Two Letters Re: Assuring M1911-Series Autopistol Safety

Mr. Rawles,

While I agree, of course, with Steve V.’s assertion that firearms need to be handled safely, people should be familiar with their firearms, and training is a good thing; I very much disagree with the assertion that operating the slide of an automatic pistol the correct way is “an extremely bad habit”.

First, his complaints about what happens when racking a slide with thumbs on opposite sides of the slide and facing opposite directions aren’t very valid in my opinion. The notion that a shooter’s hand and arm conceal the pistol making it “hard to see exactly where the muzzle is pointing” is silly. Even with a small-frame Glock 26 or 27 I can still see the muzzle when operating the slide. But I don’t have to even see the muzzle to know where it is pointing because the hand on the pistol grip is indexed and I know where my fingers point without having to actually see them. Almost any man, woman, or child can stretch out their arm and point their index finger and know where their arm and finger are pointing without looking at them.

Also, at no time does the muzzle point “along or into the left lower forearm”. Even if I had forearms like Popeye, this would not happen. The pistol is pointed downrange, the left hand is on the slide, well behind the muzzle, and every other part of the left arm is farther back than the hand.

Second, I manipulate a pistol up high in my field of view so that I can see the pistol, the environment, and potential adversaries all at once. Manipulating the slide the way that Steve prefers when the pistol is up high in the shooter’s field of view is nearly impossible (which is why he recommends the low 45-degree position). You have to either turn the right wrist to the right (for a right-hand shooter) in order to effectively grasp the slide with the off hand or you have to contort your arms to bring your forearms parallel with each other with the elbows nearly together in order to keep the pistol pointed ahead and get your off hand onto the slide with the thumb-forward grip that was recommended.

If you do see someone pointing a pistol to their left or right while manipulating the slide — regardless of their approach to manipulating the slide — it is a training issue and should no doubt be corrected. But that doesn’t mean that a mechanically inefficient or awkward approach that is better only for the range should be preferred. – Jeff in Georgia


Mr. Rawles,
The article by Steve V. leaves me with some concerns for the general populace.  I have spent my entire adult life in public service, serving both my country (13 years) and my state (13+ years), always carrying a weapon. 

My concerns are the way Steve V. has individuals pulling the slide to the rear; “With the left hand, reach over the slide (your thumbs should now both be pointing in the same direction – forward, but on opposite sides of the weapon), and with thumb and forefinger grasp the slide near the muzzle. Pull the slide back and lock it open.”  This does multiple things wrong in my book.  One, it places your hand operating the slide close to the muzzle.  No plan survives first contact!  With a sympathetic response, one could be missing a finger and thumb or parts thereof.  Second, you only have one finger and only a portion of your thumb on the slide to obtain your grip.  Third, you are potentially placing your body, dripping blood, or clothing over the ejection port and possibly in the chamber.  And fourth, this only allows you to hold the weapon vertical, as in a firing position or cant it to the left; both ways again cause possible problems and more malfunctions if your intent is to clear a malfunction.

Steve V. states that “most people rack the slide by holding the pistol in the right hand, grasping the rear of the slide with the other hand in a manner such that the thumbs are pointing in opposite directions on the same side of the weapon,” is an extremely bad habit.  I completely disagree and argue the following reasons.  One, your hand operating the slide is nowhere near the muzzle and is rear of the ejection port, clearing it of any self-induced malfunctions or injuries.  Two, you have four fingers on the right and most of your palm on the left of the slide making a C clamp.  Blood is slippery and the more friction area you have between you and the slide the better.  Three, this forces you to either have the weapon upright or allows you to cant the weapon to the right allowing anything you don’t want, i.e. a spent casing, to fall free.  Obviously to the right is preferred.

Muzzle Discipline.  This is a taught technique or an allowed bad habit from the start.  Weapons are always down range or pointed downward (cover/ready position) with the finger off the trigger until necessary.  Even when clearing a malfunction, loading, unloading, or reloading, the muzzle faces the enemy.  It is muscle memory and if taught from the start is second nature.  All should be taught never to flag (point, cross, etc.) your buddy with the muzzle, always keeping in mind weapons are inherently dangerous.  That said, good guys walk in front of other good guys in the heat of the moment.  Your finger should be off the trigger and if you are up on target, lower [your muzzle to a] ready [position] if this happens.  After they pass, move if necessary, and re-acquire/re-engage your target.

Final thought when clearing your weapon.  One, drop the magazine allowing it to hit the ground or floor!  No need to train a bad habit by grabbing it as it drops.  If you do, you have the potential of grabbing an empty in combat.  Let it drop!  Two, rack the slide three times to the rear, locking the slide to the rear on the third time.  If you do it three times, you shouldn’t be tempted to try and catch that round as it comes out, yet again another bad habit.  After locking the slide to the rear, visually inspect the chamber and the magazine well for anything. 

Practice doesn’t make perfect.  Perfect practice makes perfect!
Stay safe and when in doubt, empty a magazine!  Or two. Regards, – T.F.