Do You Have the “Right” Truck Gun?

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Do You Have the “Right” Truck Gun?

July 25th, 2021

5 minute read

The truck gun concept has come a long way since your grandpa racked his 12 gauge in the cab of his pickup truck. How far? So far, that “truck gun” has become native speech, in gun circles, for a long gun or back-up carried in your vehicle. The broadness of the definition and lack of specifics allows many modern firearms to fall in the classification of a “good” truck gun. It simply depends upon the scenario and space available, leaving a plethora of options, from the traditional pump-action shotgun to the AR pistol.

Woman shooting a pistol from inside a truck
Can a pistol serve in the role as a truck gun? The author examines this question.


How do you know a “truck gun” when you see one? A truck gun typically offers a larger capacity than a carry pistol, features a shorter length barrel than your 26″ hunting shotgun, and is lightweight. It is easily manageable, provides short and long-range accuracy, and is easy to operate. A truck gun is capable of eliminating a threat in a survival scenario, whether it is a four-legged or two-legged predator. In the broadest of terms, a “truck gun” is a vehicle-based weapon that is too large to conceal carry while offering expanded operational capabilities over an EDC firearm and can be accessed quickly.

The Concept

The general idea behind a truck gun is to have a vehicle-specific firearm that is reliable, highly versatile, and accessible when you need more capacity or firepower. It is ideal for the user looking to quickly dispatch threats.

Man on farm property with truck and barn
In a remote area of your property, having a rifle or other backup gun in the truck can be a lifesaver.

This is not a new concept. A truck gun has always been viewed as a tool for self-defense. What has changed is that more people carry a concealable pistol than ever before. Meaning, most people already have access to a pistol while in their vehicle. This nuance has mitigated the need for a vehicle-specific pistol and opened the door to long list of options to fit every users preferences and environment.

A truck gun serves as an additional tool should the concealed carrier be forced into a situation where they are facing multiple threats, an active shooter, predator, or more. Simply put, a truck gun is another tool at your disposal to use in scenarios that require more accuracy, a greater capacity, and a higher degree of stopping power than a handgun.

The number of people who take their personal safety more seriously and carrying firearms has contributed to the popularity of having a firearm specifically designated for their vehicle. Most people default to a semi-auto firearm that is not too big or too heavy and can be easily stored like the Springfield Armory M1A SOCOM 16 CQB. The number of options are endless, from a pistol with capable capacity — even one as small as the Hellcat — to a lever-action rifle. When selecting the appropriate truck gun, you need to consider how easy it is to shoot, potential scenarios, and your environment.

The Criteria

When it comes to selecting a truck gun, don’t overthink it. The “keep it simple, stupid” (KISS) principle is the best option for the selection of a truck gun. Make sure the firearm is comfortable to shoot, fits you and your vehicle, and is chambered in a caliber that provides familiarity.

Springfield Hellcat pistol in a concealment holster inside a truck
While the Hellcat might not be the first option to pop into your mind, the author suggests it can serve the role of a truck gun.

There are a few things you should try to avoid when selecting your truck gun. First, you do not want a firearm that is difficult to shoulder or handle. Be sure to try shouldering the weapon in a variety of clothes, including a thick coat, a suit or anything else you may be wearing throughout your day. Second, avoid selecting a firearm that makes you flinch or cringe in anticipation of recoil, every time you pull the trigger. Finally, stay away from less common and obscure calibers. Consider firearms with common and regularly available calibers at your local store and online (prior to our current shortage). These are the first to be restocked and generally speaking the most readily available in a pinch.

In the past, truck guns were either a pump-action shotgun or a lever-action rifle placed in plain sight in the cab of a truck. Recent advancements in carbines and storage options have led to more people purchasing AR-15 pistols, such as the SAINT Edge PDW chambered in .223/5.56mm, or the SAINT Victor in .300 Blackout, as their choice for a truck gun. And, a capable, smaller handgun is also an option.

The Right Choice

There are a number of options that will work. This is not a one-size-fits-all proposition. You may feel more comfortable with a shotgun or a bolt action rifle. Others need the comfort of a good-capacity, semi-auto carbine. A pistol might be right for you.

Man using Springfield Armory XD-M handgun as a truck gun
A larger pistol, like this XD-M, can offer increased firepower to back up your Hellcat or XD-S Mod.2 CCW pistol.

The Boy Scout motto of “Always Prepared” is a good rule of thumb for selecting a firearm to meet your needs. Being prepared means, we must all exhibit some degree of situational awareness and anticipation. This holds true when selecting the right truck gun.

If you are an urban dweller, your primary focus will be on self-defense from those two-legged predators. This scenario suggests that your truck gun excel at short range, so a tactical shotgun or AR pistol will do just fine. Place your emphasis on finding a firearm that is easy to handle and less emphasis on longer-range optics and accessories.

For the suburbanite, a little more range can be useful. Keep in mind that a bullet can travel through a target or multiple walls and windows if you miss. But, bear in mind that you might want to stick with something like a 9mm pistol.

If you are like me and live at the crossroads of suburbia and the country, I would opt to pursue a firearm that meets the needs of the country. A firearm that offers good capacity, sufficient stopping power for four-legged predators, and is reliable at short and long ranges. A semi-auto AR-style rifle, like the SAINT series by Springfield Armory, checks all of my boxes. They boast 16″ barrels and can be easily stored in most vehicles, whether it is under the back seat in the cab of a truck or the trunk of a car.

Final Thoughts

Many modern firearms fall in the classification of a “good” truck gun, leaving many options from which to choose. The truth is the best truck gun is going to be different for everyone. However, there are some simple truths in selecting the right one. Don’t overthink it, know your potential environment, understand the possible scenarios, and find one that is easy to shoot. There are not too many topics that can stir the pot better than discussing the “best” firearm for a particular scenario, and the truck gun is on that list, so fire away.

Due to an ATF ruling regarding the configuration of pistols with stabilizing braces, these firearms can be subject to NFA (National Firearms Act) regulations as short-barreled firearms. It is the buyer’s responsibility to comply with all rules, restrictions and/or laws determined by your city or state. Please ensure you are up-to-date on all current laws.

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Springfield Armory® recommends you seek qualified and competent training from a certified instructor prior to handling any firearm and be sure to read your owner’s manual. These articles and videos are considered to be suggestions and not recommendations from Springfield Armory. The views and opinions expressed on this website are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Springfield Armory.

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Joseph Campbell, Ph.D.

Joseph Campbell, Ph.D.

Joseph is a freelance firearms writer and professor of political science. His writing focuses on informing his readers about the newest products and the significance of the 2nd Amendment. He serves as the Web Content Specialist for Primary Arms on a freelance retainer where he is continually gaining knowledge on the newest gear and products the industry has to offer. As a member of the Oklahoma City Gun Club and Civilian Marksmanship Program, he enjoys being active in the shooting sports. He spends his time teaching, writing, shooting and hanging out with his family.

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