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.
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 event 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 everyday. 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.
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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Emergency: Activate firefly, deploy green (or brown) star cluster, get your wank sock out of your ruck and stand by ’til we come get you.
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)BreachBangClear.com and follow him on Instagram here (@dave_fm).