The community of Pistol River takes its name from the stream of the same name. James Mace, a militia soldier, lost a pistol in the river in 1853, during a skirmish of the Rogue River Wars, and it has been known as Pistol River since then. The Pistol River post office was established in 1927.
The Pistol River area is known for its windsurfing, with the national championships having been held there several times.
Pistol River has a concert association that has hosted a monthly concert, often featuring nationally known acts, since 1982.