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.

Accessibility

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.

Maneuverability

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 (40)

  • Dave

    |

    I’m surprised with this topic that no one has mentioned the AK pistol. Maybe I missed it. It solves the .223 terminal velocity issue hat some don’t like with the shorter AR barrels. I.O. Inc makes a very decent version in 7.62×39 called the AK nano, and there is a 9mm version out there also (not certain who makes it). I own a full sized I.O. Inc AK and have nothing bad to say about it at all.

    Reply

  • John

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    Josh,
    No disrespect intended, but please re-read my post a little more carefully. I did not make a blanket statement condemning all ARs.

    We don’t use AR pistols. Our inventory includes 10″-upper carbines which are used with a proper buttstock.

    Look. A collapsible buttstock collapses down to the length of the buffer tube anyway, so there is no practical reason to NOT have one installed. All this “pistol” business does is allow the owner to use a short barrel without having to go through the butt-pain of getting a SBR stamp, or to circumvent local/state laws that prevent SBR ownership.

    If I were to come home to find my house being robbed and I had to unzip something it would be my phone – to call the police; entering a building alone (no longer defensive, but offensive) that you know already has an unknown quantity of bad guys in it, even with the proper training, you are asking to get yourself killed. But if time were of the essence and I absolutely could not wait for the cops and I REALLY had the need, AND I HAD THE TIME TO UNZIP some serious hardware, then I would NOT come out with an AR pistol but with either my M590 Mossberg or my SBR 300 BLK that I carry in my own car. Otherwise, I would go to work with the Para Ordnance P13 on my belt.

    Do you think NASCAR pit crews only have a crescent wrench and a screwdriver with replaceable tips? Would you use your wife’s favorite paring knife to strip insulation off a wire? Heck no. So why would we try to do the same thing with our selection of defensive (offensive) firearms?

    If you would rather use an AR “pistol” for all the reasons stated in the article, that is great, that’s awesome, more power to you, just make sure you practice A LOT. That’s what makes America the most beautiful place on earth. Do what you want, live how you want to live.

    Reply

  • Mississippi Ronn

    |

    Nice article. I purchased my first AR pistol just before the election. I called it my second vote. It’s a sweet gun and I purchased it for the same reasons the author mentioned. I live in south Florida and because of work have to many times go into sketchy neighborhoods. While the 45 on my belt is my first go to weapon, knowing I’ve got the firepower to protect me and get me to safer areas is a real comfort. Also in the truck the short barrel is easy to maneuver without bumping into things.

    Reply

  • DangerMouse

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    Great article. I would offer that .300blk would be a better caliber choice than 5.56mm in such a short format.

    The only down side is if you find yourself needing to scavenge ammo.

    Reply

  • Ode Coyote

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    Kel-Tec PLR 16 pistol is good…but SO FREEKING LOUD!!!
    Makes my ears ring even with double layer ear protection

    Reply

  • Jonathan

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    Before following the author’s advice, check your local laws. he says that transporting a pistol is no problem but a rifle is, when in fact some jurisdictions have more rules on transporting a pistol than a rifle.
    For example, in Ohio and some other states a loaded pistol must be on your person in a vehicle – having a loaded weapon in a backpack or vehicle holster in a no-no.
    ALWAYS check your local laws and don’t assume any gun related laws are uniform nationally!

    Reply

  • Archangel

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    5.56 is not a good choice for a 7.5″ barrel as it has been proven to be a poor performer out of short barrels.
    Better make it 300 BLK if you want to be seriously effective.

    Reply

  • Da Gunny

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    I have always liked the concept of a short-barreled AR-15, ever since I had a chance to fire a brief-cased sized 9mm, developed by Colt Firearms, at their former facilities in Hartford, CT. While stationed in Hartford, I got to interact with many of the Colt hierarchy, including a former Marine who ran the test range. Not only was I privileged to fire M-16A2s from the first batch off the assembly line, but I had the fun of firing this neat, manageable 9mm variant that fit snugly in a military issue briefcase. At, 100 yards, with the somewhat longer barrel, the 9mm snubby, was shooting groups any special ops folks could be proud of. Obviously, the 9mm doesn’t have the muzzle velocity of a 5.55/223, but then again, it didn’t have a wrist-wrenching recoil. But, I certainly agree that a packable, AR-15, pistol is a helluva potent self defense firearm for any situation. Whether in 9mm or 5.56/223,a packable AR pistol can carry a considerable load of ammo in a bug out bag.

    Reply

  • Paul

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    If you like this kind of thing, more power to ya; far be it from me to judge the a gun fetish (I have my own). Simply judging the product, however, it seems like a novelty item designed to fill niche markets since the gun industry is no longer riding high on Democrat driven fear buying. They need to fill the losses due to El Chumpo’s victory easing people’s fears of second amendment attacks with doodads like suppressors and goofy guns like this. My 2 cents.

    Reply

  • Bob G

    |

    Maj. Pandemic is right: “Trunk guns” must be removable from the vehicle in the event of an accident, breakdown, etc. A full-size rifle or shotgun tends to be obvious, even in a case, although a guitar case is probably the best “low-profile” case I’ve seen.

    I’ve been stranded in the middle of nowhere more than once — the second time happening near the Mexican border — though cars are more reliable now than in the past. An AR-15 pistol is MUCH more capable than many of its detractors realize. Cheeking a padded buffer tube is not the same as a stock, but it works better than I thought it would, and I’m much faster with the AR pistols that I used think were primarily range toys.

    If you don’t believe me, find a friend with an AR pistol and try it! I became a believer and came to many of the same conclusions as Maj. Pandemic: so much so that my first build was an AR pistol with a 10.5 inch barrel. For me, this is one of the most practical ARs available.

    Respectfully,
    Bob

    Reply

    • Archangel

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      With so short a barrel the 5.56 looses too much velocity to be truly effective.
      Then you add in a few hundred feet for the projectile to slow down even further?
      No matter what you say the fact (aka math) and real life experience (from the military) disproves your theory.

      Reply

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