Transport of our hardware and toys always involves a compromise. We end up spending hundreds (if not thousands) of dollars on a rifle, or optics, or electronics, only to put it into a cheap nylon case. Or perhaps we buy a budget plastic box from Amazon (which it what I did with my GoPro cameras and accessories).
While this strategy may work well for most people that don’t really transport their gear often, or take it to environments that are little more extreme than an indoor range, it is not a good guarantee that your stuff will be well protected. When I deployed to Iraq, I had a number of sensitive electronics in an early model Pelican case and the fine moon dust actually got into the case, plugging up cooling vents (not a ton mind you, but enough that I had to spend time de-dusting–a task that would be repeated for months).
This past year at SHOT 2016 I had a scheduled appointment (with International Supplies) where I got to see and handle a variety of Explorer Cases. And yes, I will again admit, I have somewhat of a fetish for storage cases…
Explorer Cases are made of a high quality “Copolymer Polypropylene compound”. What exactly does that mean for you, the consumer? No idea, other than the cases are extremely tough and hold up very well.
The cases are waterproof, resistant to chemicals, humidity, dust (though mine attracted the heck out of dog hair–on the outside), and are resistant to harsh temperatures (they list the rating as -33°C/-27F° to +90°C/+194F).
Explorer Cases boast jam-free purge valve and latches and are the first cases to achieve the new military standard qualifications (though I’m not sure exactly what this standard was–it was not listed on the site and the Google otherwise failed me). They also have a number of other patented innovations.
Explorer Cases are manufactured 100% in Italy. I am normally a “buy local” supporter, but sometimes higher quality items are simply not made here. And in some cases, competitor’s items are also not made local (though I believe Storm Cases are, in fact, made in the USA).
International Supplies offered to send me a case for review which I gladly accepted. The one the sent me was the 11413 model, which is a wheeled full length rifle case. They also included the “Backpack Kit” and the “Padded Gun Bag Case”. The one downside to this is that they have a WIDE variety of case sizes, and thus I will only be able to evaluate this specific size and shape.
My intention was to primarily use the case (and accessories) for carting around my 3-Gun kit, and I wanted to give the case a few months of hard usage. I could have jammed this article out in a couple of weeks, but I honestly wanted to see how well the case would hold up to pretty hard usage, especially given my proclivity to be exceptionally rough on gear.
I found the case to be solidly constructed. The latches all clamped satisfyingly and stayed firmly closed. The lid was really nice in that it stayed open at ninety degrees to the container (opposed to flipping open all the way like a clam shell).
The wheels rolled really smoothly on every surface, including gravel. The only time they bogged down was in softer sand. But I cannot really fault them for that–I can’t think of any wheeled cases in that class that would be able to negotiate that material.
The case has handles on the long (exception of the hinged edge) and short edges, which made it really easy to load in and out of the vehicle (as well as useful for anchoring tie down straps).
The case held up exceptionally well. It was easy to load, held all of my gear tightly in place and latched securely. The padded gun bag was a perfect complement to the system allowing me to organize all of my gear (with the exception of my gun belt), with pouches where I could place eyes and ears, magazines, repair kit items, etc. It also boasts a bunch of hook and loop fields to be able to anchor your weapons however you choose. The attached backpack kit allows me to pull the whole gear set out of the case and carry it on the course.
The one “extreme” test I engineered for it was to let it slide out of the back of my jeep while driving down a dirt road (I got up to about 20 mph). I had all of my 3-Gun weapons and gear in the bag (tightly packed) and the case did not pop open, nor did it really show any signs of damage (there were some superficial scrapes on the bottom of the case) even though it slid down a gravel road a little ways.
At no point was any of my gear compromised from dirt or moisture (I even packed it with paper towels and took a garden hose to it).
The only structural problem I had with case was more due to my usage, than the case itself. I found, with the longer rifle case, if I overpacked it, a part of the padded gun bag would tend to squeeze out of the side, and then I could not effectively close all four latches (specifically the inner ones). Again, not a problem with the case, just a problem with my packing strategy, putting too much stuff in it and trying to force it closed.
Honestly my biggest complaint is with their main website. It is challenging to find the size you want as they are organized by part number. If they would organize by application, and better tag things, it would be much easier to find the box you need.
Overall the Explorer Case that I evaluated was solid and performed excellent. It took all of the abuse I threw at it and handled it well. While definitely exhibiting some surface damage from normal wear and tear, nothing compromised the fit and function of the case. The bag system that is designed to work in conjunction with the case is exceptionally clever and really increased the overall utility.
I personally think the Explorer Case I have is better than my Pelican case (now owning both). The Pelican let dust into my case (when I was down range). And Pelican cases, comparatively, are heavier and more expensive for the same size (even accounting for the new “Air” models).
I am definitely going to be adding a couple of the other sizes of Explorer Cases to my collection for storage and protection of my gear.
You can find more information about Explorer Cases at: http://www.explorercases.com/ and they can be purchased from a number of online retailers (Amazon and B&H). [UPDATE: International Supplies is building out a new website to purchase direct at http://explorercases.net/]