Guns in the Car
September 24, 2010
The Gun Vault security container barely fits behind the driver's seat. It's quick to open but far from ideal. It's shown here with a Les Baer Thunder Ranch Special 1911, left, and a Taurus PT 1911, right.
Another stolen car, another handgun stolen as well, to wind up in the hands of who knows whom. When a friend recently had his older Honda vehicle stolen, he found out that the model is high on the "steal me" list for its parts. He also lost his credit cards and money-filled wallet. Listening to his troubles got me thinking about the whole notion of "car" and "trunk" guns for personal defense. Then I questioned why he left both gun and wallet in his car, which was parked right in front of his house. He's not irresponsible, being college educated and working in the critical-care industry, making life-and-death decisions daily. He's also an informed gun owner and has a permit to and does carry a handgun for personal defense. What he lacks, though, is a place of employment that does not ban firearms from their facilities--a problem faced by many.
OK, this might excuse him for leaving his gun in his car when at work, but what about after work, at home? Well, if you've pulled a few "doubles" at work, 16 hours repeatedly, getting into bed is most often the primary thought in your mind. Also, on this sort of rotation, why not leave the gun in the car for the return trip to work? Not to mention he might well also be quite mentally burned out from the job. Further securing his handgun would be furthest from his consciousness.
Thus his carry gun devolved into becoming his "car" gun. As far as the wallet? Forgetfulness coupled with the fact that his work clothes have no pockets, and, I'm guessing, he probably saw his locked car at work as being more secure than his employee locker.
The notion of a car gun is devilishly enticing. Having a full-size handgun is better than a subcompact, all else being equal. I'm also guilty of leaving guns in the car as well as, for varying periods of time, also having a car gun. What has always stopped that practice for me is being forced to admit I regularly see other vehicles on the road with a rear, side or vent window broken out, replaced by cardboard, indicative of a break-in. Seeing this repeatedly, along with the knowledge that there are those who break into vehicles just for the visible loose change, makes me wary.
Non-gun defensive tools: fixed-blade Spyderco knives and SureFire light. (Knives are exposed for illustrative purpose only.)
I've experimented with various holsters and locations near the driver's seat, and, while some of them work quite well, thieves know to look in the same spots. I also don't ever want to have to explain to the police why I armed a thief.
One solution is using a paddle-type belt holster for easy-on/easy-off use. Remove it in the car, and stuff it in a map pocket or console, then reinstall it when you get out. (Or--and of course I can't recommend this--don't use a holster; simply tuck the gun in your pants.)
If you are in similar circumstances as is my friend, a gun vault with pressure pad or key release will slow up the smash-and-grab thief. This is of no use if the car is stolen, however, as noted by a lawman friend who told me of recovering a hitherto bolted-to-the-car-floor gun vault from a shallow ravine, hammered and pried open and the gun removed. (The car was not recovered.)
The problem with a gun vault is that it does take time to open. Then there is the question of where to put the container. In my Chevy Equinox, there's simply no room up front to bolt down a locked container. (I did put one behind the driver's seat, but it's not very well secured. I use it when my wife and I travel, passing through states unfriendly toward gun owners.)
Another alternative chosen by more friends who also work at no-gun-allowed jobs (and also happen to have a high number of thieves on the payroll) is using a cheap handgun for the car such as a Lorcin, Jennings or Raven (all out-of-production, inexpensive, small-caliber handguns). Those doing so have told me that they figure if the gun is stolen, they haven't lost much. Right. And they then depend on this gun for personal protection, while their high-end guns cohabitate in their safes at home. (Doesn't make a lot of sense, does it?)
I think the better car-defense tool is a fixed-blade knife or similar instrument. I recently noticed one associate's solution to having a defensive tool handy in his vehicle. He tie-wrapped a very nice but inexpensive Tanto fixed-blade knife into his driver's-door pocket. Because he travels extensively by air, his vehicle spends more time in the long-term airport parking lot than in his home driveway. (And we all know how well patrolled the long-term airport lots are.)
The Pelican container (top left), Waller Security Gun Pouch (top right) and Gun Vault container (bottom right) all have either a provision for locks or come with one. All these, with firearms unloaded and ammo packed separately, should be legal almost anywhere.
Of course, a knife rather than a gun is not a new concept to be sure. I recall as a teenager that one of my friends stuck a dagger into the rear of the visor of his 1949 Packard (not a bad location now for a small, lightweight auto such as a Kel-Tec.)
For me, I've just about discarded the practice of a car or trunk gun, save for the need to disarm when going into courthouses and other no-gun zones. Then I put the gun in a locked container in my car. Otherwise, it's a couple of SureFire lights and Spyderco knives.
Come to think about this, I also have a Glock E tool and a Woodsman's Pal (a modern machete) in my vehicle as well, along with a decent-size first aid kit. You never know what you might have to deal with on a road trip.
I did carry one or two long guns with me for more than a few years when I was in law enforcement, working alone and taking extended road trips. Then I had an M1-A1 Paratrooper .30-caliber carbine and a Winchester Model 12 12-gauge shotgun with 20-inch barrel. (This was back in the day when long guns were not issue items.)
I thought much less of them after having an "ah ha!" moment on one road trip.
I had driven out into the boondocks to interview a suspect, and as I pulled up short of the farmhouse to look things over, I got the feeling I should have one of the long guns up front with me. As I went to open the trunk with the ignition key (it worked both locks), I stopped and stared at the key as the thought struck me that I would be much better served by using the key to start the G-car and find a state police barracks to get some backup, which I did.
The interview was uneventful, but during the day-long drive back to the office, I decided that if I had time to get a gun from the trunk, I would leave if at all possible. I continued to take them with me, but I did so knowing that they were more a mental comfort than a practical tool.
Now long gone from law enforcement and any investigations, it takes something along the lines of Y2K to get me packing a trunk gun, my cell phone being much more important. By the way, here in Pennsylvania, as I read the state game laws, it's illegal to have a loaded long gun in a vehicle, and a carry permit does not negate this. Besides, given the time it takes to get out the gun, there's more than enough time to load up.
In closing, I also recognize that some states only permit open carry of a loaded handgun in a vehicle, which to me is the same as hanging a "steal me" sign on it. Here, a locked gun container with the gun also carried in an easy-on/easy-off paddle holster would be good, because while you're handling the gun under cramped and hurried circumstances, it's pretty well contained in a good holster, cutting down the chances of a negligent discharge. Here, the argument for using an inexpensive gun makes sense.