Guns in the Car: Don’t Go Back

| December 7, 2015 | 24 Comments

People should decide what’s best for them, but I don’t think people who have guns in their car should retrieve them and then respond to a terrorist attack or active shooter.

The concept of a truck gun is not new to me. I grew up on a farm. My father used to keep a rifle in his truck. It was for dispatching wounded animals or stopping predators.

Later in life, I met people who kept rifles in their vehicles as “get home guns.” If a disruption of service or civil unrest happened while these folks were away from home, the truck gun might help them get back safely.

As people became more interested in stopping active shooters or terrorists, the truck gun took on an additional role: interdiction. The idea was that people would get to their car, load up, and respond to the attack.


I understand the idea. However, if you can get to your truck gun, you should concentrate on getting away. Here’s why:

  • If you can get to your car, you can probably get away. This is what you should do. Unless you are an off duty police officer waiting for backup, get out.
  • Re-entering an area may be more difficult than exiting. You will be fighting against the flow of people.
  • If you go back into a shooting armed with a long gun you may cause people to redirect back into danger.
  • You may increase your chances of being misidentified as an attacker if you re-enter the environment.
  • Fighting inside of structures is difficult enough as it is. Attackers may be watching for law enforcement and EMS.
  • The longer you are in a fight, the greater your chances of injury. Reintroducing yourself to the fight should be done as a last resort.
  • You may not have the legal authority to re-enter an active shooting / terrorist situation. Each person should make their own decision about how much legal liability they are willing to accept. Given the hand-wringing after my Anchors Away post, there’s a number of people unwilling to take any legal risk.

My primary objective during an active shooting is to escape, fighting where necessary. A long gun in my vehicle does not help me achieve this objective.

I live in a city now, so dispatching wounded animals or predators is not something I expect to encounter.

That restricts any firearms left in my vehicle to the “get home” role. If that is why you have a long gun in your car I understand. Just consider using that weapon to get home, not get back into the fight.

A bag-carried EDC can help you if needed during a disruption of service, but is also accessible during an active shooter event or terrorist attack.


Do you keep a long gun in your car? If so, for what purpose?

About the Author:

Short Barrel Shepherd Short Barrel Shepherd is a regular guy and works to make Web sites and mobile apps easier for people to use. He spends his free time attending fight-focused firearm, knife, and combatives training, motorcycling, writing, and playing games. His daily carry is a Glock 19 pistol and an AR15 .300 Blackout pistol in a backpack.

24 Comments on "Guns in the Car: Don’t Go Back"

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  1. DAN says:

    “….fighting where necessary. A long gun….does not help.”

    Wow ! What an article of contradictions.

    The argument you endorse against a rifle caliber weapon in one’s vehicle applies to ANY firearm whether pistol or rifle. The left will make the firearm using defender the bad guy.

    I carry every day, a CCW pistol. In my car is a SBR, 300 BLK. If I’m in or near my car, an extension of my home, I’ll draw my 300 BLK if the situation warrants defense by firearm.

    Remember….this isn’t about a movement-to-contact. This is about self-defense.

    • CR Williams says:

      I think you’re misreading this, Dan. Shepherd is specifically addressing the idea of being caught in an active shooter situation, leaving the building or area of attack, getting the larger/other gun out of the car, and then going back into the area to find and engage the shooter(s). This is not the same as immediate defense with the weapon.

      I put an AR pistol on the passenger side of the vehicle in a bail-out bag when I’m on the road as an immediately-available gun when I’m in or near the vehicle. If I have to deal with something in the Wendy’s I’ve stopped at for a meal, though, it’s the carry pistol or bust.

      Shepherd is presenting a list of reasons why it is inadvisable to return after you have left the area of a shooting, not a consideration of immediate counteroffensive setups. And while I can think of situations where getting that gun and going back should be at least considered if not advisable, that is a smaller set of circumstances and not one I think many of us are as likely to be caught in.

    • Nick says:

      Take a few phrases out of context, and then rearrange them into a sentence that is contradictory…
      A long gun in your car will not help you get back to your car, but it may help you fight your way home, if necessary.

      • DAN says:

        Nick, please explain how I took his remarks out of context ?

        What I stated were the words of the author. Now back up your accusation or I’ll just assume you agree with my interpretation of the author’s intent.

        • Short Barrel Shepherd Short Barrel Shepherd says:

          I am not sure where the confusion has occurred, as my article has nothing to do with fighting in or around your vehicle.

          This post is, as CR Williams has summarized, about not going back INTO a structure once you get to your car.

          For other posts about fighting in and around your car, please see my multiple posts on vehicle gunfighting.

        • CR Williams says:

          I’m not Nick but I don’t mind pointing some things you mistook out.

          You are mistaken in him arguing against keeping a long gun in the vehicle.

          You are mistaken in that he is not discussing immediate defense. He is discussing evacuating the area of an attack and why it is inadvisable to return to that area after you have.

          You have applied a different context to the article than the author has. You have, I believe inadvertently, made a straw-man argument against something that was not discussed.

  2. Reese says:

    Well dan, what you stated was the end of one sentence, and two parts of another. That is what is meant by out of context.

    What you wrote:

    “….fighting where necessary. A long gun….does not help.”

    What Shepherd wrote:

    My primary objective during an active shooting is to escape, fighting where necessary. A long gun in my vehicle does not help me achieve this objective.

    See the difference? In an active shooter situation the objective is to escape and a long gun in your vehicle doesn’t help. If you’ve reached your vehicle you should just continue your escape. Not what you said.

  3. Sean says:

    I’ve never been inclined to keep a rifle in my truck. Mostly because I wouldn’t want to leave it in there overnight or in some of the places I have to park. (In an urban area when attending major league sports events, for example.) Having someone break into my truck would result in my loss of an expensive piece of equipment in addition to there being another rifle in the hands of people who, at the very least, break into vehicles and may be bad enough people to use it for even worse crimes. The idea of carrying the gun into and out of the house every day and the additional security concerns about where I’m parked just seems like far more hassle than what the realistic chances of NEEDING it while I’m out.

    So I didn’t need a lot of convincing, but this article does a great job of giving a list of concerns that one should consider before running INTO an active shooter situation with a long gun. For those of us who have served in the military or have law enforcement training, I can imagine a situation where running into an active shooter environment could possibly save some lives, but I don’t think that remote possibility is worth the risks presented and the confusion to responders and additional terror and confusion to the victims. Responses of authorities to these incidents is getting more standardized and quicker. By the time you enter the active shooter environment there is almost no possible way that law enforcement is not already aware of the situation and enroute. Not only would someone like that put themselves in danger of being shot by the bad guy, but there will almost immediately be 100+ good guys there who are all in uniforms or otherwise clearly identified as LEOs and communicating with each other who are unclear on who the bad guy(s) is/are. I would not want to be roaming the scene with a rifle in civilian clothes. And who even knows what the victims might do. Running away from you and into the line of fire of the active shooter might even be expected. And all this is to say nothing of the chance that more than one guy decides to get his truck gun and get in the fight. Now you have the chance that two people trying to be good guys are roaming a scene possibly targeting each other. I just don’t see any way the confusion just isn’t worth the risk. Great article.

  4. Another POV says:

    Good article and good advice. Once you are clear of the situation, do not try to go back in and engage the shooter, long gun or not. You legal liability goes from zero to 100 very quick and historically, juries, Grand, civil or otherwise have not been kind to individuals who have “gone back” and wounded or killed someone. Considering that a firefight is always going to be a chaotic affair and innocents get hit often enough, even by the police, you will get sued by any and all, including the perpetrator if they live. In some ultra liberal districts, an overzealous prosecutor may even try to charge you with a crime if you go back in. After all, your intent was to go back in and “kill” someone, is how they’ll spin it.

    If you want to help, get a good medical kit with tourniquets and pressure bandages and help those injured who make it out too. Get a blaze orange vest that says medic on it so police can see it and may ask for your help instead of proning you out and cuffing you, or worse, when they see a civilian with a rifle engaging in the fight. You can even keep your EDC pistol on you concealed, if allowed, and still maintain your personal security.

    Last words – common calibers. While I personally approve of Dan’s .300 BLK SBR, I don’t agree it’s best for a “get home” gun. In that situation, it’s assumed civil disorder has broken out, for whatever myriad scenario. While ballisticaly superior to 5.56 in almost every way, it is still not common enough to be found everywhere. Unless you plan to pack 10+ magazines in your car, you run the risk of running out should you actually have to use it. People, trained or not, always use more ammo than they think they do when the adrenaline starts. I personally don’t want to carry 10 or more magazines of anything if I am on foot for more than a mile or two. It’s heavy, and it will make noise if not stowed in some sort of carrier or vest, which will only serve to draw more attention to you. Carrying a 9mm SBR or 5.56 is a better choice. That ammo is everywhere and you can resupply as you go along if you really have to. I will be traveling fast and light, avoiding contact and using my weapon for suppression as I continue to move. Hopefully, I’ve been smart and already planned my foot routes out and know where I am going. Home, to get my .300 BLK or 7.62 M1A.

    A get home scenario is not an end of the world scenario. Likely, just the site of you toting an SBR will keep all but the dumbest criminals from messing with you. You’ll be encountering oppotunists, not people fighting for their very survival. Not at this point. Later maybe, if things don’t get better, but by then I’ll be home with my 1000 Rds of 7.62, or whatever. As far as I know, most people don’t want to get shot, by anything unless they are desperate and going to die anyway, and that’s not what a get home gun scenario will be about. If it is, then I doubt you, alone, with one rifle and unsupported by anything else, will stop a gang of criminals, dedicated to your demise. Best to avoid that, be a harder target than the sheeple around you and get home quickly.

  5. BillCa says:

    A good reminder that we should think things through before we act on impulse. If you can get clear of an active shooter/terrorist attack that’s the best thing to do. Deprive them of another target. Once you reach your vehicle you may not be safe, depending on where you are (e.g. underground parking) and how many of “them” there are. But assuming typical outdoor parking the only way I might use my rifle in such a situation is if the shooter(s) are shooting at fleeing people (or me) from observable positions.

    Re-entering the building is high on my Nope-list. I’ve done building clearance drills alone, as a pair and as part of a team. I’ll let the guys with the serious body armor do that job unless I have no other choice. Some may say this is a cowardly mindset. I’ll argue it’s a pragmatic culmination of years or experience and knowing *my* limitations now that I’ve hit 60. Your mileage may vary.

  6. Jon Garland says:

    I conceal carry a 45 long gun in truck is concealed also hid in a special place 223 bolt action with a 4x 10 if the place is open and I have a clear shot he is going down but once clear I am not going back in

  7. Leo Edwards says:

    Is the SBR okay to conceal? I know in NC for example you can only conceal a handgun, but over what length is considered a handgun?

  8. DKT says:

    I travel a lot, in areas littered with cartels and drug trafficking. I also love in a small town that requires me to travel to the city in order to shop at any retail store other than Wally World or HEB. I keep my AR pistol in a bail out bag, and wear my pistol on my hip. Too many people have been victims of car jackings, kidnappings, and even home invasions where I live (home invasions do not relate to this article). I would rather have a suplimental insurance policy than rely on only one.

  9. Cymond says:

    I am ashamed, but I don’t currently have a permit to carry (long story). Back in the day, I carried a pocket pistol and kept a full-size pistol and 2 spare magazines in the car. I didn’t even own an appropriate defensive rifle back then, just a 10/22 and a Mosin-Nagant.

    Anway, I started keeping the full-size pistol after a very scary incident late one night. I was traveling home on some rural WV backroads when a very aggressive pickup truck took offense to me. They stopped in the road and 3 big guys got out. I was armed only with my pocket pistol (and this was before the recent revolution of pocket-sized 9mms). Luckily, I managed to pull a flawless 3-point turn and get the hell outa there, but I knew it could have been very different. I was fortunate that the road was wide enough to turn around, that I didn’t get stuck in the ditch while turning, etc.
    Now I’m in a suburban area of PA. I’m going to get my permit sometime soon. I also need to finish & test my AR pistol, then it’s going into the car trunk.

    But yeah, totally agree with the Shepherd. If you’ve escaped, do NOT re-enter the danger zone. If someone is doing something violent, retreat/escape if you can.

  10. iLovePennsylvania says:

    I keep my loaded AK pistol in my car always!

  11. Interesting says:

    Hey SBS,
    Nice write-up. Reminds me of growing up 1 hr away from our ranch. Long guns were only in the car for transport to the ranch or to the range and in cases. At the ranch, same thing, it was a tool. Granted, sometimes the targets were snapping turtles eating all the bass in the ponds.

    Same thing applies to me today. Long guns in the car when being transported for the purpose of shooting at a destination.
    Found some of the AR Pistol comments interesting and I’ll have to think about that one. If nothing else, would be fun to get one to play with.
    As a practice I never leave a gun of any kind in the car, unless I have to run into a Fed building, school, etc. but then it’s locked in a car safe, and then hopefully only for a very short amount of time.

    I think for me, personally, I Conceal Carry for my protection. I would never go, retrieve, and re-enter a situation, unless asked by a first responder. I’ll always offer to assist, especially in First Aid.
    LOL… I think you article got me more spun-up than I thought. I keep typing and deleting.

    Short of it is, I really hope we as Americans get back to a time when we’re talking about plinking with 22’s and teaching our kids about gun safety. Making shooting a fun past time again, being a part of the great outdoors.

    As always, my respect and thanks to all those who serve,

  12. Sapient1 says:

    I keep an edc bag in my vehicle with a couple days of food, essential first aid and trauma kit, ammo of course and a few silver coins for trade. On my person is a subcompact 9mm. Within short reach is a standard size 45 and a sbr chambered in 300 blk… Seems much but I spend most time away from my home for work. My family, wife and children, are a few hours drive away from me while I’m punched in. In the event of natural disaster, economic collapse or an act of terror, I AM GETTING HOME TO THEM! No matter the fire power or hardware it is important to have plans of action in case of an emergency. We have mapped out routes between where I work and home as well as places where we can meet up…

  13. Joey Blanton says:

    Laws will vary State by State. In your article you advise against going back in to help people who are being killed. I disagree, it is a personal decision, but I hope good people try to help in any way they can. In most States I know, you have the right to protect yourself or a third person ( I teach CHL for my State). A conceal gun on your person is good for close in self defense, but current threats considered, a long gun in your vehicle is not a bad idea.

    • CR Williams says:

      The key consideration to me in this case seems to be time. If by the time you get to your gun in the vehicle police are there, then you increase the odds that you will be engaged and become a distraction to responders at best or a dead would-be helper that doesn’t do anybody any good at best. That’s one of the things driving Shepard’s recommendation here, and it is an very important consideration indeed.

      If you’re in a rural area where nobody’s going to get there for 20-30-40 minutes or more, moving back to engage become a viable option.

      Most urban areas you should be seeing somebody in uniform showing up and going in about the time you get out of the incident area and to your vehicle. Do you really want to pull a gun out of your car and start back with it after that?

  14. Maria says:

    I don’t have a long gun in the car, I have an EDC with extra mags, reasoning: I carry every day for protection but have to keep it lock in the car since I’m not allowed to carry in the building

  15. TJ "GM_Skidjit" says:

    Active Self Protection had this article tagged and so I commented with the following about “trunk” guns:

    “Most of the time, if I have a “trunk” gun it’s because I am transporting it from Point A to Point B where it will fill a defensive role at the destination. That being said, I do carry it in the most legal yet still accessible manner that I can during the transit. I do not intend on fighting my way back to it, to then turn around and re-enter the fight unless there are no other available options (which to be honest is a far fetched proposition in my opinion).”

  16. WhySoSerious says:

    In my mind if it’s an active shooter(s) scenario you have to consider the average duration of these events vs how long it would take to run to your car, return and engage. Most people can’t even sprint 50 yards without wanting to puke.. Use your carry gun to defend yourself and get out because any shots you take will get attention fast (especially if the shooter has friends) and they probly have bigger weapons than you. I have my AR in my trunk for various reasons, namely was the freeway shooter we had in AZ a few months back shooting at random cars.. IF I became aware at the moment he shot AND could identify where he was shooting from I MAY decide to shoot back.. But probly no chance any of that will happen. Ever. I guess I really have a truck gun because guns kick ass. The end.

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