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Modern Day Coach Gun

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Ideas for the Everyday Carbine

Photos by Rob Curtis and Matt Jacques

The coach gun isn’t a new addition to the defensive equipment lineup. It’s a tool that’s been around for as long as we’ve used wheeled transportation with items or people to protect. As times (and coaches) have changed, the coach gun has also evolved.

The coaches most of us think about are the Old West coaches and their armament. When Wells Fargo shipments were transported on horse-drawn wagons, the employees assigned to security were issued break open, double-barreled shotguns. Why a shotgun, versus carbine or rifle of some sort, would be speculation on my part. Since a business ran those coaches, and the guns were issued, perhaps it was a decision based on budgets rather than effectiveness. We could run down the rabbit hole of why, but that isn’t the purpose of this article. Post “Old West,” coach guns evolved into truck guns. Anybody over the age of 30 probably remembers the .30-30 or .30-06 mounted on a rifle rack in the back window. This modern-day coach gun is what we’re discussing here.

There’s little argument left about the merits of a carbine versus a shotgun for defensive use, especially a two-shot, 16- to 20-inch 10 or 12 gauge. Carbines are an accurate, high-volume, reliable, plentiful resource with a demonstrated record of successful employment in many situations. Whether we’re looking at coach defense, stagecoach, or grocery getter, the need for more than two shots before a transition or a reload is a very real possibility should you need to defend yourself while away from home. The term “modern-day coach gun” came as I posted a picture of my SBR (short-barreled rifle) with the sling looped over the tilt controls on a bulldozer as I cleared land on my farm. I wrote about my modern-day coach gun being along for the ride, and — in the day of social media — guys started asking for more.

traveling with a gun truck gun

As a SWAT cop, I often had a good selection of long-guns at my disposal, especially when I moved to the sniper element. I had an MP5SD, a Colt M4 variant, and eventually a Remington 700. I often referred to my cruiser as my coach. I transported valuables and people, knowing that there was always a threat of someone meaning to do me harm. I trusted those long-guns to solve problems, especially at distance. My service Glock served the same utilitarian purpose as the small flashlight on my belt. It’ll get me to the coach where I can get a better tool for the job — my handgun gets me to my carbine. Even since retiring from law enforcement, 90 percent of my travel time is spent driving (about 50,000 to 60,000 miles a year), so I consider my truck my coach, and I carry a carbine and ammo for my defense.

If the Old West coach gun was a double-barreled shotgun, what’s your modern-day coach gun? That’s your question to answer. What’s your budget? What are you comfortable with deploying? What are the legal concerns for your state and the states you drive through? For most, it’s an AR pattern solution — very accurate firearms with high-ammunition capacity, and plentiful aftermarket parts, optics, white lights, and sling mounting offerings. There are also multiple caliber options, from pistol caliber setups to suppressed .300 Blackout and the ever-popular .223 Rem/5.56 NATO. While caliber and configuration is a personal choice, some of the items you should strongly consider are very much the same as those you’d consider for a home defense firearm.
A quality light and sling are two important components of a good defensive carbine. I’m not saying that an optic isn’t, but if you’re spending a bunch on a rifle, you should consider a white light and a sling as your first two considerations, and with an optic as your third. If your budget allows for all three of those during your initial buy — awesome, great planning.

Many folks who are spending their hard-earned money on a well-built, quality carbine ask the “what else do I need” question. White light because you must have positive target identification, and a sling because you may have to carry someone or need your hands, and laying it down with the possibility of leaving it behind for a bad guy to grab isn’t an option. Meanwhile, you can be very effective and accurate with iron sights. So, relegate the optic to number three on the shopping list.

There are some guns on the market that you can get off the shelf and run with some concealment options. Most folks find that going shorter is better, and when talking concealment and security, that’s generally the case. You obviously have to consider the legality of what you’re carrying, as well as where you can take it. A short-barreled rifle (SBR) has ATF considerations you need to be aware of when traveling across state lines, so make sure you cover your bases.

truck guns

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