Camping & Survival

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

7.5-inch barreled AR-15 pistol in an open backpack

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.”

Sale ends July 28, 2019

Sale ends July 28, 2019

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
  • 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 Personal Defense Weapon (PDW) 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 and Shooting

Over the last couple of 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 afterward, 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, 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 and Tavors to 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, having accessibility to that gun and putting 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.

On 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 rifle 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 and 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 unexpectedly kept 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 tricky 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 breaks 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
This unassuming $40 Eddie Bauer pack has a surprise in it.

Additionally, if your AR-15 also looks like an SBR with something that 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 that 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 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 is a tough solution to beat.”

Our Rigs

After a whole lot of shooting, I like the compromise of a 10.5” barreled AR-15 pistol. It 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 item (including the Vortex optic) potentially stolen from my truck, I opted for part-ing together a couple of 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.

The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, The Shooter's Log, is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (72)

  1. Sounds like a fun little rig.

    I like the 300 BLK in the 210gr loading – it’s the perfect round for what its purpose.

    I also like the side charger configuration, which I plan on moving to before too long. I think I might make mine ambi, being left-handed.

  2. I love AR Style Pistols. I have a few including the Sig Sauer MPX that i’ve highly modified with: Tactical Dynamics LLC Aluminum Skeletonized Aluminum Forward Grip, SB Tactical Collapsable Pistol 4-Position Stabilizing Brace™, Fully Custom Graphite Black Muzzle Brake, Tritium Iron Sight Inserts, Next Level Armament Black Ambidextrous Charging Handle With Block, Magpul Enhanced Bolt Catch Extension Ambidextrous Mount-On Side Plate, Modded Trigger, & Tons more.

    its perfect as a Car Gun But after finishing the Sig MPX build i decided to do a higher Caliber AR Style Pistol with a 8″ Barrel, Side Charging Lower, An Aero Precision Upper, A Meprolight H3 M21 Reflex Sight, A Phase 5 Tactical Little Boy Parkerized Muzzle Brake, A Viridian X5L Green Laser & LED Light In One Unit, and a few more mods that made it not only a better fit but also easier to get out and to a ready position. I did it in 300blk because it’s a heavier hitting round…

    1. Making a plan to keep a high capacity and high power gun in your vehicle at all times just in case. This concerns me that someone has information or believes that those events suggested here are likely. Having a concealed handgun is one thing, but something like that is another. Perhaps you have a bug out pack too in the vehicle including enough dehydrated food for two weeks. While this might be fine at home, driving around with that mentality concerns me. Almost like you are hoping and expect it and then you will release your well made plan to annihilate anyone that gets in your way to your destination with a smile of satisfaction from your well made preparations. Do not believe in Zombies, except there are some on drugs. If EMP or nuclear radiation comes to pass, hopefully you are so overtaken by your fellow mans suffering that you entirely forget about seeing additional people suffer. When you look at all of Europe during WW2, no nation or people came out of it unscathed. Your mentality will lead you into depression and likely death if your dreams become reality.

    2. @Silvio,
      What are you talking about???

      Do you keep jumper cables in your car?
      How about road flares?
      A spare tire?
      Well then, why not a firearm with which you’re proficient and comfortable?

      Do you hope for a dead battery, to see a wreck, or to get a flat tire?
      No? Well, neither does a prepared gun owner hope for a Doomsday scenario just because he/she has prepared him/herself as much as possible, and continues to improve as necessary.

      Have you not seen news videos of that road rage incident when a motorcycle gang chased that family to a stop and then darn near bashed the family’s brains in with their helmets? And a cop was right there with the gang and did nothing to help the family! A “car gun” may well have prevented that family from getting hurt.

      Ultimately, we are responsible for our own safety and the safety of our families. People who are not prepared have a tendency to ridicule those who are, and then go to them begging for help when disaster strikes.

    3. How about a natural disaster?
      In 1859 the sun sent out a coronal mass ejection that played havoc with electrical systems all over the world.
      luckily there were only a very few telegraph systems here and there, some operators were shocked, some were electrocuted and for some the insulation even caught fire burning any attached building down.
      It also happened again in 1984, but that one missed the earth by a scant 12 days. If it were to happen today nothing electrical would survive and the possibility of huge firestorms from all the burning homes and businesses would devastate the world.
      The US governments best case scenario estimate is 10 years before a few systems start to come back on line.

      How about a political disaster?
      The US makes shady deal all the time for political and corporate gains, we all know it, and the Iraq war was the latest shady deal.
      They made a shady deal with OPEC in 1971 when they went on the oil standard while coming off the gold standard, so if any country wanted to buy crude oil anywhere on earth, they had to use American dollars.
      There are trillions of American dollars in circulation all over the world so if any country, like Iraq, were to try and successfully sell oil in another currency, or trade it for gold, it would destroy the American dollar and our economy.
      The United Nations REALLY wants the US to agree to the small arms treaty in effect disarming the US population. Why would they care if we are armed or not?
      Isoroku Yamamoto is often misquoted as saying “You cannot invade the mainland United States. There would be a rifle behind every blade of grass” but the sentiment rings true to this day.
      If the world were to choose to stop using the American dollar, the world would want to recoup it’s lost value, and the only way to do that is taking things of value, like our property and land.
      Good luck with that invasion, unless the small arms treaty were put into place!

    4. ” … almost like you are hoping and expect it and then you will release your well made plan to annihilate anyone that gets in your way to your destination …”

      Very well said.

      I have cc’d since the early 60’s. I have been physically attacked by drunks more than once and have had experiences with rage. Life can sometimes be mean, but I have even considered drawing my handgun, because I never really considered any of these instances life-threatening.

      Trouble is one thing; life-threatening trouble is very, very rare.

      [ what is it with this “Captcha feature? How many times must answer 9+1 =? ]

    5. @Waldo,
      You contradict yourself, my friend.

      The insinuation Silvio has made is that Boredgimp is hoping for something bad to happen just because he told us how he has been preparing himself. You agree with Silvio, and then go on to tell us that you have been carrying concealed since the early 60’s.

      Boredgimp is prepared, and you’re prepared; how is it that he’s “hoping for something bad to happen” and you’re not?

    6. John, I tried to post these corrections::

      … have had experiences with ROAD rage

      … I have NEVER even considered

      Does this change your interpretation of what I was trying to say?

    7. Hey Waldo,

      No, not really. Before I saw your corrections I could tell you made some typos in your post. They were funny: “I have…had experience with rage…” Have you, now?

      Silvio wrote “…almost like you are hoping and expect it and then you will release your well made plan to annihilate anyone that gets in your way to your destination…”

      and you wrote “Very well said” which means you agree with what Silvio implied.

      You have been carrying concealed since the ’60s – which means you have been prepared for trouble – does that mean you hope for trouble so you can use your pistol? No? Then why do you agree with Silvio when he says that Boredgimp is hoping for trouble just because he’s been preparing for it?

      That’s all I was asking.

    8. John, there were lines with electricity in 1859. They were telegraph lines, and they carried electricity generated by magnetos. There were also weird little people in and around 1859 who wanted to be hero’s, as there are today. An organized militia is one thing, an armed, responsible individual is another. What I fear are heavily-over-armed individuals aching to be hero’s.

    9. If you want to be afraid, that’s up to you. But it doesn’t take a “heavily-over-armed individual aching to be a hero” to do you harm – he’s likely going to be the one who helps you out of trouble.

      Anybody who is willing to break the law and the laws of humanity can harm you any time he thinks that taking what you have is worth the risk, and with any implement that’s available.

    10. Oh my. An AR15 as a concealed carry vehicle weapon. what is going to happen when you finally find the bad ass you dream of? You pull the AR15 with the 30 rd magazine (unfortunately not full auto) spray and pray while some women with her kids from Walmart behind the car get killed from over penetration. I’m sure you would like a quad 50 cal sticking out the top of you F150 cab’s roof for added reinforcement. Keep it simple and safe. You don’t need a rifle with a range out to 600 yards in your vehicle. Only people with SMALL TOOLS do.

    11. Silvio, you should go troll on an other forum. You’re obviously trying to incite people to anger by hiding behind your keyboard and typing all sorts of stupid, hateful nonsense.

      Good bye.

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