Airline Approved Rifle Case Review - Consumer Files Reviews

Best Airline Approved Rifle Case Review

In Gun Safes, Rifle Scopes by Consumer Files0 CommentsLast Updated: May 23rd, 2019

Are you an avid outdoorsman and traveler?  Do you love planning and participating in hunts and expeditions to far-flung places in remote corners of the country or world?

If you answered yes to either of those questions, then it almost certainly leads to another:  What is the best rifle case for airline travel?  After all, you can’t very well mount a successful hunt in a distant location without planning to bring along your favorite hunting rifle and other assorted gear, right?

We’ve poured over the TSA’s website to understand the special challenges that come with traveling with a rifle, then scoured the internet to find the best airline safe rifle cases on the market today.  Although there are a number of exceptional cases available, we found one that stood out above the rest for us.

We’ll tell you all about our overall winner in this review, and give you full details about the other rifle cases our winner beat out in order to claim top honors. Before we do that, let’s start with an overview of all of our finalists, presented in table form, to give you an overview:

BEST AIRLINE APPROVED RIFLE CASE Comparison Table

The Pelican 1750 - Winner

An Image of Pelican 1750 for Airline Approved Rifle Casel - Consumer Files

The Pelican 1750

RATING

PRICE

$$$ ½

PRODUCT DIMENSIONS

50.5” x 13.5” x 5.25”

More Specifications...

The Negrini 1640 DSR - 2nd Place

An Image of Negrini 1640 DSR for Airline Approved Rifle Case

The Negrini 1640 DSR

RATING

PRICE

$$$$$

PRODUCT DIMENSIONS

54” x 15.5” x 6”

More Specifications...

The SKB ATA Double Rifle Case - 3rd Place

An Image of SKB ATA Double for Airline Approved Rifle Case

The SKB ATA Double Rifle Case

RATING

PRICE

$$$ ½

PRODUCT DIMENSIONS

50” x 9.5” x 6”

More Specifications...

The Plano Double Scoped Case - 4th Place

An Image of Plano Double for Airline Approved Rifle Case

The Plano Double Scoped Case

RATING

PRICE

$$

PRODUCT DIMENSIONS

54.625” x 15.5” x 6”

More Specifications...

The SKB Double Bow/Rifle Case - Honorable Mention

An Image of SKB Double Bow/Rifle for Airline Approved Rifle Case

The SKB Double Bow/Rifle Case

RATING

Price

$$$

PRODUCT DIMENSIONS

49.5” x 13.5” x 6”

More Specifications...

BEST AIRLINE APPROVED RIFLE CASE

Top Pick Banner - Consumer Files
An Image of Pelican 1750 for Airline Approved Rifle Casel - Consumer Files

Pelican 1750

An Image of Negrini 1640 DSR for Airline Approved Rifle Case

Negrini 1640 DSR

An Image of SKB ATA Double for Airline Approved Rifle Case

SKB ATA Double Rifle Case

An Image of Plano Double for Airline Approved Rifle Case

Plano Double Scoped Case

Honorable Mention

An Image of SKB Double Bow/Rifle for Airline Approved Rifle Case

SKB Double Bow/Rifle Case

Price

$$$ ½

$$$$$

$$$ ½

$$

$$$

Overall Rating

4.6

4.5

4.5

4.3

4.1

TSA Recommended?

Yes (+1 to final score)

No

Yes (+1 to final score)

No

Yes (+1 to final score)

Product Dimensions

50.5” x 13.5” x 5.25”

54” x 15.5” x 6”

50” x 9.5” x 6”

54.625” x 15.5” x 6”

49.5” x 13.5” x 6”

Airline Dimension Value

69.25”

75.5”

65.5”

76.125”

69”

Total Weight

24 pounds

21.75 pounds

22 pounds

20 pounds

22 pounds

Capacity & Extras

Virtually indestructible and watertight, etchable name plate, wheeled for easy transport with pluckable foam on the interior.

Pluckable foam, cargo nets for additional storage and luggage-style wheels for maximum mobility.

Pluckable interior.  Capable of accommodating two rifles up to 50” in total length.  Also features heavy duty wheels for easy transport.

Pluckable foam interior suitable for holding scopes, clips, and sundries, in addition to the two rifles.

2 rifles, 2 shotguns, or 2 bows!
Wheeled case makes for easy and convenient transport.

Brand Pages

Our Selection Criteria & Other Notes

This is possibly the most crucial section of this review; even more important than the cases themselves.  That’s because there’s a lot of confusion out there about which cases are airline approved and what aren’t, and unfortunately, the TSA doesn’t help as much as you might imagine. 

In this section, we’ll not only talk about our selection criteria, but also the various airline approved gun case requirements, and the ways those requirements complicate things (sometimes more than they need to!)

About Max Size of Gun Cases

If you go to the TSA’s website one of the first things you’ll notice is the fact that nowhere on the page about gun cases is there any information about the maximum size of the case you can check in as luggage.

That matters, because if your case exceeds a certain size threshold, you may be charged a hefty fee.  It would seem then, that finding out what that size threshold is, is pretty important.  So, what’s the story there?

Well, …that depends on who you ask.  Each airline sets their own standards about how big your gun case can be, and they do it in a weird way

For example, Delta says that your case can be no bigger than 62”.  On the surface of it, that seems like it would be no problem because most gun cases aren’t that long, but there’s a catch. When Delta lists their 62” maximum, they’re talking about the length, plus the width, plus the height, in inches. So, if you have a gun case that measures 55” x 12” x 6,” Delta will count that as a 73” case (55 + 12 + 6 = 73).  Since that’s more than their 62” maximum, they’ll charge you a fee.

But there’s another catch.  Most airlines give exemptions to gun cases, so if they exceed the maximum size, they just waive the surcharge, just like they do with golf club bags.  In other words, they set a rule, but then most of them don’t follow it; at least not all the time.

That’s the infuriating thing here.  There’s no single standard where the size of the cases is concerned, what standards there are can be changed by any airline on a whim, and even when a particular airline sets a standard, as often as not, they opt to ignore it.

Airline Approved - What It Means

The bottom line is if you buy one of the cases we recommend here, our understanding is that all of these are airline approved, but we can’t guarantee that a given airline won’t try to charge you extra anyway.  They seem much more interested in squeezing their customers for every dollar they can than they are with the idea of providing clearly defined guidelines.

What we can say is that if you get to the ticket counter and an attempt is made to charge you a premium for your rifle case, ask to speak to a manager.  Given that all the major airlines are in the habit of making exceptions for rifle cases, the odds are overwhelmingly in your favor that if you protest the charge and get a manager involved, you’re going to get out of the surcharge, which will save you a considerable sum of money.

In any case, the critical thing to remember is that just because a rifle case says it’s “airline approved,” since each airline sets their own size limit standards, that doesn’t automatically mean a particular airline won’t try to hit you with an extra fee.  Just know that you can likely get out of it if you take the time to challenge it.

All of the above to say that we put at least some emphasis on smaller rifle cases that are more likely to fall within the average maximum size limits set by most airlines, but this is mostly offset by the fact that larger cases get more points because they allow more space for extra equipment.

TSA Guidelines

Although neither the airlines nor the TSA offers much in the way of specific guidance relating to the overall size of gun casesthe TSA does provide some critical information you need to be aware of if you’re planning on checking a gun case as luggage.  Here are the key things to remember:

Materials Composition

Duffle-style gun cases are not allowed.  If you’re going to take one on an airplane, it must be a hard-shell case.  No exceptions.  If you try to get a duffle style case through as luggage, you’re likely to be detained, and may even face a fine. 

An Image of Travel Sentry - TSA Accepted

Not only will this almost certainly cause you to miss your flight, but it’s also going to generate a paper trail on you and be a massive headache.  It’s best not even to try.

All of the cases that make our list of finalists naturally abide by this requirement.

Locks

This one will make you roll your eyes.

First, the gun case must be lockable. When you look on the TSA website, they not only require locks on several types of luggage, but they also specify the type, strength, and composition of the lock to be used.

That part is totally understandable, but here’s the thing that will make you roll your eyes in frustration:  The locks approved by the TSA are not applicable to rifle cases.

Almost all airline travel rifle cases made come with TSA approved locks, but according to the agency’s rules, in addition to those, you’ll need a padlock to secure the case further, and you’ll need to retain personal control of the key for the entire duration of your flight.  It just seems needlessly complicated, but those are the rules.

Given the necessity of an external lock, this did not factor into our selection process, but we wanted to include it for the sake of completeness.  Note that the TSA’s rules specify keeping the key on you at all times, which implies a padlock, rather than a combination lock

While it may be possible to use a combination lock without issue, we wouldn’t recommend trying, unless the combination lock is built into the case itself.  The more closely you stick to the letter of the TSA’s guidelines, the less likely you are to have troubles and experience delays.  It’s just not worth the risk or hassle.

Note:  On the TSA’s website, they specifically name Master Locks as being approved.

Ammo

According to the TSA, all ammo must be checked in luggage.  It cannot be carried on.  The TSA further specifies that all ammo under .75 caliber can be packed in the same container as your firearm, except for shotgun shells which may not be kept in the same container.

Ammunition must also be either kept in the original packaging or in a hard case, made of fiber, wood or metal.

But again, there’s a wrinkle:  Each airline sets their own policies with regards to ammunition.

Some of them require all ammo to be packed separately, full stop, while others abide by the letter of the TSA rules. So, once you know who you’re flying with, you’ll want to read that airline’s ammo policy carefully to make sure you’re in full compliance.

From a ranking perspective, an airline approved rifle case that has space for ammunition will score higher than one that doesn’t, even though this won’t help you with every single airline you may fly with.

A final note on this topic:  Firearms must be completely unloaded when packed for transport.  If you forget and leave a round in the chamber, you could face a steep fine and perhaps even the confiscation of the firearm in question.

Labels

The TSA is quite clear on this point.  Don’t put labels on your rifle case indicating that there’s a firearm inside.  Ever.

What to Expect When You Get to the Airport

The big thing to remember when traveling with a firearm is that you’ll want to arrive early to give yourself extra time to check in.  No airline allows curbside check-in where firearms are concerned, so you’ll need to go to the ticket counter and speak with an agent.

You’ll almost certainly have to answer a few additional questions and fill out a declaration form. You can expect that the integrity of your case will be inspected, and its contents examined to ensure that you are in full compliance with both the TSA’s policies and the policies of the airline you’re flying.

Members of Law Enforcement

Even if you’re a member of some law enforcement agency, you’re not allowed to bring your gun with you on the plane automatically.  They may allow it if you can demonstrate an “Operational Need,” but again, to do that, you’ll need to speak with gate agents and airline security personnel.

If you cannot demonstrate an Operational Need, then you’ll need to abide by the rules applied to civilians.

TSA Approved Gun Cases Manufacturers

While the government isn’t in the habit of “picking winners and losers” the TSA has singled out two companies, in particular, recommending them to people who travel with firearms. 

A Brand Logo for Airline Approved Rifle Case

Both SKB and Pelican make TSA approved gun cases.  As such, products by both of those companies scored higher, which explains why our list looks the way it does.

Note that there’s certainly nothing wrong with checking out rifle cases made by other companies, but if you’re looking to minimize your risk of problems, it’s always best to stick as closely as possible to the TSA guidelines and recommendations.

Finally, understand that the TSA does change their requirements from time to time.  If you want to double check the latest requirements, you can head to this page of the TSA’s site.

And with all of that out of the way, let’s take a closer look at our winner and the other finalists on our list!

Top 5 Airline Approved Rifle Cases In More Detail

Our Winner - Best TSA Approved Rifle Case – The Pelican 1750

PELICAN 1750 RIFLE CASE

Value

Extras

Brand Reliability*

Summary

4.6

The Pelican 1750 Rifle Case is a simple, functional, virtually indestructible, and TSA recommended. Recommended for
anyone.

*Brand Reliability is a measure of the strength and longevity of the brand, which by extension, is a measure of the level of support you can expect.

Pelican is one of two brands recommended explicitly by the TSA, so it’s no surprise that they took top honors in this roundup review.  The company has a legendary reputation for quality and durability, offered at attractive prices.

Every case the company makes is dust proof, crush proof and watertight, and this model features four lockable throw latches with reinforced padlock protectors.  On top of that, this case comes with an automatic pressure equalization valve that releases built-up air pressure, serving as a secondary means of keeping the case watertight.

An Open Case View Image of Pelican 1750 Rifle Case

Inside the case, you’ll find three pluckable foam pads you can customize depending on the type of rifle you have, and it’s big enough to allow for storing ammo and extra goodies as needed.

The company has been in the business for more than three decades, and in that time, the company’s products have been tossed out of airplanes and helicopters, floated through icy seas and rolled over by SUVs and utility vehicles. 

We mention this because when the company says that their cases are virtually indestructible, we want you to understand that it’s not an idle boast! These cases can and have been subjected to just about every torture test you can imagine and have emerged with the contents they’re protecting unscathed. 

A Lockup Mechanism Image View of Pelican 1750 Rifle Case
An Open Case Image View with Rifle of Pelican 1750 Rifle Case

The 1750 is a relatively large case, though the company does make smaller variants if you’re worried about crossing a particular airline’s maximum size boundary – though as we mentioned earlier, you can almost always get an exception if a ticket attendant tries to charge you an additional fee.  Just ask to speak to a manager and stand your ground!

Given how rugged these cases are, it should come as no surprise that Pelican offers a limited lifetime warranty. As a nice finishing touch, they also provide nameplate personalization services for a nominal extra fee.  It’s a small thing, but pretty cool nonetheless.

These cases won’t win any beauty contests (if you’re looking for a sharp-looking case, see the Negrini, which took second place), but if you’re looking for something that’s reasonably priced and will last you nearly forever, look no farther than the Pelican.


In Second Place – The Negrini 1640 DSR

NEGRINI 1640 DSR RIFLE CASE

Value

Extras

Brand Reliability*

Summary

4.5

The Negrini 1640 DSR is an european craftsmanship and styling that adds a touch of class and elegance to an otherwise mundane storage device. Recommended for outdoorsmen looking for a two-rifle case that’s both functional and attractive.

Negrini not only makes many exceptional airline safe rifle cases, but they’re a breed apart.  Crafted in Italy using only the finest materials, these cases serve as more than simple boxes to move your rifles from place to place but are genuine works of art in their own right.

The 1640 DSR features a sturdy and durable double-walled ABS exterior with top-quality fabric liners and high-quality cushioning in the interior.  In addition to that, you’ll find:

A Carrying Hangle Image of Negrini 1640 DSR Rifle Case
A Rear Wheel Image of Negrini 1640 DSR Rifle Case
A Lock Mechanism Image of Negrini 1640 DSR Rifle Case
  • Four composite steel combination locks on the outer shell
  • Fitted ABS compartments large enough to handle two rifles with scopes (or other long guns) with barrels of up to 26” in length.
  • A reinforced pull handle, in-line wheels and three standing “feet” that make moving the case around a busy airport a breeze.
  • A trio of compartments for additional gear with cargo nets to help secure whatever you decide to place in them.
  • And two other compartments designed to house tools.
A Back View Image of Negrini 1640 DSR Rifle Case

A padded fold-down wall separates the rifle compartment from the cargo net compartments, and the rifle barrels are protected in their own separate compartments.  The decision to use molded plastic separators instead of pluckable foam, but we do approve of the choice.  It adds a distinctive look to the whole that we like very much.

In addition to that, this case offers a limited lifetime warranty and is capable of holding up to an impressive fifty pounds of cargo.

An Open Case Image with Rifle of Negrini 1640 DSR Rifle Case

True, you’ll pay a premium for this kind of quality, but this is definitely a case of getting what you pay for.  Its hefty price tag might put it out of reach for many people, but if you can afford it, this would make an excellent case for any serious outdoorsman.


In Third Place – The SKB ATA Double Rifle Case

SKB ATA DOUBLE RIFLE CASE

Value

Extras

Brand Reliability*

Summary

4.5

The SKB ATA Double Rifle Case is a basic and durable, with a two-rifle capacity. Recommended for any outdoorsman who wants or needs to travel with two rifles.

This model is remarkable for two reasons.  First, it’s the smallest case on our list of finalists, and it’s the smallest TSA approved double rifle case we’ve found.  In addition to that, it’s offered by SKB, which is one of two rifle case manufacturers referenced explicitly on the TSA’s website.

Although SKB doesn’t have a reputation for legendary indestructibility that Pelican TSA Approved Gun cases do, it’s remarkably durable and features four lockable trigger release latches and a molded HDPE shell.

An Open Up Case of SKB ATA Double Rifle Case

It’s also got a pluckable foam (eggshell) interior capable of holding two rifles of up to 50” in length, although its smallish size means that you’ll have somewhat less space for extras than you’ll find in some other cases.

Finally, it’s got easy-glide wheels which makes transporting it a snap, and surprisingly quiet, to boot.  Not that that’s a huge selling point for most people, but it is worth mentioning.

An Open Up Case with Rifle of SKB ATA Double Rifle Case

If you like the Pelican (our top pick) but need something capable of transporting two rifles, and don’t want to pay extra for the European styling and craftsmanship offered by the Negrini, this is the one you want.


In Fourth Place – The Plano Double Scoped Rifle Case with Wheels

PLANO DOUBLE SCOPED RIFLE CASE

Value

Extras

Brand Reliability*

Summary

4.3

The Plano Double Scoped Case is an excellent value option that doesn’t skimp on durability. Recommended for the budget-conscious outdoorsman.

Plano makes a wide range of gun cases, but in our view, the best of the best in the company’s lineup is this airline approved double rifle case.  Here are the things we like best about this particular model:

  • It’s relatively inexpensive as rifle cases go, and is perfect for value-conscious outdoorsmen
  • It’s enormous – the largest case on our list.  Not only is it big enough to hold two rifles and scopes, but there’s plenty of space left over for ammo and just about any other extras you may want to bring with you.
  • The sheer size translates to an enormous pluckable area (an impressive 46” x 10”), allowing you virtually unlimited customization options.
  • It’s got four lockable latches for maximum security in transit.
  • And it’s got wheels, which makes moving it from Point A to Point B a breeze.

In addition to that, it’s sturdy and secure, although it doesn’t offer the legendary indestructibility of Pelican cases.

Unfortunately, its generous size also has a downside.  You’re almost guaranteed to exceed just about every airline’s maximum size limitations, which means that you stand a good chance of being told initially that you’ll have to pay a surcharge to get it on the plane.

A Waterproof Plano Double Scoped Rifle Case Carrying with a Car

Remember though, that most airlines have a generous exception policy, so if you ask to speak to a manager, you’ll almost certainly get around that. If you’re concerned about it, call the airline you plan to fly with before you make a purchase and get their input.  After all, they’ll be the ones to make the ultimate determination, so it pays to involve them early in the process.


Honorable Mention – The SKB Double Bow/Rifle Case

SKB DOUBLE BOW/RIFLE CASE

Value

Extras

Brand Reliability*

Summary

4.1

The SKB Double Bow/Rifle Case is a wonderfully versatile TSA recommended option. Recommended for mixed use – capable of storing both bows and rifles.

SKB scores another place on our list of finalists with the Double Bow/Rifle Case.  It’s not only a good rifle case for airline travel, but we felt that we had to include it for its sheer versatility. It’s wide enough to hold both a rifle and a target-style bow, or one of each if that’s your preference.

An Open View Image with Bow of Skb Double Bow/Rifle Case

It’s an injection molded watertight case with four trigger latches and reinforced padlock locations.  The only other thing you’ll need is to supply your own padlocks, and you’re ready to travel!

There are two things we consider to be weak points in the design: First, there are no cubby holes for ammo and other accessories, and second, the dimensions are a bit on the large size, which may put you over the maximum size limit set by some airlines (ref: The Delta Airlines size limit we mentioned above). 

An Open View Image with Rifle of Skb Double Bow/Rifle Case

Again though, most airlines are in the habit of making exceptions to their own rules for gun cases. So, if you are informed that you’ll have to pay an additional fee, most of the time merely asking to speak to a manager and explaining the situation will get you around it.


Best Airline Approved Rifle Case Review Conclusion

So, what’s the best airline approved rifle case?  Ultimately that depends on what your specific needs are, but in our view, and especially given the fact that the TSA mentions Pelican by name on their website, we stand by the Pelican 1750 as our top pick.  In truth, however, any of the cases we’ve mentioned here will serve you well.

At the end of the day, the best gun cases for airline travel are the ones that hold what you need them to hold and get you past the ticket counter with a minimum of headaches and hassles.

If, for any reason, the particular models we’ve listed here aren’t exactly what you’re looking for, note that we’ve included links to the brand pages for each of the companies that make our finalists.  These companies offer a wide range of rifle cases, so you’re sure to find exactly what you’re looking for.

Changelog

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Sources and Official Brand Websites


Best Airline Approved Rifle Case Review was last modified: May 23rd, 2019 by Consumer Files