The Art of Shotgunning: Best Practices

Most of us know what a shotgun is; at least those of us who have been smoking weed in groups for long enough. There are actually several ways to do the move, so read on for specifics on how to make your shotgunning experience, the best it can be. Plus, if you’re looking to save your stash, or get in close to someone of interest, this move is both functional and easy.

Shotgunning – let’s get it straight

Besides the gun that fires out bullets, there are two main meanings for the word ‘shotgun’. The first has to do with sitting in a car. When someone shouts out ‘shotgun’ as a group moves toward a vehicle, the standard translation is that the person is claiming the front passenger seat. Much like other standard callout claims (think ‘dibs’), it goes to the first person to make the claim.

It functions very much like an unspsoken rule, and in most circles, is followed. He who claims ‘shotgun’, gets the seat. So, if there are five of you walking to a car, besides the fact that someone is riding the hump, it comes down to four people who have the ability to reserve the shotgun.

Now, if that same group of people decide to stop for a smoke break, and someone pulls out a joint; the other version of shotgun comes into play. In smoking – or any drug-taking which uses inhalation (and for which there is enough active compounds to make it into more than one person), a shotgun is a hit that’s taken directly out of the mouth of another person.

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It works like this. You take a nice deep hit and hold it in for as long as you like. When you’re ready to exhale, you pull the person shotgunning in close, and put your mouth right on theirs, or very, very close. Then you breathe out your hit directly into the mouth of the other person, who sucks it in, for their own hit. Depending on how close you are with the person, this might dictate just how close you get to them to perform the move.

As a special side note, a shotgun is an example of drug insufflation, a term that refers to an intake method whereby a drug is blown into a body orifice. Much like an inhaler, it’s not 100%, as it does require the second person to breathe in; but it does show a great example of this nonetheless, since the main action is the smoke being blown directly into someone’s mouth.

Where did it come from?

Why do we do half the things we do in life? Honestly, sometimes habits or traditions start, and there isn’t always a good reason. It just comes into existence, and we keep doing it. Shotgunning started during the Vietnam war, and actually included the use of a shotgun; which isn’t surprising given the name of the move, or that it happened first with soldiers.

‘How’ is it possible to smoke out of a gun? Well, how well it works is hard to say, but in this video you can see the guys doing it. One aspect of using the gun, was that one soldier would use the gun to blow smoke into the next guy’s mouth. Probably because the guns are big, and having that second person is necessary. Luckily, even in a gun-hungry country like America, the practice no longer involves a gun. And hence today’s definition, of simply blowing the smoke into another person’s mouth, sans firearms.

The ’why’ of it now? Let’s be honest, it super social and intimate. And it comes with a couple advantages. For one, good weed isn’t always cheap. If this expense is enough to help propel the use of tobacco to essentially cut weed, then its enough to recycle it too. If you’re shotgunning, you’re sharing a hit; and if weed is in short supply, this helps it go further. If you’ve got money and a constant stash, this might never occur to you; but for those pinching pennies, a nice shotgun is a free hit.

It also has the added benefit of getting you close to someone. While this isn’t always a benefit, it could be if you like a person and want to get in their sphere…in a ‘legal’ way. Maybe you want to see if the sparks actually fly given the chance. Well, a little mouth-to-mouth action might give you the answer. A shotgun is like a stoner kiss, your mouth is on (or very near) theirs, and the smoke is going from one set of lips to the other.

Two people shotgunning
Two people shotgunning

Many a kiss (and more) have started from this super-intimate action. However, I would be remiss if I didn’t remind that just because you like someone, doesn’t mean you should make them needlessly uncomfortable by encouraging them to take part in a shotgun with you. Make sure to read the room of your own circumstances first.

Shotgunning methods

If you’re thinking this is a standard move and there’s nothing more to know, you might be missing out. As a veteran smoker, I’ve found myself plenty of times feeling uneducated at the wrong time, with a bad joint pass, bad roll, or badly played shotgun. No, its definitely not brain surgery, but there are still a few things to consider.

  • The standard way aka lip method – This is the basic way where regardless of what method of smoking/vaping, you take a hit, put mouths together, and transfer the smoke. This can be done in any situation. It’s the most intimate way to do the move, and should be done only if you feel comfortable putting your lips on another person’s lips. You’re essentially creating a closed area, to ensure all the smoke passes from the first person to the second.
  • The backward way – This method is done only using a joint or blunt, because it requires the use of the joint or blunt, directly in the shotgun. For this method, one person puts the regular end to their lips (the one getting the hit) and the second person takes the lit end in their mouth (carefully). As the first person sucks in, the second person with the lit end, blows lightly; helping to give the first person, the hit of their life. This is best done when the joint/blunt isn’t already smoked down.
  • The tunnel way – This method might be best if you’re not so into getting up close and personal with the other person; as it allows for a little more in-between room. Much like the standard method, it can be used with any form of smoking. To do it, simply take the hit, and form a tunnel with your hands and the second person’s hands, between your lips. Then blow the smoke through the tunnel to their open mouth. It’s also possible to do this without the hands, and to simply get close and blow the smoke toward an open mouth; but some smoke is lost that way.

Is a shotgun an effective way to get high?

When we inhale a breath of weed smoke, we’re inhaling all those great cannabinoids and terpenes that make us feel…great. A certain amount of those compounds get absorbed into our body tissue, but not all. When we blow out, we exhale a big cloud of smoke, which incorporates the products of burning (or vaping, if you go that route), along with whatever plant compounds aren’t hurt by the heat, and aren’t absorbed into our body. Since we absorbed some of the good stuff, there’s less coming out in the exhale.

Exhaled smoke
Exhaled smoke

For this reason, a shotgun hit is a bit less intense than the hit from whence it came, since some of the product is already doing its job in the first person. Therefore, a shotgun hit is weaker than a normal one. But this doesn’t mean it can’t be intense. Logically, a massive hit that’s shotgunned might even provide more than a tiny hit taken directly.

With a big enough hit, you could technically pass it around to a third person, as well. Though that person would have a weaker hit than both the first and second person. Another option to make it a three-way event is for the person taking the hit, to split the shotgun smoke between two different people’s mouths. Regardless of how far you try to make it go, yes, a shotgun is effective at getting a person high, so long as the initial hit was strong enough.


For some people, a shotgun is a necessary way to get high, if the shotgunner has no stash of their own. For others, it’s a great reason to get close to someone else, and an intimate way to share a smoke. Whether you’re a kid in school, taking a break from work, or getting baked in your old folks home; shotgunning provides a fun way to share the love, and the weed.

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