Early Virginia Shot Pouch & Powder Horn

Early VA shot pouch and powder horn
Bag #10, Horn #6 – Full Front (Click for larger image)

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 (Click for larger image)

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 3-4 oz (may use 2-3 oz) vegetable tanned cowhide which I stained using aqua fortis to give a dark brown color.  I normally use vinegar and iron as a stain on my bags which usually gives more of a blue-black color. This bag is approximately the same size as the original at about 7″ square.  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 horn button used as an anchor for the external pewter flap button.    A leather cover is sewn over the internal button to prevent the hand from catching on it.

Bag #10, Horn #6 - Back
Bag #10, Horn #6 – Back (Click for larger image)

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 usually only cut one set (strap and powder horn hangers) of button holes for the requested strap length, but more holes can be cut as required to adjust the strap.

Early VA shot pouch front panel decoration
Bag #10 – Front Decoration (Click for larger image)

The original pouch was decorated with stamped stars, some forming the initials of the owner. Consequently, I made a matching stamp to decorate 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 (Click for larger image)

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.

I distress the leather on most of my pouches to give them a used appearance. That means adding wrinkles, scuffs and scratches as well as a coat of black shoe polish to simulate a little dirt and grime. I try not to overdue it so that the function of the bag is compromised. I don’t generally distress the leather to be used on a bag that is to be highly tooled.

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 either the pouch strap or powder horn hanger.  I made those from recycled tin plated steel from a cookie tin. I have attached small knife to the back of the pouch 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 four more pouch and horn outfits very similar to the bag shown above.   They are of the same basic design with different tooling. The bottom two outfits have a different type of early Virginia horn. Horn #21 was made to the client’s specification and is not based on a particular original. They all have a welted flap just like the original, and I am currently making all these style bags that way.

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.
Pouch #20 with Horn #20 - Early VA style shot pouch with an early VA style powder horn with a turned antler tip and turned base plug
Pouch #20 with Horn #20 – Early VA style shot pouch with an early VA style powder horn with a turned antler tip and turned base plug
Bag #21, Horn #21, with just flap tooling and a completely custom powder
Bag #21, Horn #21, with just flap tooling and a powder horn with a screw-tip and a turned base plug with a band .

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) – $165 plus shipping
  • Powder Horn Hangers for Early Virginia Shot Pouch – $15(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, use the Contact form to send me an e-mail. See FAQ for more information on purchasing custom work.

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Southern Heart Shaped Shot Pouches

Heart shaped southern mountain shot pouch and powder horn
Bag #11, Horn #7 – Full Front
Heart shaped southern mountain shot pouch and powder horn
Bag #11, Horn #7 – Full Back

The southern heart shaped shot pouches shown on this page were copied from pages 18-19 of Jim Webb’s Sketches of Hunting Pouches, Powder Horns, and Accoutrements of Southern Appalachia.  I made the shot pouches exactly as shown, approximately 7.5″wide x 7.5″ high, using 3-4oz  (may use 2-3 oz) vegetable tanned cowhide and linen thread.This shot pouch design consists of a one piece back and flap with a front panel attached via a 1″ gusset that goes around the entire pouch and attaches to the strap.

Back of heart shaped southern mountain shot pouch
Bag #11, Horn #7 – Back

The shot pouch is assembled such that the flesh sides are stitched together without a welt, and the bag is not turned. This results in the gusset folding inward. It is an unusual arrangement, but that is how the original was constructed. I used an iron buckle on the strap to allow for seasonal adjustment. The leather was stained with vinegar and iron. The strap is about 60″ and can be shortened as much as necessary just by punching new holes for the buckle.

Southern mountain shot pouch and powder horn
Bag #11, Horn #7 – Front

The attached powder horn is based on several original powder horns from Southwest Virginia. It is about 13″ around the outside curve with a 2 1/2″ base plug. It is hand scraped and filed with a turned walnut base plug attached using hand forged nails. A turned walnut stopper finishes the horn. The horn is dyed yellow with aquafortis and appropriately aged.

Below is a heart shaped pouch with a slightly different horn.  This horn has an applied turned collar instead of integral rings and is based on the horn on pages 228-229 in Jay Hopkins book Bone Tipped and Banded Horns.    It is about 12 1/2″ around the outside curve with a 2 1/4″ base plug.   

Bag #24, Horn #24 – applied turned collar

As with all my recreated shot 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 compromised.

Below is another heart shaped bag with a very plain horn that is much more typical of what you would find in the southern mountains. Linen cord and chain is used to attach all the accouterments much as it would have in the period. The last picture shows the inside of the pouch and gives you a better idea of the construction.

Horn #3 - Bag #8 -  A plain southern powder horn attached by linen cord to a Southern heart shaped shot pouch.
Horn #3 – Plain southern powder horn, Bag #8 – Southern Heart Shaped Shot Pouch

 

Bag #8 - Back of Southern heart shaped shot pouch.
Bag #8 – Back – Southern Heart Shaped Shot Pouch

 

Bag #8 - Inside of Southern heart shaped shot pouch.
Bag #8 – Inside – Southern Heart Shaped Shot Pouch

 

Pricing for items like the ones shown above is as follows:

  • Southern Heart Shaped Shot Pouch – $165 plus shipping
  • Leather Powder Horn Hangers – $15(Option with a pouch order)
  • Plain Southern Powder Horn (like #3) – $75 plus shipping
  • Southern Powder Horn with a Turned Base Plug and either integral rings (#7) or applied collar (#24) – $150 plus shipping
  • Tin Powder Measure, Whipped Brush and Pick set (as shown with Bag #11) – $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.

The bags and horns shown on this page can be made relatively quickly. If you would like something similar, or even something completely different, use the Contact form to send me an e-mail. See FAQ for more information on purchasing custom work.

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Gun # 17 – Augusta/Rockbridge Virginia Rifle

Augusta/Rockbridge Virginia Rifle - Right Full


Sketches of thimbles and other details.
Sketches of thimbles and other details.
This is a 1775-1785 Augusta/Rockbridge County, Virginia longrifle based on the two rifles documented by Wallace Gusler in the Journal of Historical Arms Making Technology, Volume II (JHAT II). The patchbox and its engraving is an original design extrapolated from the boxes on the guns documented in JHAT II as well as those by John Davidson. The lock is a Chambers Colonial, filed, polished and engraved in a manner typical of most imported English locks with heat blued screws. The 54 caliber, 44″ long, Dickert profile Rice barrel is polished amory bright.
Moulding termination details.
Moulding termination details.
A White Lightning liner is installed. The rifle has modified Davis double set triggers that have been heat blued. The butt piece and guard are neatly filed from yellow brass castings from Reeves Goehring. The rest of the mounts, including the one piece nose piece, are hand made from sheet brass. The stock is carved from a blank of very curly, stump cut, quartersawn, hard maple from Freddie Harrison. The barrel is hand inlet using gouges, period gunstock planes, and rasps. The stock is entirely scraped and burnished and the rifle is generally finished in a workman like manner.
Details of forearm moulding.
Details of forearm moulding.
The forearm moulding was cut with a custom made scratch stock in the original manner and show the characteristic ripple from scraping very curly wood. Period correct tools and techniques were used with files, rasps, chisels, and planes being used for most of the work. The stock is stained with aqua fortis and finished in oil. I have fitted the scraped hickory ramrod with a plain sheet steel ferrule on the breech end that accepts a hand turned wiper made for the rifle.

If you are interested in the templates and layout guide I used to create this rifle, they may downloaded on this page.

The length of pull is approximately 14″ to the front trigger. The drop is a little more than 3″ and the cast off is about .25″.

The technical details:

Stock: Very curly, stump cut, quartersawn, Surgar Maple
Lock: Chambers Colonial
Barrel: Rice Dickert, 44″, C-54 caliber with Chambers White Lightning liner
Trigger: Davis double set triggers
Mounts: Reeves Goehring sand cast yellow brass butt piece and guard, all other mounts made from brass sheet

Augusta/Rockbridge Virginia Rifle - Left Full

Augusta/Rockbridge Virginia Rifle - Top Full

Augusta/Rockbridge Virginia Rifle - Bottom Full

Augusta/Rockbridge Virginia Rifle - Right Half

Augusta/Rockbridge Virginia Rifle - Left Half

Augusta/Rockbridge Virginia Rifle - Top Half

Augusta/Rockbridge Virginia Rifle - Bottom Half

Augusta/Rockbridge Virginia Rifle - Lock

Augusta/Rockbridge Virginia Rifle - Side Plate

Augusta/Rockbridge Virginia Rifle - Tang

Augusta/Rockbridge Virginia Rifle - Patchbox

Augusta/Rockbridge Virginia Rifle - Cheek


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Gun #12 – An Iron Mounted Virginia Chunk Gun

Rifle #12, fantasy iron mounted Virginia longrifle after 1800 Rockbridge Co, VA, Full length, right side


An Unusual Iron Mounted Rifle

The longrifle shown here is an iron mounted chunk gun with stylistic elements found on guns from the Augusta/Rockbridge area of Virginia down into southwest Virginia. This rifle includes a four-piece iron patchbox and a faceted trigger guard and thimbles similar to a couple of rifles from Wallace Gusler’s step-toe group as documented in several Muzzle Blasts articles. Those antique rifles had mounts that were a little fancier than most iron mounted guns but they certainly didn’t have carving and engraving as does this longrifle. The carving on this rifle is based on a John Davidson rifle (shown elsewhere on this site) from Rockbridge County, Virginia. As it stands, this is most definitely a fantasy gun both in terms of its decoration as a chunk gun, and the mix of features from various rifles. In my defense, I was making this gun for myself. So, I made what suited me. Hopefully, you will also find it appealing.

The Technical Details

Stock: Fairly curly, slab cut, red maple
Lock: Chambers Late Ketland lock
Barrel: 46″, 45 caliber, 1 1/8″ straight custom barrel by Getz
Mounts: All iron with hand forged butt piece, guard, and ramrod ferrule
Trigger: Davis longrifle double set triggers modified to fit the guard
Pull / Drop / Cast-off: 13.25″ / 2.75″ / 0.25″
Weight: 14 lbs 15 oz

Building a Fantasy Longrifle

Below are initial sketches that I did for this project. I do these sort of sketches for every project, but as you will see, the actual gun can turn out quite differently. I often change my mind about the details as I am working on the gun.

Preliminary sketch of iron mounted patchbox and wire inlay.
Preliminary sketch of patchbox and wire inlay.

Preliminary sketch of longrifle cheek with wire inlay.
Preliminary sketch of cheek with wire inlay.

Working sketches of Virginia longrifle mounts.
Working sketches of mounts.


I wasn’t happy with how similar silver wire worked on Rifle #11. So, I decided to skip the silver wire on this gun and do some carving based on the John Davidson documented in the Antiques section of this site.


No 11 Tang Carving of Virginia longrifle
No 12 Tang Carving

No 11 Right Wrist
No 12 Right Wrist

No 11 Virginia longrifle Cheek Carving
No 12 Cheek Carving



I also changed the butt piece heel extension and comb to three facets based on the work of John Davidson’s unidentified master. I also decided to use the touch plate release I used on #11. However, after problems with the touch plate release due to wood movement from changes in humidity, I decided to change the release mechanism and toe plate to a small push button release for better reliability.

The ramrod is made of hickory as are all my ramrods and scrapped to a taper with a forge welded sheet steel ferrule on the small end. The ferrule is threaded for a 10-32 screw. I can provide a hardened and tempered handmade wiper for the rifle for an extra $79.

As with all my guns, this rifle was stocked from a blank that I cut out on a bandsaw. After that, the only power tools I used on it were a hand drill and a drill press, mainly to drill screw, rivet, and pin holes. I used an 18th century brace and bits to help with the inletting of the lock and patchbox. All the other work was done with 18th and 19th century tools and techniques. Most of the work on the gun was done with planes, chisels, files, and scrapers. This included many antique tools and specialty tools made by me. The stock was final shaped and finished with scrapers. No sandpaper touched the wood. You can still see scraper and file marks in the finished product and there are the tell tale ripples in the stock indicative of being scraped. A more highly figured piece of wood would have had even more ripples.

I hand inlet the barrel and ramrod groove using chisels and planes, and hand drilled the ramrod hole. The trigger guard and butt piece were hand forged and assembled using rivets and forge brazing. The heel of the butt piece was filled with brass to make the joint as solid as possible. Then many hours of hand filing and polishing went in to getting these mounts to their final form. All the other mounts were hand cut from sheet and hand formed around mandrels I made expressly for the purpose. I made all the parts for the patchbox release mechanism and modified the Davis triggers to suit my taste and ensure perfect operation with the lock. As with all my locks, I hand filed and polished the lock plate, cock, and frizzen so that the lock would look as if it were a product of the 18th or 19th century. All the lock internals were polished on their wear surfaces and the sear and full cock notch were stoned for perfect operation with the set triggers. This particular lock also needed some modification of the sear and sear spring. Several days of work went into just finishing and tuning the lock.

My guns are more expensive than many other gunmakers because of all the hand work I put into them and the effort that I take to make sure everything works smoothly. I spent many days on this rifle just making sure that the lock, triggers, and patchbox release worked as well as they reasonably could. I also spend a lot of time with a scraper to make sure my lines and planes are straight and sharp and my curves smooth. I use traditional ferric nitrate (aqua fortis) stain which requires much, much more preparation than if you were using a modern non grain raising stain. I then apply many coats of my own oil based gunstock finish. I don’t use polyurethane or other synthetic finishes. Because of that, and the porosity of oil finishes, the last step in every gun is a good coat of Renaissance Wax on all surfaces. The only maintenance other than cleaning after shooting is to apply a coat of paste wax a couple times a year. The wax will effectively seal the stock against the weather.

Once I have finished all my scraping, polishing and finishing, then I go about destroying the work I have done in order to age the piece. I rust all the iron parts, sometimes several times. Apply a patina to the brass and silver and then paint the whole gun in a lamp black oil glaze to simulate a century or two of dirt and soot from the fireplace that I then scrub off judiciously to simulate many years of wear. A few dents, dings and some blood along the way doesn’t hurt the process.

I try to work in as workman like manner as I can, but I am picky about line and function. I will let some scraper marks and file marks and a few dents slide by as did the original gunmakers, but not functional or architectural problems. You do have to realize that anything done by hand is not going to be perfect. I try to get as close as I reasonably can, but you do have to let some things go as long as they are not going to affect function.

Speaking of function, all my barrel tenons are slotted to allow at least 1/32″ of travel around the pin in each direction. This is to allow for the normal expansion and contraction of the stock without stressing the barrel so much that the aim is affected.

The Final Result


Rifle #12, fantasy chunk gun after 1800 Rockbridge Co, VA,full length, left side

Rifle #12, fantasy chunk gun after 1800 Rockbridge Co, VA,full length, top

Rifle #12, fantasy chunk gun after 1800 Rockbridge Co, VA,full length, bottom.

Rifle #12, fantasy chunk gun after 1800 Rockbridge Co, VA, half length, bottom

Rifle #12, fantasy chunk gun after 1800 Rockbridge Co, VA,half length, left side

Rifle #12, fantasy chunk gun after 1800 Rockbridge Co, VA, half length, top

Rifle #12, fantasy chunk gun after 1800 Rockbridge Co, VA,half length, right side

Rifle #12, fantasy chunk gun after 1800 Rockbridge Co, VA,half length, right quarter

Rifle #12, fantasy chunk gun after 1800 Rockbridge Co, VA,lock

Rifle #12, fantasy chunk gun after 1800 Rockbridge Co, VA,sideplate

Rifle #12, fantasy chunk gun after 1800 Rockbridge Co, VA, cheek

Rifle #12, fantasy chunk gun after 1800 Rockbridge Co, VA, patchbox


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