It doesn't work.
Well, it does work,
but only if the XFORM routine returns a string of the same length for every item.
Actually, it always works if the fields are fixed-length. It also always works if the fields don't contain "\0" characters and you don't have more than 16 million records. Those two cases cover almost every sort I do.
It often works when these guarentees don't apply.
It is also fairly easy to fix it so it always works even if you have fields with lots of trailing null bytes. For example, a s#([\00\01])#\01$1#g and join "\0", is enough.
I noticed the potential for this problem quite a while ago and hoped to address it in the module based on this idea, but working on such a module hasn't made it to the top of my list yet. Thanks for motivating me to address the problem here. :)