The Benefits of Hard Cases Compared to Soft Cases
Why use a hard case instead of a soft case?
While it’s true that soft cases do offer some advantages over hard cases, such as a lighter weight and smaller footprint, hard cases have just as many advantages.
One big advantage is that if you want to fly with your AR-15, you need a hard case. The TSA does not allow firearms to be checked aboard a plane in a soft case.
Hard cases are also harder to steal than a soft case. They tend to have padlock holes spaced equally around the perimeter of the case. They are also impervious against knives so a thief cannot cut open the case to get the guns inside.
Hard cases are also better at protecting your guns from environmental hazards. Soft cases can, at most, be resistant to brief exposure to rain. A high-quality hard case can be so waterproof that it is airtight!
Soft cases can wear out, especially the sewn parts, whereas a hard gun case has much more longevity.
Finally, and perhaps most crucially, hard cases are much better at protecting your guns from knocks, scrapes, drops, and other physical abuse. The plastic shell may get dinged up but the gun inside will be perfectly safe.
Soft cases can allow force to be transmitted to the gun inside, so a drop onto concrete can damage your AR-15 or its optics.
If you want to best protect your AR-15, a hard case is the best choice.
How to Choose an AR-15 Hard Case?
There are a lot of different hard cases out there. A hard rifle case is an investment to protect an investment, so even the cheapest one is still not that cheap. And the most expensive hard cases can be as expensive as some guns!
So, how are you supposed to choose which case to buy?
The following advice will help you decide what you need in a case. You may not care about every criterion, so feel free to ignore the advice you do not need.
Heavy or Light Duty?
First of all, where are you going to be using the gun case?
If you are only ever going to be taking it to a friendly gun range, then you do not need to fork out the cash for a thick, durable shell. A lightweight hard case will be good enough to handle an accidental drop in the parking lot.
However, if you are going to be traveling with your case through dangerous terrain, then a thicker shell will be worth the expense.
And if you are going on a boat, make sure to pay for a waterproof model. Then when you get the case, be sure to test the waterproofing in your bathtub at home.
You don’t want to get into the field only to find out that something went awry when the case was made and your case is not actually waterproof!
Another thing to keep in mind is what you want to keep in the case along with your gun. Do you want to bring a sidearm? A couple of magazines? A lot of magazines?
Hard cases, unlike soft cases with their external pockets, do not have much internal storage capacity.
Case accessories such as dividers can make it easier to bring gun accessories along for the trip. Easily-removed foam can also help maximize what you can carry in a hard case.
Something else that is extremely important is to pay attention to the size of the case. The ends of the case cut off around two inches of space from the interior, so make sure that you do not order a gun case that is too small for your rifle.
Most of the cases are designed to hold an AR-15 in its shortest configuration, with the stock collapsed. So if you have a pinned stock or a fixed stock, you may need to buy a larger size.
The same goes for long barrel lengths or if you have an AR-10 instead of an AR-15.
A good idea to ensure that you are buying the properly-sized case is to measure your rifle from buttstock to the end of the muzzle or muzzle device, then add two inches.
If that is close to the measurement of the case, size up. It is better to have a too-large case than a too-small case. Think of it as extra room for accessories, anyway.
Most hard cases have sections around the outside for padlocks.
However, some of the cheaper cases only have a couple of lockable areas. If the locks are not spaced around properly, then a thief can get into the case even when it is locked.
Plastic can bend, so if the locks are spaced too far apart, a thief might be able to pry the case apart enough to grab a slim object inside and pull it out. Such as, say, an AR-15.
To keep your gun safe, make sure there are plenty of places for padlocks to keep this from happening. Two lock holes do not cut it.
Velcro straps inside can help foil a thievery attempt as well, as the thief may be unable to undo the Velcro.
Part of the appeal of the AR-15 platform is how easy it is to modify your gun and make it uniquely yours.
Your choice of gun case can reflect this as well.
While no hard case will ever be quite as customizable as an AR-15, some are more easily modified than others.
A case with cutouts already in place for an AR-15 may be easy, but then you have to use the configuration someone at the factory envisioned.
That may be good enough for some people, but others may have unique needs when it comes to how the gear in their case is laid out.
Perhaps you prefer 20 round magazines instead of the standard 30, or your rifle has a unique optic setup that does not fit into pre-made cutouts. Or maybe you have a minimalist stock and the normal cutout will leave too much open space.
Whatever the case, you may prefer a hard case with a third piece of foam in the middle. That way you can cut out precisely the foam you want.
Pelican cases are the best for this, even if they are not the easiest. Cheaper cases tend to have less rigid foam.
Here’s a trick to approach Pelican quality using a cheaper case with cheaper foam:
After you cut out the foam in the shape you want, spray the foam with Plasti Dip. The Plasti Dip will cover the foam and make a soft yet firm surface, while still allowing the foam to absorb impacts and cushion your rifle!