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 (47)

  • John

    |

    Hmm, I see I missed the part about the underfolding stock in your first post. Sorry for the misunderstanding. Yours is a good choice.

    I just think it’s kind of strange to use an AR or an AK configured as a “pistol” as a go-to “oh crap” gun or as a primary room-clearing gun. Years ago we were issued MP5-K sub-guns, but they were only for special occasions, and they required a hell of a lot of training to use effectively.

    I have a Mossberg M590 12 ga and a 16″ heavy barrel 300 BLK in my truck.

    Reply

  • Archangel

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    A Romanian under-folder AK63-D is the way to go at 27″ long total

    Reply

    • John

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      How do you conceal a loaded, 27″ underfolding AK on your body without going around dressed like Wyatt Earp?

      Reply

    • Archangel

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      Who said anything about concealing it on your body?
      A pistol is for unexpected, immediate threats and used primarily to get you back to your vehicle where the rifle is kept.
      It’s kept in the vehicle I drive and if any version of EOTWAWKI happens while I am away from home, I do not have to rely only on my pistol to get me home.

      The AK63-D is only 27″ long folded and I can legally shoulder it at the range.

      Reply

  • Ebec.USA

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    Interesting article. I am a instructor in a major municipality within a firearm friendly state. All of my students are taught the practicalities of Urban firearms defenses. Often these strategies and tactics are taught using the offensive approach to A- saving your life and those of your love ones and B- ending the attack in a positive manner. We have seen a large amount of AR and AK pistols. If a student presents these they must use them has pistols. No pistols are shouldered. The reason I mention this is because the article and comments make it seem the pistols are highly accurate @ 100 yd and even be effective to 400yds. This is a fallacy. Perhaps a SBR but not a pistol. Even our best operators and former operators are challenged to fire a AR/AK pistol with any accuracy @ 100yds when treating said pistol as a pistol and not a SBR. Please understand I am not dismissing any of the respondents abilities but rather speaking to the everyday novice that we train. We and all LEOs will tell you the Urban fire fight requires accuracy skills rather than producing a wall of lead. The next point is extremely important: Not all LEOs know or care to know the difference between a AR/AK pistol and a SBR. This is particularly a contentious issue in ‘iffy’ states. IMHO carry a pistol you know how to use well with plenty of magazines. Still have your ‘Trunk Gun'; back seat, zippered bag and unloaded is G2G 90% of the time(there is always a LEO that thinks he/she only enjoys the 2nd). The piece of mind resides within you via your training and the blessing our 2nd Amendment.

    Reply

    • John

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      You make some good points, but if you have a gun of any type already in your hands it would be silly not to use it to its full potential; that is, if one has an AR “pistol” how dumb would it be not to use the buffer tube to rest one’s cheek? And requiring students to use their chosen piece of gear in a way they would NOT use it does not make sense: “you have a buffer tube, but you’re not allowed to use it to mount your cheek” proves what? That it’s not as accurate as a true, purpose-built shoulder-mounted rifle/carbine? Heck, everybody knows that.

      The greater question should be how to put the thing into service in the first place. AK and AR “pistols” are so-called in order to fit within a legal definition. When we normally think of a defensive handgun for use when we are out and about, what normally comes to mind is something that is concealable on our person. Is an AK or an AR “pistol” normally concealable on our person, ready for immediate defensive use? I think not.

      Keep a good no b.s. traditional handgun on you, along with an extra mag or two, and know how to use it. Keep a carbine or a good shotgun zipped up in your vehicle in case things get REALLY weird.

      As I wrote at the beginning of this thread, the AK/AR “pistol” is a novelty toy in search of a mission to justify its existence. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Buy whatever floats your boat and enjoy the heck out of it. That’s the beauty of America.

      Reply

  • F Carlton McLean Jr

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    AR-15 and AK-47 pistols are too heavy & cumbersome. If the Yellowstone super volcano has blown and everyone is frantic to find food; then, I could understand people wanting to carry heavier handguns with high capacity magazines. Otherwise, all that is needed is heavy hitting calibers such as pistols in .40 S&W, .45 ACP, 10 MM & revolvers in .357 magnum, .45 Colt, .44 magnum, and .454 Casull. Bigger caliber handguns like the .460 S&W and .500 S&W are only needed where really big bears roam. Unless you are defending yourself against street-zombies (starving people) or blood-thirsty alien invaders, high capacity carbines and pistols are too much over the top. I would advise a 454 Ruger Super Red Hawk revolver combined with a 12 gauge shotgun (double, pump, or semi-auto) and a super accurate .22 handgun or rifle – with plenty of ammo. I would use my AK and AR only as back-ups.

    Reply

    • Archangel

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      Have you ever tried to fire one of the .460 S&W and .500 S&W magnums?

      If you don’t hit the bear square with the first shot, I doubt any of the rest will connect!
      I have an AR-10 in 45 Raptor and is just a rimless .460 S&W.
      I have yet to shoot it, but bet it would be better than in a revolver.
      And there is no reason to get an AR or an AK in pistol form, because if SHTF were to really happen, you will want a stock to shoulder, and more barrel for the 5.56 to get up to speed.
      Has anyone read any of the military reports on the short barreled AR’s in 5.56.
      Not impressive if you want or need to put someone down right there, right now, and not have them drop from slow blood loss a few minutes later.

      Reply

  • Joseph Beard

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    With the improvements in accuracy by both barrels and ammo, I think a SBR would be my “go to” weapon of choice. However I don’t want to pay the tax for it and am slowly buying the parts I need for a pistol ( in the correct order). That is another hassle when you already own some ARs.
    Mine will be a 8-9″ 300Blk. I will build a 5.56 upper for it as $$ become available. I have thought long and hard on what I want and now I am looking at the travel bag which is also very important for discretion and speed accessing your weapon. Do you know of a source for decoy patches, stickers etc for your cases and bags?

    Reply

    • Fred

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      Please change name

      Reply

  • Roger

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    I object to your use of the term “steel-core” when referring to M855 ammunition. It has a minimal steel “penetrator” tip but the core is predominantly lead.
    Honestly after the 2015 ATF M855 fiasco I thought everyone would know better.

    Reply

    • John

      |

      The term “steel core” is a term used to describe that particular projectile without getting into the weeds of all the technicalities, nothing more. “Steel penetrator” is a good term to differentiate that projectile from normal lead-core projectiles.

      That “minimal steel ‘penetrator,'” by the way, is made out of tungsten carbide, and is designed to be armor-piercing. Those projectiles will ruin indoor bullet traps in no time.

      Reply

    • John

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      typo – I meant to say that “steel core” is a good term to use for the penetrator projectile.

      Reply

  • Ode Coyote

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    Yea, probably not much better than a .22 magnum, but a HELL of a lot louder. A waste of weight and volume carrying the ammo around. Well ,wrong. 10″ barrel .223 ~ 2700 f/sec 800 foot pounds muzzle energy vs .22 mag @~ 1800 ft/sec and average 250 ft/lb
    http://www.ballisticsbytheinch.com
    .40 S&W better choice for about the same performance and carry more ammo per pocket, but probably not lighter, but the difference goes out the barrel, not the ejection port.

    Reply

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