Thursday, March 4, 2010

Midway USA 42" tactical rifle case

The Basics

Inside dimensions: 40" long x 12" high
Weight: 29 oz (1 lb 13 oz)
Exterior material: PVC-coated polyester
Retention of contents: Zipper main compartment; 4x 2-mag pockets with velcro flaps; zipper pocket for incidentals
Carry methods: Carry handles - nylon webbing with velcro-secured wrap; Shoulder strap - sewn in on one side for over-the-shoulder, sling-style carry
Available colors: Black
Midway's website description: These heavy duty tactical weapons cases are engineered to provide exceptional protection for rifles and carbines of all shapes and sizes. These cases are constructed with an advanced dual density bonded padding system that provides superior impact protection compared to basic foam used in other cases. Other enhanced durability features include heavy duty, Hi-Abrasion resistance ballistic fabric construction, oversized self repairing coil zippers, fully wrapped webbing handles, reinforced seam stitching, metal hardware, shoulder strap and snag-proof 420D lining fabric.
Price at time of this writing: $16.99 (sale); regular price is $29.99
Made in: China

Pouch Central Overview

I happened to be in the market for a rifle case and when I noticed this case on sale.  For the screaming low price of $16.99 it seemed like a no-brainer. Of course I was a little skeptical, but the reviews on Midway's website were mostly positive, with just a few negatives, and I figured that my risk was pretty minimal at this price. So I ordered one to try it out. Midway's service has always been good in my experience and this was no exception as they shipped the case out the morning after I ordered it.

When it arrived my expectations were low, and I half-expected the case to fall apart in my hands as soon as I took it out of the box. Not only did it not fall apart, the materials actually seemed pretty decent. The exterior fabric is reasonably heavyweight (just a guess; I don't know the exact weight) and the foam padding is thicker than I would have expected. I broke out the calipers and the foam measured 7/10ths of an inch thick on each side. I was expecting something more like 1/4".  At nearly three times that thickness, this should be plenty to protect my rifles from dings and scrapes in most situations short of dragging them down the road behind my car.

The overall appearance of the case is pretty standard for a tac rifle case. Black is the only color offered, unfortunately, and it would be nice to see other colors offered as well.  I'd also like to see the shape of the case made rectangular to provide a more discreet profile.  This is important to a lot of folks who live in urban environments and don't like to advertise their hardware to the neighborhood every time they take it out to the car.  A rectangular case would also be more flexible since it doesn't matter which way you put the rifle in.

One other thing I noticed right away was a strong odor from the synthetic materials, probably due to outgassing from the PVC.  I took the case to my garage and left it sitting open for a few days.  The smell mostly disappeared.  I have no idea what plasticizers were used in the manufacture of this case, but it's made in China so your guess is as good as mine.  I'm not taking a stand on the health effects of things like phthalates, but if you're concerned about such issues I would take this into consideration and probably avoid storing the case in someplace you spend lots of time, such as your bedroom.  Here's a Wikipedia article on PVC for your reference.

Moving on to the layout, one side of the case has the pockets and pouches, and the other side has a shoulder strap but is otherwise clean.  On one side there's a small Midway logo in the center that seems tasteful and not too blatant.  But if you don't like it you could probably black it out with a sharpie or (if you can sew) you could cover it with some loop Velcro and use the space for a nametape, flag patch, etc. 

Click any photo for a full-size image

There are two ways to carry the case. First, there are dual grab-handles with a Velcro-secured handle wrap. This works just like it should, and the webbing is stitched all the way down both sides of the case so it doesn't look like it will come loose anytime soon.

Left: Grab handles
Right: Detail of shoulder strap attachment

Second, there's a shoulder strap that runs the length of the case on one side, for over-the-shoulder, sling-style carry like the way you'd carry a hunting rifle. The strap is sewn into the case at both ends, with no QD option, but it lays flat and doesn't add any bulk so I don't think the QD option is really necessary. The strap is comfortably wide.  The stitching and plastic ring holding it to the bag don't look too stout though.  I would keep an eye on this area as a potential weak point. It's obviously not intended for heavy-duty use, but it wouldn't stop me from buying the case.

The main compartment has a single zipper.  A double-zipper would be better but I'm sure this is a cost-saving measure.  When you zip up the case, the zipper sits at the wider (buttstock) end. Given that we're stuck with a single zipper I'd prefer to have it zip up to the muzzle end, so that when carrying the rifle muzzle up using the shoulder strap, I don't have to worry about the zipper opening and dropping the rifle out the bottom. But for this price I can suck it up and sling it muzzle-down.

The main compartment's inner dimensions measure out at 40" long by 12" high. As you can see it's quite spacious for my carbine in both length and height.  The height should be sufficient for any scoped AR. Lengthwise it just fits my 20" AR with A2 stock, but if you want a little extra room for a rifle that size I'd go with the 46" version of this case (same price).

Towards the front of the bag there's a medium-sized, unpadded zipper pocket that can hold a small notebook and other incidentals. It doesn't have much depth to it but it's handy for the one or two things you forgot to throw in your range bag. The notebook in the photo is 8.25" tall x 6.5" wide x .5" thick, so you could probably throw a few extra magazines in there but it's not deep enough to accommodate a spotting scope.

In the center of the bag, behind the Midway logo is a small, Velcro-secured pocket that's big enough for a magazine and/or odds and ends like pens and tools.

Towards the rear of the bag are four magazine pockets, each secured by a flap with a Velcro closure.  Oddly, the two end pouches will each hold two M4 magazines, while the center two pouches will hold one each, for a total of six.  The flaps will close over mags that have Magpul loops or Ranger Plates.  You can also fit one M14 or G3 7.62 NATO magazine in each pouch, although they'll fit snugly in the middle two pouches.  I don't have AK mags so I wasn't able to test them.


For the money this is an unbeatable value.  In fact I'm going to buy a second case since the $16.99 price is still in effect at the time of this writing, even at $29.99 I wouldn't hesitate to buy another.  While it has a few minor shortcomings there's nothing that would make me hesitate to recommend it.  Putting the value issue aside for a moment, I've listed my likes and dislikes below, just in terms of the features and functionality.  You'll see that my dislikes are mostly "nice to have" features rather than major flaws.

  • Materials seem to be good quality
  • Size accommodates most tactical rifles
  • Handles/straps are solid enough for most uses, and a Velcro-secured wrap is provided for the grab handles
  • Thoughtful layout of pockets makes good use of the real estate and provides a variety of storage options
  • Foam is thicker than I expected
  • Shoulder strap attachment is a potential weak point
  • Lack of a double-zipper
  • Zipper should zip up to the muzzle end
  • Mag pouches should all hold two mags
  • More colors should be offered
  • It would be nice to see this case in a "discreet", rectangular shape rather than the traditional rifle shape.
  • There's nothing to protect the muzzle from the zipper, so if your barrel doesn't have a muzzle device you might want to add a muzzle protector
  • Shipping costs - it's expensive to ship on its own because it's a bulky item. If you have the chance to bundle it with several other items you'll save some money on shipping.

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