The Role of the Trunk Rifle

This is a discussion on The Role of the Trunk Rifle within the Defensive Rifles & Shotgun Discussion forums, part of the Related Topics category; By Chris Upchurch, Suarez International Staff Instructor Many of us like to keep a trunk rifle (or truck rifle, depending on what you drive) in ...

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Thread: The Role of the Trunk Rifle

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    VIP Member Array Blackeagle's Avatar
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    The Role of the Trunk Rifle

    By Chris Upchurch, Suarez International Staff Instructor

    Many of us like to keep a trunk rifle (or truck rifle, depending on what you drive) in our vehicle. It’s nice to have access to a long gun, just in case. In case of what, though? Recently I’ve seen people discussing about scenarios for using their trunk gun that I just don’t think are very practical.

    One of the more outlandish ones is the idea of a trunk rifle to disable a pursuing vehicle. When you’re behind the wheel of a car, you’re at the controls of a 2000+ pound projectile and a conveyance that can take you away from danger at high speeds. As long as your vehicle is mobile, there’s little reason to divert your attention to launching half ounce pieces of lead. The accelerator pedal is a better choice than going for a gun in most cases. However, there are times when you may need to use a firearm from your vehicle. If you are attacked while stuck in traffic, for example. In these cases you need a weapon immediately at hand and that is handy enough to easily maneuver inside the passenger compartment. This is the realm of the pistol, not the rifle.

    Perhaps the most common vision for the trunk rifle is the idea that during an active shooter incident or terrorist attack you will rush out to your car and retrieve your rifle, then come back with guns blazing to take out the attackers. This is consistent with Clint Smith’s aphorism that, "The only purpose for a pistol is to fight your way back to the rifle you should have never laid down." Clint is right in that a rifle is certainly a far more effective weapon than a pistol. However, a pistol right now is far more effective than a rifle in five minutes. In an active shooter situation, by the time you retrieve that rifle from the trunk, the entire event will probably be over. Even if it isn’t, that’s five minutes that the nutjob has had to massacre innocent people while you retrieved your favored weapon. Some terrorist attacks follow this pattern as well, but in others (Beslan for instance) the terrorists are intent on drawing things out. In these cases, their first order of business is generally to establish a perimeter to keep hostages or victims from escaping and prevent the authorities from interfering. While you retrieve your rifle, they’ll be settling in to shoot you from ambush.

    This vision of the trunk gun may stem from police practice, where a shotgun or, increasingly, an AR style rifle is kept in the patrol car. This overlooks a key difference between the police and the average citizen, however. The police officer is probably arriving at the scene in his patrol car. Retrieving the long gun is a matter of a few extra seconds to grab it before proceeding inside. Citizens do not rush to the scene of these events in our vehicles, we are caught in the middle of them as they happen. If you want to make a difference in an active shooter or terrorist event, it will probably be using the pistol you have on you, or perhaps a rifle picked up from a dead attacker. Retrieving a trunk rifle just isn’t realistic.

    If it’s not for vehicle gunfightnig or active shooter incidents, what is the trunk rifle useful for? It’s really quite simple: your trunk gun is your SHTF rifle when it hits the fan while you’re not at home. If natural disaster or civil unrest occurs while you’re across town, or halfway across the country, far from the small (or not so small) arsenal most of us have at home, a rifle in the car provides more options than a pistol.



    So what are we looking for in a trunk rifle? Well, you want the trunk gun to have all the attributes of your standard fighting rifle. There’s not much sense keeping two different systems or different setups that you have to learn and train with. Either have a second gun set up the same way, or if you’re on a budget, have one rifle that gets moved back and forth from the trunk to your bedside as appropriate (just make sure you always move it when you leave home or get home).


    Depending on exactly what sort of situation you’re facing you may have to leave your vehicle and move on foot. At the very least, you’ll probably want to move the rifle from the trunk up into the passenger compartment (to grab if you need to leave the car, rather than gunfighting from within the vehicle). Doing either of these things with a highly visible rifle may attract some unwanted attention. We should all be mindful of police confiscating guns after Hurricane Katrina. Some sort of discreet carry method is desirable. Either get a rifle case that doesn’t look like a rifle case, or improvise with something like a tennis racket case or camp chair bag.



    Since we’re planning for a SHTF situation, plenty of ammo is a must. Three or four additional magazines, plus the one in the rifle, is a good number. As with the rifle, walking around in a situation like this in a chest rig or H-harness isn’t exactly subtle. A discreet shoulder bag, like the TIB or Sneakybag is much more appropriate.

    Finally, while a rifle can be a highly effective tool, it alone isn’t necessarily going to get you through a SHTF situation. The objective here is to get you home safely, not just to win a gunfight. The trunk rifle should be paired with some kind of ‘get home bag’ containing food, water, appropriate clothing, and other supplies. Combine these with good training, good planning, and good judgment and you’ll be well equipped for whatever difficult situation you may encounter away from home.
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    Last edited by Blackeagle; February 23rd, 2011 at 02:08 PM.
    Chris Upchurch - Suarez International Staff Instructor
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  3. #2
    New Member Array RandyB45's Avatar
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    Concur. I keep a Tanker Garand (I know....) in a locking bag normally used to carry golf clubs. BOB with trauma stuff, water, and assorted other stuff. Fits neatly in my Tacoma and doesn't look like what it is.
    Psalm 144:1

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    Member Array gigamortis's Avatar
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    Good article! A lot of common sense was laid out on the realistic role of the trunk rifle.

    Now if I can just train the trunk monkey to use the trunk rifle, I can concentrate on driving away from a pursuing threat while the monkey lays out some lead!

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    Member Array claybreaker0's Avatar
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    Great write-up! Thanks for getting me started on a vehicle specific bug-out-bag and new rifle, my wallet will appreciate it
    What might be a good trunk rifle for not a lot of money, the cheaper and more reliable the better...?

    Forgive my ignorance (and I don't want to thread jack), will someone please PM me as to why in an emergency situation the government will be taking my guns? Isn't that the whole reason I have my b.o.b., food, and ALL THIS AMMO??
    "Being armed gives you options"

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    Distinguished Member Array INccwchris's Avatar
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    I have my AK in the back of my truck on longer trips and days when i have a bad feeling, thanks to the idea someone posted on here with the tennis racket case, i went out and bought one for my WASR-10 underfolder, works great, keep a mag in the gun and 5 spares just incase in one bag, medical supplies in the toolbox as well as the kevlar i leave in the truck when im not at work and the tac vest/backpack/camelback with food,water, and ammo packed in there for my shotgun, rifle, and to feed me for a week at current food consumption rates, with rationing i can make it last for about 2 weeks. More if i suppliment it. i keep in there at all times, just in case war breaks out, never know when those zombies will come
    "The value you put on the lost will be determined by the sacrifice you are willing to make to seek them until they are found."

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    VIP Member Array glockman10mm's Avatar
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    Good post. I carry a rifle sometimes, but more for animal varmits than people threats. I can however understand the concept of carrying a long gun for those who work in the inner cities, but live in the rural areas. We have seen social upheavels created by natural disasters or other occurences that may make getting home impossible without it. These are the only realistic reasons outside of LE I can see for doing so.

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    Member Array medicineball's Avatar
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    Great post - very helpful!

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    Ex Member Array gtmtnbiker98's Avatar
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    In Ohio, you can't keep the rifle magazines loaded, so a trunk rifle is pointless.

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    VIP Member Array Blackeagle's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by gtmtnbiker98 View Post
    In Ohio, you can't keep the rifle magazines loaded, so a trunk rifle is pointless.
    The point of the article is that the trunk rifle is not really intended for immediate use in most circumstances. Carry empty mags and boxed ammo. When the SHTF you'll reach a point where you decide that the need for a loaded rifle is greater than the risk of being caught breaking the law (that's what the discreet case is for too).
    Chris Upchurch - Suarez International Staff Instructor
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    Close Range Gunfighting - March 17-18
    Zero to Five Feet Gunfighting - April 14-15

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    Ex Member Array Kerby's Avatar
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    Wow I am a bit behind.... I have heated seats and a company gas card????

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    Member Array Altac6's Avatar
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    Looking at this from the other direction too... sort of... I guess...

    This really is the defensive environment where a rifle would be the best choice, as opposed to a shotgun or pistol. Whatever situation you find yourself in, if you're inside your vehicle, then it's happening outside of your home. It could be on the other side of town, or it can be out on the interstate. It's one of the only times where the situation could feasibly call for rifle distances for defense.
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    Senior Member Array dV8r's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by gtmtnbiker98 View Post
    In Ohio, you can't keep the rifle magazines loaded, so a trunk rifle is pointless.
    Maybe you need this instead:
    The Trunk Monkey
    LEARN something today so you can TEACH something tomorrow.
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    New Member Array RandyB45's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by gtmtnbiker98 View Post
    In Ohio, you can't keep the rifle magazines loaded, so a trunk rifle is pointless.
    What about stripper or en bloc clips?
    Psalm 144:1

    Save your money: Paint the front sight orange and buy a flashlight.

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    Excellent post!
    I guess a shotgun could be substituted for the rifle if need be, with a supply of buck shot and slugs.
    "Don't start none, won't be none!"

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    Distinguished Member Array Dragman's Avatar
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    It is all about the SHTF senario. AK in the trunk along with a short barrel shotgun so if/when some bad stuff happens even if I am in my vehicle I can fight my way home!
    To crush your enemies, to see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentations of their women

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