The Art And Craft And Idiocy Of Shotgunning A Beer

Unless you have a bachelor party coming up, or your favorite squadron just won a sporting competition, you probably have no immediate cause to shotgun a beer. (Unless you’re this guy, who is the only person who makes shotgunning a beer as soulful as the climactic scene in Say Anything.) But because life is unpredictable, and aggressively adolescent recreation is maybe the only sane response to this upside-down world, we figure we might as well give ourselves, and you, a refresher on shotgunning, AKA the art and craft of stabbing a beer can and sucking back its insides like a vampire.

For the entirely uninitiated, “shotgunning” is a simple, often competition-oriented way of drinking a can of shitty beer rapidly, typically while wearing flip flops and cargo shorts and standing in someone’s parents’ basement or your dormitory (for us eldlerly ‘gunners, that’d be standing in our parents’ basement where-we’re-staying-temporarily-we-swear-to-god, or in the coed office bathroom stall).

To shotgun, you simply hold your can of beer horizontally, poke a hole in the lower side opposite the actual can opening, put said hole to your mouth, turn the beer so it’s vertical, open the beer “traditionally,” and let the magic of physics and atmospheric pressure force the beer into your mouth without any unnecessary glugging. (If you’re a visual learner, no worries; here’s a diagram. There’s also this HowCast video that sounds like it’s narrated by Randy Savage’s less successful younger brother, Ziggy Savage.) And without question, whether you’re shotgunning on a yacht or a field or on line at the DMV, you must—must—spike the can. Or so the laws of shotgunning dictate.

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What’s the point of shotgunning? On one hand, racing is just fun. (In fact, we’d like to officially complain that we don’t do nearly enough racing as adults. When we were kids, every 20 minutes somebody was saying they could reach the end of the block or some tree or the lemonade stand earnings safe faster than somebody else—what happened to that?) There’s also the fact that shotgunning, like beer pong, lends a thin veneer of grandeur to the otherwise lackluster pastime of drinking mass quantities of lite beer. Competition, plus some sharp, shiny objects and suddenly that 24-pack of Miller Lite seems a lot more exciting, and your afternoon far less depressing.

Shotgunning also makes it seem imperative that you consume a bunch of beer quickly: you’re not choosing to over-imbibe, you’re being forced by physics and stuff. Which is also why shotgunning can be an easy way to drink too much, too quickly—and that’s why all shotgunning should be done with lite beer. Unless you’re part of some bareknuckle craft beer shotgunning society, and you can handle a five-second ingestion of 7% IPA, we actually do recommend sticking with watery macro beers here. They tend to top out at 5% ABV, if that, and they’ll go down a lot easier than something that’s been double hopped or barrel aged or wild fermented, etc.

Beyond which friends or family members to shotgun with (in the history of recreational drinking, pretty sure no one has shotgunned alone), the next question is what to use to puncture the can. Car keys are a favorite—though they also unnervingly seem to imply an intention to drive? Knives and pens get the job done, though the holes they create might have ragged edges, which isn’t great if you want non-bloodied lips to celebrate your shotgun victory with a smooch. Speaking of, there’s always the tried-and-true-and-terrifying “wolf bite” method, wherein a crazy person with excellent dental insurance uses his or her canine tooth to tear into and puncture the aluminum can. Not recommended among the orally sensitive, or anyone who’s not a werewolf.

The number of devices with which a beer can might be punctured is pretty much as endless as your imagination, and yes, they can be a further expression of our shotgunning personality. Letter opener? Yeah, that works. Claw from the bear you successfully wrestled after watching “The Revenant”? Yup. Whale harpoon? Sure, assuming it’s clean. There was actually a Kickstartr campaign for something called “The Sabertooth,” which not only opens traditional beer bottles but “adds air vents” to the tops of cans for “smooth, easy chugging.” (Yeah, bro.) And, of course, it “makes shotgunning a CINCH!” by poking a slightly cleaner, wider hole than your car keys might.

Of course the final question—should you shotgun at all? According to, yes, for four very specific, entirely unsubtle reasons. Beyond getting you “f*cking hammered,” winning a shotgun race is apparently a testament to incoquerable manhood. But before we get caught up in the idea that shotgunning is just bro territory, check out some footage of the world’s mildest beer shotgunning rivalry here (comedian Grace Helbig never really gets it right, but she’s funny while trying so it’s OK).

You don’t have to shotgun, like we said there’s probably no occasion that calls for it in your future. But it is a great way to make a can of PBR rapidly disappear. Just don’t forget to burp.

Header image via Debby Wong /