Handgun Options For Beauty
By Dr. George Dvorchak.
Shaky economy or not, the truth is any form of art is nice to own. Then if you’re lucky enough to possess whatever you may prefer, something both beautiful and practical to use, that’s even better. With shooters and collectors having an eye for exceptional firearms, such a form of art exists due to upgrading or customizing whatever may be your fancy. When it comes to working on or totally customizing firearms to enhance their beauty and functionality, there are many hobbyist and some craftsmen who do good work. To take it up a notch, there are a special few craftsmen who, by making alterations to well designed and factory produced arms, create true heirlooms. One such operation is International, headquartered in Michigan.
I first became acquainted with Mag-Na-Port’s founder, world renowned handgun hunter Larry Kelly, at the Handgun-Only Whitetail and Varmint Hunts I helped to initiate at the White Oak Plantation in Alabama. I also met Larry’s son, Kenneth at White Oak and we became fast friends. With Larry’s passing, it has been Ken who has carried on the family tradition. This encompasses porting or adding brakes to barrels, customizing rifles, muzzle loaders, shotguns/slug guns and especially handguns. They also do what few can do well – turn a plain-Jane into a presentation-grade firearm that is a work of art tuned to perfection.
Larry Kelly dropped this brown bear with a Mag-Na-Ported and tuned
Ruger Super Blackhawk in .44 Magnum at 60 yards as it ran downhill.
Larry Kelly attended all of the 18 handgun-only whitetail hunts at White Oak
Plantation in Alabama. Here is an 8-point he dropped with an RPM XL Pistol.
Larry accounted for a good share of whitetail and predators on those hunts,
and I have known him to take only one shot each!
The Kelly Family
Larry Kelly, the individual who had a dream, the guts to implement it and intelligence to make it work, was the founder of Mag-na-port International. From his beginning porting revolvers in 1971, to producing highly customized handguns, this firm, today run by his son Kenneth with daughters Donna and Doreen, is one of the best “recoil-reducing” and firearm customizing operations in the world. After all, it was Larry, and now his children, who continue to be the leaders in taking recoil reduction to where it is today.
Although not an engineer with formal training, Larry tapped into his experiences operating an E.D.M. (electric discharge machine), and with his knowledge of firearms and ballistics, began experimenting with cutting ports in muzzle end of barrels. According to what Larry told me a few years ago, to implement his idea of porting magnum revolvers in an effort to reduce the guns muzzle jump, he proceeded cautiously. When it became obvious porting was safe and effective, he experimented with shapes, finally settling on trapezoid ports. Today, this is what they apply to handguns, rifles and muzzle loaders as well as shotguns and slug guns.
This firm does it all, and does it well. What the Kelly family and Mag-na-port are perhaps best known for is their work on handgun conversions or customizing. Although these handguns could now be classified as presentation pieces due to their “face lifts,” they are also quite functional, and in many ways, are now even better suited for that special hunt.
Mag-Na-Port International does it all! On top, their Pro-Port on a slug gun
barrel and below right, the original Mag-Na-Porting on a revolver. The barrel
on the center left has their Mag-Na-Brake which, if preferred, can be screwed
off when hunting. Then the threads can be protected with a knurled thread
protector. These systems work well on both rifles and handguns.
This is the Mag-Na-Port Predator edition on a Ruger Super Blackhawk .44
Magnum. Due to the shorter 4 5/8″ barrel, down from its original 7 ½”
version, this handgun is now easier to pack.
Two of the Finest
When it comes to double action revolvers for hunting, nothing in my opinion beats the .460 and .500 S&W “world class” revolvers. Then why spend the money for custom features to be added to already superb handguns? Here is the “why” from my good friend Ken Kelly.
“At Mag-na-port we specialize in recoil reducing services that make firearms more comfortable and less intimidating to shoot, so shooting accurately becomes much easier. Our custom services can take a factory handgun, and by improving upon what is already there, upgrade it into a superb hunting arm. Here is what we do: Action work results in a lighter, smoother trigger pull, which can help to improve accuracy. For another way to enhance accuracy, sight work and scope mounting services are a must when converting a stock gun into a unique hunting firearm. Keep in mind a lot of our custom conversions and services have been field tested by my dad (and now me) to make sure they are practical and provide a benefit as well being a thing of beauty.”
A new front sight was added to the .44 Super Blackhawk, along with the MNP
Logo. The porting helps to reduce muzzle-rise and felt-recoil of this Predator.
The .500 S&W Make Over
According to Ken, “We did a rifle-style Mag-na-port to reduce the recoil and muzzle jump even more from what was standard and effective from the factory. We then skeletonized the shroud and trigger guard for looks and to shave off a little weight from what is a heavy handgun. This also helped with balance. A complete action job was then done, which smoothed the internal parts and to remove any creep. Such a procedure also lightened the trigger pull. Then we checked the timing and numbered the chambers.
“Mirror polished embellishments were done to the cylinder flutes, the hammer and trigger. Jewelling the trigger and hammer looks good and also serves to hold a little lubricant, which helps with smoothness. Pin striping was also added, which supplements the classy look. The gun was then velvet honed. Next we did a very fine bead blasting that gives the gun a nice smooth matte appearance which really sets off the contrast of the mirror polished items. Finally, the handgun was finished off with our Mag-na-port logo.
“We also do complete packages, which means adding optics if desired. On this particular handgun, the customer ordered a Trijicon Reflex sight which is a self-luminous aiming system which we easily installed,” explained Ken.
With the action tuned, everything works like a fine Swiss watch.
The original handgun was good — the extra work just made it better.
This Freedom Arms .454 Casull had factory extra cylinders in .45 ACP, .45
Winchester magnum and .45 Colt, and each engraved with game scenes as
part of the customizing process at Mag-Na-Port.
A .460 S&W Make Over
“On this handgun, which comes from the factory with custom features, we added a standard 2-port Mag-Na-Port because it looks better and performs great on any Performance Center barrel,” said Ken. “All the other services were basically the same as done on the .500 except we added mirror polished bands instead of pin stripping. This compliments the design of the already high-grade S&W Performance Center barrel.
“On the .460, the customer ordered a Burris 1.5X – 4X scope with Posi-Lock and Burris Signature Rings. These rings have the Pos-Align Offset Inserts which secure the scope from moving and protect the scope tube from dents.”
As these fine handguns come from the factory in stock form, with the addition of
scopes. Sort of a “before” picture. On top, a Performance Center S&W .460 Magnum
with a Burris 1.5X- 4X scope. Below, a S&W .500 Magnum with a Bushnell 2-6X scope.
Four-in-One on a .454 Casull
A premium single action revolver right out of the box is the Freedom Arms .454 Casull. This handgun was originally ordered from Freedom Arms with a 9 ½” barrel and no sights since the owner had planned to have Mag-na-port work it over and add a Mag-na-brake. It was also ordered with three additional cylinders allowing for cartridges like the .45 ACP and .45 Winchester Magnum too, in addition to one for .45 Colt. The Colt cartridge can be fired in a .454 Casull, but if not cleaned, putting a .454 cartridge into a cylinder made dirty by firing the shorter Colt cartridge can cause the longer .454 round to chamber tightly, increasing pressures. Mag-Na-Port converted the .454 into what they call their Mag-na-port Stalker. Designed by Larry Kelly for hunting, the conversion adaptations are what Larry felt were what serious handgun hunters would come to appreciate.
According to Ken, “To control recoil, the very effective Mag-Na-Brake was installed. The barrel then received an inverted muzzle crown, then an action job so all the parts work in unison, like a Swiss watch. An action job involves head spacing and cylinder gap checks, and internal parts are smoothed to remove creep, which also lightens the trigger pull. Then timing is checked and the forcing cone is re-cut with the chambers being numbered. If you prefer, sling studs and swivels can be attached.
“For looks, a velvet hone finish was applied, with the hammer and trigger receiving a jeweled polishing. Also for looks, pin-stripping can be applied. To secure what scope and rings this customer preferred, an SSK base and four rings were used. Then to distinguish this handgun from others, the name Mag-Na-Port Stalker is etched on the barrel. On this handgun, due to having extra cylinders, all received the velvet hone finishing and for an extra feature, game scenes were engraved.”
Visible is the jeweled hammer/trigger as well as polished cylinder flutes,
skeletonized under-lug and pinstripes.
Although the factory compensators are excellent, adding
Mag-Na-Ports tames the recoil even more.
Ruger New Model Super Blackhawk Reformation
Here is another example of a single action handgun, put back into action due to customizing. The .44 Magnum is a great cartridge in any handgun. The cartridge and handgun from the factory were great — I was just moving on to bigger cartridges and didn’t use this one very much. Since I’m always looking for something new to review, that old Ruger with a 7 ½” barrel (topped with a Leupold 2x Scope) just sat around. When I bought it some 20 or so years ago, it was blued. Then around 15 years ago, I had Mag-Na-Port hard chrome it to give it a dull stainless look, and adding Mag-Na-Porting to the barrel. Still, I did not do much with it, so a few years ago I sent off for its transformation into a Mag-Na-Porting Predator.
According to Ken, “The Predator is one of the most popular Mag-Na-Porting conversions. Built on a Ruger Super Blackhawk, the barrel is shortened to 4 5/8″; an inverted muzzle crown is added; the front sight base remounted, and C-More sights installed; a complete action job is done, and a velvet hone finish is applied to the gun. Then the rear sight blade is replaced with an Omega white-outline; the hammer, trigger, ejector rod and center pin are mirror polished. Finally, a standard revolver Mag-Na-Porting is added and the Mag-Na-Port logo finishes off the conversion.”
This is a practical conversion that made a fine handgun even better, and one that is now carried and used to its fullest. It’s also a light revolver to pack on back country hikes, and handy to have around since you never know what you might run into there!
For some background on how this conversion came about, I turned to Ken. “The predecessor to the Predator conversion was the Tomahawk limited edition offered by Mag-Na-Porting in 1978. My dad took this gun all over Africa and North America, shooting plains game as well as big game, including an elephant. Of all our conversions, I think this was my father’s favorite!”
Two presentation-grade Smith & Wesson revolvers, one in .460 and the
other in .500 S&W are also practical works of art.
Ken Kelly at the MNP shop does a lot of the hands-on work required to turn a
regular firearm into a practical version that can easily become an heirloom.
Photo: Donna Wilson
What gave Mag-Na-Port their start can be summarize by two words: recoil-reduction. “The biggest benefit a shooter can expect,” says Ken, “is less recoil and muzzle jump. When the gun is fired and the bullet goes down the barrel, the gases are forced out of the ports. This action then pushes the muzzle down, reducing the gun’s ‘jump’ in the hand. Plus, by re-routing some of the gases through the ports, there is a reduction in the felt recoil. On handguns, the muzzle jump reduction averages around 25 to 38 percent, and perceived recoil reduction is about 20 to 35 percent. How much depends on barrel length and caliber. When stating percentages, we try to stay conservative in our estimates and not overstate the effectiveness. What is interesting is that customer feedback on our Mag-Na-Porting is often much more than what we claim.
“The E.D.M. process allows us to go through the lands and groves, leaving no burrs in the bore to interfere with the bullet as it passes. Concerning the ports, the trapezoidal shape works as a metering port regulating the gases,” explained Ken.
Friends and I have had handguns customized by Mag-Na-Port, and even with the polishing and custom touches, we find we use them even more now. After all, as hunters, you should always be looking to use the best tools possible.
(Donna Wilson photo) Introduced from Ruger in 2007, the Ruger Super Redhawk
Alaskan is a popular model to be customized by Mag-Na-Port. With its short barrel,
porting helps control the bite in whatever cartridge it’s chambered. Photo: Donna Wilson
A Legend is Gone:
I have known Larry and Ken for at least 20 years and when Ken called me about his father’s death in 2010, it was a shock. Even though it was expected, I hoped he would be pulling through as he always did in past brushes with death. At least Larry had the opportunity to see his dream, Mag-Na-Port, continue as a family tradition of excellence. I used to worry about him 15 years ago when, after dinner at White Oak Plantation in Alabama during those whitetail handgun hunts, he would take a walk down the road to stay in shape. Those walks and talks were enjoyable, and looking back, I was glad to have gone along. Larry will be missed by all, and what was said about my own father’s death many years ago applies to Larry: “What a void his passing leaves here on earth.”
For more info: www.americanhandgunner.com/mag-na-port or e-mail at: firstname.lastname@example.org