I don’t care how many times you get into a discussion about guns, there are at least as many points of view as there are people talking. Exponential growth in opinions happens when you talk about ammo, especially calibers. Yet, for all the vast sea of opinions, there are good ideas and empirically verifiable facts that can help us narrow down our list to which firearms we ultimately go with. For this article, I will share with you my primary criteria and then go through my thinking process for how I landed on the truck gun of my choice. Your mileage may vary, so do your homework. You alone are responsible for the choices you make.
I mention it first to get it out of the way, but this is the absolute last thing you should use in making your selection. By that I don’t mean to ignore a gun’s appearance, but make it the tie breaker at the end when you are narrowed down to two or three otherwise equal choices. If you feel good about the gun and the way it looks, you’ll practice with it more and have a certain comfort with it you would not otherwise have.
Pragmatism is the first rule in firearms selection for me. What do I plan to do with it? On my limited budget, I have to be able to justify each and every firearm purchase I make. If I can’t justify it with some need or application, I can’t buy it. Also under this category, I place things like caliber because I want as much commonality of ammunition as possible. For example, all of the handguns in my home are .45 ACP or .45 Long Colt. I deal with ammunition as a separate consideration below.
Can I apply this firearm to multiple scenarios? My SiG P220 is a great city gun and EDC firearm, but it may not be powerful enough if I am in grizzly country, even if I bought the ten-round magazines for it. The same is true with my Single Action Army reproduction. If you’ve ever heard of Hugh Glass, you’ll know what can happen when you’ve shot a grizzly and didn’t kill it, which is very possible. However, carrying my FAL about for a pleasure hike is likely to get reports made to the local ranger station or game warden’s office, if it is outside of hunting season, not to mention that my FAL is 12 lbs. No one wants to carry a bowling ball around on a hike. The answer lies somewhere in between, including using an abundance of caution in grizzly country and making enough noise not to surprise a sow with cubs nearby.
Weight is an issue. Even a light sidearm can be a lot of weight on your hip unless you’re used to it. Back when I was working as a security professional, I used to get a sore hip for the first few weeks that I wore my sidearm. Now, I wear it everywhere and feel naked without it. Weight can also dictate how fast a firearm can be brought to bear on a target. If your firearm is for immediate defense of your person in the city, you don’t want a .500 Smith & Wesson revolver or a Ruger Super Redhawk. They will put down most any predator, but you may not be able to bring it to bear fast enough. On the other hand, a very lightweight gun is not going to resist muzzle jump well and will take more practice and effort to maintain muzzle control in a firefight or when shooting a charging bear. This is why I chose a non-polymer auto. Polymers have come a long way in reliability in pistols, as any Glock owner will testify to. However, they don’t feel right to me. I like my pistols to have all metal receivers. The heavier weight helps with controlling my shots and speed with follow-ups. That’s just my experience.
Ammunition is very important. I could buy a .338 Lapua bolt action, but could I handle the recoil? I own a 12 gauge pump action, and I can shoot bird shot all day long with no problem, but I have a limit of about a dozen slugs even if I have a recoil pad. Do I really want a slug gun for general big game hunting then? No. (As an aside, I put a Knoxx Compstock on my shotgun, and I could probably handle 25 or 30 slugs in a single session, giving me much more versatility.) Ammunition is an important part of versatility. Shotguns especially have great versatility because of the plethora of both lethal and less-lethal rounds available. You can even get flamethrower rounds for them. Break action shotguns take this even further: caliber converters can be inserted in the 12 gauge models that allow the use of common pistol ammo or smaller bore shotgun ammo. The trade off for the shotgun is short range and minimum 18” barrel (unless you want an NFA registered short barreled shotgun). Rifles, on the other hand, will reach out anywhere from 100 yards to over 2,000 yards in some calibers and models. If game is scarce, reach may put food on the table when other things won’t do it. Availability is another issue. If the ammo is rare, you may be forced to order over the Internet or through snail mail. One round that has an immense following but is still relatively new is the .300 AAC Blackout. My local sporting goods stores rarely (if ever) have it on the shelves, and when they do it’s 147 grain FMJ. That’s supersonic target ammo. I could hunt with it, but if I missed a vital, I am going to be following a long blood trail to get the deer in the bag. I might not find the animal if it was a clean flesh wound. On the other hand, it’s a great shorter-range round with more power than an M4gery in 5.56/.223 can offer. There are a growing number of bolt actions in this caliber, too. See more about this round below. Finally, controllability is an issue. If you can’t handle the recoil, you can’t handle the round. But what about if you can handle the recoil but have trouble with follow-up shots because of the muzzle jump? My middle daughter has a great love of a .45-70 Government lever-action, and she shoots it very well. Her next older brother doesn’t like it at all. There’s too much recoil for him, so he invariably flinches at trigger pull, which throws his aim.
Does your firearm have after-market accessories you want for it? Do you insist on a caliber specific bullet drop compensator reticle on a scope or after-market iron sights? Do you want a particular sling or gun bag? Conversely, if you don’t need/want a lot of tacticool fluff, is it going to be basic enough for your tastes/needs? If you only ever use traditional iron sights, do you really want to bother with something that has that great red dot sight and vertical handgrip and laser-flashlight combo? In many ways, accessories (or the lack thereof) are dictated by training, experience, and philosophy of shooting. I have Gen 2 T-Pod vertical foregrip that turns into a bipod on my M4gery carbine, but I rarely use it. When I do, it is usually in bipod mode. I have a quality scope, a finger grooved pistol grip, and a 3-point sling on it. Other than that, it is basically mil-spec as it came from the factory. I don’t need all the toys.
What your friends like or shoot is going to play into your purchase decision, whether you like it or not. However, you need to keep this in your mind so you can silence their voices until more pragmatic decisions are made. However, if they are a successful 3-gunner, hunter, security, military, or police professional, listen to their practical advice. You can learn a lot from these folks.
If you can’t afford the gun and all the extras you need to make it fully usable for you, then you can’t get the gun. It has to be within your budget. Upgrades can be put off, but essentials cannot. My M4gery came with every essential, except a rear sight. I had to purchase an after-market flip up rear sight. My FAL was a kit when I bought it, and it needed several parts plus tools before I could use it. When I bought my suppressor, I also had to pay for an NFA trust and give BATF a $200 excise tax to take possession on top of the cost of the suppressor.
Okay, now that you have an idea of the major factors that I consider in a firearms purchase, let me share how I determined what truck gun I decided on.
I live in Idaho, between Washington and Montana. While Montana recognized my basic concealed weapon permit, Washington did not. However, since getting the enhanced concealed weapon permit, I can also travel while concealing a pistol into Washington and any other state I ever anticipate being in. Here in Idaho, I can legally conceal any weapon I can legally own (except on public college and university campuses, where it’s limited to firearms only). However, in every other state where I am aware of the specifics, it must be a pistol, so I need a truck gun that is a pistol. If I only ever planned to stay in Idaho with the weapon, I could possibly use a registered SBR (short-barreled rifle), provided I went through all the hoops and hurdles I went through to get my suppressor, but I plan to cross state lines from time to time.
Next, I want versatility. I want to be able to use this weapon primarily as a defensive weapon, but in a real pinch I want to be able to hunt with this weapon. It must be small enough to be maneuverable in the cab of my truck. My truck is older, so it has a slightly smaller cab than current models, making this an issue if I have to pass the weapon from one side of the cab to the other. Virtually all pistols will meet this requirement, but if you’re considering a shotgun or a rifle for your truck gun, this may be an issue for you.
I decided that commonality of ammo was a must for me. I just don’t want to have to keep track of fifteen kinds of ammo, so what I have in the house is a big issue to me. By keeping to chamberings I already have, it makes my bulk purchases of ammo that much more practical.
Familiarity was another issue for me. I didn’t want to experiment with something new. That narrowed it down to a handful of choices.
What I Didn’t Go With
I considered an AK pistol and an FAL pistol. The 7.62x39mm is not as powerful as the .300 Blackout round. The .300 Blackout has 23% more muzzle energy and 16% more energy at 300 yards with the 147 grain FMJ. The numbers are better in the 125 grainers I use, and that is from an 8.5” barrel. I don’t own an AK and have only rarely handled them. I also have no other weapons chambered for 7.62x39mm ammo. There is just not enough familiarity at the moment for an AK pistol. The FAL pistol was honestly too powerful for my intentions. Not only would a .308 Winchester (or 7.62 NATO) be very hard to control in a barrel that short, the blast and roar from unburned powder would make a brilliant flash and a boom powerful enough to break automotive glass in some vehicles. The .300 Blackout was designed for an 8.5 inch barrel, so there’d be no flash and little roar by comparison and a lot less with the suppressor on. I am also not likely to hunt elk or moose in a short-term survival situation. I have plenty of familiarity with the platform and the ammo, but it’s just too much power for the application I have in mind. I also rejected some great weapons that would have been suitable for the city alone or for the back woods as a bear gun. The Ruger Super Redhawk Alaskan was one. In .454 Casull/.45 Long Colt, it has some versatility, but ammo is expensive for both of those calibers and not always available, especially in the city. My regular EDC pistol is high quality, but the .45 ACP won’t usually go through a quarter panel and still damage an engine block or head enough to stop the vehicle. It won’t usually stop a white tail if you don’t hit a vital, and you need to be within about 50 feet, using a pistol to get that kind of shot in unless you’re exceptionally skilled. I briefly considered the Thompson/Center rifles, considering that a wide variety of barrels are available in both their pistol and rifle versions, but the trade-off is price. I can get a lower-end AR with lots of extras or a mid-range one for the price of one T/C receiver and barrel. They’re also single shot, which is next to useless in self-defense scenarios with humans.
What I Decided On
I decided on an AR pistol. There are a mountain of after-market upgrades and accessories available to totally customize my loadout. The amount is just staggering. The short length gives me maneuverability in the cab. If I need it on one side, I have it. If my wife needs it on the other side, I can safely pass it without a gymnastics act while driving. It is legally a pistol, so I can cross state lines with it concealed and loaded via my enhanced concealed weapon permit. I can carry it in my backpack to the Idaho state-owned colleges and universities if I want to. There are several calibers available in today’s AR platform. You probably guessed by now that I chose .300 AAC Blackout. The .300 Blackout round is versatile. I use 125 grain Sierra Match King rounds for hunting. They pump out around 1,400 ft-lbs of energy from an 8.5-inch barrel and are more than enough for a deer or smaller game, should I need to hunt to survive. In some states, I can hunt with it as it is a .30 caliber (though Idaho prohibits pistol hunting with rounds that are necked or originally designed for a rifle). With a 30 round magazine and a CMC 3.5 lb. trigger, I can unload on a grizzly if the need arose. I can punch through a car’s quarter panels and into an engine block this way, too, if I should have that need. I can also use subsonic rounds in the 190 to 240 grain range. The 220 grain projectiles typically put out muzzle energy comparable to a .45 ACP but with much better penetration than the fat .45 is capable of. This makes a good personal defense compromise should I be compelled to enter or spend time in the bigger cities. I can also use both types of ammunition with or without my suppressor without cycling problems or the need to have an adjustable gas block. Having an M4gery in .300 Blackout already, I am thoroughly familiar with the action and the limits of the platform. This would give me a smaller, more portable “just in case” gun that I can lawfully transport across state lines in a loaded condition in any of the states I would willingly visit. There are also a gazillion parts out there and almost any gun store either has, or can easily get, whatever part you need or you can order spares for yourself.
When choosing your truck gun (or any other for that matter), it boils down to application, versatility, ammo choice, and your personal use parameters. Don’t let my categories be your sole categories. These work for me. You may need more or different specifics than I do. I don’t plan to go into open combat, if I can help it, and this is my “just in case” gun. Your wants and needs will be different. Be pragmatic to the bitter end. Then, if you have a tie, use appearance to break the tie. Once you have it, train with it the way you anticipate using it. Don’t turn it into a locker queen, unless you’re just collecting guns as a hobby.