This is a step by step DIY guide on how to make your own shotgun shell caddies for 3-gun competition.
When making these shotgun shell caddies, I use 0.08″ Kydex or Boltaron. I’ve used Kydex brand plastic in the past, but recently started using Boltaron brand due to the lesser cost. I purchase the plastic from knifekits.com.
First things first, to make these, you need something to mold the kydex around. I’ve actually found an old level that’s the perfect size for molding these shell caddies around. The level I use is a Task Force 24″ ABS level. They go for $7.98 at Lowes Home Improvement. I did take some measurements of it, and if you have a table saw or other means to cut hardwood, you could make one pretty easily. The measurements are as follows: 2 1/4″ x 1″ x 8″ or longer. If using hardwood, you will want to make a dado cut down the center about 1/4″ deep, leaving a 1/8″ lip along the edges.
Once you have your mold, it’s time to get your kydex cut to size. I like to use a piece approx. 5 1/4″ x 6 1/4″. This allows for a little wiggle room, and we can trim off the excess later. If you use plastic thicker than 0.08″, you will need to modify the dimensions a little.
I score the large sheet of plastic with a utility knife, then bend it a little until it snaps.
The next step is to line up your mold with the center of the kydex, and clamp it to your workbench. Once clamped in place, you can start heating the plastic with your heat gun near the corner of the mold, and on the back side. I’ve found that it’s easier to concentrate on just one bend at a time, so don’t worry about heating the entire piece of kydex, just the part you are going to bend first. Once heated, I take a piece of scrap wood, and fold the piece around the side of the mold, and hold it in place for a couple minutes until the kydex has cooled.
Once cooled, use your piece of scrap wood as a shield to keep heat from the heat gun from warping the bend you just made, and begin to heat the end of the plastic to fold around the top of the mold. Once the piece is hot enough, you can fold it around the top edge of the mold, and hold it until the plastic has cooled. Make sure not to let up too soon, as it will make the shotgun shells fit too loose in the caddy.
Next you will need to turn everything around, and repeat the previous two steps on the other side.
Once you have molded both sides around the mold, you can remove the plastic from the mold. Now it’s time to make some cuts along the bottom of the plastic to create a “flap” on each side to keep the shells from falling out of the bottom of the caddy. I like to remove about a 1/4″ from the back, and the front of the caddy, leaving the sides in place to fold over to act as your flaps.
You will notice in the above picture that the lip we created when making the second bend isn’t perfect. When I put the plastic back onto the mold, I made a careful, perfectly straight cut along the entire lip cutting it perfectly smooth.
When heating the flaps with your heat gun, I find it best to place the plastic back onto the mold, leaving the flaps exposed on the end. Heat one flap, and fold it over, then the other, taking care not to heat too much of the rest of the caddy, which can warp it.
You can see in the above picture that the flaps look a little ugly, that’s fine, we’ll clean that up later.
Once the flaps have been folded over, you just have to cut the caddy to length. It should be long enough for 6 shells, but I prefer to have them only hold 4 shells. It’s your preference. I didn’t take pictures of cutting it, but I recommend using either a cut-off wheel on a dremel, or a hack saw with a 24tpi blade.
Once cut to length, I like to dimple the top of the caddy with the heat gun, pushing it in just enough to keep the shells from falling out. (Don’t dimple it with shells in the caddy, you might get them too hot…)
The last thing to do is to make the attachment. Ideally, I’d just screw them to a TEK-LOK or something, but those are a little pricy, so I’ve made my own attachments. I’ve found that the caddies stay in place best if you make the belt attachment using the actual belt you plan to use in competition. I start with a strip of plastic about 1 3/4″ – 2″ wide, heat it up with your heat gun, and fold it around the belt in the shape of a question mark.
You can then drill the back of the shell caddy, and the attachment at whatever height you would like the caddy to sit, and attach with chicago screws.
Once everything is together I will clean up all the sharp edges with my Dremel sanding wheel. Dremel makes a two different grit wheels, and the finer of the two works best on kydex. Make sure to wear proper eye protection when cutting plastic with the Dremel, as it throws pieces everywhere. I wear glasses, and a full face shield over them just to be safe.
After cleaning everything up with the Dremel, you can smooth the edges even more with some fine sandpaper. On some projects I’ll even wet sand the edges with 1000 grit sandpaper to get them really nice and smooth.
That’s really about it! If you attempt making you own, I’d like to see pictures of what you come up with!
This post is part of my “3-Gun On The Cheap!” series where I show you how to make all the gear needed for 3-Gun out of kydex. If you already had all of the tools needed, and you just purchased the plastic, and the screws for this project, you would have spent less than $10, and you would have enough plastic to make at least 4 caddies. Thats cheap!