Reduce slide lock reload time

A slide lock on a pistol occurs when the slide locks back in the open position after the last shot in the magazine is fired. Time to bring the pistol back into battery can be reduced by correctly applying one of two methods.

  • Slide release method
  • Sling shot method

When this happens during a competition or a real life situation, it will interrupt your train of thought to the point that you freeze for a moment because you have to change your thought process quickly and the task required is not second nature.

Why practice a slide lock reload ?

This can mean the difference in winning or losing or more importantly, life or death. As a pistol shooter and carrier, you should be prepared to get your gun back into battery as quickly as possible. “Back into battery” is defined as ” the weapon is ready to fire”.

How long should it take?

A good slide lock reload should take around 2 seconds to clear the empty mag, replace it with a loaded one, and get the next shot off.

How to do a slide lock reload?

There are several actions that have to be completed to get your pistol back into battery once the weapon as locked back due to an empty mag. Those actions are ejecting the spent mag quickly, fast acquisition of the full magazine, inserting the full mag into the pistol, then reloading a round into the chamber.

All of these actions are the same for most semi auto pistols and shooters. The exception is the last action. Reloading a round into the chamber. There are two accepted methods of doing this.

The two methods have been the subject of an age old argument since semi auto pistols came into existence. Below I will list the advantages and disadvantages of both in order for you to decide which is best for you.

Slide release method

What is the slide release method. This is when you utilize your thumb to press the slide release button after the magazine is inserted. In the picture above the thumb is being used to release the slide. On most semi auto pistols the slide release button is located in the position in the image above.

The argument that most shooters who are not in favor of this method present is that this little button is in most manuals referred to as a slide catch or slide stop. Not as a slide release and is therefore not designed to be used for that purpose.

Those with that argument are proponents of the slingshot method which will be discussed below. I have been shooting pistols seriously for over 30 years and have used the slide release method many times. As with anything, there are advantages and disadvantages which I will list below.


  • Can be accomplished with one hand, if you hand is large enough or the pistol is small enough.
  • Fast, the pistol is back in battery with just the push of a button
  • Less disruptive to the whole process of aiming and shooting, The pistol can stay closer to the target and ready firing position while this action is performed.
  • Easier to remain focused on the target

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  • Unless you have extra large hands or a very small pistol this technique usually requires sacrificing the grip you already have with your right hand, then re-gripping the pistol to make the next shot unless you use the thumb on the weak hand, left for right handed shooters, to press the slide release button.
  • When tensions are high, finding the slide release on your pistol might be hard to do. This is where the argument of fine versus coarse motor skills comes into play.
  • Those with arthritis, or other hand handicap may find it difficult to press the slide release button with enough force to re-engage it.
  • The slide release on some pistols may be very hard to activate due to design. If this is the case it can be made lighter but I would suggest using a gunsmith for that. You could ruin the part if you don’t know what you are doing.
  • If you are left handed, you already know that not all pistols are ambidextrous and your pistol choice may not have a slide release on the right side of the pistol.
  • Some pistols don’t have a slide release so the slingshot method must be used.

Slingshot Method

The slingshot method requires you to grasp the end of the locked back slide and pull it backwards aggressively which should release the slide stop and allow the slide to move forward and therefore, load a new round into the chamber. The proponents of this method use the argument that you are using gross motor skills which are easier and more dependable to use when compared to small motor skills like using the tip of a finger to press a slide release button. Here are the advantages and disadvantages I have found through my own experience.


  • Pistol does not have to be ambidextrous
  • Accommodates people with smaller hands
  • Requires less hand strength
  • The same movements when racking the slide is used in the correct procedure to clear a jam from a pistol. This is also an action that all pistol shooters must learn so the same motion can be carried over.
  • Can be used with any pistol, even those that don’t have a slide release.


  • This method is slower than just using the slide release
  • Using a less aggressive technique and forgetting to actually sling shot the action can result in a jam or failure to feed. This could have a devastating affect in a real life situation
  • There is more movement required to execute this technique properly. Movement is wasted time unless you are moving to cover.

Here is a good video by the Warrior Poet discussing the pros and cons of each method.


Through my years of competition, I have learned that to be really good at pistol shooting, you must not lock yourself down to one technique expecting that it will handle all obstacles you may face.

My advice to all serious pistol shooters is to learn and become competent with both. Although I always tend to use the slide release method myself, simply because it is faster, I can quickly move right into the sling shot method if an obstacle presents itself.