Introduction: Shotgun a Beer With Just Your Thumb

About: I've worked for Instructables off and on since 2006 building and documenting just about everything I enjoy doing. I am now the Creative Programs founder and manager for Autodesk and just finished building out…
Learn how to defy the rules of physics and pierce through metal using only your fingertip.  This Instructable shows you how you can shotgun anything in an aluminum can with just your thumb!

Shotgunning liquids has been around for a while.  It's the crude process of poking a hole in the bottom of a can (usually beer) so that you can drink whatever is inside the can way faster than normal.  

It's a fun thing to do at a party for sure, but it gets old pretty quick, and there's never anything good lying around to make the hole in the can with.  Using your finger to poke the hole raises things to a super-human level and is an unparalleled party trick for anyone who doesn't know that it's possible.

*****Shotgunning beers with your finger carries an inherent risk of injury and it's possible that your thumb could get cut as it pierces the wall of the can.  While this has never happened to me, or anyone else I've seen try this, my brain tells me that it's certainly something to be aware of.  Pierce responsibly and understand the risks involved of poking holes in metal cans with nothing more then your finger.*****

Step 1: Setup

There are only a few simple tips to shotgunning a beer with your thumb - most are all part of the setup.

Grab any normal aluminum can and position your dominant thumb (I'm a lefty so I use my left thumb) around 1" to 1.5" from the bottom.  The blue line at the bottom of the Pabst Blue Ribbon logo seems to be about the right spot.  Have the mouth of the can that you normally would drink from facing up towards the sky (at 12 o'clock on the top of the can).

Then, hold the can either in your other hand, or use your index and middle fingers to support it along the bottom of the can on the other side so you've got something to push against.  See the photos below.

Think about squeezing the can between your fingers and visualize squashing it like a grape and practice rocking the tip of your thumb so that your finger nail makes a diving motion in towards the wall of the can.

Finger Nail Length
While your length of your fingernail is important for a successful finger shotgun, I don't think that it means everything.  I've seen people with very short nails have success, and people with long nails have them double over and crease.  The ideal length is likely to have around 1/8th of an inch or so of the white colored fingernail extending beyond the cuticle.  That should be enough so that it can make direct contact with the can, but not so long that the nail becomes weak and flexible.

Step 2: The Bubble

Reach out with the stronger of your two arms and tilt the top of the can down towards the ground at a slight angle.

The theory of the tilt is to allow the small bubble of air that's in the can to rise to the precise position that your thumb is pressing down on.  This should hopefully make it a bit easier to pierce through the can with your thumb and also keep less of the beer from splashing out when your finger breaches through the can wall.

I don't know too much about can fluid dynamics, and I'm skeptical that it's actually any easier to punch your finger through a can into air than it is to punch it through into a liquid, but hey, we're using finger tips to bust through aluminum here, so it's good to be a believer in anything that might help. 

While you're at it, toss some salt over your shoulder.

Step 3: Dent

With the can tilted at a slight angle and your arm stretched out, begin to apply pressure with the tip of your finger to create a small dent in the can.

Step 4: Pierce With Thumbnail

Once you've got the dent made, quickly rock over onto your fingertip and engage your thumbnail with the can applying as much pressure as you can possibly exert. 

It sometimes takes a few tries to punch through in one spot.  If you're not having good luck putting your thumb through the can, try rotating the can to a new position (don't worry about where the mouth of the can is aimed at this point).

If you still aren't able to pierce through the can, try harder!  Grunt if you have to!  Visualize the strength of 1000 wild animals!

It took me 6 months to finally be able to do it from the first time I saw it done.  I'm no stronger now then I was then, so I think that one's mental approach has a lot to do with success or failure in can puncturing.  

Since then, I've seen many first timers pull it off, including many of the people in and around Squid Labs - and our thumbs are weak and delicate from all the typing we do!

Some things that helped me finally be able to break through the wall (literally) were:
  • visualize that there is no can
  • confidence is everything, attack it like you can do it, even if it's your first time
  • try different types of cans - Coca Cola seemed to be the easiest, but I have no quantitative data to support this
  • I didn't go this far, but doing some thumb exercises might help
  • don't cut your finger nail for a few weeks and then try to do it
  • if your nails are too long and are being bent back, cut them down a bit

Step 5: Shotgun the Can As You Normally Would

If you've successfully pierced a hole in the can, then you've earned a special reward - 12 fluid ounces of liquid in your belly delivered in less than 5 seconds!

Raise the hole you just made with your finger to your mouth, pop the top of the can as you would normally shotgun a beer, and gulp down the beer that flows into your mouth as fast as you can.

The hole on top allows air to flow freely in the can, thus eliminating the glug, glug, glug, factor, and lets the beer flow out of the can much faster than it usually would if it were poured normally from the mouth of the can.

Step 6: Shotgun More Than Just Beer!

While drinking beer is a hoot, putting your thumb through cans is so much fun that it's nice to be able to do it even when you don't want a beer.  Maybe your not of legal drinking age yet, maybe you don't like the taste of beer, or maybe you just want to send down a few sodas in less then 30 seconds at the office. 

Whatever the reason that you're not shotgunning a beer at this very moment, don't let that stop you from poking a hole through aluminum cans filled with other types of liquid today!