Alright, let me shine the light on something that so many people get wrong. When it comes to self-defense, you are carrying the wrong gun. “But I carry ‘X’ pistol and it has been combat tested,” you say. Sorry, it’s still not the right choice. In a bad situation…your pistol is sub-optimal at best.
A pistol serves two important purposes:
- It is easy to conceal
- Because of this, it can be used to get to your better gun
Think about how many truly knowledgeable people condone keeping only a handgun as your home defense weapon. The answer is likely zero because they advise a shotgun or perhaps a rifle as well. Read on to see our recommendations.
Truck/Trunk Gun Options
We spend a ton of time in our vehicles. Why should you treat your car or truck any differently than home defense? Sure, your pistol can do in a pinch, but if things get serious you are going to need more firepower.
Every police force I know keeps a shotgun or rifle in their cruiser, because when it hits the fan, you want to be properly prepared. So here are the top 3 choices we narrowed it down to for your truck or trunk.
Best Truck/Trunk Guns for your vehicle:
- AR Pistols
Any of these three choices should do well for you, but we also added a few extra options at the end.
Whatever storage option you go with make sure to have extra ammo and magazines stored along with it. I also advise using a rife/shotgun bag because you shouldn’t keep your gun in your vehicle overnight. Using a bag makes it easy to take it in the house when you return home.
If you need a proper rifle/shotgun bag…I use the 3V Gear Ranger Case. It has been amazing. It has room for two long guns, a couple handguns, and extra room for ammo, magazines, hearing pro, and more. It is very durable and has a very affordable price.
So, now on to what you are going to be storing in your bag. What makes a good truck or trunk gun?
Best Truck & Trunk Guns
The old scattergun is a tried and true option to keep in your mode of conveyance. From the old west coach guns, to the Mossberg 500 Cruiser…they have been tried and tested for over a hundred years for just this purpose. I mean who hasn’t called “shotgun” when getting into the passenger seat of their buddies car?
That’s not to say that they are the absolute best, just that they will work. Comparative to other firearms most shotguns are affordable to purchase and use. Most of all they are rugged and dependable, even in cheaper brands.
On the bad side, shotguns have some recoil to them. Some people find them harder to aim and yes you can miss with good ol’ #4 buck, seen it happen more than once. The worst aspect of a shotgun is the very limited ammo capacity. If you choose a shotgun, you owe it to yourself to practice speed loading.
Please stop perpetuating the myth that they are simply point and click, you can’t miss! All that shows is your lack of real experience with a shotgun. You need to take a good class on the subject.
While we are at it, the Taurus Judge does not constitute a shotgun. It is, at best, an ineffective tool that is hard to shoot.
Some of the best shotguns are:
Mossberg 590a1 Tactical
Back in the day when the military was looking for a shotgun, the Mossberg was the only one that passed their torture test. As the mil-spec requirements changed, the 500 evolved into the 590a1. Having owned one, I can highly recommend this gun.
This 12ga shotgun is just a hair over 36” long and holds a whopping 9 rounds. It has an adjustable stock and is just about as rugged as you can make a pump action shotgun. It doesn’t matter what ammo you put in, the Mossberg will eat it all happily. In a way, I still prefer the weight of the 500 but the 590 doesn’t kick as much.
Of course, if the 590a1 is a little on the large side for your Smart Car, or you just want something a little smaller, the Shockwave may be your answer. It also helps if you can handle a lot of noise and recoil because this little monster is going to give you both in spades!
It’s just as durable as the 500 series but packed into a shotgun just 26” long with a 14” barrel. Yet it is somehow not considered a short-barreled shotgun for legal purposes. It comes with a 6 shot capacity or you can get a mag-fed version with 11 shots if you want to really raise the bar.
Honestly, in 20ga I think this is a great choice. In 12ga, it’s a little bit of punishment to fire. If you are a manly man with wrists made of cast iron, this little gun is easy to hide and packs a mean punch. Make sure it’s legal in your state before you go through the trouble of getting one.
Most of the time I really don’t recommend a budget gun. The Maverick is Mossberg’s cheaper line of shotguns and are not quite as durable and flawless as the 500 series. They are half the price though and that is important when looking into a vehicle gun. It could get stolen and a budget gun may be easier to live with losing.
As far as specs, the Maverick is the 500. You can get a 6 shot with an 18” barrel or an 8 shot with a 20” barrel. I like the 8 shot personally and think it’s worth a couple of inches more on the gun. It will perform well as a pump gun but I would avoid any really high-powered shells, mostly for the really stout kick but the Maverick is a little less robust than the 500.
If you are on a budget, but really need a trunk gun…this may be for you.
Remington 870 Tactical Express
I may prefer the Mossberg, but only by a little. I will give it to Remington, they kick a lot less and I shoot them a lot faster. This particular one can come with an 18.5” barrel or a 20” barrel in either an 8 or 9 shot version respectively.
As for a manageable gun in a truck, you won’t go wrong for sure. The argument between Remington and Mossberg will rage on forever.
For a really sweet shotgun, check out the 870 Magpul edition!
Benelli M4 Tactical
The current preferred tactical shotgun of Marines and most police departments, M4 popped into the world of popular firearms a dozen or so years ago and has run amok with the standard wisdom of the pump gun for the preferred tactical option.
It took me a long time to get on the bandwagon and it’s still not my personal choice. It is fast though! Really fast! And for a 40” gun, it’s not too heavy and is easy to shoot with a great recoil. If you don’t like the complication of a pump and don’t care to spend money, this is probably a shotgun to look into.
The current undisputed king of all tactical rifles! sure you can keep one of those in your vehicle. Many people do and they work great, just ask any U.S. military motor pull or police force. When the crap gets thick, the AR-15 is the perfect shovel.
It’s a lot more firepower than that little .22 (more on that later) with the same ammo capacity, better range, and can be accurately fired almost as fast. Ammo isn’t that expensive (unless you are me and compare it to what you paid in 1998) and is available in a lot of different loads.
The main downside that I see is that the AR-15 is THE big bad black rifle. I am pretty sure many fine members of our law enforcement community may begin to question things a bit if you have an AR and 300 rounds of Hornady TAP in the trunk of your Honda Civic.
ARs are also quite expensive. Should it get stolen, not only is a danger to the public but it’s a big financial loss. That said, here are some of the best:
BCM Recce MCMR
If you have chosen to keep a main battle rifle or carbine in your car, might as well go all in. If you want a great rifle that will do its job, can be outfitted to any task, will go bang every time without fail, and is capable of handling any situation you find yourself in, go with a Bravo Company.
Let’s just keep this brief. Ask yourself what you would like to see in an AR-15. Well the MCMR has that. Seriously, this is probably one of the finest rifles you could ever own. Keeping it in your trunk is a little risky for the investment but if you want the best, here it is!
Daniel Defense DDM4 V7 M-LOK
If we were to scale back maybe 1% on the quality of the Bravo Company, it would be a Daniel Defense. Sure, the price is going to go up but the weight is going to go down. I am really not 100% sure this is better than the Bravo Company. I have never seen an issue with either but the Daniel Defense seems a little better balanced and maneuverable.
For an AR that barely breaks 6 lbs, this is a rugged and accurate tool for self-defense purposes. It may still be more money than you want to keep in your trunk but if you can see that as an option you want to take, Daniel Defense will serve you very well.
COLT M4 CARBINE
If you get hung up on the price but still want great quality, go with a Colt. I like the plain and simple, and I like the price. I have shot better from several companies but the marginally small amount better compared to the hundreds in price may not be worth it to you.
For a trunk AR, this would be a good choice. One I would strongly consider. For the price of any of the other ARs on this list, you could get this rifle, half a dozen good mags, and plenty of defense ammo to fill them with. And at the end of the day, this would work just as well for your purposes.
Smith & Wesson M&P 15 Sport II
What if you really don’t want to spend much, but you need an AR? Stick with the M&P. The sport is a nice lightweight AR that is optics ready and would make a great little rifle. As a matter of fact, this is the best budget AR on the planet as far as I am concerned.
For the price of one of the high dollar guns you could get this, plenty of ammo, extra mags, and throw in an optic (I am a big fan of Aimpoint and Holosun). If you are worried about the big investments in your car, this is a good choice. Even if you aren’t that worried, it’s still a good choice.
Build Your Own
Yup, if you want a trunk AR, why not build one? It’s really not that hard to do and you can customize what you want, how you want it, and how much you want to spend.
No one is ever going to know what you want better than you. You can do this with no specific skills and with very few tools. The detent pins are a bit tricky but it’s otherwise like putting together a puzzle that is WAY more satisfying than a picture when you get it done. Just use quality parts!
Alright, get your laughing over so you can listen. Yes, the .22 isn’t exactly known for its stopping power, but you may be surprised. The truth is, I will take 30 rounds of .22 that I can hit accurately with at 70 yards over 8 rounds of 9mm that I can hit at 15 yards.
Still, don’t think it’s a good idea? Set up a couple of 40 yard or so targets at the range. Do a little-timed drill. See how many 9mm you can get on target in say 4 seconds vs how many .22. Now calculate the total wound channel sizes. Properly used, a .22 is a vicious little gun.
A .22 is a super accurate gun that is cheap, affordable to practice with, and easy to keep in a car. With a little practice, you can make a little semi-auto sound like a full auto and still manage to hit your target. For those so inclined or physically limited to picking a .22, they are a better choice than you would think.
Yes, a .22 is under powered. I will admit that of my own free will. They are also prone to ammo problems. Some .22 manufacturers seem to overlook quality control (I’m looking at you Remington!). I recommend carrying a hollow point bullet, my favorites are CCI Mini-Mag and Federal Auto-Match.
Some .22s to consider:
There have been more 10/22s made than most any other gun on the market. I am sure that somewhere in the far-reaching library of the NRA, in some shadowy corner, there is the master codex that says that all true gun fanatics must own at least one. But that’s ok, because they may be the best .22 auto on the market today.
As far as a trunk gun, I like the takedown model. It does everything the regular 10/22 will do and comes in a tiny package. If you are currently driving a small car, keep a takedown in the trunk in a backpack. It’s a solid, lightweight little rifle… and 30 rounds of .22 is a lot of lead.
At 4 and a half pounds and just a hair over 3 feet long, slap a red dot on this little guy and go to town!
In the realm of other trusted high-capacity .22 rifles, the Smith & Wesson M&P series if a fine little gun. Being a very good reproduction of an M4, it serves as a great training rifle. It could also serve well as a tuck gun.
The fact that it can fit most AR attachments means it can be outfitted to the user, or modeled after a main rifle for a sense of familiarity. It is lightweight, has a large ammo capacity, and doesn’t cost a fortune. While it may not be my first pick it is definitely a worthy gun.
I will give you one double-edged sword of a flaw/benefit of this gun. It does look like an AR-15. Remarkably like one. That means that it could be a showstopper if you happened to pull it out.
It looks like it has more firepower than it has. This becomes a flaw if the police happen to see it and wonder why you are packing so much firepower. It could make some cops nervous and no one needs a nervous armed man with authority questioning their right to have a bad black rifle.
Marlin Model 60
If you want to steer yourself clear of the tactical look completely, the Marlin Model 60 has been a standard for nearly as long as the 10/22. They are accurate little guns and from the factory are about as un-tactical as you can get.
Weighing in at just over 5lbs and a measly 37” long for the wood stock version, is an easy gun to move around. They shoot quick and are reliable as can be.
The main downfall of the Marlin is the low ammo capacity. The main reason you would use a .22 in your vehicle is to get as many shots off accurately as you can. When you only have 14 rounds, you are taking a big hit. And with the under-barrel tube magazine, reloading is a slow process.
Still for a .22 that will get you by and doesn’t look that threatening, what can you do? You are going to have to take some loss somewhere.
Of course, most of us would consider a .22 a last-ditch gun. No one is going to reach for the .22 in a dire situation thinking it’s the best tool for the job. And when it gets last ditch, this is about as last as you can get.
I don’t want to insinuate that this is a bad gun. Exactly the opposite. It’s a fine gun, its tiny and weights like 3 lbs. It breaks down and stores easily. It shoots remarkably well and is reliable as can be. It’s just not what I would choose to have in my corner unless the stakes were really down.
If you want a gun that is a truly last-ditch survival tool or get home gun, pick up a Henry. I love mine and used it backpacking until I got the 10/22 takedown. This thing is also dirt cheap which is a good quality to have.
I think it best to cover these separately from their big brothers. Sure, they are an AR 15, but you lose a little and gain a little here and there. They function as a self-defense tool differently and have their own unique issues. I will admit to not being the biggest fan of these, but I can see the value and use in a vehicle gun situation.
So, these things pack a lot of firepower into a pretty small package. You aren’t likely to carry one on your body unless you want to look like the Punisher!
But in a car, especially a small car, they can be a big benefit. They are accurate, accept a lot of accessories, fire quickly, and make enough noise that a 9-1-1 call won’t be necessary. If you have the extra cash for a suppressor, and your state allows them…get one for these guns.
Let me get this out there, I have a lot of friends that are fine cops in a lot of cities around the country and I think pretty highly of them. But not every cop aced the academy. One day you are going to get pulled over by an officer that passed his legal classes with a C average.
If that happens, you may find yourself in jail until you can clear up that your pistol is not an SBR. This is especially true if you carry one with a brace.
Daniel Defense MK18
We are back in the ‘Pay the most for the best’ boat again here. AR pistols can be a bit finicky from time to time with ammo and pressures but not this little beast. It’s actually based on the DD SB-Tactical which is a LEO only rifle. By exchanging that annoying BATFE regulated stock over to a brace, now you can own one too!
Seriously, this is one of the best SBR type ARs on the planet. You will pay through the nose for it, but this ‘pistol’ could very well be worth it. At a measly 5 lbs and 29”, this ‘definitely not a rifle’ pistol would make one hell of a small vehicle gun. You may have to miss a couple of car payments to afford it though.
Sig Sauer P556 Swat
Is that Daniel Defense just too big and costly for you? What about one that is about 600 bucks less and only 20” long? How do they get away with it? I’m really not sure but it’s a damn good gun. It lacks the brace but if you can deal without it, this gun will rock and roll!
Unfortunately, these seem to be rare as hen’s teeth. I had to borrow one just to experience its glory and even then, it was from no one close by. You can find them online from time to time and if you want one, you better snag it quick!
Rock River LAR PDS
Still too big for you? What about an AR platform that weighs under 5lbs and is only 18.5” long? That’s shorter than the barrel of my first AR. I know Rock River doesn’t have the swagger and rep of some of the other brands but they have been in the AR pistol game longer than most any other company.
They may not be the best but my buddy has had a Rock River AR for almost 20 years and it has functioned great with very few issues. He took it through a training class and ran over 3000 rounds through it in a weekend without any real issues.
You can often find these and they do run a bit cheaper than the Sigs, as you would expect. They aren’t cheap by any means, but they are worth the money. As far as I know, they are one of the few pistol ARs that are designed from the ground up as a pistol.
This is not, and never will be, an exhaustive list on the topic. There are a ton of options to consider. With a little pondering on the subject, I am sure you can come up with everything I didn’t list. But in an endeavor to be thorough, here are a few bonus guns.
Sure, you can opt for a handgun despite my misgivings above. If you do, I would recommend making it a full-size pistol with a large ammo capacity. Something like a Glock 17 or S&W M&P 9mm. I would also recommend matching it in caliber to your primary carry gun to avoid dealing with different ammo. Simple is better, especially if you are under pressure.
It will still suffer from issues with range and accuracy issues. The ammo is still limited, if not so much as the pistols we normally carry on our body.
And since you are visiting Concealed Carry Society, you are probably already carrying a handgun in your waistband.
To be clear, I am talking about your normal, non-auto hunting rifles like bolt or pump guns you may take out for deer season. Most likely in a hunting caliber like .243, .270, or .30-06. It’s going to be a lot of power.
Why would you do this? Think of having a conversation with a nervous cop. What is easier to explain? Having a black tactical devil or having grandpa’s hunting rifle? That alone is worthy of consideration. They are also powerful enough to handle any situation and more accurate than any other option.
Of course, they are heavy and have a very low ammo capacity. Ammo is often expensive, it’s slow to fire, and you may have a serious issue with over-penetration.
Let’s get this straight, I am really only including this because of my fondness for the Marlin .45-70. But it’s worth considering. They are smaller than a bolt gun, easier to shoot quickly, and still benefit from being less intimidating should you run into Barney Fife out there.
But these guns use expensive ammo and most of them don’t carry a whole lot to begin with.
They aren’t as accurate as a bolt gun. But I have no doubt they will do the job. You can even get one in a tactical version and put a red dot on it if you want.
One of these in a pistol caliber like .357 or .44 could be a game changer.
Now that I have had time to dwell in my Wild Bill fantasy for a minute, let’s move on.
When we talk about upping the ante with a firearm in our vehicles, we have to accept more responsibility than just the pistol on your side. Keeping track of the gun and making sure it is secure is a vital component of this method of carry.
There was a time when working in the middle of nowhere and miles away from any support, A good friend of mine carried a Mossberg 500 in a cardboard tube behind the seat of his Silverado. It was an old tube that roll linoleum came in. It was beaten up and stained with oil and still had the labels. It was something that would not interest most any thief.
Finding a method of keeping your gun out of view will prevent a lot of issues, no matter if you run into a cop or a criminal.
Once you up the power, you have to remember that every bullet you fire in self-defense will have a lawyer attached to it. Taking time to be good with your gun isn’t enough. You have to be mindful of your backstop and any possible damage to life or property. In today’s legal world, you are likely to be held accountable. Make sure you are covered.
Does that somehow degrade the idea of carrying a gun in your vehicle? Not to me. I like to have my bases covered, keeping a gun and first aid kit in my vehicle is just another part of that.
Just remember, like they said in the Lord of the Rings movie “Keep it secret, keep it safe.”
That’s my tagline for the movie buffs out there! But its solid advice. If you want to know more about any of these guns, you can find most of them over at Palmetto State Armory. If you are looking for complete guns or just gun parts, it’s hard to beat their selection.