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7 Favorite Truck GunsWords by Joseph von Benedikt | Lead Images by Mike Anschuetz
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Since the first explorers and pilgrims landed, the inhabitants of this glorious country have been hauling guns around with them. While eyebrow-raising to folks of progressive mindset, most Americans like fresh meat, and object strenuously to anything uncivilized gnawing on their ankle. Toting a tool that provides the first and prevents the second has always made good sense.
Eventually, some firearms became associated with their main conveyance. Horse pistols. Saddle rifles. Takedown long guns for easy train travel from the East to the West’s rich hunting fields. And finally, truck guns. For the purpose of this article “truck” can mean any vehicle intended for off road use and when it comes to guns, you will see that they can vary quite a bit too depending upon species often encountered and locale.
In Texas and most of the Deep South, where feral hogs are justifiably considered domestic enemies, something both powerful and heavy on firepower is ideal. In South Dakota, where psychiatrists consider pheasant hunting to be a fully qualified type of stress therapy, a shotgun that is classy is appropriate.
Predator hunters often get their accuracy fix with a sleek little bolt actions, while mountain afflicted big game junkies generally demand a highly accurate rifle for long range shooting.
Make, model, and design of one’s chosen truck gun is dependent on local game species and topography, but a few characteristics are consistent over the spectrum.
Since truck guns so often get stored behind the seat of a very dirty pickup, they’ve got to be tough. Cheap helps, too—nobody feels quite as comfortable abusing an expensive gun than an inexpensive one—but robustness is paramount and great guns cost. Reliability goes without saying: a truck gun that lets one down soon finds a new home. And finally, a truck gun has to be practical.
Here’s a look at a dirty half-dozen—plus one sophisticated work of art—truck guns that will go the distance.
Marlin 1895 Co-Pilot
Imagine Marlin’s tried-and-true 1895 big bore, tweaked to compact, powerful perfection by the wizards at Wild West Guns in Alaska. With a barrel chopped to 18.5 inches, a takedown connection installed between receiver and barrel/forend, an action smoothed to silky perfection, a WWG Bear Proof ejector and trigger kit installed and tuned, ghost ring sights and a ton of additional small elements that amount to shooting happiness—all this coupled with minute-of-angle accuracy—the Co-Pilot is the ultimate gun for the adventurer that needs an heavy-hitting, accurate life-saver that takes down to briefcase size for easy transport.
Available in the classic, versatile .45-70 Gov’t cartridge, WWG’s own .457 Wild West Magnum, or the massive .50 Alaskan—any of which are potent bear, moose, boar and bad guy medicine—the Co-Pilot holds six rounds in the tubular magazine, and has a ported barrel and thick Pachmayr Decelerator rubber recoil pad to tame the bite. Weight is as little as 6.5 pounds, and it comes in a 21x 9x 2-inch soft carrying case.
As its name indicates, the Co-Pilot was conceived as a companion rifle for north-country bush pilots; compact yet perfect for survival in vast, unfriendly wilderness in case of a crash or forced landing. But it’s perfect for use anywhere that a compact, discrete package of fast firepower and heavyweight downrange ability is called for. We paticulary like it packed in a motorcycle pannier. $2,979. www.wildwestguns.com
CZ 455 American Combo
If headshots on squirrels lurking high in a white oak is your game, or if you frequently indulge in hot-and-heavy close combat with an overpopulated town of crop-ravaging prairie dogs, this little convertible rimfire is the gun you should toss behind the dusty seat of your truck.
Fed from detachable magazines (5, 10, and 25 round capacity), the 455 offers reliability, fine accuracy and good ergonomics at a darn reasonable price: $557. Whats best is it is thre guns in one. As the barrels can be swapped between .22LR, .17 HMR and .22 WM.
Why have three barrels of different caliber? Simple: ammo cost and purpose. When shooting inside 50 yards, or when you’re out with the kids pumping through bricks of ammo, install the .22 LR barrel. Then when the hunting field changes, when you need to make precision hits—and hit harder—out from 75 yards to 200 yards, break out the .17 HMR or .22 WSM barrel, install it and go to work with authority.
Length of the cold hammer forged barrel on this paragon of small-game versatility is vary from 16/5 inches to 20.5 inches. The trigger is adjustable, and the safety is a simple, robust two-position lever on the bolt shroud. A dovetail is machined into the top of the action to enable easy scope mounting. CZ also offers threaded .22LR barrels for suppressor use.
Kimber Montana 84M .223
Like “The Bride” in Kill Bill, this truck gun is svelte, good-looking in an edgy, don’t-mess-with-me kind of way, and very, very good at killing with a minimum of fuss. At just a shade over five pounds it handles like a wand, and that, coupled with Kimber’s new “MOA guaranteed” accuracy policy, makes it the ideal lightweight varmint and predator slayer.
With a short-ish, 22-inch stainless steel barrel, it’s maneuverable enough to stick out your truck window (where legal) and smoke a rock chuck in the pasture. With its light weight, you can drag it from behind the seat for an evening dash up the mountain to your favorite coyote stand. And while it’s not got the steadying heaviness or the barrel girth to make it ideal for a full morning on the town—the prairie dog town, that is—it’s accurate enough to send a few prairie poodles into aerial aerobatics on your way through to feed the cows.
I’ve got its wood-stocked sibling (okay, so I’m retro), and it’s my go-to predator gun. Accurate enough to pull off distant shots on coyotes, it’s light enough to pack hour after hour through snow and sagebrush. However, I’m a little protective of it; the stainless/Kevlar-stocked version is a better truck-gun choice.
A Mauser-type claw extractor makes for stellar reliability, and the trigger (perhaps the crown jewel of the whole rifle) comes factory tuned for a crisp, clean pull between 3.5 and 4.0 pounds. And yes, it’s adjustable.
Weatherby Element Deluxe 12-gauge
To some folks, varmints are just vermin, big game is too hard of work, and squirrel stew is… well… squirrel stew. To them, nothing comes close to a rooster’s cackle and the thunder of pheasant wings in the dawn, or to roaming hardwood forests in search of grouse, or to the heart-matching rhythm of mallard wings. To them, the only real truck gun is a shotgun.
While many folks put good money into an ugly shotgun to put in the back of the SUV, we prefer to maintain a sense of taste. Yet it hurts to abuse a wood/blued gun that cost several months worth of home mortgage payments. Enter Weatherby’s new Element Deluxe, an inertia-driven, AA-grade walnut stocked high performer that looks like a million bucks and will cost—street price—under a Grand.
With a receiver machined of aircraft-grade aluminum, chrome-lined bores, a chrome plated bolt, and a drop-out trigger system for easy maintenance, it’s both good looking and hard working. The fact that it’s made in Turkey is off-putting to some, but keep in mind that you’re getting a beautifully built scattergun (Weatherby wouldn’t put it’s name on it otherwise) at a fraction the cost of an Italian job. Believe me, these are nice shotguns; very, very nice.
Rock River Arms X-Series .458 SOCOM
Offering heavy .45-70-like performance in an AR-15-size carbine, the X-Series .458 SOCOM is arguably the ideal wild hog gun. The semiauto operation of the design coupled with an aggressive muzzle brake tames recoil on the friendly end, but downrange it’s anything but friendly. Heavy 250- to 600-grain bullets hit like the proverbial freight train, wreaking havoc on heavy-boned, densely muscled old boar hogs, not to mention smaller porkers.
One of the great characteristics in it’s favor is the fact that the cartridge is optimized for function through the sleek AR-15 receiver—meaning that you don’t have to go up to the bulky, awkward AR-10 receiver to get honest hog-dropping authority. Plus, the cartridge functions just fine through standard 20-round STANAG magazines, which hold seven of the thumb-sized .458 SOCOM cartridges.
X-Series Rock River .458 SOCOM carbines come standard with a 16-inch bull-diameter barrel (which is lighter than it sounds because of the big-bore hole through it’s center) housed in an awesome extended free-float handguard. Even though it’s a bona fide big bore, it’s rated to provide 1.5 MOA accuracy. And like most of it’s rifles, Rock River ships the X-Series with a very good match-grade trigger, making it easy to tap into that accuracy.
Smith & Wesson 329
So you’re a handgun guy. Good for you, although it may leave your trusty pickup feeling a bit inadequate because of your ability to tote your piece yourself wherever you go.
However, your average carry gun isn’t really the meat-makin’, bear-stompin’ kind. Stash a real handgun under the seat. Something like Smith & Wesson’s 329 , which is a premium .44 Magnum weighing an unbelievable 25 ounces—so light your truck or you, won’t even know its there.
Capable of handling just about any dicey, gnarly, potentially bloody task it’s called on to perform, the 329 features a large dot front sight and Crimson Trace makes laser grips for it, making it the perfect companion for any fast reaction situation
The 329 I’ve shot groups most ammo at or under an 2.5 inches at 25 yards; if you do your part. No, it isn’t as easy to shoot as say the S&W 629 PC Hunter, and Yes, it does have a lot of recoil due to its light weight, but the scandium-framed jewel is designed to be carried a lot and shot a little—exactly how many of use handguns to begin with.
MG Arms Ultra-Light .30-06
Remember that sophisticated work of art I mentioned? This is it. Built on a deeply skeletonized Remington 700 or Winchester Model 70 donor action, it’s got a premium stainless match-grade barrel; Jewell trigger, 13 ounce (thirteen ounce!) Kevlar stock, and is guaranteed to be obscenely accurate.
This isn’t your average truck gun. For this, you might even want to keep a padded case behind the seat. Metal, stock, and finish work are superb, and the components are as premium as they come, so you won’t want to beat it up. However, if you choose to treat it roughly it can take it like a South African Rugby player.
If it’s not a drag-in-the-dirt kind of truck gun, what’s it good for? That’s easy: it’s the ultimate western high-country big game gun. And in a landscape poor in small game and wildfowl, big game is where it’s at. Whether stalking pronghorn antelope across Wyoming’s wind-swept plains, glassing steep Montana canyons for bear, or climbing alpine peaks for elk, mule deer, or bighorns, this rifle is right at home. In fact, its light weight might be the deciding factor in whether you can reach a distant game animal across rugged country before light fades, and it’s accuracy and shootability may mean the difference in connecting instead of missing that difficult shot that you’ve put blood and sweat into getting.
While the Ultra-Light is available in most calibers including wildcats, I chose .30-06 because it’s incredibly versatile and ammo is widely available—you can walk into just about any farm store or gas station in Podunk, U.S.A and find ammo. The price is hefty, but you’ll never need another hunting rifle.