Best Pistol Cases of 2023, Tested and Reviewed

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Published Aug 25, 2023 11:00 AM

Pistol cases are one of the more important investments for any firearms owner. After all, you likely spent hundreds or even thousands of dollars on the best handgun. The last thing you want is to damage it during transport or travel, so you need a quality case to protect it.

Retailers today are flooded with a bevy of choices when it comes to gun cases, which can make it hard to decide exactly what you need to buy. Not to worry, we’ve done the homework of researching, testing, and now reviewing some of the top options available today. After all that work, these are our choices for the best pistol cases from Plano, Glock, and Redfield.

How We Picked the Best Pistol Cases

I personally tested all of the cases included on this list. But a pistol case is a rather difficult thing to test beyond just putting a handgun inside and carrying it around. Thus, I decided the best way to go about making my picks was to do a durability test. This involved simply throwing each case from the top of a 7-foot ladder onto the ground below. I wanted a height higher than the average truck tailgate height, which is where such a drop would most likely occur. I then inspected each case for scratches, cracks, and dents. For the soft cases, I looked at how dirty they got, and examined them for tearing.

Handguns photo

I threw the cases off this ladder dozens of times, onto both hard dirt and a pile of firewood. Travis Smola

For safety—and because I didn’t want to risk damaging my Glock 19 in these tests—the cases were thrown with a stand-in replacement. I utilized an old Daisy CO2 BB pistol as a “crash test dummy” for each case. I felt rather confident each case would hold up. But at the same time, I figured it was better to be safe than sorry. The BB pistol isn’t as heavy as a real handgun. It might be close to some smaller .380 ACP or 9mm compacts. But it had enough heft that I could judge rather easily how well each case protects.

Handguns photo

This old airgun stood in for my Glock during the durability testing. Travis Smola

About halfway through the test, I decided the ground wasn’t hard enough. So, I piled up some firewood and then dropped all the cases again on that to see what would happen. When dropping the cases, I made sure to land them on their corners and edges multiple times. Just to see if I could get the latches to fail and pop open.

In short, I basically did almost everything I could to break the cases. I can’t promise your sights wouldn’t be out of alignment, but I can tell you how each case takes abuse. For two of the cases touted as being “waterproof,” or “water-resistant,” I gave them a good soaking with a hose and then opened them to see how they held up.

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Is this case really waterproof? I decided to test it and find out. Travis Smola

This was the roughest durability test I’ve ever done for F&S. But I felt like it was necessary because firearms are expensive. It’s important to know if the advertising for each case was hype or not. As if all that abuse wasn’t enough to judge each case, I also I considered the following in my evaluation:

  • Cushioning: What type of foam does the case utilize? How easy is it to custom cut the shape of your firearm?
  • Environmental Protection: Does the case provide adequate protection from the elements? How does it do as far as waterproof protection?
  • Security: Does the case lock? How secure will it be for transport on an airplane?
  • Value: How does the price point reflect the quality of the case?

Best Pistol Cases: Reviews and Recommendations

Best Soft: Plano Stealth EVA Pistol Case

Best Soft

Best Pistol Cases

Specs

  • Type: Soft case
  • Interior Dimensions: 10.25” x 9.5” x 2.75”
  • Capacity: 1 Pistol
  • TSA-Approved: No

Pros

  • Simple compact design
  • Lightweight and easy to store
  • Excellent price

Cons

The Plano Stealth is an interesting case marketed as a hybrid between a soft and hard case. The interior EVA portion of the case gives it more rigidity than a standard soft case and a good deal of cushioning for drops, as I found in my durability tests. It bounced a little bit on each drop, which I felt helped soften the shock of each impact. The Stealth took literally dozens of drops from 8 feet without showing any signs of damage. The air pistol inside was completely untouched. This is a simple, effective design that operates exactly as advertised.

Handguns photo

The Stealth is simple and to the point with room for one handgun and a couple magazines. Travis Smola

While the Stealth features light security with a pair of locking loops, it is not TSA-approved. It’s also not going to be weatherproof. Those are really the only two downsides I have for this case. It’s extremely light and will effectively transport a single handgun and a couple magazines with ease. I also just like the small profile of this case. It’s going to be very easy to stow under a truck seat, or an ATV or bush plane storage compartment.

Best Multi: Plano Field Locker Element XL

Best Multi

Best Pistol Cases

Specs

  • Type: Hard case
  • Interior Dimensions: 17” x  12” x 7.75”
  • Capacity: 4 pistols
  • TSA-Approved: Yes

Pros

  • Rugged construction
  • Great latches
  • Protects well against water

Cons

The Plano Field Locker has a seriously beefy construction that was noticeable from the moment I first picked it up. Because it looked like it could handle it, I dropped and slammed this case around more than the others on this list. I dropped the case on its edges and corners multiple times both on dirt and on wood, just to see if I could get it to pop open. It never did. Nor did the latches come undone.

Handguns photo

The Field Locker’s beefy latches can handle a ton of abuse. Travis Smola

Speaking of latches, this case has my favorite locking ones out of all the options on this list. They close with authority and create a great seal that protects your handguns from the elements. I thoroughly soaked this case with a hose to test Plano’s claims of weather resistance. Not a single drop ever got into the interior.

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My Glock 19 and the air pistol that rode in the case during durability testing. Travis Smola

The case’s rugged construction adds some extra weight, so I wouldn’t want to carry it long distance. But it also helps with shock resistance if you accidentally drop the thing. This would be a good choice for flying because I doubt a baggage crew will be able to break it, even if it gets thrown to the bottom of a luggage pile. I also just like the handle on this case better than any other on the list. It’s rubberized and easy to grip for long periods.

It’s expensive, yes. But Plano really went all out with the design of this case, and it feels worth the $115 price tag.

Best for Flying: Redfield 13 in Molded Hard Pistol Case

Best for Flying

Best Pistol Cases

Specs

  • Type: Hard case
  • Interior Dimensions: 12.5” x 9.15” x 5.25”
  • Capacity: 1 full-size or 2 smaller pistols
  • TSA-Approved: Yes

Pros

  • Durable construction
  • Easy to modify foam interior
  • Great price

Cons

  • Latches could be improved slightly

I was rather surprised to learn the Redfield only costs $30. Made of high-quality polymer that adds a great deal of rigidity and durability, it feels like a much more expensive case. Even after I slammed it from the top of a ladder to the ground countless times, it showed almost zero signs of wear. Thus, it should take all the abuse of airport baggage handlers with relative ease.

Handguns photo

I tested it, and water couldn’t penetrate the interior of the Redfield case. Travis Smola

However, I need to note this case popped open on one of my drops. Fortunately, it only happened once. Subsequently, I think the latches could have been designed just a little better. While they feel solid, they come open given enough pressure from a fall.

That’s not a deal-breaker for this case because this was an extreme test that pushed the cases to the limit. I don’t think the worst baggage claim in the world could match what I put it through. Additionally, my tests were performed with the extra security of locks that are required by the TSA for air travel. Adding those into the equation solves the latch problem.

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The Redfield has pluck foam that can be easily customized to your firearm. Travis Smola

This case is also advertised as IPP55 water-resistant, so I just had to soak the entire thing in water with the hose quite thoroughly. I was pleasantly surprised when my air pistol and the foam inside were bone dry. For the price point, this case is an incredible deal.

Best Double: Plano Rustrictor Defender

Best Double

Best Pistol Cases

Specs

  • Type: Hard case
  • Interior Dimensions: 17.63” x 10.5” x 3.5”
  • Capacity: 2 pistols
  • TSA-Approved: No

Pros

  • Affordable
  • Solid latches
  • Corrosion prevention bonus

Cons

  • Not weatherproof
  • Outside will show scratches

At under $50, the Plano Rustrictor is one of the most affordable double pistol cases available. There’s nothing particularly fancy about this case. It’s just simple foam in plastic. It’s not as rugged as the Plano Field Locker, but I subjected it to a near-identical level of abuse. This one showed scratches while the Field Locker did not. For the price, it’s about what I was expecting.

I noticed a lot of reviews complaining about the latches on this case. However, I dropped this case on every one of its edges literally dozens of times. Not once did the latches come loose or pop open, and the foam interior held the pistol quite securely despite my rough treatment.

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The Rustrictor’s interior did a nice job keeping the contents secure. Travis Smola

Just know this case is not waterproof or weatherproof. When I inspected the edges there are obvious cracks where water could get through if it gets dunked. But I also doubt most shooters will ever have that problem. For the gun enthusiast who just needs a simple way to transport at least two handguns to the range and back, this is an excellent option.

Best Budget: Glock Hard Case

Best Budget

Best Pistol Cases

Specs

  • Type: Hard case
  • Interior Dimensions: 10.5” x 2.25” x 9”
  • Capacity: 1 full-size pistol
  • TSA-Approved: No

Pros

  • Affordable price
  • Surprisingly durable
  • Storage pocket for gun paperwork

Cons

  • Not weatherproof or TSA approved

This might be a controversial pick, but I like the standard Glock hard cases that come with each new firearm. This is by no means the nicest gun case you can purchase. But it is quite functional and surprisingly durable for a sub-$30 case. It’s a solid backup choice for anyone who just needs to get to the gun range and back legally. While the case is purpose-designed for Glocks, there’s no reason it won’t work with a variety of similar-sized handguns.

Handguns photo

The Glock case is simple but effective for a bargain price. Travis Smola

While I’ll admit I had some concerns subjecting this case to the same durability tests as the others, it held up quite nicely even after I dropped it on wood multiple times. As a bonus, there’s a small storage pocket that can be used to hold your firearm’s paperwork. A simple bore brush and rod are also included. The brush isn’t anything special but it will work to clean a dirty barrel in a pinch.

What to Consider When Choosing a Pistol Case

When it comes to gun cases, the decision boils down to how you plan to transport your firearm. For shooters who drive five miles to their local range and back, you don’t need anything fancy. Any soft case or simple hard case will do the trick. Of course, check your state’s rules on the transport of firearms. For instance, California requires handguns to be transported only in a locked trunk or locked container. Each state’s regulations vary a bit, especially when concealed carry licenses come into the equation. The rules are usually a bit more permissive with a license.

As far as a soft vs. hard case, it’s mainly down to personal preference, although hard cases will offer a lot more protection. The base foam matters, too. In some cases, you’ll need to cut the foam padding to fit the shape of the firearm you plan to carry. It can be a real pain to do this, and if you don’t get the cut right, you’ll have to buy more foam and start over. We prefer the “pick-and-pluck foam” style that allows you to perfectly pick out a shape without all the measuring and knife work.

Storage Space

It’s normal to haul a ton of gear to the range. If you plan to haul ammo, rangefinders, sight tools, extra magazines, and other items separate, you might want to check out a range bag.

Additional pockets on a pistol case add a lot of value to a case. But when you start talking about transporting more than one pistol, things can get heavy quickly. Think about the weight of each handgun and how much all that extra ammo and magazines will weigh ahead of time. Things can get out of hand quickly when you start talking about larger revolvers.

Weather Resistance

A little extra protection from the elements never hurts. However, as we further emphasize in the FAQ section below, pistol cases are not ideal for long term storage. While features like moisture-resistant foam and silica gel canisters are nice, don’t rely on them entirely.

In truth, the weatherproof elements are best for protection while at the range. We suspect most average shooters aren’t going to need a case that’s entirely waterproof. But if you’re dropping more than four figures on one of the best handguns, it’s not a bad idea to further protect your investment.

FAQs

Q: Do pistols come with a case?

Most—but not all—new pistols come with a hard plastic case. Some manufacturers have started selling their handguns with just a cardboard box, meaning you’ll need to buy a case to carry it. Many used firearms will also not come with a case. Even if it does come with a case, you might want to upgrade to something that locks better, especially if you plan to fly or travel with it.

Q: Can you store a gun in a hard case?

Believe it or not, this is not a great idea. First off, it can be a safety issue if you are using a case that doesn’t lock. It’s always better to keep a firearm in a secured location, like a gun safe. However, the bigger issue is moisture. Most cases feature padding or cloth of some kind to protect the finish of the firearm. That material can also hold moisture which can corrode and rust. Thus, cases are meant for short term transport to and from the range, and are not an ideal long term storage solution.

Q: What is the difference between a handgun and pistol?

Going by dictionary definitions, all handguns are pistols, except for revolvers. By technical terms, a revolver can be a handgun but not a pistol, although you’ll be hard pressed to find a firearms enthusiast who doesn’t use the terms interchangeably. Our shooting editor, Richard Mann, wrote an interesting piece on the pistol vs. handgun debate for those who want to learn more.

Q: What makes a TSA-approved gun case?

If you need to fly with your firearm, get a hard-sided case that is lockable. When using a keyed lock, TSA requires gun owners to keep the key on them, although security may request to inspect it to ensure you’re compliant. While ammunition can usually be taken along too, make sure it is not in the firearm. Under TSA’s definitions, an unloaded firearm has no ammo in the magazine or chamber.

Best Pistol Cases: Final Thoughts

While I didn’t pick a best overall case here, if I had to boil it down to one, it would be the Plano Field Locker. The rugged outer shell, heavy-duty latches, and weather-resistant qualities all add up for a complete package that’s hard to beat. I especially like the size that allows it to handle multiple compact firearms or the largest of big bore hunting revolvers with ease. It’s a pricey case, but one where shooters will get their money’s worth.

Why Trust Us

For more than 125 years, Field & Stream has been providing readers with honest and authentic coverage of outdoor gear. Our writers and editors eat, sleep, and breathe the outdoors, and that passion comes through in our product reviews. You can count on F&S to keep you up to date on the best new gear. And when we write about a product—whether it’s a bass lure or a backpack—we cover the good and the bad, so you know exactly what to expect before you decide to make a purchase.


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