Somewhere along the line, someone thought that it would be a good idea to violate the “keep hands and feet away” rule while shooting the pistol—a rule that originated with John M. Browning in the design of the 1911 and which was followed by the military. The violation? The use of the shooter’s support hand to finish the reloading cycle by retracting the slide, rather than using the slide release lever to accomplish the task more efficiently.
As a Small Arms Instructor with the U.S. Navy and now as a certified NRA Instructor, during which time I have been involved in or have supervised different transition phases with semi-automatic pistols, and rifles.
A few years ago, someone thought that using the weak hand to clear a slide lock back on an empty pistol was to be preferred over using the provided slide release lever. I guess it looked “cool.” An excuse for this technique was promulgated that claimed that because people tend to lose some of their fine motor skills during the mind-altering stress of a gunfight, using the slide release during a reload was out of the question — it couldn’t be done. The larger gross motor skill area of the entire weak hand was needed to grab and
pull the slide back to the release point. Did anyone posit that if this were indeed true, the shooter would also not have had enough fine motor skills to pull the trigger? Apparently not.
Any time you put extra hands on an operating pistol, you run the risk of messing it up. Further, when reloading, you are wasting extra time by taking your support hand away from the grip after inserting the magazine, putting it over the top or at the rear of the pistol to retract the slide, letting it slingshot forward into battery, then moving it back to reacquire the shooting grip. You can save quite a bit of time by simply hitting the slide release after inserting the magazine and re-acquiring your grip.
Using the slide release to accomplish the chambering of a round during a reload will save you a lot of time and will reduce the risk of inducing a malfunction of the machinery. Further, if one hand is out of commission in a gunfight, that lever will become very important. And no, I don’t believe in trying to hook the rear sight on a belt (if you are wearing one) to drop the slide—the release is right there! Maybe we need to have the lawnmower warning put on our pistols too. Ok, that’s going a bit too far. Just give the
slide release a chance.