Mag-na-port's big-bore snubbies.
Muzzle jump adds to the problem, making it difficult to regain a good sight picture, especially when a quick second or third shot is required.
Mag-na-port International, Inc., specializes in reducing recoil. For the past 10 years this company, which is located in Mt. Clemens, Michigan, has provided a unique muzzle venting process that can be applied to rifles, handguns and shotguns that helps reduce muzzle lift and felt recoil.
When applied to handguns, Mag-na-porting consists of two trapezoidal vents electrically etched into the top surfaces of the barrel at the muzzle end. During firing, these vents allow some of the gases driving the bullet down the barrel to escape upwards, creating a jet effect that helps reduce muzzle jump.
The process of cutting these vents was developed by the founder and president of the company; Larry Kelly, who is both a shooter and an engineer. The method used is called Electrical Discharge Machining (EDM), a fairly new industrial process of precision metal cutting by electrical spark erosion. Originally, the process was used to disintegrate drills and taps broken off in holes without affecting the surrounding metal. When applied to cutting holes and ports in barrels, the end result is a perfect cut that does not have rough tool marks normally left by machining. This is most important because the absence of roughness in the port cuts down the build-up of fouling caused by the hot escaping gases. In addition, the interior surface of the bore is also left in pristine condition so that there is no deformation of the bullet.
Unlike other recoil reducing devices, such as compensators or barrel weights, which are often bulky and unsightly, Mag-na-porting does not affect the external dimensions of the gun nor its appearance. You have to look really hard to see the two ports which seem to blend in naturally with the barrel.
Being an avid hunter, it is not surprising that Larry Kelly has applied his Mag-na-porting to handguns used for this purpose. In so doing, he has succeeded in taming pistols like the big .44 Auto Mag and the various revolvers chambered for the same bore diameter in magnum persuasion. He also produces handguns intended for self-protection, including some heavily modified large caliber snubby revolvers.
There is quite a market for such handguns, especially in the law enforcement field. Many officers assigned to undercover work and narcotic duty feel a need for a sidearm with more punch than the usual issue .38 or 9mm calibers. While "biggest is best" in handgun calibers when it comes to knockdown power, the revolvers chambered for such ammunition are large and difficult to conceal. In addition, recoil is often considerably more violent in those revolvers with barrels shorter than 4 inches, which makes them very difficult to shoot quickly. By reducing such recoil Mag-na-porting has an application in large caliber revolvers customized and chopped for easier concealment.
It was five such revolvers that G&A Editor Howard French handed over to me to evaluate. All were chopped Smith & Wesson N-frame revolvers that came embossed with the Mag-na-port logo.
The revolvers themselves were two Model 629 Stainless Steel .44 Magnums, with barrels cut down to 3 and 2-1/2 inches respectively, two blue steel Model 25-5 revolvers in .45 Colt with similar barrel lengths, and a 2-1/2-inch barreled .45 ACP Model 25-2 with Mag-na-port's Mag-na-life finish which gives the revolver a stainless steel appearance.
Apart from their chopped barrels and Mag-na-porting, all of the revolvers has their frames altered to the K-frame size and were fitted with Pachmayr rubber grips. In addition, they had hand-honed actions, smooth-faced triggers, and semi-bobbed hammers.
The rear sights of the 2-1/2-inch guns had their tops contoured to prevent snagging in clothing. The rear sights of the 3-inch guns were unaltered, but the two stainless .44 Magnums had the front sights and mountings matte black instead of the usual stainles bright finish. This certainly makes aiming much easier for it is all too easy to lose the silver stainless steel front blade when attempting to get a quick sight picture in bright sunlight.
All guns exhibited a variety of differetly styled cylinder latches, cut down and contoured to avoid nicking or cutting the thumb of the shooting hand during firing. A special ball-bearing crane lock was fitted to all guns in the area where the ejector rod shroud of the barrel mates with the frond of the frame. This modification was necessary on the 2-1/2-inch revolvers because, in order to shorten the barrel, it was necessary to eliminate the locking of the ejector rod to the front of the barrel shroud when the cylinder was closed. This did not apply to the 3-inch guns, but the lock was applied anyway, giving them a measure of additional strength in this area.
All of the revolvers were nicely finished, with the front of the cut down barrels crowned. The two .45 Colts had been repolished and given a beautiful high luster blue finish. The .44 Magnums had their triggers, hammers and cylinder flutes polished to a mirror finish, while the rest of the surfaces had been bead blasted giving a very attractive satin silver appearance. The .45 ACP exhibited a similar appearance except that the cylinder flutes were not polished. The gun was also unique in that it had the side plate secured to the frame with Allen screws and its trigger fitted with an adjustable stop to prevent backlash.
All of the guns certainly felt good in the hand, thanks to their K-frame grips. The larger N-frame grip profile is fine for those with large hands. However, shooters with small hands often experience problems, especially when the gun is equipped with the Magna-target stocks. This is because the distance between the trigger and the web of the backstrap makes it difficult for small hands to properly engage the trigger when shooting double action.
With the K-frame grip, this problem is largely solved and, with the rubber Pachmayr combat-style grips, all of the revolvers fit my hand perfectly. Made from neoprene, these grips also help soak up some of the recoil during firing.
As this would be my first introduction to a Mag-na-ported handgun, I was not quite sure what to expect. All the test reports I had read confirmed that this modification does make quite a difference to both felt recoil and muzzle jump. However, some of my associates were dubious about how much this would reduce felt recoil in a very short barrel. In addition, I was told that I could expect greater muzzle blast, especially if I shot the guns at hip level.
The ammunition used in testing the two .44 Magnums was some Proload 240-grain SWC commercial handloads, together with factory 240-grain JSPs manufactured by federal, winchester as well as Remington 246-grain lead .44 S&W Special. Remington factory 250-grain round nose lead and Winchester 255-grain lead bullets were used in the .45 Colts while the .45 ACP shot Federal 230 FMJ, 185-grain JHP and metal case wadcutter ammunition together with a mixed bag of combat reloads.
To determine what effect, if any, the Mag-na-porting and other modifications might have in controlling recoil, I used a 4-inch Smith & Wesson Model 29 .44 Magnum and a Model 25 .45 Colt as control guns. Both of these revolvers were unmodified factory guns. The Model 29 had the factory issue Magna-target grips while the .45 Model 25 was equipped with Hogue wooden combat stocks.
At the range I teamed up with G&A Specialty Books Editor Jan Libourel and Derry Galagher, a friend and fellow shooter who had a particular interest in customized double-action revolvers with shortened barrels.
We first fired the unmodified Model 29 with the Proload ammunition, shooting at a steel combat plate some 20 yards away. While the recoil experienced with these loads was heavy, it was manageable and not too uncomfortable.
It was a completely different story when the same revolver was loaded up with factory .44 Magnums. Not only was the muzzle jump much sharper, making recovery of the sights more difficult, but the felt recoil was violent. After each shot, the grips and backstrap were driven forcibly into the web of my hand to such an extent that I felt relieved when the last shot had finally been fired.
For this part of the test, I shot the gun one-handed, so I expected some difficulty in control. Even so, there was not much improvement, even when I used a two-handed hold. While I was able to get back on target much faster, my shooting hand still felt painful and sore at the end of another six rounds of full-house factory ammunition.
As far as .44 Magnums are concerned, it is really quite amazing how much barrel length affects controllability, since I have shot 6 and 8-inch Model 29s with hot loads without experiencing any discomfort. It is, of course, well known that the shorter the barrel, the more recoil a handgun will have, so it was with some trepidation that I picked up the 3-inch barrel Mag-na-ported Model 629 and charged its cylinder with six rounds of Pro-load .44 Magnum.
The evidence of reduction in felt recoil and muzzle lift was clearly evident. I then loaded up with six rounds of factory and once again turned loosed a round. While the recoil and muzzle lift was greater, it was not as bad as that of the unmodified Model 29 revolver. Recovery of the sights was much quicker and, more importantly, the gun was pleasant to shoot. As with the firing of the unmodified control revolver, I shot the 629 both one-handed and with a two-handed combat grip. Even with one hand, the gun was manageable.
I then switched to the 2-1/2-inch barrel 629 and repeated the exercise, using first one hand and then switching to two hands. Here, while the felt recoil was somewhat greater, the gun was still controllable. I certainly knew that I was shooting a .44 Magnum but the revolver was still pleasant to shoot.
We then switched to .44 Special ammunition, and the difference was quite amazing. Compared with the magnum ammunition, it was like shooting target wadcutter .38 Specials. If I were carrying either of these guns as a duty arm, this is the ammunition I would choose.
The two .45 Colts and the .45 ACP performed in a similar manner. As before, we started off shooting the unmodified .45 with the 4-inch barrel. Unlike the Model 29, this was a relatively easy gun to control. Recoil was much softer and muzzle lift less sharp. When we switched to the two Mag-na-ported guns, the felt recoil was even less.
In bygone years, when I used to carry a gun, my favorite cartridge was the .45 Colt. I acquired a surplus .45 Colt New Service with a 5-1/2-inch barrel which I shortened to just over 3 inches. I fitted a Python-type sleeve which contained a large ramp front sight, rounded the butt, made some combat grips and remade the cylinder latch. To top it off, I fitted a Smith & Wesson adjustable rear sight assembly to the top strap of the frame and gave the entire revolver a polished hard chrome finish.
Although not the same make, this gun was also used for comparison because of its 3-inch barrel. Once again all of the Mag-na-ported Model 25s exhibited less recoil than my custom Colt.
I tried some combat practice from a holster designed for my customized Colt New Service .45 as it accepted all of the Smiths as though it had been made for them.
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|Publication:||Guns & Ammo|
|Date:||Jan 1, 1985|
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