Trunk Gun – Is an AR Pistol Ideal?

Is an AR pistol the ideal trunk gun? Having a trunk gun makes sense in today’s uncertain world.  It’s not paranoid to be prepared for eventualities you may face while away from your home.  From coyotes to gators to murderous armed criminals, the question for many is not “should I have a trunk gun?”, but “what should I have in my trunk that makes reasonable sense for me?”

What Does a “Trunk Gun” Mean to You?

Many will argue that an inexpensive, reliable shotgun makes an ideal trunk gun.  I’m not a fan of this approach, although the ghost ring sights on the Benelli would be helpful.

As we advise all AR builders, step one of any build is determining what your needs are for the firearm you are building.  Choosing a trunk gun is no different.

For example, if your primary need is a long rifle that can help you stop a coyotes killing your livestock at long distance, then yes, an accurate, moderately inexpensive bolt action rifle makes a lot of sense, as would a  20” 224 Valkyrie build with a collapsible stock.

James Gillands Seekins Precision in 224 Valkyrie
James Gilland’s Seekins Precision in 224 Valkyrie.  if you had a specific enough need, even this could be an ideal trunk gun.

 A short-barreled semi-automatic rifle or pistol makes sense in an environment where threats are likely to two-legged.

A Trunk Gun Definition That Works for Me

Defining a “trunk gun” then is a somewhat vaporous thing.  For the purpose of this article, I’’ll limit it to what I have found is the best approach for MY purposes:  A trunk gun is a reasonably priced semi-automatic firearm in a common caliber that spends most of its time secured within the trunk of a vehicle.  It might even ride in the seat well of the passenger seat. It’s purpose-built, rugged and no frills.  It has reliable, reasonably priced components and accepts 20-30 round magazines.

In and Out of the Trunk

It’s also important to note that my approach is the firearm does NOT permanently live in my trunk.  Mine stays in the vehicle a good amount of the day but comes inside with me at night.

Some who have trunk guns take a different approach, leaving the firearm in the vehicle 24/7.  If I were going that route, I’d probably just conceal and properly lock down one of my proven police trade-in Benelli Super 90. That’s I choose to take due to the very high frequency of car break-ins in my area.

Again, depending on your approach and/or lifestyle or environment, your trunk gun could be a lap gun or a passenger seat partner.  It’s up to you and the situation you’re dealing with. Your trunk gun could be as varied as  Ruger 10/22 Takedown to a Smith & Wesson J-Frame .38 Special.

Some of the author’s short length collection.  THREE of these are fairly decent trunk guns.  One would be great in a horse’s side saddle, and the other would possibly be ideal under a trench coat, or in your lap at a truck stop.

Years ago, my father had his own rather unique ideas that, in retrospect, were rather comical. Certainly, more lap guns than trunk guns. See if you can pick out two above that I am referring to. (hint: its the two on the bottom) Clearly, better options exist.

Compact is King

300blk SBR Trunk Gun
Author’s most recent 300BLK Trunk Gun, post SBR conversion…In a pinch, this particular firearm could still ride by my side or in my trunk, although an AR with a stabilizer would be probably be preferred.

So, then, for my needs, I want my trunk gun compact enough that I can move it in and out of the house or my hotel room without alarming neighbors or other hotel guests.  It needs to be robust, not adorned with fragile optics that bang, bump and lose zero.

If you do choose to have an optic on the firearm, this is one area on the gun where I would not go too cheap.  I’d track down something like an Aimpoint T1 that can take a bit of a beating without impacting function.  Frankly, though, irons are likely enough.  On my first trunk gun (pictured below), I simply tossed on an old pair of LWRC flip-up irons.  Any decent set of irons would be fine.

Sig Sauer 556 Swat Pistol (SBR Conversion) with a pair of LWRC Skirmish Sights. (ditched the factory red dot)  A simple, reliable firearm like this can be a great trunk gun…although today, building your own AR pistol makes even more sense.

Cost Considerations – Cheaper, Within Reason (no junk in the trunk)

What is in my trunk should not cost me an extended period of mourning should it be somehow destroyed in a rear-end collision, a car fire, or even theft.  At the same time, it is worthwhile to remember this could be your last-ditch tool in a time of need.  It had better work.   I would not recommend tossing a budget-first build a or broken down range toy in the trunk.

AR Pistols as Trunk Guns

Author’s original trunk gun (left) an old Sig 556 Swat Pistol next to newer 300BLK…both since converted to short barreled rifles.

For a long time, my perfect trunk gun was an old 10″ Sig 556 Swat pistol in 5.56 with a pair of flip-up irons. (I didn’t have total trust in the red dot it came with).  This was a firearm that seemed to be built from the ground up to be tossed in a vehicle trunk and semi-forgotten.  It was reliable…but relatively heavy, kind of ugly and frankly something I didn’t mind having out of sight.  I still have it…but it’s a registered SBR now and sits in the back of my safe collecting dust.

So, what do I choose now?  My trunk gun in 2018 is an 8” 300 Blackout AR pistol.  Pictured here is an SBR version that would be ideal.  As a trunk gun, I’d have it loaded with Barnes 110-grain.  I’d load it in and out of the trunk as needed in a discreet case, and pair with an everyday concealed pistol.

300 Blackout 110 gr. Barnes Tac-Tx in a 20 round steel magazine.  Two or three extra 30-round magazines are kept with the firearm in its case.

Should 300BLK not work for you, I’d opt for a proven reliable folding stock AK in 7.62 x 39.  I like the idea of a 300BLK or a 7.62 x 39 when I don’t know exactly what I’m coming up against. You may feel differently.  In that case,  I‘d consider selecting 10.5” AR Pistol in 5.56 or .223 Wylde, making sure I had chosen ammo that performed well in a short barrel, probably Black Hills 77-grain.  

Don’t Disregard the Idea of a Folder

Law Tactical AR Folding Stock Adapter Gen 3-M
Law Tactical AR Folding Stock Adapter Gen 3-M

I mentioned a folding stock AK above.  That said, if you like the idea of a full-sized AR, the Law Tactical Folding Stock adapter makes sense.  You’ll be saving length, just on the other end of the firearm.


With an AR pistol as a trunk gun, you have an effective high-capacity firearm that can reach out.  Yet, you can conceal should you need to exit the immediate area around your vehicle.  If what I’ve described here makes some sense for your situation, I’d advise finding a matched upper and lower receiver set, a short quality barrel, a reputable but inexpensive pistol brace, and a decent set of iron sights.

Alternatively, track down a complete upper from a reputable manufacturer and toss it on the pistol lower of your choice. Then, put a set of good irons on it, practice with it and be done.  

Then get yourself a nice semi-discreet bag, a few mags of good ammo you’ve function tested.  Now, be confident if things go south, what awaits you in your trunk is more than up to the challenge.

Did you find this article useful?

Let the author know with a 5 star rating!

Average rating 4.2 / 5. Vote count: 5

No votes so far! Your rating will help us continue to provide valuable and interesting content.

Since you found this post useful...

Follow us on social for first dibs on brand new content!

We are sorry that this post was not useful for you!

Let us improve this post!

Tell us how we can improve this post?

Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

If you want to be among the first to know when we release new content, your best bet is to sign up via email:

We’ll keep the emails to a minimum and we will never sell or give your information to a third party.

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x