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Building a Folding Gun Cart
by Roy Seifert

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Disclaimer:  This article is for entertainment only and is not to be used in lieu of a qualified gunsmith.  Please defer all firearms work to a qualified gunsmith.  Any loads mentioned in this article are my loads for my guns and have been carefully worked up using established guidelines and special tools.  The author assumes no responsibility or liability for use of these loads, or use or misuse of this article.  Please note that I am not a professional gunsmith, just a shooting enthusiast and hobbyist, as well as a tinkerer.  This article explains work that I performed to my guns without the assistance of a qualified gunsmith.  Some procedures described in this article require special tools and cannot/should not be performed without them.

Warning:  Disassembling and tinkering with your firearm may void the warranty.  I claim no responsibility for use or misuse of this article.  Again, this article is for entertainment purposes only!

Tools and firearms are the trademark/service mark or registered trademark of their respective manufacturers.

As mentioned in my article Installing a Half-Cock Hammer in an Old Model Ruger® Vaquero® I am getting back into Cowboy Action Shooting™.  One of the additional items I needed was a gun cart.  The gun cart is used to move long arms, ammo, and other gear from stage to stage during a match.  I currently have two gun carts; an ugly one I quickly assembled out of plywood, and a really cool one in the shape of an outhouse that I won in a shooting match.  I built the plywood cart when I first started shooting cowboy matches just so I could have something to use.  The outhouse cart I won was very heavy and required two people to load into and out of my Ford Explorer.  I replaced the Explorer with a little Jeep Wrangler which doesn’t have enough room in the “tub” for the outhouse gun cart so I decided to build a new, folding gun cart.

There are as many different designs of gun carts as there are different cowboy shooters.  The gun cart often matches the character of the shooter and can be as personal as the shooter’s alias and costume. Gun carts can range from simple units made from scraps of whatever you may have laying around to elaborate contraptions that not only fulfill the needed purpose but are almost an art form in their own right.  I’ve seen simple frames made of wood and/or PVC pipe, modified golf carts, and very elaborate buckboards, covered wagons and stage coaches.  Because of space, weight, and budgetary considerations, my new gun cart had to meet the following requirements:

  • Fold up flat for easy storage and transportation
  • Light weight to easily lift into and out of the Jeep
  • Fit into a 36”-wide horizontal space when folded - this is the distance between the wheel wells in the tub of my Jeep
  • Carry 4 long arms and a range bag/box when unfolded - I only use one rifle and one shotgun at a time, but sometimes I have a friend come along so it’s good to be able to carry two extra long arms.  Or if there is a long-range side match I have a .45-70 rifle I may want to bring along.  Also, under SASS rules, firearms must be transported safely so their muzzles never sweep contestants or bystanders.  Typically this means long guns, i.e. rifles and shotguns are transported with their actions open and muzzles pointed up.
  • Be at least 40-inches high when unfolded - this will make it easy to move around.  My arms are 40” above the ground with my forearms extended at right-angles from my body and parallel to the ground.

I’m no Norm Abrams and my woodworking tools and skills are rudimentary at best.  I already had all the power and hand tools I needed for this project so I didn’t need to purchase any additional tools.

If you are an advanced woodworker you may find the photos and descriptions very elementary; you can probably work just from the plans.  If you are an amateur like me, hopefully you will find this article helpful.  You will find full-size plans and a materials list at the end of this article.

Before we get started you need to know that not all 1” x 4” wood is the same.  First of all I purchased “select” pine because it was clear and had no knots.  Also, most of the boards I selected were straight.  If you’ve ever tried to find 8-foot boards that weren’t bent or bowed, you know what I mean.

I purchased from both Lowes and Home Depot since I have both of those home-improvement stores close to my home.  1” x 4” actually measures 3/4“ x 3 1/2“.  It turned out that the wood I purchased from Lowes measured 13/16” thick so the cross pieces for my rabbets were thicker than the rabbet joint by 1/16”!  The wood from Home Depot measured exactly 3/4“ x 3 1/2“ so I should have used only Home Depot wood.  Unfortunately, Lowes was on the way home from somewhere so I stopped there to buy my wood.  I should have measured first and checked both stores before buying.  The advantage of the thicker wood is that all of my dado joints were very tight which means my box and frame are very sturdy.  Lesson learned!!!

Cutting the Pieces

I used my compound miter saw to cut all the pieces I needed from three 1”x4”x8’ select pine boards.  You can also use a miter box and miter saw to cut the pieces, but you want to make sure the cuts are square and of the same length.  My miter saw has a stop block I can adjust so when cutting multiple pieces of the same size I only had to measure the first one, then used the stop block to ensure all the other pieces were cut identically.  I cut the following pieces:

2 @ 33” – frame sides

2 @ 20” – box sides

2 @ 14 3/4“, one ripped to 2” wide – frame supports

5 @ 14” – box bottom

2 @ 13 1/4“ – box supports

1 @ 12 3/4” – handle support

2 @ 12 3/4” – shelf

2 @ 8” – handle sides

2 @ 6 3/4“ – front legs

I ripped one of the 14 3/4“ boards to 2” wide; this was the top support piece for the frame.  It had to be narrower in width so the guns wouldn’t it the front edge when setting in the rack cutouts.  I also cut a 12 3/4” length from the 1” dowel which became the hand bar.  Refer to the plans and materials list at the end of this article.

Routing the Rabbets and Dados


I wanted the frame, handle, and box to be sturdy so I used rabbet and dado joints to hold the cross pieces in place.  A rabbet is a channel cut into the end of a piece of wood, a dado is a channel cut into the middle of a piece of wood; each is designed to hold a cross piece.   

Since the wood was 3/4“ thick I used a 3/4“ square router bit to cut the rabbets in the ends, and dados at the proper locations of the frame, handle, and box sides.  Each rabbet and dado cut was 3/8” deep; half the thickness of the wood.

The distance from the center of the router bit to the outer edge of my router base is 3-inches.  For each rabbet cut I drew a line with a pencil 3 3/8” up from where I wanted to cut and placed a piece of scrap wood against that line.  3” up from the end of the wood would be the center of the 3/4“ bit so I had to move the line 3/8” farther up so the edge of the bit would be even with the bottom edge of the wood.  I squared the scrap wood with a T-square and clamped it place with C clamps.  This piece of wood acted as a straight edge to guide the router.

Note:  I always mark wood with a pencil and make light marks.  These marks are easy to remove by sanding.  Ink pens and felt-tip markers seep into the fibers of the wood and are difficult to remove.

For each dado cut I only had to mark 3” up from the location of the dado because the plans show the center of the dado rather than the edge.

Next I used a 1” wood bore to cut the holes for the round hand bar.  I cut each hole 3/8” deep.

Routing the Tongue and Groove Joints

The bottom of the box is made up of 5 pieces, each piece is 3 1/2“ x 14”, but held together with tongue and groove joints.  I didn’t want to spend the $80+ dollars for a tongue and groove router bit set, so I cut my own.  I attached my router to my router table and set the depth of the 3/4“ bit to cut a 1/4“ x 1/4“ groove.  I cut this groove on both sides of the edge of a board leaving a 1/4“ tongue in the middle of the edge.

I replaced the 3/4“ bit with a 1/4“ square end bit and adjusted my router table to cut a 1/4“ x 1/4“ groove down the middle of one edge of a board.  This cut the groove which mated with the tongue of the opposite board.  One end-board had one tongue and one plain edge, the other end-board had one grooved and one plain edge.  The plain edge is the outside edge of the bottom of the box.

Drilling the Holes
I wanted to make sure all holes were straight so I used a drill press to drill the holes.  I drilled 3/8” holes in the handle and frame for the carriage bolts that would hold the handle in place, and 1/2“ holes in the frame and box for the wheels hex-head bolts that would hold the wheels and box in place.


I marked the locations for all the wallboard screws 3/8” in from the edge of the wood and drilled all the holes using a 3/32” drill bit.  I countersunk each hole using a countersink bit so the screw heads would set flush with the surface of the wood.  I did not drill the matching holes in joining pieces of wood until final assembly.


I used a 2 1/4“ hole saw to cut four half-holes in the rack.  These are used to support the guns.

Finishing the Wood

I used a 3 1/2“ circle as a template and traced around the tops of the frame and handle sides since I wanted to radius them.  I used an 80-grit sanding belt and my belt sander to sand the radius.  I chucked the sander upside down in my bench vise and sanded the radius by hand.


I used a 1/4“ rounding over router bit to round all the sharp edges of the wood.  I then sanded each piece of wood using 120-grit sand paper.  For the boards I used my belt sander and a 120-grit sanding belt.

I stained each piece of wood with Minwax® #231 Gunstock, then finished with Minwax® Fast Drying Clear Satin Polyurethane.  I applied two coats of polyurethane and sanded with 400-grit sand paper between coats.



I used a corner clamp to assemble the frame, handle, and box.  The rabbets, dados, and corner clamp ensured each assembly was square.  Once each piece of wood was in place I used a 3/32” drill bit to finish drilling the holes and assembled with #6 x 1 1/4“ coarse black wall board screws.  I live in the south and southern pine is so soft that regular wood screws strip out of their holes very easily so I use wall board screws instead.  I decided not to glue the joints in place in case I had to disassemble the cart to make modifications, which I did as you will see later.

I put two 3/8” washers between the frame and handle to act as spacers to keep the handle centered.  I used a 3/8” fender washer and a nut to secure the 3/8” carriage bolt which holds the handle to the frame.  Since I didn’t want to over-tighten the nuts I used Loctite® blue on the threads to secure the nuts in place. 


I used three 1/2“ flat washers as spacers to keep each wheel away from the frame, and an additional 1/2“ washer between the box and frame to also act as a spacer.  I used a 1/2“ fender washer and two 1/2“ nuts to secure the 1/2“ hex-head bolt that holds each wheel and box to the frame.  I used two 1/2“ nuts and tightened them together very tight in a “jam nut” configuration so they wouldn’t back out.


I cut a strip of red felt 3/4” x 20” and used contact cement to glue it to the front of the rack.  The felt will protect the finish of the guns.


When the handle is in the unfolded position it is rotated about 10-degrees to the rear.  This allows the rack to be positioned a little bit forward, and the round hand bar to be positioned a little bit to the rear so the guns don’t interfere with my hands when moving the cart.  I rotated the handle to the proper position and drilled a 1/4“ hole through each side of the frame and handle to prevent the handle from rotating.  I installed a 1/4-20 T-nut through the hole on the inside of the handle.  I purchased a 12” piece of 1/4-20 threaded rod and cut two 2 1/2“sections.  I used some Loctite® red (the permanent stuff) to glue a plastic 1/4-20 T-knob onto one end of the threaded rod.  With the handle rotated up in place I insert the threaded rods through the holes in the frame and handle and screw them to the T-nuts to hold the handle in place during use.

I also drilled a 1/4“ hole through each side of the box and frame with the box folded into the frame.  I insert the threaded rods through these holes to keep the box folded in place during transport in my Jeep.


My wife found a Therm-A-Rest® Z Lite™ pad for about $0.99 at our local Goodwill outlet.  They normally retail for about $40!  I cut a piece out of this pad and glued it to the bottom of the box to rest the butts of the long arms.  This pad is soft so it won’t mar the finish on the guns, and the egg-crate pattern prevents the guns from moving.


To finish my gun cart I purchased a Flambeau Dry Box at Walmart which comes with a storage compartment in the lid and a removable tray.  I will use the lid to store small items like ear plugs and cleaning supplies, the removable tray I’ll use to store my timer, shooting glasses, tools, and other gear, and the box itself will hold ammo, and other larger items.

After the cart was assembled everything worked as it should.  It folded into a neat package that fit into my Jeep, and was lightweight and easy to carry.  I did have to make a few modifications to improve the overall function.


Modification #1:  Double-Barrel Shotgun – The shotgun breaks open at such an acute angle that the top of the barrel was hitting the 2” cross brace on the frame.  I cut a 2 1/4“ half-hole notch out of the cross brace, stained and finished it with polyurethane, and covered it with red felt like the rest of the rack.  Now the shotgun sets securely in its own rack, which it didn’t before.  The yellow bungee cord you see in the above photo holds the guns in place while moving over rough ground.

Modification #2:  Dry Box – The dry box fit very tightly in the box which would eventually cause the finish to wear and possibly the wood to bow out.  I used my router and 3/4“ router bit to relieve 1/8” from the inside of each box rail just where the dry-box set.  I stained and finished each relief cut as before; now the dry-box doesn’t touch the sides of the bottom of the gun cart.

Modification #3:  Personalized Plaque – I wanted to personalize my gun cart by mounting a plaque with my alias and SASS badges.  I cut a piece of wood 7” long and used my router table and a 1/2“ cove and bead bit to put a nice edge on it. 


Then I used CorelDRAW®, my CAD/CAM software BobCAD-CAM v20 and my MAXNC 10 CL CNC hobby mill to engrave my alias and a notch for my membership badge.  I stained and finished the plaque to match the rest of the gun cart. 

I used clear silicon RTV to mount my badge and Range Officer (RO) I and II pins onto the plaque.  I mounted the plaque on one of the frame uprights by drilling and countersinking holes on the inside of the frame.  That way screw heads wouldn’t show on the plaque.

The RO I and II pins came with two pins on the back for attaching to clothing.  I pressed each pin into the wood at the proper location; this left two marks from the rear pins.  I used a small drill bit to drill where the pins left marks.  This allowed the pins to set into those holes to keep them in place.  I again used clear RTV on the backs of the pins to hold them in place.


Modification #4:  Reduce Angle of Frame – After I put everything together I discovered that the frame leaned back too far.  The weight of four guns would cause the cart to tip backwards even if the dry-box was full of ammo.  Eventually as I used ammo the dry box would get lighter and the cart would fall backwards.  I cut a piece of wood 1/2“ x 3/4“, stained and finished it, then mounted it on the bottom of the box.  This reduced the angle of the frame so when filled with guns it wouldn’t have a tendency to tip over.  

Modification #5:  Build a Shelf – I didn’t want to have to bend over all the time to get ammo out of the box to fill my loading strip so I built a shelf into the handle on which I can set cartridge and shot shell boxes.  Because the handle and frame both tip backwards I had to rout dado channels into the handle sides at an angle. 


I set up my table saw miter gauge to 67 1/2 degrees and clamped on a piece of wood as an extension.  I installed a 3/4“ square router bit 3/8” above the surface of the table.  I clamped a piece of wood on the edge of the router table to act as a straight edge so the center of the dado would be four inches up from the bottom cut the angled dado.  I tried routing the dado without the straight edge guide and all I succeeded in making was a curved dado cut, which proved to me that I needed the guide.


I rotated the miter gauge to 67 1/2 degrees on the other side of the 90-degree mark and cut the opposite angle on the other handle side.  I drilled holes, counter-sunk, stained and finished each side as before.


To form the shelf, I cut two leftover pieces of wood 12 3/4“ long, drilled holes in one side, and used 1/4“ dowel pins and Gorilla Glue® and clamped the two pieces together.  I scraped off the excess glue, sanded, stained, and finished as before.

Once the shelf was completed I assembled the handle so the shelf was 2 1/4“ back from the front edge.  This prevents the guns from hitting the front edge, and provides a little more shelf space.  I also discovered that if I left cartridge boxes on the shelf while moving the cart, they would slip off.  I added a 3/4“ x 3/4“ strip of wood to the rear edge of the shelf to prevent this from happening.

Below are photos of the completed project.  Woodworking is just as much a part of gunsmithing as is metal working.  No only does my gun cart look nice and function as designed, it should last me for many years.


Materials List




1” x 4” x 8’ select pine or other wood of your choice


1“ x 24” wood dowel


3/8” x 2” carriage bolts


3/8” flat washer, these act as spacers between the frame and handle


3/8” fender washer


3/8” nut


Loctite blue, tube


Loctite red, tube


10” x 1.75” hard rubber wheels


1/2“ x 4” hex-head bolt


1/2“ nut


1/2“ flat washer, these act as spacers between the wheels and frame, and frame and box


1/4“ T-nut


1/4“–20 x 12” threaded rod


1/4“ T-knob


1/4“ fender washer


3/4” x 12” aluminum strip

1 box

6 x 1 1/4“ coarse black wall board screws.  I live in the south and southern pine is so soft regular wood screws strip out of their holes too easily so I use wall board screws instead.


3/4” x 20” felt strip


Stain, small can, color of your choice, I chose Gunstock since I like the red color


Polyurethane, small can, finish of your choice, I chose satin since I didn’t want a gloss finish

   © Copyright 2012 Roy Seifert.