Sunday, April 20, 2008

Riding, Calling Shotgun: History, Rules and More

Everything You'd Ever Want to Know:
Riding Shotgun

Jed always rode shotgun


How many car trips have begun with that memorable word? The correct answer is undoubtedly "countless" or "how many stars are in the sky?"

This article concerns all things riding shotgun: definition, history, origin, rights, privileges, duties and rules.


Just so there's no disputes about the definition of 'shotgun', here's a good one:
The term "Shotgun" refers to the front passenger seat of an automobile. "Calling Shotgun" is the act of claiming the position of Shotgun for one's self. As this position is the most coveted of all positions when riding in a car, the following list of rules has been created to ensure that Shotgun can be acquired in a fair and equitable manner by any passenger of an automobile.

For readers wanting a second opinion, here's the Wikipedia version
To ride shotgun is to sit in the front passenger seat when riding a car or other vehicle, a phrase commonly heard in the United States, Canada, New Zealand and Australia. Due to the influence of American popular culture it is also heard in several European countries such as Iceland, Ireland, Denmark and the United Kingdom, as well as other countries with large English-speaking populations such as South Africa and Israel.


Where did the term "riding shotgun" originate?

The first known reference to "riding shotgun" in print occurred in Western pulp fiction in the March 27, 1921 issue of the Washington Post's "Magazine of Fiction," in a story entitled "The Fighting Fool" by Dane Coolidge. It was used to refer to riding as an armed guard in the front of a stagecoach, next to the driver (this would usually have been on the left, as stage drivers traditionally sat on the right, near the brake).

Historians have been unable to find a use of the term "riding shotgun" in the actual time of the Old West, when the terminology actually used was riding as "shotgun messenger." The use of the phrase in print to refer to automobiles occurred in 1954 simultaneously with the TV series Gunsmoke, which became extremely popular, and used the terminology of riding shotgun nearly weekly.


There are many local variations of the rules below. But the basic rules, like truth, beauty and hope, always remain the same. It's good to get the ground and local rules in place before any important--or incidental--trip.

of Calling Shotgun

1) The first person to yell "SHOTGUN" gets to ride in the front seat.
2) The remaining back seats may be divvied up in the same manner by being the first to call "back right seat", etc..
3) The word "shotgun" must be loud enough to be heard by at least one witness. If no witness is to be found, or in case of a tie, the driver has the final word. After all, it is most likely his car. (note: if it isn't his car, and the owner is present, the owner's decision is final. Owner must be sober, however, or he will defer his judgment to the driver.)
4) Early calls are strictly prohibited. All occupants of the vehicle (including the driver) must be outside of the building and directly on the way to the vehicle before shotgun may be called. Under no circumstances may a person call shotgun inside a building. For sake of simplicity, a garage is considered to be outside. Parking structures and detached garages are always considered as being outdoors, even if they are underground.
5) A person may only call shotgun for one way of a trip. Shotgun can never be called while inside a vehicle or still technically on the way to the first location. For example, one can not get out of a vehicle and call Shotgun for the return journey.
6) Being as how everyone is created equal, men have the same right as women to the front seat of the car. i.e. women don't own the front seat.
7) One is allowed to ride shotgun as many times as he can call it, but for himself only. No one can call shotgun for their slower friend, unless the friend has a speech or mental handicap that prevents them from calling it for themselves.
8) The driver has final say in all ties and disputes. The driver has the right to suspend or remove all shotgun privileges from one or more persons.

Read the rest of "Riding Shotgun: Rules, History, Duties of Riding Shotgun" at

by Mondoreb
* Riding Shotgun: Rules, History, Duties of Riding Shotgun

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