Shotgun Rules  

Introduction to Shotgun

The Theory
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.

The History
The history of calling "Shotgun" goes back to the days of covered wagons and the Wild West. On a trip across the plains, the driver of a wagon would hold the reins of his horse team and concentrate on driving. This left him and the occupants of his wagon susceptible to sneak attacks from bandits and thieves. To avoid this atrocious circumstance it became necessary for one person to sit next to the driver with a shotgun and fend off the enemy.

In modern times, defending against bandits is no longer the main objective of riding Shotgun, but the ritual of calling Shotgun has evolved into a pre-driving ritual that is experienced before almost every car ride in America and around the world. After considering the obvious evolution that Shotgun has already experienced, we ask you to consider Shotgun a living entity and be aware that it is always changing for the better good of society.

Shotgun Basics
The following rules have been created through many years of exploring the ritual of Shotgun and are designed with the idea of fairness to all potential occupants of a vehicles as the main priority. These are also the most complete and comprehensive Shotgun rules available today.

You Must Say The Word "Shotgun"
You must say the word "Shotgun" to stake your claim on Shotgun. This must be done clearly and loud enough so that at least one other to-be occupant of the vehicle can hear you. No variations of this word are acceptable. Alternatively, you may claim Shotgun by using the Shotgun Rules App (see below). After you have legally called Shotgun, you have exclusive rights to Shotgun for that ride. However, if no one verifies your Shotgun call, it is still fair game for everyone.

The Deed Must Be Done Before Shotgun May Be Called
For these rules to work properly, it is essential that you understand and accept the concept of the "Deed." Shotgun may only be called after the "Deed is Done." Simply stated, the Deed is any activity or objective that directly precedes the ride in the automobile. The Deed can be anything, ranging from a stop at a friend's house, to a shopping trip at the mall, to frequenting a roadside rest-stop on an Interstate highway. Accepting the concept of the "Deed" is critically important because it establishes a Shotgun-calling time frame that ensures everyone has an equal chance of recognizing when to call Shotgun.

***There is no crime greater than calling Shotgun on Monday in reference to a ride to the concert on Friday. Some people choose to play this way, and they are fools.

You Must Be Outside To Call Shotgun
If the Deed takes place indoors, the Deed is considered done after you have left the building in which the Deed took place. All passengers need not have exited the building, but someone must hear you call Shotgun.

Some people choose to use a variation of this rule and require that all occupants be out of the building before Shotgun can be called. This does not work. It leads to everyone calling Shotgun at the same time and often ends in physical violence.

The Shotgun Rules App
By installing our FREE Shotgun Rules App, you can gain the power and privilege of legally calling Shotgun in advance of the intended automobile ride, even if you are still inside, or if the Deed is not yet done, or if any other requirements for verbally calling Shotgun have not been met. Simply download the Shotgun Rules App on your phone and push the Shotgun button. A message can be sent (via Twitter, Facebook, or Text) to each of the other occupants notifying them that you have legitimately claimed Shotgun pursuant to The Official Shotgun Rules. If they complain, simply reference this rule from the app on your phone and tell them to pack sand.

You will see two clocks after you call Shotgun via the app: the Call Time and the Expiration Timer. While the Expiration Timer is counting down, your call remains valid, but once it stops your call is worthless. Simply present your running app timer to the other riders in the group to claim Shotgun. An app call always overrides a verbal call if the Expiration Timer on your app is still running. If two or more players called Shotgun via the app, Shotgun goes to whoever has the earliest active Call Time. The Shotgun Rules App comes loaded with two minutes on the Expiration Timer. If you want to call Shotgun even earlier (up to 45 minutes before the car ride), you can purchase timer extensions in the app.

Be careful not to call Shotgun via the app too far advance, as you will have to call Shotgun again if your timer expires. If your friends have also downloaded the Shotgun Rules App, strategies will develop for claiming Shotgun at precisely the right moment. And depending on how much the driver of the car likes you, he may just take his time unlocking the car - thus enabling a form of the Shotgun Dictatorship.

The Shotgun Gaper
Gapers (gey-pers) are people who prioritize Shotgun much more than a normal human being. These people will alter their usual behavior and even undermine their own ethics in order to gain the rights to Shotgun. They do this through legal means, however - such as sprinting for an exit - and therefore they cannot be Voided (see below). The term Gaper was coined after the most infamous Gaper of all, Will Henderson, rode Shotgun for 2 months straight. The advantage to being a Shotgun Gaper, of course, is that you always get Shotgun. Being a Shotgun Gaper, however, is frowned upon.

If you know any Gapers and disapprove of their gaping ways, visit our Gaper page. There you will find tips and tactics to help you beat the Gaper at their own game. We also strongly recommend you download our FREE Shotgun Rules App which will grant you the ability to call Shotgun in advance of the Gaper.

Whenever you break a Shotgun rule as stated in this guide, you may be "voided" from receiving Shotgun privileges for that ride. Although somewhat discretionary, voiding automatically applies if you call Shotgun while indoors, if you do not have your shoes on, or if you display any other blatant disregard for Shotgun protocol. In circumstances of minor Shotgun rules infractions, voiding may not need to be exercised. Voiding only applies for the ride directly after the voiding has occurred, and after that ride you may regain full Shotgun privileges. Once someone has been voided, then all of the other passengers are free to once again call Shotgun in the correct manner.

Shotgun Rules App
Are you enjoying reading these rules? Help support this website by downloading the Shotgun Rules App. It's FREE, so do it now!

Ancillary Rules

Bare Feet
Since you must be outside to call Shotgun, some people will simply grab their shoes, jump outside, and call Shotgun before putting their shoes on. This has been deemed Gaping, and is not a legal procedure. You must have your shoes on (if you choose to wear any) before you may call Shotgun.

If you call Shotgun verbally and then go back inside for some reason, you must re-call Shotgun after leaving the building. After you have re-entered the building, Shotgun is once again fair game to all other passengers.

When The Deed Is Outdoors
If the Deed takes place outdoors, which it often does, the completion of the Deed must be agreed upon when Shotgun is called. Any disputes over the completion of the Deed can be easily settled with a quick round of Rock, Paper, Scissors.

In the situation of the Deed being a hike or other outdoor activity, you may not call Shotgun until the automobile is within your sight. This rule should be used when the passengers are outside for a long time and have traveled long distances from the car, as with a day of snow skiing.

Hand On Door
Shotgun can no longer be called once someone's hand is holding the shotgun door handle. This officially stakes their claim to Shotgun and calling it at this time is simply redundant. This is one scenario where a person does not actually have to say Shotgun to get the seat. The importance of this rule is that no one has to be around for you to stake your claim to Shotgun, whereas usually one other would-be occupant would have to be present for you to call it.

Sit Down
If you manage to sit in Shotgun before anyone has called it, you keep the position even if someone else calls Shotgun after you are seated. This is very similar to the Hand on Door rule where you do not actually have to say Shotgun, nor does anyone else have to be present, for you to claim it.

The Balk
This rule is applied when you have called Shotgun and are waiting for the doors to be unlocked. If you lift the handle while the doors are being unlocked and therefore cause the Shotgun door to remain locked, then you are Voided for that ride. Once someone has balked Shotgun becomes available for the other passengers to call.

If you enter a garage that is connected to a house or building without having to go outside, then you may call Shotgun as soon as you enter the garage. This only applies to small attached garages. Parking structures and detached garages are always considered to be outdoors, even if they are underground.

In the situation where a group of people are traveling in multiple cars, you must specify which car you are calling Shotgun for. For example: if two drivers are named "Bob" and "Sue", then someone must say "Shotgun Bob" or "Shotgun Sue" depending on which car they would like to ride in.

Shotgun Abandonment
If the Shotgun rider exits the vehicle then Shotgun becomes available to the remaining passengers as soon as the erstwhile Shotgun rider has opened the door to exit. Once Shotgun is available, you must call Shotgun before the other occupants. In this scenario, it is common for the other occupants to all call Shotgun at once. If this happens, a quick game of Rock, Paper, Scissors is often the easiest way to solve the problem.

Exception: If the Shotgun rider abandons his seat to do a Deed for the driver, such as purchasing BIGS Sunflower Seeds or pumping gas, then that person retains Shotgun.

No Seatback
A popular residential variation of the Shotgun ritual is to call "Seatback" when getting up from a prized seat on a couch to go grab an ice-cold beer or to drain a now-warm beer into the toilet. Unfortunately, Seatback Rules cannot be mixed with Shotgun Rules, and calling Seatback in an attempt to retain Shotgun privileges in a car has been adjudged to be unfair, and is therefore a banned practice.

No Blitz
Some people include an unpopular rule in their Shotgun practice whereby "Blitz" or "Laser" can be called, at which point a free-for-all to obtain Shotgun is initiated, and whoever manages to physically gain control of the Shotgun seat is declared the winner.

There are two reasons to refuse accepting this style of play. First, it negates all other rules and therefore defeats the whole purpose of having rules by which to call Shotgun. And second, Shotgun is intended to be a game of wits, not brawn.

Alternate Seats
Once the Shotgun seat has been called by someone, the other less prestigious seats in the car may be claimed using the same rules as calling Shotgun. For example: you can say "back-right" or "window". In addition, you may also call negations, such as "not back-center" which would put you in any seat except for "back-center."

(There is popular nickname for the "back-center" position in a car that some might consider vulgar, but since this a family-oriented publication, you will have to Google it to find out what it is.)

Shotgun Dictatorship
Many times the Shotgun Council of Elders has been petitioned to institute a Shotgun Override rule, allowing the driver of the car to negate a valid Shotgun call. This is a bad rule that undermines the whole purpose of calling Shotgun in the first place and it makes the game subjective. A driver override rule is tantamount to a Shotgun Dictatorship and should not be tolerated anywhere, except possibly in North Korea.

The Mule
If you choose to remain in the automobile while the other passengers accomplish their deed, you may retain full rights to Shotgun. Often times not everyone needs to go inside when completing menial Deeds. This rule can be abused however if a person is willing to wait in the car for extensive periods of time in order to retain the rights to Shotgun. This type of person is considered a Shotgun Gaper.

If a discrepancy occurs (and they commonly do) over who rightfully gets Shotgun, it shall be settled with a single game of Rock, Paper, Scissors. A common application of this procedure takes place after two people call Shotgun at the exact same time. Test your Rock, Paper, Scissors prowess by playing against the computer. Also, download the Shotgun Rules App to help settle disputes on the road.

New Rules
Because Shotgun is a living entity and is constantly evolving for the greater benefit of mankind, new rules need to be created regularly. Anyone is welcome to implement their own rule if the situation arises. New rules often need to be created following a major discrepancy. The important thing to remember about this process is that the new rule does not take effect until the next car ride.

We try to keep these Official Shotgun Rules as simple and straightforward as possible. As with all things, simpler is usually better. If you have a new rule (or a modification to an existing rule) that you would like to propose, we would love to hear it.

Email us your rule ideas or contact us on Twitter @TheShotgunRules.

Responsibilities of Riding Shotgun
Calling Shotgun may seem like fun and games, but just like in the days of covered wagons, there are serious responsibilities that come with the sacred privilege of occupying this seat. Although Shotgun riders typically no longer carry real shotguns (except in Texas), it is still their responsibility to help protect the other passengers from harm. This is accomplished by executing the following duties:

The Sentinel
Shotgun riders are required to remain aware and alert to surrounding traffic and to warn the driver if he spots danger or a potential accident. This is especially important when there are many people in the car, which can cause the driver to become easily distracted. In situations of imminent disaster, the standard warning phrase to blurt out is, "FIERY DEATH!"

The Navigator
Shotgun riders are responsible for navigation to the destination. This responsibility includes reading the map, watching for exits, and operating the GPS. Poor navigation by the Shotgun rider will result in loss of Shotgun privileges.

In cases of long journeys, Shotgun riders must keep the driver awake. This means that the Shotgun rider must not sleep himself. If sleep is needed, the Shotgun rider must move to the back and let someone else take the Shotgun seat.

The Churro
When patronizing a fast food drive-thru, the Shotgun rider must proactively unwrap and prepare the driver's food so that it can be eaten with minimal driving distraction. In cases of heavy traffic, it might even be necessary to hand feed french fries or hot churros to the driver. After engaging in this potentially emasculating behavior, however, the Shotgun rider will probably not let the driver order french fries or churros ever again.

Text by Proxy
If the Shotgun rider sees the driver texting and driving, he must scold the driver, take the cell phone away, and assume texting responsibilities. Drivers can only text by proxy through the Shotgun rider.

The DJ
The Shotgun rider is responsible for controlling music selection and volume and he is expected to be conscientious of the other riders preferences. Just as the driver may not institute a Shotgun Dictatorship, the Shotgun rider may not exercise a music dictatorship.

Although the Shotgun rules have been created with ultimate fairness in mind, there are situations where exceptions to the standard rules need to be implemented.

I Love My Mommy
Moms automatically get shotgun, period. If you make your mom sit in the back seat, you are a bad person.

Hitchhikers cannot call Shotgun. They should be happy just to have a ride, and calling Shotgun in this situation is disrespectful. With this being said, there are scenarios in which you might prefer for your new companion sit up front. If said companion looks like the mangy, stabbin' kind of hitchhiker, you're better off with him riding Shotgun so that he cannot jump you from behind the driver's seat. Conversely, if he is the enlightened, peripatetic-wanderer kind of hitchhiker, he might offer you some type of gift or enlightenment for picking him up and you might honor him by inviting him to ride Shotgun.

The Giraffe
If one of the riders of an automobile is extremely tall, your group of friends should consider granting that rider special Shotgun privileges. God has given this person a genetic gift/curse and forcing him in the back of a Subaru Justy could upset our world's karmic balance. Considerations for the Giraffe designation are ultimately subjective and should depend on just how tall the person is and just how small the back seats are. If you are the tall person, and your co-passengers won't give you Shotgun, you should get some new friends, or install the Shotgun Rules App on your phone to give you the upper hand.

Significant Others
If a significant other (SO) is included in the group of automobile passengers and this person is the SO or potential SO of the driver, then they get automatic Shotgun privileges.

Multiple Calls
There is a rare exception where more than one person may have rightfully called Shotgun. This happens when multiple groups of people are meeting at a car and both groups had someone claim Shotgun. If it can not be determined who made the call first, then the only fair way to settle the dispute is with Rock, Paper, Scissors.

Owner-Driver Switch
If someone is driving an automobile other than its owner and the owner becomes a passenger, then the owner automatically gets Shotgun. When applied, this rule shows respect to the owner of the car.

The Long Haul
The rules listed above have been designed around the shorter trip (less than 1 hour). For longer journeys it is best not to use these rules because the incentives to be a Gaper are too great. Rather, you should divide Shotgun equally among those who want it.

Shotgun Rules App
Don't forget to download the FREE Shotgun Rules App which contains the full text from the website, and grants you the ability to call Shotgun before your Gaping cohorts even consider it. You'll be the envy of all your peers.


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