Gridiron Glossary: The Pistol

An offensive formation where the quarterback is directly behind the center, but neither under center nor as deep as a shotgun position with a running back directly behind him.

Credit: ESPN

Credit: ESPN

The key to the pistol is not the position of the quarterback; it is the position of the tailback.  When executing a running play out of the shotgun the tailback is usually running laterally to the line of scrimmage when he gets the ball.  The pistol allows the exact same play to be called with the running back receiving the ball while running toward the line of scrimmage.

Gridiron Glossary is a resource for football terms that are often used by commentators, coaches and players but rarely defined.  If there is a term you have questions about or a definition you don’t agree with, let me know at

About Billy Koehler

Billy Koehler is the founder of and a contributing writer at He has been covering college football since 2006. You can follow him on twitter @billykoehler.
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