Can I carry my gun while traveling in my car? In many cases yes, but there are certain considerations to concealed carry in your car.
Can you carry a gun in your car?
- Before you concealed carry in your car, know state and local gun laws.
- With more room in a vehicle, carrying a secured rifle or shotgun is an option.
- The console and glove box are two options for a handgun, but there are others.
- If you carry a gun in your car, check it regularly.
- This is done not only to ensure functionality but also that it has not been stolen.
Most people don’t think of their car or truck as part of their concealed-carry system. But keeping a gun in your car, especially a shotgun or rifle, can absolutely be part of your personal defense plans. I would caution anyone doing this to be mindful of local and state laws as they relate to concealed carry in your car, especially if you cross state lines.
Living close to the Maryland/Washington, D.C. border — two of the least gun-friendly places in the United States — and conducting business and having family in both places, I do not keep a gun in my car. I don’t want to take the chance that I might forget that my gun is in my car and end up arrested. In D.C., it’s a felony to even have ammunition.
A close friend put it better than I could regarding why vehicle carry is a good idea. The fact is, he explained, a handgun is completely unsuitable for self defense. The only reason anyone carries or uses handguns is that they are smaller and more convenient than rifles or shotguns. A handgun, for him, was primarily a tool to use in an emergency that could help him get to a “real” gun. Rifles and shotguns are far more powerful than handguns, and accurate from longer distances.
Vehicle carry of long guns is especially appealing when traveling. If you’re planning a weeklong getaway to the mountains or the beach — even if you have no plans to go shooting — it’s a great comfort knowing you have the means with you for serious personal protection. Likewise, if you are on a drive far from home where there’s a possibility of being stuck or stranded, you might feel under-armed with just your pocket pistol.
Keeping a loaded (or unloaded, depending on local laws) rifle and/or shotgun in a case in your vehicle is a good backup for times when your handgun might not be enough gun. With this type of carry, make sure to keep your long gun cased and preferably locked or secured in some manner, in case your car gets stolen or broken into. You will also want to keep the case out of sight, because thieves will often smash and grab what they can see of value.
There are rifle cases for carbines designed to look like a tennis racket case. Blackhawk makes a whole line of these “Diversion” bags. Renegade Ridge Tactical makes a great diversion bag for a carbine rifle that fits on the back of the driver’s or passenger’s seat in a vehicle and allows for very fast access of a loaded rifle.
Of course, many people also choose to carry handguns in their vehicles. Depending on your state and local laws, you may be able to carry a loaded or unloaded gun with you at all times in your car. You may be able to keep it unlocked and within reach, say in a center console or glove box. Of course, if you have a concealed-carry permit, you will have more options in this regard.
Several companies make gun cases, car handgun safes and other options specifically for concealed carry in your car. One innovative design comes from Titan Gun Vault, which has a locking steel case that pops the gun up grip first when you open it. It also has a separate area for a loaded magazine so you can carry an unloaded gun and load it very quickly if needed. Be aware that in some areas, a full magazine within reach of a semi-automatic pistol could be considered a loaded gun.
There are other concealed carry car holsters available. Some actually secure the gun, such as The RAC, which looks like a bike lock. Some vehicle gun mounts only hold a firearm in place with a simple holster or magnet, such as the one from Magna-Arm. This type of car gun holster might also be suitable for people who are not allowed to carry at work. At least you can be armed while going to and from work.
One of my concerns with keeping a gun in my car — besides the fact that if it’s the only gun I carry, I’m defenseless when I’m away from my car — is that it could get stolen. For this reason, you probably shouldn’t keep your most expensive guns or family heirlooms in your vehicle on a full-time basis. A friend keeps a cheap but reliable shotgun and rifle in his vehicle, what some folks refer to as “trunk” guns.
Unless you are always parked in a climate-controlled garage, your vehicle will be subject to temperature extremes, humidity and the usual bumps and shakes as you drive. All of this is harmful to guns and ammunition over the long term — the more exposure, the worse the problem becomes.
My recommendation is to check on your gun at least every couple of weeks to make sure it’s still there and that it has not developed any rust or maintenance issues. Any ammunition you keep in your car should be replaced at least annually, if not every 6 months. Take it to the range and shoot it up. This will help improve your shooting while ensuring that your ammunition is as functional as possible at all times.
Finally, there’s a very important caveat. If you lend your car to anyone, make sure they are aware that you keep firearms inside, that they are not a prohibited person or will not be violating any laws by transporting the firearms, and that they will not be traveling to any place where the firearms are not legal to transport or possess. Better yet, remove the firearms from your vehicle before lending it to anyone if there are any doubts at all.
Editor's Note: This article is an excerpt from Gun Digest's Shooter's Guide to Concealed Carry.