Why You Need a Packable AR-15 Pistol for Your Vehicle

By Major Pandemic published on in Camping & Survival, Firearms

Just a few years ago, I would have rolled my eyes at the idea of having a packable AR-15 pistol tucked into my vehicle—though I have kept a cased AR-15 or Tavor in the truck for years.

More times than I can remember, that rifle came in handy during impromptu range trips plus the assurance 30 rounds of M855 5.56 can provide when you are stranded at night alongside the road. It also delivered personal assurance that I would have more than just a handgun in an extended survival or personal defense situation with the ability to deliver high precision shots under 100-yards and connect assuredly out to 400+ yards if needed.

Dolos and Law Tactical equipped AR-15 pistol

A Dolos and Law Tactical equipped AR-15 is a tiny package.

Over the last six months, I have worked through a set of theories based on some discussions with some deeply experienced friends, which I would like to share. One high ranking Army friend—formerly a Night Stalker—said, “There is no one perfect small arm for any situation. The dynamics of the environment you expect to be engaged in dictate the armament.” For several reasons, it is my theory that an AR-15 pistol is the better personal defense and road travel firearm to have stowed in your vehicle.

Potential Need

Discussing my ideas with a few folks who have been there and done that, I began gaming out a few potential theories. Beyond the zombie apocalypse type events, there are only a couple of logically probable scenarios that could occur:

  • Personal defense and security during an active shooter situation
  • General support of survival and security needs (such as being stranded or coming home to forced entry situation)
  • Support of movement to a safe location during a hostile/riot situation
  • … and of course an extremely unlikely situation where everything goes to hell and you need a weapon (EMPs, Solar Flares, invasion, zombies, etc.)
7.5-inch barreled AR-15 pistol in an open backpack

A 7.5-inch barreled AR-15 pistol slips into even small ultralight day packs.

In any other immediate threat situation, the speed and reaction time would require your smaller concealed pistol to come into play first. The logical needs were for a PDW—Personal Defense Weapon that could deliver 90% of the capabilities of a full-length rifle with an acceptable tradeoff of shooter comfort. In all those situations accuracy, legal transportation, accessibility, maneuverability, and concealment would all be factors for a firearm stowed within a vehicle.

Accuracy & Shooting

Over the last couple years, I have changed my perspective of AR-15 pistols from just range toys to serious viable PDWs. The accuracy of these little AR-15 pistols has shocked me. One particular AR-15 pistol I own can deliver sub-MOA groups from its 7.5” match barrel—Yes, it will outshoot most rack-grade rifles. Most of my other AR-15 pistols with premium match barrels can stay well under the 1.5” 100-yard group mark and will keep my 6” steel target clanging away all the way out to 400-yards with ease. After all, AR-15 pistols are in essence just short-barreled rifles without the stock or rifle classification. The pace at which these little pistols can lay down precision hits is pretty amazing to the degree that I have questioned whether a full-sized rifle would really give me that much more of an advantage over a PDW for use in around and out of a vehicle.

If we look at the reality of most urban combat shooting engagements, they occur statistically well under 100-yards which is a sweet spot for a short accurate PDW. Statistically, it is also unlikely that any more than 10-20 rounds would ever be needed to address a situation, but the PDW can still deliver plenty of firepower with a 30- or 40-round PMAG attached. Four or five extra mags thrown into the carry bag delivers a substantial firepower capability.

Dolos Quick Disconnect barrel adapter kit

Dolos Quick Disconnect barrel adapter kit

From very light 40-grain high-shock hollow points to M855 steel core rounds, the 5.56/.223 offers a lot of options for defense, survival, and threat engagement. It is also statistically unlikely to have a need for supporting a long term armed engagement, but again, the PDW can still handle that requirement as well. Though I was a little sore afterwards, I did spend an afternoon hammering 500 rounds through my truck AR-15 pistol. That problem-free beatdown from the AR-15 pistol changed my perception of what AR-15 pistols could deliver drastically in just one afternoon. The PDW format can bring the firepower. I would gladly suffer a little discomfort for a one-foot shorter gun that is 2-3 pounds lighter for this particular use.

Legal Transportation

One of the most important points as a civilian is the assuring you are arming yourself in a legal manner. If you have a rifle stowed in your car, it can be problematic as you drive from one city to another or across state lines. Many cities and states have goofy rifle laws that can include requirements for rifles to be partially disassembled and cased and almost always unloaded. This can be troublesome.

Conversely, if you have a concealed carry permit, carrying an AR-15 pistol is covered under your permit because after all, an AR-15 pistol is not a rifle… it’s a pistol. Unless you are purposefully doing something illegal or demonstrating how easy it is to shoulder a Sig Brace in front of the police, having a loaded AR-15 pistol is just as legal as the handgun on your hip. I would suggest referring to it as a “legal AR-format pistol” rather than just an AR-15 if questioned. The point here is that in many cases having an AR-15 pistol can avoid unintentionally breaking the law should your rifle not fit the widely varying locals regarding stowage for rifles.

Sneak Bags 31-inch SPYDER backpack

Sneak Bags 31-inch SPYDER accommodates everything from PDWs, Tavors, and disassembled AR-15s.


Having a legally stowed, cased, and unloaded full-sized AR-15 rifle in the back of the vehicle is a viable concept. However, accessibility to that gun to put it into action fast is another matter altogether. It hardly seems a sound idea to have an accessible, loaded AR-15 rifle on the front seat of your vehicle with a blanket over it for concealment—you’ll likely get arrested. One the other hand, a concealed carry license allows loaded pistols to be concealed, on the person, or within a vehicle or in personal belongings. It would seem that if the need arose, putting a legally stowed, loaded and accessible AR-15 pistol in a backpack in the front seat would be far faster than walking around to the trunk, opening it, unzipping the rifles case, and loading the rifle.


Maneuvering a rifle inside a vehicle is a tough situation and most would agree that a short AR-15 pistol is more appropriate. Thinking through a multitude of situations that could occur on the road, my theory is that it would be preferable to have a short maneuverable AR-15 pistol if facing a survival situation or stranded roadside camping inside a vehicle. If clearing between or around vehicles, or through an urban environment to make haste back home, a shorter AR-15 pistol would also seem to be the better tool than a rifle.

Stowing, Concealment & Movement

Though legality is a big issue, discretely being able to move with an AR-15 pistol is probably the biggest advantage of all. There is no way even a disassembled rifle is going to slip into a standard-sized backpack. If you need to move discretely with your rifle from your vehicle, it is going to be really quite obvious you are carrying a rifle around. “Hey, over here everyone! I got a rifle!” A 10.5” barreled AR-15 pistol equipped with a Law Tactical folding buffer tube adapter or stowed with the upper and lower receivers unpinned, slips nicely into any standard backpack or messenger bag and no one will know. A 7.5” barreled AR-15 pistol with Law Tactical Folding stock can fit into pretty much any smaller pack.

Rogers Rail light

The Rogers Rail light is a must for any AR-15 pistol for defense and survival.

It is my belief that any firearm permanently stored in a vehicle should be easily concealed, and clandestinely moved in a public setting without undue attention. There was one situation where my truck needed to be unexpected overnight for service due to an accident and another where the hotel only offered valet parking. In both situations, I had to de-weaponize my truck and walk through some rather public areas with what was clearly a gun case. Those incidents taught me a lesson that discrete cases should always be used to house firearms in vehicles even if it is just one of those non-tactical square soft cases. A similar situation occurred more recently again when I forgot to remove my firearms from my truck before a routine oil change. However, I was able to grab my Eddie Bauer backpack containing my AR-15 pistol and backup Glock 17 and walk over to the coffee shop to wait without anyone taking a second look. A standard AR-15 rifle is just not going to give you that option unless it is disassembled and in a more discrete case.

A simple two-point sling or a convertible ALG Defense Quad Dual QD sling delivers a carry option, which enhances both concealment and handling. If “it” did happen during a hostile situation where LEO and government officials were on high alert, and you did have to trek on foot back home, it would be much better to have a little PDW AR-15 pistol concealed and slung under a long rain jacket than walking home with a rifle slung over your shoulder.

Discreet Vehicle Carry Options

The discreet carry Sneaky Bags are a wonderful option with plenty of internal tactical storage capabilities. The medium 31” SPYDER sling bag which looks like a modified tennis racket bag can conceal several firearms at once, but the weight starts to add up. The standard Sneaky 31” SPYDER bag can accommodate a variety of firearms, for example: a Tavor bullpup rifle, PWS MOD2 pistol PDW, nearly any assembled 12” barreled SBR or AR-15 pistol, and disassembled (upper/lower) rifles. It is a handy and extremely well made case.

SIG MPX pistol folded into a backpack

The SIG MPX pistol tucks into almost any small pack.

AR-15 pistols, of course, easily drop into almost any backpack and no one pays any attention to your standard Swiss Army or Eddie Bauer backpack. 5.11’s Select Carry sling pack is designed specifically for PDW use. It has an innocuous shape/style and rapid draw feature that makes it one of my favorites for my Sig MPX 9mm and other AR-15 pistols.

Accessories to Make Compact Even Smaller

If you own an AR-15 pistol you are missing half of the functionality of the firearm if you have not installed a Law Tactical Folding Buffer tube adapter. This accessory negates the need of disassembling an AR-15 pistol to stow it in most backpacks. Deployment is fast—pull from the pack, slam the buffer tube over, charge the AR-15 pistol and shoot. This is a setup that can deploy instantly from any discrete bag when “it” hits the fan. If you are considering an AR-15 pistol for your vehicle, then this would be a must have accessory from my perspective.

The DOLOS V2 also chops an AR-15 pistol down even smaller. The DOLOS delivers a ratcheting quick takedown option to remove the barrel with assembly and disassembly occurring in under 5-seconds. The DOLOS V2 is compatible with any Midwest Industries thread pattern barrel nut handguard, which it turns out is pretty common including the very trick Brigand Arms Carbon Fiber handguards.

AR-15 pistol with Faxon barrel and Nikon 1-4 optic

This Faxon barrel and Nikon 1-4 optic equipped ultralight AR-15 pistol is very capable at intermediate ranges.

Combined with the Law Tactical folding Buffer tube adapter, the DOLOS can deliver a 10”x8” AR-15 pistol (7.5” barrel) package that will fit in most IPad sling packs such as the Drago Sentry and most small sling packs. The shown build features a 7.5” pencil profile Black Hole Weaponry match barrel, Aero Precision receivers, Phase 5 Tactical Hex2 buffer tube, SIG Brace, Nikon 3X BDC optic, and DOLOS adapter with Brigand Arms carbon fiber handguard. This is a 400-yard headshot capable rig that brakes down to only 10”x8” with a 20-round magazine in place ready to party.

Don’t Push The Law

Any firearm within a vehicle has a very high potential to be viewed, handled, and checked during any routine traffic stop. It is my belief that most law enforcement folks are tragically uninformed about what is legal when it comes to anything other than a classically-sized rifle or pistol. I have had more than a few LEO folks ask me if my Tavor or an AR-15 pistol was an SBR. Though we all know AR-15 pistols are legally just pistols. However, if you are pulled over and you are justifiably searched, I would bet that less than 50% of police would have the knowledge to clearly identify your loaded, ready to rock, legal AR-15 pistol as a pistol—hassle initiated.

Black Eddie Bauer backpack

An unassuming $40 Eddie Bauer pack has a suprise in it.

Additionally, if your AR-15 also looks like an SBR with something what a non-firearms-educated officer presumes as a stock, you can double the hassle. Sure SIG Braces are legal, however this is where I suggest a standard buffer tube might be the better less grey option to avoid extra hassle. Notably, with the buffer tube extension the Law Tactical Folding Adapter provides, I would submit that shooting configuration to be so comfortable that a SIG Brace is not required.

Rifles in Vehicles Are Out – PDWs Are In

During a series of discussions with some badass military, LEO, and security folks, I am thoroughly convinced that PDWs are the more correct choice for a vehicle based firearm. Sorting through those discussions, the main, re-emphasized points were compact size, firepower, 0 to 100-yard accuracy/lethality, maneuverability, stowed concealment, and the ability to move with the weapon discretely when not in play. From my perspective, the AR-15 pistol meets those needs perfectly. One of my friends said it well, “If you are going to war, a rifle is preferred, but for shots that might be fired in, around and from a vehicle or just for personal defense, a faster handling compact SBR, PDW, or AR-15 pistol are tough solutions to beat.”

Our Rigs

After a whole lot of shooting, I like the compromise of a 10.5” barreled AR-15 pistol. Its has an exponentially quieter bark and fireball, delivers a bit more velocity than a 7.5” barrel, and provides a shooting platform that gives the shooter more room to stretch out. My new favorite factory AR-15 pistol is the PWS MOD2 MK107 AR-15 Pistol with Maxim Defense Adjustable Cheek Rest—truly an amazing firearm, which packs beautifully in the Sneaky Bags SPYDER.

Since I do not want a $2,500 (including the Vortex optic) potentially stolen from my truck, I opted for part-ing together a couple AR-15 pistols. My his and hers Pandemic Truck guns are both based on Faxon ultralight 10.5” barrels and Faxon matched headspaced BCGs. My wife’s pistol features an Aero Precision upper, YHM Quick Pull Take-Down Pins, ALG handguard, Rogers Rail light, Burris 3X 332 prismatic sight, Black Rain lower receiver, Mega Arms trigger, and Paracord wrapped extended KAK pistol buffer tube which extends the “cheek weld” for my wife. We call this the Trump Trunk Gun, since Trump likes everything gold plated… maybe minus the tiger stripe.

My truck pistol uses a Clark Carbon Fiber handguard, Rogers Rail light, Nikon 1-4 scope, Aero Precision optic mount, YHM Quick Pull Take-Down Pins, Aero Precision upper, billet lower, CMC Match trigger, Law Tactical Folding Buffer Tube Adapter and buffer tube.

What do you think about the advantages of a packable AR-15 pistol? Have you ever carried one on your person or in a vehicle? Share your answers in the comment section.

Gas maskMajor Pandemic is an editor at large who loves everything about shooting, hunting, the outdoors, and all those lifesaving little survival related products. His goal is simple, tell a good story in the form of a truthful review all while having fun. He contributes content to a wide variety of print and digital magazines and newsletters for companies and manufacturers throughout the industry with content exposure to over 2M readers monthly. www.MajorPandemic.com

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Comments (54)

  • Kivaari


    Bull !


  • John


    Sorry, I think AR pistols are novelty toys in search of a “tactical” justification.


  • Scubadad


    I agree 100% with your Friend. Tell him “NSDQ” “Dark Hourse”


  • Bruce


    Being a older guy that carried a M2 Carbine in Korea and Vietnam, I picked up one of Inland’s M1 Carbine Pistols, and put it in a cut down stock. Love it for my PDW. I have a light/laser combination on it also. I do carry a copy of my purchase receipt saying it is a Pistol, and my Tennessee Carry Permit at all times.



    • Fred762


      I have carried a handgun legally for decades..and my “truck gun” for years has been a Ruger Ranch Rifle in 5.56 w side folding stock. It carries well in my tennis racket case w several loaded magazines, [not in the gun]. I keep a tube of bright yellow tennis balls with the bright case, for looks. Never had a problem.


  • DAN


    I put my ar pistol on my ccw,just so Johnny law will understand it is a legal pistol,5 years and counting on ccw……….


  • Cam


    Nope, I will keep my sig p226 and my trash at-15 that’s made with parts I’ve stripped off guns through the years with an anderson lower or my youth models marlin 30/30 with some no name hollo in it.
    I’ve got an ar pistol but have never dound it useful and would rather a rifle that has a pinned brake to bring it to 16″,


  • jim


    “Major Pandemic”‘s idea is great if you wsh to wake your hard earned money on something that is not needed. It is true that I carry a pistol because of its capacity of rounds. That said I used to carry a S & W model 19 in .357 mag with a 6 inch barrel and fluorescent front sight because it was deadly accurate out to 150 yards. In its Strong Second Chance shoulder holster it was completely concealable under a light jacket. I now carry a RIA hi-cap .45 in a Strong Second Chance holster with the same rig as it is accurate out to around 200 yards. Now what the knockdown power is at that range, I have no idea as I have only punched paper at that range. Of course, in my experience, all of the military officers that I came into contact with couldn’t even get a decent score at 25 yards with a .45 so maybe the Major SHOULD carry his broken down AR-15 pistol as it has a lot less recoil then the .45!


    • John


      Right-on, jim. You’re talking some sense. You didn’t say what bullet weight you were firing out of your RIA, but if you were to score a hit at 200, I am confident that it would take the fight right out of ’em.

      Once we figured out how to do it, we were scoring hits on military resettable knock-down targets at 300 yards with 4″ barrel M686 with military .38 SPL. We didn’t score hits every single time, but as the day went on the hits came often enough to make a bad guy think twice.


  • Shawn Walker


    Looking at this, my thought process is I already have a mounted stow holster which is hidden in my car for my pistol. I have a cross over SUV which is mostly the rage right now and I have hidden under the floor storage that I could mount with bolts into the frame a larger locking case. That way my carry .45 would still be the initial defense gun inside the car and yes I would then have to get to the AR if I needed it.

    I think that may be a solution for people like me who don’t want to also buy a AR 15 Pistol but have already have a short rifle in an AR or AK or other configuration. Also sounds like I just came up with another possible accessory for us supporters of the 2nd amendment.


  • TomC


    I agree with just about everything in the article, but I do have a problem with the premise that drives the entire thesis…

    “If we look at the reality of most urban combat shooting engagements, they occur statistically” — actually, statistically they don’t occur at all — at least not for civilians. Talking about the scenarios presented by that author as “likely” is a stretch of astronomical proportions. The Zombie Apocalypse that he dismisses as not worthy of consideration is well within the same likelihood as any other situation where a “PDW” is statistically more desirable than a pistol — the only scenarios he offers that are at all reasonable are the possibility of your car breaking down in the middle of nowhere (we all know how likely that really is) and the possibility of coming home to a break-in already in progress.


    • John


      Agreed on all points.

      If one wishes to use an AR “pistol” for things that are better left to a real pistol, then one had better have a ton of on-going practice. There is no way in hell I would choose an AR “pistol” over a real pistol to clear a house.


    • Josh


      I would have to disagree with your point. What do all tactical units use to clear buildings? An ar15 or some version of it. An ar pistol can be manuvered just like an ar 15 and in the event of a home invasion I would assume that most people would go ahead and shoulder their ar pistol.


    • John


      Every tool has its use. For home defense I have a M590 12 gauge loaded with 4 Buck, a Springfield Armory 1911 .45 ACP, and Ruger 10/22 loaded with Stingers.

      You guys can go ahead and sneer at my 10/22, I know it is just so passe, but it’s deadly accurate out to 150 yards, and with hardly any noticeable recoil it is a great tool for the job. No thanks to the incredible, deafening muzzle blast of a short-barrel AR in the close confines of a house.

      I will always think of the AR “pistol” as a toy in search of a legitimate mission that another firearm could do better.


  • Lou Newton


    I bought a Kel-Tec PLR pistol years ago just for this reason. It is about the same power as a 44 mag with the 10″ barrel. But it will penetrate body armor that any criminal might be wearing. It is also a much better long range weapon that the revolver. It conceals under a light jacket if necessary and only weighs 3 #. It also has no buffer tube to get in the way or make the weapon longer. It is very accurate and I am very pleased with it.
    BTW, it is difficult to take any author serious that mentions zombies as a threat to contend with.


    • ELRipley


      His point regarding that scenario was valid, that is as he stated, an “extremely unlikely” event, such as EMP, or invasion, and I’m sure he just threw the zombies in there tongue in cheek. He’s not an idiot, and wouldn’t expect people to think he was serious, and I think relies on people to figure that out, right? Besides, there are some scenarios on the road with some sub-human people that could be worse than any fictional zombie apocalypse.

      It was a great article with some good info, especially regarding the legal issues involved in transporting a firearm.

      My sole complaint being that I’d have to save for a couple of years to get close to owning the last three weapons with custom features he describes, and I doubt I could even get them in California. $5 or $6k in disposable gun income is not really a viable option for everyone, and it would have been good to offer more realistic models as choices.

      For me, I have to settle for a Kel-Tec as well, an older Sub-9 with a half dozen mags, along with a companion Glock 19. I carry the folding sub-9 in the small padded factory case that looks nothing like a rifle case, and the G19 in a Wilderness Products Safepacker bag, which just slings over your shoulder, with a pouch for an extra mag.

      I’m not going to be hitting much of anything past 50 yards with that carbine, and that will have to do I’m afraid. Anyway, good write up, thanks.


    • usafoldsarge


      Ever wonder why the anti gun nuts go ballistic? Take a good look at what these death ray guns look like. Before any kooks in here go off half cocked, I own 4 hand guns and an 84 year old Winchester Model 12 12 ga. The wife and and I are both CCW permitted. The looks of the weapons shown here tell the story for the anti nuts better than anything else. If it looks like a military weapon it gets labeled assault and you can talk til you are blue in the face and you ain’t going to change their mind.


    • PFC


      No offense sarge but that is the attitude that divides gun owners. The evil black gun is only one of many excuses the anti constitutionals use. Even if AR derived guns were not popular the antis would find something else to label. I remember when they said all they wanted to do was eliminate “saturday nite specials” which your handguns would qualify and said that they did not want to effect “militia appropriate” rifles. They want half your guns, now, the other half later. ARs in any configuration are appropriate and are protected by the constitution and should be by all of us.


    • Thomas G


      Lou, check out the CDC website. There is a plan for zombie epidemic. Mainly caused by drugs (bath-salts, pcp, meth, etc…). I mean most anti-gunners are already mental zombies.


    • Alan


      Rather than zombies maybe mention meth heads , bath salts or pcp users. Many similarities.


    • I


      Where. Never seen a methhead coming down off his high. The eyes are vacant there’s nothing there and all he wants is to suck the spirit out of you to drain your life to get his fix. In real life a zombie will be your neighbor when things get south Safeway has already been looted and there’s no food or water. Guess what’s food then. You are. Simple minds can’t see the future but don’t worry lil zombie I got u covered


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