I have seen more and more online ads promoting gun-retention “holster” products designed to mount directly to the dashboard of a car. I think these car holster products are dangerous, and overall poor choices for several practical and tactical reasons.
As you can see in the photo, there are a few different products and methods people use.
Car Holsters are a Bad Idea:
Some products are nothing more than a super-strong magnet that gets attached to something inside the vehicle. Others are mounts that you can connect your holster to; others have a holster already attached to the device.
Finally, I have seen some products that use a holster attached to the seat or steering column by nylon straps. And one that I am not sure if it is a joke or actual product is a “holster” that fits into the cup holder inside your vehicle.
Your car is not a holster, nor is it a gun safe.
Here are 6 reasons these products are bad news.
Increased Administrative Handling:
People don't typically have a negligent discharge when the gun is left alone and in the holster. However, the more times you handle the gun, the greater the potential for a negligent discharge. Add to that, you may be holstering, unholstering, loading, or unloading in the confines of a vehicle. Removing the gun from your person and putting it in a car holster just adds risk and introduces a potential failure point that is entirely unnecessary.
Theft From Vehicle:
Criminals are getting guns in record numbers by stealing them out of vehicles. Law enforcement from across the country reports that the number of firearms stolen from vehicles is climbing year over year. A 2016 post in the Atlantic reported that data showed there might be around 600,000 guns stolen from cars each year! Here is a screenshot of a chart listing the top 15 cities for thefts of guns.
It is safe to say that thieves would not have stolen at least a percentage of these guns had the owner not been forced to leave the gun in the car to enter a “gun-free” zone. It is impossible to say how many, Law Enforcement doesn't track data like that. But it is ironic that the very laws designed to “safeguard the public” aid in criminals getting their hands on free guns.
However, as gun owners, we can mitigate this risk a bit. First, it makes sense to have a handgun vault inside your vehicle. Typically these vaults are big enough for one handgun.
You can mount it to something substantial inside the trunk or cargo area. Or you may choose to use a steel cable wrapped around the base of the front seat. Neither one of these will stop a motivated thief. However, if it is out of sight and requires a bit of work, you probably kept the typical smash and grab criminal from getting a free gun.
Another consideration is not to leave the gun in the vehicle overnight. Even if you park the car in your driveway, don't leave your gun inside the vehicle. Vaults are great for when you must leave the gun in the car. However, if you're not forced to leave the gun in the car, don't.
Don't Have it on You When You Need It:
I can think of countless scenarios that would cause someone to get out of their vehicle and not take their gun with them. It may be intentional, like “I'm just getting out for a second to pump gas, I'll leave my gun in the car “holster.” Or unintentional, “I'm just running into the gas station to grab a coffee.” In either case, you may need the gun and not be able to retrieve it in time.
Additionally, criminals will often use minor traffic collisions to get someone to jump out of their car to inspect for damage and then rob or carjack the person. You're probably not going to be in the frame of mind to grab your gun if someone bumps you from behind and gets out of their car.
Keep the gun on you. If you can't sit in the car comfortably with the gun holstered, experiment with different carry positions. Adjust your holster and look at how you can carry the gun on your person, even on long rides. I find the appendix position is the most comfortable and provides the best access to the firearm.
Lest you think that you will always remember to grab your firearm, I will remind you that people have left their children inside vehicles. Of course, our instinct is to say, I would never do it. That's why when it happens we call it an accident or negligence, not an intentional act.
The forces involved in even moderate traffic collisions are great. It always a good idea to try and not have heavy, items loose inside the vehicle. I learned this the hard way when My truck flipped as I traveled to a friend's house to change their vehicle's oil. I had a small toolbox in the cab with me. I was injured in the crash but also had some head injuries from flying wrenches and tools.
You certainly don't want your gun flying around inside the vehicle. Furthermore, sometimes debris from cars in a crash can stretch out a few hundred yards. You may never find your gun or only get it back once someone else finds it and turns it into the police.
Unauthorized Access by Children:
Kids are curious, and no matter how much you tell them not to touch a loaded gun, they still might. It isn't the kids' responsibility to be safe around guns, although they should. It is the gun owner's responsibility to ensure a child doesn't access the gun, period. A simple google search will return results like this one where a child shot his sister after finding a loaded gun inside the car.
Sometimes these guns aren't on car mount holsters; instead, a child retrieves the gun from a bag inside the car. In one instance, a mother who had her gun in her purse was driving when her child accessed the purse in the vehicle's back seat area. The child discharged the firearm.
Keep the gun on you, and have positive control of it at all times.
Law Enforcement Interactions:
Lastly, having a gun mounted somewhere inside the vehicle may complicate the interaction with law enforcement during a traffic stop. Duty to Inform law notwithstanding, an exposed firearm may inject unnecessary tension into the incident. Sure, carrying a gun in a holster under a t-shirt can still be accessed quickly, but an exposed gun, especially when mounted where one may put their hands naturally, could be an issue.
If I haven't convinced you that carrying the gun on your person is ALWAYS the better approach, check out Season 2, Episode 10 of the Concealed Carry Podcast, where we discuss this topic. Again, holsters for cars are just not a good idea. Instead, train and learn how to draw while seated in the vehicle. You may find out your method of carrying makes this nearly impossible (talking about small of back primarily.) Other carry positions are doable with some practice. Appendix carry facilitates the best access. And yes, with a properly adjusted holster, it is comfortable.
Also, if you are looking for a comprehensive course on using your handgun in and around your vehicle, check out our Vehicle Firearm Tactics Course.