Pistol Shooting

The 1997 law did not ban pistols as such and was drafted in terms of small firearms. Air Pistol shooting was not affected by the 1997 legislation and is still widely shot in the UK.

British law defines a "pistol" as a firearm with a barrel shorter than 30 cm or a total length of less than 60 cm (this definition encompasses revolving pistols). Only muzzle-loading pistols, including muzzle-loading revolvers, are permitted; in practice all such firearms use black powder, a Class 1 explosive, as the propellant. Small quantities of muzzle-loading pistols and revolvers in various calibres, which comply with the regulations, are manufactured.

All other pistols are prohibited on the UK mainland, with some exceptions such as pistols used for the humane dispatch of injured animals (such as deer) and some historical firearms.

Long-barrelled revolvers and pistols

"Long-barrelled revolvers" and "long-barrelled pistols" meeting specified criteria are not classified as small, and hence prohibited, firearms; it is legal, with a Class I Firearms Certificate, to possess them. The barrel must be at least 30 cm long, and the firearm at least 60 cm long, which can be achieved by having a permanently attached extension to the grip or butt of the firearm. Long-barrelled single-shot firearms of any calibre, and semi-automatic pistols of .22 rimfire calibres, are permitted with FAC.

Target pistols

Aside from special temporary exemptions for major events such as the 2012 Olympics, pistol shooting for sporting purposes has been effectively banned since 1997. As a result, the GB pistol squad has to practice abroad.

A few models of single-shot .22 calibre free pistol, as used in the 50m Olympic 'Free Pistol' match, have been produced to meet the "long-barrelled pistol" conditions. Some free pistols have removable stabiliser bars extending backwards to improve stability; the UK-legal models have been made with non-removable stabilisers to extend the dimensions, instead of contrived and non-functional grip extensions. Examples are the single-shot Pardini K22 Longarm and the Westlake Britarms Long Pistol, a permitted .22LR five-shot semi-automatic pistol.