Toughest Gun Cases On Earth


by Greg Quinn

photography by Greg Quinn

August 4th, 2008




We at use a lot of products.  In order to test and properly evaluate the best products in the firearms and related productions community, we must put these products through their paces. From guns to ammo, from gun cleaning products to gun storage products, from gun protection products to products that make the guns function better, we use them all.  And, the use of these products often involves travel.  Travel to the hunting destination.  Travel to shoot at events.  Travel requires that we pack our guns (long and short), optics, and ammo properly and make sure they will withstand the rigors of travel.  It would be a very disappointing hunt to arrive at the camp a thousand miles from home and find that your gun or optic is busted due to the failure of a poorly-designed gun case.  That is the purpose of this article, to evaluate some gun cases from Starlight cases, and see if they will hold up to the rigors of travel.

Starlight cases is a company based in North Carolina.  They are a disabled veteran-owned business.  Starlight cases are currently in use in military applications of Operation Enduring Freedom, and are recognized around the world for their durability.  Starlight cases have been used in Desert Storm, Bosnia, Somalia, Afghanistan, and Iraq.  They are built to exceed Mil-Spec MIL-C 4150J testing procedures. Starlightís cases exceed the specs developed by the Air Transport Association. They have a lifetime guarantee (donít see this much anymore).  So, before our test cases ever arrived at offices to get into the test queue, I knew they had an excellent pedigree.

We received the test products back several months ago.  Over the past few months, we have run these Starlight cases through several tests, and they have held up great.  While we are far from complete in our analysis of these products, as we have yet to take these cases (as well as others from other case manufacturers) to an African safari as well as a winter Canadian hunt later this year, we wanted to get out the initial test results into this article for your review.  With big game hunting season only a few months away, we figured some of our readers would be purchasing gun cases for their important hunting trips this fall.

Any testing we can do on a gun case pales in comparison to some of the testing done at the manufacturer facilities, and in real world uses such as in Iraq by our military.  I have seen pictures of Starlight cases being run over by tanks and Humvees, and survive.  While we tested the watertight-ness of their cases, we didnít test them to a depth of 400í as have been done by the factory representatives.  While we dropped them from about 2 stories, we didnít drop from a 5-story building (but the factory has test results from that drop; only minor surface scratches).  I stood on my Starlight pistol case and didnít dent the surface, but I donít weigh as much as a tank.  You get the picture. I did attempt to run my Chevy Avalanche over the double rifle case and it only put light scuff marks on the surface of the black injection molded plastic (from scooting it across exposed aggregate concrete with the weight of a truck trying to crawl over it).  But, compared to a tank or a Humvee, I really cannot say I have done much to test the durability of the product.  If the illustrations in the Starlight website are accurate, and I donít have any reason to suspect otherwise, then I believe we can say that these are very tough cases.  That has been the experience from our research, and our experience from the practical tests we have done on these cases over the past few months. 

And, Uncle Ted Nugent uses Starlight cases, it seems.  Good enough for Gonzo, good enough for Gunblast.

We received the Starlight product number 061352 in black (double rifle case, direct purchase from Starlight website is $245 plus shipping), and the Starlight product number 101822 (pistol case in black, web price is $240 plus shipping).  These cases are injection molded plastic with rubber o-ring seals.  They are airtight and dustproof with a pressure-equalizer valve.  They have a reported temperature range from minus 65 degrees to 165 degrees F.  They are practically dent-proof.  They are rust-proof, being plastic in construction (only metal parts are rivets and spring-latch/handle systems).  They are supposed to float up to a weight of 175 pounds; this we didnít try (yet; wait till we cross a Canadian stream this winter).  They have molded holes for locks; a nice touch.  The rifle case has two wheels that roll quite well, even over uneven terrain.  The cases come in black, OD green, desert tan, and chocolate brown.  Ours were delivered in black.

I tried to mess up the case without a rifle inside (sorry, but I couldnít risk one of my prized long guns until I knew the case would perform).  No breakage from the weight of a truck.  I couldnít harm it when I jumped on it.  Rain didnít penetrate it.  Dust didnít get in it.  Then I put in one of my favorite rifles and tried again (except for the truck trick).  My Savage Tactical Rifle in .308 fit very well indeed in the rifle case.  Being a double case, I could have put its twin in the bottom layer and this one on top and still had excellent protection of the firearms.  With the case bouncing around with the rifle inside, even without cutting the foam (as recommended) for a more secure fit, there was no movement of the gun within the case.

At first, I didnít like the latch system on the Starlight cases.  Being a user of Hardigg Storm Cases (another excellent-quality case), I was accustomed to simply pulling up several heavy-duty plastic latches around the case to get into the interior.  With Hardigg and others, there is no need for an air purge valve, as with the Starlight case.  You lift one special latch first and it purges the unit.  When I tried to pull up the latches on the Starlight rifle case, I was faced with a spring-loaded J-latch system that prevented the latch from opening.  To lift the hard plastic latch, one must first push over the spring-loaded metal ďJĒ and then pull up on the latch.  Admittedly, it was difficult at first, a bit frustrating, and I didnít like it.  My first few attempts required two hands. Loosen the purge valve, push over the metal ďJĒ, and then lift the latch.  However, once I did it a few times, and got used to the process, it became quite easy to do one-handed.  Not quite as easy as lifting a plastic latch as with the Hardigg cases, but still easy to do. The benefit?  There is no way the Starlight latch will come open by accident.  While it is not easy (but it is possible) for a latch system like on a Hardigg to be pulled open, this cannot happen with a Starlight case.  While I am perfectly happy with a Hardigg rifle case on a hunting trip, and havenít had failure on any to date, I must say that the Starlight latch system is stronger and better.

Another feature I really like is the spring-loaded carry handles on the Starlight cases.  When needed, they can be pulled up.  When not needed, let go and they spring shut.  And, the padding on the handles feel good.  A nice touch.

Another nice feature is that these cases are designed to be stackable.  Also, the foam used in Starlight cases is superior to the foam sold in many cases on the market today.

The Starlight pistol case easily holds 10 pistols and/or revolvers.  It has the same high-density foam and latch system as the rifle case.  I put 5 prized handguns in the Starlight case on the top layer, and they fit well.  Another 5 could easily fit in the lower level. I didnít cut the foam to fit around these guns, but that is recommended once it is determined which guns will be used to travel.  I actually plan to order additional foam from Starlight (can be purchased right from their website) and label the foam ďopeningsĒ based on various handgun configurations I may use from time to time.  One case, many pistols.

Starlight cases are owned by New Innovative Products, Inc.  Since 1994, Starlight cases have been utilized by the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, and Army National Guard.  Their cases are also used by the Department of Defense, Dept. of Justice, Department of the Interior, FEMA, and other US government agencies.  They are also dispatched to many police and fire departments across the country.  Starlight cases are designed to carry and protect guns, tools, optics, electronic equipment, first aid products, musical instruments, diving gear, etc.  Steve Ramos, their founder and CEO, has an impressive military background. has used and currently use quality cases from manufacturers like Hardigg, and others.  All are good and have served us well.  However, comparing feature for feature and quality for quality, it is my personal opinion that the cases of Starlight manufacturing are the best on the market.  Their pressure equalization valve system is more accurate than a simple purge valve system.  Their wheels are very tough.  The spring-loaded handle is strong and automatically folds out of the way when not in use.  Their ďJĒ latch system, once accustomed to its design, is superior to other designs on the market to prevent accidental opening of the case.  Starlight uses a specially formulated polymer resin that is much stronger than the ABS plastic used in many other good cases on the market.  And, being an old space guy myself, with experience working in NASA and DOD environments on high-security projects for many years, you cannot get the government to buy anything but the best quality products on the market (at least not repeatedly).  Starlightís customer list, and fan base, is extensive.  If it is good enough to protect the expensive firearms and equipment utilized to protect the freedoms of our great nation, then the case is certainly good enough for the rest of us.  Again, there are many good cases out there.  None I have seen compares to the ruggedness of the Starlight case.

Donít take my word for it.  Spend two-and-a-half-hundred dollars and buy their double rifle case or big pistol case.  I think you will find that you will rest much easier knowing that your expensive guns and optics are well-protected from accidents or the weather when residing in a Starlight case. 

Starlight cases can be purchased online at

Greg Quinn

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Click pictures for a larger version.



Starlight cases are some of the best gun cases on the market.  "Protection with the best" is their motto, and from this test and analysis I have found that Starlight cases are about as indestructible as any portable firearms protection solution on the market today. This photo still shows some of the slight scuff marks from truck tire treads.



This photo shows the exclusive "latch lock" system on Starlight cases.  This spring-loaded latch system prevents accidental opening of the latches on the Starlight cases.  While a bit clumsy to use until you get used to them, these latches do prevent accidental opening of the case.



Starlight cases are very tough and offer exceptional protection for firearms during travel.  Another great feature is their spring-loaded carry handle; when not in use it springs closed.



Wheels on Starlight's double rifle case are installed securely, and roll easily, even on relatively rough terrain.  Very high-quality construction is evident in this case.



Photo shows bottom of Starlight double-rifle case.



Savage Tactical Rifle with McMillan stock, Harris bipod, and Leupold scope are well protected during travel in this Starlight double-rifle case.  



The Starlight rifle case features egg-crate foam on top lid, and layers of high-density foam that can be cut for exact fit of long guns.  



Starlight's pistol case 101822 ($240 direct) showing 5 handguns, left to right: Glock 21 with High Ready Tactical's Arctic Snakeskin finish, Glock 19 with Crimson Trace lasergrips, Sig P229 with Trijicon ghost-ring tritium sights, Taurus PT1911, and Springfield TRP.  This case will easily hold 10 handguns, or 5 guns as shown plus ammo in the bottom section (2 layers), and protect them during any kind of travel situation.  This very tough case utilizes the same spring-lock system as their double-rifle case.



This photo, showing the same guns as above, better depicts the spring-loaded carry handle and spring-lock latch system.  Note that the high-density foam has not been cut for these handguns; foam can be cut around each gun for maximum protection.  The 10" of depth of this case makes it very easy for 2 layers of weapons.