Question of the Day: Is Barrel Porting A Bad Idea?

While researching my next gun—some sort of revolver—I stumbled upon the issue of barrel porting. The previously mentioned Gemini Customs gumsmithery uses something they call the In-Line Hybra Port, available as an in-line V4 or V-8. (Vroom with a View to a Kill?) Supposedly, the system eliminates a significant amount of recoil and muzzle flip, by channeling the gases out the top of the barrel. It sounds like a great idea. And Gemini’s crew-cutted demo duded sells it well enough; proclaiming that the system turns ouchy-inducing guns like the Smith & Wesson Model 296 in .44 Special into a pussycat (doll) . . .

Feline or he lyin’? Here’s the thing: IF porting tames a smaller Smith & Wesson 357MAG/.38+P revolver like, say a J-frame hammerless 640, then I could buy one for concealed carry for me and my gal. And enjoy shooting it at the range, gain proficiency and feel better about life (sad but true).

Otherwise, I’m better off with a S&W model 686 (beloved by the loquacious, ubiquitous and slightly obsequious Mr. N. Fancy)—which would have to stay home between range visits. Which is OK, but not ideal. Or I could opt for something in a lower caliber, such as the model 351PD. Or screw the whole revolver deal and go for a .40 M&P. Again, is barrel porting the magic bullet that makes recoil-intensive small revolvers chick friendly (I’m in touch with my feminine side)?

Google is my friend. Whilst researching the advisability of handgun porting, I’m came across a speed load of nay-sayers saying no way José. Some of the information was deeplly worrying. Like this scenario, from

You are driving your car, your wife, or friend, or one of your family members is in the passenger seat. You are RIGHT HANDED. All of a sudden you are being car jacked and they are trying to get in through the passenger side of your car, either thru the glass or the door. You elect to shoot (split second decision) through the passenger window in order to stop the attacker. You have one of those well recommended small but powerful revolvers that has holes in the top of the barrel or ports in the side of the barrel, you loaded your revolver with +P or +P+ 357 caliber cartridges and each chamber is ready to go with this super hot load.

When you point the gun using your right hand, you will need to angle your wrist to get a straight shot through the passenger window, in this moment of panic, your now angled revolver, depends on how far back your seat is in relationship to the passenger window but in any event this tilts the ports or holes in your 2.25 inch barrel toward your passenger. YOU FIRE, and kill your attacker through the glass. The flames coming out of the ports or the holes in your short barrel will take your passengers face off and you will blind them forever and their hair and your automobiles headliner will catch on fire.

Because you listened to the experts and used full power loads in your 357 magnum revolver, you and your passenger just lost your hearing, maybe for good. The person that attempted to carjack you is now dead and they are luckier than your passenger. You now have the picture of what I am trying to tell you and you can see what you are in for. This is but one small scenario I could tell you about. Do your self a favor before you ever carry a ported self defense weapon of any kind take it to the range and hold a piece of paper about 12 inches above the ports or the holes in the barrel and fire the gun with this paper in place.

Ooooo-kay. Did someone tell Smith & Wesson about this? ‘Cause their Performance Center is porting some of the company’s revolvers, such as the not so obscure (but definitely expensive) .357MAG/.38+P Model 327 M&P R8 (a snip at $1454). Actually S&W calls them “Chamfered Charge Holes,” which sounds all kinds of dirty to me, and not necessarily in a way that suits my lifestyle.

Here’s this bad boy’s nose, and a comment from a more informed firearm’s expert than me, Gunga Din: MT Callahan (that sounds like a bad idea for a movie) at the shootersforum. On the question of barrel porting, he says yes. And no. Depends.

The only handguns that I would consider porting would be 44 magnun Smith & Wesson’s or to keep recoil really light any of the double action 357 magnums. The big Ruger double actions don’t need porting. Porting works best on high pressure cartridges so unless the pedals really to the metal it won’t do much good. I’ve owned and shot quite a few guns that were Mag-na-ported and that system works quite well. Smith is offering some of their guns factory ported now and that works OK but I don’t like the look myself. The Taurus ports are effective and don’t take away from the cosmetics of the gun. Don’t get me started on porting a gun that would be used in a defensive role. Just shoot one in low or no light some time for a fantastic light show.

TTAG’s armed intelligentsia will know that this hole debate is not limited to handguns. There are those who would drill, baby, drill into the barrels of shotguns, in an attempt to tame the recoil monster. Porting seems to do nothing more than give shotgun writers something to disdain. And disdain they do. Here’s Randy “Not Rick” Wakeman on the topic:

It may be trendy, or less so as time goes by, but as a generality porting does nothing remarkable as to function. It does irritate the shooters next to you [with fiery gas AND sound], and puts more holes in what was a perfectly good barrel. There isn’t enough residual pressure at the port area in a shotgun to reasonably equate to a high-power rifle muzzle break, and the muzzle flip on a clays gun is nothing remotely like what you’ll find on a pistol.

Wow! It sounds like porting is not only bad, it’s a taste of a poison paradise (i.e. toxic). Once again, I prostate—sorry, prostrate myself to the superior knowledge and advice of TTAG’s readers. To port or not to port, that is the question.


About Robert Farago

Robert Farago is the Publisher of The Truth About Guns (TTAG). He started the site to explore the ethics, morality, business, politics, culture, technology, practice, strategy, dangers and fun of guns.

11 Responses to Question of the Day: Is Barrel Porting A Bad Idea?

  1. avatarBrad Kozak says:

    I'm not an expert on ballistics (nor do I pretend to be) and I'm not that well-versed in physics. But I am a thinker. And I'm thinking that when you port a barrel, you are giving the gasses a place to go, other than out the front of the barrel (where it makes the bullet go faster) or the back of the barrel (where, in a semi-auto, causes the gun to cycle). Thing is, the entire point of using a load with higher pressure is to drive that little chunk of lead out of the barrel faster. If you port a barrel, you would undoubtedly reduce the recoil, but I'm thinking that you would also reduce the velocity of the bullet, by an identical factor. It's that physics thang – equal and opposite reaction.

    I dunno if I'm right, but my gut says I am. There's no such thing as a 'free lunch.' If you reduce gasses to reduce recoil, that's gotta affect muzzle velocity.

    • avatar2010necroshine says:

      I’m am no expert either, I was thinking about porting my little semi .22 through the front sight holes, and figured best to read up on it to see if it would cycle. I totaly agree with you on both points you made, I am going to put the drill away, happy shooting.

  2. avatardt says:

    Gotta' problem with blinding your passenger and setting their hair on fire.

    Ha! Ha! Ha! Too funny.

    There's a simple solution …

    twist your wrist in the opposite direction!!

    Don't point the ported barrel towards the passenger … point it towards the windshield.

    Presto … carjacker dead.

    Passenger not on flames.

    And if you fire any kind of high-performance ammo inside a vehicle – you can kiss your hearing goodbye for quite a while anyway.

    But the chances are that any carjacker that sees you pointing a 357 cal revolver at their face – is gonna' run like hell. Wouldn't you.

    So … real problem solved. I bet you never even need to pull the trigger.


  3. avatarChaz says:

    Most of this info is bogus. I have three ported handguns; Ruger SP-101 357 mag 3", S&W 629 44 mag 4" and Ruger Super Blackhawk 44 mag 7.5". Porting reduces felt recoil, reduces recovery time and enables the shooter to get off a faster follow-up shot. Oh, and by the way, a carjacker will almost always approach the DRIVERS DOOR!!

    • avatarJoe says:

      I’m laughing because in reading this scenario it never occurred to me that the carjacker was at the passenger door.

  4. avatardangermike says:

    The Smith & Wesson R8 does not have a ported barrel. The picture in the article shows several holes on the top strap that are tapped to receive the screws used to mount an accessory rail for scopes and whatnot. The holes do not penetrate the barrel and have absolutely nothing to do with venting gasses. The feature of chamferred charge holes refers to cutting a slight taper in the backs of the chambers where the cartridges are charged into the cylinder. This taper helps the rounds slide into place without hanging up in the very common case that they are not perfectly aligned during charging.

    Back to the topic at hand, you're probably just as likely to injure someone from gasses ejected through the cylinder gap as you are from barrel porting. The best advice is to not discharge a weapon within a foot or two of anything that can't withstand a few milliseconds of searingly hot jetting gas. Ports are very unlikely to set your car on fire, or anything else for that matter (have you ever heard of it happening from muzzle blast?) but they can certainly do damage to unprotected eyes and possibly tear flesh too close to its point of emission.

  5. avatarBill says:

    Own a Gemini Custom 340 m & p scandium, which I had the 799.99 package done with trig job, porting, spring and cylinder work and it is unbelievable. The gun weighs about 14-15 oz when done and I can fire off 5 of .357 mag rds in under 3 seconds one handed, hitting a 8" x 10" target with all 5 rds at 7 yrds.

  6. avatarLarry Stivers says:

    I’m considering two auto pistols with factory porting: either a Springfield XD with a ported barrel or a Glock 23C. I noted recently that the Glock 23 (no porting) seemed to have far more muzzle flip than my Tanfoglio .45. I assume this is the result of around a pound less pistol weight.

    1. Wouldn’t porting help tame the Glock?
    2. If I simply bought a ported barrel for the Glock, wouldn’t the slide then need matching ports?

  7. avatarj zura says:

    I have a Glock 22 (40SW) I decided to get a Lone Wolf 9MM ported barrel for it(Yes you can use 9MM and 357SIG barrels in a Glock 22).
    I ordered a ported 9MM thinking it would port out my factory slides ports. When the barrel arrived it was longer than the slide.
    The ports are after the slide. So If you have a model 22 and order a Lone Wolf ported barrel it will work with a non ported Glock slide.
    If the ported barrel you use doesn’t extend beyond the slide then the slide wouild need to be ported. Then the question is how is it ported?
    My factory ported slide is ported length wise (along the line of the slide). The Lone Wolf barrel are perpendicular to the barrel.
    If this were the same length as my slide it would cause me problems even though I have a ported factory slide.
    The bottom line is before you buy call the people you are buying the barrel from and ask them.
    One other advantage to getting a Lone wolf barrel is if you reload. Glock factory barrels don’t have good support at the back and bottom of the round when it is fired.
    This allows the barrel to feed more easily but causes a buldge on the bottom and back of your round. If you don’t reload you don’t care.
    If you do reload, everytime you resize the round it puts additional stress on the brass. This will cause the brass to not have as good a life span.
    With the Lone Wolf barrel, it gives better support there so not as much resizeing needs to be accomplished so your brass will last longer.
    Hope this helps.

  8. avatarJohn Marke says:

    I have a Taurus M-44 made in 1998-99, blued, 4″ barrel, ported and with an expansion chamber. The weight is right at 45 oz. with front serrated ramp sight, rear adjustable sight, and case hardened hammer and trigger. The thing is a monster. It has a cylinder lock up like a Cold War bank vault. I was actually looking for an inexpensive truck gun and what I got was a very high quality and well built revolver with a smooth action and 100% reliability. Absolutely no problem handling Hornady LEVERevolution 230 gr. the flex tip kind they market for revolver or rifle.

    I fire this weapon in a relatively low light, indoor range and I can’t say the muzzle blast is anything impressive. It certainly does not mess up my vision. On the other hand, when I rapid fire my Smith Model 25-14 (snub nose .45 ACP) with those pretty factory grips, there is one heck of a difference in recoil.

    The Taurus is a pleasant shooting experience and I think the porting and chamber helps.

  9. avatarHugo says:

    Had my S&W 340 PD Magna Ported. Also added Pachmayr decelerator grips. Bottom line…much more manageable now with .357. Definitely reduced recoil and muzzle flip and improved accuracy on follow up shots. Overall, I am satisfied with my decision.

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