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Tips, Tricks, Gadgets For Pistols

Small, But Essential, Tasks Can Be Made Easier

In the movies, the heroes only have problems with their firearms if it suits the plot. In real life, I've taken a lot of classes and gone to a lot of ranges, and believe me, if you have problems, you're not alone.

As you get older, the sights may be harder to see and racking the slide can get harder to do as well. You don't even have to be older – many smaller people or those with handicaps or just weak hands also have trouble doing things like racking the slide, reloading, locking the slide back, and loading and unloading magazines.

Fortunately for us, those problems are common enough that there are a myriad of choices for things to make those small, but essential, tasks easier.

The Basics

Before you purchase a firearm, go somewhere like Shooters World where you can rent a pistol. Try before you buy. How does it feel? Can you reach the controls like the safety (if there is one), the magazine release, and the slide lock? Sights can usually be changed, but if you don't want to do that, can you see them clearly? Most of the time, triggers can also be changed, but how does the trigger feel to you? Does it have the right amount of pull for you?

If you are uncomfortable with a firearm from the start, think twice before buying it.

Racking The Slide On A Semi-Automatic Pistol

If you have smaller or weaker hands, racking the slide is probably going to be your biggest problem. Here are some tips: Hold the gun in your strong hand, pointing down-range or in a safe direction. Keep your finger off the trigger. Take your other hand and fold it over the slide, gripping it as strongly as you can. Now, instead of trying to pull the slide back, hold it still. While holding the top slide, use your strong hand to shove the gun body forward smartly.

Always rack the slide completely back and let it close itself so the round from the magazine will be perfectly seated in the chamber. If you are racking to remove a round from the chamber, be sure to drop the magazine first or another round will be chambered. When removing a round, be sure to tilt the gun to the right so that the round will drop out.

If you need to lock the slide back, such as when cleaning the weapon, have your thumb under the slide lock as you push the gun forward, and when the lock is under the notch, just push up with your thumb. This is much easier if you use your right hand on the butt and your left on the slide. If you are left-handed, be aware that some pistols are available for lefties.

Still having trouble? Here are some great little gadgets designed to help you easily rack your slide:

• The Handi-Racker 2 is a small device that can fit in your pocket. Place it on top of your weapon, hold it in place, and push the gun forward to rack the slide. It comes in two sizes to fit 95 percent of all pistols, and is just $19.99. You can find it on Amazon.

• The Lockin Loader is another slide racking assist but it's a bit larger. It has a peg that fits into the barrel of your weapon. Hold the weapon and the Lockin Loader close to your body, then just push the slide back. The curve of the tool gives you a lot more power. You can also get a stand so that when you are cleaning your gun at home, you can easily rack the slide with one hand and have the other free to move the slide lock into place. This tool is $29.95 and is available on eBay.

• The PachmayrRackSlide Rack Assist is also small and is designed to fit a variety of guns. You'd have to check to make sure it will fit your weapon. It fits over the muzzle and slide and gives you an excellent grip that makes it much easier to rack the slide. It also keeps your fingers clear. I've noticed that many times, fear of getting pinched is a major reason people have trouble racking the slide, and this will make you feel a lot safer. They are $15.25 on Amazon.

• The Rack-It Belt Clip is a bit different. It clips onto your belt, so that you rack the slide with the gun pointing at the ground. It seems designed for those who conceal carry but don't want to have a round chambered. Pull your weapon, rack it quickly on the Rack-It Belt Clip, and you're ready to go.

• If you own a Glock, check out the Field Sport Tactical Ring Latch Handle. It's $21.85 on Amazon, and it actually installs on the back of the Glock slide. As the name implies, it's a ring, so you just hang onto it while you shove the gun body forward. Perfect for anyone with weaker hands, and you don't have to pull it out of your pocket or anything. People rave about these, and it shouldn't make any difference in your holster either.

Loading And Unloading

Loading and unloading magazines can take forever, and when the magazine gets close to full it can be really hard to get those last rounds in. My absolute favorite mag loading tool is the MaglulaUpLULA Magazine loader. It fits over the magazine. Just set the magazine down, fit the UpLULA over it, push down, place a round, and push it in with the little lever. Works flawlessly and very quickly.

It's hard to describe the action, so search online for a video. You can get these at most gun shops and outdoor stores, or get one online at midwayusa.com for $31.45.

If you carry your gun with a round chambered, here's the way to do that and still have a full magazine. Slap the full magazine into the gun, rack the slide, then drop the magazine and put another round in it. Put the now-full mag into the pistol, and you're ready to go. Always push the magazine in quickly and with authority.

To quickly load revolvers, get a few Bianchi Speed Loader Strips. They are $7.60 and they are soft rubbery material so they bend around easily. Simply load your rounds into the strips, and when you need to reload, just position the rounds over the holes in the revolver and push them in. The rounds don't fall out of the strips, so you can have them loaded up and keep them in your pocket for when you need them.

Or you can get HKS Revolver Speed Loaders. They are $10 at Midwayusa.com and they are cylinder-shaped to match the cylinder on your revolver. Load it up, place it over your cylinder, push the back button, and bingo – a round in each spot just like that. Pretty cool. They take a little more room than the strips but they sure are fast. Get several so you can keep them loaded and ready.


If you're having trouble seeing the sights or you just have trouble lining them up, WHOOSH Sights might solve all of your problems. Simply hold the gun so that the two circles are formed, position it so the bullseye is right over that, and squeeze the trigger. They are incredibly fast and easy to use. I absolutely love mine, especially as I've gotten older.

Smith And Wesson EZ

If you haven't yet purchased your firearm, you might want to check out the Smith and Wesson EZ. It is designed with better gripping on the slide, plus an easier-to-rack slide. It's available with or without a safety, and has a tactile loaded chamber indicator, so you can actually see and feel if there is a round in the chamber. They are $416 for the M&P380 Shield EZ.


Need a carry holster that feels good on your skin but has the retention of a plastic holster? The brand new 1791 Gunleather Ultra Custom is a leather holster with extra high sweat guards so the gunmetal never touches your skin. Best yet, they are made with a layer of secret stuff between two layers of leather that allows you to mold the holster to your individual firearm.

You actually drop it in boiling water to soften it, then take it out and put your gun into it while it's warm. Press and mold the material around your weapon – press hard around the trigger guard to give the holster incredible retention. It hardens in 60 to 90 seconds, and it's thin so it conceals nicely. Get a new gun? Just boil it again and re-mold it! Check them out at 1791gunleather.com.


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