Pack a Pelican Gun Case | Just the Tip

pimp pelican
August 1, 2023  
Categories: Learnin'

If you’re a frequent traveler with firearms or other expensive semi-fragile gear, there’s a good chance you’ve invested in a Pelican gun case or similar ruggedized carrier. If you’ve been on the fence about it, I highly recommend you give it some consideration. The cargo cases themselves are generally considerably less than the firearms you’re trying to protect, and even the big-box store Pelican case knockoffs are better than a cheap, thin Walmart case. But today isn’t so much about reasons why you should buy a Pelican case of any kind, but how you should pack it along with general tips, especially if you’re getting on a plane or otherwise traveling commercially.

Pack a Pelican Gun Case

Pelicans provide protection for the goodies inside with high impact polymer. The large hinges, locks, and reinforced corners are there to ensure the case itself stands up to all manner of abuse. The protective foam insert impacts and aids in keeping everything in place. While custom-cut foam is sexy as hell, it’s rarely needed to isolate movement. Plus, if you want to place a different weapon inside or change your gun’s configuration…

Pelican Case for Sale

tactical Lookin’ for a Pelican Case for sale? Here ya go!

Where to Find Your Pelican Case

Properly Packing Pelican

Regardless, in order to best protect from shock, any objects placed inside should be immobile in transport. The most fragile or delicate of items should be in the upper 50% of the Pelican (preferably right smack dab in the middle, but that’s not always viable). You wouldn’t know this from looking at the internet, however.

A random Google Images sampling shows more than half of the guns with optics on the hinge side.

Google image search result for Pelican cases.

I’m fairly certain this is for one reason: It looks a lot cooler in photos. Never mind the fact that Pelicans are, you know, carried and tossed about by the heavy duty handles and not the hinges.

Similarly, heavier objects should be placed closer to the hinge so the case will be more stable when it’s upright. If possible, try for equal weight distribution for extra security.

"Proper Pelican Packing", diagram showing how to pack your guns and ammo.

This is all especially important for when you’re flying–do you think that unionized baggage handlers treat your favorite things like fine China? Hell no they don’t. They grab that shit by the handle and throw.

"Proper Pelican Packing", diagram showing how to arrange delicate and heavy objects in a case.

During commercial transport, I also remove all batteries from weapon lights, flashlights, and other electronic equipment. Not really because most of them are lithium-based and prohibited from being in cargo, but because I don’t want a WML knocked on and subsequently melting foam/setting the case on fire. To ensure I don’t forget that the electronics aren’t juiced up, I also detach tail caps and switch doors. I just crossload the batteries.

As far as locking, I prefer combination locks over keyed ones for one very specific reason: I’ve lost my keys before. While traveling. It sucked. Thankfully, you can find padlock specifications for Pelican gun cases on their website. Or look into their Personal Utility series for everyday carry of the important things.

Pelican case closed and locked by two padlocks.

In That Case

Another airline-specific tip might actually save you some money. Most airlines will bend you over hard when you check your luggage. You can save space while keeping your guns secure by putting clothes inside the Pelican in lieu of extra foam. Just remember to ensure nothing shifts around.

Two gun cases, one with foam inserts and one with clothes for cushion.

The 7.62N above should be closer to the middle of the case.

A piece of cheap insurance is a luggage scale. One of our Minions, who shall remain nameless (Candice), is notorious for packing a Pelican too heavy and paying overage fees. In this case, you might want to check the Air series of Pelican gun cases. For example, the 1535 Air Carry-On Case weighs 9.98 lbs (4.5 kg) with foam and 8.69 lbs (3.9 kg) empty. Compare that to the Pelican V730 Vault Tactical Rifle Case that weighs 22.07 lbs (10 kg) with foam and 17.30 lbs (7.8 kg) empty.

Luggage scale.

If you’d like to know more about flying with guns, be sure to read Traveling Armed Part 2: Airplanes, and the latest Traveling Armed Part 5: When You Get Screwed.


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Dave Merrill

Dave Merrill

About the Author

About the Author: A combat veteran of the United States Marine Corps, Dave "Mad Duo Merrill" is a former urban warfare and foreign weapons instructor for Coalition fighting men. An occasional competitive shooter, he has a strange Kalashnikov fetish the rest of the minions try to ignore. Merrill, who has superb taste in hats, has been published in a number of places, the most awesome of which is, of course, here at Breach-Bang-Clear. He loves tacos, is kind of a dick and married way, way above his pay grade. You can contact him at Merrill(at) and follow him on Instagram here (@dave_fm).


  1. Bemused Berserker

    I like Pelicans (I own three), but if I hadn’t worked for a distributor and got them at slightly over supplier price. Otherwise, I couldn’t have afforded them.

  2. kingof9x

    Maybe don’t pack tons of extra stuff in the case, like clothing. The airline and sometimes TSA needs to verify that the firearm is not loaded. Some places will not allow you to touch anything in the case at worst and at best will make you unpack all the stuff you have on top of your firearm to show them that it is not loaded. I try to make it easy for them and less time consuming for myself by packing everything in a soft case inside the pelican case that opens up in the same direction as the case to make it quick and easy to get to the firearms and see they are unloaded quickly and easily.

  3. jbgleason

    Buy the Pelican, ditch the foam and put your rifle and accessories in a discreet carry case / rifle bag. The nylon bag does every bit as good of a job as the foam for protection, you can swap between weapons easily just by having different bags and you can leave the hard case in the hotel room on site and just carry the bag around. I flew all over the country for training and ops in my prior life and used this method exclusively. It works.

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