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Can a 1919a4 extractor be used in 1917a1 and 1928? Why was the shaft on the 1919a4 extractor shortened?

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PhD in Over-Engineering
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They are all interchangeable. The 1928 is just a commercial variation of what Colt had made for Uncle Sam ten years earlier, and the receiver redesign was actually based on examples made by Remington after WWI as development models. The 1919 and 1917 series are the same gun, just differing in the cooling system, when you come right down to it. The original 1919 model was the Tank Gun, which JMB himself developed in his idle time while helping get 1917 production up to speed during the war. He was based at Colt's Hartford factory at the time.

As to shortening the shaft on the extractor, most likely that was done to save material and machine time. There are three different lengths from WWI to the mid 1950s, when the last guns were built.
 
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