Citizen Arms, AR-15, lightweight,

Truck Guns

Keeping a rifle on hand in your vehicle for emergencies is a good idea.

By Steve Adelmann (RSS)
April 24, 2013

We live in times that generate a lot of interesting gun talk. It seems every contingency-based subject is covered in blogs, articles, over gun shop counters, on shooting ranges and even around dinner tables. I hear a lot of talk these days about “truck guns.” The concept of an emergency firearm kept in a vehicle is nothing new, but frequently hearing it from the mouths of a healthy cross section of our citizenry is—to me anyway.

A common theme when discussing this utilitarian class of guns goes something like this: “I don’t need to drive nails with this thing. It’s my truck gun and I just want it to be handy and to work when I need it.” Technically speaking, a truck gun can be any firearm legally stored in a vehicle and on-hand in case of an emergency. You don’t have to own a truck or even an SUV, and only you can determine which type of firearm will work best for your situation. Said crisis could be anything from the benign task of putting down a road-injured animal to the extreme situation of fighting your way home if the seams of society suddenly come undone. While city folk may laugh at such notions, those living outside suburban America know these are among the many scenarios where a traveling gun may come in handy. I’ll focus specifically on long arms here, because in the worst-case scenarios we want to avoid getting into a protracted fight armed only with our concealed handgun.


A truck gun should be lightweight, portable and able to serve various purposes in a pinch. It must be reliable, use common ammunition and be capable of keeping multiple threats well beyond arm’s length. The right gun will depend on many factors: budget, vehicle type, location, familiarity, etc. I decided on a rifle and used my own “what-if” analysis to determine the best solution. If I were on the road—somewhere more than a couple hours from home—and suddenly had to deal with any threat preventing me from getting back, I would want a fighting rifle in my hands. For my purposes that turned out to be an AR, but a lever-action .30-30 Win., an old surplus Mauser or even a fourth-generation, single-shot rifle will serve well in a variety of circumstances—certainly better than a tire iron and a can of pepper spray.

I drive a 3/4-ton truck, so finding a place to keep a rifle of any size is easy. However, if your prime mover is a two-seater with a matchbox-sized trunk, then compactness will be the order of the day. A carbine with a folding or collapsible stock and little in the way of attachments may make good sense in that case. I decided my truck gun should be configured as trim and light as possible, and since my existing ARs were anything but streamlined, I built one for just this purpose. I used the lightest components I could find, including a carbon-fiber free-float tube, three-prong A1-style flash hider, pencil-thin barrel and the smaller, four-position collapsible CAR stock. The result was a very slick carbine weighing in at just over 5 pounds, unloaded. I added Trijicon’s RX01 reflex sight, an old nylon sling and a SureFire X300 light to round out the package. In doing so, I departed from my normal compulsion—to make every rifle I build shoot as accurately as possible—in favor of portability. It prints 2-inch groups with good surplus 5.56 NATO “green tip” ammo and 1.5-inch groups at 100 yards with match loads. This is a get-out-of-trouble gun, not a sniper rifle.

Several considerations need addressing when deciding to carry a long gun in your vehicle. Foremost is safety. Since this is a gun that won’t be on your body or in your immediate control, it should be unloaded. Even if retained in a rack or case, it will likely be oriented sideways at folks driving alongside or passing you in either direction. Having a round chambered in any firearm not directly in your control is simply a recipe for disaster. You must also ensure you don’t violate any federal, state or local laws by having a firearm in certain locations. Places like schools and some government property either prohibit outright or heavily restrict the transportation and possession of firearms. Learn the law and abide by it so you don’t lose the right to possess a gun. Another concern is how to best carry and store a rifle or shotgun. A soft case behind the seat of a pickup or in the trunk usually works well. However SUVs, vans and other vehicles without hidden storage space will require less-conspicuous packaging.

Remember: in extremely hot and cold environments, your truck gun will experience temperature and humidity swings as you cool or heat the passenger area. Keep any parts that are likely to rust—especially blued and Parkerized surfaces—well oiled or use a rust-inhibiting storage container. Check your rifle every so often to ensure it remains functional. Lastly, consider the best means to carry extra ammunition in the event you’re forced to go on foot. A purpose-built ammo satchel, surplus load-bearing vest or small pack will do the trick, and be sure to leave room for other survival essentials. Some soft rifle cases can be configured as a backpack, allowing you to carry the rifle, ammunition and other small items in a somewhat concealed fashion.

Not everyone needs a special firearm in their vehicle, and those who do may not carry one all the time. But, for long road trips or if venturing out when things are looking bleak, a truck gun may be the extra insurance needed to provide you with peace of mind, and more.

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12 Responses to Truck Guns

  1. steve hinkel says:

    good article.good idea. makes one think. like you say doesn’t need to be a sniper rifle. Seems an ar pistol would fit the bill.
    tx for all.. Steve

  2. Will says:

    I’m thinking a Mini-14 would fit the bill. Perhaps with a folding stock.

  3. dan says:

    i’m still alittle more biased to a shotgun myself, although i know weight could be a factor. especially with a bandolier of extra shells!

  4. Rick says:

    My truck gun rotates between a Keltec Sub2000 and a single shot 12 ga cut down to an overall length of 26 inches. Yes the barrel is 19 inches.

  5. PopsBdog says:

    I always have my Win 94 30-30 in my motorhome. It’s a handy little rifle.

  6. Tom says:

    Lot of good advice…one aspect not mentioned is penetraton. There are many scenarios for a truck gun. One challenging example is defending your barricaded vehicle. I believe the ability to stop another vehicle, shoot trough a car/truck door is essential. My truck offers protection, supplies, mobility, etc. An opposing force that can defeat the structure of my truck is a real threat. Therefore, I believe the best truck gun is in the .308, 30-06 class…7.62×39 or 30-30 as a minimum. This would serve the other needs as well.

  7. Ethan B says:

    Nice article, I only noticed one thing to do differently. Back up iron sights are my pet peeve, and consequently they are the only thing not on the rifle. You said yourself that it was designed to be a ” get-out-of-trouble gun”, when the time comes for me to E&E there needs to be 100% certainty of performance. If the damn thing is off ,or wont work ,or takes a hit you need to be able to aim it effectively.

  8. TJ says:

    Spot on article. Good reminder about making sure you check your rifle for rusting that can occur. Another suggestion I have is to practice with your gear when you can and dedicate some time to thoroughly planning out how to pack and deploy it.

  9. Ethan B–I agree on back up sights and I go round and round with myself over this issue. I ultimately decided to place MagPul polymer back up sights on the pictured truck gun and also replaced the Trijicon sight in this picture with a Meprolight M21 reflex sight because it is much brighter and easier to shoot accurately with. Unfortunately it is a bigger sight but ultimately aiming takes precedence.

  10. steve says:

    In VA you can have a gun in the cab of a vehicle in plain view; however, in many jurisdictions, one must have the gun cased or locked away and separated from ammo.
    A “truck gun” is a great idea, but just make sure you know the laws in the area(s) you’ll be driving with your truck gun (as applicable both with and without CCW permit).

  11. Doc T says:

    I remember my step father checking into a hotel where a lot of toughs were hanging out outside of the room. He walked in with a short Rossi double barrel and closed the door. He was suddenly alone. That said, I used to carry a Marline 30-30 or a Ruger Mini-30 with the barrel cut to 16″ in my truck. They did all I ever needed.

  12. At leder says:

    How’s about a nice M1 carbine? Easy to use decent power for its intended use.Lots of surplus mags etc.

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