The history of calling “Shotgun” goes back to the days of covered wagons and the American 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. Stagecoach guards rode shotgun – they just didn’t call it that in the 1880s, as far as anyone has yet discovered.
The term “riding shotgun” to refer to the guard sitting next to the driver doesn’t emerge from the Old West but rather from movies and TV shows about the Old West.
The earliest usage we’ve found in pulp fiction occurs in the March 27, 1921 issue of the Washington Post’s “Magazine of Fiction,” in a story entitled “The Fighting Fool” by Dane Coolidge (Page 6). The opening lines are: “Lum Martin!” shouted McMonagle, owner of the Cow Ranch saloon, waving his finger in front of Benson’s face, “that’s the man – Lum Martin! He’s ridin’ shotgun for Wells Fargo – or was until last week – and he’s over in my saloon right now, playin’ solitaire!”
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.