May 20, 2020
By James Tarr
Aftermarket parts for the Glock, the most successful modern pistol design of the past 50 years, have been available since the early 1990s, but it wasn’t until the last few years that you started to see not just slides but also frames and then whole guns built in the Glock pattern—by companies other than Glock.
One company I recently discovered is Rival Arms (rival-arms.com) out of Texas. Rival Arms doesn’t make frames or trigger groups, but it makes every other part found in 9mm Glock pistols. And I do mean every other part. You can buy individual frame pins one at a time or a 12-piece slide completion kit, in addition to slides and barrels.
The Glock 19 has been the most popular model since it was introduced, and I’ve got a lot of time behind Glocks, so to test out Rival Arms’ capabilities I obtained the complete gamut of its offerings— every part to upgrade my G19 except the frame and trigger.
Rival Arms makes parts for a number of different generation Glocks, and I prefer the Gen 3 guns, so that’s what I picked for barrel and slide.
Rival Arms makes its Precision slides for the Glock 17, 19, 34 and 43, and all but the baby 43 are machined to accept red dots. These are machined so Trijicon RMR or Docter red dots attach directly to the slide instead of using an interface plate, so there are fewer parts to break or loosen.
All of its slides are machined of tough 17-4PH stainless steel, which is then given a satin black QPQ (quench-polish-quench chemical case hardening) finish for the ultimate in corrosion resistance.
One of the longstanding complaints about Glocks is the smoothness of their slides and the lack of forward cocking serrations. Rival has done it right. All of its slides feature forward cocking serrations as well as cutouts on the sides and top—mostly because it looks cool and shows off the barrel, but it also reduces weight and gives your fingers more purchase.
As for those slide cuts that show off the barrel, Rival’s Precision drop-in barrels are quite something to behold. First off, they all have spiral fluting on the outside. Technically, fluting reduces weight and increases surface area so the barrel cools faster, but in reality that spiral fluting does nothing other than give you bragging rights at the range. Which is not nothing.
Rival offers standard length and extended threaded barrels for the G17, 19, 22 (9mm conversion barrels), 34, 43 and the S&W Shield. All the threaded barrels have 1/2x28 threads and come with thread protectors.
The barrels are CNC machined from billet 416R stainless steel, then given a PVD coating on the exterior. You have your choice of black, bronze or graphite (gray) PVD finish. I elected to go with a bronze barrel just for color contrast with the slide.
The bore is treated with Borslick, a boron nitride DCD (dynamic compound deposition) treatment that resists heat and carbon buildup. All Rival Arms barrels are also given an 11-degree target crown muzzle.
The slide completion kit has everything you need for the interior of your slide except the barrel and recoil spring assembly. All of the internal slide parts are machined from billet stainless steel and given a PVD coating.
The parts list includes the polymer striker channel liner, which many people forget even exists because you don’t notice it in your gun. The striker has the same spiral fluting as the barrel.
Most manufacturers of Glock parts don’t bother with sights, but Rival manufactures standard and red dot-compatible sights with Swiss tritium inserts. You have your choice of a highly visible white or orange ring around the front sight insert. The sight bodies are stainless steel that has been blackened.
Companies like Rival Arms can sell all these upgrade and repair parts because you don’t have to be a gunsmith to install them. The vaunted Glock “armorer’s tool” is nothing more than a 3/32 punch used to disassemble both the frame and slide. In fact, using either a punch or your fingers you can completely disassemble and reassemble your Glock-pattern pistol, except for the sights.
When in doubt, search online for videos of how to disassemble/reassemble a Glock, and you’ll quickly see how it’s done. The only tricky part for me was inserting the striker channel liner. You want to make sure it’s fully seated without chewing up the edges. Just take your time and use light taps with a gunsmith’s hammer and you’ll do fine.
Rival Arms makes an extended takedown lever, and I know some people like these because they make disassembly a little easier if you’ve got big fingers. I’ve got skinny fingers and elected to leave the factory piece in my frame, but I did swap out the three frame pins for the Rival Arms stainless steel pins.
The plastic factory guide rod in my G19 should have been thrown out long ago, so I was happy to replace it with the stainless steel recoil spring guide rod assembly from Rival Arms, which sports a captive flat wire recoil spring.
If you think a mag well is something only gamers want and not suitable on a carry gun, you haven’t been paying attention. The FBI made Glock put integral mag wells on its Gen 5 duty guns.
My G19’s frame already sported a carry mag well from TTI, but I removed that to try the Rival Arms’ magazine well. Both units are black anodized aluminum, but I discovered that the Rival Arms model is slightly smaller in outside diameter than the TTI mag well. The Rival Arms well felt better under my palm, but because of its inside bevel it isn’t as large or aggressive as the TTI.
With the Rival Arms top end assembled and the sights in place, I headed to the range to check things out. The Rival Arms barrel also has traditional rifling, which means you can shoot lead bullets through it without concern, unlike the polygonally rifled factory Glock barrel.
I fired a lot of full metal jackets and hollowpoints at the range, and I specifically brought along SIG Elite 124-grain V-Crown jacketed hollowpoints because they have wide cavities and some guns don’t like them. My new top end ate them like candy, as it did everything else.
My G19 was just as reliable with the Rival Arms top end in place as it had been with the factory slide/barrel assembly, while being about 10 percent more accurate—and 100 percent sexier.