Plays YOU Can Use: Pistol Action & Counters

By Doug Brotherton

The Pistol Action has become a popular action for teams to run in transition. Depending on the team that you are watching, you might see different versions of the Pistol Action. This past season, we initiated our Pistol Action with a dribble hand off. Below are some key teaching points, as you introduce Pistol Action.

  • Point guard should “slice” or change sides of the floor, while pushing the ball in transition. This changes the angle for the defense.
  • Point guard must “break the arc,” or penetrate the three-point line, before the dribble hand off. This prevents a team from trapping your guard along the sideline.
  • The “trailer” must follow the point guard, as they dribble towards the wing.
  • Your “rim runner” should run hard to the front of the rim, and then space to the weak side block. We do this, to allow for a back cut, if a team overplays the dribble hand off.

Below is a diagram of our version of the Pistol Action.

Another important part of building your team’s transition playbook is developing your counters. These are wrinkles to the basic action, which keep the defense off balance. Below are three different counters to Pistol.

PISTOL PUNCH – This counter utilizes a fake dribble hand off, to get an easy post entry. On the fake, the post player (5) should “punch,” or cut across the lane. The trailer then sets a flare screen for the wing. The timing creates a nice read, if your post player is unable to score. Lastly, on a pass out from the post, both sides of the floor are set up for a “one more,” which is an extra pass to the corner.


PISTOL INVERT FLARE – If you watch the Cleveland Cavaliers, this is their version of Pistol. They set an invert wing ball screen, into a flare screen. The flare screener follows into a wing ball screen. This action is terrific if teams are overplaying, making the dribble hand off difficult. It is also a nice way to keep the ball in the hands of a dynamic point guard.

Invert Flare

PISTOL HAMMER – This counter was featured in my first blog, “Late Game Situations: Need a 3.” Kentucky ran it in the NCAA Tournament, and I have added two more screening actions, after the Hammer Action. In this set, the guard fakes the dribble hand off, and attacks the baseline. The Hammer Action is ran on the weak side. If the shot is not there, your team can continue into a double stagger screen, followed by an elevator screen.



As the Pistol Action has become more popular, countless teams are developing creative ways to add their own wrinkle. We would love to hear your thoughts about these counters, as well as anything else that you might add. You can reach us on Twitter, or e-mail Coach Doug Brotherton at:



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Doug Brotherton is currently the girls varsity basketball coach at The Village School, in Houston, Texas. He has over 15 years of head coaching experience, across multiple levels. He has coached boys high school basketball, girls high school basketball, and started the Men's Basketball program at Mid-Michigan Community College. He is a former NBA Regional Advanced Scout for the Chicago Bulls. He is the founder of Dynamic Coaching Tools ( Coach Brotherton was elected as the Texas Association of Basketball Coaches Large Private School Board Member. Coach Brotherton helps develop the drill book and coaches packets for Jay Bilas Basketball Camps, as well as participating in its Coaching Development Program and presenting on the benefits of FastDraw. In 2018, Positive Coaches Alliance selected Coach Brotherton as one of the 50 Double-Goal Coach National Award Winners, for his positive impact on his athletes on the court and in life. In 2020, Brotherton led the Village School to the TAPPS 6A State Championship, earning Coach of the Year Honors in Texas. He was also the lead of the TABC Virtual Clinic, which featured over 100 speakers, made up of some of the biggest names in basketball.

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