13 October 2022

Hunting shotguns: the shapes of mechanics

STYLE AND FUNCTIONALITY OF HUNTING SHOTGUNS

Is it the operation of a firearm that affects its aesthetics or the other way around? Benelli teaches us that form and function affect each other until we reach a perfect mix of style and functionality.

THE DESIGN OF HUNTING SHOTGUNS

Talking about the style and functionality of firearms, referring above all to hunting shotguns – which have innate aesthetic needs, unlike for example military firearms – is not very easy and to facilitate the task we will help ourselves with a comparison.

If we consider, for example, the automotive sector, it is surprising to note that completely different models share the same chassis and much of the mechanics: in these cases, it is the bodywork that "deceives the eye", a very important element in the design and construction of a car, which manages to characterize a model much more than other technical particularities can do.

In firearms and therefore also in hunting shotguns there is no real "bodywork", in other words an element with merely aesthetic functions.

It is the mechanics themselves that often "acts as a bodywork" and therefore gives the firearm its characteristic shape specifically designed to optimize its ergonomics.

To resume the automotive case of models that share the same chassis, this operation would not be applicable with the same ease to firearms.

If, for example, a 20-gauge semi-automatic hunting shotgun shared the same receiver as the same 12-gauge model, those peculiarities that justify the existence – and differences – of the two calibres would disappear.

So, as Benelli does, each gauge has a receiver dedicated to it, always adequately sized with respect to functional needs.

Designing firearms involves a closely integrated and interdependent work between those who deal with mechanics and those who take care of the overall design of the model.

Nor is it conceivable that the firearm will be designed without taking into account the influence that the operation has on aesthetics.

THE STYLE OF HUNTING SHOTGUNS

Immediately there must be a close interdependence between the design of mechanics and design in hunting shotguns, also because never before has a concept assumed a fundamental role: style.

In a market particularly crowded with a rich offer of products, it is important that their firearms are well recognizable by others, a need that is even greater for those who, like Benelli, produce top-of-the-range firearms, rich in exclusive technical solutions.

A company constantly at the forefront of research can want anything but to have its products confused with those of others.

The style is the result of the way of producing firearms with constant and characteristic aspects, which have their own identity, valuable technical contents and an evident constructive quality.

All this gives the firearm an immediate recognisability, due also and in large part to its design. In addition to being beautiful and recognizable, the firearm must also be functional or, to put it better, physiological, that is, it must be perfectly compatible with the characteristics and needs of those who use it.

The hunter who scratched his fingers by inserting the cartridges with difficulty into the magazine of his automatic is fortunately only a memory of the past: in a modern shotgun all this is considered inadmissible.

HOW TO BEST DESIGN YOUR HUNTING SHOTGUNS?

The firearm must be comfortable and easy to use and, to take the last example, it is the responsibility of the designers to ensure that the edges of the cartridge loading port are well rounded and connected, so that the hunter does not injure himself.

Inevitably, the contribution of aesthetic design must also push for the technical and functional improvement of the hunting shotgun.

But the opposite is also true and from another example emerges the synergy between technical development and stylistic research: the Benelli Argo E carbine gas system assembly is, compared to what usually happens, very close to the cartridge chamber.

This innovative choice, dictated by functionality, has also created a stylistic benefit, because it has made it possible to draw a particularly ergonomic fore-end thanks to the restrained longitudinal encumbrance of the mechanics housed inside it.

The synthesis between mechanics and form, which ultimately determines the style and functionality of the firearm, therefore arises from the mutual and reciprocal involvement of technical designers and designers, which takes place constantly, from the early stages of the project until the completion and production of the firearm.

THE WORD TO THE BENELLI SHOTGUNS DESIGNER

"For a long time at Benelli I worked on the design of products," recalls the architect and designer Marco Gaudenzi from Pesaro, who shaped the Benelli hunting shotguns of recent decades, "a design that I could define as integral not only because it extended to all the elements and components of the product, but also because it was gradually carried out as a team with all the mechanical designers, with those of the workshop and with the entire company team dedicated to the development and innovation of the product. An intense job from which I have learned continuously also to transform every time the way of working".

Benelli's design philosophy follows this course. In each model, the contents of Made in Italy design and style are designed and immediately integrated into the firearm, from the very first hours of its design.

MADE IN ITALY OF HUNTING SHOTGUNS

This is the fundamental reason for the process that leads to the beautiful and well-made, fundamental character of Made in Italy style and recognized all over the world.

There are countless aspects that come into play from a design point of view: ballistic instruments, computer stations, virtual simulation, firing lines and many computers in front of which Benelli technicians confront each other daily, with the need to find innovative solutions for the satisfaction of enthusiasts, hunters and shooters.

The virtuous circle of the Benelli working method includes design, ergonomics studies, CAD design, calculations and rapid prototyping – precisely the technology of 3D printers, with which many are starting to play at home! – the tests in the Ballistic Laboratory, the qualifications of the real prototypes in gunshot tests, the mechanical simulators, the analysis with the virtual prototypes and finally the field tests with experienced users; to start again from the beginning, in a kind of ping-pong game between Product Development Office and Experiences Department, which enriches the firearm until its final version, which is started to industrialize, produce and sell.

While it is true that there can be no future without a great past, Benelli has conducted impressive research and development in recent decades.

A number can give the idea of the enormous amount of work carried out: considering all the parameters involved, Benelli currently has in production a thousand (a thousand!) different variants of shotguns.

THE EVOLUTION OF BENELLI HUNTING SHOTGUNS

Let's retrace some stages of the last decades.

With the Super Black Eagle (1991), the first Super Magnum 12-gauge shotgun in the world, the Benelli brand has conquered the United States market not only for its technical offer, but for the undisputed elegance of Made in Italy design, at the time almost unknown.

Another example of mechanical/line synergy is given by the Centro (1996), the first shotgun with interchangeable carbon fiber rib.

The M4 Super 90 (1998) is the only Benelli semiauto not for hunting: although the company in Urbino entered into a hitherto unexplored terrain, the firearm was also liked by the American Marines, who adopted it.

The Nova (1999), with receiver and stock in a single piece, has revolutionized the architecture of shotguns; note that the prototype was made with a 3D printer almost thirty years ago.

The Raffaello Crio (2001) is remembered among other things for the innovative line of the receiver, particularly slender, which made increasingly elegant the hunting shotgun, now become a real object to be exhibited with pride.

With the semi-automatic rifle Argo (2003) Benelli opened not only a new chapter in its history, but also in the evolution of this type of firearm, which increasingly took on the appearance and characteristics of a hunting shotgun.

Another milestone, both for functionality and design, was the Comfort (2005) model that adopts the ComforTech system, which can drastically contain the effects of recoil, and thanks to its pleasant and essential line makes many hunters understand that polymer stock and fore-end can be a more than valid alternative to wood.

With the Raffaello Legacy 28 (2009) Benelli gives a remarkable test of skill, because it covers a market niche – that of the lightest and most maneuverable shotguns – with a masterpiece of elegance and functionality.

The Vinci (2009) is probably the most evolved semi-automatic hunting shotgun ever conceived, because it represents a development of the inertial system capable of further mitigating recoil and muzzle; its highly innovative aesthetic is in total harmony with these technological contents and its design allows maximum modularity of use.

The 828 U (2015) has revolutionized the mechanics of over-and-under shotguns, but also their aesthetics: a very courageous choice, which has paid mainly thanks to the use of innovative and exclusive technologies.

Finally, the recent Lupo (2020) has also radically changed the traditional dictates of bolt action rifle, giving shape to a structurally very rigid rifle, as required for this type of firearm, but of a light and slender shape. The high rigidity between the upper and lower receiver, thanks to the chassis structure, ensures excellent precision

Finally, style and functionality are two sides of the same coin, complementing and supporting each other.

A synthesis never the result of chance, but of a pre-ordained teamwork that begins at the dawn of creation, when the shotgun is still an idea to be drawn on paper.


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