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How to Call Shotgun: The Official Rules to Nabbing the Passenger Seat

by recycler on April 5, 2011


There are many myths about calling ‘Shotgun’ and people will refer to any one of these myths in order to negate your own legitimate claims to the front passenger seat of the car, but recycler.com’s got your back and knows you belong up front. Below you will find the Official Rules to calling Shotgun, once and for all.


The History of Shotgun: Respect the Front Seat

Calling Shotgun to sit in front, beside the driver, has some deep and meaningful history. It is accepted that the term dates back to when cars weren’t even invented yet and people were kyoodling around in wagons. These wagons, in the Wild Wild West, were prone to attacks from thieves, so the person next to the wagon operator carried a shotgun or rifle and it was his job to protect the moving wagon from threats. Big deal kind of stuff, we’re dealing with.

So next time you call shotgun, think about your responsibilities first! If you are going to make a claim for the seat, all the legroom and easy access to climate control and the radio tuner, be sure you can handle the responsibilities. Riding shotgun is a sacred role, entrusted to you by the driver. It’s not for napping!

How to Call Shotgun: Myths Put to Bed

Successfully calling Shotgun takes patience, wherewithal, and a little stubbornness. Now, a lot of people will try to make the rules more complex than they really are, usually after you have already bested them on the battlefield. Once you have made claims to the seat, or “dibs”, a defeated opponent will lie, cheat and beg to usurp your assistant captain’s throne. They will say the car needs to be in sight first, or that it can’t be called after the car is in sight, or that an earlier ‘Shotgun’ claim lasts all day, or even that you can’t call Shotgun once someone is clearly headed to the front passenger door. This is all balderdash. There are three basic rules to when you can call shotgun (with a few amendments):

1. You must be leaving wherever it is you are located and en route to the vehicle. Once the first motion to the car is made (if indoors; see Rule #2), shotgun can be called.

1a. “Shotgun” must be said aloud, audible for at least one other person in the traveling party, and pronounced clearly in its entirety.

1b. If two or more persons call Shotgun at the same time, the person who says it again will win the claim. If it is again a tie, it goes again to the person who says it next, and so on.

2. If you are indoors, you cannot call shotgun until you leave the edifice and are completely out of doors.

2a. The entire party does not need to be out of doors, only the person calling Shotgun.

3. You cannot call Shotgun once a hand has made contact with the front passenger side door.

Amendment I: It is considered poor form to call Shotgun when you are significantly shorter than any of the other passengers. Significantly shorter is herein defined as “eight inches or more deficiency in comparative height when standing back-to-back”.

I – i. Unless riding in a subcompact car, this does not apply if all passengers involved are shorter than 5-feet, 10- inches, because then it doesn’t really matter.

Amendment II: Once shotgun is successfully claimed, there can be no disputes of front seat ownership. The man or woman who claimed Shotgun can relinquish ownership at this time to any other passenger unless transference of Shotgun violates Amendment I.

Amendment III: Any person who has failed to claim Shotgun, heretofore named the loser, can bicker and complain and moan as is his or her right; however, the driver of the vehicle can pull over at any time to allow the loser to walk.

III – i. The loser can challenge the rightful shotgun rider to an arm wrestling match for the seat, but the challenge must be accepted. The shotgun passenger retains complete discretion to accept or reject the loser’s challenge. If accepted the outcome of the arm wrestling match must be honored.

Amendment IV: Shotgun Rights are upheld, belonging to the current shotgun passenger, for up to 15 minutes after exiting the vehicle. Once out of the vehicle for a continued duration great than 15 minutes, all rights of the erstwhile shotgun passenger to the shotgun seat are forfeited and a new claim for shotgun can be made under the aforementioned “trinity” of rules. There are no limits to how often one can win Shotgun Rights.


Good luck and Godspeed!



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