By Tank Hoover
Mag-Na-Port was built from the ground-up by the most unlikely of candidates. Larry Kelly dropped out of school after the 8th grade. His obsession was hunting, handloading and guns, a man after my own heart. No one in his family hunted, so young Larry taught himself by spending all his time in the woods of Michigan. Keen observation skills and a desire to be successful as a trapper/hunter were the driving-force carrying Larry well his whole life.
By his late teens, Larry was married, had two young daughters, and was living in an A-frame cinder block garage he built, sans running water, heat or A/C. The cold, damp conditions reeked havoc with his wife’s asthma and young children’s health. Larry wanted to improve his living conditions for his family, but didn’t have the education or training for a decent paying job.
He did what he could by working odd jobs and guiding hunters in the very woods he was so familiar with and loved. It is also where he got his big break.
A Great Brake
A recently transferred businessman was looking for a local guide to take him hunting and Larry was recommended. The businessman was impressed with Larry’s enthusiasm and hustle and asked him why an individual with obvious drive and determination in the hunting fields was in such financial dire straights. The businessman offered him a job as a machinist at his plant.
Here’s where it gets interesting.
The businessman runs a plant making, among other things, fuel guidance control valves for the Redstone missile and later, the Apollo project, using Electrical Discharge Machining (EDM). Although lacking formal education, Larry is sharp, innovative and full of common sense. He takes to the work with the same tenacity as his love for the outdoors and guns.
All subject matter and worlds seem to eventually collide and overlap one another. While working on the control valves and learning their function, it doesn’t take long before Larry starts thinking about meshing the EDM rocket fuel control valve technology to serve the same function to a gun barrel. You can’t say, “It isn’t rocket science” in this case, because it is! Formulated by a man with an 8th grade education, there’s a lesson here somewhere, eh?
Larry starts experimenting and has no expectation of what to expect. Will the barrel blow in two, or any other dastardly result? Through trial and error, Larry formulates a trapezoidal-shaped gas vent that, combined with proper angle and placement, optimizes the reduction in felt recoil, muzzle lift and gas blow-by. He has the foresight to patent the design and starts moonlighting part-time getting paid to put holes in peoples barrels with EDM technology. In 1971, after years of working part-time porting barrels, Larry goes fulltime and opens Mag-Na-Port International.
A few of Larry Kelly’s trophies at the Handgunner Hall of Fame,
which is inside the main lobby of Mag-Na-Port.
What is EDM? It’s easily defined as electrical spark erosion. Huh? Yep! Interrupted super charged electrical pulses coming from a piece of carbon graphite that is machined to the desired shape to make a hole or indentation, and through basic machining skills, is stopped at the proper depth, or until it goes completely through any given object. This process does not disturb the finish up to the edge of the hole, nor does it leave burrs. It is a slick process, more precise than regular machining.
Life’s Love And Advertising
By now, you should realize Larry Kelly’s cranial synapses are firing faster than the EDM process itself, that is, he’s pretty damn sharp! What better way to advertise his new porting system than by hunting the world over and taking big game animals. It works! It wasn’t long before everyone wanted to be like Larry Kelly in the fraternity of handgun hunters. Business boomed, and the rest they say, is history.
Ken Kelly holding Jesse James inside the main lobby.
Mag-Na-Port houses the Handgunners Hall of Fame, along with Larry’s huge trophy room. It’s one of the coolest and most brilliant advertising schemes I have seen, loaded with history. It’s a who’s-who of the handgunner world. Pictures of Elmer, Skeeter, Hal Swiggett, John Taffin and others adorn the walls. Skeeter’s American Handgunner of the Year Award is on loan there, along with Larry’s. It’s the mecca for the hardcore handgun aficionado. I told you he was smart. How would you like to make your living by doing what you love? Both the advertising and porting work. I was so fired up taking in the atmosphere of this space age technology I wanted to be a 14 year old kid again and be Larry Kelly.
Larry Kelly, the man, the myth, the legend, on a hunt.
Killing The Myth
Mag-Na-Port has been tested many times since its inception. H.P. White laboratory findings confirmed a reduction of 20.8 percent in measured free-recoil. Actual shooters say it feels more like up to 40 percent. Reduction is greater in various calibers. The more recoil there is, the more effective the taming results of Mag-Na-Port’s recoil reduction and muzzle flip. Basically, the more gases there are to vent-out, the more those same gases work with the ports to reduce recoil and muzzle flip.
All this is with a +/- .5 percent in velocity, less recoil and muzzle blast. Ken Kelly states Mag-Na-Porting a gun does not affect accuracy, noise level or velocity. These are myths spouted by people who have never shot a Mag-Na-Ported gun and other “armchair experts” who do their testing from the living room chair.
The first gun Mag-Na-Ported by Larry Kelly, a Ruger Flat Top he bought at K-Mart for $89.
Below are some fuel guidance control valves for the Redstone Missile and Apollo projects
Larry made while working for the company that taught him the EDM process.
When I asked Ken Kelly, Larry’s son, when he and his sisters Doreen and Donna took over the family business, Ken chuckled and said, “Heck, we were running things since the early 1980’s when dad was out hunting around the world.” The close-knit siblings slowly phased into taking over the business, as dad would periodically check-up on things or make himself available when needed.
The sincere warmth of this family-run business is obvious and a great tribute to the way Larry raised his family. Family members of the canine variety roam freely during the daily running of the shop. Doreen and Donna run the front end with friendly smiles and demeanor while Ken rolls up his sleeves and takes care of things in the shop. Ken has worked in the shop since the age of 12, Doreen since 15. They basically grew up in the shop and take pride in how they conduct business.
Here’s a slide for a Sig Sauer 226 getting the EDM treatment.
The porting will reduce recoil, muzzle blast and rise. It works!
Just Do It
Once you decide to have work done on your rifle, shotgun or handgun, let me give you some advice. If you are within eight hours or so of driving distance, do yourself a favor and visit. The animal mounts are breathtaking, the handgunner museum worthy, and meeting the Kelly clan personally, dogs included, will leave you smiling. Ken says you can even make an appointment for porting only, and enjoy the atmosphere, watch videos and soak it all in, as you wait. Something to consider and you’ll be glad you did. Trust this Tank Tip! I wouldn’t mislead you. Honest.
Mag-Na-Port is very supportive to the 2nd Amendment. Ken has donated much time, work and money doing so. He’s done projects with Friends of the NRA, Whitetails Unlimited, The Pistolsmith Guild, donated custom work to benefit the NSSF’s First Shots Program and many other organizations, along with smaller local gun clubs. It only makes sense to support him so this cycle can continue to maintain our Rights as Americans to keep and bear arms.
Larry Kelly was the pioneer in recoil reduction of firearms and his family continues the tradition in a way he would be proud. I know I am.
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