Faxon Firearms’ Pistol Barrels

A Lesson or Two in Form and Function
8

A gun has become a standard...

...when you can build one entirely from parts manufactured by someone other than the original manufacturer—for example, Ruger’s 10/22 and Mk1-3 series of pistols. In the last several years, we’ve seen Glock pistols hit the same milestone. Long marketed as perfect in stock form, any mass-produced pistol represents a series of compromises, such as being shaped to fit the average of all hand sizes, and Glock is no exception. Hence the aftermarket has exploded with slides, sights, action parts and barrels to better adapt Glock pistols to their individual owners’ needs and desires. While form should ever follow function, many of these parts both improve performance and just plain look good. Among these are barrels from Faxon Firearms. 

Faxon Firearms offers a wide variety of aftermarket pistol components including barrels and slides. We used a gold TiN barrel in a Glock 19 using three different slides, including the optics-ready Brownells one shown here. The laser is a Crimson Trace Rail Master.

An ISO-accredited company, Faxon Machining has been in business for over 40 years and has machined tens of millions of precision parts used by the medical, aerospace and oil/energy industries. In 2012, the Faxon Firearms division opened and began creating innovative products like the ARAK, an adjustable gas piston upper incorporating design elements of the monotonously reliable AK-47 but able to be installed on any standard AR lower. The ARAK also includes features such as a non-reciprocating charging handle that can be installed on either side of the gun and a bolt carrier readily adaptable to eject to either the left or right.

Faxon’s replacement barrel shown with one from a factory Glock 19. The Faxon barrel makes a much more impressive visual presentation and has conventional rifling that allows the use of cast lead bullets—something the stock polygonal barrel won’t tolerate.

Faxon’s current lineup includes custom slides for the Smith & Wesson M&P platform and barrels for the SIG 320 (both full size and compact) and, of course, Glock. All are chambered for 9mm, using a SAAMI spec chamber. The offerings for Glocks are sized for the 17, 19 and 34 and come in either standard lengths or extended and threaded at ½ x 28 for a suppressor, and can be had with or without flame fluting. Available finishes include basic black, gold Titanium Nitride (TiN) and a rainbow-like PVD. As an added benefit, Faxon barrels have conventional rifling rather than the polygonal rifling used by the factory, so Faxon barrels can be used with cast lead bullets, which is a big deal for those of us who reload or buy in bulk. Prices run between $139 and $229, depending on options selected.

One of the advantages of the Faxon barrel (first photo, above) is its conventional rifling which can use cast lead bullets as opposed to the polygonal rifling used by Glock (second photo, above), which prefers the more expensive jacketed bullets.

Our test barrel is a fluted, threaded version made of 416 stainless finished in gold TiN and sized to fit our Gen 3 Glock 19. And no doubt, it looks good, especially side-by-side with the black factory barrel. Since people often change more than one part on a gun, we used the Faxon barrel in the stock slide, as well as a PWS Enhanced Duty slide and an RMR slide from Brownells. The PWS slide (which does not appear to be in production currently) features front cocking serrations, high visibility sights we replaced with Novak LoMounts and internal geometry designed to reduce felt trigger pull when combined with stock frame internals. The Brownell’s slide came ready to receive a Trijicon RMR optic and has aggressive front serrations that wrap completely around the top of the slide. It’s also available with a top cutout window as well, which would do an excellent job of showing off a custom barrel such as the Faxon.

The test barrel came with Faxon’s flame fluting. Faxon’s barrels are available fluted or plain, and in basic black, gold Titanium Nitride (TiN) or a rainbow-like PVD.

Barrel installation is as easy as field-stripping the gun: clear it (we always check three times visually and with a finger to make sure it’s empty), then dry fire. Pull down on the two takedown tabs and pull the slide slightly to the rear until you feel the barrel unlock, then run the slide assembly forward off the frame. Remove the captured recoil spring assembly and lower the chamber end of the barrel down until it can be removed from the bottom of the slide. Reassembly is in reverse order; if you have a threaded barrel, you’ll have to remove the thread protector to install the barrel.

Our suppressor-ready barrel came threaded at ½ x 28 and with a finely knurled thread protector. The thread protector was a tight fit and could be difficult to remove after a range session.

We put several hundreds rounds of 9mm through the Faxon barrel and learned some interesting things—almost all about components other than the barrel. There were a few malfunctions with the factory slide, but very few. In our last range trip, somewhere over 150 rounds or so, there was a single failure to extract with a boutique load and a failure to lock the slide back with 115 ball, a malfunction we’ve experienced more than once with the gun in stock form, as it seems to prefer heavier bullets. Swapping slides, though, was a different story. With both aftermarket slides, we had consistent failures to fire and feed, mostly occurring with 115 grain ball and Black Hills’ 125 grain Honey Badger. 124 grain JHP’s, on the other hand, seemed to do fine. Although the malfunctions at first didn’t make sense, things came together when we started looking closely at how the parts fit.

The visually striking gold titanium nitride (TiN) is one of three finishes available. While TiN has a reputation for being very hard, it showed a surprising amount of wear after firing several hundred rounds.

Faxon designs its barrel to drop in, but with tight tolerances for good fitment and lockup. Installed in the Glock slide, there was some perceptible movement forward and backwards in the slide, but not much. The PWS slide, however, allowed significantly more movement, as did the one from Brownells, with both permitting something like .005” play. In trying to dissect exactly where that play came from, we measured the top locking block of the Faxon barrel and found it was roughly .003” shorter than the factory Glock barrel. Similarly, the distance between the breechface and the forward locking shoulder of the ejection port on both of the aftermarket slides measured around .003” longer than that of the Glock slide. The combination of the shorter barrel dimension and longer slide dimension (known as “tolerance stack”) effectively increases headspace on the barrel so the cartridge can move forward when the primer is struck, which means the cartridge may not always fire.

The slides in which we used the Faxon barrel (front to rear): stock Gen 3 Glock 19, PWS Enhanced Duty, and Brownells RMR. All are well made, but we found the Faxon barrel worked best in the stock slide.

The difference in function between the various loads seems to be the result of a combination of bullet profile and seating depth, with the most sharply tapered—the 115 grain ball—being most susceptible to failures to fire. In all fairness, we also discovered that we had assembled the Brownell’s slide without installing a channel liner, which, while not connected to the dimensional differences, no doubt increased the likelihood of light firing pin hits.

We used ball ammunition and jacketed hollowpoints in the Faxon barrel as well as newer designs such as Black Hills’ Honey Badger and the Novx Cross Trainer, which uses a 65 grain copper polymer projectile. Differences in tolerance made some slide/barrel combinations more picky than others.

None of this is in any way a criticism of any of the parts used. Rather, it’s an application of lessons learned generations ago by the M1911 guys. The first, which we learned from the channel liner, is to read the instructions. The second is that aftermarket parts may not always fit well with other aftermarket parts, because every manufacturer builds parts to their own specifications. Any of the combinations of barrel and slide can work with careful ammunition selection, though we’d be hesitant to use a gun for self-defense that had a pattern of light firing pin strikes. For maximum reliability with the Faxon barrel, we’d keep it in the factory Glock slide and pair the other slides with barrels that come oversize and can be fitted to them.

Learn more at Faxon Firearms.