Nowadays, you can spend over $2,500 on a fancy custom AR-15 or under $500 on a no-frills AR-15 that still works perfectly fine.
Regardless of how much you spend on the gun, you still need to protect it.
What, are you just going to toss it in the back seat and drive to the range? That’s a sure way to attract unwanted attention.
Carry bags, whether for rifles or pistols, are good at hiding the gun from wandering eyes. They also make transport easier and, even better, often have storage space for magazines, personal safety equipment, and more.
We’ll cover the pros and cons of both hard and soft AR-15 gun cases as well as review the best cases of both types.
The Best AR-15 Gun Cases: Outdoor Empire Reviews
These are our top recommendations for rifle cases of 2021:
- Best AR-15 hard case: Boyt H36SG Hard Sided Travel Case
- Best AR-15 soft case: Bulldog Cases Ultra-Compact AR-15 Discreet Rifle Case
*Looking for a specific feature? Check out our quick-reference chart below:
|Category||The best AR-15 hard case||The best AR-15 soft case|
|Material||120D polypropylene with powder-coated steel latches||Ballistic nylon|
|Storage||Egg crate foam||Two compartments and two magazine pockets|
|Dimensions||38" long x 15.75" wide x 5" high||29" long x 9" wide x 2" high|
|Available Colors||Black and flat dark earth||Black and navy blue|
|Misc||O-ring gasket for dust and water resistance and ball bearing wheels||Place-anywhere straps|
|Price||Check Price||Check Price|
1. Boyt H36SG Hard Sided Travel Case
Material: 120D polypropylene with powder-coated steel latches
Storage: Egg crate foam
Dimensions: 38″ long x 15.75″ wide x 5″ high
Available Colors: Black and flat dark earth
Misc: O-ring gasket for dust and water resistance and ball bearing wheels
The Boyt H36SG is one product in a line of robust, hard-sided gun cases. This particular case is sized for an AR or other carbines. If you have a particularly long AR-15, an AR-10, or a larger tactical rifle, the H41XD may be a better choice.
It is made from thick polypropylene plastic and has a gasket all the way around to keep out moisture and contaminants. The latches are draw-style powder-coated steel, which you can replace.
There are six holes for padlocks around the outside of the case. The handles have detents to hold them in place, either up or down.
The foam inside is almost too thick because you have to cut some out in order to properly fit your AR-15 inside and close the latches tightly. Unfortunately, it is not the type of foam that is designed to be easily cut out.
- Dust and water resistant gasket
- Extremely thick shell
- High-quality replaceable latches
- Six padlock positions
- Mediocre foam situation
The Boyt H36SG is tough enough to serve as a jack stand, so you can trust it to protect your AR-15 from whatever may threaten your gun.
2. Case Club Pre-Made AR15 Waterproof Rifle Case
Material: Heavyweight polymer
Storage: Closed-cell polyethylene foam with pre-made cutouts
Dimensions: Fits an AR-15 up to 35.5″ long
Available Colors: Black
Misc: Silica gel desiccant canister included
The Case Club Pre-Made AR15 Waterproof Rifle Case is designed with two types of foam so you can toss in your AR-15 and a sidearm with little to no cutting of the foam.
If you do need to cut the foam to fit an optic, the foam is perforated for easy removal. There are already cutouts for a rifle, a pistol, two rifle magazines, a pistol magazine, a silica gel desiccant container (included), and a waterproof accessory container (also included). The case even comes with a knife for cutting the foam!
There are five latches around the outside of the case, and you can add padlocks. One of the latches is in the middle of the single carrying handle, which can make it a little uncomfortable to operate.
The lid only opens 90 degrees, which means that it has a tendency to fall shut if opened on a non-level surface.
The case can hold an AR-15 that’s up to 35.5″ long with a collapsible stock. Sorry, fixed stocks will not fit.
- Can also hold a sidearm
- Comes with desiccant and accessories
- Foam has been pre-cut for an AR-15
- Fixed stocks will not fit
- Lid only opens 90 degrees and can fall shut
The Case Club Pre-Made case is excellent for AR-15 carbines but will not fit ARs with fixed stocks.
3. Flambeau Tactical 6500AR Case
Storage: Egg crate foam with Velcro straps and optional plastic dividers
Dimensions: 41.5″ long x 15″ wide x 5″ high
Available Colors: Black
Misc: Zerust molded into the magazine dividers
The Flambeau Outdoors 6500AR Tactical AR Case is purpose-built for an AR-15 carbine. While it may not have pre-made closed cell foam, the open-cell egg crate foam does a good job of holding your gun in place, especially with the addition of the Velcro straps.
You have to remove the foam to install the straps to the polypropylene shell, then thread them through slits in the foam. There are also optional magazine dividers which install in a similar way. You can even remove the foam in those sections for more storage capacity.
The four latches are made from molded plastic so they are not as tough as some of the hard cases on this list. They do work perfectly fine, though. There are also holes for padlocks.
Oh, and those magazine dividers include Zerust to protect your gun against corrosion from moisture.
- Velcro straps to hold your AR-15 in place
- Zerust in the magazine dividers for corrosion resistance
- Thicker than it needs to be
- Thin latch plastic
With built-in corrosion resistance and modular storage components, the Flambeau Tactical 6500AR Case is great for a single AR-15.
Compare prices at: Walmart
4. Pelican 1700 Rifle Case
Material: Copolymer Polypropylene
Storage: Three piece foam set
Dimensions: 38.12″ long x 16″ wide x 6.12″ high
Available Colors: Black, olive drab green, and flat dark earth
Misc: Double-throw latches, waterproof O-ring, steel-reinforced padlock protectors, automatic pressure equalization valve, and ball bearing wheels
Pelican cases are some of the best in the business, whether you need to protect cameras, fishing equipment, or firearms.
Their 1700 Rifle Case is perfect for an AR-15 or other, similarly-sized rifle. The foam does not come pre-cut, which means that you have to figure out where to position everything.
Even though you have to cut the foam for yourself, this allows you to customize the case to your exact requirements.
This case can fit an AR-15 along with ample amounts of magazines, accessories, and even a sidearm or two, if you desire.
The case itself is extremely durable. The walls have foam cores for strength while reducing weight.
The padlock holes are reinforced with stainless steel. The latches are a double-throw style for strength and ease of use.
The Pelican 1700 is so waterproof, it’s airtight. It has a pressure equalization valve to ensure the case is easy to open.
You can also order an engraved nameplate!
- Extremely durable
- Pressure relief valve
- Strong and easy to use latches
- Foam is not pre-cut or perforated
If you can spare the expense, the Pelican 1700 is the best possible case for your AR-15 or any other tactical firearm.
5. Plano All Weather Tactical Gun Case, 36″
Material: Heavy duty polymer
Storage: Egg crate foam and customizable foam insert
Dimensions: 39-7/8″ long x 15-5/8″ wide x 5-5/8″ high
Available Colors: Black
Misc: Waterproof seal and pressure relief valve
The best Plano gun case for AR-15 rifles is the All Weather Tactical Gun Case. It is sized to hold a single AR-15, although you may have to angle the gun in the case in order to fit if you have a long barrel or fixed stock.
Thankfully, the central foam piece is perforated for easy customization. Just pluck out the pieces you want to get a layout you need.
There is enough room inside the case to fit some accessories and magazines for the rifle, and perhaps a sidearm if you desire.
A waterproof seal keeps moisture out. Because it is airtight, there is a pressure relief valve so you do not have to struggle to get it open.
There are five latches. They work well but are not the highest quality.
There is a 42″ version available if you have a pinned or fixed stock and need the extra length.
- Easily customized pluck-out foam
- Pressure relief valve
- May be too small for AR-15s without collapsible stocks without going up in size
- Mediocre locks
- Foam is not as high-quality as some of the other cases on this list
If you want a no-frills yet weather-resistant hard case, the Plano All Weather Tactical Gun Case is a good choice.
6. Bulldog Cases Ultra-Compact AR-15 Discreet Rifle Case
Material: Ballistic nylon
Storage: Two compartments and two magazine pockets
Dimensions: 29″ long x 9″ wide x 2″ high
Available Colors: Black and navy blue
Misc: Place-anywhere straps
Bulldog Cases have put out a variety of tactical carbine cases, and one of the best is the Ultra-Compact AR-15 Discreet Rifle Case.
Unlike any of the other cases on this list, this carrying bag is specific to the AR platform. That is because you need to separate the upper assembly from the lower assembly in order to use this case.
There is a padded divider between the two halves. You use the included Velcro straps to attach the upper to one half and the lower to the other half.
One side of the divider has two pockets for 30 round magazines. You can toss more into the carrying case if you do not mind them bouncing around.
The outer shell is ballistic nylon with a heavyweight zipper pull. The carrying handles wrap around the bottom of the bag.
And yes, this soft case can fit an M16A2 style 20″ upper.
Be aware that if you have lots of accessories on your gun’s handguards, such as lights and lasers, they can cause the case to bulge a little bit.
- Customizable strap locations
- Very compact and discreet
- Minimal storage opportunities
Bulldog Cases Ultra-Compact AR-15 Discreet Rifle Case is perfect when you need to transport your AR-15 with the utmost stealth.
7. Condor Single Rifle Case
Material: Ballistic nylon
Storage: Central compartment, side compartment, and three side pockets
Dimensions: 43″ long x 13″ wide x 3″ high
Available Colors: Black, olive drab, and tan
Misc: Removable shoulder strap and internal sidearm pockets
Condor does not just make rifle carrying cases. They also make tactical vests and plate carriers, so they are experienced in making rugged products. The Condor Single Rifle Case is no less durable.
This case is available in 42″ and 36″ sizes. All of the straps are well-sewn and wrap around the case for strength. The zipper pulls are lockable.
The carrying handles wrap around each other for ease of carrying. There is also a removable shoulder strap, which attaches along the center of the case. It is a little awkward to use, but it’s better than nothing. Two shoulder straps would have been a better option.
There is ample storage. There are two internal pockets for sidearms or magazines, a permanent side compartment, and three MOLLE pouches attached to the side as well.
Parts of the case are compatible with ALICE clips if you prefer old-school military gear!
Your gun straps in under two straps, with the buttstock and muzzle nestled in two half pockets.
- ALICE and MOLLE compatible
- Good amount of customizable storage
- Very rugged for a soft case
- Would be better with two shoulder straps instead of one
The Condor Single Rifle Case is as rugged and customizable as a good plate carrier.
8. Lancer Tactical Double Carbine Soft Case
Material: 600D Polyester
Storage: Large central compartment with side compartment, three side pockets, and two small unzippable side compartments
Available Sizes: 36″ and 42″
Available Colors: Black, coyote brown, disruptive gray, olive drab green, and tan
Misc: Shoulder straps, ID pocket, and an interior divider that can be used as a shooting mat
The Lancer Tactical Double Carbine Soft Case can carry two rifles comfortably as well as an additional pistol or SBR. It is available in five colors and two sizes.
There is a great amount of storage, as there is the central compartment with an interior divider, a side compartment, three side pockets, and even two small pockets flush with the side of the case. You can also use the MOLLE webbing to add more pockets if you wish!
The central compartment has an interior divider, two Velcro straps per side, and muzzle/buttstock sleeves to hold your rifles in place.
That interior divider is made of thick padding and is removable so you can use it as a shooting mat. The side pockets are not removable but they are large enough to store a good amount of shooting equipment.
- Backpack straps
- Can hold two rifles and a pistol
- Includes a shooting mat
- Large amount of storage
- MOLLE webbing
- Not quite as rugged as it looks
The Lancer Tactical Double Carbine Soft Case is a great choice to carry two AR-15s and all of their gear, with room to spare.
9. NcSTAR VISM Deluxe Padded Rifle Case
Material: 600D Polyester
Storage: Internal compartment and five magazine pockets
Available Sizes: 22.75″, 23″, 24″, 30″, 36″, 38″, 40″, 42″, 46″, and 52″
Available Colors: ACU digital camo, black, blue, green digital camo, green, tan, urban gray, and woodland camo
Misc: Shoulder strap and ID pocket
The NcSTAR VISM Deluxe Padded Rifle Case comes in a variety of sizes, from 22.75″ to 52″. The 36″ case will likely be a good choice for most 16″ AR-15 rifles. Make sure to measure your gun and add 2″ to the length to find the best size for your specific rifle.
The case is made from 600D polyester. The handles wrap around the bottom of the bag for strength and wrap around each other.
The only external storage is a cluster of five magazine pouches, which are designed to hold AR-15 magazines. You can stuff a second magazine into each pocket if you want to.
The shoulder strap runs along the bottom edge of the bag, which means that if you use the shoulder strap, the bag will hang upside down. Make sure the zippers are closed!
- Variety of sizes
- Little wasted space
- The bag is upside down when using the shoulder strap
- The flap over the magazine pouches does not work that well
- Not as durable as some of the other soft cases
The Deluxe Padded Rifle Case by NcSTAR’s VISM division is a perfectly acceptable soft case for a single AR-15 and five or more magazines.
10. Savior Equipment American Classic Tactical Gun Bag
Material: 600D Nylon
Storage: Central compartment, side compartment, and three side pockets
Available Sizes: 36″, 42″, 46″, and 55″
Available Colors: Ash gray, flat dark earth tan, obsidian black, and olive drab green
Misc: Shoulder straps and MOLLE grid
The Savior Equipment American Classic Tactical Double Long Rifle Gun Bag is a soft case with two backpack-style shoulder straps, so you do not have to tire your arm carrying it around.
It is available in four different colors and four different sizes, from 36″ to 55″. Each size is designed to carry two rifles in the large interior compartment and two pistols in the exterior compartment.
Velcro straps, along with muzzle and stock sleeves, keep your rifles from moving around. There is a padded partition between the two rifles.
All along the side of the case is MOLLE webbing for easily adding ALICE or MOLLE pockets to the three that come with the case.
The zippers are lockable. Instead of metal zipper pulls, the zipper pulls are paracord.
- ALICE and MOLLE compatible
- Backpack-style shoulder straps
- Can carry two AR-15s and two pistols
- Padded edges, not just sides
- Backpack straps might be uncomfortable to wear if you have a broad chest
- The straps are not as strong as they could be
The Savior Equipment American Classic Tactical Double Rifle Bag is a great soft case when you need to carry two AR-15s and all the equipment to go with them.
What to Look For in an AR-15 Case?
Not all gun cases are created equal. Regardless of your choice between a soft or hard case for your AR-15, there are four criteria to keep in mind as you shop for the case.
You want a case for your gun that can handle a good amount of abuse. If it cannot hold up to daily wear, then at best the money you spent on it was wasted, and at worst, your expensive firearm can be damaged!
Hard cases are theoretically more durable than soft cases due to the nature of being made from solid polymer instead of soft fabric. However, when cheap plastic fails, it does so spectacularly and can even shatter.
Soft cases, however, will start to fray before they fail and can be repaired with a modicum of sewing skill. You still want to keep an eye out for double stitching and heavyweight fabric such as nylon. Also, look for handles that wrap under the case rather than stop as soon as they are sewn in.
No matter what, read the reviews to see if customers report durability issues.
The biggest reason to use a gun case is to protect your firearm. What’s the point if it fails at this task?
The more padding, the less outside force can affect the gun inside the case. A hard shell protects even better, albeit at the expense of weight and bulk.
Most soft-sided cases have a bit of water resistance. Tightly-woven fabric will keep rain out unless it gets soaked for too long. Hard shells are better at keeping out water, but unless there is a gasket to seal the edges, some moisture can seep in.
You do not want a gun case that is too large or too small for your gun.
If it is too small, your AR-15 will generally not be able to fit. You might be able to make it fit by separating the upper and lower, but not always. On the other hand, gun cases that are too large will waste space.
One way to determine the size you need is to measure the length of your rifle and add 2″. That should give you the size case you need.
Don’t forget to take optics into account! Some gun cases are designed for iron sights and are not tall enough to safely store a gun with a scope.
You may or may not need storage on your rifle carry bag, but it is almost always a good idea.
What do you intend to carry with the gun? Spare magazines? Earmuffs and safety glasses? Targets?
If you are already bringing a range bag, you may not need storage space for those miscellaneous items.
Magazine pockets are almost always good, however.
Soft vs. Hard Cases for AR-15s Compared
The question between a hard-sided case or a soft-sided case is a difficult one. I cannot answer it for you, but I can offer some advice. In the section below I’ll compare different categories of hard and soft cases, as well as specific pros and cons in certain contexts, and determine the best option for each.
Air Travel – Hard Cases
If you need a gun carrying case for flying in the United States, the only answer is a hard case.
Under TSA regulations, a firearm has to travel as checked baggage inside a hard-shell case.
The case also has to be locked using enough TSA-approved locks around the outside of the case that you cannot open a gap large enough to squeeze out the gun.
Economy – Soft Cases
Not everyone has an unlimited budget. While there are cheap hard cases and expensive soft cases, the average hard case is more expensive than the average soft case.
If you want to save money on your case so you can afford more ammunition, then a soft case is a great idea.
If you want the best case possible for your gun, then you can spend a hundred dollars or more on a hard case.
But most people are looking to get the most out of their dollar, so the budget-friendliness of soft cases wins out here.
Protection – Hard Cases
Basically, hard cases are tougher than soft cases. This is because they are made from rigid plastic and lined with a large amount of foam. The foam keeps the gun from bouncing around inside the case and the plastic protects against sharp objects, knock, and scrapes.
Soft-sided cases lack the impact-resistant polymer sides. If something knocks into the soft case, the force might get transferred to the gun inside.
There will be a tough woven outer coating and some padding on the inside of a soft case, but not as much as with a hard case. Guns are also more apt to sliding around inside a soft case.
So, a hard case will be able to protect its contents better than a soft case.
Water Resistance – Hard Cases
Hard cases sometimes have a seal all the way around their edges, so they are not only water resistant but waterproof as well. You may not want to store them underwater, but some can survive temporary immersion. As a bonus point, those cases might be able to float!
Soft cases may not be waterproof but they will resist rain. Tightly woven strands of nylon are pretty good at keeping water from flowing through. Immersion or being exposed to extended periods of rainfall can push water through the fibers, but most soft cases will still shrug off short bouts of water contact.
This means that they can breathe (and dry) better, while a waterproof hard case can keep any water inside stuck there. If you use your firearm in rainy conditions, you should wipe it down before putting it away.
With a soft-sided gun case, moisture can evaporate out of it even if you did not get all of the water off your firearm. However, a hard case is less permeable, so the moisture inside hangs around. This can lead to rusting on your firearm if you are not attentive.
Despite this, the advantage still goes to hard cases.
Modification and Repairability – Soft Cases
Hard cases cannot be modified except by adding external locks. You can also lock most soft cases, so this is not much of an advantage.
Soft cases, meanwhile, are made from fabric. If you sew, or know someone who does, then you can modify or repair a soft-sided gun case.
Stitching wears out over time, similar to how plastic gets stressed through repeated use. But hard cases are not modular and once a hinge breaks, that’s the end of the case.
But if a soft case’s stitching starts to fray, you can sew it back to normal. If a zipper comes loose, you can replace the zipper. If there is a tear, you can sew up the tear.
This also means that you can add on to a soft-sided case. Do you want more storage capacity? Sew it on! Need a shoulder strap when there is not one? Add one!
About the only modification you can add to a hard case is a sticker or glued-on Velcro patch. Soft cases, however, are easily modified however you want. So the advantage here goes to them.
Bulk – Soft Cases
Soft cases have some padding and a form-fitted design, which means that they take up only a small amount of space around the gun they are holding.
Hard cases, by contrast, take up a large amount of space. This is because of the hard plastic and the foam necessary to keep the gun from bouncing against the hard outer shell, all of which adds to the dimensions of the case.
If you have a smaller vehicle then a hard case may be too long to comfortably fit inside. This is especially the case with smaller cars. I have even had to angle a hard case vertically, as if it were another passenger in the car!
Even with magazine pockets on the outside, you can often fit several soft cases in the same amount of space as a single hard case. Or you can fit them into a stealthier position.
The advantage therefore goes to soft cases here.
Storing the Case When Not in Use – Soft Cases
The bulk of a case is especially important when you are not using the case to carry a gun. Ideally, your firearms will be locked in a gun safe when not in use, but you will still need to store the empty gun case.
Hard cases take up the same amount of space whether they are empty or full. Owning cases for multiple guns adds up fast, and before you know it, your closet is overflowing with gun cases.
Soft cases, however, collapse down when they are empty. You may even be able to fold them into a smaller shape.
If you have a small living space with not much storage area, then a soft case is doubly advantageous.
Theft Prevention – Hard Cases
Hard cases are generally better at protecting your AR-15 against sticky fingers than soft cases.
You can often lock the zippers of soft-sided cases, but a knife can easily cut the fabric and render that lock moot.
Also, because they are smaller and lighter, a soft case makes it easier for someone to pick up and walk away with your gun!
Hard cases, however, are impervious to cutting implements. A potential thief will be unable to slice their way in. They will have to go through the locks or steal the case itself.
Since hard cases are larger and heavier, it is easier to spot someone trying to steal your gun case.
Just make sure to use all of the lockable areas around the case. If you do not, it may be possible for a thief to open the case just enough to pull the gun through the gap, even with a lock on the case!
Stealth – Soft Cases
While hard cases are harder to steal from, they are also more obvious targets. It is more difficult to conceal a hard-sided gun case in your vehicle than it is to conceal a smaller soft case.
Soft cases tend to be more obvious as a carrier for firearm equipment, which makes them a prime target for thieves, whereas hard cases can look like other types of sporting goods, such as fishing gear.
However, nearly any type of sports item is a good target for thieves, so this does not swing the advantage in favor of hard cases. Soft cases still take the lead when it comes to stealth because of how much easier they are to conceal.
Storage Space – Soft Cases
Soft cases often have additional storage compartments attached to the side of the carrying case. These can hold magazines and more.
Hard cases do not always have the capacity to store more than the gun itself. Good ones will often have cutouts for magazines or even personal safety equipment, but this is almost always a smaller amount of storage capacity compared to a soft-sided case of the same size.
Also, as mentioned before, you can add additional storage pockets to soft cases, so the advantage here goes to soft cases.
Hard Case Pros
- Can be used to transport a firearm on an airplane
- More protective than a soft-sided case
- Some are sealed and waterproof
- Resistant to theft
Hard Case Cons
- Bulky so they are harder to store and harder to travel with
- Cannot be repaired if they become damaged
- Heavier than soft cases
Soft Case Pros
- Can be repaired with a sewing kit
- Can be modified and upgraded at home
- External storage
- Not bulky
- Often cheaper than hard-sided cases
- Stores better when not in use
Soft Case Cons
- Cannot be sealed against the elements
- Easier for someone to cut into and steal your gun
- Not as protective as hard-sided cases
- Unsuitable for airline travel
Top Rifle Case Brands
Bulldog focuses on ways to store guns. Mostly these are gun bags and cases, but they also sell holsters, vaults, and pistol rugs.
The various bags put out by Bulldog are all fair in price. They are not the fanciest products on the market, but if you buy a Bulldog case, you know it will work well.
Some of their cases have fancy camos not seen anywhere else, such as the Muddy Girl Serenity Camo. They also sell purses designed for concealed carry, and even a lace thigh holster.
Bulldog Cases products may not be the fanciest, but they are a good deal. Bulldog even makes Colt branded gear.
Most hard cases on the market are from one of three manufacturers, though there are exceptions. Flambeau is one of these big three and is my favorite hard case brand. The other two are Pelican and Plano.
Flambeau has a nice balance between innovation and tradition. They offer some of the least expensive hard cases on the market. These cases do not lack quality, though—in fact, they have advantages not matched by other manufacturers.
For instance, Zerust is used in a large number of Flambeau products to prevent corrosion on the vulnerable metal inside.
Pelican is the big name in hard cases. If you buy a Pelican-branded case, you know it can withstand the most dangerous environments.
Pelican cases are used by many professionals around the world. They are not only used by law enforcement officers and the military, but also by the aerospace industry and in industrial applications.
Without a doubt, Pelican cases are the toughest available. This does come at a cost, however, as Pelican is also the most expensive gun case brand.
But if you buy a Pelican case, you’ll never need to replace it.
VISM is a division of NcSTAR, which is a well-known firearms accessory brand. NcSTAR’s offerings are mostly aimed at buyers on a budget. The idea behind VISM is to produce high-quality and innovative equipment.
Some of NcSTAR’s products can have quality control issues, such as their optics. VISM-department products tend to be better, and that trend holds true with their gun cases as well.
Though VISM gun cases may not be the most expensive or the cheapest on the market, they do offer a good value.