranger Seal Division Brigade…

    • AD

      “Chairborn”, that got a chuckle out of me.

  • dave

    using my offhand thumb to drop the slide uses the same muscle memory as releasing a bolt release on an ar15 after a mag change, i see no reason to use the slingshot method.

    • That’s how I usually do it, since my stubby vienna sausage thumb can’t reach the slide release without breaking a firing grip anyway; my AR mag changes are smooth as silk thanks to already having the muscle memory in place for years before owning an actual AR.

  • Patrick K Martin

    Having used and fired an insane number of different weapons I always rack the slide, it works on every semi-automatic pistol I ever tried, the same cannot be said for releases which might or might not work or even be present on some pistols. I would rather use a technique that works for everything than train myself to operate each pistol individually and thereby risk using the wrong technique for a given weapon. I think of it like “Trigger Reset”, a wonderful thing for gun-games, in a fight fingers become flippers and your ears lock down (auditory exclusion) so you probably will not feel or hear the reset so if you do not have the reset memorized on that particular weapon or trigger you will miss it. Why train for something that may well reduce your effectiveness in a real fight?

  • adverse4

    Now I can sleep better at night.

  • adverse4

    Must be a slow rack day.

  • Bill

    I wasn’t aware that this was a debate.

    It’s a slide lock. It locks the slide to the rear, you release the slide with your reactionary hand over the top, rear of the ejection port, and jerking the slide. Why is this a question?

  • I always use the slide release just as a way to keep my drills separate and compartmentalize my responses; I slingshot the everlovin’ hay-hole out of the slide as part of my Tap-RACK THE DADGUM THING REAL HARD BUDDY-Assess reflex when clearing a stoppage, so I don’t want to conflate that violent motion with a simple recharging of the pistol after a magazine swap in a situation where I literally do not have time to think about it. Also, in my experience, there are some individual guns– pistols, rifles, and auto shotguns– that just straight up ignore slingshotting from a locked open slide/bolt over a full magazine, and some that will close the bolt on their own initiative when a fresh magazine is seated; I’d prefer not to find out which method a gun prefers in the middle of an uncivil exchange of heavy metal.

    As an aside, I used to have an NHM91 “treaty gun” (with that great thumbhole stock that neatly counterbalanced the longer/heavier barrel) that would lock open if you racked the bolt on an empty magazine, then close the bolt if you slapped the side of the receiver after rolling in a new one, with the same learned muscle memory motion as hitting an AR bolt release with the support thumb.

  • Kelly Jackson

    Depends on the gun, Glocks, Sigs, and anyone else using that tiny bent piece of metal, probably not. But an HK USP? absolutely.

  • Gary Kirk

    Extended slide release on my 1911 has never let me down.. My Beretta 96, any of them depending on situation..

  • Steve Milliron

    You’re not supposed to slingshot Kahr pistols.

  • Andrew Dubya

    How about train with both methods? Or maybe every method you come across? Or at least train with it because it`s there? Never know when you might not be able to rack with the other hand. It`s there for a reason. If people didn`t use it manufacturers would slowly phase them out.

  • Karl Vanhooten

    Blowers needs to back off the cocaine just a bit. Dude would scare the crap out of me on a range. Or his triple-shot latte and testosterone patch kicked in at the same time. Whoo . . .!

  • Vizzini

    As a lefty, I have to use my index finger for the slide release, so the power stroke method just makes more sense.

  • DanGoodShot

    I am alllll to awear of this debate. I use the slide stop. I shoot HKs. Clearly HK makes them easly usable. Anyone whos ever handled one knows exactly what I’m talking about. However, at my local range anytime anyone makes use of the slide stop you would swear they just slept with someones wife. My feel on the whole thing is if it’s there and you prefer to use it, use it. If it’s there and you prefer the slingshot method, use the slingshot method. It’s whatever works for you. As far as it actually damaging the firearm? I call BS. Out of all my years, all the people I have had this discussion with. I have yet to find anyone or seen anything to back up the argument that it damages the firearm in any way, shape or form.

  • jerry young

    I coach new shooters, most have a problem with releasing the slide they can’t seem to get it through their head release means let it go, they want to hold onto it until the slide is all the way forward, this only causes feed problems, for them I recommend the slide release, some slide lock / release levers are too stiff for some people to use and yet again there are guns that you have to use it, the best answer is which ever you can do best in the shortest amount of time, I personally was Army trained to use the slide release many years ago so for me it’s difficult to switch

  • WPZ

    Watch the very best pistol shooters there are- they’re on ranges near you shooting USPSA and IDPA.
    The winners don’t slingshot slides. It takes waaaay too long and isn’t positive enough, requiring too much coordination while breaking the firing grip into pieces needing to be put back together to shoot again.
    Like others here, I didn’t realize that it was a question still.

  • blodd283

    Seen both methods fail (though not often), seen both methods work (pretty often). Comes down to what you are personally comfortable with, and which method you find less worrisome to what kind of shooting you are doing on a regular basis. Apples and oranges.

  • Cmex

    I’ve never had to hunt for a slide release. Yes, I use the release except when function checking and closing at the beginning or end of a course of fire.

  • Silverado

    I have a new Walther PPS M2 you couldn’t rack like that, unless you wanted a hand injury. And I’ve ran 600+ rounds through it as well as dry fire it for practice all the time. And yes I clean and lubricate the thing too. In fact out of 6 different women that I have asked to rack this pistol and only one could do it. Other than that it’s a nice piece.
    I guess I’m too old and set in my pistol shooting ways for any of this…”operator fluff”. I mean when they grab a young guy of military age for military service and then teach them the way the military wants them to shoot – fine, great, good luck. They’ll have an “operator” once they get that drilled into them. For the rest of humanity as well as myself? I use the button. And I ain’t changing what works…for me, as all this is just white noise, distraction and who cares as long as you’re safe handling the weapon and can hit the target anyway?

    • Harry’s Holsters

      I’ll agree with that. It all comes down to what works best for the individual and their gear. My dad has minor arthritis and can’t use the forward method to rack his PPS M1. But if you have the hand strength and if works with your gun it is more efficient than sling shoting or power stroking. IMO the slide release is a superior method. I have starting practicing using the front of the slide for malfunctions though.