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Form, Fit, Function: A Firearms Design Science

By Paul Evancoe

Aesthetics, ergonomics and accuracy certainly play a role in firearms design, but those intangible qualities usually verbalized as “the gun just feels right” or “it’s a sweet shooter” are major contributors to making it your favorite.

Confidence in a particular gun’s performance may also be a reason to favor it. These perceptions are not coincidental, rather, they are the result of the weapon designer’s careful consideration of form, fit and function (F3) engineered into a functional firearms design.

What exactly does form, fit and function mean? F3 is most commonly used in relation to the design of an object or when considering if a particular feature is value added or not.

• Form describes the physical characteristics of the gun. It includes things like shape, feel, weight, color, material, etc.
• Fit is short for “fits intended application.” Alternatively, it may also reference whether the physical dimensions of a part fit into the product it was designed to go into. Fit is also concerned with system interoperability and parts interchangeability bwetween like systems.
• Function is about what the product is intended to do and actually does–its intended design function compared to its operational suitability to perform that function.

Form, fit and function is also a good litmus test to check whether a manufacturing process step is value added. The proper tightening of a screw that holds parts together, replacing metal with polymer or lubricious coating of specific high friction parts are examples of steps that change form, fit or function for better or worse, depending upon the design. Most customers value F3, so it follows that a step improving the overall F3 would be something those customers would be willing to pay for–but maybe not, especially if the F3 step is negligible to customer perception as value added.

If the step does not positively change the F3s, it is likely a non-value added step that should be eliminated if possible. It may still be necessary, but it is not something the customer might accept in terms of increasing...

This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V21N4 (May 2017)
and was posted online on March 17, 2017


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