Discreetly carrying a personal defense rifle or shotgun

Following my recent three part series of articles on personal defensive rifles and other riot-related posts, I’ve had a few questions from readers about how best to carry such a weapon discreetly, without anyone knowing it’s there.  I’ll address this with an AR-15 rifle, carbine or pistol in mind.  Other weapons such as shotguns may fit the same criteria.

There are several options available, but one consideration is paramount.  In general, if you’re discreetly carrying a rifle or carbine, you’ll need to do so in disassembled form.  Most AR-15’s are simply too long to fit into readily available concealment cases, so you’ll probably need to separate the upper and lower receivers when concealing them.  An average 16″-barreled carbine upper will be at least 24″ long, perhaps 27″ or more if fitted with a longer muzzle adapter such as the Blast Can.  The lower receiver, even fitted with a stock, is usually shorter than that.

AR-15 pistols (and short-barreled rifles or SBR’s) are, of course, usually shorter than that, and may fit into such cases without needing to be disassembled.  One can also shorten an AR-15 (rifle, carbine or pistol) for carry purposes by using something like the LAW Tactical folding stock adapter (shown below), which is ferociously expensive for what it is, but does work well.

The LAW adapter adds a little over 1″ to the length of the buffer tube and stock when extended, but of course reduces the overall length of the weapon when it’s folded.  For AR-15 pistols, be sure to use a short buffer tube with the LAW adapter.  This is because the total length of pull – the distance between the trigger face and the rear face of the tube, or the rear edge of a pistol brace if one is used – should not exceed 13.5″, according to the ATF.

As for discreet containers or cases for your long gun, the primary criterion is that the longest component of your weapon (for AR-15’s, usually the complete upper receiver) should fit inside the length of the container.  This rules out many smaller items.  Here are a few suggestions.

  • Tool boxes and bags:  These won’t attract much attention in many settings (although taking one to and from the office might attract unwelcome comment!).  Long tool boxes such as those from Craftsman (28″), DeWalt (28″), Plano (26″) or Stanley (28″) are rather large and unwieldy, but long enough for the purpose.  They offer space inside for not just your weapon, but also ammunition, magazines and other accessories.  Tool bags are usually shorter than tool boxes, so they’re not as useful to conceal a rifle or carbine, but larger models such as this one may serve to conceal a short-barreled AR-15 pistol (and would probably be lighter and more compact than a big tool box).  One can also modify a purpose-built case for power tools to accommodate a rifle, such as this example.
  • Luggage.  Many suitcases and carry-on bags are big enough to accommodate a long gun, particularly in disassembled form.  You can also get purpose-built briefcase adapter systems for AR-15’s, such as this Tac2 model.  They’re expensive, but may be useful in an office setting.
  • Sporting gear:  Golf bags are big, bulky and heavy, but long enough to conceal most AR-15’s.  Of course, if you take them anywhere but a golf course, you’re likely to attract attention!  Some tennis racket cases (like, for example, this one) are also long enough to conceal an AR-15 pistol, or a disassembled rifle or carbine.  There are other options in other sports.
  • Musical instrument cases:  Despite being a favorite of the movies, these tend to be big and awkward, and may stand out too much for discretion in the wrong environment.  One can get instrument cases purpose-built for carrying firearms, such as guitar cases from Cedar Mill or Savior Equipment, but they’re very expensive.  It’s probably much cheaper to buy a used guitar case and foam to fit inside it, and make your own.  Cases for other musical instruments can be adapted in the same way.
  • Backpacks:  School-type backpacks are usually too short for our needs.  However, by shopping carefully, you can find taller day packs like this one, which measures 24″ in height and can accommodate an AR-15 pistol with relative ease.  Larger backpacks, designed for multi-day hikes, may accommodate longer weapons.  Choose colors and external features carefully so that the backpack blends in with your surroundings, and doesn’t stand out and make you conspicuous.  For that reason, avoid anything too military-looking, or using camouflage colors and patterns, particularly in an urban environment.

What about vehicles?  You can leave containers like those above in the trunk or back seat, but there’s the risk that they might be targeted by thieves.  A relatively low-cost solution for pickup trucks is to modify a truck box (see here for some examples) to contain your firearm(s).  This can even include fitting a false bottom to the box, so that your weapon(s), magazines, ammo and accessories are concealed from your workmates and friends when you open the box.  Other options are purpose-built drawers that fit under rear seats or beneath the load, such as those from Truckvault.  These are a lot more expensive, but are high-quality, and used by many law enforcement agencies.

Personally, I don’t like storing valuable weapons in a vehicle-mounted container.  There’s too great a risk that the vehicle might be stolen, or disabled in an accident so that I’m forced to leave it, or watch it being towed away.  I’d rather have my weapons in something I can take with me.

For any form of concealed use, AR-15 short-barreled rifles and/or pistols are generally simpler and easier to carry than full-length rifles or carbines.  Yes, the shorter weapons have disadvantages at medium to long ranges, but for most of us in urban environments, that’s not a major factor.

Finally, consider ways to make carrying your weapon easier when concealment is no longer as important.  A good gun sling can make this a lot more comfortable.  Tactical slings such as the Blue Force Gear Vickers 2-point sling (which I personally recommend as the best of its kind I’ve encountered) are more useful in a fight than general-purpose carry slings.

If any reader has good ideas about discreet carry of a long gun, please share them with us in Comments.  We can all learn from each other.



  1. In my elderly Cavalier, I have disabled the inside trunk release, and secured the fold down rear seat back with hardware accessible from inside the trunk. In Colorado we have dope now, you know. Given some time, the trunk can still be opened without damage. The stuff that used to reside in the cabin is now in a brief case in the trunk.

  2. Along this line…..
    If you're lucky enough to find a carry method that works for your device, and I'm thinking primarily ARs here, it's useful to add a couple 10-round magazines to your kit.

    First, ARs (and, by extension anything AK-based or similar) require ammunition magazines. I've never heard anyone, ever, complain about "too much ammo" so 30-round magazines are the default. 30-rounders, however, take up a fair amount of space, so storage and transport with no magazine is standard.

    Meaning, or course, when the firearm is retrieved to put into immediate service a loaded magazine must be inserted; it's conceivable under some circumstances the time required to lay hands on a magazine and insert it may not be available.

    Enter the 10-round magazine. It will extend a little over an inch below an AR receiver so even when stored – and I strongly caution AGAINST storing any loaded firearm in a gun safe, gun box or similar situation – it comes out of the safe, closet, whatever with at least one functional magazine, albeit a small one, that can then be loaded to make the gun work.

    Second, and ONLY IF THE LAWS OF YOUR STATE, CITY, COUNTY PERMIT IT – and YOU need to research this to make sure you know, understand and follow the law(s) on it, when carried for "immediate use" a loaded 10-round magazine in the AR won't take up much space in the case and upon retrieval all that's necessary is cycling the charging handle.

    10 isn't 30, but it's 10 more than zero.

  3. I used a folding camp chair bag for a few years. I had a carbine length then, and it fit and fit in. After that was a black case I found and gutted. Perfect fit, looked like any other equipment case I always carried then. Post 9/11, I promised that even if I had to walk home from the four corners, I was coming back. I packed for that eventuality.

  4. My Ford F-150 extended cab (now traded for an Outback) had ample space under the back bench seat and while I had it always carried a stainless steel Mossberg 12-ga on one side and an AP-9 in its original case on the other side. Completely out of sight too. Still looking over the Outback for similar spaces…anyone have any ideas?

  5. Looking at your tennis racket case, I had to laugh, as a few people already had the same idea, if you look at the question and answer section.

    I have to be careful if I have anything firearms related in my vehicle if I go into Massachusetts, hidden or not.

  6. I think that discreet transport is an excellent reason to use a takedown like a Ruger 10/22 or PC-9. Yes, they are not rifle caliber but at short range with decent aim they can still get the job done.

    If you can find one, Field Hockey backpacks have a long sleeve designed for a field hockey stick that will fit an AR quite well.

    As Unidentified mentioned above, starting with a smaller magazine can help with handling. There are many places in history where even armies have used lower capacity magazines for ease of handling – Examples: Soviet tank crews not only used short barrel AK variants, they also typically were issued 20 round magazines. The VZ-61 Skorpion machine pistol only fit in the holster with a 10 round magazine, the magazine pouches all carried 20 rounders for reloads.

  7. I have thought about this a lot. The one thing you don't stress enough is attractiveness to theft. All of the things you mention, backpacks, tools, sporting equipment, musical instrument cases, are very attractive to the smash and grab thief. Even if you plan to carry it wherever you go, there will inevitably be places you 'just run into on your way home' where you prefer to leave it in the back. Visible. Personally I am focusing on keeping one out of sight…even if it means I have to clean out under the rear seat (gag).

  8. @Off The Wall: Single point slings are useful in some tactical circumstances, but they're not designed for long-term carry of the firearm. In fact, for that purpose, they're rather uncomfortable. That's why I prefer a two-point sling.

  9. Whenever using sports cases or any other type of case secure it with a cable lock or chain to prevent smash and grab. Most theives will not take time to try to open a case and look through it. Run the cable through a seat support and put the case as low as possible to the floor covering it with a jacket or a blanket. Most smash and grab theives do not carry any type of cutting device such as bolt cutters or cable cutters. And when possible bring the case into your home or hotel rather than leave it in the car.

  10. I bought the Savior "guitar" case from Amazon in May and it was not expensive at all, I think I paid $150 for it and, with Prime shipping, had it 2 days later.

    It came with 3 foam inserts so I can customize it 2 different ways and still leave the middle foam insert intact as a backing.

    I covered it with travel and musical stickers (see some of the examples on Amazon) and have flown with it to multiple states over the past 2 months with zero issues.

    The only questions I've ever had were about musical things and, since I happen to play a guitar, I was easily able to fend off casual inquiries.

    I usually carry my DPMS rifle (attached EOtech RDS/3x combo) with three 30-rd mags, along with my Glock 43 and 3 mags for that, and lay the rifle sling across the top of it. I still have room for more foam cut-outs for other things like my laser rangefinder.

    The other configuration I've done is for my PTR91/ACOG and a Glock 22, along with several mags for both.

    For casual range trips/other things on a day-to-day basis, I have a backpack-style Gibson Guitars soft case, or my SBR in an Arcteryx day pack. Both look like I'm going to band practice or the mall; no one needs to know what I own or what I'm doing with it.

  11. I've taken a different path. I went with a .22LR. I wanted a Ruger Charger but couldn't find one, so I built my own on a
    Brownells receiver, with Ruger parts and a Whistle Pig 6" barrel. The Hera folder is steel, but it's a lot less expense than a LAW Tactical. I used a PMAC chassis and a KAK Shockwave Blade brace. The whole thing fits in a book bag, with a doubled (20 rounds total) mag in place. Small, light, quick and accurate. Faster and more accurate than my Glock, at least in my hands. It can be with me in the vehicle and can stay with me. If I run into an Antifa roadblock, a trunk gun might as well be in the safe at home. My Glock and this .22 are becoming constant companions. Pics are up on a forum thread, post #63, on page 7.


  12. The Kel-tec Sub-2000 set up for Glock mags will fit darn near anywhere when folded, mounts for red dots that allow it to fold are available, and pairs well with a Glock 9 MM sidearm…. YMMV. But a decent pack will hold carbine, mags and a good IFAK or other med gear.

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