The Truck Gun and Active Shooter Scenarios: Tactical Fantasy vs. Legitimate Applications

Elsewhere on the blog (here and a little bit here), we have touched on the concept of the truck gun (I should mention that, for those of us who do not drive a truck, the “trunk gun” is its equivalent).  John and I have both mentioned the utility of the AR pistol in this particular role, though other firearms could obviously perform that same task as well.

In the wake of the nightclub shooting in Orlando, I have been seeing more and more buzz on the various online forums about people wanting to throw a long gun in their car “just in case”.  I suppose part of the impetus behind this attitude is that the shooter in this case—as well as many other active shooter situations that have played out recently—used a rifle/carbine, and so they would like a weapon to match that level of firepower.  But is this realistic for the armed civilian (the focus of this blog)?

Though no two of these shootings has been identical, let us, for our purposes, look through the lens of the massacre in Orlando.  You are in a club in Florida, where you cannot legally carry your concealed handgun.  However, trying to be ready for everything, you have decided to keep an AR-15 in the trunk of your car, along with some magazines and maybe even a blow-out kit.  Into the club strolls “Johnny Jihadi” or “No-One-Loves-Me-Larry”, intent on showing the world….something.  He is armed with a Sig MCX and a Glock 17, and he wastes no time in unleashing hell upon the patrons of the club.

Luckily for you and because you practice good situational awareness, you have already identified alternate exits you can use in case something bad happens.  You bust out through the side door and head to your car to grab your AR-15, spare magazines, and blow-out kit.  You don this gear and start “marching to the sound of the guns”, ready to be the hero of this horrible incident.

Unfortunately for you, responding police are arriving in droves, and all they know from 911 calls is that there are one or more bad guys shooting people with “machine guns”.  And they see you heading toward club with an AR-15 in your hands.  How do you think that will work out for you?  At worst, you will be shot.  At the very least, you will slow the police response to the actual shooter while they figure out who you are and what you are doing.

A number of well-known and respected instructors with decades of combined real-life service have said that same thing (Paul Howe and Greg Ellifritz come to mind, but there are many others).  The fact is, these active-shooter events are “come as you are” situations.  If you are caught up in one, you are going to have to solve problems with the tools you have with you or with things you can improvise on the spot (not just weapons, of course, but also medical gear).  For this reason, and as I mentioned in my article here, I am a firm believer in carrying a pistol everywhere you can, a knife if you cannot carry a pistol, and also carrying at least some medical gear.  It is also why I continue—with varying degrees of success—to train with my pistol at 25 yards on a regular basis (if I had regular access to a longer range, I would be practicing even further out).

Thinking or assuming that you can make it to your car and then get back into the fight, safely, is a pipe dream.  I particularly love the people who, when asked if they carry a reload for their concealed carry handgun, reply, “No, but I keep a spare in my glove compartment.”  It may as well be on the moon.

Having said all of that, I will now put forth my exception to all that I just wrote.  If you are someone who spends a lot of time in your car commuting or traveling for work or otherwise, then that truck/trunk gun may be very important.  I have linked to this story before, but this excerpt is worth another look.  On December 17, 2015, in the wake of the San Bernardino attacks just days before, The New York Times ran a story about the male shooter and an accomplice which included this little tidbit:

In 2011 and 2012, Mr. Farook and Mr. Marquez planned an attack on the library or cafeteria of Riverside Community College, where they had been students, and a rush-hour attack on State Route 91, a busy freeway — choosing those targets “because they wanted to maximize casualties,” the agent wrote. They discussed throwing pipe bombs at their victims from high vantage points, and then shooting people.

In the freeway assault, they believed the bombs would disable cars and halt traffic, and then “Farook planned to move among the stopped vehicles, shooting his rifle into them, and killing people,” Agent Anderson wrote. Mr. Marquez was to shoot motorists and emergency medical workers arriving on the scene, and “according to Marquez, his priority was to shoot law enforcement personnel before shooting lifesaving personnel.”

I must admit that it gave me a little chill.  It doesn’t take too much imagination to dream up a similar scenario for your own environment.  I don’t want to give terrorists any ideas, but consider a heavily traveled urban freeway, the type that has limited access via interchanges/entrance and exit ramps and is either somewhat sunken below surface street level or the elevated highway type.  Never mind the pipe bomb idea in the article; all it would take would be a terrorist driving a truck to simply turn the vehicle sharply and block all lanes of a traffic, perhaps having a similarly equipped accomplice do the same thing some distance behind.  Get the picture?

The terrorists could now dismount and shoot with impunity at the people in all of the stranded, boxed-in cars.  On an elevated highway or bridge, the only escape might be jumping down from a considerable height.  On a stretch of highway below street level, egress might be even tougher.  An even more horrific scenario might be blocking off both ends of a major tunnel (in New York City, for example, the Queens-Midtown, Brooklyn Battery, Holland, or Lincoln Tunnels would be prime targets, better than most because of the strict concealed carry laws in New York City.  Armed resistance would be unlikely.).

In such a scenario, as long as you weren’t one of the closest cars to the terrorists, you might have time to access your stored long gun, make it ready, and then engage the terrorists with equivalent firepower and, more importantly, effective range.  Prior coursework in vehicle tactics with a vetted instructor would also be invaluable in such circumstances.

Though the idea of such an attack might seem outlandish, keep in mind the linked story above.  Also, consider that “things” have been getting stranger and stranger lately!   Thus, I think that, if you are someone who has to regularly commute by car via such routes, having a long gun in the car may not be the worst idea in the world.  In my own situation, my daily commute takes me on surface streets where I regard my own threat matrix as primarily from local hoodlums rather than active shooter/terrorist situations.  I also regard the chances of theft of the firearm from my vehicle as almost infinitely greater than me ever needing it.  This is exacerbated by the fact that I am a teacher and would need to park my car off school property, increasing the chances of it being stolen.

In short, the idea of leaving a location where an attack is underway in order to retrieve a long gun from your car and engage the threat is pure Walter Mitty.  However, if you feel that you could potentially be IN the vehicle when a long gun might be advantageous, then having one available is probably not a bad idea.

What are your thoughts on keeping a long gun in your car for self-defense purposes?  Please share below.  As always, thanks for reading.

3 thoughts on “The Truck Gun and Active Shooter Scenarios: Tactical Fantasy vs. Legitimate Applications

  1. Yes I agree running back with your gun is a foolish idea. If you’ve gotten out LEAVE. If you feel you must stay, (perhaps you are waiting for others in your party), then for heavens sake keep your weapons out of your hands and out of sight. As a cop I can assure you responding officers will be on complete info OVERLOAD. There will be 17 descriptions and you may not look like any of them; but I WILL have ONE image in my mind–GUN. So sure keep gun close, maybe on the back seat with a coat over it. Sure it “might” turn into a Paris style attack if the Bad Guy comes outside; but this is not the place for you to square off with him in the parking lot, because the police will only see two BAD (?) Guys with guns….

    Before the police arrive (will you even know when that happens) IF he comes outside AND brings the fight into the street (BIG IF), and IF you can’t or wont leave, and IF you have the gear and ability to use it, then don’t do it in the middle of the road or open parking lot. Move to cover. Shoot from cover. If you can find real cover, then at least find concealment. This isn’t the opening of a 1960s TV western, find a place in the shadows, behind something that will hide you and better yet behind something that will stop bullets.

    Remember the Scottish ghillies, the “game keepers” that developed al sorts of methods (including the famous Ghillie suit), to stop poachers. One method is to lay on your side next to a vehicle and shoot under the car. This takes practice, its not typical prone shooting; but it does give you some cover and keeps you out of view. You may only see the Bad Guy’s feet or legs-start there, you’ll have more to shoot at after a couple hits…

    ….and put ALL the guns away when the police arrive!


  2. Given the tactics of rioters shutting down the highways as of late, I personally feel scenarios where you would find the services of a trunk gun or truck gun to be increasingly realistic.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Michael,

      Thanks for the comment!

      You might be right. We can wargame these scenarios to death (and don’t think I haven’t done so myself), but even in some of the riots we’ve seen in the last few years, I haven’t really seen a situation where a long gun would do what a pistol could not. Rioters tend to have the safety in numbers thing going for them. If my life was threatened by those outside my vehicle (crowd about to overturn my car, pouring gasoline on it, smashing my windows to gain access, etc.), I do believe that pistol rounds into the guilty from my CCW would have the rest of the crowd running for cover.

      Again, it depends on the scenarios that you may have worked out in your head.

      Thanks again for the comment(s)!


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