Service Pistol


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Welcome to the Service Match Page

What is Service Match Shooting?

By Stuart Hayman and Jason Wakeling (2008)

Amended by Aaron Thomason (May 2018)

Way back in probably the 1950’s or 1960's the FBI developed a training pistol match which was soon used by civilian shooters and called the Combat Match. We shot a variant on this in the UK in the late '60s. Later this became the source of PPC and the WA1500 Match - and the Australian (and later New Zealand) Service Pistol Match.

Service Pistol comes to us from Australia, where it was first adopted as an Australian Nationals Championship Event in 1977, and shot with pistols and revolvers in calibres from 9mm to .45. In 1982 they added Service Pistol Unrestricted to allow and encourage those with ISSF pistols of calibres down to 7.65mm to compete. In 1989 as the interest in NRA Action Matches increased Pistol Australia introduced the holster draw into Service Pistol, leaving Service Pistol Unrestricted in its original form, being shot from the 45 degrees ready position. Later legislation in Australia resulted in a few changes which have not affected us in NZ.

In 1982 the then NZ Pistol Association (Pistol NZ) introduced Service Pistol as the first "Action" style event here. Initially, as in Australia, the match was shot starting with the pistol at 45 degrees but we allowed, and indeed encouraged, the pistol to be stored in a holster as the shooters moved down the range. This was well before the introduction of NRA Action and IPSC matches, both of which did require drawing from the holster.

In 1987 we started these other matches after negotiation with the police and then in 1989 we followed Australia drawing from the holster for Service Pistol too. Although a few of us have been shooting this match since the '80s, it has been overshadowed in NZ by the other Action matches; in Australia it continues to be hugely popular with some shooters exclusively specialising in it and not shooting anything else, and it is shot as an adjunct to the ISSF nationals.

Pistol Australia continues to shoot the original Service Pistol, Service Pistol Unrestricted and the 25 yard match, just as New Zealand continues to do, however New Zealand has (unofficially & for NZ only) added a few extra divisions to accommodate a wider range of pistols. We have now added NZ Pistol, NZ Revolver and NZ 22. When competing the only restriction is that if you are shooting Service Pistol division that you must shoot this match first.

Service Pistol was originally intended to be basically for more or less unmodified out of the box handguns, which can or did have "target" features. However as the rules did not prevent modifications and only imposed limited restrictions the handguns being used essentially began to become more specialised to the match. These must weigh less than 1.4kg, fit the ISSF Standard Pistol Box, being 300 x150x50 (the ISSF box) have only iron sights, no compensators, a minimum 1.36kg (3lb) trigger pull, and a few other restrictions. Ammunition must meet 120 power factor (bullet weight x Speed / 1000).

Service Pistol Unrestricted is for pistols from 7.62 mm to 9.65 mm (.32 to .38). There is no dimension or weight restrictions though the a minimum 1.36kg (3lb) trigger pull is still required, but it is otherwise much the same as Service Pistol.

NZ Revolver Division is exclusively for revolvers 9x19 and above but is otherwise generally the same as Service Pistol.

NZ Pistol Division is exclusively for semi autos 9x19 and above but is otherwise generally the same as Service Pistol.

NZ 22 Division is for pistols complying with Unrestricted rules, but being a rimfire handgun in .22long rifle cartridge only.

Service Pistol along with NZ Pistol and NZ Revolver are shot from the holster and the unrestricted classes from the 45° position (whether or not you are holster qualified). All pistols should be kept in a holster during the match.

Differences between NZ and Aussie Rules are covered in the Service Pistol Guidelines.

Originally the match was essentially for Service Type Revolvers, usually chambered in 38 Special and the firing the standard carry load of a 158gr Round Nose Lead Load. For reasons unknown to us, the Australians apparently also have this requirement for lead projectiles only, in place, on many ranges. It has something to do with height of berms around their ranges having to be higher to gain certification for jacketed bullets. We however don't have this so have chosen to ignore this rule, which is a good thing as jacketed or plated bullets reduce the exposure to airborne lead.

The Match

The course of fire consists of 90 shots fired at four distances from 50 down to 7 yards, and times between 2 minute 45 seconds for 24 shots and 4 seconds for 6 shots. The 24 shots at 50 yards includes prone, sitting or kneeling and both left and right barricade. 36 shots are fired at 25 yards including more barricade and some standing clear of the barricade. 18 shots at 10 yards some of which must be fired strong and weak hand only. And the final series of 12 shots at 7 yards is almost the signature series of this match as it is done un-aimed, that is without raising the pistol above the shoulder. 

Some Rules

Only 6 rounds may be loaded at any time (irrespective of magazine capacity).When changing position during a series the pistol must be unloaded before moving. If you only have big magazines you must take it out, clear and then reload after changing position. Feet must be kept within lines running backwards from the sides of the barricade, whether this is a board or a post. Unlike NRA, when shooting round the barricade the pistol must be fired using the same hand as the side of the barricade. The range commands are Load, Are You Ready, the targets will then turn, or if using fixed targets an audible beep from a timer, at the end of each string you will get the command Unload. Rulebooks are available from the Pistol NZ Section Director or from the PNZ Online Shop for $15.00 plus postage


So, there is a brief description of Service Pistol. This tests your entire pistol shooting skills in a 90 shot match, and you don’t have to have a fancy pistol. If your club isn't currently shooting it then perhaps now is the time to give it a try. It's one of the best all round tests of pistol shooting there is and the skills learned/honed can be transferred over into just about any of the other disciplines currently shot in NZ.

A late addition, Classic Pistol

To augment Service Pistol and to give people an opportunity to shoot some of their older firearms the Classic Pistol Match was recently introduced. While using the classic service pistol target it only requires 48 rounds, no holster and is only shot at the 10yard and 25 yard lines. Approved pistols for the Classic match are listed on the PNZ website. Suitable as an introductory pistol match it is used by many clubs to introduce and train their newer shooters.

Selection and Grading Information is located in the Members Logon area - see drop down menu to the left

Service Matches Rules

IMPORTANT NOTE: The Police approval process and policy of pistols with barrel lengths shorter than 4" for competitive shooting on pistol ranges is currently being worked through. Please don't apply to your local Arms Officer for any transfer of pistols from your C cat to B or look to import pistols with shorter than 4" barrels until this process has been clarified by the Police.

PNZ will keep members updated.

Service and Classic Pistol New Zealand Guidelines V6.0.4.1 (Updated July 2018)

These guidelines have been created for the conduct of club, Inter Club, Island & National Events. These should be used in conjunction with the current rules for Service Match.

If you need a set of Pistol Australia rules, these are available from the PNZ Online Shop in hardcopy or you can download the online rules here:

Pistol Australia 2016 Service Rules

Range Timers for Turning Targets

R & I Electronics South Australia is an Australian supplier for Range Timers suitable for all ISSF and Service Matches. This is the latest model with a remote with the times on it. PNZ clubs have been using two earlier models but these are the latest models. Email the company.

Download information on these timers (249k pdf)

FOR ALL SERVICE Training and Coaching CLICK HERE