I needed a decent case for my deer rifle, but being broke at the moment, I was having trouble finding what I needed at a price I can afford. Poverty being the mother of all invention, I decided to make one out of a not-so-old Army duffle bag and a blanket that was torn and ready to be tossed. Since I'm sure there are others who can benefit from my experience, and are likely either as broke, marginally skilled, or as cheap as I am, I decided to, at the same time, do my first instructable. This design is also easily adapted to a ski or board bag with additional fabric-basically anything long and skinny could be carried in one of these-So let's get started!
Step 1: Materials
You won't need too much to this project, just the following things:
1. Army Duffle Bag-I used the newer, heavy nylon style with the backpack straps and outer pocket. If you have a canvas bag lying around it will also work-the canvas one I have was my grandfather's from WWII and stank like death anyway, so I used this one I had picked up at my local flea market for about 8 bucks. You can find them on Ebay and from surplus dealers, but shop around because often surplus prices go up and down due to supply on the secondary market at any given time. If you have to pay more than ten bucks you can start thinking about a pre-made gun case-and what fun would that be? Additional fabric can come from a second bag, your local fabric store, or do like I do and keep a constant supply of old nylon bags, webbing and hardware around-you'll never know what you need.
2) Old blanket-this one was a polyester blend, but nice and soft so it won't scratch my rifle or the scope-I'm probably going to end up hanging on to this butchered blankie now, since I am going to do a second bag for another rifle.
3) Heavy duty needle and thread. I used a Dritz needle from the pack shown. My local craft store had these in a pack, and they are usually also available from Cheaper Than Dirt
in quantities of 6 or more packages. You can use a heavy sewing machine if you have one and cut this project down to less than two hours. The thread came with a hand sewing awl I got a while back-I thought I would need it for this project but it turned out the fabric was pretty easy to sew with one of the medium-sized needles in the package. Any heavier thread should do the trick, but if you want a nice match look for black or olive drab-it will show through your seams a bit.
6) Scissors-really sharp ones or EMT-style ones-the fabric is heavy where it is folded over!
7) X-acto Knife
8) Patience (I had the most difficult time finding this)
9) Zipper (optional, size may vary)
Step 2: Start Cutting!
Start by turning your bag inside out. Starting at the open end, cut carefully along the seam that runs the length of the bag.
Step 3: Cut Out Bottom at Seam
When you reach the bottom, carefully cut along the seam that runs around the bottom of the bag, then carefully lay your bag out on the floor-you have successfully filleted what was once government property! It will look like the photo if you were careful.
Step 4: Get Oriented!
Carefully fold the bag so that the carry handle (not the backpack straps) is at the fold you make in the bag-the idea is to get it at the 'top' of what will be your case, so you can carry it like a suitcase. It will look like the pic.
Step 5: Check Rifle Dimensions
You can do this step roughly or precisely-lay your rifle down and get an idea of how much you are going to need for either end (unless your rifle is of the assault variety and does not need any additional fabric on the ends) Be sure to add ample room for your scope (height) and plenty of length. Hint: add more than you think you are going to need-the blanket will add thickness and make the inner dimensions a bit smaller than the measurements you are making right now. You are also going to want to leave four to six inches of extra if you are going to want to fold your end over to fasten it. More on that later.
Step 6: Cut to Fit
Now that you have the height and width measurements you want, with your bag still folded so the handle faces the 'top', draw a line along the length of your bag, where the 'bottom' will be, at the precise place you will be cutting.you want both sides of the fabric to be equal when you are done at the 'bottom'. Your bag should now look like the second photo when laid out.
Step 7: Cut Off End of Bag at Top
Cut off the doubled over fabric with the metal grommets in it.
Step 8: Trim Unecessary Webbing
Using your X-acto knife, cut off the unneeded straps and webbing. Pull the webbing and fabric as far apart as you can to prevent cutting your nylon. Gently run a new blade along the stitching-if you are pulling tightly, it will 'pop' loose easily...after a few cuts you can gently pull the webbing off, until it gets tight, at which point you cut again until it's off. Clean off the excess threading when you are done. Your fabric will now look like the second picture shown.
Step 9: Measure and Cut Your Ends.
Utilizing your spare piece of fabric, measure out the amount you need to make your ends-they will need to be as long as the ends of your basic bag as shown.
Step 10: Lay Out Your Ends for Stitching
Now you need to flip your ends over so that the "inside" of your fabric (the coated, rubberized side) is facing up, and the coated side of your main bag section faces down-you will soon be stitching up the ends.
Step 11: Stitch 'em Up!
To help everything stay put, I stapled my fabric together so it would not 'creep' while I stitched and end up all off-kilter. The end result is shown.
Step 12: Add Lining
Lay out your bag over your blanket. Measure off how much blanket you will need by tracing around the edges of your bag as it sits on the blanket. Cut out your blanket.
Step 13: Almost Done!
At this point you are mostly done-test fit your rifle one last time-it should fit-if not, you have a very nice lesson learned. You may be able to use it for another rifle or some other item. Next you can add a zipper, velcro, or a piece of webbing with a fastex buckle to close the end. I'm going to do a zipper, as it's pretty easy and I have one that is about the perfect size for this application.l.
Step 14: Acquiring a Zipper for Free!
This zipper was pulled from a cheapie rain coat I had laying around that did not fit. It was a pretty tough one considering the jacket was crap, and it was only held in with one straight running stitch along the length, and a few bar-tacks at each end.
Upon further inspection of my scrap bin, I found the zipper for an old nylon CD case is also perfect for this job! Check your local dollar store for anything with a zipper if you can't find one at home in the end it will be cheaper than trying to get one from a sewing store like Alene's or similar outlet.
Step 15: Stitch in Zipper.
Start by turning your bag inside out again. Lay your zipper carefully against the edges of the case. The main trick here is to be sure the lining, outer bag fabric and zipper edges all line up. You want those edges on the inside so that when you turn it back right side-out, there will be no stitches showing, and a neat little seam, just like you did with the rest of your bag.
Step 16: Finish Stitching and Turn Right-Side Out-You're Done!
Take your time to do some stitching on the ends of the zipper so that the fabric at each end does not come undone where you have not already stitched. Once you are done, turn the whole works back right-side out and test your zipper-if it works, that's it! You have made your first case! You may want to take your yardstick and poke the corners at the end of the bag to ensure it is completely turned out.
Step 17: Conclusion.
Ultimately, this project was pretty easy-were it not, I would have abandoned it given my short attention span. What's nice is you get a tough bag with simple hand stitching, and the added bonus of the lining to protect your rifle's finish. I'm pretty sure this will be a "Where'd you get that?" kind of thing when I take it to the range.
Now for the Monday Morning Quarterback segment. I realized part way through that I wished I had matching thread as I have mentioned-as the seams spread apart it does show, and that would make a huge difference in appearance in my opinion-it's not bad, but one of those things I'm always going to notice personally. I'd also probably stitch a D-Ring on each end for a strap for carrying, and maybe a a loop at one end for hanging it up end-for-end.
This could, with extra fabric, be scaled up for a snowboard bag, skis, surfboard, basically anything long needing protection. You could also modify a large dufflebag, laundry bag, etc. using the same principles. You could also add more lining for better protection, as well as additional pockets outside, or dividers inside to separate more than one item. Good luck and I'd love any questions or comments! -Ehmbee