A majority of semi-automatic pistols (revolvers excluded) have a spring-loaded component called slide as a part of their firing mechanism. Although historically there are designs without a slide, (notably Mauser C96), those are, if not non-existent, very rare after the World War II.

It probably is safe to conclude that the displacement of other designs are due to some advantages in the slide mechanism. What are those advantages?

  • $\begingroup$ Are you sure that under the covers the Mauser is not using a slide mechanism? $\endgroup$
    – paparazzo
    Jun 22 '18 at 17:10
  • $\begingroup$ @paparazzoMauser If by using the slide mechanism you mean C96's bolt and charging handle slides on its frame, then yes. However it does not have the component that surrounds the barrel called pistol slide. $\endgroup$
    – Mys_721tx
    Jun 22 '18 at 18:51
  • $\begingroup$ Not going to play semantics. It has a slide mechanism and that is the wording in the question. The Mauser is not an example of an automatic without a slide. $\endgroup$
    – paparazzo
    Jun 22 '18 at 19:01
  • $\begingroup$ Other than revolvers or single shot handgun, what kind of handgun do not have a slide? I can't think of any out of the top of my head. $\endgroup$
    – Hawker65
    Jul 12 '18 at 15:15
  • $\begingroup$ @Hawker65 With the exception of FN M1900, which is the first production pistol that features a slide, and Colt M1900, almost all 19th century semi-automatic pistols do not have one. Hence the question. $\endgroup$
    – Mys_721tx
    Jul 12 '18 at 22:16

A simple mechanism, rapid ejection of spent cartridge, rapid loading of fresh cartridge and some of the recoil energy is absorbed in driving the slide helping improve accuracy.


Purely speculation but I would imagine a huge advantage of the slide is that it seals much better than something like a P08, C96, frommer stop or their derivatives. As well as it would be much quicker to re-align sights with a slide seeing that many “slide-less” pistols used a kind of elbow extractor and ejected casings out of the top which would obstruct the shooters line of sight longer than is necessary where as most “exterior slide” pistols eject out of the side. However there are exceptions to both of these claims the most notable being the Desert eagle it seals well, extracts to the side, and is simple in design.

The biggest thing I think would be like mike said “exterior slide” pistols are generally much simpler and more intuitive in design and to minimize moving parts is to minimize the risk of failure when used in less than optimal conditions.

  • $\begingroup$ I think there is one important aspect that is still missing here: The pistol slide is the bolt of the weapon. By designing it like this, one can make the bolt weight much more without making the pistol feel bulky and uncomfortable. Heavier bolts mean less acceleration when reciprocating and therefore smoothen the action and the recoil, which improves accuracy and reliability. I dont however think that a slide-action pistol effectively seals better. See for instance this video about the P08 youtube.com/watch?v=z_IeAaR5AmU. $\endgroup$
    – Petrus1904
    Nov 12 '20 at 16:01

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