The Quest for the Perfect Truck Gun Package Under $1200

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.

The Quest for the Perfect Truck Gun
The Quest For The Perfect Truck Gun Package Under $1200

U.S.A. -( 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?

The rear compartment in my Toyota Tacoma doesn't really allow for a large rifle. I would need to be mindful of overall size.

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.

Sometimes a conventional rifle like an AR-15 just doesn't fit well for the task at hand.

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.

Eliminating Choices

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.

Who would have guessed that Jeff Cooper would be onto something that would far outlast even our wildest imagination?

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.

Ruger Gunsite Scout, the perfect truck gun under $1200?
Ruger Gunsite Scout, the perfect truck gun under $1200

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 Roberts

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 as well as on the YouTube channel Firearm Rack or Instagram at @thepatrickroberts.

  • 46 thoughts on “The Quest for the Perfect Truck Gun Package Under $1200

    1. The way I see it, the author got the gun he wanted and THEN came up with all the supporting reasoning. And that makes the whole post one long-winded informercial. If I wanted a gun for my 1999 Ford F-150 standard cab, short bed, 5 speed manual transmission I’d get a Mosin-Nagant or even one like my son’s Arisaka. A $1,200 truck gun is like a $500 frying … the eggs and bacon don’t know the difference but your wallet sure does. Must be nice.

      1. Yes infomercial came to mind . Your comment reminded me of a comment an old man I used to work for would say, it was ” that’s like puttin a $500. saddle on a $50. horse” !

    2. you know all this nonsense about a truck gun, or a car gun, when i lived in Wyoming i used my ole 30/30 Winchester lever action rifle that i still own and it served me well.
      just pick the gun that works for YOU and don’t get like a WOMEN TRYING TO FIGURE WHAT PAIR SHOES TO WEAR THAT DAY.
      these modern day writers get SILLIER AND SILLIER EVERY DAY.

    3. The responses here are as interesting as the article. The author got exactly what he wanted within the tightest budget that would allow him to get it. As many of the comments perhaps unitntentionally point out, most of us go with whatever we can afford at the moment, and then adapt and reduce our desires to what the tool we’ve chosen can actually do, rather than exercise patience and save a bit each month until we can get exactly what we want. You get what you pay for.

      1. @John Dunlap,

        While I wholeheartedly agree with your main sentiment, that is to say, you get what you pay for, I disagree with your secondary premise, that the rest of us who disagree with him would have to compromise in order to get something to accommodate our pocketbook, rather than meet our needs!

        I believe you were missing the main point we have made, those of us who said he spent way too much money for his desired goals.

        There is absolutely nothing inconsistent with choosing a good used weapon, including those which Saw Service in World War II, Korea, the Vietnamese War, Etc, be they of a French origin or American, basic Optics, and ammunition which might not be on the tip of everyone’s lips!

        Most of the people who commented in a negative light concerning the amount spent, for the desired goal, usually fall into the $400 to $600 group, of money willing to be spent for a good truck gun.

        There is zero inconsistency in choosing used equipment versus new for the goals the man stated, it’s just that we desire to spend less than $1,200, and quite frankly the vast majority of us would not spend $1,200 on a truck gun!

        Why would anyone be willing to spend $1,200, when they could get the same job done in the same fashion, with the same result, for $600?

        This is why so many of us see this article as another infomercial, rather than an author writing an article of a ‘how to’ Nature, and coming up with a compilation for a truck gun, and spending as little as possible, while not compromising the goals in mind.

        1. I didn’t get the infomercial vibe, more like just another look at my new custom gun article. Nor did I misunderstand, but it appears I failed to make my point clearly. I didn’t say any of us have to compromise; I meant that we do, often when we shouldn’t, something I’ve been guilty of on more than one occasion. Those $400-600 surplus choices wouldn’t meet a couple of the author’s listed requirements. He isn’t clear about exactly what a truck gun is to him and how he envisions using the rifle, which does tend to make the whole article pointless, but I suppose it’s his list and his pocketbook. None of those surplus choices would work for me either, for very different reasons (the bolt is on the wrong side of the rifle). Could I make do with them? Sure. Should I? Not if the weapon might be needed for anything serious. I guess all I meant was we should go with what works for us, and don’t judge the other guy, because he probably has different needs.

        2. Four hundred dollars, $600, $1200 you write as though you think it is money. It is not money. It is scrip. It is paper with pretty pictures on it. It is backed by nothing. On the day that the SHTF, a can of corn will cost $10,000. Trade your scrip for something that you can depend on, while people will still take it.

    4. @OldVet: Moderator isn’t there 24/7 nor at night nor certain hours on weekend. Why some responses just disappear is a mystery to everyone including Ammoland. I’ve screen shot replies before I hit “post comment”, they never appear and the technical guy at Ammoland says they can find no trace of them in their system AND YET I can produce a screen shot of them before I hit the magic button! Go figure!

    5. Where I come from, a truck gun is a reliable straight shooting rifle or handgun that was had cheap. That way, as it rattles around in the truck during all manners of weather, all year long, you don’t really care about it’s loss of finish, etc.
      From reading this article, it seems the truck is a sixty thousand dollar pickup truck that never sees off road except at the curb at the bank’s drive through, and sports a several grand rifle behind the seat.
      Under $1200? My beater winter truck cost less than that, and it’s actually inspected. The truck gun in it is a nice sporter 30-06 with iron sights I got off of a mechanic for one hundred dollars. With my handloads, it shoots quite well for the task.

    6. @OldVet: There appears to be no rhyme or reason. Fredy runs one of the most popular, if not THE most popular RKBA sites on the internet. He gets thousands upon thousands of comments every day. I’ve spoken with him several times about this until he’s tired of talking to me and I can’t say I blame him. That said, here’s what is happening as I understand it; Ammoland employs a software screening program that filters every single response. If it picks up a certain combination of words or certain obscenities it will automatically kick the response to an editor who will review it. I believe they’ve changed programs in the past several months as I used to instantly see my responses after I posted them simply by refreshing my screen, not anymore. Now I have to wait for a comment to show up on email notification, remember what the content was (if I wish to respond) and go back to the story and address the comment to the author of that comment because the comment won’t show up for hours, possibly not days.

      At first I thought it was my system retaining cookies and past screens so I cleared all cookies, cleared all screens and rebooted. Nope, no joy, the comments still didn’t show up! I have no explanation. Ammoland tried “white listing” and they can’t do that either so we’re left with what we have. If you post on a late Friday afternoon you run the real risk of your comment being lost completely or not showing up till Monday. I’ve had that happen numerous times.

      1. @Vanns …Right now for instance Truck gun has not up dated since 10:37 AM but I went back to 12/02 and our latest texts are there on the 1911 story.

    7. @OldVet : Don’t feel bad, I can NEVER find responses when I go to the site and story. The only way I EVER see a reply is by email.

    8. @WB,
      I appreciate your effort Bill, I’m not angry, at you or anyone else at this juncture. My original post was designated at someone that I seriously considered to be an anti-semite and I’ve come up against that a lot in the last 10 years so that my patience level with it is somewhere in quadruple digit negative numbers!

      I have no problem with your point of view, merely that you and I have a difference of opinion concerning where Roy is coming from, that is I believe the basic dichotomy.

      It takes a great deal to get me incense, and neither you nor anyone else, not even Roy, has even scratch the surface.

      The more opinions the merrier and the more debate the better everyone learns!

      1. @JRB, Where are you at in Wyoming? Do any of the places mentioned in the Joe Picket novels and Walt Longmire novels exist or are they just made up?

        1. Let me Google that for you 🙂

          “The story is set in northern Wyoming, but the series has been filmed in several locations in New Mexico, including Las Vegas, Santa Fe, Eagle Nest, and Red River.”

          1. @Vanns…wish we could discover what the key that triggers were . You would think that we would escape scrutiny just on our reputation and good looks. Eagle Nest NM brings back memories. Use to have a cabin in the Idlewild community , up the hill from Eagle Nest . Could see Angelfire ski runs from the front porch . Caught a lot of trout in Eagle Nest Lake. Never saw any film crews ,Just my luck.

    9. Another question … which direction is that muzzle pointing ? Hopefully its not pointing toward the driver side of the truck. I’m going to give benefit of doubt and say there is not a mag in the rifle. But still he could be reaching in to grab the barrel , and where is the muzzle . Some where around the groin region . Sorry but it taught Young Hunter Safety for over 25 years.

      1. @Vanns …Sometimes I have had luck finding what’s missing by backing up a day or two . Why things would show up there and not on current days post is beyond me . Maybe all you have to do is call attention to it because now they are all there.

    10. This article leaves me with several questions . The one I will address concerns carrying a scoped rifle behind or under a seat . He stated not having much room in his foreign truck. Does he expect to a have a scope that will remain zeroed or is it going to be knocked out of alignment . It seems that he had limited room for a case . As for a truck gun an open sight seems more practical . The standard military M14 in 7.62 or the Ruger mini 14 in 5.56 /.223 or the Ruger ranch rifle in the Russian round would be serviceable. I have always wished Ruger would put out a mimi 14 in .243. But that is just my thinking.

      1. And THAT’S why I said I could be wrong! Damn, only second or third time this year! :). I thought the tray might be a hard case configured for the truck.

    11. @Vanns40,

      Thank you for the response, and I fully admit geography makes a huge difference in what we all call Standard ammo available on the shelves that are stores!

      I have considered writing articles and submitting them to Ammoland, but I did not see any methodology on the site to achieve that end!

      I’m actually a published author, having written for the online examiner news zine for nearly two years! I’ve also written short stories and poetry which were published, but that’s a different vein!

      I have wanted to write several articles for those of us who are physically impaired, as well as those of us who are dirt poor, both categories into which I fall!

      I do not know who Fredy is, so if you could enlighten me I would appreciate it sir!

      I believe I did partially write the article you suggest in my comment, as I provided good examples of other calibers, and rifles!

      There are a couple of other commenters who also offered up some really quality older rifles, that most people would not even consider these days for usable Weaponry, despite the fact that they are still quite efficient at getting the job done!!

      Thanks again for the kind words, and the suggestions!

    12. @Vanns40,

      I must have missed something in that article that I read!

      I could have sworn that the author indicated a minimal rest at 450 yards, and a standing sling only at 200 yards!

      Are you going to tell me that you can get two minutes of angle under those conditions?

      Further, I live in the middle of Central Wyoming, so I see 4570 on the Shelf on a regular basis, and 65 Grendel, and 35 Remington, so I don’t know where you live and what you were limited to, or if you don’t have an internet connection for ammo on a regular basis, but the bottom line is that you can get any caliber, or almost any caliber, known to Humanity, online!

      I must add, that the author of The Articles preconceived ideas, play the definite role in the limiting of his choices! There is a raft of good, quality, used rifles available, please see, and a wide variety of calibers that are widely available, had he taken the time to look and do more research!

      I’ve taken deer off hand standing, with iron sights, at 450 yards, and that is with a 30-06 that had been chambered in a rebarreled Wehrmacht World War II German military bolt action rifle!

      No, I’m not some prize shot, I am an average shooter, I just took my time to make sure I had a good shot under the right conditions before I squeezed the trigger!

      My point here, is it there is a wide variety of calibers that would fit his needs for as far as range is concerned, and a wider variety of rifles that would get the job done, and for just about half of what he spent!

      I need information based on real world Concepts, facts, and empirical evidence, not Pie in the Sky I’ve got oodles of shekels to spend!

    13. @WB,

      Are you attempting to tell me that I cannot depend upon a mole and articles to provide me with real world, empirically based, factual articles that might assist me in making real-world choices with my limited dollars?

      1. @JRB, In your post of 5 Dec. @0839, you seems upset. I merely sought to comfort you in your distress. You go ahead and believe what you want to believe, and do what you want to do. A man ought to do what he thinks is best.

    14. Ha Ha, $1,200 is more than my truck was worth. How about a Mosin-Nagant 91/30, under $200, and ammo is about the same as .223, or if you git a tax refund, maybe a Swiss K31, with GP-11 ammo that’s better than anything available commercially for about 50 cents a round.. Get real, almost nobody spends $1,200 on a truck gun….

    15. Like far too many other authors on articles like this, you must think the vast majority of people are Rich!

      Five to six hundred dollars for a range gun is a real world ceiling financially speaking, for a lot of folks out there, including me!

      Per the other commenter, in bolt action I would have went with a 30-06, which is good all the way out to 800 yards under a lot of conditions!

      You could have also picked up an AR-15 from either CBC, or Bear Creek, chambered in 6.5 Grendel, that would also have been quite fine out to 800 yards for the kind of money you were willing to spend.

      Lastly, there are some lever action calibers and rifles which would have fit your bill just fine, and that includes Optics on the top!

      45-70 is a well-proven caliber that would do quite fine out to your 450 yard range. Further, a Winchester Model 88 would be a wonderful lever action rifle, and you can find them chambered in 308, and even 284 Winchester!

      There is then the 35 Remington, and the 300 Savage, so there are plenty of lever-action choices to be had.

      Per the other commenter again, you also have choices in pump or lever action for Magnum calibers, including 7mm magnum! Browning and Remington if I remember right, as well as the 30-06 again.

      I do believe you may well have come to your project with a rash of preconceived ideas, that ended up limiting what you thought were your choices!

      1. You can do 2 MOA with a 45-70 at 400 yards?

        35 Remington, 284 Winchester, 45-70 & 6.5 Grendel are readily available? What stores do you drive by and shop?

      2. Hey, I stand corrected on some points and admit it! The internet part however doesn’t enter into “readily” available. If you have those calibers on board where you live then I’m happy for you. I live back East and we see standard 308, 30-06, 7mm Rem Mag etc.

        I wouldn’t put $1200 in a truck gun but then again I wasn’t writing the article and you have to set a dollar limit somewhere. I think he did a good job outlining the specifics for the $$ amount. As an FYI, you could write a similar article, on a cheaper alternative, and submit it to Fredy. As a matter of fact why not do just that as a response? And I say that not just to you but to all who have criticized this column. Write your own rebuttal and submit it. I guarantee that Fredy will consider it and not just trash it. Submit it with a short bio.

        1. @Vanns…Damm-it I may have to print out your 11:00 AM post and frame it ! The only way I’m getting your posts after 10:40 is by the email response .

    16. I believe that a Remington pump in 30-06 would be even better, and be cheaper, because they can be purchased used. Plus the 39-06 Ammo is better further out! Mags holding 10 rounds are under $20.

    17. I am happy that the author found his perfect truck gun. Just a reminder, what works for him, may not work for you. Find your own way in the world. Be your own person.

    18. Great article! I do like the look of the Ruger GS Scout – and Col. Jeff Cooper’s concept. I just couldn’t relegate a rifle that pretty and pricey to truck / trunk duty.

      If you haven’t already, check out the Ruger American Ranch in 7.62×39. You could have similar capabilities out to ~300 yards, which is realistically fine for most truck / trunk guns, in a smaller, lighter, lighter recoiling, much cheaper package – with cheaper ammo to boot.

      Setup with the same scope and brake, the RAR 7.62×39 would be in the low $800 range. Skip the brake and opt for a less expensive scope, and you’d have an extremely effective truck / trunk gun for $700 or less.

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