A national-level shooter partially lost his left thumb during a cylinder blast at a private range in Greenfield, Faridabad on Saturday evening.
Pushpender Kumar, a corporal with the Indian Air Force, was filling the 10m air pistol cylinder with compressed air, when the cylinder exploded.
Pushpender was training at the shooting range for the National Championships, currently underway in Bhopal, when the incident occured.
He is currently admitted to Indian Army's R&R hospital in New Delhi.
A national coach, told PTI, on condition of anonymity that the incident occurred while Pushpender was filling compressed air into the pistol cylinder from the main cylinder.
Air pistols and air rifles have a sleek gas cylinder attached just below the barrel. When the shooter presses the trigger, the compressed gas in the cylinder is released, which hits a hammer inside the air gun, ejecting the lead pellet.
The air pistol's cylinder has to be filled after a certain number of shots with the help of a compressor or a portable cylinder.
Earlier, carbon dioxide used to be the preferred gas to fill the cylinders but with the advancement in technology, compressed air cylinders, which look like smaller versions of LPG cylinders, are used to fill the air pistol cylinders.
The National Rifle Association of India (NRAI) has urged the shooters to follow safety guidelines following the incident.
"An unfortunate incident has come to our notice regarding a shooter. While practising at a range in Faridabad, he was grievously injured when the gas cylinder of his air pistol exploded," said NRAI senior vice-president Kalikesh Singhdeo in a statement.
"While the NRAI has no involvement in his training at the range, we are deeply concerned and wish the shooter a speedy recovery.
"General safety guidelines provided by the ISSF (International Shooting Sports Federation) and manufacturers should be strictly adhered to by shooters and range officials. Care should be taken to not use old cylinders, past its validity date or fill excessive gas," said Singhdeo.
Pushpender belongs to the Baghpat district of Uttar Pradesh and, while he has not competed internationally, he is a senior member of the IAF team.
"We are hopeful Pushpender will make 90-95 per cent recovery post surgery," said the coach.
"Air pistol cylinders have to be replaced after a certain period of time and the gun manufacturers do it for free. Thankfully, Pushpender's shooting arm is safe."
The coach added that he had not come across such an incident in his career "though (gun) vendors say such incidents do happen".
It is not known whether the air pistol was personal or belonged to the Air Force.
"It is sad that he will not be able to compete in the national championships currently underway in Bhopal. His mother had passed away some 15-20 days back. As far as I know, he has not played internationally. He trains with the IAF team at the Karni Singh range in Delhi," the coach added.
The coach said that international rifle shooter and a World Cup bronze medallist from Meerut, Ravi Kumar, who is also with the IAF, was looking after Pushpender at the Army hospital.
"He is doing fine and should be discharged in the next 2-3 days," Kumar told PTI.
Another pistol coach at the Karni Singh range said that it is important that air pistol and rifle shooters replace their gun cylinders every 10 years or as directed by the weapon manufacturer.
"There is a possibility of a mishap if the refill cylinders are not replaced as directed by the manufacturers. I don't know the exact cause of the blast but one should not take it lightly as once the validity expires anything can happen," he said on condition of anonymity.
"Pushpender is a good shooter and I have known him for a long time. What I have been told is that he has undergone a major surgery. He is around 28-30 years old. Usually what happens is that the pressure gauge indicator on the air weapon's cylinder starts malfunctioning, giving incorrect reading. It leads to overfilling of the cylinder, which causes it to burst," he added.