Pros: Good durability; Balances well; Holds long-guns relatively secure
Cons: Not as readily available as they once were; Not as subjectively robust as earlier manufacture
In the mid-1980's, Doskocil Gun Cases were the 'best' you could get at a reasonably affordable price. Were they the best on the market in absolute terms? No. But, most people couldn't afford or, at least, justify the expense of the top end models.
Almost thirty years later, these cases fill exactly the same niche; though maybe not as well, for a variety of reasons. Are there better cases? Yep. Are they as good as they used to be? Not necessarily. Are they still worth the investment? Depending on your intended use... Positively.
Name Becomes Identity
These cases were so popular and the Doskocil Manfacturing name became so synonymous with this style of case, for those of a certain generation, if you don't say "Doskocil," it's tough to create a mental image of what you're talking about. Unfortunately, as with everything else in life, things change and while the Doskocil name still identifies these cases for a host of shooters, it is no longer applicable as the 'proper' brand name for the product. In fact, if you search for the name Doskocil or Doskocil Manufacturing Company, Inc., you'll find yourself looking at Petmate, pet products.
Short version - Doskocil, a Texas company founded in the late 50's/early 60's (there seem to be a variety of dates provided depending on your source), is now doing business under the name "Petmate;" using similar technology they once applied to gun cases for the production of pet carriers, etc.
Then again, if you were to do a Google search for "Doskocil gun cases," you find a plethora of results, directly taking you to these cases. Some will note that they are "formerly" Doskocil, but other sites (e.g., Cabelas) still list them under a Doskocil brand heading or link. Although, the current trend is to try and change the 'identifiying' name to simply "Gun Guard."
Other than the fact that the Doskocil company no longer markets these cases, one of the reasons for the "Gun Guard" name becoming the identifier is that the brand is now owned and marketed by Plano Molding Company - or Plano, makers of tackle boxes. In recent years, Plano has expanded into a number of areas; but, in general, are best known for low price point niche products. You know, $6 - $40 tackle boxes and $10 - $50 pistol/rifle cases such as the Pro Max Single Scoped Rifle Case.
Don't get me wrong. I have a Plano Tackle Box that's been used for over a decade as the container for my home-based 'first aid kit.' I use some of their inexpensive fly boxes. But, in general, their products are not viewed as "high-end" and the overall quality for most of those products is not what most consider to be "long-term durable." That's just not the niche they've filled over the years.
As a result, it can be difficult for shooters to wrap their minds around the idea that Plano is now the producer of the "Doskocil" Gun Guard cases. Or, if they can get past that thought, the next stop is the thought that the quality will no longer be there. In that context, the concern is, somewhat, justified.
The Tech Specs
The Gun Guard (Plano) DLX Series Double Scoped Rifle Case (Item #10252) is listed with the following specs...
Outer Dimensions - 52.125" x 14.5" x 4.5"
Inner Dimensions - 51.75" x 13" x 3.875"
Thick protective (interlocking) foam securely holds firearms
Double full-length (piano) hinge
Strong aluminum valance
Holds and protects two rifles or two shotguns with 30" barrels
Does It Work?
I picked up my first Doskocil 'single' rifle case sometime in the early 1980's. Let's just stipulate that I've never used it for just one rifle; but, you have to be judicious regarding which firearms you choose to pair in that case. Insofar as the 'double rifle' case, mine was acquired in the first half of 1987 for $69.95 plus tax and still serves as my primary vehicular travel case when going beyond 'local' environs.
Both are the 'pumpkin' color these cases were once known for. Each bears the character marks of use; i.e., the exterior will pick up gouges and scratches. The keys for the latch locks were lost long ago. Yet, both continue to hold their respective firearms securely and safely; with neither having broken or worn parts.
However, bear in mind that I do not 'toss' my cases into the bed of the pickup. I place them in the bed. Insofar as is possible, I don't let them slide/bang around in the bed. Neither do I 'throw' just any old thing on top of them when packing gear. You have to remember that a good pair of firearms, say a scoped rifle and pump-action shotgun, can mean your "$100 Doskocil" case is holding a couple thousand dollars or more worth of tools you're basing all or a significant portion of a trip on.
Speaking of the price, I picked up the now black shelled, Plano Gun Guard DLX Series Double Rifle/Shotgun case for $100 even, out-the-door last year from a local gun shop. Cabela's currently lists them for $113. I know the listings on this review page (at the time of this posting) have the case from $96 - $127. I have seen them listed as low as around $75 and as high as $140. Therefore, let's say that if you budget "$100" and have some 'lunch money' in your pocket, you should be in the ballpark for most local shops.
But, therein lies the problem. It can be a bit problematic to find these in stock in local stores. There was a time when it seemed to be a choice between these or a soft shell - period - as they were the only things which seemed available. Now, most local shops seem to favor the soft shells (especially the "assault" or "tactical" cases) and the "low price" Planos. I can think of at least two dozen stores which sell firearms and related items, all within a 1 1/2 hour driving radius, and only one of these stores actually stocks a single "Doskocil" case.
Part of this may be related to the economy. However, I suspect that another portion is tied to the fact that the ABS Shell of the Plano version I picked up last year doesn't seem to be quite as 'thick' or 'robust' as my older, Doskocil-produced versions. In other words, given that the price was $70 in 1987 and the new ones can be picked up for as low as $75 - $100 in 2011, I suspect that certain 'sacrifices' have been made to keep the cost/price down.
By itself, the case weighs in around 4 - 5 lbs. Add two rifles/shotguns and things can get a bit hefty. This has several ramifications. First, the twin handles are reasonably comfortable and deal with this weight well - IF - you properly balance the firearms in the case. There have been many times when I've swung these cases up, vertically, putting substantial stress on the handles and there have been no problems in over a quarter century. (Just bear in mind that I quickly end up supporting such a vertical alignment with my other hand.)
Second, with a balanced selection and placement of firearms inside, the case carries well, centered on the handles. But, there are no wheels and no strap. Likewise, while I've done it, it's not the most comfortable arrangement to tuck this case under an arm. Put a bit more simply, while the balance helps, it can be a bit problematic for some 'smaller' individuals to haul a 4 - 5 lb. case loaded with 15 - 20 pounds of firearms around one-handed.
Finally, while Cabela's notes this case as meeting FAA requirements, neither Plano's website nor the 'card' which comes with the case identifies it so. Add in the dimensions along with the potential weight and you have to carefully consider such travel arrangements. Not just due to the fees and potential handling, but from the standpoint of the locking latches.
Put simply and plainly, there are four, evenly spaced latches. The two 'outside' latches have integral 'locks' which are simple, easily picked affairs. To my mind, they serve, primarily, to keep the case 'closed' as opposed to 'secure.' Likewise, while more robust than the 'plastic' latches on most, less expensive cases, I wouldn't trust them in the gentle care of airline baggage handlers; at least not on anything approaching a 'regular' basis. (There is no where to properly secure a padlock of some kind as an additional measure of security.)
To sum up, this case meets what I feel would be a bare minimum standard for airline travel and is actually not one I would recommend in that context. For out-of-state hunting trips you drive to, it provides more than sufficient protection, assuming reasonable attention is paid in loading, and the locking latches keep the curious 'honest.' (If someone is intent on stealing the firearms, even a heavy padlock isn't going to stop them from simply walking off with the case and 'breaking' the lock later.)
Other Items of Note
There are four feet (two pairs, slightly staggered) toward each end (one pair to an end) on the hinge side. This allows the case to be set down 'securely' on a floor. However, it will tip over readily enough if 'bumped;' especially if the heavier firearm is located on the "handle side," placing it on top when set down in such a manner, making it 'top heavy.' To a limited extent, these 'feet' also provide some protection for the hinge.
Another issue which arises is that this case is not "waterproof." To be sure, if it's raining, it will keep your firearms dry when moving the case from the bed of the pickup (with shell) to the covered firing line on the range or a tent. But, long term exposure will result in leakage. Likewise, if by dint of circumstance the 'case' becomes a mid-to-long term 'storage' solution, humidity will find its way inside.
This is particularly true of 'bulky' firearms. What do I mean by bulky? Many military surplus rifles have oversized bolt handles or operating rod handles extending to the side. Likewise, they tend to have more wood, handguards, etc. than standard 'hunting' rifles. Some will have bulky, leather cheek pieces on them (as will some 'hunting' rifles). There does come a point in such configurations where the foam no longer compresses to accommodate the bulk, with the result being the sides of the case itself will begin to bow out; creating separations in the aluminum valance, which means an opening into the case. This also means a certain amount of reduced 'flexibility' for the case to absorb shocks.
Finally, if you do try placing two, full-size, scoped hunting rifles inside, things can get a little tight if you like to leave a little space between the scope and the sides; especially if both are using high-profile rings/mounts. This is especially true if, like me, you prefer to leave the slings in place to provide a 'cushion' between the stocks of the two weapons. In that sense, don't plan on placing a bunch of 'extras' in the case with the rifles.
On the flip side, if you wanted to place a full- or carbine-size AR-15 with extra magazines and maybe some sort of quick detach optic inside, it is more than enough case to handle that - providing substantially greater protection than any soft side 'assault rifle' case. No. It won't hold a complete set of LBE (load-bearing equipment) with the rifle inside; but, neither will your 'assault rifle case.' There is, however, a 'perk' in this regard. The Gun Guard case doesn't look like an 'assault rifle' case - if you take my meaning.
Now, while I would not necessarily recommend this as an airline travel case, it does make a more than suitable case for shipping firearms. It provides better protection than the $20 Plano-style cases and if properly packed with bubble wrap and/or foam 'peanuts' surrounding it, is a good 'insurance policy' against bumps and bangs.
The ABS shell offers advantages over metal shell cases; at least to my way of thinking. First, it won't dent the way a metal case will. Second, I feel it provides greater shock absorption than metal. Finally, minor scratches or gouges are, as I indicated, 'character marks' that indicate you use your firearms for more than punching paper at the local range.
Are there 'better' or 'stronger' cases? Absolutely. Are there more 'secure' and more 'travel friendly' cases? Yep. But, they all cost substantially more and can make your luggage/gear look more like an expedition or military exercise. To me, this simply 'invites' attention I don't necessarily want when it comes to firearms.
In the end, this is not the 'best' on the market when it comes to a plethora of objective criteria. In addition, it is certainly, at least based on my subjective perceptions, not made as robustly as it once was. But, given the mid-range price point, a certain level of 'compromise' in terms of both quality and expectations is, by definition, expected.
Put another way, thirty years ago, this was a fairly 'deluxe' rifle case for the 'average' shooter. As part of Plano's catalog, at least when it comes to the general perception of their products, it is certainly a 'deluxe' addition to their line; again, at least when it comes to all but the high-end shooters and their gear. (Someone who is willing to and/or can afford to spend $3,000 or more on a rifle and another $1,500 - $2,500 on an optic isn't likely to blanch at $400-plus for a waterproof, shock proof, drop proof, corrosion resistant, it floats, but "Does it come with a CD Player and cup holders?" rifle case.)
Viewed from that perspective, the Doskocil (now Plano) Gun Guard DLX Series Double Scoped Rifle Case will more than do the job for most people.