Picking A Truck Gun

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When I was a boy, every truck you saw in Texas (even in urban areas) seemed to have a gun rack in the back window with two or three different long guns proudly displayed on it. A rifle or two and a shotgun were not at all uncommon to see inside vehicle windows, but that definitely is now quite rare. While not illegal, people are more conscious of concealing their firearms in vehicles due to theft and urbanization (people aren’t as used to seeing firearms in plain sight these days).

That said, just because you can’t see them doesn’t mean they aren’t there. Many people I know have a designated “truck gun” that they don’t mind being knocked around or subjected to lots of abuse, but picking one can be a little tricky. Several factors come into play when selecting one:

  • Are you in a rural or urban area?

If you live in an urban area, statistically you are not likely to encounter threatening wildlife. Obviously personal protection is the name of the game here, so many people opt for a pistol instead of a long gun. Concealed carry pistols are often small, but in your car’s glove box you can keep a duty pistol if you choose to.

  • Defense or pest control possibility?

As mentioned above, if you live in a rural area then you may need something to nail a coyote anxious to snatch a chicken from a coop or grab a lamb. I have a relative who just last year lost a chicken every few days until he was coming home late one night and was able to take care of a suspicious coyote poking around the coop with his trusty Browning BLR.

  • Cost?

Find a gun that is likely to meet your needs that is priced right. Remember that a gun banging around in your vehicle is going to get scuffed up.

  • Likelihood of being stolen?

Secure/hide your firearm to the greatest extent possible. Phil White once told me that almost all the quality guns recovered from criminals are stolen. I also know several people who have had their vehicles burglarized and their firearms taken.

  • What are you familiar with?

If you have an 870 you use for shooting sports and hunting, it might be a good idea to look for a cheap base model to use as a truck gun. Likewise, if you hunt with a bolt action rifle and are concerned with seeing a 350 pound hog on your land, keep that in mind (and the prospect of bacon).

So with all these factored in, what do I keep in my vehicle?

Before I get to that let me say that I am more concerned with seeing a bobcat or coyote on my land seeking to startle one of the calves (pretty hard for a yote to get a calf, but a desperate hungry coyote may try) than I am civil unrest or “SHTF”. Because of this I tote around a long gun rather than a pistol. Factors I looked for:

  • Handiness
  • Weight
  • Sights
  • Durability
  • Cost
  • Common ammo

After all of this I found a pretty unique, reliable gun to use: A Madsen M47.

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The Madsen M47 was the last bolt action designed with general issue military service in mind and was touted as the “lightweight military rifle”. It features a recoil pad, muzzle brake, and excellent sights:

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It is short, compact, and fits well in most vehicles (including my jeep or my sedan) and is incredibly accurate.

It fires commonly available 30-06 and I got it for $500 as well, so I the price was right too.

So I was able to find a nice surplus rifle in a great caliber that meets my needs, but I have thought about getting something semi-automatic. I might capitulate one day, but until then I have a gun that meets my needs adequately that I don’t worry too much about.



Alex C.

Alex is a Senior Writer for The Firearm Blog and Director of TFBTV.


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  • TheNotoriousIUD

    Minigun.

    • Hokum

      Nice! That’s what they put on the Cobra choppers!

    • MrEllis

      True story, I have two mounted int he rear of my Rabbit. No Obens though.

    • marathag

      My Manfrotto has more ‘barrels’

    • Evan

      I definitely want a truck with a minigun.

      • Secundius

        @ Evan.

        A Class III License and ~30-Grand for the “Dillon” should cover that, not to mention ALL the 7.62×51 ammunition in your State…

        • Evan

          You don’t need a license to buy machine guns, and I don’t think you’ll find a transferable minigun for anywhere near as cheap as $30K. But yeah, certainly all the .308 in my state would be required.

          • AmericanRemnant

            Where are you that no Class III is required?

          • Evan

            Any normal state. You don’t need a license, you need to fill out the Form 4, pay the $200 tax stamp, and get the signature from your Chief Law Enforcement Officer. Class III licenses only apply to dealers.

  • Scott Tuttle

    I’m not concerned with the value of a stolen gun, I’m more worried about a criminal using it to kill someone. if you keep a gun in your car lock it up tight!

    • That is one of the reasons I like a manually operated rifle. You don’t hear about too many thugs using bolt actions to commit crimes these days.

      • Scott Tuttle

        yup and its very un-concealable too.

        • iksnilol

          A hacksaw takes care of that, comrade.

      • CupAJoe

        I love that I can remove the bolt easily and either keep it on my person or lock it up when I’m away from the gun. If I need to bring the gun into action just slip the bolt in and pick up a round from the mag. *Ruger 77/357.

        • MrEllis

          Cool Hand Luke style!

          • Rooftop Voter

            “Shaking the leaves here Boss!”

    • MrEllis

      Yeah that’s a hard one, I try not to ever use my car as a holster. In smaller towns, like I grew up in, kids even had a shotgun in the rack at school. But that was another era and small towns usually don’t remain such.

      I had a car with a lockbox bolted into the trunk, which let’s be real a pry-bar and ten minutes would have solved that issue, but I would dump my pistol in it if we decided to be twentysomethings and have a few drinks as we were wont to do.

  • Blake Allen

    Hi Alex,

    Would you mind doing a short video on the Madsen M47?

    • Comes out next week 🙂

      • Tassiebush

        Good because it looks really cool!

        • They are great shooters. I think they would make a very handy rifle in Australia as well, but when I was there the Ruger Gunsite Scout seemed to be pretty dominant. Pretty solid choice for a mainlander I reckon.

          • Tassiebush

            Yeah Ruger Gunsite Scout seems to have a good following for pig hunters. Perhaps a bit on the expensive side here but then again the truck gun concept in local context is more of a case of the gun you take along with you while doing other tasks but it can’t live in the car as you have too much of an obligation to prevent theft. So if it’s a bit higher grade then that’s fine.
            Not sure about other states but here mags can’t hold rounds in transit so a gun taking chargers/clips might have an edge.

      • Josh Callejas

        I’m really curious, usually when Ian does a video on a gun it’s rare and has collector value, are Madsens really so common you don’t mind having it as a beater/truck gun? for the $500 I’d rather chew up a new Ruger american than a possible future museum piece, y’know?

        • They made 5,000 and arent in high demand. I have a beater and a nice on on my collector rack that is well preserved.

          • Cannoneer No. 4

            That Madsen reminds me of a Spanish FR8

  • Thomas Gomez

    I love my SKS. Awesome little rifle.

    • BR549

      I have two of the SKS; a non grenade launching Yugo and a Norinco. They both now accept magazines and I have reconfigured and polished both of the seers for positive engagement. No longer is there that long scratchy trigger pull, but instead a nice light and crisp action to the trigger. I would HIGHLY recommend doing this, but if someone doesn’t know what they are doing, take it to a gunsmith.

      I had used some friends’ synthetic stocks (ATI, etc.) and they just didn’t feel right. The synthetics were heavy and cumbersome. I decided to rework the OEM stocks and, right off the bat, I’d say, if you want to go down this route, start with a Yugo stock. The Norinco foregrips are smaller and made for smaller hands. They might be good for the SKS you trick out for your wife, but not for your brother, Billy Bob.

      The most important thing I did was to add AK47 pistol grips to them, which is a bit tricky because, to do it right, you have to drill an anchoring bolt hole for the grip through the stock, down through the rear protruding tang in trigger guard housing that pushes against the trigger guard spring, and that has its level of difficulty. If you try to utilize the existing trigger guard spring hole through which to run the anchor bolt, it throws the stability of the AK47 grip longitudinally off center. Then too, one has to fabricate a custom elongated washer to seat at the bottom (actually, top) of the hollow handgrip.

      Using a 1/4 RH bolt, run up through the elongated washer, trigger guard, and then the stock, the bolt hole emerges at the very back of the receiver cut-out in the stock. That hole then gets bored out enough to receive a T-nut from the hardware store and, after completion, the grip is a solid as a rock. Holding the SKS then becomes a thing of beauty. It is more comfortable than the synthetic stocks.

      Additionally, I cut a custom shaped biscuit to fill in the bayonet recess in the front of the stock, then cut the foregrip up and back to make a rail mount for a Streamlight TLR-2 laser and light.

      My only complaint with the SKS is how awkward it is to do anything regarding a scope ……… but I’m working on it. I have some pics …. if I can find them.

  • iksnilol

    I was about to suggest a milsurp Mauser in 308 or 3006. They’re dirt cheap in Norway.

    For the US you could get one of those cheap budget bolt actions like the Savage Axis or Ruger American.

    • yugoslavian mausers are on sale for 399 at aim surplus I think

      • lowell houser

        You can M24/7s for sub$300 if you look hard enough. Sub $200 for round receiver Mosin 91/30s.

  • Wolfgar

    It is hard to beat the 3006 for an all around kill any kind of varmint from coyotes to Grizzly bears. I think a cheaper sporter rifle such as an old Ruger would be more my liking with a Weaver scope. I would hate to loose or beat up a Madsen M47 as a truck gun. A 3030 Winchester or Marlin lever seems to be the preferred truck gun in my neck of the woods in Montana.

  • I’m thinking about a CZ 527 with iron sights in 7.62×39.

    • Solid choice.

    • notalima

      Pricey for a beater truck gun, but I love mine. Excellent accuracy from junk steel-cased ammo.

  • DaveP.

    Police evidence room sale .30-30 lever action. Cost me two hundred. I spent $30 for a sling and an elastic shell holder that gives me an extra 9 rounds of WWB 125 grain hollowpoint.

    • Fred Johnson

      A perfect choice.

  • Sianmink

    Trunk Monkey.

  • RZ

    Ruger American Rimfire 22 Mag w/ 4×32 Nikon scope. Awesome little truck gun.

    • Tassiebush

      I was checking one out with the 18″ barrel recently and I definitely want one. Good pick I reckon!

    • Fred Johnson

      I like .22 Mag for a “truck” gun as well. I have a Zastava .22 WMR bolt rifle that I trimmed the barrel down to 16.25″, installed a Williams receiver sight, and installed a Bushnell TRS-25 in the “scout” position.

      One can carry a crap load of .22 Mag and it reaches further than .22LR.

  • What about a ruger mini 14? good for both hunting and defense and also not too threatening looking

    • Joshua

      not the cheapest though

    • Cameron Bissell

      I can find them used for 600, but mags are a bit pricy, and scopeing them can get spend. with an A-team folder or choate stock it’s be pretty compact. I’d love one but i can go into a big box store and grab a Meh quality AR, and a pile of mags for that 600 range. I don’t have either FWIW

  • Cowboy

    DPMS Lo Pro Classic. Short, handy.

    • Joe

      Honestly, with the nosedive on AR prices you could have gotten into one for what you spent on the Madsen.
      Is the Madsen cooler? Of course.
      Is .30-06 power needed for this use? I don’t think so.
      And a BCG comes out of an AR pretty easily if you want to disable the rifle.

  • StickShift

    I’d have a hard time keeping a rare, mildly collectible, $500+ surplus rifle banging around a truck.

    A SKS, beat up lever action, or a bolt action in 7.62×39 (the Zastava Mini Mauser J&G Sales and other retailers sell might be a good alternative to nice CZ) seems like a good option. All are effective within 150 yards, cheap to buy, and cheap to feed.

    • Secundius

      @ StickShift.

      There’s also the Pathan 44-Bore Mini AK in 7.92×33 kurz, from Pakistan too…

  • wayne Reimer

    In Canada (where I reside) pistols are a non-starter, so long guns rule the day for trunk guns. I prefer to think small though; I’ve had a Keltec Sub2K in a lockbox in the trunk for a few years. VERY compact & light, easy to manoeuver inside or outside of the car ( I have a BMW hatchback so I can access it from inside the car easily). Out to 100+ yds it’s deadly accurate & with 9mm+P’s it’s a fatal pill for unpleasant critters, 2 or 4 legged. Cheap & tough as nails won it points too, as well as the fact that you can only make something so ugly, & Keltec looked after the “ugly” at the factory..A few scrapes and dings on it make it even look a bit better…you can only fall so far down the ugly tree, after all

    • Doug73

      Bingo! I also keep a Sub2k in my car, believing it to be just about perfect for this use. It’s light (about 4 pounds) and nimble, inexpensive (got mine years ago for $299, new), plenty accurate out to 100m, nothing but 100% reliable, and can pack a punch with a 147gr. 9mm+p Federal HST. And if it gets stolen (although it is very secure and hidden), I’m not out a bunch of money. Oh, and it also takes 17 and 33 round Glock mags. It is the ideal trunk gun, IMO.

  • I haven’t used a trunk gun in a while, but when I did I used a Yugo M70B1, and then later a Wise Lite Sterling carbine in 9mm. I recommend anyone in humid climates who plans to keep guns in their car long-term spray them down with Eezox or another preservative, as that will save you a ton of heartache down the line.

  • lowell houser

    Let’s see, i’d go with a milsurp bolt gun OR a cheap AK underfolder. Depends on what you want out of your truck gun. If I’m going hunting i will be sure to grab the appropriate rifle so I would go with a cheap AK, cheap 9mm plastic pistol(Canik TP9), cheap plate carrier, medical bag, bottled water, couple days rations.

  • john huscio

    Mossberg maverick or a lever action in .44mag

  • imachinegunstuff

    Pest control is an issue, as well as getting a nice rabbit in the winter…. oh and maybe a deer… I carry a beater Mossberg 500 I paid a 100 bucks for. If it get stolen I’m not out any money, and it’s nothing that someone couldn’t easily acquire anywhere else.

  • Tassiebush

    Pump action .22lr Taurus carbine generally fits that niche for me. The built in hammer lock is good and it’s small enough to hide under seats wrapped up. It’s a tad aenemic but I’m not shooting anything much over 20kg anyway.

  • Flight Er Doc

    An FR-8 in 7.62 I got around 20 years ago for less than $100….

  • Oregon213

    AR7 here, the Henry Arms version. Snagged it at a pawn shop for $120 in 2005. Add a mini-mag and I’m good to go.

    Whoever mentioned the Ruger 77/357 – I’m deeply envious. Always wanted one of those and have never found the time/money/justification.

    • CupAJoe

      My first long gun was much more disappointing, (Rossi Circuit Judge). I definitely traded up. All my guns are now .357 Mag, 4 in sp101 and Win 94AE. The 77/357 weighs just about the same with a scope and light and bipod as the Winchester bare. Also, the ruger is nigh indestructible while the Winchester is going to stay in pristine condition if I can help it. Pros of the win, better accuracy with low grain bullets, capacity. Pros of the ruger, pointed bullets, easier to make safe (and easier to load from empty, we’re not allowed to keep loaded rifles in cars here), noticeably lighter, durable.

      • Swarf

        If someone made 10 round mags for the 77/357, it would move to the top of my want list immediately.

        As it is, I have a Marlin 1894c that outclasses the Ruger in every measurable way, except possibly weight.

        • CupAJoe

          I’m half tempted to try to 3D print some myself.

          • Swarf

            Dooo eeeet!

  • El Duderino

    AK pistol for my neck of the woods. Can carry loaded in the trunk, 30 big soft points on tap. In the event you have to leave your vehicle and head out on foot, you have a weapon you can conceal under a long coat or poncho…hard to do with a rifle. Folding stock AK rifle would be good too but you lose a couple of those advantages.

    • notalima

      Same here. PAP M92.

    • Marcus Toroian

      Another member of the PAP-in-vehicle club here.

  • 175SMK

    Mt truck gun is an IMI Galil. Prefer semi-auto with excellent iron sights.

  • James

    Just food for thought, but I can usually gain covert entry to a vehicle in under 15 seconds. (That’s my job)

    Trucks are not a secure place to store a firearm unless you really add some sort of locking device for the firearm like the magnetic long gun locks cops have or some kinda lock box bolted to the truck.

    That said, for putting around farms or hunting grounds I prefer my marlin 336 or my m44.

    • Fred Johnson

      Repo Man!

      • James

        Locksmith. Haha

        • Fred Johnson

          Damn. I missed again. 😀

  • Fred Johnson

    I’ve never seen a Madsen in person. That is one mighty cool bolt gun.

  • Zebra Dun

    I’d go with my Winchester M-94 these days, I have seen single shot 12 ga shotguns hung in the back window. As well as the far more numerous Red Ryder BB guns.
    Back when I carried a vehicle gun it was in my Jeep it was a sawed off Boito 20 ga. 19 inch barrel, it could be taken apart shoved into a bag and stored under the back seat along with a few rounds, buck, slug and bird shot.
    No one today does this, even an empty gun rack in your truck can tempt a perp into busting your window just to see if you have a firearm.
    It is amazing what a man can do with a simple plastic wedge and hammer or a bulb that pumps up with air like a blood pressure pump to pry open a car door enough to get access.

    If I were to pick a trunk/truck weapon today to buy especially for that purpose it it would be a Mosin.
    That’s just my choice though.

  • uisconfruzed

    300BLK SBR

  • dltaylor51

    I have a 94 Win. 38-55 16” barreled trapper carbine made in the late 80s in my truck,255 gn cast bullet at 1500 fps is nothing to sneeze at.

  • Lt_Scrounge

    I have a Winchester model 12 take down with the barrel chopped to 21 inches that fits into a converted horn case. Case is about the size of two lunch boxes and holds the 12 gauge pump, handgun, 18 rounds of buckshot and 3-4 15 round magazines for the handgun. The case is so small that the barrel has to go in at an angle. I have literally sat in the lobby of a hotel with it on the table while I ate breakfast without anyone knowing that I was armed. I stopped to grab a breakfast on the way to a friend’s house and didn’t feel like having to go back upstairs for my case. While the shotgun may not be ideal for dealing with four legged predators at long range, it is perfect for dealing with two legged ones at close range. For longer range, I have a folding stock AK that is easy enough to hide in my hatchback or my SUV.

  • candiduscorvus

    I live in a semi-urban area so I have a Taurus M85 revolver and some ready speedloaders in a locked box behind my driver’s seat. Not driving a truck, but it’s my “truck gun”.

  • tunnelrat

    I’m very partial to an old M1 carbine with a choate folding stock. This one I picked up for $225 because it’s a re-import. PEEP sight are dead on at 100 yds and can carry 3 30 rd mags with it in a Blackhawk carbine bag.

  • whamprod

    “Truck Gun” is exactly why I bought my Ruger Gunsite Scout. I wanted something left-handed, relatively affordable, magazine fed, reliable (hard to beat the reliability of a bolt gun), relatively light and handy, short length, iron sights, reasonable accuracy and of sufficient caliber, that I wouldn’t care too much if it collected a few dings and scuffs. For me, the .308 RGS checked off all of those boxes. I replaced the POS included steel mag with several of the polymer mags that Ruger sells, and I keep them stoked with Federal Fusion’s 165 grain load which shoots about 1.0-1.5 MOA out of this rifle. I mounted a forward-mounted Leupold 1.5-5x scout scope on it, although I am considering replacing that with a rear-mounted 2-10x Viper PST as my eyes degenerate with age.

    There are lots of “better” rifles, more accurate rifles, yada yada yada. I don’t care. I think the Ruger Gunsite Scout is an ideal truck gun.

  • whamprod

    “Truck Gun” is exactly why I bought my Ruger Gunsite Scout. I wanted something left-handed, relatively affordable, magazine fed, reliable (hard to beat the reliability of a bolt gun), relatively light and handy, short length, iron sights, reasonable accuracy and of sufficient caliber, that I wouldn’t care too much if it collected a few dings and scuffs. For me, the .308 RGS checked off all of those boxes. I replaced the POS included steel mag with several of the polymer mags that Ruger sells, and I keep them stoked with Federal Fusion’s 165 grain load which shoots about 1.0-1.5 MOA out of this rifle. I mounted a forward-mounted Leupold 1.5-5x scout scope on it, although I am considering replacing that with a rear-mounted 2-10x Viper PST as my eyes degenerate with age.

    There are lots of “better” rifles, more accurate rifles, yada yada yada. I don’t care. I think the Ruger Gunsite Scout is an ideal truck gun.

  • scaatylobo

    I choose from a few that I hope I NEVER need ,but will do the do if called upon.
    Hidden well & locked up is a Ruger mini 30,loaded mags in close proximity.

  • Mitchell Breland

    Kel-tec Sub 2000. Its compact and takes up very little room. Fits nicely in the SHTF box full of mechanics tools and other survival supplies I keep in the back of my Tahoe.

  • Secundius

    For me the Perfect “Stowaway” Rifle is the Waffen-Greger Bar II .30-06 Bullpup Rifle with 22-inch Barrel…

  • Random Disabled Person

    Kind of a sad subject…..,

    Having went to High School at the end of 1980’s & beginning of 1990’s, there wasn’t much of issue with “truck guns” in the back of truck windows on the school campus at my high school. that was just common culture. I’m sure many of the older readers remember it not being an issue. Especially during hunting season. I was in the outer edge of the 2nd largest city in my state(south-mid Atlantic). While the school drew locally from a rural area with farms and families that hunted, the city also bused in inner city kids to racially balance the school system. No guns were stolen and/or messed with. The worst problem was half the school “getting sick” on the day when hunting season opened. Followed by if someone was missing and over due, a good portion would “skip classes” to go out looking for them. The school’s principal and assistant principals would discuss hunting and firearms openly with students interested in such and showed interest in pictures of successful hunting.

    No one felt threatened, most kids had knives on their belts and many had already put in several hours of labor before school started. Even with all those weapons, none were ever used when fights broke out. The school didn’t crack down until the mid/later 1990’s when the school board brought in an idiot superintendent from a gun paranoia idiot zone…. He freaked over the imagined threat when he finally left his ivory tower and actually went to the schools he supposedly was in charge of….. The school even had a cannon they fired at touch downs and victories. Which was stored in the mall of the school between games, where kids could access it…… God knows what they have to do to lock that dangerous evil thing up nowadays…… The big question is with all those truck guns so readily available on school’s campus for decades, where were the school shootings and violence….. Since those guns have been removed, the schools have had the police out more to deal with violence & fights.

    We have lost the right to keep our property easily accessible ( and on display) because of society’s lowest common denominators. Even sadder leaving fishing poles or a level in the back window rack is likely to get your vehicle broken into.

    Amazing how different parts of the country will freak out on sight or truck guns in truck gun rack, while others barely notice unless there is rifle they share an interested in. Which the group that is the later is safer with less violence.

    Maybe we need to bring back the truck/rear window gun racks for exposure therapy for people? It would be a less threatening way to open carry as a protest reminder.

  • missourisam

    $500.00 seems pretty high for a military surplus truck gun. I can buy a new Savage Axis in .308 0r .270 for less, new in the box. Of course I’d have to force myself to go out and sight it in. Bummer.

  • Jason Lewis

    Yugo AKM underfolder 7.62×39 is perfect.