If you are not certain that you want a hard rifle case, you might want to check our general ar-15 case article instead which reviews and compares both hard and soft cases for ar-15.
Guns may be tough tools, but they are still susceptible to damage.
A scratch or two may not affect performance, but a drop onto concrete may cause damage to the sights—or worse.
That way it will be protected by shock-absorbing foam and impact-resistant polymer. A good hard case can tumble off a mountain without harming the firearms inside!
As an additional bonus, a good hard case will be able to hold some gear for your gun as well. Magazines, a cleaning kit, personal safety equipment, and more can live inside a hard case.
The following are some of the best hard cases for your AR-15, along with information on how to choose the best case for you.
The 5 Top AR-15 Hard Cases of 2021: Outdoor Empire Reviews
These are our top recommendations for hard rifle cases of 2021:
- Boyt H36SG Hard Sided Travel Case
- Case Club Pre-Made AR15 Waterproof Rifle Case
- Flambeau Tactical 6500AR Case
- Pelican 1700 Rifle Case
- Plano All Weather Tactical Gun Case, 36″
*Looking for a specific feature? Check out our quick-reference chart below:
|Material||120D polypropylene||Thick plastic||Polypropylene|
|Foam Type||Egg crate||Closed-cell polyethylene foam||Egg crate foam|
|Dimensions||38" long x 15.75" wide x 5" high||Can fit an AR-15 with a maximum length of 35.5"||41.5" long x 15" wide x 5" high|
|Available Colors||Black and flat dark earth||Black||Black|
|Misc||Wheels, water and dust resistant O-ring gasket, and powder-coated steel latches||Silica gel desiccant canister, waterproof accessory container, and pre-made cutouts||Velcro straps and Zerust molded into the optional plastic dividers|
|Price||Check Price||Check Price||Check Price|
1. Boyt H36SG Hard Sided Travel Case
Material: 120D polypropylene
Foam Type: Egg crate
Dimensions: 38″ long x 15.75″ wide x 5″ high
Available Colors: Black and flat dark earth
Misc: Wheels, water and dust resistant O-ring gasket, and powder-coated steel latches
The H36ST by Boyt is a carbine-focused hard case that is extra durable without being extra expensive.
The outer shell is 120D polypropylene. The latches are made from powder-coated steel and can be replaced if ever you need to. The handles lightly lock in both the up and down position.
A gasket runs all of the way around the edge of the case, which keeps out moisture and dust but is not as effective as the waterproofing on some other cases.
The foam inside is egg-carton open-cell foam, which does almost too good of a job. Some people report that the lid can bulge when you have a thicker gun inside.
If you need a slightly larger version, check out the Boyt H41XD.
- O-ring gasket for resistance against dust and water
- Thick plastic shell
- High-quality replaceable latches
- Not the best foam for customization
- Not as good a seal as some of the hard cases on this list
The Boyt H36SG is great at protecting your AR-15 carbine from physical harm but is not as good at protecting it from a deluge of water.
2. Case Club Pre-Made AR15 Waterproof Rifle Case
Material: Thick plastic
Foam Type: Closed-cell polyethylene foam
Dimensions: Can fit an AR-15 with a maximum length of 35.5″
Available Colors: Black
Misc: Silica gel desiccant canister, waterproof accessory container, and pre-made cutouts
The Case Club Pre-Made AR15 Waterproof Rifle Case is a great choice for someone who wants to buy a case without having to mess around with cutting foam.
That’s because the foam comes pre-cut for a standard AR-15 carbine with a maximum length, with stock collapsed, of 35.5″. If you have an optic or accessories installed, then you can use the perforated foam to customize the case.
Multiple accessories are included, such as a silica gel desiccant to keep your rifle in good condition and a waterproof accessory case for all the tiny bits and bobs which are easy to lose.
Case Club even throws in a knife so you can cut the foam with ease!
There are a couple of downsides. One of the five latches is inside the handle and can be awkward to unlatch. Also, the lid only opens 90 degrees. As it has some heft, it can fall shut on its own.
- Foam cut-outs come included for an AR-15 and a pistol
- Package includes desiccant and waterproof accessory box
- Requires the AR-15 to have a collapsible stock
- The lid is prone to falling shut
The Case Club Pre-Made AR15 Waterproof Rifle Case is great for a smaller carbine and includes good accessories.
3. Flambeau Tactical 6500AR Case
Foam Type: Egg crate foam
Dimensions: 41.5″ long x 15″ wide x 5″ high
Available Colors: Black
Misc: Velcro straps and Zerust molded into the optional plastic dividers
The Flambeau Outdoors 6500AR Tactical AR Case is surprisingly customizable for a case that uses egg crate foam.
The foam has a number of pre-cut slits. They are not there for you to remove the foam; instead, the Velcro straps and plastic dividers go through the foam and attach to the plastic outer shell.
The foam is thick enough that even a box of ammo will not slide around with the case closed. The lid will not bulge from the bulk, either.
The plastic dividers have Zerust molded into them, which is a corrosion inhibitor. As the name implies, Zerust does a good job of preventing rust.
The hard shell is thick enough to protect against impacts but is not as thick as some hard cases. The latches are molded plastic and are a potential failure point. This does keep the weight down, though the case is a bit large.
- Customizable dividers and Velcro straps
- The plastic dividers have Zerust molded in them to keep your gun from corroding
- Bulkier than average for its storage capacity
- The latches are thin molded plastic and not as tough as the latches on other cases on this list
If you want to store an AR-15 with all of its ammunition, and do not mind some extra bulk, the Flambeau Tactical 6500 AR Case is a great choice.
4. Pelican 1700 Rifle Case
Material: Copolymer Polypropylene with foam core
Foam Type: Three pieces of dense closed-cell foam
Dimensions: 38.12″ long x 16″ wide x 6.12″ high
Available Colors: Black, olive drab green, and flat dark earth
Misc: Wheels, double-throw latches, waterproof and airtight gasket, steel-reinforced padlock holes, and an automatic pressure equalization valve
The Pelican 1700 Rifle Case is extremely durable and well designed. The plastic shell has a foam-core design that improves durability and reduces weight.
The waterproof gasket is so effective there is an automatic pressure relief valve. It equalizes the air inside and outside the case for easy opening, without letting in moisture. The latches are a double-throw style that’s easy to use.
Three pieces of dense, high-quality foam keep your gun and any accessories safe. However, there are no perforations to assist you in cutting out the foam. It’s recommended that you outline the potential cutouts in chalk before you start cutting, so you don’t make a mistake.
If you like personalization, Pelican offers engraved nameplates.
- Extra-strong hard shell
- Pressure equalization valve for easy opening
- Latches are as strong as they are easy to use
- So waterproof it’s airtight
- There are no perforations to assist you in removing the foam for your AR-15
Though the Pelican 1700 Rifle Case is the most expensive case on this list, it is also the most worthwhile. It may even outlive you.
Pelican 1700 Rifle Case is also available at:
5. Plano All Weather Tactical Gun Case, 36″
Material: Thick polymer
Foam Type: Egg crate foam tops and bottoms with perforated foam middle piece
Dimensions: 39-7/8″ long x 15-5/8″ wide x 5-5/8″ high
Available Colors: Black
Misc: Waterproof O-sing and pressure relief valve
The Plano All Weather Tactical Gun Case does not have the build quality of more expensive choices on this list, but it does have more features than you would expect for the price.
Plano calls it the All Weather case because of a waterproof and airtight seal all the way around the case. This can lead to a difference in pressures between the inside and outside of the case, so there is a pressure relief valve.
The inside has egg carton foam on the top and the bottom with a medium-quality foam piece in the middle. That middle piece has perforations so you can easily pluck out pieces of form to achieve a cutout specific to your needs.
If you have an AR-15 with a 20″ barrel or a fixed stock, the 42″ version may be a better choice.
- Three pieces of foam, one of which is customizable
- Pressure equalization valve for easy opening
- Potentially too small for larger AR-15 rifles
- The foam perforations are widely spaced out and so may not provide a tight fit
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!