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The Shotgun and The Pistol


Shotgun Formation

Ben Roethlisberger in the shotgun formation.

Doug Benc/Getty Images

The shotgun formation, and the pistol formation; you may think you've stumbled onto www.hunting.about.com. You haven't! These are two offensive formations that are being utilized frequently by high school, college, and pro teams. So what are these formations all about?

Shotgun Formation

The shotgun formation is one that has the quarterback lined up 5 to 7 yards behind the center. The center snaps the ball through the air back to the quarterback at the start of the play. Over the last decade, the shotgun formation has been utilized more and more, as teams have become more and more pass focused. A big advantage to the shotgun formation is having the quarterback already in position to throw the ball when he receives the snap. This is much different than an "under center" snap, where the quarterback would have to drop back before being in position to throw. 

Pistol Formation

The "pistol" formation also has the quarterback taking a deeper snap from center.  However, in this formation, the quarterback lines up only about 3 or 4 yards behind the center, with a running back behind him. The pistol formation also continues to be utilized as teams try to gain any edge over their opponents. The pistol formation gives an offensive scheme more options at the snap of the ball. It's an easier run formation than the shotgun, because the quarterback is not the deepest back. However, it still allows the quarterback to get the ball in throwing position quickly for timing routes.

One disadvantage to these formations is, unless a team uses them consistently, trends and patterns can develop that make play prediction a little easier for the defense. But both the pistol formation and the shotgun formation have opened up the game of football and made things more exciting to watch.

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