Trunk Gun Considerations, Part 1.

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.

AR-15 SP1

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.


  1. “Hot and cold extremes, vibration, bumps and uncontrolled humidity all add up to a potentially dead dot when you need it the most.”

    Eh, as long as you stay away from EOTech it should be fine.

    1. Why the negative comment on EOTech? Aren’t they still heavily used by our military? I have one mounted on a Ruger SR-556 in tandem with their 3X magnifier and have experienced no issues with this set up to date.

  2. Not sure about what state you are in but in Michigan it would be illegal. you can’t have a loaded rifle in your trunk, or for that matter mags preloaded and ready to go. If you got to pull out your ammo and load your mags, and it is a SHTF moment, might as use you pistol that you have legal CPL for. By the time a mag was loaded chances are the moment would be over.

    1. Not sure where you get that loaded mags are illegal in Michigan. Keep it unloaded and in a case (or taken down) and keep the loaded mags in a pouch or bag (or in the passenger compartment somewhere.) Totally legal transport.

  3. Chuckwagon524 – Sounds like the sig arm brace would fit the bill in Michigan. An ar15 pistol with the sig brace would make the perfect truck gun. You could keep it loaded and ready in your vehicle without breaking the law. Due to the goofy atf decision makers, you would probably not want to fire the weapon from your shoulder when anyone is around. But if your life is on the line, put the brace in your shoulder and neutralize the threat.

  4. I have a “paratrooper” SKS for my trunk gun. Bought it for $80 way back when. Accurate enough for a get home gun and solid enough to butt heads if needs be. Not that an AR wouldn’t be just as good if not better. It’s a low cost solution that I’m good with.

  5. James: L3 was just sued by the U.S. Government for not disclosing known issues with EOTech sights that cause them to fail or malfunction in cold and extreme weather. The FBI dumped all of theirs and there may soon be a mass unloading of EOTechs from the military and other federal agencies.

    As far as what optics to use, I’ve always been a supporter of magnified optics on a trunk/survival gun. It increases your standoff range, which basically means keeping bad guys as far away as possible. And yeah that increases the cost and brings another portion of factors, such as more training with a magnified optic and how to utilize it in close range, that should be considered but I think it’s important. I found a used ACOG for $600. Still a chunk of change, but I feel better with it.

    1. I read about the military dumping the EOTech sights and going to another brand. Being that the conditions of military and LE usage are much more demanding than that in civilian life, I still feel that EOTech is a good choice for a civilian use trunk, or home defense sight. However, I’ll am inclined to also agree that a AK platform, especially one with a under folding stock would be a better choice over a AR platform. This platform is undeniably one of the most dependable actions in the most harshest conditions available in today’s firearm market. The mileage of others may vary.

  6. In my opinion you’ve missed the point entirely. You did make it in the beginning and then seemed to have almost erased it. A trunk gun is there to stay and they get affected by EVERYTHING. An AR my not be my last choice but it certainly wouldn’t be my first. For functioning reliability of a gun that’s been through the wringer I’ll take an AK. And yes, I own and shoot both.

  7. Depending where you live, that gun will have a MUCH higher chance of getting stolen than employed by a good guy. Cops get guns stolen all the time from their personal cars.

  8. Honestly, I’d actually go with a bolt-action for this job. Why?
    1) Simplicity means less can go wrong, so I’d be fine with having it sit untouched for long time periods.
    2) Cheaper. I don’t want to spend lots of money on something that sits in my truck all the time.
    3) 50 state legal. No worries if you need to travel somewhere, just leave it there.

    1. NOT 50 State legal. Don’t try traveling through the Northeastern States with ANY firearm in the trunk of your vehicle (especially NJ). And please don’t quote me FOPA, they routinely ignore it.

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