Harbor Freight Gun Cart

I used to shoot trap when I was in high school and college, and then it slipped out of my life for ~35 years.  Recently a good friend got me out shooting “sporting clays” (not even sure that existed 40 years ago) and has rekindled my passion for ridding the world of clay UFOs.  I have enjoyed getting back into it and getting my teenage son into it as well. There is a great course near us where you move from station to station like playing golf.  In fact most people rent golf carts to go from station to station.  One day I saw people walking by with modified baby strollers.  I liked the idea, but knew I could do better.  My cart had to:

  • fold up small
  • be stable over gravel paths
  • carry at least 2 shotguns of varying sizes
  • carry  at least 6 – 8 boxes of shotgun shells
  • carry 2 “active” boxes of shells up high enough for easy reach
  • keep the guns in muzzle down position so they weren’t pointing at my head while I am moving the cart
  • carry 2 bottles of water
  • hold the guns securely while moving and while standing still

It took several days of planning but I eventually came up with an idea I had not seen anywhere else, and that checked off all my requirements.  I built two, one for my friend and one for my son and I.

Harbor Freight gun carts

The finished results. Since they look like Transformers when you fold them up, we went with Transformer names.
left: Smassius Clay
right: Shotimus Prime

folding gun cart

They fold up nicely to easily fit in a car.

The carts are predominantly made from Harbor Freight products.

Gun Cart parts list

The current price (2024) for the materials is ~$46 if you don’t have a range bag already. Add another $10 for the small bag or $17 for the large.

Gun cart chassis from Harbor Freight

This folding cart from Harbor Freight is the basis for the cart. It is light weight, folds up small yet has proportions that make it stable.

The folding cart is made from plastic and aluminum.  There are other companies that make similar carts.  I looked at them all but in my opinion, they are inferior to this one.  They all have smaller wheels.  The Harbor Freight “Franklin” cart has 7.5″ wheels which are the biggest of this style.  The bigger wheels are needed for the gravel paths. It is rated for 150 lbs which is plenty more than I am asking it to do.

slice in pvc end cap

The end PVC end caps are used to hold the hinges to the pipe. Use a hand saw or hack saw to make a slice in the cap approximately 1/4″ in. When the slice just makes it through the PVC and into the cap, you can stop sawing. Heat the slot with a heat gun.  When the cap gets soft, force the long part of the hinge through the slot.

forming the slot with the hinge

While the cap is still hot and soft, put a spring clamp on the hinge to hold it in the right place while the PVC cools and becomes solid.

hinge in pvc pipe

The hinge in the slot should look like this.

pvc hinge arrangement as gun holder

When you are ready to assemble, heat the end of the 12″ segment of 2″ PVC until it starts to get soft. Then shove the long end of the hinge it into the endcap and let it cool.

glue the cap onto the pipe

After the piece has cooled, you should be able to slide off the endcap, apply PVC adhesive then slide it back on. Put a single screw in the end of the strap hinge. Be sure the screw is short enough to not penetrate all the way through the PVC, or it will scratch the gun. If necessary, use a grinder or a file to remove the tip of the screw if needed.

On the end of the tube, cut an opening and then use the heat gun to soften the edges. Use pliers to pull the ends wider to make it easier to slide the gun in.

 

The three visible holes are used to bolt the hinge to the very front of the aluminum cart base.  The folding nature allows for it to adjust to any size shotgun and go more flat when folded up.

Note:  For a 12ga over-under the cross section of the muzzles and bead is 2″ which is the exact diameter of the PVC pipes.  To allow for the gun to fit, I had to heat the entire pipe, then drive a 1″x2″ into the pipe.  this made the pipe into an oval profile and making the long axis bigger than 2″.

Gun holder and shelf

The shelves were made from a small scrap of maple, however any wood could work as long as it is roughly 1″ x 6″ x 19″.  Pine is probably the best choice as it is lighter but I had some maple on hand so I used it.  The only woods I would likely stay away from are Cedar and Oak as they are prone to cause rusting when in contact with iron.  Hold the board up to the aluminum tubes from the handle to mark the horizontal location of the holes.  Then mark in ~1.5″ from the long axis edge and drill two 7/8″ in diameter holes .  Drill 4 pilot wholes along the back edge of the shelf going several inches into the shelf.  These will be where the screws will go.  Then with any saw you choose, cut the line that goes through the center of the holes along the length of the shelf.

 

shelf and stock holder

The shelf is getting its first coat of dark tung oil. Make sure when you cut the shapes for the stocks to fit into, that you cut them oversized. When you add the felt tape, you will lose almost half an inch.

In addition to keeping the two guns in place, the shelf will also hold 2 boxes of shotgun shells and a couple of drink koozies for water or soda bottles. The hanging koozies will keep them from spilling when the carts are tipped back for moving.

gun cart koozie hooks

Here you can see the brass hooks to hang the koozies from and two of the screws that keep the two parts of the shelf clamped to the cart handle.

Shotgun shell box holders

My son came to the rescue in this design by coming up with the idea of a shotgun shell box holder so that you don’t have to keep going down into the range bag for more ammo.  We had an engineering challenge because between my son and I, and my friend and his son, we span 410, 20ga, 16ga and 12ga.  So my son came up with a CAD model for a box holder that can adjust to all four sizes.  Here is the model on Thingiverse if you want to 3D print your own Shotgun shell box holder.

shotgun shell box holder

It takes two to hold a box of shells. The sides are tall enough to that the box will not fall out, even when the cart is leaned way back. The slots in the bottom allow for adjusting the size.

shotshell ammo box holder

These hold all variety of 2-3/4″ shells from 410 up to 12ga.

410 shotgun shell box holder

Ready to hold a box of 410 shells.

12ga shotgun shell box holder

Ready to hold a box of 12ga shells.

 

gun cart shelf for guns and ammo

Shelf ready to hold guns and ammo.

 

Folding gun cart ready for the range

 

gun cart folded up

Empty gun cart, folded up and fit for storage.

profile for the Harbor Freight folding gun cart

It’s profile is quite thin when folded.

folding gun cart

Fully expanded. Notice the paracord that attaches from the gun tubes, runs over the top aluminum rail (that stays in a fixed position) and connects to the bottom aluminum rail that slides up and down.

 

Gun range bags

This cart is pretty versatile.  The space between the gun tubes and the back of the cart allows for a lot of options for ammo and accessory containers.  It will fit 50 cal ammo cans, and many existing gun range bags.  I did not really like the way the lid was always in the way on a 50 cal ammo can, so I chose a couple of open topped options from Harbor Freight.  The small 12″ Voyager tool tote fits nicely and easily holds 6 boxes of shells plus other small accessories.  The 19″ Voyager tool tote holds a lot more.  It has the added advantage of having a rubberized external bottom so it should not absorb water if you park your cart on damp ground.  I would have gotten two, but they only had one in stock while I was in the store, so I got one 12″ and one 19″  Either way, they are very well made.  In either case I use a few spring clamps to secure them to the cart.

 

 

Harbor Freight gun range bags

These bags are great. Either size is great for the cart and the job at hand for a sporting clays course.

Finishing touches

I used spray paint to spray the shell holders and the PVC.  Part of this was just for looks, the other part for protection.  The PLA for the 3D prints of the shell box holders tends to break down in UV, So I spray painted them to keep the direct sun off the plastic. It is a good idea to use some masking tape to keep the inside of the tubes from getting sprayed. Otherwise you risk having paint transferred to your gun barrels.

folding sporting clays carts

All decked out and ready for a day on the range.

 

 

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