Truck Guns: A Few .30 Caliber Prospects

What advantages, if any, does the .30 caliber rifle offer as a truck gun? Is it superior to lighter calibers? Or might it be overkill? What .30 caliber truck guns are available?

Let’s see what we can learn about .30 caliber truck guns.

Truck Guns

Firearms enthusiasts have been excited about “truck guns” for the past few years. Despite that, truck guns aren’t a new concept at all. While growing up, a large percentage of pickup trucks I saw had gun racks in the back window. Just to show you how old I am, some were in the high school parking lot where I went as a youth. Then again, my high school had, and still has, a rifle team.

Scout Squad Rifle, Marlin 336, AK-63D.
All three of these rifles will be readily stowed in a vehicle. Sometimes, having a little “extra” along for the ride, just in case, is comforting. Photo: Jim Davis.

The Who, What, and Why of needing a truck gun

From what I gather, a lot of the people with a long gun in their vehicle live in rural areas. Not all, but many. This includes law enforcement as well as those out of uniform. Lest we forget, cops always have long guns in their vehicles, which normally amount to a shotgun and/or rifle.

Truck guns are frequently used to end the suffering of animals struck by vehicles along the road. In rural areas, this is very common. Some of these injured animals are rather bad-tempered. I’ve heard stories of how bears and moose aren’t the most pleasant creatures to deal with—especially when wounded.

Farmers or ranchers often protect their livestock from predators such as bears, mountain lions, coyotes, and wolves. Sometimes, they don’t have time to drive back to the house to get a rifle. They have to have one with them. Furthermore, they may need to protect themselves from predators. Mountain lions, bears, and other wild animals have attacked people.

Aside from protecting us against four-legged predators, truck guns protect us from bipedal predators as well. Most people with a truck gun also carry a handgun on their person. That handgun can help us fight our way to the long gun in our vehicle. Also, whether in or out of uniform, those operating in remote locations likely don’t have backup nearby. They have to solve problems on their own in a lot of instances. A rifle helps accomplish that.

Finally, I know a few folks who also use their truck gun for some impromptu plinking/target practice sessions on their travels.

Why .30 Caliber for truck guns?

Why am I looking specifically at .30 caliber rifles? Because the lighter calibers just don’t cut it sometimes.

Imagine putting a large bear out of its misery or repelling a determined attack by a bear with a .223 rifle. You might pull it off, but is it really the best tool for the job? What about dispatching a wounded moose? There are plenty of other large or fierce animals that a lighter round might not work on.

Marlin 336, AK-63D, Scout Squad.
Is the .30 caliber too much gun for rural use? The author doesn’t think so. In fact, he thinks it’s just right for most tasks. Photo: Jim Davis.

Even hostile people respond in a more permanent manner when .30 caliber pills are administered. As the late Col. Jeff Cooper opined, things shot with .30 caliber bullets “…tend to stay shot.” On another point, what if you need to stop a vehicle (however unlikely that might be)? For rifle rounds, the .30 caliber is a good contender. For this article, we’ll look at a few different .30 caliber rounds, as well as different platforms.

.30 Caliber Truck Guns – The Contestants

The platforms I write about here are ones I have access to. There are tons of platforms out there. If you don’t see your favorite blaster here, it’s not because it’s not a good one. I just didn’t have one on hand.

Marlin 336, AK-63D, Scout Squad Rifle.
Marlin 336 in .30-30, the AK63-D (AK underfolder), and Springfield M1A Scout Squad Rifle. All three are excellent truck gun choices. Photo: Jim Davis.


The infamous AK-47 series is an American favorite. Yes, it’s the classic “Bad Guy” gun, but we hijacked it and made it our own. Why? The ammo is available and inexpensive. In fact, for semi-auto rifle ammunition, 7.62x39mm is among the least expensive. Magazines are also extremely available, inexpensive, and durable. Personally, I love the offerings from Magpul. Speaking of durability, the AK-47 and its variants are legendary for their resilience and reliability.

The AK used in this article is a Hungarian underfolder. For stowing in vehicles, the folding stock is stellar since it shortens the rifle considerably. How short? Around 25 1/2 inches folded. The rifle weighs 7.9 pounds and measures 33 3/4 inches long with stock extended. The barrel length is 16.3 inches.

AK-63D with stock folded in a truck.
With the stock folded, the AK-47/AK63-D is extremely compact and stows almost anywhere in a vehicle. It can be propped against the vehicle’s console for ready access. The availability of cheap magazines and ammo, along with its stopping power, is a huge selling point in the AK’s favor. Photo: Jim Davis.

The metal underfolder stock is not the most comfortable when firing the rifle, but it isn’t terrible. The folding design makes it easy to stow in a vehicle. Of all the rifles, this one is probably the easiest to tuck away in your vehicle.

The 7.62x39mm round fires an approximately 123-grain projectile at around 2,350 feet per second. In ballistics, it’s loosely similar to the .30-30. However, it has enough authority to be a genuine .30 caliber round that’s serious about taking on two- and four-legged threats.

For operating in and around vehicles, I prefer 20-round magazines as they don’t extend as far under the rifle and are easier to maneuver in close spaces. MagPul has some excellent magazines (20 and 30-round) for the AK. Not only does the AK offer .30 caliber power, but it holds a lot of rounds.

On the down side, the AK-47 has the “black rifle” stigma attached to it that many people find sinister these days. Another down side is the sights are difficult to see. For me, this rifle is about a 200-yard rifle, though more skilled shooters can stretch it farther.

Marlin 336 Lever Action

For 30-caliber truck guns, I went with Marlin’s Model 336 in .30-30 Winchester. While it doesn’t have the high capacity the others in this article do, it has a comparably sleek design and light weight. It still holds 6+1 rounds in its tubular magazine, which isn’t bad.

Loading is via a side loading gate, so the magazine can be topped off. This particular rifle has a 20-inch barrel with an overall length of 38.5 inches. It weighs approximately seven pounds, making it fairly lightweight. Because of the rifle’s sleek profile, it handles well and is fast into action. The lever action works surprisingly quickly, and a respectable rate of fire can be achieved.

The .30-30 cartridge typically fires 150 to 170-grain projectiles between 2,300 and 2,400 feet per second. It hits with enough authority for most game a hunter runs into — as well as two-legged threats. Another advantage of this caliber is it’s extremely popular and available wherever ammo is sold.

One huge mark in the old “Cowboy Gun’s” favor is that it doesn’t have the “evil” stigma attached to it that some other rifles do these days.

Springfield M1A Scout Squad

I used Springfield’s M1A Scout Squad Rifle for this article. It weighs in at a shade over nine pounds with a walnut stock. The rifle measures at an overall length of 40.22 inches with an 18-inch barrel. It’s a bit shorter than a standard M1A, which has a standard barrel length of 22 inches. If one wants to shave off a little weight, they can go with the fiberglass stock, which brings the weight down to around 8.8 pounds. Magazines are normally 20 rounds and the same ones used in the M-14 rifle. Five and 10-round magazines are also available.

Many dismiss the M1A as antiquated because it’s not this year’s latest design. While it’s a classic, the M1A still has plenty to offer. It’s an extremely durable and reliable rifle that can take a lot of abuse. The Scout Squad version handles extremely well and, being shorter than the standard M1A, is more suitable for stashing in a vehicle.

The sights are some of the best of any to ever top a rifle. The rear is an aperture (peep) sight, and a front post sight with protective wings. They’re very similar to the sights found on the M-1 Garand. The sights are intuitive — even for my old eyes.

The M1A’s muzzle brake is amazingly effective at taming recoil. The rifle’s recoil isn’t bad at all. While more than the popular AR-15 series, recoil is more of a gentle push than anything sharp. Follow-up shots and multiple target engagements are accomplished quickly. The recoil is more pleasant than the AK underfolder and not much more than an AR-15.

Now for one of the best parts – it’s available in .308 (7.62x51mm NATO). This rifle has serious power with standard 150-grain FMJ loads traveling around 2,650 feet per second. When you’re out there alone without backup, that is quite reassuring. The fact it carries a 20-round magazine of .308 gives you that warm, fuzzy feeling. Out of the rifles in this article, this one accurately reaches out the farthest. The .308 is a popular hunting round sold in most places. Although it’s not cheap anymore, neither are any other hunting rifle calibers.

The M1A Scout Squad handles like a dream because of its shorter length. It’s close to perfection. I’m not trying to sound idiotic here, but the rifle is damn near magical. If you line up the sights, the rifle seems to almost fire itself. The match-grade trigger, at just a little over four pounds, is one of the best of any battle rifle I’ve ever touched.

The Scout Squad rifle will take on any game in North America. Are you concerned with protecting your heard of cattle against grizzlies in Alaska? The Scout Squad with a magazine full of .308 rounds will set matters straight. Need to put a moose out of its misery at 0200 hours after a motorist hit it alongside the road? It’ll handle the task.

Final Thoughts on Truck Guns

Honestly, I’m perfectly fine with any of these rifles as my truck gun. For everyday use, the Marlin is a great gun, especially if you want to remain low-key. Its design is solid and proven since the 1800s. Furthermore, the .30-30 is stellar for almost anything we’d ask from a .30 caliber rifle out to about 200 yards.

The only down side is lever action rifles are currently in very high demand and amazingly short supply due to Marlin closing its doors. While Ruger bought out Marlin and ramped up production, the supply is still nowhere near demand. Another unfortunate aspect is price. These rifles are no longer inexpensive like they used to be.

The AK series is a down-and-dirty semi-auto good out to a couple hundred yards (but realistically better at close range). Ammo, magazine, and accessory availability is spectacular. It’s very compact, so you can always have it in a vehicle without any inconvenience. Meanwhile, the 7.62x39mm is potent enough to take care of most game and threats as well.

Author with Scout Squad Rifle.
Springfield’s Scout Squad Rifle, with its 18-inch barrel, handles like a dream and exhibits very little recoil. It might be the author’s favorite extreme use rifle. Photo: Jeremy Charles.

And finally, we come to the Springfield Armory M1A Scout Squad Rifle. The .308 round is the most powerful of the rifles reviewed today and will reach out hundreds of yards. It will also penetrate many vehicles and cover that bad guys might choose to hide behind.

It features the best iron sights, which contribute to its accuracy. The modest recoil allows rapid, accurate fire for scenarios where someone (or several someone’s) is trying to extinguish our life. Include a couple of spare 20-round magazines, and you’re all set.

Personally, if I were expecting an extreme scenario or wanted to be prepared for the same, I’d go with the M1A Scout Squad Rifle. The power of the .308 and the potential for firepower and engaging multiple targets makes it a winner for me.

If I’m ever in a remote area without backup, my caliber of choice will likely be something in .30 caliber. At the very least, I know that what I shoot will “stay shot.”

Jim Davis served in the PA Dept. of Corrections for 16 ½ years as a corrections officer in the State Correctional Institute at Graterford and later at SCI Phoenix. He served on the Corrections Emergency Response Team (CERT), several of those years as a sniper, and also the Fire Emergency Response Team (FERT). For 25 years, he was a professional instructor, teaching topics including Defensive Tactics, Riot Control and Tactical Operations, Immediate Responder, and cognitive programs as an adjunct instructor at the DOC Training Academy. He was then promoted to the title of corrections counselor, where he ran a caseload and facilitated cognitive therapy classes to inmates. His total service time was close to 29 years. He was involved in many violent encounters on duty, including incidents of fatalities. He is a dedicated Christian and attributes any skills that he has to the glory of God.

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