In plain terms, a truck rifle is any general purpose rifle that you keep in your truck or vehicle at all (or most) times, so that you’re always protected. They can be used for hunting, target shooting, besides their obvious life-saving purpose.
While it may not necessarily be the most valuable rifle in your possession (as a matter of fact, it shouldn’t), or even your personal favorite, the truck rifle is one that you can leave and forget in the back of your vehicle. Pun intended, because you shouldn’t really forget about it, as you’ll need a fast reaction time when you reach out for it in an emergency.
Moving forward, we’ll highlight certain qualities these rifles should have, and then discuss five separate rifles that meet them, which should help narrow your choices.
Qualities a Truck Rifle Should Meet
Not every rifle is suitable as a truck rifle. In fact, most rifles aren’t.
The ideal one:
…must be portable and nimble. First and foremost, your truck rifle needs to be portable so that it can be easily stored in your truck and maneuvered in tight situations. This almost instantly means that you should choose a carbine length rifle rather than a full length.
…must be durable. The rifle you keep in your truck also needs to be durable and able to sustain abuse.
Your truck gun is going to naturally undergo a little more mistreatment in the back of your vehicle than your other guns, especially if you go off-road and it gets banged around under your seats. Therefore, you should select a rifle that is strong and well-built.
…should be versatile. The best truck guns are those that are versatile, meaning that they can fulfill a variety of functions.
Your truck rifle needs to fire a large enough round to bring down most big game in North America. However, it also needs to be light enough such that it could be used in a self-defensive situation with relative ease.
Write down a list of applications you see yourself using your truck gun for, and then select a rifle that can perform each of them.
… cannot be valuable to you. Well okay, all of your guns mean something to you, but it just can’t be as valuable to you as the nicer guns you keep in your safe at home.
There are two reasons:
- a) Any rifle you keep for the long term in your truck is going to sustain plenty of dings and scratches,
… and b) there’s always the risk that your car could be broken into and your rifle stolen.
Now that you know the qualities to look for in a truck rifle, let’s go over some specific makes and models that have them.
Marlin 336 .30-30 Win
Technically, any lever action .30-30 rifle fits the bill here, but we’ll just go with the Marlin 336 for this list.
The reason is because the 336 is easier to use with a scope than most other lever actions (due to the ejection being on the side rather than on top), although the Winchester Model 1894 and Mossberg Model 464 are two more examples of lever guns that you could definitely use as alternatives.
The Model 336 is the successor to Marlin’s earlier Model 36. It’s been an insanely popular rifle, with millions sold to American shooters alone. In fact, the 336 is the second highest selling lever action rifle in the United States, second to only the Winchester 1894.
While the .30-30 caliber is a little light for elk, it’s more than enough for deer, wild hogs, or black bear. It’s also a round with relatively low recoil, meaning that children or smaller statured shooters would be able to handle it as well should they need to.
The Marlin 336 is available in a variety of barrel lengths, though the carbine sizes will undoubtedly be better for use in your truck. It can easily be stored either underneath your seats or attached to your back window without taking up too much space.
With enough practice, you can become very skilled at firing off rounds quickly with any lever action gun, making it a more suitable choice for self-defense than a bolt action.
Mosin Nagant M38/M44 Carbine 7.62x54mmR
The Mosin Nagant M38 or M44 carbine is a shortened version of the full length M91/30 rifles. While no longer made today, it’s among the most widely produced and distributed rifles of all times, with tens of millions of them around the world. You can easily find a used one in good condition on the surplus market within the $200 to $300 range.
While the full length Mosin Nagant is far too long to be stored in your truck (at least most would agree with that), the M38 or M44 has a barrel length of just twenty inches, which means it can be easily stored in your vehicle.
Both the M38 and the M44 are nearly identical except for the fact that the M44 has a folding bayonet on its side. While this bayonet is practically useless with regards to hunting, it still undoubtedly adds a ‘cool factor’ to the gun as a whole.
The Mosin Nagant fires the powerful 7.62x54R cartridge, which is very comparable to the .30-06 Springfield round and will drop anything in the United States. It is a corrosive round, however, so be sure to clean your rifle after firing.
Ruger 10/22 Takedown .22 LR
As a .22 LR, the Ruger 10/22 obviously isn’t large enough to bring down big game. Therefore, if you want to have a truck rifle that you can use for big game hunting, the 10/22 isn’t going to be it.
That being said, many people like to keep a .22 in the back of their truck instead of a larger caliber rifle. The reason is the .22 is still very handy and versatile. It’s a superb choice for plinking and target shooting, as well as an excellent round for hunting small game such as squirrels or rabbits (and that’s the other thing, you may need to have a rifle you can hunt small game with for survival purposes).
The 10/22 Takedown model is simply an ordinary Ruger 10/22 that can be broken down into two parts: the barrel and the action/stock. Both of these parts then fit nicely inside a black nylon backpack that is shipped with the gun and can be easily stored (and hidden) in your car.
Ruger Gunsite Scout .308 Win
The Ruger Gunsite Scout is another rifle based off Jeff Cooper’s Scout rifle concept. The idea is to have a carbine length rifle with a 16-18 barrel that fires the .308 Winchester round, uses a detachable box magazine, and has an accessory rail on the top for a scope.
While there are many such scout rifles from a variety of manufacturers on the market (including Mossberg and Steyr) the Gunsite Scout from Ruger is probably the most durable option and therefore the best one to keep in your truck.
The Gunsite Scout feeds from a ten round metal magazine, though Ruger also sells polymer three and five round magazines as well.
This magazine detaches from the gun much like a semi-automatic combat rifle, allowing you to perform tactical reloads by simply swapping magazines. This means the Gunsite Scout gives you a major advantage in terms of self-defense over other bolt action rifles on the market.
Springfield M1A Scout .308 Win
If you want a semi-automatic that fires a round big enough to take down big game while also being compact enough to fit in your vehicle, there’s no better choice than the Springfield M1A Scout. This is simply the renowned M1A cut down to a length comparable with the Ruger Gunsite Scout rifle, making it much more nimble and maneuverable.
Granted, the M1A Scout is not an inexpensive weapon; expect to pay at least $1,300 for it, excluding ammunition and spare magazines. As a result, you may not like the idea of having such an expensive rifle riding in your truck, where it also runs the risk of being stolen.
Nonetheless, the M1A Scout is still a reliable and reputable weapon. Not only it is more than suitable for defending yourself, it also isn’t a bad choice for hunting either. Keep in mind that standard magazines for it hold 20 rounds, and this combined with its semi-automatic capabilities means that it delivers more firepower than any of the other guns on this list.
In conclusion, a truck rifle is an excellent firearm aide if you spend most of your time on the road. It will a rifle that you can always count on. Look for one that’s compact, durable, and versatile, such as the five rifles that we listed above.