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Ballistic Case Co. has been in the device protection game for over 20 years, dating back to when beepers were the thing to have. But in 2010, the Florida-based company put in hours of research and development — over 8,000,by their calculation — to make the move to phone cases. (Sorry, hipsters: The beeper isn’t coming back. Ever.)

Ballistic markets itself as a phone case manufacturer for the rugged, tough, and extreme. And their latest creation, theHard Core Tactical case for the iPhone 6, only bolsters that argument. Armed to the teeth with protection from concrete, sand, dust, water, and human error, this thing is more tank than phone case.

The case comes with all sorts of bells and whistles, but Ballistic is less concerned about aesthetics than functionality. Every component is calculated, tested, and serves one primary purpose: protection. Here are some of its key features:

  • Built-in screen protector
  • 1/4-inch raised lips and corners around screen
  • 12-inchdrop protection
  • Patented air gap corners with suspension fingers
  • Multiple versatile layers to allow added protection
  • Aircraft grade aluminum and stainless steel holster with swivel clip

What stands out most are the air gap corners with shock-absorbing springs and the raised edges, which guard the phone from the impact of falls. The case’s versatility is a major boost here — its outer silicone layer adds up to four feet of drop protection, but can be removed if you think it’s clunky or unnecessary. Even in its lightest form, the Hard Core Tactical can still land safely from eight feet up. The holster is another impressive asset, equipped with a reliable clamp designed for military and law enforcement waist belts.

Reviews photo

Hard Core Tactical case for the iPhone 6Photo courtesy of Ballistic Case Co.

I slapped this case on my phone and took it for a spin. Right away, I could tell this beast is built to sustain some serious damage. I didn’t use the silicone layer since I don’t work in extreme conditions, but I brought along the holster with me since it clips into the case’s inner layer and is really handy. What surprised me most, though, was the case’s sleekness. It’s built-in screen protector works like a charm and doesn’t rub, and the case’s chiseled exterior feels sturdy in your palm.

One thing worth noting here is that many reviews say the Hard Core Tactical has trouble blocking out sand or dust. Although I didn’t experience any of these issues during my week-long test run with this phone case, this is a legitimate concern for anyone working in austere environments. Still, most comparisons show Ballistic’s Hard Core modelsoutshine their competitors in every major category, especially safety from elevated heights.

When it comes down to it, Ballistic’s latest creation is all about protection, which, considering how much cell phones cost these days — and how much it costs to repair them — is something even a gentle city dweller like myself can appreciate. So is it worth the $99 price tag? Absolutely.