Recently, I was with a group of like-aged ne’er-do-wells when one of them called “shotgun” when our getaway vehicle was a mile away, nowhere in sight.

I quickly informed this savage that he couldn’t do that – it was a violation of the Shotgun Rules. He told me there were no Shotgun Rules. I disagreed. Told him I wrote a column about the Shotgun Rules years ago. He said that 90 percent of what I write is untrue. I agreed. Then disagreed about the Shotgun Rules. For his sake, and other people that don’t know better, a little refresher course is in order.

For those of you not familiar with “shotgun,” allow me to educate you. Calling “shotgun” means you are reserving the front passenger seat of an automobile for your own sitting. The term derives from the Old West, where the man in the passenger seat on top of a stagecoach carried a shotgun to shoot villainous bandits, stagecoach robbers, Auburn football players, etc.

To clarify this issue once and for all – here are the official Shotgun Rules.

1. In order to call shotgun, you must be able to see the departing vehicle with your own eyes (the aforementioned violation), and no passengers can be seated shotgun when the call is made.

1a. Violators of Rule 1 will not be eligible for shotgun on the occasion where they violate Rule 1. They are eligible for shotgun status on the very next ride.

2. For your shotgun call to be legitimate, it must be heard by at least one other member of the travelling party.

2a. If a shotgun call comes into question, the witness can then testify to the authenticity of the shotgun call and provide a general time of the shotgun call. The driver has the final say on any shotgun call disputes.

2b. Shotgun calls can only be made on the forthcoming ride. For example, you can’t make a shotgun call while getting out of the vehicle for a future ride.

3. If the departing vehicle has one row of seats (example-a truck), a call of “shotgun” is to be defined as the “window seat.”

3a. The middle seat, also called “The Larry Fine Seat,” would go to the person who didn’t call shotgun under a three-passenger, one-row-of-seats scenario.

4. A shotgun call tie, although rare, is to be decided by a series of tiebreakers. They are:

4a. Weight – In the case of a shotgun call tie, the first determining tiebreaker is weight. The heaviest person gets shotgun.

4b. Age – In the case of a shotgun call tie, and a tie in terms of weight, the second determining tiebreaker is age. The oldest person gets shotgun.

4c. Rock, Paper, Scissors – In the case of a shotgun call tie, and a tie in terms of weight, and the two parties were born on the same year, date, hour and minute, the third determining tiebreaker is Rock, Paper, Scissors (see my “Rock, Paper, Scissors Rules column,” August 13, 1998, for details).

5. In the case of a person sitting behind the shotgun call winner with adjustable seats, the shotgun call winner must ask the person sitting behind them, “Is this okay?,” in reference to the placement of the seat (i.e. foot room).

5a. If the shotgun call winner fails to abide by Rule 5, the person seated behind them is allowed to flick the shotgun call winner’s ear with their index or middle finger (also called “staunting” in different parts of the continent) with no allowance for retribution.

6. Driver’s Bill of Rights.

There are driver’s rights that trump other Shotgun Rules. They are:

6a. If the driver is drunk or unable to carry out his duties through defect or choice, they have the right to sit shotgun regardless of any prior shotgun call.

6b. If the driver chooses, they can veto a shotgun call if a girl is involved.

I would suggest posting these Shotgun Rules under your front passenger seat visor for easy access.

Happy Driving!

• Len Robbins is editor of The Clinch County News. Email him at