Full-Bore Custom

Escaping the Shelter of the Stock Box


Mag-na-port’s Combat Mini is a custom 3″ round-butt .44 Magnum. It’s as close as you’re going to get to a CCW-friendly N-Frame Smith!

It was bound to happen eventually. Being basically a “stock-box gun” kind of guy, I finally dipped my toe into custom waters. Sure, I tweak and primp my guns, but never full-blown customs!

I usually pass on those — they’re only for guys with “means,” right? But funny things happen as we age. We realize there actually is an end of the road, when we have more miles behind us than in front. The road behind had some potholes, and we’d paid our share of tolls but eventually the road ahead smoothed out, allowing us to enjoy some of the finer things in life. Now, I find myself occasionally traveling the custom route.

The Fever Takes Hold

While scouring the Internet years ago — reading about cast bullets — I stumbled onto Frank “Paco” Kelly. The former Vietnam vet, NYPD cop/detective, Head of Virginia State Drug Abuse and Control and later a DEA agent, is known as a hot-rodding handloader.

One night he used an S&W Model 29 Combat Mini, built by Larry Kelly, to save his life, shooting two miscreants during a botched drug-deal as an undercover DEA agent. I investigate the Combat Mini made by Mag-na-port. The more I read, the more I want one … bad!

Founder and porting pioneer, Larry Kelly, has since died, but son Ken, along with sisters Doreen and Donna carry on the family business.

Smith & Wesson

Where it all began: Tank’s original “donor gun” — a slightly beat-up S&W M29-2.

Tank’s Test Bed

They say you never forget your first, and I can vouch for this! Ken was kind and gentle to both my gun and me. My “donor gun” started as a 4″ S&W M29-2, sporting a few blemishes and minor pitting.

The Combat Mini conversion consists of cutting and Mag-na-porting the barrel to 3″ and rounding the grip frame, making it easier to conceal and more comfortable to carry. It’s finished in a high-luster, soul-soothing deep blue, reminding us of the good old days.

Trigger Point

Ken Kelly knows his way around an S&W. His double-action work is the smoothest I’ve ever felt, yet the hammer drops with authority — igniting my CCI-primed handloads without a hitch! The single-action pull is just downright sexy! Using my Lyman trigger scale, DA pull was a friction-free 6 lbs. 14 oz., and SA was just over 2 lbs.! Why did I ever wait so long to wander off the beaten path to experience the wonderful world of customs?

Barranti Leather

Carried in Doc Barranti’s version of a Hank Sloan shuck, the Combat Mini rides in style! The Spegel extended boot grips are also a nice addition.

How Mag-na-porting Works

Through the use of trapezoidal ports, expanding gases are vented upward, away from the muzzle. So directed, these gases keep the muzzle from rising. Basically, the more gas passing through the vents, the more energy to reduce recoil and muzzle flip.

The vents are installed using EDM, an electrical spark erosion process directed from a piece of specially shaped carbon graphite. Through basic machining skills, proper depth or complete pass-through, is possible. The finish isn’t disturbed at the edges of the hole, nor does it leave burrs.

Shooting My Mini

My Combat Mini will feed on a steady diet of 265-gr. Keith bullets loaded over 10 grains of Unique sparked by a large pistol primer — usually CCI. This load runs around 1,100 fps and is capable of handling any chore. They’re accurate and they’re my handloads.

When carrying in concealed mode, I’ll load Speer 200-gr. Gold Dot .44 Specials. This manstopper generates less recoil and muzzle-rise than my magnum handloads, so staying on target is no problem.

I carry my Combat Mini in a Barranti Leather Hank Sloan model. A traditional shuck with a wraparound hammer shroud, it protects and prevents snags on clothing. Elmer Keith liked this style and actually suggested the extended shroud.

A Road Less Traveled

OK, I’ll admit it’s nice to take the road less traveled now and again. I enjoy my self-tuned stock-box shooters but sometimes it’s nice to let someone else drive. Do yourself a favor and take a custom out for a spin.

You may never want to come back.


GUNS May 2019

Purchase A PDF Download Of The GUNS Magazine May 2019 Issue Now!