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Published Aug. 26, 2021

The best rifle case protects your rifle from bumps and bangs that can not only damage the finish, but also knock a scope out of alignment, or even worse, possibly cost you a trophy. You’ll need to protect your rifle every step of the way when you take the trip of a lifetime. You might need to fly to a destination, then transport the rifle in a soft case on arrival. Rifle cases are generally divided into hard and soft models. Hard cases provide better protection and hard, locking cases are required if you want to fly with a gun or take it on a train. Soft cases trade protection for lighter weight and packability. Soft cases are good for road trips and flights on bush planes where space is at a premium.

While most modern synthetic-stocked rifles are nearly indestructible, a case still has to protect your scope and keep it properly aligned so the rifle shoots straight when it’s time to take the shot. It’s not a good idea to economize too much when you choose a case, especially a hard case. Lots of cases are TSA-approved, but that only means they lock and have hard sides. It’s not a rating of quality or durability so shop wisely. Look for soft cases that will hold up, and that have linings that won’t snag on iron sights and wear out prematurely.

No single case meets every need. Rifles travel in airliners and bush planes, on ATVs and horses, in trucks, and carried by hand. You’ll have to take that into account to find the best rifle case for your needs.

Best Overall Case: Pelican Protector 1700 Series Rifle Cases

Key Features

  • Exterior: Tough polymer outer shell
  • Weight: 16-25 pounds empty depending on size
  • Capacity: Models available hold one or two guns up to 50.5 inches in length

Why It Made The Cut 

Inside the tough exterior, a 3-piece cut-to-fit foam set lets you create a custom case for your rifle. 

Pros

  • Highly crush resistant
  • Keeps water and dust out
  • US-made

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Bulky

Made in the USA since 1976, Pelican rifle cases are in use by military and law enforcement agencies as well as traveling hunters everywhere. The durable polymer cases resist crushing, keep water and dust out, and they float, too. They have tough latches, and metal-reinforced locking points for padlocks to keep your gun secure and more than meet TSA requirements. A pressure-release valve makes it easy to open and close the air-tight case.

The Protector series comes in three sizes to accommodate guns from AR rifles to long-barreled bolt-action magnums. The rifle cases hold guns securely in three layers of foam. You cut the middle layer to fit your rifle and any accessories you want to pack with it so that it’s held much more securely than it would be in ordinary cases or even those with pluck-out foam interiors. Pelican sells additional foam sheets so you can have one for every rifle you might travel with. The case has an overmolded carry handle and wheels for easy transport.

Best Tactical Case: Savior Equipment Urban Warfare Tactical Double Carbine Rifle Bag

Three Key Features

  • Capacity: Two long guns, two handguns
  • Dimensions: Lengths from 36 to 55 inches by 12 inch width
  • Carrying options: Backpack straps, shoulder strap, carry handle, and drag handles

Why It Made The Cut: This well-constructed case holds two rifles, two handguns, ammo, and accessories all for a reasonable price. 

Pros

  • Keeps all your gear together
  • Variety of carry options
  • Gun compartments are lockable
  • Value for the money

Cons

  • Soft rifle cases aren’t TSA-approved

This rifle case comes in five different lengths to fit rifles ranging in size from AR pistol to most sniper rifles, and they will hold handguns, magazines, and plenty of other accessories. Made of double-stitched 600D PVC nylon with heavy-duty zippers, it has a padded divider inside to keep rifles from banging together and Velcro straps to hold your guns and gear securely. The top compartment has dual pistol pockets to hold two handguns. Padded backpack straps attach via Molle webbing so you can adjust the width, or zip them inside the case when you don’t need them. There’s also a padded shoulder strap, carry handle, and a drag handle at each end.  A variety of pockets inside and out hold ammo, magazine, hearing protection, and more. The bags have been redesigned recently to lie completely flat when fully unzipped so you can use one as a range mat in a pinch. The rifle cases come in your choice of gray, black, OD green, or multi-cam.

Best ATV Case: Kolpin Stronghold Gun Boot and Auto Latch Mount

Why it made the cut: The Stronghold protects your rifle, and the clever Auto Latch mount holds the case securely on an ATV but unclips with ease.

Key Features

  • Material: Hard Plastic Case with removable padded liner
  • Capacity: One long gun up to 52 inches
  • Weight: 15 pounds

Pros

  • Mounts securely to an ATV with quick detach Auto Latch mount
  • Padded liner is removable
  • Redesigned, attached lid opens with one hand

Cons:

  • Liner may shift inside case
  • May not fit some guns (XL model is available)

The sixth generation of a case that’s been around since the 1970s, the Stronghold Gun Boot is a scabbard-type case for your ATV that features a redesigned, attached lid that secures with a rubber closure but opens with one hand in place of the old two-piece models. You may need to supersize to the XL model to hold some ARs and rifles with very bulky scopes.

The Gun Boot is sold together with the Auto Latch mount. The latch attaches to an ATV rack extender with U-bolts. The case slides into the mount which holds it securely on the trail, but can be released with a press of a latch so you can use the case separately, and it has a molded-in carry handle for that purpose. The Auto Latch mount also accommodates a number of different Kolpin products in the Stronghold series so you can use it with the Gun Boot during hunting season, then take the Gun Boot off and replace it with the Stronghold ice auger boot or ice rod case for the winter.

Best Soft Rifle Case: Browning Flex

Why it made the Cut:

The Flex case is well padded to protect your rifle when a hard case isn’t practical, and it offers accessory pockets, too.

Key Features

  • Capacity: Holds rifles up to 50”
  • Materials: Water-resistant shell, foam padding, tricot lining
  • Pockets:  Three zippered side pockets

Pros

  • Padded protection
  • Full-length zipper
  • Detachable shoulder strap

Cons

  • May not fit some rifles with oversized optics; a larger model is available.

When a hard case isn’t practical, protect your rifle (and in places where guns must be cased in vehicles to stay legal) by keeping it in this well-made soft case. Foam padding shields your gun from bumps on the road while a smooth tricot lining and full-length zipper let it slide easily in and out. The case is designed to fit rifles with standard-height scope mounts. You may need the bigger size if you put a large-objective scope on high mounts on your rifle.

The outside of the case is made of water-resistant nylon, and it has both a carry handle and a detachable shoulder strap. The outside also has three zippered pockets, one of which is mesh, where you can store ammunition, hunting gloves, earplugs, and other small accessories. It has a hanging loop and comes in A-TACS AU camouflage.

Best Hard Case Under $100: Plano All Weather Tactical Gun Case

Why it made the cut: Offers a ton of high-end features like pluck to fit foam, a dust and water seal, and a pressure relief valve for under $100.

Key Product Features

  • Capacity: One rifle 41” long or less
  • Weight: Ten pounds
  • Material: Hard plastic, pluck to fit foam interior

 Pros:

  • Pluck to fit foam offers custom fit
  • Dri Lock seal keeps dirt and moisture out
  • Made in USA

Cons: 

  • Will not accommodate bolt action rifles with barrels of 22 inches or more.

Made in the USA since 1952, Plano Molding offers all kinds of cases for hunters, shooters, and anglers. The All-Weather Tactical Gun case is a snug, safe home away from home for your AR-style rifle. Your gun sits nestled in pluck-to-fit foam that you can customize to hold your rifle and extra magazines and maybe even a handgun, too. The Dri Lock seal running around the lid keeps water and dirt out and does such an effective job the case needs a pressure release valve so it can open easily.

Four latches close the case and it has locking points making it suitable for air travel. It comes in two sizes: 36” for very compact rifles and 42” which should fit almost any AR rifle. There is also a wheeled 52” version that costs a little over $100 that can hold almost any long gun.

Methodology

Traveling with rifles risks not only damage to the gun, but the possibility of knocking a scope out of alignment. Having traveled with guns for 30-some years on planes, in cars, on ATVs, on horses, and by foot, I am well aware of the need to stow a firearm in a case that will fully protect it.

The cases here all meet specific needs for different modes of transport.

I evaluated them all based on the following criteria:

  • Protection: A case needs sufficient padding, and it has to hold a rifle immobile to prevent it from bouncing around and possibly altering your zero.
  • Durability: Cases not only have to protect firearms, they have to hold up to hard use themselves.
  • Capacity: Will it fit any rifle? Is there room for accessories?
  • Mode of Travel: Is the gun being transported by plane? Car? ATV? Foot?
  • Hard vs Soft: What type of case is ideal for different uses?
  • Value: Is it a good buy?
  • TSA approval: Can you take this case on a commercial flight?

Things to Consider When Buying a Rifle Case

Whether you are a passionate hunter or competitive shooter, traveling with firearms becomes second nature. Depending on what type of traveling you do will most likely determine the case you choose to store your gun in. For instance, air and Amtrak travel must be hard-sided and lockable. But if you are heading out into the field or to the range, a soft, light case may be the way to go. Some states do have specific firearm transportation laws which all hunters and shooters should review before taking their rifles with them. 

Also, be sure to choose the right length case for your rifle. Measure from the butt to the end of the barrel, and add at least an inch and a half. That’s the internal dimension you’ll need. Make sure the case you select is wide enough to accommodate any optics you have mounted, giving the scope a wide berth when the case is shut.

A gun case is not the best place to store a gun in your home. They don’t breathe, and if you put your gun away for several months, say between hunting seasons, leave the case open or put a silica desiccant inside. Occasionally take the gun out for inspection and wipe it down with a lightly oiled cloth.

FAQs

Q: Are Pelican Gun Cases TSA-Approved?

Yes, Pelican gun cases are TSA-approved. So are many other cases. TSA approval requires only that a case be hard-side and lockable. Pelican cases clear that low bar with ease and go on to offer some of the very best protection in the industry. They are extremely rugged on the outside and their seals keep water and dirt out and even assure that your case will float if it goes overboard. The cut-to-fit foam of some models like the protector holds guns even more securely than pluck-to-fit foam does.

Q: What does the AR stand for?

Many people assume “AR” stands for “assault rifle” which is a logical assumption since AR 15s are popularly classed as assault rifles (although true “assault rifles” offer selective single shot or automatic fire) but it’s just a coincidence. “AR” stands for “ArmaLite” which is the name of the company where the AR 15’s inventor Eugene Stoner invented the rifle in 1955. When the military adopted the fully-automatic version of the rifle they named in the M16. The semiautomatic models sold on the civilian market are known to many as “ARs.”

Q: Are Plano gun cases good?

Plano Molding has made plastic products in the USA since 1952. Although they make a wide variety of products they are probably best known among outdoors-people for their fishing tackle boxes. They make several different models of gun cases of good quality and at various price points.

Final Thoughts

Choose your case wisely so your gun is protected when you travel. The right case may make a difference on a hunt, in competition, or even in a life and death situation. A hard case obviously makes the best case, and you choose a good model like the Pelican Protector Series that will assure that your gun arrives in good order, and that will survive the trip itself. Features like fitted foam interiors and seals increase the protection a case provides.

Sometimes a hard case is impractical and for those situations, you will need a soft case that has a good amount of padding. Be sure to buy a case that is the right size for your gun. Add 1 ½ to 2 inches to a case’s listed interior length to be sure your gun fits easily inside.

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