What does "Shoot from the Hip" Mean?

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum

“Shoot from the hip” is an American saying that has to do with the choice of a course of action. In most cases, the expression refers to a decision that is reached and implemented without stopping to consider the possible outcomes of the decision. From this perspective, choosing this action means going with first instincts and choosing to react quickly to a given situation.

"Shoot from the hip" is an expression that refers to a decision that is reached without stopping to consider outcomes of the decision, such as when someone buys a home in an unfamiliar neighborhood based on an emotional impulse.
"Shoot from the hip" is an expression that refers to a decision that is reached without stopping to consider outcomes of the decision, such as when someone buys a home in an unfamiliar neighborhood based on an emotional impulse.

There are two distinct schools of thought then it comes to the concept represented by this idiom. One idea holds that to shoot from the hip is a rash reaction. Because there is no time taken to weigh possible options, the possibility of choosing a wise course of action is minimized considerably. The lack of thoughtful consideration is much more likely to produce consequences that may be worse than the event that triggered the rash reaction in the first place.

A second approach to shooting from the hip holds that the instincts of the individual make it unnecessary to stop and analyze the situation in order to choose the right course of action. Instead, instincts quickly draw on the collective experience of the individual and make it possible to arrive at the proper course of action immediately. Proponents of this approach note that many opportunities are lost because time is wasted going over the minutiae of how to respond. If the individual decides take a chance, the potential for a desirable outcome is very high.

In general, most people tend to shoot from the hip in at least a few situations. This is especially true if the situation is similar to something that has occurred in the person’s past. If the past experience had a beneficial outcome, instincts may dictate that the individual react in the same manner. However, if the past experience did not result in a desirable outcome, instincts may dictate that an opposite course of action takes place.

To shoot from the hip means to make a snap decision in a matter of seconds. There is no time for the conscious mind to weigh options or look deeply into the situation. The first idea for a course of action becomes the last and is implemented immediately. People who tend to be risk takers are usually more comfortable with shooting from the hip, while people who are more conservative in their approach to life will often prefer to investigate possible outcomes rather than going with this approach.

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum

After many years in the teleconferencing industry, Michael decided to embrace his passion for trivia, research, and writing by becoming a full-time freelance writer. Since then, he has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including wiseGEEK, and his work has also appeared in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and several newspapers. Malcolm’s other interests include collecting vinyl records, minor league baseball, and cycling.

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Discussion Comments


Sometimes I'll read the expression "shoot from the lip" when referring to a public figure who reveals way too much during an interview or speech. I think of shooting from the hip as a variation of a "straight shooter", someone who will tell the unvarnished truth without any sort of spin.


I think I am a shoot from the hip type of person. I often take decisions quickly without looking at all possible outcomes of my decision. It has many times left a shallow image of my personality to others.


Ummm, I think you missed the original and alternative meanings of shoot from the hip. This came from the old west and the gunslingers who would draw and "shoot from the hip" - their instinctual shooting and talent led to success, and survival because they could get off a shot before their opponent.

As a photographer, I shoot from the hip occasionally and this allows me to get shots that are fleeting and otherwise unobtainable in a normal fashion, such as candid shots when in close quarters to get natural expressions of people. This "risky" technique is not going to lead to any deleterious consequences, I will just keep shooting and ope I get a keeper.

As for the gunslinger, the outcome could be very deleterious - he had to be very good at this to be successful. -- Geoff


GreenWeaver-After a while these “Shoot from the hip” comments begin to sound a bit insensitive and callous. This is probably why you don’t see Joe Biden making too many speeches as of late.

Joe Biden has so many gaffes that people are now calling his dumb remarks,”Bidenisms”.

It is also really scary to think over what kind of decisions he would make because he is so impulsive. Him being a heartbeat away from the Presidency does not make me feel any better.


SurfNturf- I remember when he said that. I have to say that Joe Biden is a classic shoot from the hip kind of guy which is highly unusual in the scripted world of Washington politics where everything is orchestrated and polled before a politician makes a move.

Biden also had other gaffes that really made you want to scratch your head. He also said, “Mark my words. It will not be six months before the world tests Barack Obama like they did John Kennedy. The world is looking. We're about to elect a brilliant 47-year-old senator president of the United States of America. Remember I said it standing here if you don't remember anything else I said. Watch, we're going to have an international crisis, a generated crisis, to test the mettle of this guy.”

This statement really was unsettling and did not make the country feel safe.

He also said this to a paraplegic Charles Graham who was a Senator from Missouri, “Uh, uh, Chuck Graham, state senator, is here. Stand up, Chuck, let ‘em see you. Oh, God love you. What am I talking about. This was incredible. How could he not know that the man was in a wheelchair?


Brickback- I agree with you. I think that when a person typically shoots from the hip they may come across more genuinely, but they can also experience many mistakes as a result.

People that say things without thinking run the risk of insulting or hurting somebody’s feelings. Although the words have no malicious intent the delivery of the message might damage a relationship.

Some of Joe Biden’s famous gaffes were when he said this, “You cannot go to a 7-11 or a Dunkin' Donuts unless you have a slight Indian accent.... I'm not joking”.

He also said this about Obama “I mean, you got the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy. I mean, that's a storybook, man." All I can think about it imagine if a Republican had said these things. They would probably be out of a job.


I just wanted to add that the phrase, “Shooting from the hip” is not always wise when you are in management. Management takes strategic vision and planning. An adaptation of “Shooting from the hip” means an impulsiveness that may lead a company to lose money because not all of the possibilities were researched.

For example, a former high level manager of a company decided to hire a driver and purchase a company car that was over $100,000.

His rationale was that he needed a stylish car to impress clients. This car was to be used to pick clients up at the airport instead of hiring a traditional driver for that particular visit.

By purchasing the car instead of simply using a car service as needed, he increased the expenses four fold. This was a decision that he later regretted because he made the purchase quickly without considering any other option.

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