November 25, 2019
I remember the first time I ran what would become to be known as a “Gucci Glock”. It was spring of 2011 and the gun was a Salient Arms Glock 34 that was initially built for Taran Butler. It was also the first time that I ran an RMR on a handgun. I distinctly remember thinking to myself, “Is anyone going to pay $2,500 bucks for a Glock?”
Well, flash forward eight years and just about every plastic gun I own has at least a little bit of customization, as well as a red-dot sight. Tactical classes and IPSC matches are full of them, and even my duty guns have a separate slide with a red dot so that I can swap them out until the dots get approved for duty use. So I guess the answer is a resounding “yes” — people will pay.
And why not?
Modern improved Glocks like those put out by companies such as Agency Arms and Boresight Solutions, improve upon the stock gun by every conceivable metric. The only people who don’t care for them are the Luddites who have never shot them.
From sculpted polymer frames to intricately machined slides, the level of custom work available on modern polymer guns is astounding. But there is a downside. Good work isn’t cheap and it’s not available overnight. Like the old saying says — good, cheap or fast. Pick two.
Some of these polymer masterpieces can reach close to $3,000 or more. Sure, it might seem like a steep price, but when it’s dark, you’re scared, and you have to use the pistol to protect yourself or a loved one you won’t regret spending money on performance.
I know, the whole “you can’t buy performance” crowd is going to chime in now, and you’re right. You can’t buy performance, but you can sure as hell optimize it. Do NASCAR drivers really drive “stock” cars? No, they drive cars that have been optimized. They’d still smoke you in a race with your mom’s Buick LeSabre. But what if you could get optimized performance over the counter and put it together yourself, eliminating the middleman? That would be fantastic, right? Well, that’s what Rival Arms is bringing to the table.
I recently received a Glock 19 and a Glock 17 upgrade slides and barrel sets along with a couple of their magwells. Upon opening the box they shipped in, I was immediately impressed with the packaging. Although it ultimately doesn’t matter, good presentation and packaging often demonstrates attention to detail. That is definitely the case here. The Rival Arms gear is packaged very nicely and it’s obvious that a lot of thought went into it.
Remember the old Apple products?
Because we’re dealing with so many machined parts, I took the time to look at every component carefully under magnification. The PVD coatings are all very uniform and there’s no evidence of machine chatter or poor machining to be found.
The G17 barrel is machined with a twisted fluting and PVD coated in Burnt Bronze, while the G19 barrel has the same flutes but is finished in Tungsten Grey. Both are machined from 416R stainless-steel and feature a 1:10 twist with six grooves. They’re threaded at the muzzle with ½-28 pitch and a very nicely machined thread protector that screws on tightly, providing ample protection. Finally, both barrels are finished with an 11-degree crown.
The slides are machined from 17-4 PH stainless steel billet and are treated with a Quench-Polish-Quench (QPC) finish that Rival claims to be superior to other commonly available finishes. The slide has front and rear serrations, as well as windows on the sides and the top. The serrations are adequate, although I personally prefer a more aggressive treatment. The windows look nice and are symmetrical, but more importantly, they lighten the slide.
By reducing the mass of the slide and tuning the weight of the recoil spring, it’s possible to make the gun shoot flatter or reduce the amount that the muzzle rises when the slide reaches the terminus (most rearward portion) of its movement. It’s clear that Rival did their homework here, as recoil was noticeably softer than with the stock slide.
The slides have the standard Glock sight dovetails, and Rival sent me two pairs of suppressor-height sights to install. The sights are all steel and installed easily, with a generous rear “U” notch along with two small tritium inserts and a very visible front blade with an orange and tritium insert.
Sight height was regulated correctly, which is not always the case with suppressor height sights, but sights are a mere afterthought on this particular slide since it comes milled for a Trijicon RMR. This is the right move by Rival on many fronts, the first one being that the future of handgunning is with the RDS, and the second being that the RMR is currently the most widely used pistol optic. Also, by going with a direct mount versus a plate, it allows the optic to sit lower in the slide making the transition from sights to dot even easier.
I have seen even very expensive custom pistols have issues with the proper milling of the RMR mounting surface, but the Rival machining was very good. It is machined and then finished so there are no issues with the finish interfering with the optics mounting. In fact, the optics fit perfectly in both the G19 and the G17 with no detectable play even before being screwed into the slide with the provided fasteners.
I chose the Trijicon RMR for the G19 and the for G17, I went with a brand new Trijicon SRO, which utilizes the RMR footprint, but has a much bigger optic window. This allows you to change the battery without removing the optic.
While assembling the slides with the provided kits, I did run into one small issue with the G17. The polymer striker channel sleeve did not want to go all the way into the channel, meaning that despite my efforts I ended up having to run a file over the tail of the striker assembly so that I could install the backplate; It protruded just a hair too long to allow the plate to fit as it should. The lightened striker in both of the slides didn’t make much of a difference in either trigger. The G19 trigger was stock and it felt that way even with the new slide.
The G17 trigger was an Agency Arms trigger designed to function with the Agency plunger assembly, so substituting that with the Rival plunger assembly definitely changed the feel of the trigger. It wasn’t bad, just different. The G19 tripped at 6 pounds and the G17 trigger went at 4.5 pounds.
Because I figured that the target consumer of the Rival Arms components would be a high-volume shooter, I subjected both pistols to a high volume of shooting, and the Rival Arms components functioned as advertised. Recoil control and accuracy were both improved over the stock slides. The guns shot flat and fast, and in more than 1,000 rounds on each slide I only had one malfunction. It was around round 300 with the G17 slide, and it was a failure to go fully into battery with the Federal Syntech 150-grain action-pistol load.
With the exception of that one incident, the guns really liked the Syntech, giving me sub 2 1/2-inch groups at 25 yards. The barrels weren’t overly sensitive to bullet weight, shooting everything petty well across the board, but the G17 really liked the Prime 115-grain match load, giving me a 1.2-inch group average at 25 while the G19 did its best work with the Hornady 135-grain Critical Defense load; It gave me an average group of 11/2 inches.
Moving from paper to steel, the Rival Arms Glocks were a joy to run fast. There is a definite reduction in felt recoil and it showed on steel. The combination of the light slide and the beautiful optic window of the SRS made follow-up shots with the G17 really fast, and I’d have to say it was my preferred set-up.
The RMR provides a level of duty ruggedness over the SRO, but if you don’t plan on carrying the gun as a duty pistol, the SRO is the way to go. I got spoiled by the SRO so moving back to the smaller RMR window was quite jarring. Both are refined and function perfectly within their intended roles, but man, I love that SRO window.
There’s nothing cheap about the Rival Arms products. How-ever, if you’re looking for a Gucci Glock at a great value with no wait time and no middleman, then the Rival Arms Glock upgrades are exactly what you need.
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