Truck Guns

Firepower for living rugged

A semiautomatic such as this Ruger Ranch Rifle is a useful truck gun,
reliable and fast for follow-up shots, but Dave does prefer a bolt-action.

There doesn’t seem to be agreement on what the term “truck gun” means. I guess there can’t be a consensus since people live different lifestyles and use trucks for various purposes from work to recreation to daily driver.

In the farming/ranching world where I live, trucks are ubiquitous. I might see a few SUVs when in town — pop. 100 — for the mail, but seeing an actual car is a rare event. Pickups are what people drive, the only variation is in size, from mini to one-ton. I can’t remember the last time I saw a 2WD pickup around here.

Dave’s truck guns include two compact Ruger American rifles. Left is a .22LR,
right a Ranch model in 5.56 NATO. Both are light, about a yard long, use
detachable magazines and moderately priced.

Kitted Out

In most of those pickups you would find jumper cables, tow strap, axe and/or chainsaw, bottled water, meat sticks, a bolted-down tool chest in back, rubber boots and some sort of firearm. When I was a kid every farm and ranch had a minimum of three guns, a .22, a shotgun and a deer rifle.

The centerfires came and went as needed, depending on what season was open. The .22 rifle, most likely a Mossberg, Remington, Savage or Winchester, was pretty much always there, unless it was hanging in the barn or standing behind the kitchen door. The purpose of the .22 was to protect the barn, chicken house and garden from predators ranging in size from gophers and rats to fox and coyotes — and to humanely kill steers and hogs to be butchered.

Not many people live on farms or ranches these days but there are still plenty who love doing outdoor stuff — camping, hiking, fishing, exploring. Maybe I’m just an out-of-touch dinosaur but I like having a rifle more or less handy; not necessarily in my hands but no more than a couple of jumps away, whether in camper, tent, boat, canoe, UTV, or truck. The rifles that serve well in the old pickup do pretty well for such purposes.

When Dave was a kid, every farm had a .22 like this Winchester Model 74 semiauto.
Owning more than one was inconceivable, like owning more than one TV!


Some of the lessons learned over 60+ years might be of use. For example, I have quite a few rifles using tubular magazines. Much as I appreciate these rifles, and use them regularly, I don’t use them as truck guns. Even where it is legal to do so, I dislike a loaded rifle in a vehicle. Loading and unloading a tubular magazine takes time. I prefer a rifle with a detachable magazine for quick loading and unloading, and to keep the cartridges neatly stored instead of falling on the floor or into a windshield heater vent.

I’m not too keen on semiautomatic rifles as truck guns, though I certainly wouldn’t write them off. Loading can be quick enough with a detachable magazine. I have a high regard for the compact Ruger 10/22 and for ARs, especially those with collapsible stocks and shorter barrels. My only objection comes when putting the rifle away after firing a shot or two at wild pigs or barn rats. After removing the magazine the action has to be cycled to clear the chamber, like not sending the ejected round spinning into the weeds. I’ll admit this is fairly nitpicky but if you use the rifle three or four times a day it becomes a nuisance

The truck gun is not necessarily a first choice when setting out to hunt pigs
or coyotes, but it is right there if one is spotted during the normal daily routine.
This wild fellow ended up as a pit barbecue!

Hard Knock Life

A truck gun can lead a hard life, both from getting dusty and dirty to getting dinged on doorframes. I’m an old school, blued-steel and walnut fan but for hard use, synthetics make a lot of sense. Plus they are often moderately priced and easily replaced. It is hard to get sentimentally attached when one rifle is just like the next.

Finally there is the issue of security. It seems long ago, but I can remember when every pickup had a gun rack across the rear window. The guns were always there and the doors never locked. All that ended when our local law enforcement officer announced in the coffee shop we couldn’t summarily hang horse thieves any more. Nowadays I keep the rifle out of sight, the magazine in one jacket pocket and the bolt in another, and I take the rifle in at night.

As of today my favorite truck rifles are a pair of Ruger Americans, a compact .22 WMRF and a Ranch Rifle in 5.56 NATO. The latter is an early model with the original rotary magazine but I am thinking of trading it for the current model, which comes with an AR-style 10-shot magazine. The .22 WMRF gets more use, especially for eliminating garden pests. I do prefer the center fire when driving back roads, in case of encountering coyotes or wild pigs. I like these compact rifles so much I added a .17HMR, .22LR and a .350 Legend. Maybe I am getting sentimentally attached!

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