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.

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

  1. 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.

    • 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. 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.

    dT

    • I have only pointed a pistol at one person in my 60+ years on this earth and I can tell you that this individual dramatically changed INSTANTLY from being the fearless intimidator. into scared shitless baby girl hauling ass away from me like his life depended on as much speed as he could muster! . Such will be the effect on the typical person I very much do believe. With very rare exception, I think that anyone carrying a gun for defense ought to get it OUT of their head to just automatically shoot an aggressor before giving him or her the chance to reconsider their choice of victims…even if they armed because ooting them will pretty much guarantee their returning fire if they are still able ….and medical SHOCK allows even a mortally wounded adversary to respond with amazing resolve…well unless you hit their spine or something vital for immediate consciousness in the brain. Check out you tube video on actual shootings caught on surveillance cams and be amazed how the typical shot victim does not collapse immediately but REACTS…the one I just watched had 10 such film clips and none of the shot individuals appeared to be armed (there is a stabbing or two mixed in also)…but I am convinced on watching most of them, that HAD they been holding a firearm they very very likely would have returned fire instantly! “fight or flight” most of these did a really FAST decision to flee but were cut down by continued firing into them…I am thinking IF they had firearms their brain would have elected to FIGHT over flee simply because they know the person shooting has a target for way more time than they can survive… If I have a gun and someone points a weapon at me while obviously restraining himself from firing at me immediately? I want to HONOR his restraint with my own restraint and the hell out of there if it is an option! Because point blank it is VERY likely going to be LOSE LOSE scenario, whereas retreat is a win win for both of us “a good run is always better than a bad stand”

  3. 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!!

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

  4. 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. 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. 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. Larry,
    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. 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. 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.

  10. I am no expert on guns, but with an MA in Psych I am something of an expert on human nature, and when I started seeing ported glock barrels/slides on the internet I was immediately suspicious that it was just another cool way to trick out your pistol. As if “tuning” your gun (because for some reason you think you know more than the gunsmiths who designed it) could make you a better shooter.

    • You are correct when you said your no expert on guns. Maybe you need to talk about guns on a psych site with other non experts.

  11. I carry a extended ported glock 29. And have a matching big brother in glock 20, from velocity testing porting does not reduce velocity or much recoil but greatly reduces muzzle rise. The same variance in speeds will show up. As for catching your car on fire, going deaf and burning you passengers face off, here’s a idea do like me and have a vehicle gun always mounted under steering wheel. All guns are loud, but yes ported makes them louder.

  12. Advise from a ol’ gunsmith. In the past I bought into the concept of porting handguns thinking it would help greatly. Wrong! Factors to consider: Personally, with the weapons I have ported, anytime a hole or holes are created in a barrel other than the one the bullet exits through, the decimal level to the shooter increases dramatically. If you thought your gun was loud before just wait until your first trip to shoot it after it is ported. It is going to be much ……. much louder! Instead of pressure being sent down range it is basically vented at a right angle to the shooter after porting the gun. People concentrate so much on the salesmanship / marketing of porting services they don’t consider what other problems are created by porting their gun. If you want to reduce muzzle flip / recoil slightly, buy a handgun with a longer barrel. Its a lot cheaper than porting. The increase in barrel length will reduce some but not eliminate muzzle flip of a handgun more than porting simply because it the gun weighs more. And at the same time increase the velocity and energy of a given bullet. I have carried a handgun for personal protection for over 40 years. And there has never been a situation in which I couldn’t have produced my four inch barrel revolver just as easily as a two inch barrel. I would rather have the longer barrel anytime. I just can’t buy into the porting concept. Bottom line: I haven’t found that porting is going to give you the perceived muzzle flip and recoil reduction level as you may think. Porting basically, is a head game that the shooter must talk himself into. But a factor that will escape his memory after he has porting done because recoil and muzzle flip are still present. ???

    • Thank you so much Brooks. Finally, a man with many years of background in firearm repair that is willing to speak the truth about the marketing deceptions of barrel porting. Porting is just that, well worded and staged salesmanship! He is absolutely correct. Anytime a man has to talk himself into a marketing ploy to improve the performance of his weapon is fooling himself about the actual benefit that will be gained from doing so. My ported guns are just uncomfortable to shoot as to loudness without very good quality ear protection. It is true, a hole or holes bored into a barrel is venting very loud high pressure that much closer to the shooter himself. And we are talking about thousands of pounds of pressure (c.u.p. pressure) being vented between the shooter and the actual muzzle of the weapon. I sincerely wish I had never ported my barrels (I did several guns with several different porting companies within a few months of each other). I did so to compare the results of each company to determine which company achieved the best results should I need additional porting in the future. Afterward it was to late to undo thousands of dollars worth of boring. Once a hole is bored through the barrel wall into the internal rifling lands and grooves it can’t be undone except to replace the ported barrel with another barrel of like kind and quality. I have to question the motives of these people thinking up ways to bilk money out of we the shooting public. I’m now certain that much of the time its all about making money more than benefiting the shooter and his or her weapon’s performance. Admittedly, there may be minute reductions in muzzle flip and recoil reduction with barrel porting. But truly its not going to be at levels that are perceivable to most shooters in firing his or her weapons. Yes, in the beginning I did try and convince myself that I had did myself a favor by porting my guns. The truth that I had made a huge mistake in porting my guns came as I was out shooting with a bubby who has the same configuration and makes of the guns I have. In an effort to convince him to port his guns. We fired my ported guns with his exact configured unported guns. Truthfully, the joke was on me. After our shooting my ported and his unported guns and inviting other shooters that were present to shoot the same. Everyone present including myself were in agreement that there was no negligible difference in the ported and unported weapons performance at hand other than the loudness to the shooter. WOW! I felt about 6 inch tall. It was obvious I had been sold the preverbal “porting bill of goods” without a doubt! Guys, please, please don’t make the same mistake I made in porting your weapons.
      On a encouraging note, I do fortunately have the resources and am in the process of replacing the barrels on my ported weapons. And NO I’m not going to put the left over ported barrels on the online auctions for some poor sole to use and suffer with as a result of purchasing them. The ported barrels WILL be thrown in the metal scrap pile were they belong! Please consider carefully the current aftermarket gimmicks being offered on the open market. The old adage, “if it seems to good to be true it usually is” applies to much of the aftermarket goodies being offered as many shooters. Many are finding out the hard way in wasting resources as I did. Keep the following in mind please. Firearm makers have been is business many years and turn out products that are a result of much trial and error. Some excellent in quality, some just average.
      Happy fun and safe shooting.

  13. I respectfully disagree with some of the posts here. I am a 24 year law enforcement officer with over 12 of those years as a team leader on our SWAT Team. I am a Glock, S&W, Colt and HK armorer (at least before they discontinued allowing US armorers) We are an agency of about 125 officers and I have the advantage of nearly unlimited shooting. During my years with SWAT it was not unusual to fire over 2000 handgun rounds a month. I cannot speak to revolvers or and of the other smaller guns that have been commented on but I can tell you without a doubt from personal experience that in the Glock .357’s that I carry both the 31C and 32C the porting has a significant effect in felt recoil.

    The Glock 31C and 32C are unique in the speed of the bullet and thats why I choose to carry them. As such one of the first things we did was chrono the bullets and found a small lose in speed. The bullets still had significantly more kinetic energy than Glock 40 or 45’s. Verified by the dents left in grade 50 steel (very unscientific) but suprisingly convincing. The recoil in the .357’s is dramatic and the flip is horrible. The porting changes the recoil by not flipping the muzzle end as much, rather it drives the gun directly back into the strong hand. At one of the Glock schools the rep said the only reason Glock went away from porting is because it takes too much time in production and demand for handguns over the last eight years has been so high it was not economically feasible.

    Just as a side note in a Gen 4 Glock I would stay away from the .357 altogether as the gun is just a beast and after 100 rounds you will probably be bleeding due to the Gen 4 grip pattern. We also fire LE duty ammo which has a flash suppressor so the gas is superheated but only a minimal flame.Never a problem with night sights or conventional sights for that matter. The only downfall I have found is that in some of the drills where we fire at hip level right out of the holster it can feel like youve been punched in the jaw but never had hot gas issues.

    I believe there is a place for porting but it is related to the specific gun rather than marketing.

    Just my.02

  14. I’ve had two ported guns, a .44mag Dan Wesson and a .22 target pistol. In both cases the ports reduce felt recoil and drastically reduce muzzle flip. In neither case did I see tongues of flame come shooting out the ports! ;-). I’m currently thinking about having Magna-Port do a job on my Ruger Super Blackhawk, to make it a bit more manageable, and my customized Ruger target pistol, to cut muzzle flip and allow me to get back on target more quickly.

  15. I have two Ruger SP 101 ( 357 mag ) . I purchased these at different times and was not aware that one of them has a ported barrel . I have just been made aware of the difference . After reading different comments on this option I’m now questioning my purchases . I’ve been thinking abt selling one , but am now uncertain of which to keep . The unported sounds much safer but with more recoil etc . I am female , 66 years of age and do not fire this weapon often . A couple times a year at the range or set up targets with my family . Again I’m concerned abt safety of those I am with . At this point should I just choose which one to keep as a preference of the one I like to shoot ?

  16. I’m generally pleased with “Truth about Guns” articles but this one blows. It takes a simple question and complicates it to the point that the reader still doesnt have a clue and probably should have just went and talked to a professional about his particular situation. I came here to see if anyone can attest to the accuracy and BC effects on a rifle. Nither of which are addressed. But the first paragraph said it all when it comes to handguns. Waste of time to continue reading beyond that.

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