Driving While Armed

Reach Your Gun When Needed; Secure it When Not

The Alien Gear Driver Defense holster has an optional
thumb release for extra retention security.

The moment I sat down I knew something wasn’t quite right. The holster pinched against my body and my pistol now pointed directly through my legs. Add a seatbelt over top and there’s no way I would be able to wrangle the pistol out with any efficiency.

So much emphasis is placed on where and how to carry on your person that carrying inside a vehicle — the thing that gets you to the places you intend to carry — is forgotten. Many just set their firearm in a glove box or center console. Not only is the handgun unsecure in these areas, but it may shift during travel and be out of reach of the driver. It could also be in reach of someone else who is underage or not licensed to carry, presenting a potential legal problem.

Travel Challenges

Every state has different laws and it’s your responsibility to be aware of them. This is of particular importance when traveling through different locales. The United States Concealed Carry Association’s (USCCA) website has a reciprocity map that greatly simplifies the process. Rather than scour dozens of websites for specific information, the USCCA has collected it all in one place. You don’t have to be a member to utilize this interactive map, which is regularly updated. (The date of update is shown at the top of each page.) A colored map populates to show where your permit is valid, where it is not and where it is with restrictions. Scrolling down details your state’s laws for carrying in a vehicle and at roadside rest areas.

Over the past year, I have been traveling more. Experience has opened my eyes to problems I never foresaw. Carrying inside a vehicle is much like carrying on your body: One size does not fit all. On a long road trip, I started out wearing a belly band and keeping the handgun within reach as a passenger. I ended up removing the belly band because it was uncomfortable, only wearing it when I left the car to use a rest stop or get gas. When it was my turn to drive, I did not have access to my firearm. One state I traveled through didn’t honor my concealed carry permit. I was permitted to have a concealed handgun inside the vehicle because I had a license from my home state, but not outside — not even at roadside rest areas. I used a lockbox to secure my firearm in these situations.

The Hornady Keypad Vault slides neatly under the driver’s seat.

Car Travel Challenges

I quickly realized the value of a lockbox. I started with a small one that barely held my pistol. It opened with a barrel key and secured under the driver’s seat by a metal cable. Someone could cut through it, but they’d have to come prepared with specific tools. If driving through a state that doesn’t allow concealed carry inside a vehicle, a lockbox provides a safe and secure option that keeps the firearm out of reach. Other times, you can’t have your firearm on your person, or you choose not to, but don’t want to leave it unattended.

During a recent trip, I needed to access the lockbox in the dark. It was black underneath the driver’s seat; the small automatic lights above the center console didn’t quite cut it. I struggled to be inconspicuous and situationally aware at the same time. I couldn’t see the box, but could feel it with my hand. I fumbled with the key. I would have felt better with my headlights on, but my car key was linked to the same ring as the lockbox barrel key. Once I opened the box, I had to find the pistol by feel and load it in the dark. All this time, I felt extra vulnerable. Though only minutes, it felt like hours.

Hornady’s Keypad Vault can be used in the home, office or car.

The Hornady Keypad Vault can fit a full-size and compact handgun
with room to spare. Or store one along with extra magazines.

The Keypad Vault uses a touchpad security device
allowing four- and six-digit combinations.

An internal light really helps when accessing the vault in the dark.

Hornady Keypad Vault

I now use the Hornady Keypad Vault. It has the same function as my prior lockbox, but is far easier and more spacious. The box is made of 16-gauge steel, complete with a security cable. It can be opened with a barrel key, but also with a programmable keypad — powered by four AA batteries — that accepts four- and six-digit codes. If you enter the incorrect code, the light turns red and an alarm sounds. It is certainly annoying and likely a deterrent to anyone trying to access the interior. What I appreciated most was the extra room and an automatic light. The light eliminates my former problem, while the spacious interior can hold more than one pistol, ammunition and other valuables. The keypad is not only convenient, but it also allows someone else you trust to access the box if need be, without the key.

The Keypad Vault is a great way to safely leave your firearm in the vehicle for those occasions you can’t take it inside.

Auto Access Options

What about protection while driving? Some people still toss their firearm in a glove box or console, but within a holster. This still does not make it efficient to draw, as there is no opposing force because the holster isn’t anchored. The rig will also not have a consistent orientation for the draw. You’d need two hands, at least one of which is likely still on the wheel.

Options like Alien Gear’s Hook and Loop holster turn nearly any flat surface into a mounting location. This may be the inside of a glove box or area beside your steering wheel. Glove boxes and center consoles may be lockable, but in the time of an emergency, especially with another passenger present, it can be hard to reach and obvious. How many times have you tried to grab sunglasses but your passenger’s elbow is holding the console hostage? Keep in mind you may need a holster with a reverse draw to your dominant hand, depending upon where you decide to mount your gun.

The Hook and Loop holster presents an option to mount
your firearm on nearly any surface.

The entire holster “punch” comes off the mounting system
for use on a belt or in the home.

Carry for the Draw

Dozens of options exist for vehicle carry, but keep in mind every vehicle model is different, as is the preference of the driver. If you are planning to resell your vehicle, or if it’s a rental or lease, drilling holes into the car is not an option.

Alien Gear’s ShapeShift holster line offers a variety of on- and off-body carry options utilizing the same pieces, minimizing cost. I was particularly impressed with the ShapeShift Driver Defense holster. This system utilizes adjustable thick straps threaded through your car seat to hold a mount that rests between your legs — no drilling or permanent car modifications required. I was skeptical at first, wondering if my legs would hit the holster, or if the straps would be uncomfortable to sit on. I did have an issue hitting the holster when exiting the vehicle, but this is only because I’m short and my seat is pushed nearly all the way up … Retention is adjustable, but jostling and hitting the holster did not knock the gun loose. A thumb release placed where my thumb naturally falls during draw released the pistol smoothly. It is also not easily visible to anyone outside the vehicle and the holster can be taken off, leaving the straps intact
if desired.

When I started driving, my best friend Liam threw a fit when he realized I carried nothing with me in my car. No emergency supplies, no way to break the window and so on. Looking out for me in his own way, he brought over a flashlight and tactical pen and demanded I put them in my car. I never forgot it and left the Big Larry flashlight in my glove box ever since. It has a strobe, but I always thought of it as just for light if the car broke down or I needed to see. Only recently have I realized how disorienting light can be in a self-defense situation.

The trickiest things about carrying inside a vehicle are being mindful of changing laws driving cross country, being able to access the arm while driving and ensuring it remains out of reach of others. I use a combination of all the above — it doesn’t hurt to have options. 

For more info: Hornady.com, AlienGear.com

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