Turnbuckles are essential pieces of hardware in truck camper ownership. They act as the “middleman,” securing the truck camper to the tie-down system of the truck. While simple chain and turnbuckle systems are cheap and work well enough in securing your camper to your truck, it’s best to go with a spring-loaded turnbuckle system that can accommodate external forces encountered while you’re on the road. It’s also best to go with a truck camper turnbuckle with a mechanism that is quick and easy to use with a built-in “memory.” Without a doubt, one of the best turnbuckle systems you can buy in the market today is the FastGun by Torklift International. This is a review of the Torklift FastGun truck camper turnbuckle.
Manufactured by Torklift International based in Kent, Washington, the FastGun attractive and well-made. Sold in packs of two, each turnbuckle is precision made from 100 percent stainless steel. Better yet, the FastGun is made in the USA and comes with Torklift’s legendary lifetime guarantee. It can be purchased in a high-impact, a powder-coated white, an attractive hammertone gray, or a polished stainless steel. The turnbuckle is also versatile and can be used with either bed-mounted tie-down systems like those made by Happijac or frame-mounted systems like those offered by Torklift. Some assembly for each FastGun is required out of the box, but doesn’t take more than 10 to 15 minutes for each. Four FastGuns, two for the front, and two for the back, are required to fully secure your camper to your truck. A set of four will set you back about $425.
The Torklift FastGun is quick and easy to install. What used to take several minutes to install with old turnbuckle systems now takes only a few seconds with the FastGun. No tools are needed to assemble the FastGun nor are any tools required to install it. The FastGuns come with a sticker to identify where each was used, so you don’t have to manually adjust the length each time you use them. The quick disconnect feature also makes the task of leveling your camper at your campsite a snap by allowing use of your electric jacks to level your camper while the camper is still on the truck. This avoids the hassle of using leveling blocks under your tires. The quick disconnect feature also comes in handy at the gas station in the event that the driver side front turnbuckle is blocking access to your fuel fill door.
An important feature and benefit of the Torklift FastGun is the built-in spring-loaded mechanism. The problem with basic turnbuckle systems—like those used by truckers—is that they have no “give” in them. With these a pothole or bump at high speed can bend or damage a tie-down or yank the eye-bolt from the frame of the camper. We’ve seen the result of such mishaps, and the damage isn’t pretty, especially when the damage occurs to the truck camper’s frame. In contrast with these older, archaic systems, the FastGun’s spring-loaded mechanism has enough give to respond to the external forces encountered on the road, yet it still provides enough strength to keep the camper secure even during a rollover accident. It’s a fine balance that Torklift engineers have successfully been able to achieve.
What have we learned with years of FastGun use? First, getting the correct amount of tension can be a bit of a challenge at first. Over tightening and under tightening the FastGuns can create problems. Too much tension can result in damage to either your FastGuns or to your rig, while too little tension can allow your camper to shift around in the bed of your truck while on the road. Fortunately, the FastGuns have a patented, built-in feature called the tension indicator to help get things right. This indicator is nothing more than a rubber “O” ring that you cinch up to the bottom of the FastGun’s housing before locking the lever down. A gap of 1/4-inch between the “O” ring and housing after clamping the lever down indicates that the correct amount of tension has been applied.
Moreover, the FastGun instructions provide another way to dial-in the correct amount of tension by using the “lock down hole.” If half of the hole is blocked before locking the lever down then supposedly you have the correct amount of tension. This approach sounds simple enough, but, honestly, we haven’t had much luck with it. The way we see it, the lever can be manipulated to cover half of the hole or not. How much tension do you apply to cover half of the lock down hole? None? A little? A lot? The directions don’t really say. Other FastGun owners, however, use this method all of the time to get the right amount of tension, so you should give it a try and see if it works for you.
Another thing we’ve learned is that periodic cleaning and oiling of the FastGuns is required. Otherwise, you’ll get the dreaded and annoying “FastGun Squeak.” If you live in hot and humid areas and/or drive and camp in dusty conditions, then this issue will invariably raise its ugly head when driving. Apparently, the squeak comes from the square nut and spring assembly that the bottom rod screws into. You’ll notice this squeak especially on bumpy or uneven road surfaces as the bottom rod moves up and down inside the housing. Dissassembly of the FastGun, cleaning, and some grease or 3-in-1 oil will take care of this problem. At a minimum, we recommend disassembly and cleaning each spring. The Torklift website outlines additional things you can do to clean and maintain your FastGuns for optimum performance.
Finally, some caution is warranted when removing the spring-loaded FastGuns from your camper. The springs are under about 300 pounds of pressure, so make sure your fingers are clear from the lever handle when removing the FastGun or you might hurt a finger or your hand as the lever releases. It isn’t a major safety issue, but one of which you need to be aware. We just learned that Torklift is developing a new handle for the FastGun, which addresses this safety issue. The new lever handle, we’re told, is solid stainless steel rather than a loop so there’s no way for a finger to get caught in it as it releases. This is great news and shows how much Torklift is on the ball when it comes to quality and safety.
So is a complete set of Torklift FastGuns worth the $425 price tag? That’s up to you to decide. For us, it was a no-brainer. You can certainly spend a lot less money for a simple chain and turnbuckle system like truckers use, but the excessive time it takes to install and the risks it imposes on your $50,000 truck camper aren’t worth it. In our opinion, it doesn’t make sense to go cheap on a turnbuckle system after spending five figures for a modern, well-equipped truck camper. So if you’re looking for the best turnbuckle on the market, go with the Torklift International FastGun. The quality of construction, ease of use, and lifetime warranty of this American-made product make it a great value and well worth the extra cost. What would we rate this product? On a scale of 1 to 5 with 1 being the lowest and 5 being the highest, we give the Torklift International FastGun an enthusiastic rating of 5 stars. It’s a great product.