REVIEW: SKB 3i gun case- Guaranteed quality?

Chris Cheng
by Chris Cheng

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.

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.


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.

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.

My old case showing one of the metal clips having fallen off and visible wear and tear.
Both clips fell off on this padlock location. You can see the outward bowing of the plastic case, at risk of breaking.
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.

Price: $166.81

Chris Cheng
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

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7 of 21 comments
  • Roguetechie Roguetechie on Sep 24, 2015

    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.

    • See 4 previous
    • Don Ward Don Ward on Sep 25, 2015

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

  • Don Ward Don Ward on Sep 24, 2015

    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.