This Instructable provides the information required for you to design and create a leather bag for carrying your muzzle loader gear into the woods or onto the range. You can use these directions to make one that best suits your needs.
Step 1: Motivation for the Build
My darling wife gave me a CVA wolf muzzleloader in December of 2013. It was a wonderful early Birthday present which I promptly got sighted in and spent a few days in the woods during the Ontario Whitetail Deer Muzzleloader Season. I wanted to use a traditional style bag to carry the gear for the rifle instead of a modern nylon knapsack.
Step 2: Info Sources
I have been interested in and reading about black powder rifles since the early 1980's when the CVA rifles and rifle kits became available in Canada.
I wanted my modern rifle to maintain a link with the traditions of the past, this to me meant a leather possibles bag. These were so named by the Mountain Men of days gone by, it carried all items they would possibly need for a day's hunting or travel. I also remember reading a few stories where the conversation between two mountain men would include the question "Do you have..." and the response would be "It's possible", followed by a search into their 'Posssibles bag'.
I referred to making your own gear chapters of the Black Powder Gun Digest to start my research. The book used deer skin, but I wanted something stiffer that would retain its shape and I planned pockets on the inside to assist with organizing the gear.
Some searching on the web turned up Tandy Leather as a great source of the materials I was going to need in order to pull this off. Bonus was a store location in Scarborough near my commuting route to work. I did some further research on bag designs on-line, developed a plan, laid out my pattern on paper and then proceeded to the Tandy Leather store to purchase the leather and incidentals.
Step 3: Muzzleloader Gear
Muzzleloader gear in picture above, from left to right top to bottom:
- hand warmers
- cleaning patches
- bore cleaner
- bore brush
- reload tubes made from powder tubes
- bullets and sabots
- belt holder for primers and reload tubes
- starter ramrod
- nipple pick
- primer holder
- primer removal tool
-pack of primers
Additional hunting gear expected to be carried:
- Toilet Paper (double wrapped to ensure it stays dry until needed)
- waterproof matches
- bottled water
- granola bars
Step 4: Materials for Bag Building
- heavy paper for pattern
- vegetable tanned double shoulder cow leather
- sewing awl (pictured above) for stitching leather together
- waxed thread or braided nylon fishing line
- awl (pictured above) for making holes in leather
- hook (pictured above) for pulling stitches tight
- Leather Punch (pictured above) for holes to put Chicago screws in
- carpenter's square
- utility knife
- tape measure
- carpenter's pencil / pencil
- cutting surface / plywood
- punch surface / 2x4 or 2x2
- Chicago screws
- finishing nails
- vegetable tanned pig skin
- leather hole punch
- cordless drill and 3/16 drill bit
- carpentry clamps
- 2x2 lumber for bending edges
- 2x2 lumber for backing awl
Step 5: Create Plan for Bag
Using scrap paper, I sketched out what size of pockets would be needed to hold the gear items and where they would be best located. This also allowed me to estimate the size of the bag as 9 inches deep by 5 inches wide and 12 inches long. The closure would be via friction on a tongue inserted through a raised slot.
The plan allowed for 1/2 inch overlap of pieces with sewing holes 1/4 inch from edge and 1/4 inch apart.
Step 6: Create Mock Up
- Create mock-up using heavy paper
- Assemble mock-up and test fit over hunting clothes
- Piece description in above photo
- Left-most = back, top and front flap
- Upper centre = left side
- Lower centre = right side
- Upper right = bottom
- Lower right = front
Step 7: Obtain Material From Tandy Leather and Mark Pieces for Cutting
Size of leather driven by amount of space needed to fit mock-up patterns. I selected a double shoulder vegetable tanned cowhide as best cost / quality fit for my bag, and a section of pigskin for the pockets due to the suppleness and strength it provides.
Step 8: Cut Leather
- Place leather on cutting surface - I used 3/8 plywood
- Cut leather using square and utility knife
Step 9: Prepare Bag Pieces
- Mark fold lines and hole positions on each piece
Use clamps and 2x2 to bend edges of the 5 1/2 inch wide sections, this will make it easier to fit them to the flat front and back pieces. Unfortunately the pictures taken during this set of activities were deleted from the camera's SD card
- Use awl to create holes
- Press awl through a single layer of leather, for safety, I used 2X2 pictured above to prevent jabbing awl through my fingers, palms, or thighs
- Line up adjoining leather piece under the one with holes, press awl through existing hole and into marked spot on bottom leather. Ensure alignment is correct before creating hole in bottom piece.
- Use finishing nail the first holes to anchor both pieces to the 2X2 and continue creating holes as marked.
Step 10: Prepare Pocket Sections and Cut
Mark fold lines and hole positions on pocket sections
Mark hole positions on pocket reinforcement sections
Use punch to create holes in pocket sections
Mark edge lines and hole positions on bag sections
Use awl to create holes for stitching
Step 11: Learn How to Stitch With Sewing Awl
Good info at http://www.awlforall.com/merchant2/hints.html - summarized below
- Feed thread line through end hole
- Pull through sufficient thread to cover twice length stitching will run, referred to as loose end
- Pull awl back through end hole
- Push awl through next hole
- Make loop in thread and feed loose end through loop
- Pull awl back through hole, pulling thread tight on both sides
- Repeat steps 4, 5, and 6 to end of holes
- Securely knot loose end with sewing end on awl, cut thread close to leather
Step 12: Attach Pockets to Bag Pieces
1. Pin pockets in place using finishing nails
2. Stitch pockets onto bag pieces
Step 13: Assemble Bag
Pin bag sections together using finishing nails
Stitch sections together staring with bottom of bag working upwards to top
Attach carrying strap – remember to angle for comfortable
Attach closure strap/tongue using Chicago screws
Step 14: Fill With Gear
Go forth and shoot.
As a right handed shot, I carry the bag so my right shoulder is free. The bag is at right height for me to reach into after firing to get a loading tube, the short ramrod, and a primer after the long ramrod completely seats the charge and bullet in the barrel.
Step 15: Hindsight - What I Would Do Differently
- Followed the steps in the order listed. Due to time constraints and not having selected the pocket material, I assembled the bag and headed out hunting for the last few days of the black powder Whitetail season. Then I got the pigskin and had to partially disassemble the bag in order to add the pockets.
- May have been easier stitching with the bag turned inside out, I did manage to jab my fingertips a couple of times when working on the bottom corners of the last 2 seams.
- Pre-drilled holes in the 2X2 spaced at 1/4 inch intervals to make it easier to create holes with the awl. I ended up with my 2X2 looking like a victim of a crazed woodpecker instead.