South African Pistol Federation       

Air Pistol

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Air Pistol

TheThe first ISSF Air Pistol championship was held in 1970. It was a 40 shot course of fire for both the men and the women. In 1982 the men’s course was increased to 60 shots. In 1988 the 10m Air Pistol event first entered the Olympic Games.

The Course of Fire for men is 60 shots in one hour and 45 minutes, each shot placed on a separate target at a range of 10 Meters. Women have one hour and 15 minutes for 40 shots. For World-class events the targets are either Electronic; or for paper targets scored by target scoring machines. In clubs or competitions without automatic scoring facilities, sometimes groups of 2, 5 or 10 rounds are fired at a single target.

The ISSF dictates the target square should be no less than 17cm x 17cm; the 7,8,9 and 10 rings are black with the 10 ring a mere 11.5 mm across. The top eight competitors from the main match progress to the “Olympic Final” in which 10 more shots are individually fired and scored, with a maximum of 75 seconds allowed per shot. At the end of each shot, the scores are announced. The score for these 10 shots is marked in tenths of a point and the total added to the first score to make the final result. Even at club level each shot is fired on a separate target. A Perfect Match Score would be 600 + 109 for a total of 709. However, scoring over 580 in the first round can be considered world class. To date nobody has achieved a perfect score in a major championship or the Olympic Games.

Modern World-class Air Pistols fire a 4.5mm (.177) caliber lead pellet using compressed air from a detachable cylinder or one built into the pistol. Detachable cylinders are often filled from a SCUBA diving tank for the PreCharged Pneumatic Air Guns (PCP) or a similar tank of CO2. Guns with integral cylinders usually contain a charging handle to "pump" the normal atmosphere up to a pressure within the cylinder.

The ISSF has several restrictions on the pistols used. Pistols must be fired single shot, with a trigger weight not lighter than 500 grams and 4.5mm (.177") in caliber. The size and style of the grip, the weight of the pistol, the overall size of the gun, the type of sights, the width of the grip and length of the barrel are also limited. There are also limitations on the competitors' clothing, shoes, and eyewear.

At the time of writing the average age of the top ten competitors in the ISSF World Ranking is 33, the majority are older with two in their mid 40s. The current world number one, from China, however is a mere 20! Many Air Pistol shooters also participate in the 50m Pistol event(Free Pistol) .


  • Other than the number of competition shots and the time allowed, the Mens and Womens events are the same:
  • Men shoot a 60-shot match in a time allowance of 1 hour 45 minutes
  • Women shoot a 40-shot match in a time allowance of 1 hour 15 minutes
  • The pistol must be loaded one shot at a time.
  • The shooter must shoot one handed and use the same hand to support and trigger the gun.
  • The shooter cannot wear clothing that offers additional support.

Pistol Specifications

  • 4.5 mm (177") calibre Air Pistol
  • Powered by compressed air or gas
  • Fit in a box 420 x 150 x 50 mm
  • Maximum weight 1500 grams
  • Minimum trigger pull 500 grams
  • Sights: open' metallic only
  • Grip: The grip cannot touch beyond the hand; i.e. the wrist must be visibly free when the pistol is held in the normal firing position. may not start to encircle hand when viewed longitudinally.
  • Ported barrels are allowed
  • Ammunition: 4.5 mm lead projectiles


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Last modified: 10/29/17