The American cowboy of the mid to late 1800s was a modicum of efficiency—sort of. Those who truly lived the life of the roving cowhand had little in the way of personal possessions, preferring to live off their horses, if you will, carrying most everything they needed and picking carefully what they chose to carry. I find that kind of ironic, what with all the gear we tote around at our Cowboy Action shoots. Although I started shooting in CAS matches many, many years ago, it didn’t take long for me and many others to realize that some sort of cart—our horse of today—was needed to get our gear from stage to It is with that in mind that I’m always on the lookout for items that make this portion of our sport less stressful and more enjoyable.
A few years ago, I attended the annual Fort Miller Shootout in Fresno, California, and became acquainted with some of the products made by the Jax Leather Company hailing from Madera, California, located just up the road from Fresno. In business since around 1989, Leona Franke (aka “Frisco Frankie,” SASS #3622), the sole proprietor of Jax Leather, offers some really nifty canvas products to aid Cowboy Action shooters.
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While perusing the merchandise in the Jax vendor’s tent, I came across a canvas loading bag that I’ve been using exclusively at matches ever since. Called the Tonapah Tom Loading Bag, it’s made from mil-spec, high-grade cotton webbing and provides two very important services to aid one in their trip from the gun cart to the loading table and from the unloading table back to one’s cart. Sewn onto the outside of the Tonapah bag or pouch are two sets of canvas belt loops, one to accommodate 10 rounds of pistol ammunition and the second 10 rounds of rifle ammunition (or whatever that particular upcoming stage calls for). This allows you to hit the loading table with exactly the right number of rounds for each firearm and precludes the possibility of overloading one’s rifle or pistol for a match.
Once all firearms are loaded, the bag can be tucked under your shotgun belt in back or hung from its sewn-on leather tab until one reaches the unloading table, where empties can be stored in the pouch for transfer to your cart. The bag measures 5½ inches in length and 7½ to 8½ in width depending on the caliber of the loops, and the pouch is held closed by a leather-backed snap closure.
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Nicely stitched using stout polyester threads with hidden seams, after its many years of use, mine—except for some range dirt—is still good to go. Its overall size has always accommodated all the empties, including shotshells that I’ve created, and left me able to return all my gear to my cart after a stage in one trip.
Jax offers .38, .44 and .45/.44-40 combinations, while custom or mixed calibers are made on special request, priced at $25 for a single caliber or a mere $5 more for others or mixed calibers.
Another canvas product from Jax that I find rather handy is the company’s drawstring Shell Bag. Although it could be used for toting a variety of things, it is best used as a repository for fired brass and shotshells. Available in two sizes, the short bag being 8 inches tall and the tall bag 10 inches, the Shell Bag has a leather bottom, which enables it to sit upright, or it can be hung from one’s gun cart by its corded drawstrings. Its diameter is 5½ inches, and it’s made from the same high-quality canvas as the loading bag. Again, nicely assembled with hidden seams, both the short and tall bags are very reasonably priced at $10. Custom modifications to suit one’s needs are available. For more information, visit jaxleather.com or call 559-675-1230.
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This article originally published in the Winter 2016 issue of GUNS OF THE OLD WEST®, print and digital subscriptions to GUNS OF THE OLD WEST are available here.