In my area, you can tell at a glance when deer season starts without ever leaving asphalt. One big clue is the sudden proliferation of orange hats on dashboards. Another is the appearance of a truck rifle in the rear windows of pickup trucks. You never know when a big buck might show up! Could happen during the quest for a trophy pizza, or in Clem Cornfardt’s field on the way home from work. Opportunities can be fleeting so it’s best to be ready!
Many of these truck guns disappear once the season ends – but that doesn’t mean they’re all gone! Some remain aboard in less visible locations for rapid deployment. Not all of the vehicles have tailgates, and in many pickups, including mine, there’s no separate trunk in which to hide large items.
Although a handgun could be involved, a rifle or shotgun seems to fit the universal description of a truck gun. More often than not, it won’t be a higher-end firearm. Actually, many seem to fall into the “beater gun” category. They’re often well-used (but not abused) examples more suitable for hard knocks and the longer-term effects of inhospitable environments – which doesn’t mean they’re tossed in an open bed. Most are safely squirreled away inside the cab. What constitutes an individual’s choice of best truck gun will vary greatly to fit individual needs.
Although pickups seem to be everywhere, I’m guessing any urban truck guns are less likely to be the .30/30 lever-actions you will often see associated with hunting Whitetail deer. The urban truck gun is quite possibly some type of AR-15 equipped for vehicular carry. Of course, this assumes the firearm is actually aboard, which might not always be the case. Reasons it could be elsewhere? Perhaps due to legal concerns – or even as a result of theft.
Beware the Risk of Theft
A retired LEO buddy of mine resided in a built-up area of Florida. His needs apparently differed from mine since he kept his “truck gun” in the trunk of his Cadillac – a “trunk” gun. His firearm was matched to the vehicle itself, a higher-end AR-15 stored in a so-called soft “assault case” with spare magazines.
Prolonged exposure to high heat is never good for ammo, but his trunk did keep it out of sight – that is, until the day he inadvertently popped the trunk’s release in a parking lot. Then his fancy AR-15 trunk gun was gone.
The AR eventually reappeared, but not until it was recovered at a crime scene. Which speaks to the wisdom of leaving unattended firearms anywhere. Firearms are easily (and often) stolen from vehicles. Even rural areas aren’t immune from this concern.
Truck Rifles Can Double for Hunting Season
Meanwhile, here in the boonies, one of my sons totaled his SUV on a moose. A friend just flattened a deer with his F-250, and I needed a quick response to a quilled trespasser. Factoring in seasonal prospects of fresh deer meat, something larger 9mm is warranted if you want a truck gun that will serve many purposes beyond just personal defense.
A detachable magazine is good, though. Some are stashed in center consoles to be grabbed while bailing out, but my console is full of “essentials” from a camo hat to a Butt Out (a deer thing), deer drag, etc. Guaranteed, whatever I’m after is buried at the bottom. So, for me, a consolidated system like a soft-cased AR-15 package is the better plan.
As for more potent calibers, plenty of decent expanding .223/5.56 loads exist. Of course, an AR-15 is the perfect host for this chambering which should cover most truck rifle needs. That said, some of our large critters could stand something bigger, and today’s menu of AR-specific cartridges (from the latest 6mms to the .300 Blackout) offer real boosts.
Some folks have plenty of acreage, so their truck gun (could also be a tractor or ATV) never strays far from the boundaries. As described in a recent gun publication, the author’s choice was a lever-action and its tubular magazine was stuffed full of the same .45 Colt cartridges as his handgun. A system like this made lots of sense on horseback and it still does for 4WDs, assuming a major hurdle can be cleared. In some states (including my own), loaded long guns are illegal in vehicles.
Actually, in some locales (those possibly more urban), a firearm and its ammunition must be stored separately – or even under lock and key. If so, with defense the priority, I’d also want a handgun on my person to cover quick access – and at least one readily available magazine.
If the “truck rifle” happened to be one of today’s popular pistol caliber 9mm carbines, it might even accept Glock magazines. Again, this concept is far from new and it’s one I described in my best guns for bugging out article. Mostly, we’re just switching from a leather scabbard to a soft-case.
A Northwoods Boonie Beater
Rather than risk losing an expensive AR-15, I opted for a KISS solution. Although stowed in an AR-type case the gun is pretty basic – a compact, break-barrel, 16-inch CVA Scout, chambered for .300 Blackout. Nine cartridges are available in an elastic sleeve surrounding its stock. The magazine pockets hold a few spare 10-round strips of solid-copper 110 Barnes TACT-TX handloads. This 2350 fps load expands well but penetrates deeply. It’s produced great results for us on deer, coyotes, and bobcats etc. You can buy it as a factory version, too.
To squeak my scout within the confines of the case, I fitted it with a shorter youth stock. This left just enough room to add a QD YHM suppressor-adapter to its threaded muzzle. For the most part though, the can stays home because the concept centers on a semi-expendable system. A spare and somewhat tired-looking GI field jacket is always in the truck, laid out on the floor behind the driver’s seat. Mostly, it serves to hide items – including this self-contained package.
The rifle is weather resistant thanks to its basic synthetic stock and stainless construction. Occasionally, I’ll mist the interior of the case with Rust Prevent while touching up the metal. After several years, the ammo within has suffered no ill effects and the gun looks like new.
Same story for its scope, an older Burris 4X Compact that’s seen nonstop use for decades. I expect either vibration or our extreme cold (and, sometimes, heat) to do it in but, amazingly, it endures. Zeroed 1 ½-inches high at 100 yards, I’m good out to 200 or so. That covers most Eastern scenarios.
Other Truck Gun Options
The CVA spends time in my truck, but doesn’t live there full time. It’s also not the only choice. Occasionally, I’ll swap it for an AR-15 which could also be a .300 BLK. Although stored in a similar case with several magazines, the single-shot is actually a bit quicker to load – with one round.
A stainless Remington .223 bolt-action Model Seven also pulls duty as a truck or ATV gun. It’s internal magazine may seem like an impediment to fast loading, but isn’t with a loose round. No lost magazines or mud-sucking mag-wells to worry about either.
Have a shotgun? Watch the Cowboy Action Shooters load a double-gun or pump and you’ll be impressed! Basic guns are available in either form. Even with minimal practice you can load two shells almost simultaneously. The 3-Gun competitors can load their autoloaders smokin’ fast.
In other words, a truck gun can be just about anything capable of filling your needs. It could be a .308 pump-gun, or a stainless Ruger Mini-14, left pretty much in its basic form. Many are no doubt .22 rimfires.
The AR-15 is always in the running. AR pistols are now popular but carbines with telescoping stocks also provide a compact system. Of course, there are other clever designs, some built largely from synthetics. Returning to my cold obsession, I’ve seen some “unbreakable” synthetics fail under minimal pressure after a zero-degree night in a vehicle. Extreme cold is probably a non-issue for most U.S. residents – or, it was until the mid-February deep-freeze of 2021.
Optics for Truck Rifles?
By their nature, truck guns aren’t dainty, so rugged sights are beneficial. Younger shooters might get by with Tritium iron sights, but my old eyes need glass. An illuminated reticle is a further plus but cold temperatures can kill batteries. Designs that can still function via etched reticles are more reliable – or go with a low-powered scope.
Whatever the choice, quality construction is important due to the effects of temperatures on seals, etc. Dust can filter into tiny openings making lens caps essential. Still, during extreme heat or cold, I remove the gun from my truck.
Truck guns need some extra care starting with frequent inspections. Gun cases can trap moisture, eventually leading to rust (WD-40 on guns?). Bring a cold firearm into a warm environment and it’ll instantly bead up with condensed water droplets. In these conditions it’s best to remove the gun, spread the case open, and let everything dry. Later, you can wipe down the gun and lightly mist the case with a rust preventative that won’t kill primers.
Firearms and vehicles require further attention for safety’s sake. Orientation should be factored into the storage method (to include any passengers), and the firearm should never be handled by its muzzle-end. As for loaded guns in vehicles, even where legal, I’d skip a chambered round.
And, of course, security is another primary concern. If you have the space and funds, a commercial gun vault is a great investment. If not, out of sight is out of mind – along with a locked vehicle.
Lastly, beyond general laws, you can run afoul of restrictions such as firearms on federal properties or school grounds, etc. Be careful!