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Carry Gun Science: Ported Vs. Comp Vs. Slide-Comp Vs. Bare-Muzzle


Highly popular in the competition world for a long time, compensators and ported barrels are a proven way of getting more control over your pistol. But in the lands of concealed carry, these devices are hotly debated. Some say you’ll burn your eyes out shooting at night with a comp, others claim you’ll blow holes in your soft skin shooting from retention. Others say that you’ll get killed in “da streets” if you don’t have sub 0.2 splits.

The truth is out there, and all of this is worth talking about. Right now, for this article, we won’t get deep in the weeds of theory. This article is to simply test ported barrels, comped barrels, slide-comp barrels, and naked barrels in a carry gun and what, if any, performance gains they provide.

While the test gun used is a SIG P365 XMACRO, the idea is the same across the board. The gun itself isn’t really important, the barrels and comps are what make the difference here. While exact performance might be a little different, the idea should apply to any gun using comps, ports, or nothing.

Big Thanks

First, a big thanks to Zaffiri Precision for making this article possible. I’ve wanted to make this article for a couple of years, and for the sake of science, I wanted as many of the parts to be from a single source as possible. But I never found a single brand that offered ported barrels, threaded barrels, and normal barrels for a gun I actually owned at the same time. 

When I saw Zaffiri Precision did just that for the P365, I was finally able to make this happen. We’ll be using their threaded barrel, ported barrel, ported slide, and normal barrel for this test. We’ll also be using a Faxon Firearms compensator and a SIG P365 XMACRO COMP barrel and slide. 

For the frame, we have the Icarus Precision XMACRO. Icarus sent this out for review, and it is amazing. Not only does it perform outstandingly well, but it also makes swapping slides and barrels a lot easier. 

Ammo was provided, in part, by AmmunitionToGo


The premise of this is pretty simple: to test what benefits (if any) you might gain from using a ported, comped, or slide comp in a carry gun.

We’ll test this in two ways: max muzzle flip and on the clock for putting 5 shots on target as quickly as possible. I don’t mean that as dump 5 rounds, but rather 5 well-placed shots sent as soon as a sight picture is found.

Max muzzle flip is pretty self-explanatory, how much the muzzle rise is experienced when fired. I did this using a GoPro Hero 9 set on max FPS (240 FPS) and then firing 5 rounds. Reviewing the footage, I found how much the muzzle comes up per shot and looked for an average max to clip a frame from. Some discrepancy is expected from shot to shot since ammo isn’t perfectly consistent.

Icarus Precision XMACRO grip, Zaffiri slide and barrels, Killer Innovations barrel, and more

On the clock is also fairly simple. At the beep, fire 5 rounds at a 4-inch target 10 yards away. Repeat 4 times for a total of 20 rounds per barrel/slide setup. Then, we’ll break down the data.

I’m using this as my test because it’s very similar to the ever-popular 10-10-10 drill. In a normal 10-10-10, you fire 10 rounds in 10 seconds at 10 yards. I’m removing the time component because my goal is to force rapid fire. I take a shot as fast as I can get a good sight picture.

Cutting the round count down by half because smaller strings of fire are more representative of what might be required in a self-defense shooting. Repeating 4 times to get a better sample size.

Also, I’m only including “good” strings. If I felt my grip came loose, if I threw a shot horribly, if I knew I broke a really bad shot — I chunked the string and repeated it. This happened 3 times out of the 20 required strings, so technically, I shot 23 strings of 5 shots each across the 4 builds. 


Something I see a lot of people misunderstand is the exact point of comps and ports. Just so we’re all on the same page, let’s take a second and talk about it.

A compensator or ports in a barrel are to reduce muzzle flip. They also normally reduce felt recoil, as in the amount of energy that gets sent back into you when firing, but this is far more of a by-product and not the point.

Comps on rifles work the same way.

Muzzle brakes on rifles are designed to reduce felt recoil and normally reduce the amount your sight picture is disturbed as a by-product.

Muzzle brakes on pistols, more or less, aren’t a thing unless you’re looking at huge calibers like .500 S&W, and even then, you’re almost always looking at comp/brake hybrids.

The bottom line goal is for your sight picture to be disturbed less. This isn’t about how manly you are and the fact that recoil doesn’t physically bother you, this is about Newtonian physics and how Newton always wins.


Showing these basically without comment because no comment is required. Captions to denote models.

No muzzle device
Parker Mountain Machine barrel and comp
SIG Xmacro Comp Slide and factory barrel
Zaffiri Precision barrel, Faxon Firearms comp
Zaffiri Precision Ported Slide and Barrel


I’ll take this from slow to fast with one bonus at the end. The slowest was a naked barrel, not entirely surprising, but proof that ports and comps work.

Zaffiri Precision “Normal” Barrel

Using the Zaffiri Precision slide and Zaffiri Precision threaded barrel with only a thread protector on it, this is the baseline for what a “normal” barrel should be. Sure, this is threaded and technically not “normal,” but since it only had a thread protector on it, it’s basically a normal barrel.

The slowest string was 2.97 seconds, fastest was 2.35 seconds. The average comes in at 2.66 seconds.

Compared to the other options, it was extremely clear that this had the most recoil and pushed me off the target the most. This translated in the slow-mo video and in the times on the clock.

Parker Mountain Machine Barrel & Compensator 

At first, I wasn’t going to include the PMM JTTC and barrel because it was different from the others, but since Zaffiri Precision doesn’t make a comp for the P365 and I had to use someone else’s comp anyway, I figured I would include this to give multiple looks at compensators. Also, the internet tells me this is one of the best comps on the market, so it felt right that it gets a fair chance.

That said, it didn’t actually live up to what I hoped for. The comp worked, but not by a large amount.

The slowest string was 2.47 seconds, the fastest was 2.30 seconds, and it averaged at 2.37 seconds. 

Recoil felt good, but not hugely different from the naked barrel. It took a lot of the snap away normally associated with a sub-compact CCW but didn’t do a lot for the actual sight picture.

SIG Sauer XMACRO Comp Slide

This is a pure stock SIG barrel and SIG XMACRO Comp slide. Compensators machined into the slide of a gun have a major legal benefit in that they don’t require a threaded barrel (important for some ban states) and a solid mechanical benefit of never needing to be timed or care about coming loose.

Plus, since this is a factory configuration from SIG, it’s easy to get your hands on and substantially less expensive than buying an aftermarket barrel and comp on their own.

SIG Sauer XMACRO Comp slide where the comp is milled into the slide

The slowest string was 2.64 seconds, fastest was 2.03 seconds, with an average of 2.25 seconds.

Of any of these builds, this slide is what I have the most rounds through as a whole. I really like it. The snap is taken down by a large amount, the muzzle flip isn’t bad, and the package was highly convenient coming from SIG.

Zaffiri Precision Barrel, Faxon Firearms EXOS-525 Compensator

The threaded Zaffiri Precision barrel paired with a Faxon compensator performed almost exactly the same on the clock as the SIG Comp slide but felt significantly softer to shoot.

Part of that, I’m sure, is the fact that the barrel is longer and, as such, heavier, and the comp itself adds a bit of weight also.

PMM comp on the left, Faxon comp on the right. Faxon's top port is larger and has ports on both sides

Faxon’s comp is a little different in that instead of just having a cut on top, it also has a cut on each side. This might add a bit more felt recoil reduction due to acting like a brake instead of just a comp.

The slowest string was 2.30 seconds, the fastest was 2.14 seconds, and the average was 2.21 seconds.

Zaffiri Precision Ported Barrel

I’ve shot all of these builds before the official test to break them in and make sure everything worked. To me, the ported barrel was the most surprising since it felt the best. This was my first ported barrel, so it was interesting to me that it felt so much different than the comps.

Zaffiri ported barrel inside their ported slide

Zaffiri uses 4 ports on their barrel, two on each side, in a V pattern to the barrel. Important to note you MUST pair a ported barrel with a slide that has cuts for the ports. I’m using Zaffiri’s Custom Ported Slide, so everything matches up. Failing to use a slide that has cuts for the ports in the barrel will result in you ka-booming your slide!

The ports performed the best by a fairly large amount. The slowest string was 2.03 seconds, the fastest was 1.71 seconds, and the average was a cool 1.85 seconds.

Almost a full second average faster than a normal barrel is an impressive gain.

One minor downside of the ported barrel is that it is much louder at the shooter’s ear than the comps or naked barrel. With ear protection, it isn’t a problem. But you do notice it has a louder bark.

Bonus: Bul Armory SAS TAC II 5” Double-Stack 1911

The same day of testing, I also took out my double-stack 1911 just for some personal training. For kicks and giggles, I threw it on the clock to see what my times were with a full-size double-stack 1911.

The slowest string was 1.81 seconds, the fastest was 1.58 seconds, and the average was 1.67 seconds.

Not surprisingly, the large, heavy, full-size gun with a 3-pound trigger was faster than the sub-compact striker-fired pistol with a factory trigger.

This is basically what I expected, but it was nice to see what the difference was between them. I’m very surprised that the ported barrel performed almost as well as a full-size 2011-style gun.

NameComp/Ported?Max TimeMin TimeAverage TimeImprovment Over Base
ZP “Normal” BarrelNo2.97 Seconds2.35 Seconds2.66 Seconds0%
PMM Comp2.47 Seconds2.30 Seconds2.37 Seconds11%
SIG XMACRO SlideSlide Comp2.64 Seconds2.03 Seconds2.25 Seconds15%
Faxon Firearms EXOS-525Comp2.30 Seconds2.14 Seconds2.21 Seconds30%
ZP Ported Slide & BarrelPorted2.03 Seconds1.71 Seconds1.85 Seconds37%


If you’re sold on the idea of a comp/ported barrel for your CCW, or you at least want to give it a try, I would recommend starting with whatever setup is least expensive.

Assuming we’re talking about the SIG P365, you can get a threaded barrel from Zaffiri for about $180 and a Faxon comp for $85. This setup is a bit long, but highly effective and not super expensive. $265 for a barrel and comp is a pretty good deal and definitely the least expensive method. 

The PMM barrel and comp are sold as a set because the PMM barrel and comp won’t work with other devices. If you want a PMM comp, you must use their barrel. If you want their barrel, you must use their comp. The package is $360.

You can also get a Spectre Comp slide from SIG retailers for about $400. These slides come stripped, so you’ll need a completion kit or transfer all the internals from your old slide to the new one. The kit costs about $90. Use your normal barrel, and you’re good to go.

While not the fastest on the clock, the Faxon comp, Zaffiri slide, and Icarus grip makes for a sexy looking gun

The downside of ported barrels is that they require a ported slide also. You can either get your current slide cut by a gunsmith or get a whole new slide. Zaffiri ported barrel is only $170, and an off-the-shelf slide is $350

If you want to go custom, you can get the slide for $270 plus $30-90 for the color pattern you want plus $86 for an optic cut. 

Either way, you’ll also need a slide completion kit unless you want to strip your old slide and move all the internals to the new slide. $520-$700 is about as much as a new P365, but it gives the best performance, and if you pay for it, you get to pick out your custom color and optic cut. So there are upsides to it.

The “best” option was clearly the ported barrel, but for ease of use, the XMACRO Comp slide wins by a landslide. 

Doing this from scratch, I would probably get the XMACRO Comp as a complete gun and likely call it a day. But now that I have the parts, I’ll be carrying the Zaffiri ported slide/barrel. 

If you’re looking at all of this but for a different gun, like the Hellcat, for instance, you’ll have to do some digging to find the right prices for you. 


Granted, this is one firearm with not the most exhaustive testing. That said, I’ve been shooting the P365 in competition and in training for months and have used all of these configurations in both. The results reflected what I experienced in the course of shooting USPSA, BUG matches, and range training.

This won’t tell you if a comp or ports are right for you — but it should at least provide some insight into what really works.

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3 responses to “Carry Gun Science: Ported Vs. Comp Vs. Slide-Comp Vs. Bare-Muzzle”

  1. Dave_D says:

    Isn’t the ported barrel going to reduce velocity and therefore ballistic performance? If so, that would seem to be an important consideration in a carry pistol.

    • David Lane says:

      Yes, but the fps loss is a lot less than most people expect. Personally, I was only getting about 15 fps loss with high quality defensive ammo.

  2. Dan Claus says:

    Wow…that is one of the best comparison articles on a very current/debated subject using one of the most popular CCW pistols in the current market that I’ve read. Excellent informative data.
    Great Job!

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  • Isn't the ported barrel going to reduce velocity and therefore ballistic performance? If so, that would seem to be an important consideration in a carry pistol.

    • Yes, but the fps loss is a lot less than most people expect. Personally, I was only getting about 15 fps loss with high quality defensive ammo.

  • Wow...that is one of the best comparison articles on a very current/debated subject using one of the most popular CCW pistols in the current market that I've read. Excellent informative data.
    Great Job!

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