In a recent match, a competitor using a P320 had his pistol slide spontaneously disassemble itself. The rear slide cap failed as the pistol fired and released the extractor tension pin, spring guide, spring, and extractor—all of which departed in various directions (in the first picture below, you can see the extractor tension pin and other parts coming out of the pistol slide). Once the competitor located all of the parts, we examined the rear slide cap and noticed a slot on the right side that was either worn into the slide cap or had resulted when the metal failed (see second picture below).
|Extractor Tension Pin Departing|
|Slot Worn or Gouged in Rear Slide Cap|
The rear slide cap had an image of some sort on it and I believed it was probably an after-market add on since it was noticeable lighter than those I had handled previously (I am a certified SIG P320 Armorer). I asked, and the owner said he believed it was a factory part that had subsequently been engraved with the image. The competitor later verified that it was not a SIG factory part but rather an after-market addition made out of a fairly soft metal, probably aluminum. SIG factory rear slide caps are steel and will attract a magnet. I examined several factory slide caps that have been through literally many thousands of rounds and there was no wear at all in that area.
I personally have no interest in putting knickknacks on serious weapons. I have no issue with after-market parts that enhance the weapon’s shoot ability or function such as replacement sights, trigger upgrades, or other additions that do not compromise function or safety. However, after-market parts that perform a critical function must be at least as strong and of the same or better quality than the factory part. If it is not, why replace the factory part?
The competitor is fortunate that the pistol failed during a pistol match and not during a self-defense incident. The pistol was effectively disabled when the rear slide cap failed. Replacing factory parts with substandard, after-market parts that serve no function other than being ornamental is clearly not a good idea. Regardless, you should periodically inspect every critical part on your pistol, factory or not. I have personally had P320 extractors fail, Glock front sights fall off at the worst possible moment, XDM rear sights break, 1911 plunger tubes fall off -- the list goes on.
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