There are four general styles of firearm transport, outlined below. You should be familiar with all of them, based on your particular needs, circumstances and the laws in the particular state or jurisdiction in which you intend to travel.
There are three main reasons for transporting a gun in a car: 1. For self protection while in the car; 2. For protection after arriving at a new location; and 3. To transport your firearm from one place to another. Here I’ll highlight several options of effective firearm transport. Keep in mind, they are just suggestions; your specific needs, scenarios and products may be different, so you must choose a technique that works best for you and your family and satisfies the laws of your home and your destination.
Concealed Carry in Your Vehicle
This simply refers to wearing your handgun on your person as you would normally, just while you're driving. The trouble is, even the smallest carry guns can cause major discomfort sandwiched between your body and the seat. On short trips to town, I can usually cope. But while on longer trips I’ll switch to another form of firearm transport (listed below.) If you choose to carry on your person while driving, make sure you can easily access your firearm with one hand, even while wearing your seatbelt. Danger is likely to come from the driver’s side window, and you’ll need to steer or defend with one hand while reaching for your handgun with the other.
Vehicle Rapid Deployment
Typically, when I enter my vehicle, I remove my clip-on holster with my handgun still in it and store it in my truck’s center console. Then, as I drive, I rely on the handgun that’s mounted under the steering column should I quickly need a firearm for defense. While I use a “Steer Clear” vehicle holster mount that I purchased from nrastore.com, there are many different brands and mounting solutions available. Regardless of the style, the concept is the same; "Vehicle Rapid Deployment" solutions keep your handgun secure yet place it within reach so you can access it quickly, with one hand, even while driving.
If I exit my vehicle to go into a store, for example, I place the steering-column-mounted gun in the console and exchange it for my carry gun and place it back on my belt.
Likely an even better solution is to store your carry gun directly in the VRD holster rather than in the console. When you enter the vehicle, place it in the holster, and when you exit the vehicle, remove it and place it in your belt holster. The upside to this is that you only have to be responsible for one gun and its magazines. The downside is that perhaps a larger handgun would be more desirable under your steering column (or in an easily accessible pocket) than the compact gun you prefer for everyday carry.
Accessible Vehicle Transport
If you want your gun somewhat handy but do not want it visible, placing your gun in a console, glove box or other lockable safe box is ideal. A purse can work, but is not ideal unless it’s also secured to the car’s interior somehow. An unsecured purse can be a target for a carjacking; during driving it can shift positions, and often small guns can get lost in them. Back window mounted “truck racks” are never advised except for ranch trucks. While they are nostalgic, they are not quick to access, they invite theft and can be very dangerous in the event of a wreck.
The idea of AVT is that your firearm can be quickly retrieved when needed, but it remains out of view and out of the hands of unauthorized users such as kids. This transport technique represents a balance between speed and security; it’s safer than storing your gun in a steering-wheel-mounted holster or side pocket in terms of theft, but faster than storing it in the trunk where it’s totally out of reach.
Hornady’s RAPiD vehicle safe is the best solution I’ve seen. It utilizes an inflatable bladder so it conforms to fit perfectly in any cranny or small compartment in your car. Its locked metal storage box keeps the handgun hidden from view and safe from prying fingers, yet it's fast thanks to its electronic keypad and spring-activated door. A cable adds protection against theft.
If you store your gun in a console or glovebox, and you choose to keep the chamber loaded, be sure to keep it in a holster with the trigger covered. If your console and glove box is anything like mine, it’s fraught with knicknacks, cords and gear—any number of which could entangle it.
Inaccessible Vehicle Transport
Depending on the laws of the jurisdictions through which you travel, it’s possible that you’ll be required to store your firearms in a safe, lockable storage container that is “not readily accessible” to people in the vehicle. Typically this means a trunk or a locked box in the far back of the vehicle, if the automobile doesn’t have a trunk.
In many jurisdictions, a console or locked glove box is not considered “not readily accessible,” because the driver can get to the gun relatively easily. For these jurisdictions, there are several solutions.
A trunk will suffice in keeping your firearm from being seen or accessible. Just keep it in some type of case within the trunk to prevent it from becoming dirty or damaged from jostle. A hard plastic case with a foam liner is ideal, although a soft, lockable case works. Consider affixing a cable or padlock to the case for securing it to the vehicle. This will add an additional obstacle to a would-be thief if your trunk is accessed. (If the case is locked into the trunk, a thief can’t merely take the whole case and gun within without cutting the cable first.)
Avoid placing guns in the back of a pickup camper, unless they are concealed from view. Too many items are stolen out of campers, what with their copious windows and cheap locks. However, if you drive an SUV or a truck with a hardtop bed cover or a secure camper, consider a pull-out gun drawer system like that from Truck Vault. Although it will cost around $1,500, this system is fantastic in terms of theft prevention and ease of user access. Plus they keep guns and ammo pristine and organized.
Protecting yourself while traveling is just as important as in the home. Just make sure your firearms are protected too.