In Defense of the Trunk Gun

December 7, 2015  
Categories: Op-Eds


In Defense of the Trunk Gun

The subject of the Trunk Gun has gained in popularity over the last few years, and with the recent events in San Bernardino it’s come up again. Not all of the commentary on Trunk Guns has been positive, and while some of the responses on both sides have been well reasoned and articulate, that hasn’t been the case across the board. Not everyone understands exactly what the Trunk Gun is and what it’s for.

It’s a relatively common practice to have a handgun that sits 24×7 in a car. But a handgun in the trunk does not a Trunk Gun make.

So what is a Trunk Gun? The moniker is actually a tad misleading. A Trunk Gun isn’t just any old firearm thrown in a trunk. A Trunk Gun is a rifle or carbine that’s always in a vehicle. It doesn’t have to stay in the trunk (and often isn’t put there in the first place) and it’s most certainly a long arm of some type.

To reiterate, the two most important attributes of a Trunk Gun is that it’s dedicated to a vehicle and that it offers an increased capability over your sidearm. Maybe there should be a change of vernacular to make it more clear but everything I’ve come up with falls short. “Car Carbine” comes close though.

The Trunk Gun concept isn’t new. They’ve existed in the law enforcement community for quite some time but picked up in popularity after Columbine. The LEO Trunk Gun is called the Patrol Carbine.

So what do you use it for?

Put in the most simple terms: You use it if you want more capability than you currently have with a sidearm.

There are a helluva lot of caveats in that sentence, and depending on what you’re doing they can either increase or decrease. First, you need the time to obtain the rifle. As an SOP, I doubt many would advocate that a pistol-armed individual leave an active shooting scene without engaging, in order to retrieve a trunk gun, and only then responding. If you’re in a structure, and shit is going down, and all you have is a Glock 42…you’re going to war with what you got.

However, if you’re in/around/near your vehicle and you’re going to respond and you believe you have time—take that Trunk Gun. The Trunk Gun/Patrol Carbine is especially important if you’re going into the midst of a terrorist attack as opposed to a “normal” shooting or even a mass shooting, but that’s a subject for a different post.

Something to keep in mind is that just because you have a Trunk Gun, that doesn’t mean you’re always going to use it. It’s not a replacement for your sidearm. By and large, it’s going to be used offensively. As in, going in for a fight. Assaulting. Doing work.

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Rifles are better than pistols in almost every way, sans a handful. They’re ballistically more effective, have longer range, hold more ammo, and are more accurate. Sure, some advantages to handguns exist such as ease of one-handed use and maneuvering in a space the size of a phone booth, but overall the rifle wins handily. This is why we fight wars with rifles and not handguns. But as this gentleman found out, you can’t conceal a rifle very well in your pants.

If you decide on a Trunk Gun, some practical considerations have to be pondered. Where is it going, and how are you securing it? There are a lot of positions where a Trunk Gun can ride. They vary from secured in a locked rack in the back to wedged between a center console and passenger seat to behind a seat, and everything in between.

Some roll with the mantra “it’s not secured but it’s insured”. Okay, now some scumbag breaks into your car (not an uncommon occurrence across the nation) and you lose it. Not only are you out some cash, but said scumbag now has a new shiny rifle. A rifle that might be used against you or someone else. Awesome.

It’s impossible to keep a Trunk Gun (and well, anything else in your vehicle) completely secure. Hell, the FBI has lost guns that were left in cars. Many many times. Even without theft, in an accident or other impact events you don’t want your Trunk Gun to become a secondary projectile and cause damage.

Unless you’re using some kind of specialty rack, the more secure it is from theft the longer it’ll take to get to it when you need it. Try out several options and find the balance that works best for you. You may end up playing the transport game to and from your house every day. You may end up using any number of systems.

You also want to consider some support gear, not only for fighting but also for medical care. One mag in your rifle is worth a pair of pistol mags in raw numbers alone. But if you’re grabbing the rifle, your world has gone to shit. Consider a mag bandolier and some basic med gear at a minimum. Something you can toss over your chest and go. Some tips: Use a piece of elastic or band to keep your sling tight and out of the way during transport. Check and rotate your batteries. Keep it lubed. More compact guns are easier to stow. If you keep a round chambered, be advised that in the case of a vehicle fire your weapon will discharge. Consider the location of all of your airbags.

But Wait…

Let’s have a discussion about whether you should even consider going into a given situation in the first place. The super official line pretty much everywhere is going to be, “Don’t do it unless you’re a cop”–and regarding your own survivability, that’s true. But it doesn’t matter what the official line is, a certain percentage of people are going to take action. This isn’t something that should be taken lightly. As more attacks occur across the United States, and they will continue, we’ll see more Joe-Citizen responses. In the Westgate Shopping Mall Attack, some of the first responders were “gun-toting” citizens. It’s happened in Israel. During the terrorist attack in Beslan, an armed citizen fought alongside Russian police. Whether you like it or not, we’re at war. There are millions of veterans in this country, many of whom have been in combat relatively recently.


If you are one of these people and you’re going to go into the fray with a weapon, there is something you have to be at peace with before you do: You may get shot and killed, and more than that, you may be shot and killed by another good guy. And neither one of you may necessarily be in the wrong. If a good guy mistakes you for a terrorist or active shooter, no doubt it will be a snap decision made in the heat of the moment. Shit happens.

That said, there are methods to help reduce the risk of being shot by a friendly. Color me overly cautious if you must, but it would be neither wise nor warranted to give this a complete breakdown in a public forum. In broad strokes, I’ll tell you to heed the same advice I give to  CCW holders to follow after a shooting: Don’t look like a badguy. Don’t act like a bad guy. If at all possible, don’t have a weapon in your hands when police arrive. And follow all police instructions.

If you decide to go with a Trunk Gun, do some research and get some training. Like a seat belt, fire extinguisher, or condom, you don’t need one until you really need one.

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Dave Merrill

Dave Merrill

About the Author

About the Author: A combat veteran of the United States Marine Corps, Dave "Mad Duo Merrill" is a former urban warfare and foreign weapons instructor for Coalition fighting men. An occasional competitive shooter, he has a strange Kalashnikov fetish the rest of the minions try to ignore. Merrill, who has superb taste in hats, has been published in a number of places, the most awesome of which is, of course, here at Breach-Bang-Clear. He loves tacos, is kind of a dick and married way, way above his pay grade. You can contact him at Merrill(at) and follow him on Instagram here (@dave_fm).


  1. Jbourneidentity

    I use a 5 feet long cable with lock from Walmart that has the number combination. I dun the cable through the action of my 6920. The cable lock is then ran under and through the seat railing that’s bolted to the floorboard. The rifle sits in the back seat in a partially unzipped padded rifle case. It is covered with a cheap black blanket. I change 2 digits on the 4 digit lock and will align them when it’s time to deploy the rifle. It’s not foolproof, and it’s fairly slow, but it gives great piece of mind.

  2. Zev

    I’ve got a dedicated KarKar Bean in my front passenger seat with my family 3 day gobag in the seat behind me. Been this way since Garwood

  3. hillbillly

    Better to have and not need than to need and not have! Trunk long gun is a must have!

  4. Old 1811

    Two problems I see with carrying an AR/AK in your vehicle:

    1. As you said, it’s for offensive work, after you’ve escaped from a kill zone. Unless you’re LE, that’s known as “aggravated assault/battery” or “attempted murder/murder”, because the shooter is no longer an imminent threat to you. Unlike the police, you have no duty to pursue and apprehend.

    2. Let’s say you’re in the mall when an active shooter goes to work. You get to your vehicle and retrieve your AR or AK. About this time, the first responding officers pull up. They are responding to a call of “Active shooter at the mall, males with rifles,” and the first thing they see is you, a male with a rifle, which you are pointing toward the mall. What do you think will happen next? (Hint: It involves loud noises and you won’t like it.)

    But,as I always say, it’s America, and you can do what you want. If you want to gamble that the cops won’t shoot you and/or that a prosecutor won’t charge you, be my guest.

    • Mad Duo Merrill

      You can absolutely go kill a guy who’s actively killing other people, even if you’re out of the danger zone. The language of the deadly force legality in most states is, ‘in defense of yourself or in defense of others’ (usually they include language like ‘to prevent death or great bodily harm’). No, there isn’t a duty to do it, it’s just that a certain amount probably will, especially as we have more attacks. Like I said though, you have to make peace with the fact you may very well get tagged by good guys.

      • Old 1811

        Well, you went to a different academy than I did. Like I said, it’s America, do what you want.

        My second objection still stands.

      • Old 1811

        If the shooting starts right in front of you, sure. But if you have time to get to a place of safety, arm up, then return, you’re on much thinner legal ice in a lot of jurisdictions.

        It might fly in some places, but try it in San Francisco or Cook County and see what happens.

      • E Plebnista

        +1 your reply while making another comment. There have been USSC rulings across nearly 150 years regarding how police have no actual legal duty to protect anyone. Rather their purview is to enforce laws, not to per se ‘protect’ the populace (even if it asserts so on a car door). This had the result of providing them legal protection from lawsuit if you call for help and they decide to never arrive. Furthermore, while prosecutors might disagree, LEOs are not any special class of citizen with any extra ‘007’ rights or powers to deal with violent felons. Although constantly referring to fellow citizens as “civilians”, fact is that LEOs are also ‘just’ citizens.

        “everything I’ve come up with falls short. “Car Carbine” comes close though.”

        You were so close to this that I got it from you — How about “Car-Bine”?

        • JC

          In Oregon, which has the most liberal (and most often overturned) US circuit court, the use of deadly force standard is the same for both responding law enforcement as it is for citizens, with one exception, law enforcement is considered to have greater training (yes this is debatable) and therefore held to a higher standard when the courts examine the reasonableness of the use of force. Translation: non-law enforcement people who decide to use force have a slightly larger grey area to operate in.

          I would agree that the greatest risk you are taking (other than the actual threat) is blue on blue from either responding citizens or law enforcement. Don’t look like a bad guy.

          It’s easy to hold back and come up with very valid reasons for not running into harms way. But it takes individual selflessness, courage, and sacrifice to make a community of people safe, happy, and prosperous.

          Thank you to the Warriors that choose to go into harms way.

      • J. Tebay

        You are absolutely correct. In Texas, if Deadly Force is Justified to protect yourself as a reasonable person would believe them to be at the time, then Deadly Force to protect another person is also justified.

        Texas PO.

  5. Tommie Spinosa

    Where can you get the fiction Rack.

  6. Roar

    I’m sure these are useful in the event of an attack where the shooter is courteous enough to allow you time to run to your trunk, unlock the car, get the gun out of the case, walk back to him, and then simply allow you to shoot him. It seems a lot more likely these guns would be used in something premeditated than for a killer to simply allow the time to pull the gun and get into position to kill him without splattering your brains all over the ground.

  7. Joe Anthony

    After the beheading in Moore, Oklahoma I changed out the AR-15 I kept in my trunk to a AR-10 that I custom built. It stays in a Pelican case in my trunk. I keep a Sig 250 full size 9 by my side in the car… And a .38 close by.

    In my truck I have a basic AR-15 and a Benelli Nova with extended tube. I also keep a Springfield fully loaded 1911 in my truck too.

    This is all my norm …

  8. JJFN1776

    As a LEO who travels to and from work in my pov I carry a pump shotgun behind the seat of my truck. I always have a side arm but when people see a shotgun they know it means business.

  9. Scott Graves

    Is Big Sky Racks the only game in town for locking long gun down?

    • Steve

      Pro Gard makes racks/locks, but it seems mostly for newer SUV’s and of course the Crown Vic. I have the overhead rack out of my old squad car, but it won’t fit in my ’98 Ram 1500 without extensive engineering.

    • Wilson

      There are a number of companies that make them. ATT comes to mind, not sure if they do civvie sales though.

  10. Gene Roc

    As an LEO I have been thinking about adding a carbine and plate carrier to my pov loadout. I have the training and ability to take action and I know most cops in my area are thinking the same way now. My main concern, which you echo, is responding to something and engaging threats who later turn out to be Joe Public. I think I would have hit on that subject a little harder. So much happens in a gunfight concerning visuals and auditory exclusion that most people, even LEO’s can’t manage. I’ve made an off duty plan in the event of an active shooter to get my family back to my pov, kit up and connect with whatever LE respond. Hopefully this keeps me out of responding LEO’s sights. But we all know what happens to the best paided plans when the shit hits the fan.

  11. Ed P.

    If I’m seeing this right, the purpose of the third photo in the article is bass-backwards. The guy holding the long gun is the BAD GUY! The guy on the ground is law enforcement, and pleading for his life. I think this “execution” occurred in France.

    • Mad Duo Merrill

      The guys with the AKs are indeed the bad guys here. It’s a frame from a sidewalk execution by pieces of shit in Paris. The photo is posted immediately after the line: “The Trunk Gun/Patrol Carbine is especially important if you’re going into the midst of a terrorist attack as opposed to a “normal” shooting or even a mass shooting, but that’s a subject for a different post.”

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