Pelican is pretty much the gold standard when it comes to hard cases for firearms. Or packing any kind of valuable or delicate items for that matter. From military units shipping their equipment overseas to photographers heading out on assignment, chances are they’ve got their gear wrapped in a reliable Pelican case of some sort or another.
Back when I was on the 3-gun circuit I regularly filled my two Pelican rifle case with all my guns and gear, which worked great until I got to the other side — it’s kind of hard explaining to the baggage agents which of the ten identical Pelican cases that just arrived is yours.
Over the years it seemed at times that Pelican was only begrudgingly in the firearms market, offering a handful of firearm-specific cases that were still just minor tweaks to their existing lines. But that all just changed with Pelican’s new Vault line of hard-sided cases marketed specifically toward the shooting community.
I have no less than three Pelican cases that I’ve used over the years to get my firearms from point A to point B. I have a collection of American Airlines firearms declaration cards that is thicker than a phone book. Some of those cases have worked fantastically well, some of them could use some improvement. Looking at the new Vault line there are definitely some design changes that I appreciate, and one or two niggles that could still be ironed out.
Starting on the outside you can tell that the Vault line was styled to appeal to the firearms market. The case looks like it was built to withstand being dropped out of an airplane. And hit by a MOAB. All at the same time. It does a lot to inspire confidence that my firearms will arrive at their destination in tact. But that styling comes at a price.
For decades, the rules on flying with firearms were pretty common sense. Locked, unloaded, and declared on check-in, they were handled like pretty much any other piece of cargo. Which is great — if you’re transporting items that are regulated under the National Firearms Act and worth tens of thousands of dollars, you really don’t want to give minimum wage baggage handlers at airports any more excuses to steal stuff than they already have.
But airlines have begun to change their policies recently, making firearms more easily identified. Styling firearms-related cases differently from “regular” Pelican cases might be good marketing, but it also might make your precious cargo more visible and attractive to those trying to poach something valuable off the loading belt.
One feature I reallyappreciate is the change in latch style.
On the older Pelican cases there’s a two-stage latch used to keep a lid on what you’ve got. It worked, but sometimes it was difficult to engage the latch all the way if you had a little too much junk in your trunk. I’ve had that problem trying to get all my 3-gun gear PLUS whatever swag I’d picked up from a match back into my case to get it all home before. It’s a rather unsettling feeling not being sure if your case latches will come undone if they’re knocked around. Sure the locks should keep it closed, but you don’t want to have to rely on that.
The newer latches use a pushbutton design. They won’t open simply by lifting them. You have to press the integrated button, then lift the latch. I find it much easier to secure the latches are shut on an over-stuffed case with this design, and opening the case is definitely easier. Well done, Pelican.
Another change is around the locks — literally. Previous versions of the cases had holes molded into the hasps which were perfect for securing the case closed with a pair of your favorite padlocks (as TSA mandates) , and the new Vault cases do as well.
But while the prior versions simply had a hole molded into the plastic, the lock holes in the Vault line cases sport a stainless steel insert for extra durability. I like this because on the plastic-only version, the holes would sometimes be just a hair too small, making it difficult to get the shackle of a lock through and secure. In this version the steel reinforcing inserts make sure that the holes are strong and the correct size every time. For a case whose contents demand that it be locked more often than other cases, it’s a smart move.
One thing that I’m not a huge fan of is that, even with those reinforced inserts, the case still is too bulky for normal length locks. You’ll still need locks with a longer shackle. That means some of the more high security locks on the market won’t work, which is a bummer. Plus, longer shackles make it easier to get a pair of bolt cutters in and snap your lock off in a hurry. With all the reinforcement they’ve done I would definitely like to see them slim this part of the case down a bit more.
The Vault line is a fairly complete offering, with cases available for single handguns all the way through to the double rifle size. This specific case is the medium pistol case, which seems to be taking a more SB Tactical-friendly definition of the word “pistol.”
In this case I can comfortably fit my Brethren Armament MP5, two magazines and an AAC Ti-Rant 9 and still have room for a couple Twinkies and maybe a couple of cupcakes.
Or, if you actually want to use it for handguns, it can comfortably fit four handguns. In this case, a FNS-9L, Ruger 22/45 Lite, Remington Model 51, and a Remington R51.
The case comes with four fitted foam pieces — one snugly inserted into the lid, one slim foam piece for the bottom, and two medium pieces of foam for the contents. The four handguns fit with room to spare with one of the medium pieces of foam removed. The MP5 and all the rest fit with both medium pieces of foam removed.
One minor gripe: one of the things I really like about Pelican’s foam is that they will often include a pre-sectioned piece of foam that you can pluck out to fit exactly around your precious cargo. The version I have only sports uncut foam, meaning you either need to wrap your firearms in some towels to keep them from moving around or cut the foam yourself. Not a big deal, but I’d really prefer to have all of the cases in this line come with the pre-sectioned foam inserts to make it easier and more secure while transporting your guns.
In general, I think the new Vault cases are great. Pelican is leaning into the firearms market a little more heavily here, and with the reasonable prices they’re offering, I’m betting they will be a hit. I’d prefer if they were a little less obviously firearms-related cases, but with the new features they’ve added (the improved latches and better lock shackle inserts) I think it’s a step in the right direction.
Specifications: Pelican Vault Medium Pistol Case
Interior: 14.00″ × 10.00″ × 5.50″
Weight: 1 lb, 5 oz empty
Street Price: $57.95
Rating (out of five stars):
Overall * * * *
A great value with great features. Like all Pelican cases it’s built stronger than a brick shoot house. I suspect you can drive a truck over it — literally — and keep the contents safe. But I won’t be trying that. I’m a little concerned that the style will scream “gun” when you least want it to, but that won’t stop me from trading in my old double rifle case for a new one from this line.