Except for the all-American 1911, arguably no other pistol platform enjoys as much attention in the U.S. as does the GLOCK. Proven in the field for its durability, reliability, and ease of operation in stock form, the GLOCK is also well-supported across the aftermarket landscape for those who desire a customized flair in their handguns or who seek specific performance enhancements for advanced-level target shooting, competition, or defense.
Veteran GLOCK owners who have learned the nuances of modifying their pistols to suit their individual tastes and needs are accustomed to sourcing their parts from a range of aftermarket manufacturers. For those just thinking about upgrading and customizing their pistols, the marketplace can seem daunting. Matching components from different manufacturers, uncertainty of what replacement parts are needed, and questions as to what a kit from this manufacturer includes that another manufacturer doesn’t can seem overwhelming.
Then there is the matter of quality and price. Does that high-dollar price tag for a replacement barrel bear out in long-term performance and out-of-the-box accuracy? The other common question for beginner GLOCK tinkerers is, “Can I do it myself or does this require a gunsmith?”
Earlier this year at the Shooting Hunting Outdoor Trade (SHOT) show, a new company emerged among the exhibition halls whose mission conveniently and purposefully addresses the needs of experienced GLOCK shooters and answers the questions of those looking to upgrade their GLOCKs for the first time.
Rival Arms, based in Dallas, Texas, didn’t merge onto the performance handgun aftermarket scene, it stepped right in with authority. Prior to their SHOT show debut, the company defined its mission to manufacture handgun upgrade components that go beyond factory-production standards and gathered together experienced designers, machinists, and material coating specialists to execute that goal.
When we stopped by the Rival Arms display, it was evident that the company left no stones unturned for the product launch. From slides and barrels to night sights and comprehensive slide completion kits, Rival Arms has everything you need to customize your GLOCK’s slide assembly. Best of all, the work can be done easily by the do-it-yourself enthusiast—no gunsmith required.
For all its major components, such as the slide, barrels, and strikers, Rival Arms starts with high-strength billet stainless steel. The slides and strikers, for example, begin as 17-4 PH stainless steel billet. This material was selected for its durability and strength, as well as for its exceptionally high corrosion resistance and ability to maintain its mechanical properties up to 600º F.
For the barrels, Rival Arms uses 416R stainless steel—a premium metal often used for top-end gun barrels where precision machining and high accuracy potential are required.
To ensure these components go beyond standard performance expectations, Rival Arms applies robust coatings. The slides are QPQ thermo-chemical case-hardened to resist wear while the barrels and strikers receive a low-temperature vacuum PVD coating in black, graphite, or bronze colors. Inside, the barrels are treated with BORSLICK™ Boron Nitride DCD. This high-performance coating is specifically intended to resist heat and carbon buildup.
Rival Arms’ GLOCK replacement slides, as you can see, set themselves apart. Window cuts along the top and sides promote air flow around the barrel and improve overall cooling efficiency—definite benefits for competition or heavy training applications. Further, aggressive serrations along the front and rear of the slides provide a positive grip for slide actuation.
Another benefit of the Rival Arms slides is that they come with a recessed cut to accommodate optics (except for the G43 subcompact slide). This is a big money and hassle savings for those who wish to run red dot or reflex sights because no gunsmith work is required. Cuts for both Trijicon RMR sights and other sight styles are available. If you don’t intend to use a sight, no problem. The slide comes with a cover plate that can be easily removed should you change your mind down the road.
As mentioned, Rival Arms’ GLOCK replacement barrels are offered in black, graphite, or bronze colors. What wasn’t mentioned is that these match-grade precision barrels are also spiral fluted. This adds some surface area to the barrel, which should promote cooling, and they just look cool when viewed through the slide cut-outs.
Customizers can choose between two barrel types—standard or threaded. The latter features 1/2-28 threads that allow you to secure a compatibly-threaded muzzle device, such as a compensator or suppressor. When a muzzle device is not in use, simply thread on the included barrel protector for a clean and stylish look. Other barrel features include target crowning and a 1:10 twist rate with 6-groove rifling.
Although you don’t see them when installed, the Rival Arms GLOCK replacement strikers feature spiral fluting just like the barrels and come in black, graphite, or bronze colors. We can’t speak to what that fluting does to performance other than possibly reducing heat (which isn’t an issue) or decreasing lock time due to the marginally lighter weight when compared to stock strikers.
The big difference here is the superior strength and precision tolerances of the Rival Arms striker and its self-lubricating, corrosion-resistant coating. That translates to increased wear-resistance and longer life for pistols that are run hard.
This is the area that all too often trips up first-time DIY GLOCK modifiers—trying to assemble all the components needed to complete a slide build. If you’ve never done this before, we’ll tell you now that it is best to simply get all new parts than to try and put your old small parts into a new slide. It’s not that you can’t do it (except for the firing pin/striker sleeve, which cannot/should not be reused), but the old parts are, well, old and any wear patterns follow that of the old slide and not the new one. Our advice: just don’t go there.
Fortunately, Rival Arms packages all the new slide parts you need into one neat bundle, so there’s no need to buy the components individually from multiple sources or buy a kit in the hope that all the parts are there. With the Rival Arms Slide Completion Kit, you’ve got everything you need to get the job done.
Rival Arms does not offer a frame parts kit (and you wouldn’t need one when building a new slide assembly) but they do offer replacement trigger, trigger housing, and locking block pins that are CNC-machined from either stainless steel or titanium to replace the stock units. We recommend these if you plan to put in a new performance trigger assembly to go along with your slide build or want to swap the factory connector with a lighter pull weight version.
Guide Rod Assembly
Although GLOCK’s plastic guide rod has a proven track record, there’s just something we like about a steel guide rod assembly. Rival Arms seems to agree, because their guide rod is CNC-machined from solid stainless-steel billet. It comes fully assembled with a stock-weight spring and is a no-brainer upgrade for any GLOCK owner, whether you are building a custom pistol or not.
Aside from a steel guide rod assembly, another upgrade offered by Rival Arms that benefits any GLOCK is a set of night sights. The company offers two tritium versions—one with an orange and one with a white front sight ring—and in two heights: standard or M.O.S., the latter of which is meant to co-witness with an optic or to raise the sight line for use with certain suppressors.
This is another installation that can be done by the do-it-yourselfer, but it requires a sight installation kit, such as the one made by TRUGLO. If you own a GLOCK, we think this is a tool that’s worth the investment.
GLOCK pistols are popular for a reason—they work great and work reliably. Adding select, precision aftermarket components like those now offered by Rival Arms can allow you to take that performance and reliability to the next level without paying for the services of a gunsmith. That you can do so and add a custom touch to your handgun is a welcome bonus.