Mark's pocket dump
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Mark’s pocket dump at features a Smith & Wesson 642 five-shot revolver. Good choice. Safe, reliable, pocketable, powerful. Yeah about that last bit . . .

As Smith’s website informs us, the 642 fires .38 Special +P ammo in a gun that 14.4 ounces. Do the math. The pocket revolver generates more than a small amount of recoil.

Which makes muzzle flip a thing. Which makes longer distance accuracy not a thing. Unless you’re Jerry Miculek. Or don’t care about longer distance shooting because hello? It’s a snubbie, built for close-up work.

Let’s go with that. And let’s not go with porting the 642. Because while putting holes in the side of your snubbie’s barrel will reduce recoil, it also generates a blinding flash of light on either side of the gun in low to no-light conditions.

And then there’s the issue of firing the 642 from inside a garment. Although stealthy AF, it’s not a great idea generally. And it’s a really bad one with a ported revolver, where hot gasses going sideways can sear your flesh, and all the pain and insurance hassle that entails.

Oh, and there is such as thing as low recoil self-defense .38 Special ammo. So, gout fans, why port?

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  1. Thats crazy. As a unrepentant snubby man (its a compensation issue).

    A revolver biggest strength is the versatility of firing conditions. It doesn’t induce a malfunction if you shoot it upside down and backwards, in a garment, when someone is grabbing the gun, you name it.

    by porting it, you screw up one of those very useful future.

    • A revolver can’t fire with someone grabbing the cylinder hard enough, can it? Is it at all feasible that this could happen?

      • Entirely, and it is a known way to disarm someone with a revolver… if it’s in double-action. You can also immobilize the hammer by either keeping it down or keeping it back. Or combine both grabbing the cylinder and hammer. Plus going behind the trigger if you really want but that’s a poor option for a variety of reasons…

        The benefit a revolver has is that there is no risk of it going out of battery by pushing it up against something and moving the slide as on a semi-auto.

      • there is a easy trick to get around grabbing the cylinder by simply rotating your wrist.

        And hammer-less revolver’s dont suffer from the grab the hammer trick.

    • I know that it is not rational but I just can’t get over how much potential is not converted with such short barrels. I realize that there is plenty that is converted and that they are very handy. One day, I may get down to 3″, who knows. For now, I am stuck with 5.25″. It was hard not to order a 6″ even.

  2. How does the porting take away from the utility of the revolver?

    There already is a port, the barrel to cylinder gap.

    • Cylinder gap flash is bad enough to begin with and porting the barrel just makes it worse on a snubbie.
      Now granted: Mark here may indeed have a condition that would make firing an unported .38 snubbie an unworkable answer… we don’t know that.
      But his needs notwithstanding, I’ve noted that a significant number of ported guns in the hands of non-competitive shooters would be better off NOT being ported – the recoil reducing benefit just doesn’t justify the added cost, louder report and increased flash.
      Unless you actually have a medical need for less recoil in a gun you honestly won’t shoot much to begin with, you’ll be better off NOT getting ports on your EDC. Don’t fall for the salespersons pitch.

  3. “. . . it also generates a blinding flash of light on either side of the gun in low to no-light conditions.”

    Are ported guns really that bright? Does it matter with that short of a barrel? Seems to me that if you’re in that dark of a place for long enough to let your eyes adjust, you’re in the category of stupid places with stupid people at stupid times.

    Regardless of that, you’re shooting someone that you can’t see, which means you presumably don’t need to see him, right? Unless you’re an irresponsible punk shooting at shadows.

    I just don’t get the real-life situation here or the reasoning behind this . . . maybe someone can enlighten me.

    • It’s been written elsewhere that if the porting/comping isn’t directly inline with the sights, it just doesn’t obscure night vision in any meaningful way. It’s a talking point for people who don’t like holes in their guns. As for burning yourself while shooting from retention, I’m in the “f*ck it” camp. If it helps me SHOOT better in more conditions, then it’s worth it. Nursing a burn beats losing. And besides, it isn’t as though you’re shooting a .454 or a .500 Max. The gas escaping the cylinder gap isn’t going to destroy your hand.

    • I have a ported XDs in 45ACP that I have shot at night several times. The flash from the porting is not that bright nor is it that big, maybe 2” max. It does not distort you night vision nor does t blind you.

        • Not an expert but I shot my FIL’s ported shield a while back in a brightly lit range and the flash was noticeably distracting. Ymmv.

        • @Dan M That’s interesting. I shoot a ported Shield 9mm every month or so, and I don’t remember any distracting flash. FWIW

    • No they are not. I have a ported .45ACP Taurus Tracker with a 4″ barrel. The fireball upon shooting isn’t any larger or more obnoxious than any other fireball from any other 4″ revolver I own.

      Folks make big assumptions about this based on “common sense” I guess. Same “common sense” that brings us such splendid gun control suggestions.

  4. I don’t like ports on handguns.

    My experience is they reduce velocity a little and I want all the juice I can get out of a snub.

    38+P would not be blinding in the day but would be brighter in dim light. Nothing like 357 or 9mm though.

    Better ports on the side as compared to being ported on top of the barrel.

    And as stated above – hot gases are already coming from the cylinder/barrel gap.

    Non starter for me – YMMV.

  5. I’m not in favor or porting a self-defense gun, due to the risk of self-inflicted injury and the potential loss of bullet velocity (especially in an already short barrel).

    However, the “blinding muzzle flash” argument doesn’t hold water. Most modern defensive ammo employs low-flash powder.

  6. I had a magna-ported SP101. I really never thought it helped to reduce felt recoil. I don’t really see the benefit

  7. One of the best ways to improve your skills with all other pistols and revolvers is to practice with a snubby until you learn not to pull the gun off target while squeezing the trigger, and learn to bring the sights back on target after each shot. If you can build skills with your snubby, you can directly translate that to your other guns.

    I’ve never shot a ported gun, but I would think porting would work best on guns that need it the least- longer barreled guns. I just don’t think the ports can be made large enough on a snubby to make a significant difference because the short barrel isn’t giving much leverage to the counter-pressure. In any case, I don’t fight the kick of my snubby, I just control it so that it comes back on target quickly and naturally. I consider the kick sort of like follow-through. That said, I can place 5 shots in a target a lot faster with my snubby than with a semi auto where the kick is nearly non-existent.

  8. People have been using short barreled revolvers WITHOUT PORTS for self defense since the mid 1800’s. If these were good enough for Dallas Stoudenmire, Bat Masterson, J. Henry Fitzgerald, and Charles Askins, to name a few, it’s good enough for me. Revolvers recoil; short barreled, lightweight revolvers RECOIL! Deal with it or carry a mouse gun! The only thing porting does is direct hot gases, bright flashes and tiny bullet fragments toward the shooter.

  9. I mean, it would seem to me that it would be easier and less permanent to just use .38spl without the +p and switch up when you feel the need rather than decrease velocity in general but whatever floats your boat.

    Sometimes it feels like people want to modify a gun rather than use one better suited to their purposes just so they can have something special.

  10. The only real ammo choice for an Airweight is the 148 gr. wadcutter. Most hollow points in .38 (and +p) will not expand reliably anyway. Already a low-recoiling round, so no need for the ports.

  11. A M642 is my EDC — Every Day Companion. I’m thankful for her company, but even with plain-jane 38Spls she’s a snappy little b!tch.

    • Yep. I use full weight, 158 grain, standard pressure loads in my 442. If the hollow point doesn’t expand I still have a full weight projectile to put into the target at grappling ranges.

      • My 642 is my edc, and I run Gold Dot 135gr+P in it. It is a bit snappy, but I find it totally manageable (I’m over 6 ft. 200lbs+ and lift weights).

        Then again, I mainly practice with standard pressure reloads, and don’t run a ton of rounds through it anyway.

        If my wife or mom were to shoot it, I’d give them standard pressure ammo.

        • +P loads in my airweight 442 gave me bullet creep that jammed my revolver up during a practice session.

          I can tolerate the recoil. I’m not a little fellow myself. I just don’t want to risk a malfunction at the wrong moment.

        • Good point about the bullet creep JWM. I haven’t had that problem yet, but it is something to keep in mind.

  12. I’m not necessarily against it but when did these pockets dumps start including a friendly critique/roast?

  13. “so gout fans”

    I don’t know, I had gout a couple of times a few years back, before I made some changes in my life, and I’m definitely not a fan.

  14. My 1st carry revolver back in 1991 was a 2.5 inch S&W Model 66. Recoil with full power 125 grainers wasn’t fun even in a 32 oz gun for me back then. 110 grain wasn’t much better.
    I had it Magna Ported. I didn’t even give the gases coming out of the ports any of the thoughts brought up here about a snubby and porting. I should have sorta.
    As its not exactly a pocket pistol in my case. The porting made the snubbie a much funner gun for me.
    I ended up carrying the gun with the NYPD load for revolvers a 147 gr Hydra Shok +P+. I still have 12 rounds of that discontinued load 30 years later. Wish I had more………..

  15. Barking up the wrong tree! Get an LCR in 357. 17.2 oz. Shoot Speer or Buffalo Bore Short Barrel 38’s or 357’s. Both my wife and I do. There is very little muzzle blast or felt recoil. Just don’t shoot a cylinder of “Full House” Federal or Remington—every gun has its limits!!!

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