The decision is in on the perfect truck gun, including optics, magazines, and accessories for under $1200. If you are thinking this is another AR-15, guess again.
U.S.A. -(Ammoland.com)- Full disclosure, the quest for the perfect truck gun package under $1200 is over! I will be reviewing the rifle that seemed to best fit all of my requirements here on Ammoland soon. While my perfect truck gun might not align with your views on the subject, I am pretty positive that I selected the best possible option on the market priced at less than $1200 for the total package to fit my needs.
What is a Truck Gun?
I guess the first question that we need to answer is what is a truck gun means to me. It wasn’t until a long conversation where Steve Fisher of Sentinel Concepts led me to an “ah-ha!” moment of the highest order. For most people, an AR or AK based truck/trunk gun is nothing more than gun owner security blanket when you really get down to the nuts and bolts of it.
You might think I am crazy, but the reality of the situation is if you need a gun while in the car you are likely going to go for your EDC or whatever you have stashed in the center console. For most of us that means a single stack 9mm or some other small handgun, that bad ass AR you have tucked in the trunk or that AK pistol behind your truck seat is going to probably be flat out of reach when you need it most.
So what does that mean for the truck/trunk gun concept? It totally changed the roles that my truck gun would be tasked to fill. I was going to have to ignore the mall ninja advice to cram an AR with a giant magazine into my truck and take a far more pragmatic approach to what would serve me best.
Selecting a Truck Gun
This new understanding of what a truck gun is to me I was forced to come up with some very specific requirements for selecting a truck gun. The list that I came up with made the search seem much more like a government procurement than a random gun nerd searching for the best rifle for my needs. Approaching the subject with the most pragmaticism possible meant that I had to consider what uses I had for the rifle. Would it be used for personal protection or would it be more likely to be used to take game? Is a less common caliber like 6.5 Creedmoor offer enough of a benefit to offset limited ammo availability?
Once I worked through all the details, I came up with a rough list of requirements that limited my rifle choices dramatically. Each requirement on the list below has a very specific purpose for being on the list and whatever rifle I chose had to fit all of them in order to be universally useful for me.
Criteria for the perfect truck gun:
- Effective out to ranges beyond 450 yards on a man-sized target or a typical whitetail deer from a supported position.
- Effective to at least 100 yards from a standing position on a typical whitetail deer with only a sling for support.
- Traditional hunting style stock.
- Must be 5.56 AR mag, .308 PMAG, or AICS mag fed with at least 10 round magazines.
- The barrel must be no longer than 18″ if a bolt action and no longer than 16″ if a semi-auto due to action length.
- The rifle, loaded magazine, sling, and optic must weigh in at no more than 10 pounds total.
- Capable of accepting a suppressor and a QD muzzle device.
- Accuracy must be at least 2 MOA with factory hunting ammunition and at least 1.3 MOA with readily available match ammunition.
- Bolt actions must have a 3 position safety from the factory or an aftermarket option available.
- Less than $1200 spent on the rifle, optic, rings, magazines, and sling.
- Chambered in a common caliber found at most big box stores (.308, 7.62×39, .223, 5.56×45)
Challenges When Selecting A Rifle
Some of the toughest hurdles when selecting the winning rifle were size, the 450 yards effective range, and the 10-pound weight limit on the complete rifle package. You might think that the size requirement is a bit on the crazy side but once you take into account that I needed a rifle to fit a compartment under the rear seat of my 4 door Tacoma that only allows a bolt action hunting style rifle, a shotgun, or an Ares SCR it starts to make a ton more sense.
The 450-yard effective range, when supported, has a lot to do with the amount of time that I spend passing through the various plain regions of the US in my truck. Realistically though most shots with this rifle would be under 100-yards and taken from the standing position seeing as I spend the bulk of my time in a reasonably suburban area of Texas and a very rural area of Arkansas where the furthest range I could possible take game is no further than 200 yards. The range requirement removed any possibility of a shotgun or most lever action rifles.
The other requirement that killed off a ton of potential options was the weight of the rifle once you consider that we have 2.75 to 3 pounds of optics, sling, ammo, and magazine to contend with given the probability that the rifle is going to be a .308. That magical 10-pound total weight limit for a rifle that fit my requirements meant that I needed to find something that weighed in at less than 7.2 pounds while staying under the price limit of about $800 to $850.
While I would have LOVED to have been able to just buy an AR based rifle that I was familiar with the criteria demanded that I get rather creative with my options. I looked hard at the Ares SCR but passed on it since I would have been on the very top edge of the budget before even getting to optics, optic rings or mount, sling, and mags. The fact that it was an AR based rifle that I couldn’t readily replace parts on and, as far as I was aware, didn’t have a long-standing reliability record didn’t help it either.
The next rifles on my consideration list were the Savage Model 11 Scout that was quickly eliminated due to weight, the Styer Scout was eliminated just as quickly due to rifle cost, Ruger’s American Compact and Mini-30 were kicked out for the proprietary magazines that either limited capacity below the 10 round mark. were expensive, or were hard to source, and the Mossberg MVP Scout was kicked due to reports of weak extractors and accuracy issues.
That left me with only one good option, the Ruger Gunsite Scout.
I don’t want to spoil the upcoming review by giving away too much of the dirty details quite yet, but rest assured that the Gunsite Scout still needed to be modified to meet my requirements and needs. Glass bedding, a new muzzle brake, a quality variable 1 power scope, rings, a good quality sling, and a replacement bottom metal to replace the weak factory plastic unit are all on the list of completed mods with a replacement trigger from Timney Triggers on the to-do list.
Outfitting The Perfect Truck Gun
The last task I had was to outfit the Ruger Gunsite Scout with the accessories that it needed to fill the roles it had. If I am honest, this task was far easier than downselecting the rifle choices and coming up with a list of requirements.
- Scope – The only choice I could come up with that made me happy was the Vortex Strike Eagle 1-6 scope. At about $329 or so at most online retailers, it not only kept cost where it needed to be but also kept the weight within my requirements also.
- Scope Rings – I ended up settling on a set of Leupold medium height rings that set me back about $65 shipped. They attach directly to the Ruger dovetails in the receiver and don’t need a scope base.
- Muzzle Brake – The only option I had was a Silencerco ASR brake (Normally $80 but I had one that came with my suppressor.) that allowed me to use my Omega suppressor’s QD attachment.
- Rifle Sling – Andy’s Leather Slings Rhodesian Sling was another easy choice and only set me back $65 since I had some sling swivels on hand. Expect to see a full review of this stellar piece of kit soon.
- Magazine – Since the Gunsite Scout uses AICS pattern mags ($29 to $100 per mag depending on brand) I would be able to use AICS PMAGs or more conventional AICS mags that I happen to have a ton of.
- Ammunition – Given the reputation of the Hornady ELD-X for accuracy and reliably taking game it was another easy choice. When accuricy was needed I planned to rely on a open tip match load with a 168 grain bullet at minimum.
The Scout Rifle Is Not Dead Surprisingly
I have to say, I learned far more about my perceived needs versus my real needs once I sat down, took the rose colored glasses off and thought about how I was most likely to employ the truck gun as well as embracing the reality that I would be reaching for the handgun on me rather than my tacticool AR. The result is a rifle that might not be perfect for clearing houses but could be used as a close quarters self-defense tool in a pinch. It will also reach out and deliver a .357 Magnum sized wallop at about 500 yards with enough accuracy to drop the average deer or man at that same distance as long as the shooter does their part.
It seems that Col. Jeff Cooper was really into something that outlived just about everyone’s expectations. It might not be the same role that Cooper envisioned, but it sure as hell fits my needs pretty dang well.
Disclaimer – I do feel compelled to add that the Gunsite Scout isn’t the perfect rifle out of the box and that in a perfect world where I had no financial limitations that my choice would be a custom bolt gun built on a Curtis Custom Axiom action by Alamo Precision Rifles with a Kahles k16i scope on top of it. Since I am not Scrooge McDuck I settled on the far more economical choice.
About Patrick R.
Patrick is a firearms enthusiast that values the quest for not only the best possible gear setup, but also pragmatic ways to improve his shooting skills across a wide range of disciplines. He values truthful, honest information above all else and had committed to cutting through marketing fluff to deliver the truth. You can find the rest of his work on FirearmRack.com as well as on the YouTube channel Firearm Rack or Instagram at @thepatrickroberts.