How To Rack Your Handgun Slide Like A Boss

Rack [rak]

  1. to torture; distress acutely; torment: (His body was racked with pain.)
  2. to strain by physical force or violence.
  3. to strain beyond what is normal or usual.
This Beretta PX4 .40 S&W has a strong recoil spring, so proper racking technique is important. First, Keep the gun close to your body to gain leverage.

This Beretta PX4 .40 S&W has a strong recoil spring, so proper racking technique is important. First, Keep the gun close to your body to gain leverage.

In the shooting realm, rack has a different meaning (although the classic definitions of torture, strain and torment still apply for some people). For shooters, rack simply means to cycle the slide of a semi-auto handgun manually. Sounds simple doesn’t it?

Unfortunately, racking the slide is a source of pain, angst and frustration for many new shooters. Far too often, it causes people to make buying decisions that compromise what the really wanted for a model with an easier slide racking motion.

What if I were to tell you that anyone can easily rack most any slide using the right technique? Alright, that’s a pretty bold statement, and I realize there will always be some exceptions. Heck, right now I’m battling a shoulder injury that has me reduced to a whimpering puddle of whine and complain. But for the vast majority of folks, technique, body mechanics and simple physics make all the difference when it comes to successful racking.

First, let’s clarify racking, so we’re all on the same page. Racking the slide refers to the procedure of smartly (that’s a power word, isn’t it?) pulling the slide back in order to eject an empty cartridge case (if present) from the chamber. The passive part of racking refers to releasing the slide, allowing it to sling back into position, picking up and loading a new cartridge on the way. As you can tell by the description, racking applies to semi-automatic pistols, not revolvers.

If you use a semi-automatic pistol, effortless racking is a critical skill. Sure, it’s required to load the first round in the chamber. Just as importantly, it’s used to empty the gun after the magazine is removed. Racking is often required to clear a malfunction, and if you compete, it’s how you show the range safety officer that your gun is clear after completing a stage.

So why does racking the slide give so many people grief?

I think it’s a result of the curse of opposable thumbs.

Since we have them (opposable thumbs), we want to use them and pinch things between our opposable thumb and index finger – like babies noses, hors d’oeuvres and pennies. Unfortunately, we also want to pinch things like the back of pistol slides to draw them away from the frame. It’s only natural.

Here’s the problem. Thumb and index finger muscles are tiny and weak, at least compared to other muscles in the body.

Keeping that in mind, let’s walk through a simple way to use bigger muscles, the mass of your body and motion to rack even the most difficult slide. After all, we’re much stronger than recoil springs, so it’s just a matter of technique.

Read the rest at Beretta USA.

While you’re here, why not grab a copy of my free eBook, A Fistful of Shooting Tips? It’ll help make you a better handgun shooter and the envy of your range in no time!

How To Become A Better Pistol Shooter By Shooting A Wimpier Gun

Smaller caliber guns aren’t necessarily just for newer shooters. If you want to become an expert, practice with a light-kicking gun might be just the ticket.

Ammo Assortment

The classic example is a .410 shotgun. Folks assume that since the .410 is small, light, and shoots a low recoil round, then it must be great for new shooters. With some exceptions, I think the opposite is true.  The .410 is really an expert’s gun. If you see someone slinging a Beretta 687 Silver Pigeon on the skeet range, chances are they know what they’re doing. It’s hard to bust a moving clay target with a small shot charge. But if you can, then repeating the action with a 12 gauge will seem as easy as hitting water with a boat.

There’s a similar scenario with .22LR handguns. While it’s not harder to hit a target with a .22, I think a .22 pistol is just as appropriate for an advanced shooter as a beginner.

If you want to become an expert shooter, you need to master trigger press. Perhaps the best way to build outstanding trigger press skills is through daily dry fire practice, like the drills we explain in the Trigger Pull Drill article. Yet most new shooters are going to get bored with dry fire. Don’t get me wrong. I’ll always encourage lots of dry fire practice, as part of your handgun training. The best professional shooters in the world practice dry fire drills every day. But let’s face it. New shooters want to shoot! So let’s skip the dry fire stuff for now and talk about ways to become a better shooter while actually shooting.

Read the rest at Beretta USA!

8 Reasons You Need Professional Help

There are words and ideas that pass right through our brains like truthful reporting zips past the network news. In the shooting world, one of those words is “training.” Lots of respectable people talk about the importance of training. In response, we nod our heads and think “Yes! I need to get some professional training! I’ll get right on that!” But the moment passes, we go back to our daily life, and the next thing you know, we’re back to the normal routine – visiting the range once a month and perforating paper targets with great enthusiasm and vigor.

Pro Shooter and Trainer Todd Jarrett has the class moving fast and trying to hit small steel plates. It's an enlightening experience!

Pro Shooter and Trainer Todd Jarrett has the class moving fast and trying to hit small steel plates. It’s an enlightening experience!

You Need Professional Help!

Once you’ve made the decision to carry a firearm for self-protection (you can read more about it here), nothing can improve your ability to protect yourself and your family like professional training. Not equipment. Not ammunition. Not lights and lasers. Not watching Steven Seagal movies. Nothing.

I know for a fact that I need professional help – just ask my regular readers! But you need professional help too. Here are eight reasons why, in the form of easy-to-absorb concealed carry tips:

Concealed carry classes… aren’t.

Somewhere in the neighborhood of eight million Americans have concealed carry permits. Most of those folks had to complete some form of “firearms training.” Unfortunately state-required concealed carry permit training mostly addresses legal issues and carry regulations. Very, very few of those programs cover self-defense strategy and tactics training. If your concealed carry class does not have you out on the range drawing, moving, shooting, working on malfunction drills, and more, consider your concealed carry class as a starting point only. Please, please, please do not assume that your concealed carry class prepared you to carry a gun for self or home defense.

If it ain’t rainin’ you ain’t trainin’.

If you ever need to use your gun in a genuine life and death scenario, I can guarantee the participation criteria will be different than your decision process as to whether to go practice on any given day. Raining? Cold? Tired? “Nah, I’ll hit the range another day,” you think. None of that will matter in real life. If you have to defend yourself or family, you get no choice whether or not to participate based on your feelings or the weather. One of the best training classes I ever did took place in the pouring rain. The instructor didn’t wait it out. In fact, he was thrilled that we would have the opportunity to learn our deficiencies and improve our skills in less than ideal conditions. Wet and slippery hands, mud in our magazines, and soggy cover garments – it all was genuine. And enlightening. And did I mention, wet?

You too can learn how to create a triple malfunction.

A training class will induce just a little bit of stress, and this is a good thing. It won’t recreate the stress of a real-world encounter, but it will get your blood flowing and nerves off kilter. A little training stress can easily cause you to revert to your lowest level of performance. Trust me, I know.

In one of my classes, I managed to create a triple malfunction. The instructor was hollering at me, but it was all in good fun. I was slightly cocky about my accurate shooting and the instructor wanted to create some stress and urgency to throw me off-track. I managed to dump a full magazine on the ground, eject two live cartridges and inadvertently engage the safety before getting off a successful shot. After the class stopped laughing at my expense, we had a great learning moment. Real training, with some pressure, can show you how your “quiet range” skills might suffer in a real world encounter.

Read the rest at Beretta USA!

Five Ways To Carry A Full Size Gun

I’ve just started a new gig, as if juggling 17 projects at a time isn’t enough… I’m honored to be contributing a regular column at Beretta USA’s new blog. I own a number of Berettas, both pistols and shotguns, and will be talking about training, practice, recreational shooting and having good old-fashioned fun with shooting sports.

Here’s a link to the first article with suggestions on how to concealed carry a full-size gun like the Beretta 92FS:

A small gun like a Beretta Tomcat is easy to carry, but a large gun, like this 92FS is oh-so-nice to shoot!

A small gun like a Beretta Tomcat is easy to carry, but a large gun, like this 92FS is oh-so-nice to shoot!

Got big guns? I do.

Because I like big guns and I cannot lie. While liking big guns may sounds like a macho thing, it’s really the opposite. Two of my favorite big guns, the Beretta 92FS and the Px4 Storm, are the same caliber as plenty of smaller guns chambered in 9mm and .40 S&W respectively. They’re just larger. And that’s where the reverse macho element comes into play.

A larger gun is easier to shoot. You can get a good, solid grasp on it. It’s got a longer sight radius, so aiming is easier. The larger weight and size soak up felt recoil. When you add all that up, big guns shoot lighter and more comfortably than small guns. Heck, when I take a new shooter to the range, the first thing I steer them to, after some practice with a .22LR like the Neos, is the biggest gun they can properly hold – ideally chambered in 9mm. Why? Because I know it will be kinder and gentler to them. Less blast, less muzzle jump and less felt recoil.

As far as I’m concerned, there are lots of benefits to big guns, but only one drawback. That disadvantage is ease of concealment. If you carry a concealed gun on a daily basis, a large gun is more work. Not just in terms of weight, but the longer grip and barrel present more “bulk” that needs to be hidden away in your clothes. Depending on your lifestyle and daily activities, there are a number of ways to comfortably, and effectively, conceal a larger gun. Let’s consider a few.

Hybrid Inside-the-Waistband

92-96-IWBMy personal favorite general purpose carry method for large guns is a hybrid-style inside-the-waistband holster. Beretta makes them for my 92FS and Px4 Storm. Here’s why they’re such a good solution for full size pistols:

  • The large leather back panel distributes the weight over a large area, so it tends to “feel” lighter.
  • The large surface area against your body also helps stabilize a heavier gun. Remember that Newton guy? One of his laws has something to do with body motion, mass of your pistol and stability. I think.
  • The kydex mold for the pistol itself has a tight snap fit so your heavy gun is locked in place.
  • Notice how the gun is aggressively angled forward. The angle directs the full size grip upwards, instead of backwards, so you’re less likely to print from the back when carrying a gun with a tall grip.
  • Last but not least, carrying inside-the-waistband makes barrel length a moot point as the barrel is inside your pants. From a concealment perspective, it doesn’t matter if your barrel is three, five, or 19 inches long, provided it’s not so long that it interferes with your knee joint!

Read the rest at Beretta USA!

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Top 5 Most Interesting Products from the NRA Annual Meeting Day 2

We had more time to wander the floor today, and here are some of the more interesting things we stumbled across:


Crimson Trace Zombie Lasers – Well, not really, but they are green. A lot of new engineering is going on to fit power-sucking green lasers into the same form factors for which Crimson Trace is famous. We tried pre-product models for 1911 Lasergrips and a new model packed into the Lightguard frame. First out will be green lasers mounted inside Lightguard frames for all current guns where there is a compatible Lightguard.Later, we’ll see green in familiar grip form factors.
IMG_2349 Is it ethical to take gun bling manufacturers out for drinks and then, while they’re slugging down a Captain Morgan’s or Pinot Grigio, take a secret photo of a yet-to-be-released product and publish it on the internet? We think so. It’s good business right?The latest (forthcoming) creation from the folks at Hot Caliber is a man’s ring, hand fashioned from silver, that features a lost-wax casting of a bullet-shot-at-a-big-steel-plate. Yes, it’s elegant. And manly. People will ask about it, thereby giving the wearer a great excuse to talk about guns.What’s not to like?


We love our GunVault.It sits under the nightstand, gun and extra magazines inside, patiently awaiting the correct finger press sequence to open it in case of emergency. For example, if the cast of Jersey Shore and their one-night guests  come pounding on the door after a late night at Karma.The new SpeedVaultoffers classic GunVault features – either a biometric fingerprint scanner or 4 button touchpad – that secure your gun.The neat thing about this one is that it is designed to mount under a desk or table. The support bracket can be attached to the side or top of a piece of furniture.


We have a 22-250 fetish. It’s a fun round – both to reload and to shoot.Imagine our surprise and outright glee when we stumbled across the Olympic Arms booth and found the UMAR, an AR platform rifle chambered in– you guessed it – .22-250.It features a custom made magazine which is purpose built.And it’s just plain cool.

Why? Because we can.


Wow. We’ve been asleep at the wheel since we did not know this one was coming.Arriving at the Beretta booth for a scheduled meeting, we saw this hanging on the wall – the ARX-160 .22LR rifle.Not even on Beretta’s web siteyet, the ARX-160 is an operational equivalent to the forthcoming Beretta combat rifle.Not only does it look “beast” – it’s got fully ambidextrous operation all the way around – charging handle, mag release, and safety. It looks like a whole lot of fun – we can’t wait to shoot one.

On the Eighth Day of Christmas… Eight Guns for Plinking


On the eighth day of Christmas, I hope my true love gives to me…
Eight guns for plinking…




Beretta CX4 Storm Carbine
Always wanted one of these. In 9mm. Not sure why, but a light fast bullet just seems right out of this gun, especially as a plinker. It would get some nice accessories on the rail for sure.


Henry Golden Boy .22LR
Yes, you remember correctly. We had another Henry rifle listed in our 5 Magnum Things list. They are just SO classy and you can’t beat a lever action for pure fun. Having one in .22LR means shooting all day for less than $20.


Winchester 9410 .410
Hmmm. We seem to be on a lever action kick here. But how can you resist a .410 lever action shotgun? Talk about the ultimate plinker! Slugs, shot, buck. Knock yourself out. Too bad its not in production anymore, so keep an eye on the used market.


Browning 1911-22 A1
Shot a pre-release model of this gun at the 2011 Professional Outdoor Media Association Conference and… wow! It’s more fun than should be legal. Want one bad.


Smith & Wesson M&P 15-22
Fun, cheap to run, and maintains the operating features of a centerfire AR. Great for practice, but fun just because…


Tactical Solutions X-Ring Rifle
Who wouldn’t want a tricked out Ruger 10/22? Loaded with all the Tactical Solutions goodies, this one can’t be beat.


Beretta 92 Series .22LR Practice Kit
Pricey, but the quality and functionality are top notch. We’ve had one before and in a moment of complete stupidity, traded it. Ouch. We’d get the barrel threaded for a suppressor this time.


H&K MP5 A5 .22LR
Why? You have to ask why? Really?




Seven lasers aiming…
Six scales a weighing…
Five magnum things…
Four written words…
Three tactical pens…
Two shooting gloves
And a Smith and Wesson M and P

New Beretta Nano

Beretta Nano 9mm

Beretta Nano 9mm

Not quite as small as the North American Arms Nano Pinky Revolver we wrote about a while back, but Beretta is coming out with a new small form factor gun this October. The Beretta Nano initially comes out in 9mm and should have a street price of around $475. While it looks nothing like the PX4 series, it does carry some common design elements like a beveled slide and frame texture.

More info from Guns and Ammo here.

Gun Review: Beretta PX4 Storm .40S&W

The Good
This is one of the softest shooting guns we’ve tried
The Bad
Slide tension is very heavy which is compounded by the de-cocker switch design
The Ugly
Our monthly cost spend on .40 S&W ammo is now totally out of control
Our Rating
3 Nuns Three Nuns
Beretta PX4 Storm Pistol .40 S&W

Beretta PX4 Storm Pistol .40 S&W

Beretta PX4 Storm .40 S&W Pistol

Approximate Retail Price: $550

The Beretta PX4 is an exceptionally soft shooting gun in terms of feel. The model tested was a .40S&W double / single action model. Even with fairly stout self defense loads the perceived recoil impulse was gentle. I think the combination of well rounded design, rotating barrel recoil mechanism, and weight make for a great feel. The trigger and trigger guard are also smooth and well polished, so high volume shooting does not tend to irritate your hand and fingers like other polymer framed pistols. An additional nice touch is the shaping of the rear of the trigger guard area. There is a cutout area where the trigger guard and grip meet that allows a little extra breathing room for your trigger finger – reducing the likelihood of interference during trigger pull.

To really test the comfort factor of the Beretta pX4, I shot a Steel Challenge match with it. Steel Challenge has a fairly high round count due to multiple stages with each stage being repeated 5 times – and you shoot until you hit. A perfect competitor shoots a minimum of 125+ rounds in short order. That’s assuming no missed targets. In my case, I go through a 10 or 20 thousand by the time all the steel is hit. The comfortable design of the PX4 Storm, combined with low felt recoil, made for a pleasant match. No blisters, blood, or broken digits.

Laserlyte Pistol Bayonet

The Laserlyte Pistol Bayonet Can Attach Easily

Like most polymer pistols on the market, the Beretta PX4 features a Picatinny Milstd-1913 rail for attachment of lights, lasers, and even a Laserlyte Pistol Bayonet if you’re so inclined. Other now common features include three different backstraps to accommodate different hand sizes, 14 round magazine capacity (17 round extended magazines are available) and a reversible magazine release button to serve righties and lefties.

Field stripping for cleaning is a snap. Just pull down on the release lever and the slide glides right off the front of the frame. The recoil spring is captive so nothing goes flying.

One thing to be aware of in the PX4 is the heavy tension on the slide. It takes some serious muscle to rack the slide. With proper technique – using your strong hand to push the frame forward, rather than using the weak hand to pull it back – it’s manageable though. I think the heavily beveled and smooth slide makes it feel more difficult than it actually is. The design and shape of the safety/decocker switch adds a little grief to the process as the lever is just big enough to tear up your hand and just small enough to be a bit of a challenge to engage and disengage with a thumb-flick. Like the Beretta 92FS, the safety/de-cocker lever de-cocks the gun back to double action and disables the trigger connector so the trigger swings freely.

The “night sights” cause me a little grief as they require pre-charging with a light source prior to use. For certain law enforcement tactical applications I suppose this *might* be a workable solution…

“Hey, hang a sec, before we break down this dirtbags door, I need to charge up my sights!”

For home use, I think it’s even more of a stretch. Consider this scene:

Setting: 3am, master bedroom. There’s a bump in the night…

My wife: Hey, wake up, someone has been beating on the front door for the past 20 minutes!

Me: Can’t you deal with it? Oh, OK, hang on a sec.

(fumbles in nightstand for gun)

Me: Hey, you at the front door, can you wait a sec? I can’t see the sights on my gun so I need to shine a flashlight on them for a bit. Be right with you.

Dude breaking into the house: Sure, no sweat, I’ve got about 20 minutes before my next home invasion.

Me: Awesome. Thanks, I really appreciate it. Honey, have you seen the flashlight?

My wife: Hey will you shut up? Can’t a girl get any sleep around here?

In summary, I love the Beretta PX4 – it’s one of my favorites. Yes, there are a couple of minor annoyances like the safety lever. I can’t really fault Beretta for those Super-LumiNova ‘chargeable’ night-sights though. Adding tritium sights would bump the retail price up another hundred bucks easily. I just don’t really see the point in them. The PX4 is a gun that’s really enjoyable to shoot – comfortable, nice perceived recoil, and it’s not bad on the eyes!

More detailed information on the PX4 Storm is available at

He said She said
I don’t see a lot of these at the range. That’s OK though, I am secure in my manhood. It’s a big gun, although I have no problem carrying it. Weight is more than some of the other pure plastic guns out there, but I like that. Same reason I still like the Beretta 92FS I suppose – it just feels good. Holster availability isn’t bad – you can generally find what you need. It’s not bad – for one of ‘his’ guns. The grip is still a little large for me. I also found the slide to be *very* heavy to operate. Personally, I liked the operation of the safety / de-cocker. I found it easy to reach and operate.


Accessories available at Brownells

Find holster options in our new book, The Insanely Practical Guide to Gun Holsters - available at! Learn more about our Insanely Practical Guides!

Insanely Practical Guide to Gun Holsters

Beretta Introduces Tropical Storm Handgun Line

Beretta Tropical Storm Pistol

Beretta Tropical Storm

Close on the heels of a successful launch of the PX4 Storm Series of pistols in .45 caliber, Beretta today announced an even more innovative lineup – the Tropical Storm Series.

The new pistol design represents a quantum leap in weather harnessing technology according to Ben Cartwright, CEO, Beretta USA. “For centuries, we’ve been developing firearms with energy potential measured in foot-pounds” said Cartwright. “One day while walking my dog Giuseppe in a rainstorm, it occurred to me that we ought to think about harnessing the power of mother nature. When she’s upset, things get crazy.”

While the previous lineup of PX4 pistols used a creative rotating barrel lockup technology to create a strengthened action with reduced recoil, the new Tropical Storm leverages planetary rotational forces for increased power. Tapping into the power of both hot and cold fronts and lunar gravitation, the first model of the new pistol, the Hugo, is rumored to obtain maximum sustained velocity of at least 63 knots.

“The Gulfstream is a pretty dig deal.” said Don Draper, Beretta’s Vice President of Marketing. “That, combined with the earth’s rotation means we don’t have to rifle the barrels – and that results in lower costs that we can pass on to our customers.”

Rumors of the top-secret project have been circulating for months with talk of projects code named Agnes, Bart, and Colin being leaked to the press by an anonymous source highly placed in the National Hurricane Center.

Draper expects the line to evolve quickly. “As soon as we can break the maximum sustained velocity barrier of 74 knots, we would like to upgrade the line. Maybe we’ll name it the Hurricane Storm Series.”

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