How to Buy a Gun Case

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By John J. Woods •  5 min read

Gun cases are made to protect guns.  Guns are tools, fine tools.  They deserve to be cared for so they can be expected to perform to their design potential.  Guns need regular maintenance, cleaning, repair, and proper storage.  Storage implies both during the time of use and afterwards.

All Gun Cases Are Not Created Equal

First and foremost a quality gun case is designed to protect a gun by “encasing” it in material that should cushion it from bumps, Glock Pistol Gun Casebangs, scratches, and the outside elements.  Ideally the case should be rather firm or hard shelled on the outside, but lined with soft material on the inside.  The closure mode these days is most often a heavy duty zipper arrangement.  Sometimes straps and buckles are used.  These types of gun cases are meant to be easily carried to and from camp and hunting either by hand or shoulder carry or slipped into a four-wheeler gun rack.

Exterior materials can be well tanned and oiled leather.  Leather used for fine gun cases is hard, stiff, weather resistant stuff.  Other Tommy Gunmaterials used are a wide variety of synthetics mostly some form of nylon.  Nylon wears well for a long time and also repels rain and mud.  Some modern cases today also have tough rubber-like material sewn around places where wear can be especially hard like the barrel end or around the carry handle section.

Gun cases are also made of canvas, suede leather, oiled cotton, and plain cotton.  These cases can afford decent gun protection if they are thick enough.  I prefer cases that are a bit stiff rather than limp.  If the case can stand in the corner or leaned up against a truck or four-wheeler by itself when empty without folding over and collapsing on the floor, then it passes my test.

Inside linings need to be tough, but soft.  I steer clear of the fuzzy wool type linings as they seem to snag on everything a gun is made of.  These kinds of linings also seem to hold excessive moisture which is detrimental to gun metal.  Linings can be slick nylon or cotton or other materials.  Some may be waterproof treated.  Check the product tag before you buy.

The weak link to most gun cases is the zipper.  Buy one with a real heavy duty zipper with padlock locking option.  ABS plastic strap buckles work well, too, but they do break.  Make sure they can be replaced by just slipping them off the strap rather than cutting threads that would have to be sewn again.

Still other cases are specifically made for the worst elements Mother Nature can dish out.  These cases are made of heavy nylon or a Mr Smashy's Pistol Collectionrubberized coated material.  The closure end double or triple folds onto itself then latches with heavy duty buckles.  Duck hunters carrying guns in boats or blinds like these cases.  They perform well on rainy day deer & elk hunts as well.

What Gun Cases Cannot Do

The general genre’ of gun cases discussed above cannot prevent outright abuse to an enclosed gun if the case is likewise mistreated.  I have seen gun cases run over with a truck, a four-wheeler, dragged behind an ATV by mistake, dropped from tree stands, and left out in the rain all night.  Some fine hunting rifles survived, but some did not.  I’ve seen bent barrels, broken stocks, crushed scopes, and other damage.  If the gun case is abused, expect the gun to be harmed eventually.

Ideally when a gun case gets wet through and through, it needs to be thoroughly dried out before it is used again.  Sustained moisture can weaken the case or residual moisture could damage the gun later.  An annual waterproofing spray can be applied to the outside of the case to add protection and a quick spray inside would not hurt anything either.

Likewise “soft” gun cases are not intended for long term storage.  Despite the best treatment efforts fabrics tend to retain moisture ITS Tactical - BFG Gun Case Multicameven low levels.  Guns left in these cases over the off season might succumb to rusting.  I have seen it happen several times, thus I don’t recommend gun cases for lengthy storage.

Certainly there are other uses for which gun cases are not intended, but I will leave that up to the user’s own common sense.  If you expect a gun case to protect your guns, then treat the case well, too.

Luggage Cases, Travel Vaults, and Security Cases

These are classified as gun cases I guess, but not in the traditional sense.  These types of gun and gear cases are made of stainless Pelican Hard Gun Casesteel, heavy aluminum, or industrial fiberglass.  They are intended for airline or train travel, law enforcement or military applications.  A lot of people refer to these extreme protective cases as Pelican ® cases after the trade name.  Of course, there are many brands and types of these cases.  These cases are not intended for casual everyday gun carry.

What sets this classification of gun cases apart is the attention to internal padding, exterior resistance to handling damage, and maximum locking capability.  These cases are not cheap, but offer the ultimate in gun protection.  They are also not meant for long term storage.

Some guns these days come from the factory in a plastic hinged rigid “hard” case.  These offer a measure of protection for carry to camp or in vehicle travel, but are not suitable as checked airline baggage.  I have seen these cases come off the baggage claim monster with barrels sticking out the end, crushed, cracked, and broken.  Just be forewarned.

Gun cases are a very common place hunting and shooting accessory that seems to get little attention.  And yet they are responsible for protecting valuable guns and scopes from everyday dents and scratches.  Buy a well made gun case, take care of it, and it will take care of your expensive guns.

Pelican Pistol Case
Shotgun Scabbard
Pelican Hard Gun Case

Photos by:
Mr Smashy

John J. Woods

John J. Woods, PhD, has been outdoor writing for over 35 years with over 3000 articles, and columns published on firearms, gun history, collecting, appraising, product reviews and hunting. Dr. Woods is currently the Vice President of Economic Development at a College in the Southern United States. Read his full interview here.