REVIEW: SKB 3i gun case- Guaranteed quality?

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I travel with guns pretty frequently for competition and for work – about 15 trips per year for the past three years. I want to share my experience using SKB cases, specifically the 3i Series which I use for 3-gun and general firearms transportation. While I have five other SKB case models, my 3i-5014-6B-L (how’s that for a tongue twister?) is the one which has been used and abused the most.

My SKB case has been mailed through FedEx and UPS, flown in the bellies of many airplanes, dragged/rolled on the ground + up and down stairs, put through the mud and plenty of dust and dirt. It’s been in the trunks of many cars and traveled miles on shipping company and airport conveyor belts which don’t always treat packages nicely.

SKB cases have many foam options, but I use my Brownell’s 3-gun soft bag which snugly fits right in the empty case. The soft bag acts as a cushion and is super convenient when traveling. Once in my hotel I just leave the hard case in my room while I take the lighter more nimble soft case to the range. If you like the traditional cut-out foam, you can cut till your heart’s content.

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The SKB 3i double rifle case with the Brownell’s 3-gun soft bag. An awesome combo.

Let me cut to the chase of this review though, which is their “unsurpassed lifetime guarantee.” You hear about these claims in products all the time, and I ran into a situation where I put it to the test. The weakest parts of the SKB 3i gun case are the “reinforced padlock locations” which are reinforced by these dinky metal clips that are prone to fall off depending on the type of padlock used.

Dinky.

Dinky.

I use MasterLock 175DLH padlocks which have held up strong. I like their combo feature because it means one less key to carry around. The MasterLock padlocks often take the brunt of lateral forces as the case goes through its travels.

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Here’s where the SKB 3i case is weak. All that lateral force is applied to the chinsy metal clips which eventually fall off. You’re then left with exposed molded plastic and over time the padlock shackle applies outward pressure, deforming the padlock holes. The deformation got so bad that I was fearing the shackle holes would fail and my padlocks would fall out, leaving my guns unsecured during transit.

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My old case showing one of the metal clips having fallen off and visible wear and tear.

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Both clips fell off on this padlock location. You can see the outward bowing of the plastic case, at risk of breaking.

 

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My padlock on the new replacement case. Notice how far out the padlock protrudes from the case.

I contacted SKB Customer Support to inquire about getting a replacement case. I am happy to report that the process was super easy. I was instructed to ship the empty, damaged case to their Southern California headquarters (payment was on me) and that once they received the case they would either repair or replace the case. One week after I shipped them the case, a new one arrived. My only disappointment was that the weak metal clips are still part of the design, but I guess if/when they fail again I can get another replacement from SKB.

Having worked in customer service for five years at Google, I know good support when I see it. It’s always heartening to see a company back up its claims, and I am super satisfied with SKB and look forward to many more years of using their cases.

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www.skbcasesusa.com/skb-3i-5014-6.htm

Price: $166.81



Chris Cheng

Chris Cheng is History Channel’s Top Shot Season 4 champion and author of “Shoot to Win,” a book for beginning shooters. A self-taught amateur turned pro through his Top Shot win, Cheng very much still considers himself an amateur who parachuted into this new career.

He is a professional marksman for Bass Pro Shops who shares his thoughts and experiences from the perspective of a newbie to the shooting community. He resides in San Francisco, CA and works in Silicon Valley.

www.TopShotChris.com.


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  • Pmdata

    Does the SKB line of cases offer any benefit over the Pelican 1700 series of cases? I’ve traveled the world with my Pelicans and it would take a solid advancement by another manufacturer to consider a change.

    I’m sure SKB makes a great product, but I’m not sure I’m convinced I need to switch from Pelican’s long and proven history.

    • anon

      I think similar. the problem described is made worse using long padlocks like those shown. they hang out farther and act as a long crowbar to ruin the plastic. the lock only needs to be strong enough not to fall off during flight. thieves or baggage handlers have means to defeat any lock so a long heavy one provides no real security

    • Nicholas Chen

      SKB can sometimes be cheaper than Pelican but in some instances they are not. For example, the SKB carry on case is $199.99 at Gander Mountain. I can get the Pelican 1510 for a lot less. And Pelican’s warranty is just as good as SKB.

      • anon

        I would say that Pelican’s warranty is much better. They don’t require parts to be returned which saves loads on shipping costs. The will have you “destroy it in the field” by drilling holes in designated places and sending them photos. My company uses large cases for shipping sales demo equipment and have had the cases repaired with replacement parts and in some cases completely replaced at zero cost to us.

  • thedonn007

    How much did it cost you to ship the case back? I belive you are located in CA, so I imagine it would cost a bit more to ship the case from the midwest where I am located.

  • datimes

    Where are the big orange stickers that TSA stick on that say FIREARM.

    • USMC03Vet

      Seriously? Sounds like TSA wants peoples firearms to be ripped off.

    • Nicholas Chen

      They aren’t stickers and it isnt TSA. It is the airlines that hand you the orange card. It is supposed to go inside the case so if TSA opens the case they will see the card inside.

      • Don Ward

        He’s not talking about the Firearms Declaration Slip, he is talking about the Orange sticker that airlines use to tell their baggage handlers that a piece of luggage “Must Fly”. In this case since it has a firearm. The Orange sticker is a GOOD thing.

        • Don Ward

          One more thing. If you are really worried about your firearms being stolen on the carousel, the Orange sticker tells the airlines (at least mine, I fly Alaska Airlines pretty much always) not to put the gun case on the public carousel but instead to hold it at the customer service desk at baggage pickup. It takes an extra 15 minutes but you show your photo ID, smile, and the friendly ladies there pick it up. Usually…

    • Don Ward

      You WANT the orange stickers on the outside your luggage. Those are “Must Fly” stickers that the airlines use to tell their baggage handler gorillas not to forget that piece of luggage. The airlines don’t want to get involved with the feds for losing firearms. In fact, one of my friends intentionally packs a small handgun (usually one of those throw-away $50 deals) in each one of his checked pieces of luggage as insurance to prevent airlines from “losing” his luggage.

  • Nicholas Chen

    Nice review Chris. I have been happy with Pelican Products cases. I bought a 1650 it is a huge case with wheels and a telescoping handle. You could but two small children inside it, it is so big. I bought it used. It had a broken support rib. I took it back to Pelican in Torrance and they replaced it on the spot. Paid $60 got a new $400 pelican in exchange.

  • Stephen

    Is this a pretty common issue with hard cases? It seems like a poor design to my uninformed eyes.

  • junyo

    The metal clips are supposed to make it harder to bypass the padlock by simply cutting out the hole. But you kinda defeat the point of that with long shackle padlocks – the shackle is now the weakest point and nice and exposed, as is the hole. A shrouded shackle or monoblock padlock will make a thief’s life a bit more difficult, which I like.

  • roguetechie

    right now thanks to WAPO the weakest link is the TSA approved locks…. Which thanks to one of WAPOs ace reporters the ENTIRE ring of skeleton keys for was photographed and posted in high res in an article recently.
    Needless to say, those locks are now worthless.

    • junyo

      You shouldn’t be putting TSA locks on a gun case in the first place.

      • roguetechie

        Agreed, my brother and I were debating this back and forth since it’s been 18 months + since either of us have flown with guns. Either way though, the firearms community at large needs to know TSA locks should be considered 100% compromised.

        • Don Ward

          Wait, what? It is a padlock. A simple pair of bolt cutters will defeat them.

      • Sianmink

        You’re AFAIK not allowed to put TSA locks on a gun case. Use good ones instead.

  • Don Ward

    Meh. Don’t over think things. During my trips to Bristol Bay, Alaska to commercial fish the past seven summers, I’ve just been using an old archery case that I literally found laying in the middle of the highway. It doubles as spillover luggage since I wrap the rifles I take with spare work clothes to keep them from knocking around. It accepts two full-size padlocks.