This post may have affiliate links to products that may earn us commissions at no added cost to you.
I was talking to someone who works at a range the other day and we got into a discussion about this very subject. What is the difference between a gun sock, gun rug and a soft case? They said it was a potato/potato type of discussion – implying that they’re the same thing. I disagree.
A gun sock, as its name suggests, is a sock-like knitted sleeve where you can store your gun. It usually has a silicone coating which helps prevent rust and keeps the oil on your gun. Whereas a gun rug is best described as a zippered pouch for transport and sometimes storage of your guns. By definition, a gun rug will most often un-zip flat so you can place your gun on it while at the range. Let’s compare and contrast.
When it comes to our guns an important thing is that they are clean, function and are ready to use when we need them. While each of the items we’ll discuss below help accomplish this task, each has a different component that they do better. In a perfect scenario, you would want to use a combination of each of these “containers” to store, transport and use your firearms.
Much of what we’ll discuss will focus on handguns but keep in mind that they make gun socks, gun rugs and soft cases for rifles as well.
When is one preferred over the other and what are their primary functions? Let’s explore the answer by diving deep into each.
What is a Gun Sock?
As mentioned above, a gun sock is a knitted sleeve, most often with drawstrings and coated in silicone where you can store your weapons. The goal of a gun sock is to keep your guns from rusting and getting scratched while storing them.
Much like the name implies, the gun sock looks a lot like a long tube sock (really long if it’s a rifle sock) is closed on one end and has an opening on the opposite end. You slide your gun into them, barrel first, and pull the strings tight.
Some people like to keep the handle of their gun poking out so they know which gun is in the sock. Either way, the barrel is in the sock which is the part of the firearm that you’re trying to protect.
Benefits of a Gun Sock
Gun socks are great in safes or gun cabinets because they help protect against rust and scratches.
They do this by utilizing a silicone coating, in most cases, which helps keep an oiled gun away from moisture. The prominent and most sensitive part of a gun is the metal. By keeping the gun oiled and free from moisture the sock prevents rust (we discuss how guns rust in a gun case in this article here).
If your gun is blued you want to be especially careful around moisture, the oils from your fingers and knocking the gun around with your other guns.
The second thing that gun socks excel at is protection from scratches.
Because the sock is knitted it helps protect your weapons from each other while you jostle guns around in your storage area. As you’re placing a gun in your safe, or removing one, you will most likely bump into the other guns. If they aren’t covered or protected then you run the risk of banging them up and doing damage.
The sock protects against this too.
Why would you want a gun sock?
A gun sock is great for long-term storage applications, especially in humid environments. If you have multiple guns in a tight safe or cabinet you will want the added protection that a sock affords. We recommend getting a gun sock for every rifle, pistol or revolver you own. Most importantly for those guns that are of high value.
Our top pick:
You may be wondering which gun sock I recommend.
Honestly, it doesn’t matter. As long as the sock is the right size and has the silicone coating/treatment you can’t really go wrong.
I’ve reviewed several products from Allen Company and have liked almost everything they make. They make a very functional line of gun socks that fit the right criteria (like this revolver sock on Amazon).
There are even Chinese companies (like GUGULUZA) that sell the socks in bulk for different applications – rifle, pistol, revolver, tactical guns and others. You can’t really go wrong with most of these especially if you have a range of different guns and need to protect all of them.
As a final parting thought, there are some companies that make soft knit pouches that work in a similar way to a gun sock. We like to refer to those as soft cases or gun pouches since they aren’t really socks. But, that’s just our preference. Some manufacturers will call these pouches “socks”. Just keep that in mind as we discuss gun rugs and soft cases below.
What is a Gun Rug?
A gun rug goes by many different names. They’re sometimes called soft cases, gun pouches, carrying cases and tactical bags. For our purposes, we’ve defined a gun rug as a soft container used for storage and transport of your firearms.
This may counter how others define it. But this is my website…
Most often gun rugs/soft cases will have nylon handles, zippers and a soft, padded, interior. Sometimes the interior is a lambswool or synthetic wool. The most important characteristic of a gun rug is that it will open 180 degrees so it lays flat.
Benefits of a Soft Case or Pistol Rug
The reason the case lays flat is so that it acts as a protective barrier between your gun and the table/surface upon which you’ve placed your gun. In essence, it acts as a RUG where you put your gun while at the range or while cleaning it.
For this reason, most gun rugs are for pistols & revolvers. Soft cases for rifles (sometimes called scabbards) will be discussed below.
The soft case protects the gun while in transport as most have padding and many come with a lockable zipper (in many states, this is a requirement when transporting your gun). It’s a quick way to “grab & go” with your pistols when you head out to the range.
You can use them for long term storage but it’s not advised unless you are religious about cleaning and oiling your gun before you store it.
For storage, they have many of the same benefits as a gun sock in that they protect from scratching and rust if used properly.
Our top pick:
Months ago we spent some time reviewing many of the top soft pistol cases on the market (you can read our best soft pistol case reviews here). While this article covers pistol cases, much of what went into the tests and criteria apply to all gun types.
We found the Allen Locking Handgun case to be our favorite as it lays flat, is inexpensive and comes with the lock built-in.
What is a Soft Case or Tactical Gun Case?
If you aren’t already confused enough, this section may finish the job. Within the “category” of soft cases we have a few different types which all have different functions and reasons why you may want to buy them.
There are soft pistol cases which don’t open fully so, in my mind, they aren’t gun rugs. We’ll refer to these as gun sleeves. These are most often used for storage and transport of a gun that may be carried in a holster when you get to your final destination. The case doesn’t need to open fully.
There are soft cases for rifles, shotguns, tactical rifles (with all the attachments) and other long guns. These are sometimes referred to as gun scabbards. Soft rifle cases can come in single or multiple gun configurations. We cover soft rifle cases extensively here.
They are good for transport and storage but probably not long-term storage as they don’t offer great protection from moisture & rust.
As mentioned previously, another type of soft case is the knitted pouch. Sometimes called a gun sock – these are best for storage applications.
Finally, there are soft cases that serve the purpose of transporting your gun, some tools, extra ammo (magazines or boxes of ammo) and other accessories.
The intent would be to use these to take your gun to the range or hunting. So they’re usually called range bags or tactical gun cases (you can read more about them here).
Why would you want a Tactical Soft Gun Case?
It should be clear why you might want to use a soft tactical gun case – so you have everything in one place. When you’re going to the range it makes sense that you would have a bag where you keep all of your stuff (cleaning equipment, tools, etc.) and all you have to do is add your guns and you’re good to go.
The tactical range bag epitomizes Grab-N-Go. Even more than the other soft cases we’ve reviewed in the past.
May of the tactical firearms cases are boxy looking, have handles and are usually made of nylon mesh and have MOLLE attachment availability.
Our top pick:
I’m still in the middle of reviewing many of the items on this list but one pistol range bag I like is the Procase Tactical Pistol Case. This case works great for carrying a couple of handguns with extra magazines or boxes of ammo. Allen also makes a decent tactical bag.
I’ve shared what I’ve learned about the difference between the various types of “soft gun cases” on the market. I wanted to do this type of article to set a baseline definition for all of us so we can speak using common terms.
I shared my “top picks” in most of these categories. Not so much so that you would purchase one, but as they serve as great examples that illustrate the differences between gun socks, gun rugs and soft gun cases.
What do you think? Are they all the same or are the differences enough that it justifies an entire article about them? Let me know what you think below.