The following is a piece written by Eduardo Abril de Fontcuberta, one of the World´s most respected sniper instructors and a survival expert.
I am a sniper instructor and a competition shooter and I don’t like hard cases. Why? Because I have too many and they take too much space in my already cramped house. Whilst they do help me to safely organise my equipment and protect it from damage, I can feel a divorce approaching every time a new rifle comes home and my wife looks at the large case.
You may wonder why I am writing an article about hard cases if I don’t like them? Well, as with many other tools, I have learned to make the best out of them and, by doing this, they have become a friend instead of an enemy. I previously had a room full of big hard cases but I decided instead to optimise the space by the efficient use of high quality storage systems. Now, I am a happy man with just a few of the new large vault like cases and a couple of rifle cases. With those I can manage all my shooting equipment without losing my house, and my property, to a divorce lawyer! I would like to share my experiences with you:
Many times I have asked myself: Why the hell do they send every new rifle I buy in an expensive custom-cut foamed hard case? It seems that most manufacturers think we can actually use the hard case as the main storage of the weapon.
Nothing is more wrong. Most of us need to store our expensive rifles in a locked safe and the empty hard case becomes a problem more than a solution.
The situation is even worse for snipers and sniper instructors. We “travel” a lot, either in military and police vehicles, or by air. In those environments carrying an IP-67 waterproof and lockable hard case is a requirement. We however also need a soft case to carry our weapon to the FFP (Final Firing Position) and during training, to take in and out of the range. A custom foamed hard case will fit one specific weapon only. Even if the profile is more or less standard, and might fit a few different rifle models it is still full of foam when empty. The soft case on the other hand is also bulky and heavy, even when empty, and has to be carried in a separate container.
Not very efficient.
So what did I learn from traveling the world with that setup? It isn’t good logistically nor financially, as the weight of the soft case added to my luggage weight. Curiously enough the weight of the full hard case is never a problem either on military or civilian air travel. Its overweight condition is assumed.
With the authorisation to carry your rifle they assume they will carry the case too, and all its contents. No matter the final weight. So, once I realised this, I removed the foam from the hard case leaving an empty cocoon and housed the rifle safely in its soft case inside it. As simple as that.
Whilst this may sound simple, finding the right way to maintain protection levels required some experimenting. After some trial and error I settled on using a layer of foam under the soft case and two 8 inch wide cuts of foam on the hard case lid. This keeps the soft case from moving around and as an added bonus the deployment becomes super quick as you just have to open the hard case, grab the soft case and you are ready to go.
The one piece rod fits nicely on the side and the cleaning equipment can be kept in a pouch in the extra space next to the soft case. Using my simple system you will have ALL your kit in one place, protected and without any extra overweight fees on civilian flights, or without the risk of losing your small equipment during military travel.
For the last 10 years I have been using this system very successfully but after I found the new 5.11 vault like cases, I developed it one step further:
The new 5.11 5480 hard cases I have added to my deployment kit are big at 23”x17”x14”. They are injection moulded and constructed of ultra high-strength polypropylene copolymer resin and feature a gasketed, waterproof and dust proof, submersible design (IP67) that is resistant to corrosion and impact damage.
As most other premium hard cases they also have rubber over-moulded cushion grip handles, an automatic ambient pressure equalisation valve (MIL-STD-648C), moulded-in hinges with stainless steel hinge pins, and are stackable.
Over the years I found that hard cases have two weak points: wheels and latches. However, SKB-made 5.11 cases come with slick rolling, roller blade style wheels that are super tough. Added to this, the latches have a “trigger release” latch system, that will prevent them from opening inadvertently and being ripped off clean. A common occurrence with other designs.
I use the two large cases as support and place the rifle case as a table over them. With the addition of a foldable chair I have a surface perfect for rifle maintenance, reloading at the range, ballistics or logbook work.
Recently, after several months of testing my “range office”, I have gone one step further and started replacing my two big 44” cases with smaller 36” inch 5.11 Tactical ones. Most of my rifles are folding stocked, so why not store them folded and cut the size and weight even more?
I had to adjust the length of my one piece rod accordingly as well as the width and position of the 8” support foam strips on the hard case cover, to clear the folded stock rear section, but now with the smaller rifle cases I have reduced my footprint even more.
No matter what you do and if you like some of my configurations, the important point here is to not let the unnecessary bulk and weight of the empty cases “rule” your storage space. Take control of it, invest in good cases that will give you years of service and think about what you really need for your weapon and equipment safety. Then the hard cases will become a solution, not a problem.
Eduardo Abril de Fontcuberta is one of the world´s most respected sniper instructors with over 20 years of experience as MIL/LEO sniper instructor and various sniping books and a multitude of articles published. Also a survival expert, military high speed boat captain and high speed navigation instructor for SPECTRE, and consultant for some of the top military equipment corporations. Eduardo helps our 5.11 design teams with his independent tests, R&D, T&E and articles