We all have our patterns of life. Wake up, get dressed, holster your EDC for the drive to work and get in the car. At this point, you have a few choices to make in order to best prepare yourself to defend your life and others’ while in a vehicle. Frankly, a car is a terrible place defend from. In the military, this vulnerability preempted the proliferation of armored vehicles we see today. While you as a law-abiding, concealed carrying citizen will never have to address that type of threat, your vulnerability remains the same. In our world, however, this vulnerability is more often taken advantage of by opportunistic criminals. Be it in the form of a mugging while you’re fumbling for your keys, attempting a carjacking, or anything in between, there is good reason to prepare for this kind of threat. With the right mindset and decision-making guidelines presented here, there is no reason you shouldn’t be able to enjoy every drive you take, knowing that your EDC is secure but quickly accessible.
First, we will explore methods of carrying your loaded handgun in a vehicle. This will include their strengths and shortcomings, and our overall recommendation for each platform or option. Most of the information here is meant to assist you in making a decision that best adapts to your lifestyle. Implementing radical changes to your routine require a high degree of commitment and more often than not, you’ll end up sliding back to what was comfortable in the first place. Instead, use this information to better hone in and fine tune what is natural and comfortable to you. This is what we refer to in the instructor community as ‘shooter preference’. Sure, you the shooter is going to know what’s most natural feeling to you, but it’s up to us to perfect the details of those choices.
The glove box
We’re always fighting the path of least resistance. People that leave a firearm in their glove box are the type that choose that path. It doesn’t take any thought to throwing your .357 magnum revolver in the glovebox because you saw John McClean do it one time in Die Hard. Unfortunately, storing your handgun in a glove box comes with too many safety caveats to list but we will touch on biggest risks here.
It’s predictable. Even if your glove box locks, anyone who has had their car broken into will tell you that the glovebox is the first target for car thieves. What happens if you are being followed to your car or an opportunistic criminal begins accosting you while you’re in your car? The extra time it takes to access your firearm stored in a glovebox could be those critical seconds that determine who survives that incident.
We’re human. Humans get distracted easily and it is reasonable to predict that leaving your handgun in a glovebox will lead to forgetting it’s there altogether. If you know yourself well enough that you can see this happening, don’t even put yourself in that situation. Overall, the cons far outweigh any positives of using the glovebox. In some states, a locking glovebox counts as securely storing your handgun. Taking that into consideration, utilizing the glovebox is recommended for short-term or emergency purposes only.
The before. Perhaps a bit idealistically, you may be tempted to believe that a glovebox is a good place to store your handgun. “But it has locks!” I don’t care, see the risk below.
Surprise surprise, life happens. This is just after 20 min of traffic. Imagine where that gun would end up if you got into an accident or worse?
The mounted system
While we’re making fun of people planning their personal defense strategies around movies, we may as well point out the uselessness of mounted holsters like you would expect to see in The Expendables. Despite how tacti-cool these car accessories may look, their functionality is limited by some dangerous shortcomings. Most mounted holsters end up on the steering column or somewhere on the driver’s side on the center console. Properly mounted, it will give you quick access to your handgun. However, the system itself is very easy to spot from the outside of the car. This is the equivalent of open carry but in your car and anyone (including police) that approaches your car can see that you have a handgun accessible before you have a chance to say anything. During a traffic stop, the police officer is already calculating his risk when he sees that you have a handgun before you even have a chance to interact with them.
Probably the most common external holster, the steering column mount keeps your handgun readily accessible. What tactical advantage(s) are you trading off though? Photo credit: Personal Defense World.
Despite the shortcomings of the mounted holster, there are a few pieces of other gear that would actually increase your effectiveness as a responsible gun owner. Any good gun owner has a responsible and safe way to store their handgun in their vehicle. More often than not, this is limited to either a locked glove box (see above) or a cable lock securing the handgun to the driver’s seat frame bolted to the floorboards. Depending on circumstances, the cable lock can be an acceptable way to secure your firearm in the car. While you cut off direct line of sight to the gun, once your car is broken into there is a good chance an opportunistic criminal is going to check under the seat. While there are well-intentioned cable locks like the Project ChildSafe program, a determined criminal will find a quick way to cut a cable lock. Your best alternative to a medium-security cable lock is a dedicated gun safe bolted onto or custom made into your vehicle. Their low profile is less likely to be detected and is much more difficult to breach depending on quality. For that reason, we do encourage exploring a mounted safe option for your vehicle, as long as it is only used to secure a gun when you are leaving it in the car and not driving. There are several different types of disarmament systems and perhaps it is the Maine in me that always leans toward the reliability of mechanical deactivation over anything requiring external power. Biometrics are gaining popularity and it is likely that in the near future they will be just as reliable as mechanical locking systems. Running a quick search for quick access gun safes will get you started in the right direction of researching the solution that works for you.
If none of these seemed practical to you, then that is probably because you’re thinking, “I’m just going to keep the gun in my holster and that’ll solve all my problems.” Partially true. There are a few aspects of carrying in your belt that could be improved. First of all, if you carry at the 4 o’clock position or further back, getting to your handgun is going to be an awkward reach back and down just to find your handgun. Make sure that you rotate your holster slightly forward to the 3 or 2 o’clock position when sitting in the car. Now that the gun is ergonomically positioned and still secure in the holster, we want to make sure it is readily accessible. What could be more maddening than trying to pull your shirt and seat belt out of the way as your car gets surrounded by carjackers or thieves? For that reason, we want to tuck the shirt behind the handgun and even run the seat belt behind the handgun as well. This way there is no obstruction to the handgun and it is still securely in place on your belt.
Appendix carry is one way you can avoid all of the rotation adjustments with the safety compromises that appendix carries inherently comes with. Carrying front and center in your waistband while in the car gives you that quick access and security of locating the handgun closer to your person. Flagging your little friend or lady parts is a personal choice; and when the time comes to defend yourself, how confident are you that the adrenaline isn’t going to cause your finger to jump on the trigger just a half second quicker? I may be biased myself if you couldn’t tell, but if you’ve been appendix carrying for years, I can defer to shooter preference here and at least give some drills to put this all into practice.
Keeping your handgun holstered but accessible is going to be the top recommendation we can provide for carrying a handgun in your vehicle. Even as a passenger or left-hand dominant shooter, be sure to make similar adjustments.
Practice what you preach
No matter what method you decide to use to carry your handgun in your vehicle, these best-laid plans are useless without training and preparation. Understandably, it is difficult to find a local range that will let you practice live fire from your car unless you find a dedicated class. Before signing up for the first class you can find, spend a few weeks or even months getting dry fire practice in. You can do this in your own garage or a seculed lot if you don’t have a garage. Practice drawing from concealment, dry firing from your seat and passenger seats, and evacuation drills. Breaking contact is just as important as meeting the treat with reasonable and proportional force. We’re always growing from your input, so share with us what has and hasn’t worked for you in the past regarding carrying in your car in the comments below!