Bag #10, Horn #6 - Front

Early Virginia Shot Pouch & Powder Horn

Early VA shot pouch and powder horn
Bag #10, Horn #6 – Full Front

Shown here is an outfit that I made for myself consisting of an early Virginia shot pouch and a Virginia banded, screw-tip powder horn. Most of the shot pouches made these days are relatively complicated affairs using designs from the early to middle 19th century. If you want a shot pouch that is proper for the 18th century, take a close look at this shot pouch and powder horn.  I put together an outfit that I felt would be proper for 1775 on the Virginia frontier.

There are very few examples of shot pouches from the 18th century.  So, I was fortunate to be able to study an original early Virginia shot pouch that matches the size and construction of another published (Clash of Empires exhibition catalog, p. 30) pouch known to date to the period of the French and Indian War.  This original Virginia shot pouch was documented by Wallace Gusler in the December 2009 Muzzle Blasts(pp. 4-8).

The original one piece pouch is square at the bottom (although the corners look rounded due to use) and stitched up the sides with a very fine stitch very close to the edge. A divider that is open at the bottom serves as a welt between the front and the back of the bag. A pewter flap button is anchored to a stag horn button on the inside of the pouch. The stag horn button was covered by a round piece of leather that served to prevent the user’s hand from catching on the button. The flap extends approximately halfway down the front of the bag and has a slight beaver tail shape with a welted edge.

Early VA Shot Pouch & Powder Horn
Bag #10, Horn #6 – Front

The original bag did not have a strap attached and was missing part of the leather at one attachment point. However, there was evidence of a strap stitched to one side and a button hole on the other side. Actually, it was just a rough cut hole through which two buttons might have been tied to each other. Wallace Gusler indicated in his article that he believed two linked buttons (as in a cufflink) connected the strap to the bag using the button hole. The hole on the original pouch went through the welt and front of the bag as the back was torn away at that spot. I believe, the button was originally placed on the inside of the back and eventually pulled through tearing the back. That is why I did not run the button hole all the way through all three layers of leather on my recreation of the pouch.

I have made a number of hunting pouches based on this original. I have generally maintained the size and shape but varied the construction (i.e. external vs. internal stitching), the type of strap (i.e. leather vs. woven) and the type of attachment (i.e. location and number of buttons) for the strap. The original pouch actually appears to have rounded corners due to wear, and I made several copies that way before I realized that it was an optical illusion. Even in this very close copy, I still rounded the corners slightly in order to give the bag a finished look.

Not having Russia leather (a thin, textured, red dyed leather commercially available in the 18th century for upholstery work) which was most likely used to create the original, I created my copy of the original using  3-4oz vegetable tanned cowhide which I stained using vinegar and iron.  This particular bag is approximately the same size as the original at 7.5″ wide X 6.5″ high.  Just like the original, this pouch has a center divider as the welt and is stitched up the sides. In Bag #10, I rolled and hemmed the edge of the flap instead of using a welted edge. I now make these bags using a welted flap just like the original. I maintained the same flap button attachment as the original with an internal stag horn button used as an anchor for the external pewter flap button.    A leather cover is sewn over the internal stag horn button to prevent the hand from catching on it.

Bag #10, Horn #6 - Back
Bag #10, Horn #6 – Back

As for the strap, I attached it in a manner as close to the original as I could ascertain. One end of the strap is stitched to the right side (as worn on the right side), and the other end is attached to
the bag using a single small pewter button anchored to another small pewter button on the inside of the pouch. The strap may then be seasonally adjusted using buttonholes in the end of the strap. I have punched four buttonholes for about 4″ of adjustment.

Early VA shot pouch front panel decoration
Bag #10 – Front Decoration

The original pouch was decorated with stamped stars, some forming the initials of the owner. Consequently, I made a matching stamp to decorated my pouch. However, I decided to get a little fancier with a more refined design. I added diagonal lines reminiscent of English checkering patterns. On the bags shown below, I used the same stamp to create the owners initials and to do a Sun, Moon, and stars motif. In fact, I liked the Sun, Moon, and stars design so much, I used it on two bags, one of them is shown below.


Early VA banded, screw-tip powder horn
Early VA banded, screw-tip powder horn; Horn #6

I attached to the bag a Virginia single banded screw-tip horn that is similar to an original dated 1774.  The horn is approximately 15″ around the outside curve with a 2 3/4″ base plug. The base plug and stopper are turned walnut with the base plug attached with wooden pegs. The screw-tip and band are horn. The screw-tip is dyed to match the walnut. Hand forged staples are installed in the the base plug and throat for the attachment of the hangers. The hangers are attached to the bag strap with buttons just as the strap is attached to the bag. This attachment method is purely conjecture on my part, but I think it makes sense to be able to adjust the hanger attachment location as the strap length is adjusted. The horn is dyed yellow with aqua fortis and appropriately aged.

As with all my recreated pouches and horns, I try to made them look used. That means adding wrinkles, puckers, a few cracks, some stains and blemishes, and a bit of dirt and oil. I try not to overdue it so that the function of the bag is not compromised.

You might think that this bag is too small at about 7″ square.  I can assure you that it is not.   Period documentation indicates that most longhunters carried hunting pouches of this size.  They would just carry what they needed to shoot the gun. This generally meant a bullet mold, some bullets, patches, tow, and a wiper. A powder horn and powder measure with a vent pick and brush were generally hung from the strap.

In my bag, I keep some tow, a strip of pre-lubricated pillow ticking for shooting patches, five balls, two flints wrapped in leather, and a turn screw of a type typically used with muskets.  A turn screw would not have normally been found in an original hunting pouch as a longhunter would most likely have used their knife to turn the screws on their gun. However, being a gunsmith, I just can’t bring myself to risk tearing up my screw heads like that. All that said, this bag is plenty big for the listed items. I hang a pan brush, vent pick, and powder measure from the pouch strap.  I made those from recycled tin plated steel from a cookie tin. I hang a small knife around my neck in a neck sheath to use as a patch knife. The period longhunters would most likely have just carried a store bought butcher knife in their belt.  This is certainly all you need for a day of hunting and more than you need to carry to the line when shooting at the range.

Shown below are three more pouch and horn outfits very similar to the bag shown above.   They are of the same design with different tooling and buttons. The bottom outfit has a different type of early Virginia horn with a applied antler tip. They all have a welted flap just like the original, and I am currently making all these style bags that way. I eliminated one of the sets of buttons on the powder horn hangers on the last outfit; deciding that they were unnecessary.


Bag #17, Horn #16
Bag #17, Horn #16; This bag is tooled with the initials of the owner.
Bag #18, Horn #17 with Sun, Moon & Stars motif.
Bag #18, Horn #17 with Sun, Moon & Stars motif.
Bag #20 with Horn #20; another early VA style powder horn with a turned antler tip.
Bag #20 with Horn #20; another early VA style powder horn with a turned antler tip.

You can obtain your very own pouch and horn outfit like the ones shown above for the following prices:

  • Plain Early Virginia Shot Pouch (as shown above but without tooling) – $150 plus shipping
  • Powder Horn Hangers for Early Virginia Shot Pouch – $10(Option with a pouch order)
  • Decorative Tooling on Early Virginia Shot Pouch – $20(Option with a pouch order)
  • Virginia Banded, Screw-tip Powder Horn – $200 plus shipping
  • Virginia applied tip Powder Horn – $175 plus shipping
  • Tin Powder Measure, Brush and Pick set – $50

Priority shipping and insurance on a single item is $15. Shipping on an outfit is $20. I will collect VA Sales Tax for items shipping to VA residents.


To order a pouch or horn like the ones shown above, or to discuss a different project, call or text me at 804 746-8288 or use the Contact form to send me an e-mail. See FAQ for more information on purchasing custom work.

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8 thoughts on “Early Virginia Shot Pouch & Powder Horn”

  1. The bag isn’t dyed. It is stained with Aqua Fortis (ferric nitrate). It reacts with the tannic acid turning it dark brown to blue black. I do the staining after construction, although I do wash the leather before sewing, and after staining.

  2. Thank you for replying. In your article above it says you stained it with vinegar and iron. I’m familiar with those ingredients being left in a jar to make a stain for leather. Does that combination make “ferric nitrate”, or are you referring to the gun stock stain of the same name?. How do you apply the stain after its been constructed and managed to get every part of the bag stained?

  3. I forgot that I wrote that. Actually, I don’t really remember what I used to stain bag #10. I used Aqua Fortis (ferric nitrate) on my early bags. I do know that everything after #10 was stained with vinegar and iron. The other bags shown were stained with vinegar and iron for sure. Aqua Fortis is the stain usually used on maple gun stocks. Vinegar and iron is a similar chemical; ferric acetate. In both cases, you are dissolving iron into an acid. Vinegar is just a milder acid than the nitric acid you use for Aqua Fortis. Accordingly, it takes much less time for the iron to dissolve in the nitric acid. However vinegar has always been and still is much more available and also safer. To make vinegar and iron (ferric acetate), fill a quart jar with vinegar and add some small pieces of rusty iron. Put the top on loosely and put the jar on a shelf. It will take several months for the vinegar to dissolve all the iron that it can take into solution. To use it, you just apply it to the leather. It will fairly quickly turn anywhere from dark brown to blue black depending on how much tannic acid is in the leather. Of course, this will only work with vegetable tanned leather. Usually, vinegar and iron produces a blue black color.

  4. As to applying either the Aqua Fortis or vinegar and iron, I just use lambs wool and apply the solution liberally to all the exposed surfaces of the bag. I put extra on the seams. It just soaks in, many times it will soak through turning brown or black all the leather it touches. Usually it takes two coats to get the darkness I want. You can’t really control the uniformity of the color as that is dependent on the leather itself much as wood absorbs stain in a non-uniform manner. I really don’t do anything different with the stains than I do with standard leather dyes. I have been doing leather work for the better part of 40 years and usually, I do dye after the assembly. It is all going to wash through anyway when you rinse out the excess dye. The big difference between dye and the chemical stains is the that stains require much less solution than the dye. With the stain, I use a few ounces to stain a bag. With standard oil based leather dye, it takes the better part of a quart to dye the entire bag and most of that is rinsed down the drain. That brings up another issue, you never get all the excess oil dye rinsed out. With the chemical stains, you are only rinsing out the excess stain, not the color of the leather. The color change in the leather from the chemical stain is caused by a chemical reaction in the leather, not by the addition of pigments. You will never rinse out the color from a bag stained with AQ or vinegar and iron, and you won’t end up with the color on your clothes in the rain. Remember, these items are used outside in all types of weather.

  5. I should note that I do stain or dye before assembly if I am using a lining or something I want to be a different color from the body of the bag. However, that is a very small percentage of the bags I make. For the most part, I am trying to recreate historically correct bags, horns, and guns. I have never seen an old shot pouch that was lined. That doesn’t mean none were lined, just that most weren’t. Most, old, handmade things were pretty plain. With out modern mindset, and I am also guilty of this, we like to embellish and finish to a higher degree than our ancestors would have considered necessary 200 years or more ago. Remember that as recently as 150 years ago, settlers on the plains were living in what were basically mud huts. When you are that poor, your expectations are not very high.

  6. Thanks Mark,

    Most excellent article. Thanks for all the detail. As a maker of accoutrements, bags in particular, I really appreciate all the information. And I agree, simple, and functional is best.

    Great research and beautiful work, thanks for sharing your knowledge and experience.

    Chris Crosby

  7. You do very nice work. Thanks for sharing so much of your techniques and methods. You certainly give the aspiring leather worker something to strive for.
    Take care.

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