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 shootersolutions.com:

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.