The term to ‘ride shotgun’ comes from the American Old West stagecoach custom of guarding a person or something of value. Someone typically rode on the buckboard together with the driver with a shotgun handy as a look out for robbers and bandits. It's not used much outside of America, but in the early 60's many movies portrayed this custom in American westerns.

It eventually became slang and riding shotgun is to ride in the front passenger seat of a car or truck. As in “Dibs on the front seat!” Dibs derives from a very old children's game called dibstones. This game, using with sheep knucklebones or pebbles, dates back at least to the 17th century. The purpose was to capture the adversary’s stones, and when a stone was captured, the winning player would call "Dibbs!" Meaning, "I claim (the stone)”. It soon came to be used outside the game but with a similar meaning, and there you have it.

Eventually the custom of riding shotgun developed a lively set of unspoken guidelines and if you're interested you might want to read more about them in shotgun rules.

This expression is still in vogue today, but is taking on a more sinister meaning.

My sons constantly call, Shotgun!!! when we get in the car.
I asked my youngest son, he was all of 8 years old, once what he thought the term shotgun meant.
Sadly he replied, "It's the seat the shooter rides in on drive-by shootings."

Out of the mouths of babes.

Many thanks to Mike1024 for pointing out the etymology of the phrase “riding shotgun”!


The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language: -

Take Our Word For It :

OK, after all the chat about shotguns in Quake and calling shotgun in the car, some information about real shotguns.

A shotgun is a gun, usually smooth-barrelled: this is what makes it different from a rifle.
Shotguns can be double-barrelled (typically used for hunting, but also for skeet shooting): when they are single-barrelled, they usually feed from a fixed tubular magazine under the barrel.

There are also shotguns that use a round drum-shaped magazine - the only one I am aware of is the Pancor Jackhammer, designed with military application in mind.

Shotguns come in different bore diameters, identified by two systems, the arcane and disturbing gauge, where a 10 gauge is bigger than a 12 gauge (which would be your standard shotgun), and the slightly-more-reasonable caliber, which gives the bore diameter in inches: a common one is .410.

Gun nuts, erm, RBKA-enthusiasts, also want me to write that a shotgun also has a choke, that's to say a tightening of the barrel: this influences shot dispersion, which will be discussed later.


The typical ammo for a shotgun is lead shot, that's to say lead balls. Some specialized applications use steel shot, or even cubic shot.

The shot, which is by the way the part that flies out of the barrel and kills the white fluffy rabbit (or the evil masked perpetrator or the little flying clay disk), is contained in a plastic shell.
The shot is propelled by a charge, also contained in the shell. Between shot and charge there is something called a patch; usually taking the form of a little plastic cup or felt disk, its function is to seal the expanding gases in the barrel behind the shot, in order to maximize energy transfer from the charge to the shot.
What is missing ? The primer, that's to say a small amount of sensitive explosive that sits on the very bottom of the shell. The shotgun hammer strikes the primer, that explodes and in turn ignites the charge.

Lead shot comes in different calibers, that's to say, it can be either a bunch of small caviar-like balls, or a few big balls, like buckshot (which, by the way, can also take the form of cylindrical pellets). Of course, this too produced an arcane lexicon and measurement system, of which I know squat.

Shot comes out of the shotgun in one mass, but it then proceeds (due to air friction) to spread in a more or less cylindrical pattern. Different kinds of shotguns and barrels produce different patterns. In Italian, the pattern is called rosa, that's to say rose, which I find strangely poetic.

Notice, though, that shotguns can also fire slugs, incendiary rounds, flechette rounds and other exotic shotgun ammo, like the saboted slug (same idea as some types of tank ammo).

Deer hunters, for example, will use slugs to bring down their quarry.
Why use a shotgun with a slug instead of a rifle, one asks. I am told that a shotgun slug is much bigger (and thus heavier and thus more effective) that anything your typical rifle may shoot. Now that I think of it, I seem to remember that a 12 gauge slug is about a half inch in diameter, just like a .50 bullet. But a shotgun is much more convenient than a .50 rifle.
Consider also that the rifle has a big advantage in accuracy on long shots - but if you are hunting in a wood, you rarely have need for that accuracy. Thus the slug.

Additionally, and I have Razhumikin to thank for this info, a shotgun slug has a much shorter range than a rifle bullet. This is an advantage when hunting in high density areas, as it reduces the chance of accidents; actually, in Illinois it is illegal to hunt deer with rifles.


Shotguns are used in hunting small, flighty game where their shot dispersion property is very useful. When I was a kid I wondered just how could someone hit a randomly flying small bird at 30 meters with a solid bullet - well, it turns out that you don't even try: you just use a lot of small shotgun pellets and hope for the best.

Shotguns are also used in home defense, because they are "easier" to aim than rifles or handguns, and also because small shot will stop a human being (even kill him at short distance), but it usually will not penetrate the flimsy walls prevalent in modern USA buildings.

There are some military applications of shotguns, but their limited range makes them a specialized device: I have seen them in the hands of a Marine boarding team.
There is also non-lethal ammunition (for riot situations) in the form of bean-bag rounds or baton rounds. Of course and despite its name, non-lethal ammunition can occasionally kill.

There is also target shooting, in the form of trap and skeet shooting.


Ah, Beretta, Browning, Ithaca, Rossi, Benelli ... and a gazillion more.

Some shotguns are real works of art, hand-chiseled with hunting scenes.

Dangerous ?

Why, yes, of course, a shotgun is fucking dangerous as most guns (excluding chocolate guns) are. Your typical 12 gauge shotgun can reliably kill at 10 meters. Closer up it will dig a big hole through your chest or basically behead you. Farther away, lethality decays but not that fast. It also depends on the caliber: small pellets slow down faster.

Shotguns are easy to underevaluate, because, well, they look less dangerous than an M16, and some people simply associate them with hunting.
But they are real guns, and as such they should be treated with the proper respect and fear.

Thanks to the readers who sent additional info and corrections.

This describes one of a number of methods to drink a can of beer quickly. Drinkers will generally shotgun beer as a social activity with new acquaintances or jovial competition among friends. Due to health and safety concerns, shotgunning should never be done with:

Drinkers should exercise caution and common courtesy when shotgunning beer. This activity can be hazardous to both participants and bystanders, and is invariably messy. The usual procedure for shotgunning is as follows:

  1. Find at least one friend or new acquaintance. Shotgunning beer by oneself is not only sad and useless, but also strange.
  2. Locate at least one can of beer per particpant. Every participant should have the same number of beers if a chain-shotgun event seems imminent. Shotgunning is best done on a non-carpeted surface near a suitable liquid receptacle, such as the linoleum in a kitchen by the sink, or on the sidewalk near a gutter.
  3. With sealed can of beer in hand and tilted about seventy-five degrees from "upside down," the participant punctures the side of the can, near the bottom rim. The puncture should be around three quarters of an inch wide, or about twenty millimeters. This puncturing can be done with the sharp end of a bottle opener, a flathead screwdriver, or with one's two front teeth. Drinkers, be advised to use your own two front teeth if you choose this last method. In the event of catastrophic pressure loss and massive beer spillage due to an incorrect puncture, participants should point and laugh at the affected drinker, bearing in mind that the same unhappy circumstance could also happen to them if they are not careful.
  4. The participant should quickly lift the can and place her lips over the puncture in the can to stem the small amount of beer spillage that may occur. When all participants are ready, they should simultaneously reach over their heads and pull the tabs on their cans of beer. Participants, take care that that you only pull the tab on your own beer, and not anyone else's; such an error has been known to effect the catastrophic beer event noted above.
  5. If done correctly, gravity and the sudden equalization of pressure should push the beer with relatively great force out of the puncture made in step 3. Participants should be prepared for a robust flow of beer, and should be careful to not choke, allow too much beer to spill from the mouth, or allow any beer at all to be pushed from the mouth into the nasal cavity and out the nose. These errors could lead to excessive mess and physical discomfort. Participants should swallow vigorously until the beer is depleted.
  6. This step is optional. When the can is empty, the participant may crush it in her hand while uttering a barbaric yawp, or crush it against her forehead or another's (depending on circumstance; normal beer etiquette rules apply), or slam against any available hard surface (such as Formica) into a geometrically symmetrical, beer-dampened disk.
  7. Repeat from step 3 until existing beer is gone, or until the host of the party you're attending kicks you out of the house.

A shotgun is one of many names for a combination of over-the-counter pharmaceuticals. A shotgun is a combination of various ingredients, used to treat a variety of symptoms. The name may result from an analogy with an actual shotgun, which is used to hit a wide target area.

In general, most OTC products have more than one ingredient. Many of them have all of the major ingredients included. In general, there are about four main ingredients in OTC medicine:

Most of the products are different combinations of these four ingredients, with different dosages and different names.

Shotguns are in general a bad idea. The reason for this is clear: depending on the individual person's condition, they may have way more of one ingredient then they need. For example, a person with a runny nose may need more psuedoephedrine to clear up their congestion. It's quite possible to take 10 times the suggested dose of psuedoephedrine without causing (much) harm. If the product also includes tylenol, the person may accidentally end up overdosing on Tylenol. In addition, due to the fact that most substances are passed through the same metabolic pathway in the liver, a dose of a substance that may normally be tolerable can cause damage.

Instead of using shotgunned products, I personally would recommend buying each of the component products and using them as needed.

As a clarification of avalyn's node, a shotgun (often shortened to "shottie") originally refers to a seriously hardcore way of taking a hit from a joint.

After blowing off any ashes from the joint's cherry, the first person ("giver") holds the joint and sticks the lit end into hir mouth. That's right, hot end into the mouth — this is why it takes a teensy bit of know-how to do this. The other person ("taker") places hir mouth around the unlit end of the joint, and breathes in as the giver breathes out.

The combination of the giver blowing out and the taker breathing in burns through quite a bit of that joint. (Indeed, many a shotgun has been cut short by flaming ashes burning the giver's lips.) However, this means that the taker gets an impressively large hit from a run-of-the-mill joint.

Shotguns can be fun when indoors (or anywhere else devoid of air motion), because with a little practice the giver can blow streams of smoke short distances.

Shot"gun` (?), n.

A light, smooth-bored gun, often double-barreled, especially designed for firing small shot at short range, and killing small game.


© Webster 1913.

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