GLOCK Pistols: Ported Or Non?
Bottom line: From 9mm to .40 S&W, compensated pistols from GLOCK fire hot defense loads faster and more accurately than their “unholey” brothers.
As heavily loaded defensive ammunition has become more widespread, so has customer dissatisfaction with the resulting stout recoil—in essence, we want to have our cake and eat it too. One way to head off muzzle flip is to port the barrel. That is, to cut holes in the barrel and slide so that some of the expanding gases that propel the bullet will be redirected to keep the muzzle down. This technology became refined in the ranks of bowling-pin shooters, whose game was to knock bowling pins off of a table in the shortest time possible. Since this required the delivery of a massive blow from a hot load and the ability to recover quickly and get back on the next pin, shooters were stymied. Then Clark Custom Guns began offering its Pin Master Comp, a compensated extension to handgun barrels, and the word was out that the hottest loads could also be the most stabilizing at the muzzle. This same effect can be obtained by “porting,” wherein the barrel itself is vented without adding a separate compensator at the muzzle.
Today, factory porting of handguns is becoming more common, so we wanted to have a look at some of these guns and determine how effective the various systems are when compared to the identical models in non-ported versions. We wondered if all porting is the same? Does the choice of cartridge have any effect? What about bullet weight? To help us find the answers to these questions, we acquired a pair of GLOCKs in 9mm (19 and 19C) and a pair in .40 Smith & Wesson (Models 22 and 22C).
GLOCK 22 and GLOCK 22C
Our recommendation: Of these .40 Smith & Wesson GLOCKs, priced $616 and $646 respectively, there was never any doubt which pistol was easier to shoot. Whether shooting 155- or 180-grain .40s, the ported 22C really took advantage of the hot round’s gas discharge to soften recoil. This translated well on target, helping the GLOCK 22C record the only accuracy average under 2 inches in this test. We’d opt for the 22C over the 22.
The latest models from GLOCK include the new and genuinely improved grip frame that features a deeper undercut at the top of the backstrap. It is accented and rounded to help fill the palm. Three checkered but mild finger grooves adorn the front strap, with a nice degree of undercut where the trigger guard meets the grip. A rail for a lighting device has been molded in on the full-length dust cover.
Otherwise, the GLOCK design remains unchanged. Cocking serrations on the steel slide are still wide and to the rear, the extractor is still externally mounted, and the linkless design still can be broken down without a single tool. The trigger still features a safety that prevents the striker firing system from hitting a chambered round unless a finger is on the trigger, but no other safety is provided beyond the shooter’s discretion.
Of course, the 22C includes some features the plain-tube 22 lacks. The 22C’s barrel sports the addition of two 0.40-inch-long ports placed side by side at about 1 o’clock and 11 o’clock approximately 1.2 inches back from the muzzle. A corresponding set of vents have been cut into the slide, and they are angled to the outside and run forward about twice the length of the ports when the slide is fully forward in battery.
In particular, porting the GLOCK pistol makes a lot of sense because without any rounds in the mag, all the weight is in the steel slide. A little downward muzzle pressure (actually the pressure is expressed in a V for stability) is a welcome addition, especially when the latest hot defense load in .40 S&W is chambered.
The .40 round has become popular for law enforcement for a number of reasons. It is more powerful than the 9mm, which has proven ineffective at times. At the same time, it offers performance much more on par with the .45 ACP round without losing magazine capacity. In themselves, these two points were enough of an advantage over the .45 to make the .40 S&W popular, but another plus point was the smaller round’s much faster slide velocity, which allowed for quicker follow-up shots—if you could control the muzzle. Porting on GLOCK’s C-designated models supplies this control, we found.
Otherwise, the main difference between our two guns were the sights. The standard model was delivered with self-luminous night sights. When shooting in daylight, we tend to ignore the tritium-filled orbs in favor of comparing light bars between the edges of the front and rear sights. The low-mounted non-luminous combat sights of the ported gun showed narrower slits to either side of the front sight. This made the ported gun slightly harder to shoot accurately, we thought, but we felt both sights had their merits. For one, the wider gap of the night sights sometimes gave our eyes the feeling of being lost, and other times it seemed we had the point of impact right at the tip of the front blade. Finally, the unported model 22 appeared to have a smoother feeling trigger, pointing out that no matter what kind of hand work or high-tech machine is used, every gun will always be unique.
GLOCK 19 and GLOCK 19C
Our recommendation: Though 9mm pistols do not have recoil as stiff as the .45 ACP or .40 S&W, many handgunners will appreciate the soft-shooting qualities of the ported model 19C. Though the shooting gap between the guns narrows significantly here, we still think the ported gun, $646, has the edge in shootability over its $616 non-ported stablemate, and we’d buy C-designation first.
The porting configuration on the 9mm 19C series is identical to that of the model 22C detailed above. So are the ergonomics, except they are expressed in a smaller package. The GLOCK’s widths are about the same, but the 19s are 0.7 inch less in height and 0.6 inch less in length. Actually, the 19 series feels more like GLOCK’s 23 in .40 S&W. When the switch to the hotter (and heavier) .40 round was first made, many guns chambered for it were simply 9mms that were rebarreled for the bigger round. This trend lasted about as long as the frames. Sometimes it took as little as a few hundred rounds for the second-generation guns’ delicate mechanisms to fail under the .40’s pounding. Glocks weren’t included in this underbuilt class, and its guns continue to have reputations are reliable performers.
The 9mm models 19 and 19C did not fit the profile we expected. It was our theory that the hotter the ammo, the better the ported guns would perform. While the 19 and 19C followed this pattern when fired standing unsupported, from the rest the hottest round was the least accurate in the ported 19C. From a sandbag rest the 19 outdueled the 19C when shooting the 95-grain PMC Starfire and the +P Remington 115-grain JHP. It did match the GL19 when shooting the 124-grain NATO ball ammo, but there was a wide spread in group size, despite its producing the single tightest group at 1.6 inches. Each gun ran without problem, and the 19C was virtually recoil free.
Elsewhere on the guns, their magazine capacity is now 10 for civilians, even though the mag body is capable of carrying up to 15 rounds. These mags drop free for speedy reloading, as they do on all current pistols from GLOCK. This change from passive retention, where the mag is disengaged but held by the grip frame so that it could be controlled for later use, is undoubtedly the influence of not only the practical shooting games but a change in law-enforcement training as well. Sights on each gun are low mounted with a large white dot up front and a white outlined notch in the rear. We liked this arrangement on the ported gun in particular, because the white dot on the front sight didn’t bob at all, allowing us to “look-off” each shot of the Safe-Action trigger’s version of a double tap without even blinking. The rear unit is impact-adjustable for windage, only.
After testing these ported/non-ported guns head to head, we asked the $64000 question: Is porting worth the extra money? Porting on a GLOCK’s 19C and 22C is a $30 upgrade. In our opinion, this is one option that is nearly a freebie, so the question that actually needs to be answered is this: Do you want to buy a ported gun? Here are factors to consider:
"Isn’t there a loss of velocity?" Yes. Average drop in velocity was 41 fps for the 9mm, 28 fps for the .40.
"Is there really a dramatic reduction in recoil" Yes. Operating a pistol with real stopping power is no longer only for the big and strong. To update a famous phrase, “God made man and Samuel Colt made them equal, but porting makes them more equal.”
"Are ported guns too loud?" The higher pressured rounds tend to be the loudest.
"Doesn’t porting interrupt the rifling of the barrel and negatively impact accuracy?" No. On average, the ported guns showed equal or better accuracy, especially with the hotter rounds that had more gas to activate the ports, stabilizing the barrel.
"Isn’t the shooter in danger of blast from the ports during close-quarters combat?" In our opinion, yes. But the attacker is likely to be in more danger, especially if a proper rock-back draw can be executed.
"Will the blast from the ports wear out the gun?" No. Porting actually reduces stress on the gun,
So with these points in mind, how would we rate our stable of pistols? Overall, we liked all of the guns, and we found very little to kvetch about. But we still had our preferences:
GLOCK 22 and GLOCK 22C: The unported 22 gets a Conditional Buy recommendation, and the ported 22C gets an unqualified Buy nod. These .40s generate much more power than the 9mm Luger chambered in the GLOCK 19-series guns. As a result, the GLOCK 22 is not fun to shoot, but in terms of its overall function, there’s really nothing wrong with it. Matching ammunition to the gun is always the name of the game, only more so when it comes to compensated pistols. The typical factory round of .40 S&W is packed with fast-burning powder that doesn’t take full advantage of porting’s characteristics. Careful selection of ammunition for the 22C, one that features a light bullet, will make this gun much more pleasant to shoot than the 22, in our estimation.
GLOCK 19 and 4 GLOCK 19C: The standard-barreled 19 gets a Conditional Buy only because it was compared to the ported 19C. The 19 is a good, solid 9mm with very good ergonomics and even a little charm. But we don’t think you can have any more fun with a GLOCK pistol than we had with the 19C. Its ports allow even weak-handed shooters to yawn and stay on target. This kind of performance is too much to pass up.
Originally Published In February 2000.