Letter Re: Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and Difficulty Racking Pistol Slides

Dear Mr. Rawles,
I recently purchased a Kel-Tec P3AT [.380 ACP pistol] and I am having problems physically pulling back the slide and loading/pushing down ammo into the magazine because I have moderate carpal tunnel syndrome. My doctor advised me to wear wrist splints to decrease the pain of my carpal tunnel syndrome and the numbness that goes along with it. Wrist splints have helped me greatly (in combination with several other approaches), but they have also significantly reduced the strength I have in my wrists and hands.

Do you have any specific advice regarding building up hand and wrist strength in order to overcome this issue? Unfortunately, I do not feel comfortable talking with my doctor about owning a Kel-Tec and my need to have stronger hands and wrists. Also, if you do give me advice, please keep in mind that I am a 5′ 5″ female who weighs about 110 lbs. (Bench pressing 250 lbs is not a viable option for me.) Carpal tunnel is fairly common within the general population and I wouldn’t be surprised if other Survival Blog readers are having the same problems I’m having. Thank you.
God Bless!, In Christ Jesus, – Heather

P.S.: The You Tube clip on Archie Bunker and gun control [that was posted yesterday] was priceless. I laughed so hard that my stomach ached

JWR Replies: First, I must ask: Are you trying to pull the slide back by grasping it with your thumb and forefinger? Forget that. The method now preferred for all shooters is to cup your entire hand around the top of the rear-half of the slide, grasping with your whole hand, and pull it back sharply. Use plenty of force, “as if you are trying to rip the slide off the pistol.” (That is how one of my pistol-shooting instructors described it ) If need be, you can actually use the combined strength of both forearms by pulling backwards with your non-shooting hand, and simultaneously thrusting slightly forward with your shooting hand.

Consult your local physical therapists about hand and arm exercises. They’ll have advice on specific exercises and frequency/duration of training sessions in a regimen that will avoid repetitive stress injuries. .

If that doesn’t work for you, then you need to go to your gun shop (or better yet, for the chance to do private transactions, to a gun show) and try “racking” several other brands of pistols, the same way as I described. Ironically, depending on the spring tension, some larger guns may actually be easier for you to manipulate. Find one that you can handle better than the Kel-Tec, and do a trade-in. (Hopefully, BTW, that will be a .40 S&W, since .380 ACP is a marginal man-stopper, at best, and 9mm is only a bit better)