Designer George Nelson once said, "There is a silly myth that generals win wars. What the facts show is that designers do." Firearms and design have a shared history extending at least as far back as Samuel Colt and the revolvers he displayed at the 1851 Crystal Palace Exhibition. The American armory system and the use of interchangeable parts set a manufacturing precedent that would influence the production of everything from sewing machines, to typewriters, bicycles and cars.
Today, industrial designers continue to be influenced by the aesthetics and form of firearms. Just last month, I spotted Philippe Starck's Lounge Gun Floor Lamp in a model apartment on Union Square. Deyan Sudjic, in his 2009 book The Language of Things, discusses how the visual style of the Walther PPK was appropriated in the look of Richard Sapper's Tizio Lamp and the Volkswagen Golf GTI.
Whether one is pro-gun-control or just pro-gun, there is no denying that firearms in America are consumer products, and they're popular products at that. The most recent Black Friday marked the largest number of firearms background checks (and purchases) since they've been keeping track—129,166—nearly 1/3rd higher than the previous record. In October, Gallup revealed that 1 in 3 Americans owns a gun and that self-reported gun ownership is the highest it has been in nearly two decades. Even London's Design Museum recently acquired an AK-47 [PDF], becoming the first contemporary design collection to include a gun.Firearms offer an exemplary balance of form with function, incorporating ergonomics and aesthetics to elicit an emotional response in the user. But many popular design platforms have yet to discuss guns as designed objects in their own right. Which is why this year Core77 is attending the Shooting, Hunting, Outdoor Trade (SHOT) Show in Las Vegas.
The SHOT Show is "the world's premier exposition of combined firearms, ammunition, law enforcement, cutlery, outdoor apparel, optics and related products and services." Taking place from Tuesday January 17th through Friday January 20th, the convention will have over half a million square feet of exhibition space dedicated to guns and gun culture and an anticipated attendance of over 30,000 people.
Over the next week, we'll bring you coverage of the most notable innovations and design trends in firearms and related accoutrements, from awesome airsoft guns to conceal and carry holsters. Core77 will chat up industry professionals and even try out a few featured guns at a nearby shooting range!
Barbara Eldredge is a design writer and researcher living in New York City. An MFA candidate in SVA's Design Criticism program, Eldredge has spent the past year exploring the relationship between design, guns, museums, and morality for her forthcoming master's thesis.