Somewhat airborne and thoroughly muddy, the Dodge pickup raced through the Alabama swamp like a thoroughbred at the Derby. A pair of earmuffs went crashing to the floor, and my rifle banged against the dash.
"You'd better hold onto that gun," said Mark Ezell, turning the wheel toward a deep rut in a hard left turn. "It's liable to get bumped off out here."
Grinning at the adventure ensuing, I answered, "I'm not worried about that. It's pretty tough."
I'd just arrived in Lisman, Alabama, for a late-summer hog hunt with my friends at Pushmataha Plantation. After a recent phone call from Mark, who owns the operation, it was obvious his whitetail outfit was under duress, thanks to an ever-increasing feral hog population. We were on a mission to eradicate some of the porkers during the pre-dawn hours.
In addition to an assortment of high-tech semi-auto rifles outfitted with thermal optics, I'd also decided to bring along a truck gun. I knew we'd be hammering some low-country dirt roads to bait several hog holes back in the swamp, and I needed a tough and compact rig to keep alongside me during the day . . . just in case.
I didn't lose any sleep before reaching for the Browning BAR MK3 DBM. With an 18" barrel and detachable 10-round magazine, this sub-7-pound .308 Win. rifle is lean and mean. Because of its shortened overall length and weatherproof design, I'd categorize the MK3 as a viable member of the "brush gun" or "ranch rifle" club, as it's built to perform best at close range in rough conditions. Plus, it holds half a box of ammunition in a steel magazine: a tough, well-made steel magazine that feeds reliably. After all, the mechanism by which your ammunition is held and then fed into the action should be built to last. This one is.
Hunters and ranchers who've come to love truck guns have long since sung their praises, and for good reason. There's something to be said for a rig that's rugged enough to toss in the shotgun seat and forget about. Leave your windows down on a dirt road? Don't worry about the dust on that composite stock. Is that a coyote skirting across the field? Shoot him! Cowboys didn't tote carbines in their horse scabbards just for style. The best guns have utility. Where legal, everyone who spends time exploring or managing hunting land should have a rifle in tow.
Don't get me wrong — this genre of rifles isn't just for run-and-gun situations. Such tools also make excellent close-quarters deer rifles. Whether hunting in dense woodlands or wiry brier thickets, anyone can benefit from a lightweight, compact rifle that's capable of packing a punch. The best short-barrel repeaters fear no brush country, especially when paired with the right optic. Personally, I prefer a low-profile scope with a smaller objective lens.
Choosing the right scope for a ranch gun can be daunting, especially if you're accustomed to buying glass in the 40-50mm objective range. Shown here, the Leupold VX-5HD 1-5x24mm is a terrific option for easy handling and accurate shooting. It's designed to better utilize the available light through the Twilight Max Light Management system, which is great for spotting game at dusk and dawn, and/or in heavy cover. Plus, the new CDS-ZL2 elevation turret locks in place to hold your zero. That kind of dependability is needed in a gun that isn't going to receive much tender loving care.
When I outfitted my truck gun, I'd first envisioned grizzle-haired swamp boars finding the center of the crosshairs. But now I await the chance to tote it to an oak stand on a crisp November morning: one of those spots where the deer seem to surprise you when they appear.
Rifle: Browning BAR MK3 DBM
This compact .308 Win. is the newest addition to the popular BAR rifle lineup. The proven semi-automatic action allows for fast follow-up shots, while the detachable box magazine holds 10 rounds of ammunition. The 18" hammer-forged barrel delivers great accuracy, with the composite stock and alloy receiver cutting total weight to just over 6.5 pounds.
Scope: Leupold VX-5HD 1-5x24mm CDS-ZL2