Just thought that I would add my two cents worth to this topic.
Firstly I have never seen a "pistol" crossbow since they are treated as a
concealable weapon by Australian Customs and are therfore a prohibited item
and can not be imported. However some manufacturers have gotten around this
by adding a moulded extension to the crossbow which can be removed after
purchase. A bit stupid really.
Period examples of small crossbows favoured by some assassins have been
documented from private collections. There was a recent article in the
Journal of the Society of Archer Antiquaries on this topic - I have
misplaced my copy of the article, but I think that it was in the 1996
edition of the Journal and that the author was Douglas Elmy.
From memory these little crossbows had a small prod around 20 to 25
centimetres from nock to nock and had a draw weight of aound 45 kilograms
at most 8 centimetres. I'm using metric measures since I can't think in
inches and pounds....
One example shot a small bolt that had a sharp point (needle like or a
blade) and had razor sharp metal fletches. Also from memory these weapons
were meant to be used from no more than two or three metres. The assassin
would walk up to the victim and while walking past take his shot without
stopping. I think that there was also some speculation about the use of
poisons or infectious material to increase the chance of a kill if the shot