I’m of that generation who drove old pickup trucks to school at age 14 (yes, we had paper driver’s licenses at that age and before, way back then) with rifles and shotguns suspended from a rack behind the seat blocking the rear glass. There were no crew cabs and the pickup trucks had single bench seats. Every truck in the school parking lot displayed at least one rifle and many had fishing rods as well. Without even noticing it, those trucks sporting rifle racks in plain view – all disappeared.
I didn’t give vehicle mounted rifle racks much attention until my first African safari. We were hunting the Big Five with double rifles, a .458 Lott bolt action rifle, and a light rifle in .300 Win Mag. Those of you who were raised reading about Karamojo Bell (Walter D.M. Bell), probably liked reading the White Snows of Kilimanjaro and The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber by Hemingway, and know that a good double rifle in such a venerable caliber as .470 NE is likely more expensive than the median house in the US. So I had a good look at the rifle racks in the Toyota Land Cruiser pick up truck before entrusting my rifles to their safekeeping. Furthermore I knew we would be bouncing across equatorial east Africa, as there were no roads other than the ruts we might make. That opinion was amplified by observing two spare sets of leaf springs and three spare tires mounted to the roll cage.
So what kind of rack would one entrust their rifle valued at six figures in these circumstances? The vehicle was equipped with several sturdily fabricated rifle mounts using 1” angle iron and rebar. In the cab, two sections of half inch rebar were bent into a U shape and welded at the outside bottom of the U to the angle iron separated by about 14”. Two of these mounts were affixed vertically in the cab. The U sections were then wrapped repetitively with a strip of inner tube with a piece left hanging from one end of the U long enough to wrap several times around the other open end of the U and back. Simple, strong, capable of being easily repaired, and durable. Similar, but larger size rifle mounts were affixed horizontally on the transverse portion of the roll cage. These mounts were intended to secure rifles inside lined canvas cases thus protected from dirt and debris. These mounts served me well during this hunt and subsequent with the same PH.
When planning a rifle mount for my trusty Jeep TEOTWAWKI, I first considered duplicating those used in Africa. I wanted a mount that would hold two rifles vertically between the front bucket seats, TEOTWAWKI however did not have the room up front of those one ton Toyota trucks. The standard gearshift and transfer case shift levers were in the way and I had mounted a metal box between the seats for a duplicate ignition system, alternator, and tools). I considered all sorts of placements for the rifle rack but wanted my M1A easily accessible while driving.
Living in hunt country where four wheelers and side-by-sides abound, I realized a lot of thought had been put into designing rifle mounts for these type vehicles. Given the space constraints and design goal, none looked as if they could be mounted directly to the TEOTWAWKI. I purchased a set of Kolpin Rhino Grips intended for two rifles (see ) with the intent of fabricating a custom mount for these rifle grips.
I ended up fabricating a lower mount adapter out of a one inch angle iron welded transverse to a strip of 1 ½”x ¼” flat iron that would bolt to the floorboard. This piece of flat iron was drilled in three places in the vertical section and tapped for 7/16 x24 tpi bolts (the size and thread of two thumbscrews I had on hand). A three inch piece of one end was bent and drilled to bolt to the floorboard. The transverse angle portion would then be bolted to two pieces of metal in turn bolted to the sides of the metal box between the seats. I then welded a five inch piece of angle transverse to a 1 ½” x ¼ flat, 16” in length and drilled three 3/8” holes. The holes in both flat iron pieces were located so that the upper mount could be secured by the 7/16” thumbscrews in either a raised or lowered position.
The mount provides a secure way to mount driver and front passenger accessible rifles. If leaving the open top vehicle, a bicycle type chain lock can be used to secure the rifles to the vehicle by running the wire rope through the open actions and looping around the welded lower mount. The way in which the lower mount is bolted to the floorboard would require removing the lower transmission support for access to the nuts. Any cable can be cut and I loathe leaving rifles in plain sight, but this at least provides a measure of security.
I hope this brief article perhaps gives some ideas as how to transport rifles in your vehicle. Should you employ such a mount, I recommend knowing and complying with your state and local laws, especially before picking up the kiddos at school and with two M14s proximately displayed between the seats.
Please be careful and responsible with accessible vehicle mounted rifles and in all things, adopt Davy Crockett’s motto.
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