DIY Foam Cutting for Custom Gun Cases: Quick Step-by-Step Guide

If you have a gun case that comes with a foam insert, you might want to customize it to fit your firearm and accessories perfectly. This will not only make your case look more organized, but also protect your equipment from scratches, dents, and impacts. 

 Multiple handgun and accessories gun case with pistols and accessories.

Cutting your foam for a gun case is not as hard as it sounds, and you can do it in minutes with some simple tools and steps. Here is how:

What You Will Need

  • A gun case with a foam insert. You can use any type of hard case that has a removable foam layer inside, such as a Cedar Mill Firearms, Pelican, Plano, or Condition 1 case.
  • A sharp knife. You can use a regular utility knife, a razor blade, or a hobby knife. Make sure the blade is clean and sharp enough to cut through the foam smoothly.
  • A pen or a marker. You will need this to trace the outline of your gun and accessories on the foam.
  • Some pins or needles. You will use these to secure the foam to the cardboard while cutting.
  • A large piece of cardboard. You will use this as a cutting board to protect your work surface and prevent the knife from slipping.
  • A ruler or a tape measure. You will use this to measure the dimensions of your gun and accessories and make sure they fit inside the case.

What Type of Foam Should You Use?

A rifle gun case with foam inserts

There are different types of foam inserts that you can use for your gun case, depending on your preferences and needs. Some of the most common ones are:

  • PU Foam or Polyurethane Foam: This is a cheap, lightweight, and water-absorbing foam that is fragile, flimsy, and deformable. It has an open cell matrix that contains air spaces. It has poor anti-abrasive properties and needs to be handled with care.
PU foam inserts
  • Polyethylene Foam. This is a type of plastic foam that has a compact feel and resistance to water. It is also lightweight, flexible, and durable. It is used for cushioning, packaging, insulation, and flotation applications. 

There are two subtypes of polyethylene foam: cross-linked and non-cross-linked. Cross-linked polyethylene foam (also known as XLPE) has a finer cell structure and higher density than non-cross-linked polyethylene foam. It also has better thermal stability and chemical resistance.

  • EVA Foam or Ethylene-Vinyl Acetate Foam: This is a rigid, but smooth foam that has a rubber texture. It has a closed cell matrix that makes it water-resistant, flexible, and shock-absorbing. It has a high-quality finish that makes it visually appealing and perfect for display. It is strong at low temperatures and buoyant in water. It has excellent anti-abrasive property.
A pistol and magazine in a custom cut EVA foam insert
  • EPP/EPE Foam. These are types of plastic foams that are made from expanded polypropylene (EPP) or expanded polyethylene (EPE). They have high compressive strength, resilience, and energy absorption properties. EPP has a higher service temperature range than EPE.
Pick n’ Pluck Foam Inserts

These foam inserts consist of pre-scored or pre-cubed foam blocks that can be easily removed or plucked to create a snug and protective recess for the item. They are usually accompanied by a solid foam base and an eggcrate foam lid to provide cushioning on all sides.

A pistol case with a pick and pluck foam insert with an egg-tray soft cushioning.

Some of the benefits of using pick n’ pluck foam inserts include:

  • They are easy to use and do not require any special tools or skills. You can simply measure your item, mark the outline on the foam, and pluck the unwanted foam blocks away.
  • They are versatile and adaptable to various shapes and sizes of items. You can create multiple compartments within the same foam insert to fit different items or accessories.
  • They are durable and resilient to shocks, impacts, or vibrations. They can protect your item from scratches, dents, or breaks during transit or storage.

If you are looking for pick n’ pluck foam inserts online, you can find them at or in some local stores that sell cases and packaging materials. 

Cedar Mill firearms pick n' pluck pistol case

Factors to Consider When Choosing a Form

You can choose any type of foam that suits your budget, preference, and application. However, some factors that you should consider when choosing a foam are:

  • Density: Higher-density foams are more durable, rigid, and supportive than lower-density foams. However, they are also heavier and more expensive than lower-density foams.
  • Firmness: This is the resistance of the foam to compression or indentation. Firmer foams are more resistant to deformation and provide better support than softer foams. However, they are also less comfortable and flexible than softer foams.
  • Color: Different colors may have different effects on the appearance and visibility of your gun case. For example, darker colors may make your case look stealthier and more professional, while lighter colors may make your case look more bright and cheerful.

You can also mix and match different types of foams to create your own custom combination. For example, you can use a layer of firm and dense foam for the base and a layer of soft and light foam for the top. This way, you can get both support and cushioning.

How to Cut Your Foam

The next steps are the same regardless of the type of foam you choose. Here is how to cut your foam for your gun case:

Step 1: Arrange Your Gun and Accessories on the Foam

The first step is to decide how you want to position your gun and accessories on the foam. You can lay them out on the foam and see how they look before tracing them. Try to arrange them in a way that maximizes the space and minimizes gaps between them. 

Arranged pistol on a foam insert for tracing

You should also consider the balance and stability of the case when carrying it. Ideally, you want to distribute the weight evenly across the foam and avoid having one side heavier than the other.

You should also leave some space between your gun and accessories and the edges of the foam. This will create a buffer zone that will absorb any shocks or vibrations during transport. A good rule of thumb is to leave at least one inch of space around each item.

Step 2: Trace Your Gun and Accessories on the Cardboard

Once you are happy with the arrangement of your gun and accessories on the foam, you need to transfer their shapes onto the cardboard. You can do this by placing the cardboard on top of the foam and tracing around each item with a pen or a marker. Make sure you press down firmly enough to leave a clear mark on the cardboard, but not too hard to damage the foam underneath.

A pistol laying in position to be traced on a foam insert

You can also use a ruler or a tape measure to check the dimensions of each item and make sure they are accurate. If you have any curved or irregular shapes, you can use a flexible ruler or a string to follow their contours.

Step 3: Cut Out Your Gun and Accessories from the Cardboard

The next step is to cut out your gun and accessories from the cardboard using your knife. You can use scissors for smaller or simpler shapes, but a knife will give you more precision and control for larger or more complex shapes.

Form cutout with scissors

You should cut along the inside edge of your traced lines, leaving a small margin of cardboard around each item. This will ensure that your cutouts are slightly smaller than your actual items, which will create a snug fit when you insert them into the foam.

You should also be careful not to cut too deep into the cardboard, as this could damage your work surface or cause your knife to slip. You can use multiple shallow cuts instead of one deep cut to avoid this.

Step 4: Secure Your Cutouts to the Foam

After you have cut out your gun and accessories from the cardboard, you need to secure them to the foam using pins or needles. You can do this by placing each cutout on top of its corresponding item on the foam and inserting pins or needles around its perimeter. Make sure you insert them at an angle so that they don’t poke through the other side of the foam.

You should also make sure that your cutouts are aligned with your items as closely as possible, leaving no gaps or overlaps between them. This will ensure that your foam cutouts match your items exactly.

Step 5: Cut Out Your Foam

The final step is to cut out your foam using your knife. You can do this by following along the edges of your cardboard cutouts, cutting through both layers of foam at once. You should use smooth and steady strokes, evenly applying pressure throughout.

Foam cutout

You should also be careful not to cut too close to your pins or needles, as this could damage your blade or cause it to get stuck in the foam. You can remove them as you go along, or leave them until you finish cutting.

Once you have cut out all your items from the foam, you can remove any excess foam pieces and clean up any rough edges with your knife or scissors.

Step 6: Insert Your Items into the Foam

The last step is to insert your items into the foam and see how they fit. You should be able to slide them in and out easily, without any gaps or movements. If you find that your items are too loose or too tight, you can adjust the size of your foam cutouts by trimming or adding more foam as needed. This may however be slightly difficult. 

A cut foam insert fitted with a pistol and magazine

You can also test the closure and balance of your case by closing the lid and carrying it around. You should feel no rattling or shifting of your items inside the case, and the weight should be distributed evenly across the case.

Final Thoughts

There you go! You have just cut your own foam for a custom gun case in minutes! You can now enjoy the benefits of having a personalized and protective case for your firearm and accessories. You can also repeat this process for any other cases or items you have, using the same tools and steps.

Cutting your own foam for a gun case is not only easy and fun but also rewarding and satisfying. You can save money, time, and hassle by doing it yourself, instead of buying a pre-cut foam for your gun cases.

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Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase, we may receive a commission. This won't affect your purchase price.