Or is that an urban myth found in the shooting community? For as long as people have decided to try to kill each other; the smart members among have always sought ways to make ourselves better. This desire to be better has led to better techniques and improved technology. One area of handguns where we are seeing new advancements is that of compensators, and to a lesser extent porting, on duty/carry weapons. Porting has been present in the community for a long time but you are just now starting to see it popping up on more and more guns that are geared towards the self-protection community. Two of the most notable are the “C” variant Glocks which seem to be coming out of nowhere and the ported versions of the Smith and Wesson Shield. When it comes to compensators; they have been a mainstay in the competitive shooting world but have been virtually unseen since the 80s on carry guns until the “Roland Special” became insanely popular. For the un-initiated, the Roland Special is basically a Glock 19 with a KKM compensator on a threaded barrel and a red dot side milled into the slide. While most everyone admits that porting and compensators can aid a shooter in keeping the gun on target better during strings of fire; most have written off the use of these items because, according to some, “they’ll blind you as soon as you shoot them in the streets at night.” In short; “it’ll get you killed in da skreets!” So; will it? Will compensated and/or ported guns blind you when you shoot them at night? Today we’re going to try to shed some light on that very topic.
I never really thought of the issue of the flash from my pistol causing problems with my night vision until sometime around 2006 and I was in a class with Ken Hackathorn. Ken brought up the topic before we started the night shooting block of the class and we concluded this portion by running small drill with our carry ammo. I was using 147gr (mm Winchester Ranger at the time (and still do) and there wasn’t really an issue for me. I would do this drill years later with one of our classes and being surprised at how bad Remington Golden Saber was. The class was so bad from it, I was unable to see a target that was standing 10 yards away after firing my 2nd round. I literally had to stop for a second and regain some degree of night vision before I continue shooting. Flash is something I have kept in the back of mind ever since that class with Ken. With this experience floating around in the back of my head, I was interested to see how students’ night vision was going to be ruined when I learned that 2 students attending our most recent Low Light Handgun class were planning to use compensated and ported guns.
One of the two guns being used in the class was a Glock 24C. This gun, much like the 17L, is a .40 beast with a barrel that measures approximately 6”. The primary thing I noticed with this gun at night was the very distinct ‘V” pattern of the flash coming from the ports in the barrel. What is crazy is that while the “V” was noticeable when I caught glimpses of it out of the corner of my eye, the flash never bothered my night vision. In fact, the flash from the ports didn’t even seem that bright overall. Here is what the flash looked like during the night fire:
If you pay close attention to the photo, you can see the right arm of the “V” in the photo. The shooter of the gun, and everyone around him, stated that the porting did not bother them or hinder their shooting.
Next up was a Glock 19 with a KKM barrel and compensator. As I mentioned above, comps are the new hotness with carry guns and there are a million currently hitting the market. The KKM compensator happens to be one of the older designs around is typically the benchmark everything is measured against. Much like with the 24C, the flash off the KKM comp didn’t bother the shooter, me, or any of the surrounding students. In fact, the flash from the KKM comp wasn’t even eye catching like that from the Glock. Heres an example of the flash from the KKM:
You might be wondering what was the worst ammo on the line that night. The award winner for that was some Fioochi 9mm FMJ rounds being used. Luckily, we didn’t have to deal with it too much since the ammo was a complete dog turd and caused non-stop malfunctions in the student’s Gen 4 Glock 19. When the gun was working, there were some nice fireballs rolling out. And how about the worst that I’ve ever captured on film? That would belong to this federal agent who happened to be using a Sig chambered in 357 Sig:
This dude’s gun has so much flash; other students would typically wait until he shot and then use his muzzle flash to illuminate their targets and then they would shoot. It was BAAADDDDDDDDDDD.
In closing let me say this. Flash from pistols with porting and comps is highly overrated. I wouldn’t have a problem using a pistol with a compensator or porting (though I prefer the comp) for duty or personal protection. However, don’t just take my word for it. If you want one, make sure you try it with your carry ammo so you can make sure you aren’t going to experience flash like I saw with the Golden Saber rounds or the mega fireball shown above with the Sig.
Until next time……………