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Published Aug. 25, 2021

Shotgun cases protect your smoothbore. No matter how you travel, your gun should be in a case to protect it from the inevitable dings and bumps along the way. Some states have legal requirements about when a gun must be cased in a vehicle, and any gun you take on a plane or a train must be in a hard-sided, locking case. 

Not every gun case works in every situation. You may need more than one to keep your guns shielded from all the hazards of travel. There’s a case to protect any shotgun during any mode of travel, whether it’s a short drive to the gun club or a trip through a muddy field on the back of a four-wheeler. Any time you hit the road, you’ll want to keep your gun inside one of our shotgun cases picks.

Best Waterproof Gun Case: Pelican Storm Long Gun Case

Key Features

  • Weight:  20 pounds
  • Material: HPX resin, foam interior
  • Capacity: One long gun up to 52 inches

Why It Made The Cut

Trusted by photographers and researchers to protect cameras and delicate scientific instruments—tough, waterproof Pelican cases will keep your guns in one piece through the rigors of any travel.

Pros

  • Tough, resilient exterior
  • Seals to keep out moisture and dirt
  • Wheels for easy transport
  • Floats

Cons

  • Heavy for plastic
  • May be too bulky for bush planes

The industry standard in plastic cases for years, Pelican cases seal so tightly they need to have a built-in pressure relief valve so they can open easily. Made from tough HPX resin, the Storm case is built to fall from conveyor belts, bounce in pickup beds and even go overboard. It has four padlock-able hasps and five latches to ensure your gun is still inside the case when you reach your destination. Three soft-grip handles and small wheels at one end make it easy to transport. The soft foam cushions your shotgun to prevent it from being banged up in the case. The largest model will accommodate semiauto target guns with 30-inch barrels and extended chokes or 34-inch O/Us.

Best Value Shotgun Case for Air Travel: Flambeau Outdoors Double Coverage Single Long Gun Case

Key Features

  • Weight:  13 pounds
  • Material: Two layers of High Density Polyethylene (HDPE), foam interior, Zerust treatment
  • Capacity: One long gun up to 47.5 inches

Why It Made The Cut

A double wall of plastic shells protects guns while Zerust treatment fights corrosion, all at a reasonable price.

Pros

  • Sturdy double-layer protection
  • Zerust inhibits corrosion
  • Lockable for air travel

Cons

  • Will not hold long target shotguns

Flambeau has been making plastic products in northeast Ohio since 1948, and while generations of anglers have depended on Flambeau tackle boxes to protect their lures, the company makes solid gun cases as well. The Double Coverage case consists of inner and outer HDPE shells with an air space in between to protect your gun. Crush-proof posts separate the shells, and a thick foam lining surrounds your gun. The case has two locking points for padlocks and four latches. A gasket helps keep dirt and water out. 

The case comes with a Zerust plaque that releases a harmless, non-toxic, odorless vapor that protects a gun from corrosion for up to five years. Don’t let the presence of Zerust make you think this is a good case for long-term storage. No hard case is, but it’s still worth having some rust protection on your side, as guns can corrode in a few hours in the right conditions. This case won’t fit your target gun but will hold a pump or semiauto with a 28-inch barrel which is standard shotgun size.

Best Shotgun Case for Duck Hunting: Drake Waterfowl Floating Side-Opening Padded Gun Case

Key Features

  • Capacity: Guns up to 51.5” (30-inch barreled semiauto with extended tube)
  • Material: Nylon exterior and an interior filled with padded flotation material
  • Closure: Velcro top and side closure, top snap

Why It Made The Cut

Waterproof gun cases are hard to dry, and Drake’s full-length side opening lets you air this case out.

Pros

  • Floats
  • Easy to Dry
  • Padded shoulder strap

Cons

  • Velcro will eventually let water in
  • Accessory Pocket too small

Floating gun cases are standard issue for waterfowlers. Their zipperless top openings are convenient and won’t scratch wooden stocks, but their biggest drawback is that it’s almost impossible to dry out or clean the inside. Drake’s unique take on this popular design features a full-length Velcro opening so you can air the case out or clean it if you’ve left a very muddy gun inside. The padding protects your gun and doubles as flotation if it falls out of a boat. The tradeoff to the side-opening feature is that the case isn’t as fully water-tight as its competitors. So if you lost your gun overboard, it might be wet when you find it hours later. It features a comfortable padded strap and carry handle, and an accessory pocket, which is big enough to hold a choke tube and wrench but not much more. The top closes with both Velcro and a snap to keep your gun from falling out.

Best Shotgun Case for Sporting Clays: Browning Fitted Luggage Case

Key Features

  • Weight: 10 pounds
  • Material: Vinyl-covered wood with plush interior
  • Capacity: Break action gun up to 34-inch barrel

Why It Made The Cut

A classic luggage-style takedown case to protect your precious target gun on the way to and from the club.

Pros

  • Convenient size
  • Soft plush interior
  • Good looks

Cons

  • Not for air travel

Hard-working target guns deserve to travel in pampered comfort, and Browning has offered these fitted luggage cases for years for just that purpose. Plush dividers separate compartments for the stock, barrel/forend, accessories and choke tubes, and the padded interior protects guns from bumps and bruises along the way. The faux-leather vinyl exterior with brass accents looks much more elegant than it should, in a throwback kind of way. Four hinges help the case open smoothly, and two locking clasps close it.

Although the case is hard-sided and locks and technically qualifies as TSA approve for air travel, this is not a case built for the hard knocks of carousels and conveyor belts at the airport. It’s made to be compact and good-looking, fit into any car trunk, and secure your gun at the range. Although designed with Browning guns in mind, it will fit any break-action target gun.

Best Shotgun Sleeve: Banded Gear Packable Gun Case

Key Features

  • Material: 210D ripstop nylon
  • Capacity: one shotgun, any length
  • Closure: Velcro

Why It Made The Cut

A simple sleeve protects your gun and keeps you on the right side of the law.

Pros

  • Water-resistant
  • Includes travel bag
  • Inexpensive

Cons

  • No padding
  • Not waterproof

This inexpensive, handy case is perfect for the traveling waterfowler or any duck hunter who needs to keep mud and dirt off their gun. It’s not the case for your pretty O/U, and it won’t keep water out forever. But it’s perfect for a muddy ATV ride to the blind or for satisfying legal requirements in states that require guns to be cased when transported in a vehicle.

The ripstop nylon sleeve comes in three camo patterns, and the top rolls down to fit any gun and closes with Velcro. A zippered pocket holds the ripstop storage bag, making this case very convenient to stash in a blind bag or pack for a trip. It will hold shotguns of any length, and it has both a carry handle and a shoulder strap for packing it in on walk-in hunts. There’s also a hang tab on the muzzle end.  For about $20, this sleeve is cheap insurance against scratches and a possible violation for having an uncased gun in a vehicle.

Methodology

Having traveled around the country and abroad to hunt for the past 35 years, I have transported guns in planes, in cars, on ATVs, on horseback, in boats and on foot. 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 gun immobile to prevent it from bouncing around.)
  • Durability (Cases not only have to protect guns, they have to hold up to hard use themselves.)
  • Capacity (Will it fit any shotgun? 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 Before Buying a Shotgun Case

Be sure you’re following the law when you choose a case. Cases for air and Amtrak travel must be hard-sided and lockable. Choose padlocks rather than combination locks, as sometimes you’ll be asked to give the key to your case to a TSA agent. Some states require guns transported in a vehicle be stored in a closed case and a packable gun case makes cheap insurance against a citation.

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 from several months, say between hunting seasons, leave the case open or put a silica desiccant inside. Occasionally take the gun out for inspection and a wipe down with a lightly oiled cloth.

Be sure to choose the right length case for your gun. Measure from the butt to the end of any extended choke tubes, and add at least an inch and a half. That’s the internal dimension you’ll need. Shotguns with mounted optics or other accessories may not fit in shotgun cases and may require a rifle case. If you’re choosing a takedown model, measure to be sure it’s long enough to accommodate the gun’s barrel.

FAQs

Q: Do shotguns come with a case?

Many guns do come with a hard plastic case. Some of those cases are even lockable, but by and large, they are too flimsy to stand up to the abuses of air travel. Your gun will probably survive the trip, but the case may not, and you’ll be stuck without a case for the trip home. They do offer good protection for your gun on a road trip, and they make a handy place to keep accessories like choke tubes and maybe a bottle of oil, small rag, and a boresnake all together in one place.

Q: Can I put a shotgun in a rifle case?

You can put a shotgun in a rifle case if the case is long enough. Most shotguns other than turkey, home defense, and slug models have longer barrels than most rifles, and they may be too long to fit in a rifle case. On the other hand, if you mount an optic on your shotgun, or if it has a tactical pistol grip, it may not fit into soft cases designed for traditional shotguns. Then, a rifle case may be a better fit.

Q: Which is better, hard or soft case?

Whether you choose a hard or soft case depends on how you’re transporting your gun. A hard case offers better protection, but it adds bulk and weight you may not need if you’re planning to carry the gun in its case, say, to a duck blind.

Q: How much does a Pelican gun case cost?

Pelican cases are recognized as one of the best in the industry, and they come in several sizes, including takedown models and full-length cases that hold two guns. They range from around $200 to $400 depending on size, material, and features.


Final Thoughts

A gun is more than a tool of the hunt, although it is definitely an indispensable part of any trip. It also might be an heirloom and a treasured possession. Choosing the best case for your needs helps keep that gun intact. We made Pelican cases our top choice because of their solid construction and reputation and because they are suitable for air, boat, and back-of-the-pickup travel.

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