What Officers Need to Know About Mounting & Storing Firearms in the Patrol Vehicle

Oct. 18, 2019
A look at the variety of options for firearms in patrol vehicles and what considerations impact the choices

The location of firearm(s) can vary greatly depending on the make and model of your vehicle. This also effects how fast they may need to be accessed and the method of storing and securing them. Electric release locking mount for the shotgun on the passenger side of the transmission hump? Yep. Electric release locking gun rack for an M4 on the front of the prisoner transport cage? Yep. Barrel down double mount for shotgun AND rifle on the passenger floorboard? Yep. Good old fashion rifle rack in the back window? Yep. It all depends on need and agency policy and those policies vary a great deal dependent on setting, population, and politics.

The need to avoid liability, theft of weapons, and yet still have the shotgun readily available brought us the practice of storing the long gun in our trunk or in some type of locking system in the passenger compartment of the patrol vehicle. All too often though, even as late as 1990, some shotguns were just put into the trunk, either laid on top of everything else or stuck down one side or the other, without protection for the weapon or security from being stolen if a thief could access the car/trunk.

Thirty years (1990 to 2020) is longer than the typical law enforcement career, and a lot of technological advances have been made in that time frame.

Mandates and options

There has always been a need to keep weapons secure but the past couple decades have shown us just how embarrassing and potentially dangerous it can be to “believe” your weapons are secure. The reality is that they’re not. It behooves us to ensure that the weapons are secured beyond the possibility of theft to the greatest level possible. The downside of this is that typically, the more the secure the weapon is, the longer it takes us to get it into service when we need it. Since we only need it during times of imminent threat, even 1/2 second longer seems like an eternity and can make all the difference toward the outcome. Those two mandates have to be balanced against one another to whatever reasonable risk level your administration finds acceptable.

  • The weapon has to be secured against theft.
  • The weapon has to be immediately accessible in times of need.
  • The remaining two mandates are:
  • The weapon should be secured out of sight if possible.
  • The weapon should NEVER be left in a vehicle overnight or when the officer is off duty.

Whether or not you secure your weapons out of sight is largely a matter of officer and/or agency preference. That preference should take risk, public perception and, unfortunately, politics into consideration.

Not leaving weapons stored in a vehicle overnight or when the officer is off duty is not negotiable. A vehicle is not a gun safe and shouldn’t be used as such. That said, some vehicles, such as those assigned to SWAT officers, are equipped with hard-mounted gun safes. Is a weapon that is locked in a gun safe that is hard-mounted inside of a locked vehicle safe from theft? Is that good enough to mitigate the liability and risk if the weapon is somehow stolen? That’s a question your chain of command will answer.

On duty in-vehicle storage

Electrically locked, push-button release gun mounts are available from several different manufacturers. Such mounts can be placed on floorboards, transport cages, trunk lids or storage spaces for SUVs. Models are able to hold your shotgun, your AR style (or other) rifle, or both together. Manufacturers today are being quite creative in their designs to ensure that the mount can be adapted to an agency’s particular need or the unique availability of space dependent on the patrol vehicle. We saw an example of this from BLAC-RAC who was displaying in the SETINA booth at a recent law enforcement conference and exhibition. SETINA makes products that will secure your arrestees/prisoners and segment them away from secured spaces of your patrol vehicle. BLAC-RAC makes gun locks that can hold one long gun or two and have an electronic release system that is quick to use along with a keyed lock backup system in case of power failure.

If you’re looking to store your less used—and therefore not needed for quick access—long guns in your trunk or SUV storage compartment, it’s highly recommended that you don’t put them in a hard case and drop that into the storage space. Not only does this not truly secure the weapon, but it isn’t anchored to your vehicle. For such storage purposes we’d recommend an actual safe that is hard-mounted and takes a lot of time to remove if a criminal finds his way into your vehicle. TruckVault makes safes for just such purposes. Look for a design that doesn’t just keep the weapon from being stolen, but also protects the weapon from damage in an accident as well as long term environmental damage such as can be caused by moisture and temperature extremes.

In the long run, what you need is a secure storage solutions that addresses your speed-of-access need without compromising the strength of security in any way. No agency ever wants to have to deal with stolen weapons and most budgets can ill afford to replace damaged weapons, especially if the damage could have been avoided with the proper investment in the storage solution.

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