Way back in probably the 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 1500 Match - and the Australian (and 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 7.65 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 New Zealand Pistol NZ introduced Service Pistol in 1982 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 Service Pistol and Service Pistol Unrestricted where as New Zealand has (unofficially) created a few extra classes to accommodate a wider range of pistols. We now split Service Pistol up into Auto and Revolver. We cover the overall Service Pistol class by allowing you to shoot both Revolver and Auto, but whichever you shoot first gives your score for "Service Pistol". We have added Open class to let those with optic sights and compensators shoot, and a subset of Unrestricted for .22s. Service Pistol is basically for more or less unmodified out of the box handguns, which can have "target" features.
These must weigh less than 1.4kg, fit a box 300x150x50 (the ISSF box) have only iron sights, no compensators, a minimum 1.36kg (3lb) trigger pull, and a few other things. Ammo must have 120 power factor. Calibre is 9mm to 11.5mm (.38 to .45). Service Pistol Unrestricted is for pistols from 7.62 mm to 9.65 mm (.32 to .38). There is no dimension or weight restrictions but it is otherwise much the same as Service Pistol.
Open Class is a NZ-only thing and is to allow NRA or IPSC guns to shoot, or any other pistol that does not meet the Service or Unrestricted rules. .22 class is for pistols complying with Unrestricted rules but in calibre .22 lr. Service Revolver and Auto and Open Class 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 Apart from introducing the different classes above, there are some Aussie rules we don't follow. The restrictions imposed in 2003/2004 in Australia mean that they are only allowed maximum 10 round magazines and are limited to 9mm/.38. We don't apply either of these. The other notable difference we have with Australia is that we allow the use of jacketed or plated projectiles where they don't. Apparently this 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 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 to 4 seconds for 6 shots. 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.
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, Fire (no Standby). Rulebooks are available from the Pistol NZ Section Director website for about $15
So, there is a brief description of Service Pistol. This tests your entire pistol shooting skills in a 90 shot match, and doesn't need 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.