I don’t like ported barrels on self-defense guns nor do I care for them on range training guns. The clearest danger is the risk of hot, explosive gases vented up into the shooters eyes and face. It is true that a ported barrel will let a shooter shoot faster because it will reduce muzzle jump. And unlike the barrel porting on majority of semi-auto pistols, a ported revolver barrel generally adds nothing to the barrel’s length that could reduces concealability. And yes some shooters who praise barrel porting argue that since they neither plan to shoot from a “close in” retention position where the gun is held close to the floating rib nor practice the growingly uncommon “speed rock” draw-and-fire drills they are never going to have the gun directly below their eyes, and can therefore benefit from the advantages porting offers. Regardless, I believe a ported barrel on a self-defense gun remains a poor idea.
First, porting reduces velocity which in turn makes bullet expansion out of a short barrel even more unlikely. Diverting 5-, 10- or 15% of the already limited velocity cannot possibly advance the goal of rapidly incapacitation of an attacker.
Second, redirecting some portion of the muzzle flash in front of, behind or on both sides of the front sight blade only adds to the difficulty of locating the front sight between low light shots.
Third, there always remains the risk of venting gasses into the shooter’s eyes. It may be true that the shooter never plans to have the gun in a position where the gasses can be vented up toward his face, but his attacker may not be so obliging. If the gun owner hear a 2 a.m. noise he may just decide to check it out, and he may do it with that snub tucked in close to his ribs. Then if he has to fire, the vents are positioned in a line beneath his face and eyes. Even if he does keep his arms extended while he peeks around the halls looking his a.m. guest, the dressed, alert and awake attacker might lunge for the gun owner’s gun. Might that gun owner not reflexively retract the gun and end up in the same close in shooting position described above. And if he doesn’t retract the gun back in time and both the gun owner and the intruder start fighting over control for the gun, well then that bad guy may just decide to live-test the “walk-through” disarming technique commonly practiced by bad guys in prison. Just before the gun comes ripping up and out of the gun owner’s hand the walk-through will positions the top of the snub’s barrel inches in front of the owner’s eyes. Now you have 200-plus pounds of home owner and 200-plus pounds of attacker fighting over a weapon designed to discharge with at maximum 14-pounds of pressure. Might the gun now inches in front of the gun owner’s eyes discharge? Did he plan on wearing his safety glasses during his house search? Even if he commonly wears prescription glasses, can he expect to keep them in place during a violent fight over that gun?
Sometimes the risk from the ported barrel doesn’t come from choosing to keep the gun tucked close in. J.H. FitzGerald wrote decades ago in his book Shooting about the advantages of the short barreled revolver in close confines such as an automobile. Swinging the snub from inside the automobile invariably keeps the barrel and any barrel porting close to the defender’s face. I would rather not have to factor in defending myself from a driver’s side carjacker (when I’m driving) while I have the ported vents directly below my face. Nor do I wish to have to defend against a passenger side carjacker when my wife is riding next to me and the vents will be directly under her eyes.
I favor harnessing all of the available expanding gas to drive the bullet at maximum velocity and into my attacker rather than diverting some portion of that gas away from my attacker and venting it into the eyes of someone I love. Armed self-defense is challenging enough when you have working vision. It can hardly be any less challenging when you willingly choose to either temporarily or permanently injure your vision at the opening bell of the fight.
Some shooters counter with “I only use it as a range gun.” While almost any range training is better than no range training and I can and will argue for the many benefits of training with smaller caliber, reduced caliber and Primer Only Propelled (POP) substitution ammunition. I am at best leery about earmarking gunsmithing funds for a “feature” that does not enhance the snub’s effectiveness as a self-defense weapon. The amount of money spent on porting is better spent on other more effective and practical features that clearly enhance self-defense.