Survival Gear Review: 5.11 Tactical Hard Case

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By Drew P •  9 min read

A lot of people spend thousands of dollars on firearms and accessories, but when it comes to training or protecting their investments, they tighten up. A good hard case may cost a couple hundred dollars but will probably save you money and heartbreak in the long run. Think of it as insurance; if you take your rifle to the range, travel, or fly, a good case is a must have.

Enter the 5.11 Tactical Hard Case. Taking this case out of the box, it was obvious right away that it is very well-made. It looks great. It has four beefy hinges and four latches. The outside dimensions are approximately 38.5”x 17”x 7″, and it weighs a hair over 17 pounds when empty (this differs slightly from the website specs). The case is injection molded from high strength polypropylene co-polymer resins. It is dust proof, crush proof, and watertight. The lid has foam glued inside. There are two removable foam inserts – one 1.75” thick, and one foam pad 0.5” thick. With inside dimensions of 36.5”x 14.5”, The 5.11 Tactical Hard Case can easily accommodate a 16” AR style rifle with the stock retracted, and its associated goodies.

Also Read: The Katrina Pistol Part I

The 5.11 Tactical Hard Case has two wheels on one end. I’ve never used a roller bag, but I could get used to this! It’s much easier to roll than carry, especially if you’re walking a long way in an airport. There are 4 metal reinforced padlock holes, and a pressure valve to regulate pressure inside the case. This is for pressure changes due to elevation and temperature fluctuation, to prevent damage to the case. The case surpasses current applicable Military Standards MIL-STD-810G and MIL-STD-648C.

The 5.11 website says this Tactical Hard Case is waterproof (to MIL-C-4150 Standards), even if fully submersed. As soon as I read that, I knew I’d have to test it out! Here’s some knowledge for you: Archimedes’ principle says the buoyant force exerted on a body in a fluid is equal to the weight of the fluid it displaces. Water weighs 62.4 pounds per cubic foot. If you have a box that displaces 1 cubic foot of water, you would have to put 62.4 pounds of force on that box to submerge it. That means, since this case is 38.5”x 17”x 7”, or 2.65 cubic feet, it would take 165 lbs to fully submerge it. Because the case weighs 17 pounds, assuming the case was a perfect rectangle, and with my weight being a lean 160 pounds, well, the case should sink if I stood on it. So, in theory, you can load this 5.11 case down with as much gear as you want (short of lead ingots) and it will still float. (And you probably didn’t think you’d learn anything here today). I filled the tub and tossed the case in. It floated without any problem. I stood on the 5.11 rifle case to submerge it, and waited until I got bored, which honestly didn’t take long. I took the case out of the bath, and upon opening, found that everything inside had remained bone dry. From what I’ve tested, you can rest assured this case is waterproof.  However, it did sink under my weight, so you will need to buy a separate stand-up paddle board.

Using this case is absolutely a delight! I use it to carry my guns to and from the truck when I go shooting in the desert. It fits behind the seats perfectly. I don’t have to worry about my optic going out of zero while it’s getting banged around on dirt roads. It keeps the harsh Vegas sun off my fine Rust-Oleum finish and the dust out of my Glock magazines. The handles are decently sized, well placed, and comfortable. People think the custom looking foam cutouts are right out of a John Wick movie (excellent Instagram material, btw). This 5.11 hard-sided  case is light years ahead of my soft case. If you have the means, you absolutely should treat yourself.

 Cutting the Foam

To cut a silhouette of your firearm and accessories, you should start by placing them on the foam to get an idea of how much room you have and how you will arrange them. I tried to keep at least two inches of foam between items, but it didn’t always work out. That’s okay. I arranged my goodies on the foam mirrored from how I wanted them; that way the sharpie lines wouldn’t be facing up. There are several ways you can cut the foam. You can try a long-bladed utility knife, filet knife, electric knife, or a hot wire. I decided to use an electric knife from Walmart, just to make my life easier. It was only $15, and it gave me an excuse to look at gun magazines and buy a corndog.EOTech The electric knife made cutting the foam a breeze. Don’t force the blade through the foam, just let it do its thing and trace slowly around the inside of your lines. If you cut exactly on your lines, the cutout will be too big. I recommend cutting at least ¼” inside your tracing. When you pull your firearm from the case, the top layer of foam may come out with it. You can glue the top layer to the layer underneath, if you wish. Spray glue or Gorilla Glue  are two options I am considering.

 Flying with a Firearm

There are a lot of reasons to fly with a firearm. A hunting trip, a training course, so you can carry your CCW at your destination, or just for the hell of it. It still is America, after all (in most places). Because the 5.11 Tactical Hard Case is a lockable rigid case with wheels, it is perfect for transporting via aircraft. Flying with a firearm is still easier than you might think.

First, check your local laws. Some places are not as gun friendly as others (we all know where I mean). Just to be clear, you cannot bring a firearm in your carry-on bag…even if you have a CCW, and even if the firearm is locked up. You cannot take magazines, gun parts, or ammo in your carry-on bag. However, per the TSA website, you CAN take rifle scopes in your carry-on bag.

Secondly, I would definitely check your airline’s website. They may have specific information on how much ammunition you can bring with you, and where and how to declare your firearm.

Also read: Building a TSA- Approved Bug Out Bag

Lastly, you need to check your firearm when you get to the terminal. I strongly dislike checking bags, but in this case, you will have to. This is a pretty easy process. All you must do is declare the case and firearms at the ticket counter. The idea of carrying my firearm into an airport made me pretty uneasy the first time; these days, people lose their minds over gun shaped Pop Tarts (I’m not kidding). Just be sure to keep the firearm locked up. You can call ahead at the airport if you gives you a warm and fuzzy.

When you arrive at your destination, all that’s left is to pick your firearms case up at the baggage claim at your destination. Just to be on the safe side, I take a picture of everything in the case and make sure I have the serial numbers written down. If you have a personal article policy through your insurance provider, they may cover your goods in the event something happens. Regarding locks, per the TSA website, “Only the passenger should retain the key or combination to the lock unless TSA personnel request the key to open the firearm container to ensure compliance with TSA regulations.” The TSA also states: “You may use any brand of or type of lock to secure your firearm case, including TSA-recognized locks.”

As far as ammunition goes, the amount you can fly with varies by airline. 11 pounds seems to be pretty standard. That’s about 350-400 rounds of 5.56 NATO or 9×19, give or take (despite their size differences, the two cartridges are pretty close in weight). The ammunition must be completely enclosed in a box (cardboard, plastic, etc.) or magazine. I take that to mean Magpul P-mags with the dust cover in place are OKAY, but aluminum GI mags that are open at the top are NOT okay. The TSA agent of the day will have the final judgement call on that. The ammunition can be transported in the same case as your firearm, and the firearm must be unloaded (no magazine inserted).

Back To Your Regularly Scheduled 5.11 Tactical Hard Case Review

If you can afford a good rigid case, I highly recommend it! A hard case will make your life easier and will help you exercise your second amendment rights away from home. 5.11 also carries 42” and  50” rigid cases for your longer hunting rifles or shotguns; they even offer handgun and camera sized rigid cases. If you’d like something soft with more storage, 5.11 offers options for you as well. And here’s my favorite detail: they’re made in the USA!

What do you think? Does a hard sided case make your SHTF plan or get daily use? Sound off in the comments below!


MIL-C-4150J, MILITARY SPECIFICATION: CASES, TRANSIT AND STORAGE, WATERPROOF AND WATER-VAPORPROOF (29 NOV 1989). Scope: This specification establishes the requirements for rigid, reusable, fire retardant, waterproof and water-vapor proof, rectangular cases manufactured from ferrous or non-ferrous metals or non-metallic materials.

MIL-STD-648C, DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE DESIGN CRITERIA STANDARD: SPECIALIZED SHIPPING CONTAINERS (11 FEB 1999). Scope: This standard establishes general design guidelines and associated tests for specialized shipping containers used by the Department of Defense. Definitive requirements for specific containers will be defined by the individual specification, acquisition, or task order. This standard is intended to be used as the basic reference document in all specifications and standards prescribing performance requirements to be applied to a shipping container.

MIL-STD-810G, DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE TEST METHOD STANDARD: ENVIRONMENTAL ENGINEERING CONSIDERATIONS AND LABORATORY TESTS (31 OCT 2008) (24 MB)., Scope: This standard contains material acquisition program planning and engineering direction for considering the influences that environmental stresses have on materiel throughout all phases of its service life.

Drew P

Along with Joel, Drew is one of the co-founders of SurvivalCache. Drew has been immersed in the firearms and outdoors culture since birth. He now is a factory-certified armorer for several firearms manufacturers, as well as an experienced DuraCoat finisher. He currently works with a local firearms training facility as an on-call armorer and gunsmith. Read his full interview here.