Just like the first snow of the season sends unprepared drivers to the mechanic for new wiper blades and snow tires, two dramatic episodes of Jihad in the West have ignited a renewed interest in the “Trunk Gun”. This is usually a long gun and some other ancillary gear kept in readiness in a personal vehicle meant as a supplement to our daily carry pistol.
It’s a popular and comforting idea, but like our patron saint kept needling us, “What is it for? How is it to be used?” Answering these questions leads to better and more frugal gear decisions and provides some focus for future training.
Let’s start with what it is not for. The trunk gun is not there to go and get, and then re-enter a situation to deal with the threat ourselves. If you have made it to your car, you can safely exit the area and that is our smartest plan. If you encounter jihad on your way to making an escape, by all means burn them down, but most of these events are over in moments and by the time you get to your car, get your big gun and get back to the fight, it will be over and you will be a target for the responding officers. We, the armed, non-sworn, civilians of this country, do not carry guns to be Junior G-Men. We do not have belt pistols and trunk guns to seek out and engage terrorists. That is the job of the professionals, and doing so may well see us get shot by police instead of terrorists. Shot is shot, and it sucks.
Rather, the trunk gun is there to give the citizen more capability over a handgun to cope with an elevated threat situation in their area. While we’re trying to get out of Dodge in a situation where we have advance warning of heightened danger, a long gun up front gives us more options.
Hardware wise, this immediately suggests America’s Rifle. A reliable AR-15 type with a 16″ barrel and collapsible stock is lightweight and portable and can deal with just about anything man-sized at any distance at which we can identify a threat. An AR that lives in a trunk should absolutely have fixed iron sights. For this a permanently pinned front sight tower and if you’re using a flat top receiver, a fixed rear sight like the Daniel Defense 1.5 or the Troy unit are best. A red dot sight turns maintaining a sight picture into Easy Mode, but a trunk is a harsh environment for batteries and electronics. Hot and cold extremes, vibration, bumps and uncontrolled humidity all add up to a potentially dead dot when you need it the most. Sturdy iron sights that will keep a zero are a primary requirement, not a backup.
And let’s be honest. How many of us are eager to drop $500 on a quality red dot that will live most of it’s life in our trunk? The temptation to cheap out on a Chinese Fakepoint for your trunk gun is high, and should be avoided. Get a good set of irons first and learn to use them well until you can afford a real red dot and can get into the habit of checking it regularly.
Similarly, how many of us will commit to checking the batteries in our sights on a regular basis? For this reason, I think a flashlight, while indispensable on a home defense AR, is a low priority on a trunk gun. Better to have a small stub of rail already in place on the gun so you can throw on a flashlight like a Streamlight TLR-1 or similar if required.
A sling is to the rifle as the holster is to the pistol, and will make life easier if you have to abandon your car and move out on foot. A lightweight and compact chest rig that allows you to draw your carry pistol without interference is also a good idea, but simply stuffing some spare magazines into your pockets is better than nothing.
If you can’t afford an AR-15 for your trunk, there’s still good options that won’t break the bank.