Making a Shot Bag

Making a Shot Bag

The other day I was making a shot bag for a whip.  If you don’t know what a shot bag is, essentially it’s a bag that holds lead shot (hence the name shot bag) inside the whip.  My shot bags are made out of a  tapered strip of leather that is rolled into a tube.

This tube is then filled with fine lead shot.

lead shot for whip making

Mmm…margarita and lead!

Here’s a quick video of me filling up a shot bag:

The main reason that I use a shot bag is to add weight to a whip.  This is mostly used (by me) on whips that have no handles like signal whips or snake whips.


6 thoughts on “Making a Shot Bag

  1. I was just thinking, given the recent experience where the lead started to seep out of the whip as a black goop, might it not now be a good idea to consider Bernie’s approach of using duct tape as a first bag and then rolling a leather strip around that? I don’t much like the idea of using plastic in a whip and I can understand if that is a concern of yours, but in this case… I dunno.

    What say you?



    1. Franco,

      If you are using a duct tape shot bag there is no need to put a leather strip around it. the duct tape becomes the shot bag. From what David Morgan has told me a long time ago (over 17ish years) he used to use a tape for a shot bag.

      The lead goo situation was a really unusual (only one other known case) and based on how it was leaking I’m not to concerned with using leather for a shot bag as the goo wasn’t leaking through the leather, but out the seam. I seal the seam from the inside and that should prevent it from happening again. Unfortunately I’ve never been able to get lead to become the tar like goo after several attempts to get it to breakdown in that fashion.


  2. Interesting Louie. I’ve only made one shot bag for a snakewhip. I kinda followed Bernie’s tutorial and used tape to hold it together. I have a nylon rod that I bought from David Morgan a few years ago that I used as a form while taping the leather together. For shot I went to the local Sportsman’s Warehouse and bought a box of shotgun shells with the smallest shot possible. I could have bought a 10lb bag but I would never use that much. 12 shells was more than I’ll use in a year! After I funneled the shot into the bag I used the rod to tamp them down and added more. I also pinched the open end shut with my fingers and spun the shot bag around. I figured cetrifugal force would do the job for me. I had previously cut a 1/2 inch piece of steel rod to put inside the shot bag like a plug. I then folded over the excess tab of leather and wrapped it tightly with sinew. This plug added a bit of weight to the but and also gave the bolsters and bellies something to be secured to.

    I was amazed by how the snakewhip turned out. The shotbag really made a difference. The whip was fast and fluid. I’ll probably make more down the road. I still have a lot of buckshot to use up!


    1. Jeff,

      One thing I didn’t put in the video is me packing the shot bag. I used to use one of the nylon rods from David Morgan to shape my bags, but I no longer do that. I do still use the nylon rod to pack the lead shot, sort of like what I imagine they are doing with the old muskets.

      For the plug I’ve use a rolled bit of leather and put a tack into it, or fold the end over and tack it and tie it down with artificial sinew. One time I plugged a shot bag with a rolled piece of sheet lead. In theory this would be the best way to do it because it’s still adding weight, but that small amount of lead as a plug was unnoticeable when it wasn’t there adn it’s a huge pain to get it to fit right!


  3. The point of still using leather, when using duct tape on a shot bag, is to help it hold together

    while you work over it. I’ve made a shot bag using only duct tape, and a few things somewhat

    undesirable happened. For once, the shot almost wanted to tear through the tape, even though

    there was several layers of it, after it was packed down. Also it was somewhat difficult to

    plait over because it was so flimsy.

    The whole point of using the duct tape ( Bernie has a youtube video of him making one ) is

    just to hold the shotbag together before you do the next layer, and not have to tie it together.

    Either way works, but if you were to use duct tape in the shot bag, I would highly suggest

    having a thin piece of leather as the innermost part of the shotbag, not counting the lead of


    1. Jeremy,

      Off the top of my head I don’t know how Bernie makes duct tape shot bags, but I used to make mine from 2-3 layers of duck tape and they were pretty strong. I’d plait right over them, so no “bolster” over it was needed. This allowed me to get more weight into a whip that would be the same diameter as if I put a bolster over a duct tape shot bag. The plaiting of the belly (and everything on top of it) will hold the shot bag very securely and even if it were to break you won’t have lead leaking out.

      I don’t now why I didn’t have problems with the lead trying to break through mine after I packed it. However when David Morgan told me about making a tape shot bag I only had what he had told me, so I had to interpret what he said, versus reading a tutorial, so my method might have been different from Bernie…however at the end of the day how different can a bag made from tape be? Also there are different qualities of tapes so a cheaper duct tape would be thinner than a heavier duty industrial duct tape…and don’t forget there’s also the very thick and actual Cloth Duct Tape sometimes called Gaffer’s Tape.


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