by Steve Adelmann - Friday, April 24, 2015
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.
E-mail your comments/questions about this site to:
For questions/comments about Shooting Illustrated magazine, please e-mail:
You can contact the NRA via phone at: NRA Member Programs
To advertise on Shooting Illustrated, visit nramediakit.com for more information
Get the Shooting Illustrated Reloaded newsletter for at-a-glance access to industry news, gear, gun reviews, videos and more—delivered directly to your Inbox.