Shot pouches are one of the most basic items for anybodies gear, and yet done so wrong so often. There are very few surviving examples to base one on is a big part of the problem, and lots of misdated ones to go wrong on. My hope with this write up is, by showing the two bags I use, along with a smattering of period images and a few period accounts, help dispel some shot pouch myths.
"My powder horn and ball pouch always contained more or less ammunition, I found them empty. My knife also, which I commonly carried appended to the strap of my shot pouch, was gone."
- A Narrative of the Captivity and Adventures of John Tanner
"We sold the Indean plunder in the fort on Monday at Vandue and it fetched fifty shillings for each man. . . . . . . I bought some of this plunder, some nise wamp um and a shot bag and powder horn ect."
-Daniel Trabue interview in the Draper manuscripts
The first bag i use is one that I've shown before and is just a simple brain tan pouch with knife attached. It is my take on a plain jane simple Indian made shot pouch. Not really a lot to say about it other than it works. And I've taken a few spills, but have yet to have the bag spill anything even with out a button.
"He went up that time, clear up as far as the mouth of the Kanawha. . . . . . Brought back a very nice Indian shot pouch with him, all beaded off; don't know where he got it."
-William Clinkenbeard interview in the Shane portion of the Draper manuscripts
The second pouch I use is one inspired by an original finger woven bag and was made by Alec Fourman. No inside pockets on this one either, but still an excellent working pouch. A few thoughts here on finger woven bags - there is a lot of bad out there as far as attempts at repro's go. Think small yarn, oblique woven, with the beads woven in also - sometimes on a carrier strand of linen thread. Most originals are lined. They are constructed in one of two ways, either woven in the round or woven as a panel and then folded and sewn up the sides. Some originals have quill work on the bags, straps, and/ or fringe and many have tin cones with deer hair. (thanks Fourman for stopping hay work for a minute to get your brain picked!) DO NOT, I repeat, DO NOT use a piece of wool fabric with beads sewn on and think it in any way resembles a finger woven bag.
Other thoughts on what to avoid when it comes to common shooting pouches on the 1770's frontier - Incorrect leather, i.e. chrome tan. Rings on the strap. Modern buckles. Giant yarn straps. Inkle loom straps. Complex construction technique. Asymmetrical flaps. There's a few original leather ones from the period and a couple cloth ones. This is a whole other subject than the purpose of this blog post, but there are certainly other options, and some probably better for wide spread representation than the two I use. At the end of the day, if using the pouch for living history, base it off an original.
And last but not least, a shot pouch is not a carry all purse. It's sole purpose is to carry stuff to make the gun go boom. Bullets, flints, turnscrew and vent pick. But there's always a guy who just have to have something odd in his bag, so here's a few quotes to help that guy out . . . .
"Wymore had a pocket compass in his shot bag."
"My father bought the first pig to Lexington, gave $5 for it and a a chew of tobacco. He put it in his shot bag and brought it home."
- Wymore interview in the Shane portion of the Draper manuscripts
"At the time he had an Indian scalp in his shot pouch."
- Peter Cutright interview in the Shane portion of the Draper manuscripts