May 31, 2023
When you're far out on the trail it’s always wise to have a firearm close at hand. You may stumble upon a grouse for the pot or spot a coyote prowling around the back 40. In remote areas, where assistance is far away and you bear responsibility for your own well-being, having a personal defense weapon in your vehicle is a smart decision. And while there aren’t strict guidelines regarding what qualifies as a “truck gun” this category of firearms traditionally have several features in common: short overall length, a durable design and an affordable price point. Indeed truck guns come in all shapes and sizes for a variety of applications. If you live in the wide-open prairies of Wyoming where ‘yotes and prairie dogs are your primary targets, a smallcaliber AR or bolt gun makes sense.
If you drive the logging roads of the northern latitudes, you might do well with an upland shotgun. Or perhaps you live in grizzly bear country where stopping to take a leak can result in a deadly showdown with an angry predator. HERE’S A LIST of our favorite truck and trail guns—versatile firearms that perform a variety of tasks, with a key feature in common: they’ll be close at hand when you need them.
CZ-USA 600 TRAIL
When CZ first introduced the innovative 600 series of rifles last fall, the Trail immediately jumped to the front of the pack as a contender for the best truck gun on the market. With an overall length of 27 inches with the stock fully collapsed, it stashes easily and deploys just as quickly. It comes fitted with a 16-inch, semi-heavy contour barrel that is suppressor ready. Chambered in either .223 or 7.62x39, the Trail accommodates standard AR or Bren 2-type magazines, so you won’t be left wanting for extra rounds. The trigger is quickly and easily adjustable through four different settings with just a turn of the screw, without the need to drop the assembly or otherwise breakdown the rifle.
MARLIN 1895 SBL
The first Ruger-built Marlin lever-action rifle to hit the shelves was the popular, big-bore Marlin 1895 SBL with the distinctive oversized loop lever. Chambered in the classic .45-70 Government, the forged and polished stainless-steel receiver is mated to a stainless 19-inch barrel. The whole package is set into a black and gray laminate stock. This rifle is built for hard use, not for hanging over the fireplace. In another nod to the modern, the receiver is topped with a Picatinny optics rail with an adjustable rear sight and green fiber-optic front with tritium ring in place from HiViz.
MOSSBERG MVP PATROL
If you’re looking for a bolt-action truck gun, the Mossberg MVP Patrol checks all the boxes. Is it compact? Yes: with a 16.25-inch barrel it measures just over 36-inches when chambered in 5.56/.223 Rem or .300 Blackout and just over 37-inches chambered in 7.62x51/.308 Win. Is it durable? Absolutely. The black polymer stock and matte blued finish stand up well to the daily abuses heaped on a truck gun. Is it reliable? Mossberg’s push-feed bolt design has earned an enviable reputation for reliability. Is it versatile? With an included Pic rail, adjustable iron sights and threaded muzzle with flash hider, you can set this rifle up in the manner that best suits your needs. Additionally, these guns utilize AR-15 (5.56, .300 BLK) and AR-10 or M1A/M14 (7.62x51) magazines.
ROCK RIVER ARMS PREDATOR2
You didn’t think any list of the best truck guns would be complete without an AR, did you? The RRA Predator2 isn’t just your basic black gun, either. It comes with a stylish RRA Fred Eichler Series handguard complete with coyote-print design, a full-length top rail and 2 ½-inch rails at the 3, 6 and 9 o’clock. You can choose either Rockote Tan or Gunmetal Gray finish on the forged upper and lower receivers and the handguard and a choice of either an A2 or CAR stock. These rifles come with a .223 Wylde chambering (which fires 5.56 and .223 Rem rounds) and are guaranteed to shoot ¾-inch at 100 yards, which is better accuracy than you can expect from most truck guns.
SAVAGE 110 HOG HUNTER
Pigs are a problem across the nation, so if you live in hog country this is the ideal truck gun. Available in .223 Rem, 350 Legend and .308 Win, the bolt-action 110 Hog Hunter sports a 20-inch barrel, an overall length of just over 40 inches,and features a durable matte-green polymer stock with stock spacers for a custom fit. Adjustable iron sights come standard, but you can easily mount a low-power variable scope on this rifle to extend your effective range. And while its name implies this gun was built with pig hunters in mind, the Savage is equally well-suited for dispatching coyotes or other small game and doubles as an effective deer rifle. Like most Savage rifles these guns are extremely accurate.
WINCHESTER WILDCAT 22
No off-road rig is fully kitted out without a rimfire rifle stuck between the seat and console. One of our current favorites is the Wildcat, from Winchester. This versatile little .22 autoloader is lightweight and rugged, so you’ll never know it’s there until you need it, and it’ll be ready when you do. The striker-fired action is quick with a specially designed firing pin that hits hard and deep, for reliable ignition on all types of rimfire ammo. With just a push of a button, the lower action drops out of the skeletonized stock for easy cleaning and maintenance. Included ghost-ring rear sight and fiber-optic front eschews the need for a scope while keeping bullseye accuracy well within reach.
BROWNING BUCKMARK PLUS CAMPER
For many folks, their first .22 pistol was a Buckmark. The triedand-true blowback design is as reliable as the target-crowned bull barrel is accurate. The Buckmark Plus Camper UFX Suppressor Ready edition features Ultragrip FX scales that provide a steady and repeatable hold on the handgun to put shots on target every time you pull the single-action trigger. The 6-inch tapered barrel is threaded and suppressor ready. Adjustable rear sight marries with the Marbles Arms fiber-optic front for low-light accuracy, though the receiver is fitted with a Picatinny rail to add a red dot or other optic.
HERITAGE BARKEEP 22
This pocket-sized, single-action .22 LR revolver is handy for a variety of tasks. If you’re skilled enough it’ll take small game and kill venomous snakes and with a weight of 26 ounces and an overall length of less than 8 inches this revolver disappears inside a pack or handlebar bag and can be stored inside a locking glove box. You can choose from either 2.7-inch or 3.6-inch barreled models in a variety of finishes and interchangeable .22 WMR cylinders are available. The Barkeep has plenty of practical applications on the trail, but it also offers hours of low-cost plinking fun.
SPRINGFIELD ARMORY XD-M ELITE 3.8 COMPACT OSP 10MM
Powerful 10mm Auto pistols like the Springfield XD-M Elite have become a popular option for backcountry predator defense in recent years because the 10mm offers more energy than the .357 Magnum or .45 ACP and a much higher magazine capacity than any big-bore revolver. The XD-M Elite 10mm has a 3.8-inch barrel and measures just 6.75-inches long so it’s small enough to wear comfortably on a belt holster or carry in a light pack. The XD-M Elite OSP is optics-ready so adding a reflex sight is fast and easy, and with a magazine capacity of 11 rounds, this compact 10mm offers plenty of punch to stop any two or four-legged predator you may encounter in the hinterlands.
TAURUS JUDGE SERIES
Judge revolvers are capable of firing both .45 Colt (or .454 Casull/.45 Colt, depending on model) ammunition and .410 shotshells. Primarily considered a home and personal defense gun, the Judge makes a great truck gun because it’s small enough to store easily, light enough to carry on the trail and offers outstanding load versatility. With .410 shells it’s a suitable small-game and bird gun, and it’s perfect for those who travel into snake country and need to dispatch venomous vipers. It’s also a great personal defense gun, and since it’s so compact and light, it can be carried in a pack or on a handlebar bag on an ATV. Barrel lengths vary from 2.5 to 6.5 inches and there’s a Public Defender model with a polymer frame finish that weighs just 27 ounces.
ROSSI CIRCUIT JUDGE
The Rossi Circuit Judge is a revolver (or is it a carbine?) chambered for .45 Colt and .410 shotshell, certainly a unique configuration. But with its 18.5-inch barrel, overall length of under three feet and an unloaded weight of just 5.3 pounds, the Circuit Judge makes a superb truck or UTV gun. The cylinder holds five rounds and this gun cycles 3-inch .410 shotshells, making it a versatile firearm for small-game and upland-bird hunting, venomous snake disposal or self-defense. Both polished black and stainless-steel models are available, all of which come with adjustable sights, sling swivels, Picatinny rails and Brazilian hardwood stocks. Unconventional as it is, the Circuit Judge makes great sense as a trail gun.
MOSSBERG MAVERICK 88 SECURITY
The durable, affordable Mossberg Maverick 88 Security 12-gauge pump shotgun measures 41-inches overall with a 20-inch barrel and holds seven rounds of 2 ¾-inch ammunition in the magazine tube. It’s suitable for shooting game birds like grouse, dispatching venomous snakes or stopping charging bears. There’s absolutely nothing fancy about this gun: for under $250 you get a shotgun with a plain black synthetic stock, bead front sight and fixed cylinder choke. However, the Maverick 88 is very reliable and works even when it’s wet or dusty. It’s an affordable insurance policy when you’re far from home.
STOEGER DOUBLE DEFENSE
The Double Defense shotguns are no-nonsense side-by-sides and over/unders available in either 12 or 20 gauge. The sideby-side version comes with a black synthetic stock while the over/under comes with a black-finished walnut stock. Both the side-by-side and over/under 12- and 20-gauge models handle 2 ¾-inch and 3-inch shells. The side-by-side version has a Picatinny rail on top of the receiver and under the barrels while the over/under comes with a Pic rail on top and on the sides of the barrels so you can mount lights, lasers or optics as desired. All Double Defense shotguns come with single triggers and fixed improved cylinder chokes. These guns may not boast the capacity of some competing truck guns, but if you want a one-two punch for hunting small game, bear defense and personal protection, the Stoeger doubles are impossible to beat.
WINCHESTER SXP DEFENDER
The SXP is a bare-bones pump gun with a bead front sight and black synthetic buttstock and tactical ribbed forearm. It holds five rounds in the tubular magazine, weighs between 6 and 6 ½ pounds empty and measures under 39 inches long so it’s compact enough to maneuver in a vehicle, a UTV or camper but it offers plenty of firepower for meat hunting, snake control and personal protection. The black chrome bolt and aluminum receiver stand up well to abuse and the rotary bolt with four large locking lugs ensures reliable feeding and extraction.