Recently, I’ve been considering getting myself a truck gun. Not too long ago, I had an important birthday and bought myself a new expensive carry gun. It’s not one I’m willing to leave unattended in my car, so I feel like I need a beater gun for when I’m on road trips or toolin’ around town going in and out of places where I can’t legally carry. Having a truck gun also allows me the opportunity to have something close at hand that holds more rounds in a bigger caliber than my .380. Plus, what if I have to get out of Dodge ASAP with no time to run home and get the big guns?
Some of you are probably already shaking their heads saying, “why doesn’t she just carry a bigger gun?” Well, it gets hot—and I mean really hot—in North Texas. Work- and weather-appropriate clothing prevents me from comfortably carrying a full-sized 9mm, .40 or .45 that holds 9 rounds or more. Also, what’s the actual probability I will EVER need more than 14 rounds in a self-defense situation? So, no, I’m not thinking about getting a car gun in anticipation of a firefight. I want it because…reasons. And sometimes you need a “valid” excuse to give your significant other when you buy a new gun. Amiright?
I don’t know, maybe it’s my upbringing, but truck guns just make sense to me. My desire for one is threefold—for self-defense when I don’t have my EDC, as backup to my EDC and as my SHTF gun.
What is a Truck Gun?
A truck gun is a gun you designate as the one you keep in your vehicle.
Typically, truck guns are:
- A rifle or shotgun
- Affordable to cheap in price
- Chambered for a caliber that takes down game
- Incredibly rugged
- Easy to store
I grew up in small-town Arkansas. Back then, truck guns were literally just that—a shotgun or hunting rifle hung on a rack in plain view in your truck. Truck guns weren’t just commonplace, they were almost religion. It was never a threatening gesture and it never scared anyone. I mean, you never know when you’ll happen upon a trophy buck or gobbler.
You don’t have to have a truck to have a truck gun. You can keep a gun in your SUV, minivan, Tesla, Smart Car or whatever it is you drive on the reg. It just means a gun you specifically designate as the one you keep in your vehicle. Typically, a truck gun, or beater gun, is an affordable to down-right cheap rifle or shotgun. It needs to be tough, reliable and easy to shoot. Unless you take it to the range often, a get-home gun won’t see a lot of action, so you want to pick something that doesn’t need a lot of maintenance and if the off chance it was stolen, you aren’t losing too much if you never get it back.
A truck gun needs to be easy to store, as well—under the seat or tucked away in the trunk—so bad guys who peep in windows won’t know it’s there.
Another requirement is that its handy and easy to use in a caliber that stops varmints and predators—four-legged, two-legged and ones that slither—and can also bring meat to the campfire in a survival situation. It’s gotta be fairly lightweight, so if I had to ditch the car and hike it on foot, I can sling it over my shoulder without it being a burden. It needs to be simple to clean, field strip and operate. And it especially needs to shoot straight enough to hit what I’m pointing at. I’m also going to need to like this gun. With any gun, you need to remain proficient with it—which means practice and training. Trust me, there’s no point in holding onto a firearm you dread shooting.
It’s a lot to ask of one gun. Fortunately, there are plenty of guns that meet my criteria to choose from.
These are my top choices:
Before you start to argue, remember that what is best for me is not necessarily best for you. You might want to consider a lever-action or a bolt-action rifle. I know plenty of shooters who prefer an old military surplus truck gun like the SKS, others pick a big-bore revolver.
I can’t tell you which one would be “best,” because “best” is all relative. If you drive around in the desert all day, you probably want something geared more toward rattlers. If you are in the mountains, you’ll probably want to consider a bigger caliber than I need for bears and such. It all just depends on your situation, where you live and what’s comfortable for you. I narrowed my list down to these six.
The Kel-Tec SU-16C is chambered in 5.56/.223, folds up to 25.5 inches and weighs 4.7 pounds.
- I already have plenty of .223 ammo.
- It accepts standard AR-15 magazines, which again, I have plenty of.
- Simple design with few parts.
- It’s accurate.
- I thoroughly enjoy shooting it.
The average price of $650 is more than I want to pay.
You might want to consider a pistol-caliber carbine that shares ammo and mag compatibility with your regular handgun. The Chiappa PAK-9 is based on the AK-platform, chambered for 9mm and accepts Glock and Beretta mags. It is 14.47 inches long and weighs 6 pounds.
- It chews up and spits out cheap ammo fed outta cheap mags.
- It accepts standard AK furniture.
- All I have to do is add a cheap red dot and I’m good to go.
- At the time of publication, there was one listed on Gun Broker for less than $400. Other online gun shops had them priced at $430.
Reliability. It was introduced just a year ago, so I’m not sure how well the Chiappa PAK-9 is made.
Mossberg 590 Shockwave
The Shockwave rocked the shooting world at SHOT Show 2017 due to its 14-inch barrel. It’s a Non-NFA firearm according to the BATFE. It has a bird’s head pistol grip, available in 12 or 20 gauge, holds 6 rounds, is 26.37 inches long, and weighs only 5.3 pounds.
- It is based on the trustworthy and reliable Mossberg 590 action.
- A shotgun has a lot of versatility.
- I found the Shockwave currently going for $360.
It takes practice getting comfortable shooting it reliably and accurately.
The Hi-Point is 31 inches long, weighs 6.25 pounds and is 100% made in America.
- I found a .380 ACP Hi-Point Carbine listed as low as $264—the cheapest on my list.
- It shares ammo with my EDC.
- It works.
- I don’t mind if it gets dinged up and scratched.
It’s big, so finding a place to store it would be challenging.
Ruger 10/22 Takedown
Offered in quite a variety of models, the Ruger 10/22 Takedown is chambered for .22 Long Rifle and breaks down into two pieces.
- It is simple to operate and virtually has no recoil.
- The Ruger 10/22 is undoubtedly accurate and reliable.
- Its shares caliber capability with another one of my rifles.
You must put the thing together for it to work, so this isn’t a grab- and go-ready rifle. Even though you can get mags that hold 25 rounds, you still have a gun chambered for only .22 LR and ammo isn’t as cheap or as readily available as it used to be.
I’ve had an AK-47 on my list of guns to own for a very long time now and this provides the perfect opportunity to finally pull the trigger on getting one.
- The AKs a beast.
- Ammo is cheap.
AK-47. Cool. Okay, but what model? Which one do I pick? I don’t know because AKs aren’t so cheap anymore.
You don’t ever want to ‘set it and forget’ your truck gun. Not only for safety reasons but because of temperature extremes, coastal environments and maintenance. There are some environments where guns are more susceptible to corrosion than others. A well-taken care of firearm is a functioning firearm.
As part of the Project Child Safe initiative, the National Shooting Sports Foundation reminds us that responsible gun ownership includes making sure our firearms don’t fall into the wrong hands. If you are going to keep a gun in the car, lock it up and keep it out of sight. There are plenty of reputable companies that make gun safes specifically for your car—GunVault, Bulldog Cases, Titan Security Products and TruckVault. God forbid your gun ever gets stolen and is used in a crime.
You should always remove your gun from your car overnight and keep it secure inside the house.
Truck guns are about function and utility. It is all about the work they can do. It doesn’t have to be pretty—in fact, it will probably get dinged and scratched riding around in the car. It doesn’t have to have the latest and greatest handguards or accessory. Old-school Weaver and Picatinny rails will do just fine to attach affordable optics. It doesn’t even have to be brand new. A used gun in good condition will more than suffice for this purpose. Now, it just about which one I can find for the best price.