So called from Pistoja, in Tuscany, where they were invented in 1545. (Latin, pistorium.)
“Dr. Réyille has discharged his pistol in the air [that is, he pretends to fight against me, but discharges his shot against objections which I never made].” —W. E. Gladstone: Nineteenth Centary, November, 1885.
Source: Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, E. Cobham Brewer, 1894