As pistol shooters, we often find ourselves getting into the “Deck Out Your Pistol” community, I’m one of them. I’ve personally tricked out the trigger on my Glock 23, replacing the 5.5 lb. trigger with a 2.5 lb., added competition sights, lightened the spring, replaced the rod, etc.,. There is nothing wrong with that at all, if it allows you to shoot fast, smoother, or whatever the case may be, why not add it.
After hosting a 3 day combative pistol course, I saw that a few students operated with a ported barrel. I do like the ported barrel and ported slides, they really do serve a purpose, but I’ve come to see a few things that may be a problem for those considering in purchasing a ported barrel.
Having the barrel ported has a wonderful application for those shooters seeking faster follow-up shots on target. The ports on the barrel are for reducing recoil by allowing the expanding gases to sort of thrust the end of the pistol downward. Great for competition shooters!
While conducting the low-light shoots during the course to simulate a car jacking, mugging, home defense, etc., the students with the ported barrels encountered a pretty significant problem.
The students were in a low-light environment with pretty significant lume provided by the stars, street lamps, moon, etc., there wasn’t really a problem in spotting a target at close combative range. While conducting the drill, the student were facing the driver door of the vehicle as if they were opening the door, both hands free and away from their weapon. On the command “Threat”, the students were to engage three targets, one fully exposed two partially exposed behind cover (5, 10, 15 yards) in a specified time. The students who did not have the ported barrels did just fine while the students with the ported barrels did not. Why is that?
After conducting the drill myself and asking the students what they thought, we came to one simple answer as to why our time were significantly slower. We were blind! We weren’t truly blind, but the excessive light that comes from the ports on the barrel caused by burning powder, caused our vision to “go blind” or “white out” for a brief period of time. If you’ve ever been in the dark for a while and turn on the lights, you know exactly what I’m talking about. There really isn’t a way to counter this that I could come up with. If you’re only engaging one target, this may not be a problem, but if there are more, you may find yourself struggling to find and engage the other targets in a night environment. The same situation allied to the students on the other night/low-light drills.
Not all confrontations occur at a desired distance that we would like for pistol engagements. Sometime they happen while in a fist fight or grapple. When engaging a target at combative distance (muzzle contact) or engaging from a weapons retention stance, you may find yourself with a few extra marks on your body than you expected. The burning gases that exit the ports are extremely hot! If you are shooting from a retention stance or with the weapon tucked close to your side, the burning powder can cause harm to you. Though the pain won’t kill you, other problems may be presented such as loss of focus, wounds that may render one limb/finger or body part unusable, or worst case scenario, you’re wearing clothing that is prone to catching fire (always assume the worse case scenario).