Doc And Tank’s ‘Excellent Adventure’
By Jeff “Tank” Hoover
Tank’s S&W Model 29-2 and Ruger Flattop Blackhawk before their Mag-na-port day spa.
Last year, after passing through Detroit, things start looking “normal” as bait shops, gun shops and outdoor centers start popping up along the road. Doc Barranti, my compadre and leathersmith guru, hits the “seek” button, killing the static from a radio station we tuned in 200 miles back. The GPS shows we’re 20 minutes from our destination as the FM receiver magically zeroes-in on a local radio station, filling the Suburban with Christmas carols, even though it’s early November.
It’s fitting, adding to the excitement, because Doc and I are going to Mag-na-port International. Already feeling festive, we’re more wound-up than kids on Christmas Eve, and crank up the volume!
Besides delving into the diagnostics and details of Mag-na-port, I’m delivering two guns Ken Kelly will dismantle, overhaul and customize while humbly working his magic. Ken was awarded Pistolsmith of the Year by the American Pistolsmith’s Guild in 2007, so I know my guns are in gifted, talented hands.
Mag-na-port also houses the Handgunner Hall of Fame and Larry Kelly’s world-class trophy room! You’ve got to see it, to believe it! For Pistoleros, it’s downright mesmerizing, absorbing all the history and accomplishments of our pistol packing Pharaohs from years past.
Ken Kelly writing up Tank’s work order while sitting behind the “Old Man’s” desk. Ken rarely
uses the office out of respect and everyone still refers to it as “Dad’s office.”
Mag-na-port International was built from the ground up by the most unlikely of businessmen. Larry Kelly is obsessed with guns, hunting and trapping in his home state of Michigan and drops out of school after the 8th grade to pursue this love.
A few years later, a recently transferred businessman looking for a local guide is referred to Larry. Living in a cinderblock A-frame garage he built himself, Larry impresses the businessman with his work ethic and skill and is offered a job by him. Larry is trained as a machinist and later in Electrical Discharge Machining (EDM). Eventually, he works on rocket-fuel control-valve technology for the Redstone missile and Apollo space program projects. Larry’s innovative mind makes him realize the same technology might work for gun barrels and he starts experimenting.
You can’t say Mag-na-port isn’t rocket science, because it is. Porting barrels part-time, Larry starts doing them full-time in 1971 and Mag-na-port International is a success, and an innovator in recoil reduction.
A Ruger grip frame set-up as it’s treated to the actual EDM process.
Different shaped electrodes form the cuts.
EDM is defined as electrical spark erosion, using interrupted super-charged electrical pulses directed from a piece of carbon graphite. The graphite has been 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 an object. This process does not disturb the finish, up to the edge of the hole, nor does it leave burrs. It’s a slick process more precise than regular machining.
Mag-na-port has been tested many times since its inception. H.P. White laboratories findings confirmed a reduction of 20.8 percent in measured free recoil. Shooters say it feels more like 40 percent. 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 with a +/- 0.5 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 never shot a Mag-na-ported gun, and other “armchair experts” who do their testing from the living room.
Fast-forward a year later and Doc Barranti and I are heading back to re-visit our buddy, Ken Kelly. Ol’ Doc is dropping off a couple of guns, while I get to pick mine up! As we pass through Motor City, once again the same radio station is blaring Have A Holly Jolly Christmas sung by Burl Ives. It’s early November and Doc and I are as giddy as two seven-year olds, belting out the lyrics to the classic song, laughing all the way — to Mag-na-port.
Holly displaying the happy attitude at Mag-na-port with her smile as she drills
carbon graphite transducers for EDM.
The “Paco” Gun
The first gun I have Ken customize saw life as a 4″ S&W model 29-2. I’m doing a Combat-Mini conversion consisting of cutting and Mag-na-porting the barrel to 3″ and round-butting the grip frame for easier and more comfortable concealability. It’s finished in a high-luster, deep blue, which let’s you know it’s special!
Ken Kelly knows his way around a double-action S&W, too! His DA work is the smoothest Doc and I ever felt, yet the hammer drops with authority! The single-action is just downright sexy!
The second gun is a tired 6.5″ Ruger 3-screw Flattop in need of some serious sprucing up. Its pipe is ported the Mag-na-port way after being chopped to 4″, along with the ejector rod housing. Its front sight receives a See-More orange insert, milled into the original front sight blade for faster target acquisition and contrast, while the whole works gets the “high-luster” bluing with the aluminum frame blacked.
This conversion will be referred to as “Skeeterito” by me, as I have a 7.5″ Ruger FT “Skeeter” gun and a 5″ FT I call “Little Skeet.” My Skelton clan is now complete by Ken’s handiwork.
Both guns will serve a multitude of purposes as back-up pieces while hunting, every day carry and just loafing in the woods during the off season.
Christmas Comes Early
Doc and I arrive at the shop around 11:00 AM and give Ken big old bear hugs as we transform into “shop rats.” There’s nothing better than hanging around another man’s shop, especially when it’s full of gun stuff! The laidback, warm atmosphere is fitting as the aroma of EDM oil mixed with a hint of burnt metal, various solvents, greases and hours-old coffee, waft through the air. Ken’s poodle, the notorious Jesse James, scampers around.
While sipping coffee, we talk, joke and enjoy ourselves, as Ken takes a rare break from his day, to visit with us.
We’re fortunate to have Ken give us the full tour of both his and his Dad’s “stuff.” Wow! There’s no way of telling you how many memorable things the two Kelly men can accumulate. It’s a treasure trove for gun gurus. We got to dig, dive and devour the history and making of both Ken and Larry Kelly’s cache.
A glimpse of the Lobby of Mag-na-port showing a few of founder Larry’s trophies.
When asking Ken when he and his sisters Doreen and Donna took over the family business, Ken chuckles and says, “Heck, we were running things since the early ’80s 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 while Ken rolls up his sleeves and takes care of things in the shop with Nick and Bret. Ken has worked in the shop since he was 12, Doreen since 15. They basically grew up in the shop and take pride in how they conduct business.
Ken explains to me besides custom gun work on personal guns, they also do large contract work for S&W and Colt, along with custom work for several distributors on guns from SIG SAUER, GLOCK, Kahr and several others too numerous to name. Believe me, they’re busy!
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 do it. 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 also very supportive of the 2nd Amendment. Ken has donated, literally, hundreds of guns and much time, work and money doing so. He’s done projects with Friends of the NRA, Whitetails Unlimited, The Pistolsmith Guild and numerous other organizations, along with smaller local gun clubs. It only makes sense to support him so this secular 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, doing it in a way he would be proud. I know I am!
For more info: https://americanhandgunner.com/company/mag-na-port-intl-inc/, Ph: (586) 469-6727, Emal: firstname.lastname@example.org