Nugget of Knowledge: Riding shotgun


You may be familiar with the term "riding shotgun" but do you know its origin?

(WYTV) – Ever yell, “I call shotgun!” to claim the front passenger seat in a car as a kid?

You may be familiar with the term “riding shotgun” but do you know its origin? It comes from the stagecoach era, the Wild West and Hollywood.

We rode stagecoaches for nearly 200 years in this county. In the eastern and southern U.S., stagecoaches traveled along established routes with inns and taverns along the way.

In the West, it was different. The roads were bad, there were few support services and outlaws were a constant threat.

To protect the passengers and drivers, the coach lines put an armed guard next to the driver and the preferred weapon was a shotgun, which scatters pellets, making it relatively easy to hit your target at close range.

The term “riding shotgun” came from this practice, although no one called it that back then.

The first mention in print didn’t come until May 1919 in a newspaper article. Then the movies adopted the term when they began making Westerns.

The 1939 classic “Stagecoach” starring John Wayne featured the local marshal talking about riding shotgun. A 1954 movie was called “Riding Shotgun,” starring Randolph Scott as a stagecoach guard.

It became part of popular culture by the 1950s and after hearing it so much in the movies and on TV, we began calling the front passenger car seat the “shotgun” seat and calling shotgun if you wanted to ride there.

The rules of etiquette for riding shotgun include the driver’s spouse or closest friend getting first dibs.

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