...possibly more than the automobile, the handgun is synonymous with America.There are certain rules about guns and who's armed with what. In general, in non-military stories, the protagonist is armed only with their trusty handgun. Essentially, a character who carries a pistol as their primary firearm is showing just how cool he really is; he can take the field with an inferior weapon and win the day. However, pistols can be portrayed as wonder weapons, equal to a rifle in killing power. To be fair, the handgun does provide certain advantages for many walks of heroic life. It is small, easily concealed, and easily used. Even when better armaments are available and sometimes more advantageous, many heroes still carry a handgun as their primary firearm. Rifles and the like are reserved for supporting characters or the Redshirt Army or Evil Minions to carry. These are fairly standard primary armaments of police officers, detectives, security guards, or any other individual in an occupation that requires them to be ready for trouble but not necessarily expecting it. Any character in a work that deals with those archetypes can be assumed to be packing them either openly or in concealment, and to draw them when a situation gets tense. Actually, as main weapons handguns perform poorly when compared to, say, assault rifles. However, the appeal of handguns appears to trump such trifling tactical concerns - in effect the handgun is the modern sword, preferred by heroes over the more militarily common polearm for roughly the same reasons. If they really want power, they'll either use a shotgun or a Hand Cannon. Or, perhaps, carry two. Exceptions apply for characters in the military, as rifles and other such military-grade weapons are standard-issue. Even then, such a character is frequently reduced to using his trusty sidearm when facing down the Big Bad, or may carry a pistol if they are an officer or special forces. However, when it comes to handguns, everyone agrees that Revolvers Are Just Better
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Anime and Manga
- While the various mercenary ne'er-do-wells of Black Lagoon use a wide variety of weapons, the most skilled tend to use either pistols or a Hand Cannon. Nevertheless, while chainsaw, minigun, and dual-pistol wielding maniacs are the order of the day, the most feared and effective force in the setting are Balalaika's faceless snipers and AK-wielding ex-paratroopers.
- Mireille and Kirika, the all but preternatural assassins of Noir, work almost exclusively with handguns.
- In Aria the Scarlet Ammo, the dress code at Tokyo Butei High School includes a gun and a blade of some kind. Nearly every student carries a pistol for their gun, which makes sense, if you were carrying a bag of books, you wouldn't want to lug around an AK-47 or shotgun as well.
- The main crew of the Bebop usually use handguns. Possibly justified by the crew being too poor to afford anything else, and by ridiculously powerful weapons being a bad idea when you need to bring in your target alive to get paid, as well as both dangerous and conspicuous in the populated areas they often have to fight in.
- Teana Lanster's Weapon of Choice in Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha. Helps that it's a Magitek handgun that fires magical bullets that pack a punch and whose trajectory she can control.
- Train Heartnet from Black Cat's weapon of choice is a handgun.
- Rally Vincent almost always uses a pistol, but she does have bigger guns for she needs them.
- Another of Kenichi Sonoda's manga, Cannon God Exaxxion has an interesting spin on this. The main hero only uses pistols, but since they're magnetic acceleration/chemical propellant hybrids built with alien supertech that require a supersuit so the force of the recoil doesn't kill the user, it's not like he needs anything else.
- Mana's close range Weapon of Choice in Mahou Sensei Negima! are a pair of handguns. Don't think you're safe just because you're too close to be shot by her Sniper Rifle.
- In spite of being a Cold Sniper during her actual deployment, Riza Hawkeye from Fullmetal Alchemist almost exclusively favored her semiautomatic sidearm throughout the series, fired "Weaver style."
- The various James Bond movies almost always arm Bond with his trusty handgun, usually the iconic Walther PPK. Although he briefly used the bigger P99, he switched back to the tinier PPK. This makes more sense for a spy, who would want to use a subtle, concealable weapon when undercover or defending themselves. Of course, since when did James Bond care about subtlety?
- Die Hard
- Although anti-hero Tony Montana in Scarface (1983) is best known for his M16+ M203, villain Alejandro Sosa uses a pistol in Scarface: The World is Yours.
- For the house fight in the movie Mr. & Mrs. Smith, John Smith went with a simple handgun while Jane Smith dual wielded a submachine gun and a shotgun. Other than her ability to shoot through walls, he was able to keep up with her although this was partially due to the confined quarters being more beneficial for the light weight of a handgun letting him shoot around corners.
- Chow Yun Fat's signature weapons before he came to Hollywood were a pair of Beretta 92Fs.
- In the war film, We Were Soldiers. Sergeant Major Plumley, a Real Life Bad Ass no less, refused to use the new M16 during the battle, preferring to use his trusty M1911 service pistol during the battle, even firing it one-handed no less.
- He has a quote that deserves to be quoted. Having dismissed the M-16 as being so plastic that it feels like a BB gun, and stated his preference for his Colt, his superior officer remarks that maybe he should head by the Armoury and pick one up anyway. He responds; "Time comes I need one, Sir, there'll be plenty of 'em lying on the ground." The time duly comes, and he is sadly proved right.
- In The Expendables, Barney Ross's primary weapons include a Kimber M1911 in each hand.
- Barney's 1911s are actually from Kimber, not Colt. Though popular culture thinks of the 1911 as the "Colt .45," which can also refer to four other pistols they have made, most 1911 pistols in the world today were not made by Colt (although they have made a lot of them and continue to do so today). Wartime GI production also included Ithaca, Remington, Remington-Rand (a typewriter manufacturer), Singer Sewing Machines, and Union Switch & Signal (who normally made train parts). Today, most of the firearm manufacturers out there have some kind of 1911 rolling off one of their assembly lines, including (but not limited to) Colt (USA), Kimber (USA), Smith & Wesson (USA), Springfield Armory (USA/Brazil), Remington (USA), Para Ordnance (Canada), SIG-Sauer (Switzerland), Chiappa (Italy), Armscor (Philippines), and Rock Island Arms (Philippines). Lots of small, high-end gunsmiths are dedicated to turning out custom 1911s that are pretty much the Maserati of pistols.
- Treated with an in-universe sensibility in Once Upon a Time in the West. Although Frank uses a rifle to perform his transgression (which introduces his gang and supposedly bids farewell to the Mc Bain family), this use is hidden in the bushes, and he hands the rifle to a waiting henchman immediately upon emerging. This must have been an in-film character requirement, as Henry Fonda certainly had no reluctance to appear in films handling a rifle. In the same film, Woody Strode's anonymous character has a rifle that has been chopped short and is carried in the manner of a handgun. (Recursive reference: Chopped short sounds cooler and more badass than bobbed).
- The Dark Tower: Roland Deschain has a pair of pistols cast from the metal of the legendary Excalibur. He doesn't shoot with them, though. He shoots with his mind. But he kills with the heart.
- More to the point, he is the last of his world's professional gunslingers-and his Ancestral Weapon is a pair of revolvers. The power of the gunslinger's revolvers (ALL of the gunslingers, of which he was merely the last one) is known throughout his world, with revolvers being held up as the "ultimate weapon". Of course this also becomes an important plot point, as Roland spends most of the story with a bad right hand, and loaning one of his two pistols away to Eddie or Suze - neither possible if he had been a rifleman.
- Honor Harrington's:
- The titular heroine's trademark weapon is a replica Colt M1911 chambered in .45 ACP, considered to be an anachronistic Hand Cannon by the standards of the setting. She justifies her skill with the weapon as going back to an eccentric uncle back home who was a member of the Society for Creative Anachronisms note
- More common for the setting are rapid-fire handheld rail guns called "Pulsers" that launch small darts at high velocity. An infiltrator trying to sneak past a guard post on a relatively low-tech world is discovered because he was carrying an old fashioned firearm rather than a galactic-standard pulser.
- And interestingly enough, Honor's most notorious use of her M1911 was the inversion of the above: Because modern gun scanners in the setting focus on locating the high-density power sources pulsers need to function, and not on detecting metal, Honor was able to conceal and sneak her anachronistic, unpowered (but no less deadly) weapon past a group of pirates and use it to escape being their hostage.
- It's considered poor practice for a Time Scout not to be proficient with handguns.
- The Whistlers of A Brother's Price favor rifles for serious engagements, but they still carry handguns around. Even Jerin has a derringer, though actually using it freaks him out.
Live Action TV
- Nearly every police or crime drama. Of course, this is somewhat more understandable, as the pistol is the standard weapon for those professions.
- Malcolm Reynolds in Firefly and Serenity generally used a handgun, even though other members of the crew used rifles or carbines. Usually, though, gunplay happened at unexpected moments, requiring a quick-draw, or while he is in disguise. The rare instances where Mal expected to get into trouble and didn't have to worry about concealing his weapons, he packed a shotgun or assault rifle.
- Jack Bauer of 24 almost always uses a handgun (A SIG-Sauer P228 with a nickel-plated slide to be precise), and on one occasion in season 5 even manages to shoot down a helicopter with one. However, he does use more formidable firearms when the opportunity presents itself.
- The various Star Trek series and movies appear to have taken this to its logical extreme — with the exception of the much-maligned Star Trek: Enterprise and some latter parts of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, phasers are rarely seen except in handgun form, presumably because the Federation is trying to pass itself off as less militaristic, and the hand phasers are effective enough that more powerful weapons are rarely needed.
- Deep Space Nine and Star Trek: Voyager had quite a bit of phaser-rifle brandishing in later seasons, because there was a greater emphasis on Scary Dogmatic Aliens threatening the Federation (or because the big guns had been passed on from the Trek movies). This was also seen when Star Trek: Enterprise was made Darker and Edgier with the Xindi war arc, leading to the introduction of the MACO's — basically a special ops team who, unlike Reed's security mooks, had energy rifles.
- Wesley of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel fame used two handguns as his primary weapons in the latter series — odd, for a show in which guns of any sort were generally maligned.
- They were maligned in Buffy, but as the spin-off Angel was set in Los Angeles firearms tended to go with the territory, being used by the gangbangers and criminals who operated on the fringes of the demon world. Still, Wesley is the only main character who really takes a shine to them, presumably because many of their supernatural opponents are Immune to Bullets.
- In Battlestar Galactica (2003), season one's military handguns were extremely powerful, capable of firing rounds that could go through heavily armed robots. This was changed in seasons 2 and 3, where the handguns and most weapons are generally ineffective, except when the handguns fire explosive rounds. (Eventually they moved on to assault rifles and PDWs, whose bullets, while no more effective, were certainly a lot more voluminous.)
- Babylon 5 Security uses the PPG plasma pistol as their standard weapon since they're basically cops. They only break out rifles when things get really bad.
- PPGs are used instead of bullet-firing guns so as to avoid putting air holes in the hull of the space station.
- In Supernatural, the Winchesters use handguns with silver bullets to take down shapeshifters and a werewolf. They also have a Colt revolver that can kill almost anything.
- Torchwood features a massive amount of handguns. Jack uses a Webley Mk. IV revolver, the rest of the team relying on Tokyo Marui HiCapa's. However in the episode "Day One", Gwen's firearms training involves a LOT of guns. Among Captain Johns many weapons are (presumably) 2 HiCapa's and a Remington 1866 Derringer. Many other handguns are featured, including a Glock 17, USP .45, Smith & Wesson number 3 revolver, FN model 1910, Beretta 92F and a Walther P99.
- Its parent show Doctor Who features even more, with a USP compact, Glock 17, Webley bulldog, Beretta 92FS, SIG P226, Webley Mk. VI and IV, Walther PPK, Walther P38, Strayer Voight Infinity, Tokyo Marui Hicapa, Luger P08, Glock 26 Advance, Colt Single Action Army and Smith & Wesson model 27.
- Burn Notice features pistols carried by practically every member of the team, with various models showing (justified, given Fi is an arms smuggler). Generally, Fi prefers compact pistols, while Michael, Sam and Jesse prefer full-sized / military-issue pistols, such as the Sig P226. Having said that, whenever they have a chance to outfit themselves with heavier weaponry, they take it.
- In Supernatural, the Winchesters usually have shotguns and larger guns in the trunk of the Impala, but Dean is often only carrying his M 1911 A 1, while Sam is carrying his Taurus.
- The TV Spy Fiction series The Man from U.N.C.L.E. varied the standard handgun trope in two ways. First, the standard issue U.N.C.L.E. handgun could fire either bullets or non-lethal "sleep darts" depending on the needs of the plot. Second, when U.N.C.L.E. agents needed a weapon that was more like a rifle than a handgun, they could simply attach a stock, telescopic sight, barrel extension, and extended magazine to the handgun and, voila, the handgun turned into a cool looking carbine.
- Warhammer 40K: Bolters are the iconic weapon of the setting and Space Marines, a two-handed machine gun that fires miniature armor-piercing missiles. It also comes in a bolt pistol variant, a ridiculously overpowered handgun popular among commissars (the distinctive bark is useful for letting soldiers know a comrade's insolent mannerisms or morale-dampening histrionics were in error).
- Very often played straight in video games, where, perhaps for game balance, pistols will be more accurate and more powerful than assault rifles, perhaps owing from the delusion that the volume of fire achieved by assault rifles and machine guns must mean that each of those bullets is weaker. Or perhaps it's the other way around. This is less so in "tactical shooters", where handguns tend to be more defensive/backup weapons; for example, drawing your pistol in Call of Duty 4 (and later shooters inspired by it) is faster than reloading a primary weapon, but (except for 20 Minutes into the Future settings like Ghost Recon: Future Soldier) you get only the iron sights for aiming. Even then it's still typically played straight in regard to power though (for example, in Call of Duty 4, the 9mm M9 handgun with a five-inch barrel gets better damage stats in extreme close range and equivalent ones at long range as the 5.56x45mm M4A1, a carbine with a 14.5-inch barrel).
- Quite a lot of video games seem to have the weird idea that the handgun is a starter weapon from which the player will upgrade to rifles - the rifle requiring more skill to use. Predictably the reverse is true - handguns require far more proficiency to use than almost any long arm.
- Many Light Gun games have your character start with, and mainly use, a pistol. This does make sense for the police-oriented ones like Virtua Cop or Lethal Enforcers.
- Bayonetta: Played With as the eponymous character starts guns akimbo in the opening cutscene (and many other times as well), can use four at a time, and many of her weapons are handguns, but can and does use other weapons and magic as well.
- Counter-Strike: Handguns can actually hold their own against full-sized weapons in mid to long distances, especially the Desert Eagle, which can drop any one in one shot to the head, armored or not.
- Deus Ex: Gameplay will have the player find all different types of weapons, but the pistol is one of the most effective. Boring but Practical, it can be upgraded to be a poor-man's sniper rifle, ammo is very common, takes up only one spot in the inventory, and can drop most enemies in one shot to the head. Fan-made mods give it explosive rounds, which allow the player to blow open doors.
- The prequel, Deus Ex: Human Revolution continues this with the 10mm pistol. The game is chock-full of weapons that go from the traditional (submachinegun) to the exotic (laser rifle), but a player who decides to invest all his skill points in the pistol won't be any worse off - it's extremely accurate, ammo is very common, it takes very little inventory space, there's an armor-piercing upgrade that lets it down all but a couple types of Elite Mooks with a single headshot, and it's even effective against bosses. And you get a special achievement if you never touch a heavier weapon in the whole game.
- Dante of the Devil May Cry series goes Guns Akimbo with two customized handguns as his signature firearms. Admittedly, he does gain better firepower, including but not limited to shotguns, a grenade launcher and a sniper rifle. Nevertheless, his pistols remain useful even in the endgame.
- In the later games, anyhow. In the first game the hand guns were useless after you got your shotgun because they were too weak to be of any use and the shotgun was fast enough to keep enemies at bay. The grenade launcher was even better. It helps that Dante never has to reload and can shoot so fast he can keep enemies floating on a cloud of hot lead.
- Gungrave: Beyond the Grave is an undead gunslinger who, in both the anime and video game series, wields the "Left Head and Right Head of Cerberus", two Really Big Pistols Guns Akimbo-style. He also carries a coffin on his back stocked with heavy weapons, but the handguns are his main method of fighting. He starts with these weapons and ends the game with them.
- Every Resident Evil game starts you off with a handgun. Usually, it's some type of 9mm Beretta. The STARS standard handgun is a custom version of the Beretta M 92 FS called the "Samurai Edge."
- Subverted in the Jak and Daxter series of games. The hero's trademark morpho-gun can switch between many different modes - the basics being shotgun, rifle, gatling gun and rocket launcher in the second game, with the third one introducing upgrades for these - but the hero never once gets his hands on a pistol, which considering how his primary enemies are hideous biomechanical monstrosities that spit acid, generate their own energy fields and feed off of dark energy is pretty sensible.
- In Tabula Rasa, the player starts with a pistol and 1000 rounds of ammunition. Soon after, the player gets more powerful weapons (completing the Basic Trinity - shotgun, rifle, and pistol). The pistol of the three can generate the highest damage-per-second of the three, due to its rapid rate of fire. Not only that, it remains useful throughout the game. Surprisingly, the weapons in TR require reloading, require crouching in place (beading) to fire at their most accurate and do the most damage, and otherwise behave like their real-world counterparts. This, from a science fantasy MMO.
- Snake, from Metal Gear, consistently "recovered" a variety of weapons, including assault rifles, light machine guns, and rocket launchers. However, in most cutscenes, he's shown using his (usually suppressed) handgun, often a .45 caliber Mark 23 SOCOM. Which makes sense, considering he's on a sneaking mission and would prefer a single silent shot over a wall of lead. Subverted in Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots however, where cutscenes tend to show him with the weapon most useful for the situation - sometimes it's his pistol, other times it's the M4 Custom, and in one situation it's a massive railgun.
- Splinter Cell has Sam Fisher and his trusty FN Five-Seven alongside his other two favourite weapons, the custom FN F2000 and the Karambit.
- Justified in Mass Effect where Shepard will often use a pistol in the cutscenes, in spite of carrying an assault rifle, a sniper rifle and and a shotgun. Pistols themselves are still very powerful, and perhaps more importantly, the pistol is the one weapon that all Shepard's available classes can use equally well, so it only makes sense that s/he would use it.
- Subverted in the sequel, where during the final scenario inside the Collector base, all characters seem to carry assault rifles at some point, even those that can't, like biotic Jack (who typically uses a shotgun and a pistol), and even Joker.
- Although this was most likely unintentional, the pistol is arguably the absolute best of the first game's weapons. Its boost talent (Marksman) is far more effective than the assault rifle equivalent (Overkill), while its very tight grouping and zoom ability makes it a better choice for mid-range sharpshooting than the actual sniper rifle (the magnification's much weaker, but the reticle doesn't wander like the real thing's).
- Pistols (now called "heavy pistols", even if the pistol in that category is not actually a Hand Cannon) were nerfed for the second and third games. In the second, the low ammo count and unimpressive damage of the pistols, even the Carnifex, reduced them to sidearms. In the third game, they become less broken than in the first game but also much stronger than in the second, the addition of things like the Phalanx, the M-358 Talon, and the Scorpion.
- Pistols like the Paladin (especially a modded Paladin X) play this trope straight again in the third game, being easily usable as primary weapons, and superior to most sniper and assault rifles in accuracy, power, and overall performance.
- Saints Row 2 uses this to the point that when confronting Veteran Child, the Player Character will be shown wielding a NR4 pistol (a renamed Glock)... even if your inventory has a different pistol.
- Subverted in Fate/Zero, where the protagonist Kiritsugu Emiya and his assistant use Assault Rifles, compact Sniper Rifles, Submachine Guns and High-explosives to get the job done. In the one part where he uses a handgun, he uses a Thompson Contender, a handgun designed to fire rifle bullets that are about 3-4 times more powerful than even the .50 Action Express used by the Desert Eagle.
- In Digital Devil Saga, (mute) Main Character Serph uses a pistol when in human form, and is shown in cut-scenes to have a deadly aim. MUCH later on, the local Mysterious Waif Sera becomes a playable character, with a pistol also becoming her Weapon of Choice while in human form.
- Halo: Combat Evolved is a particularly bad user of this trope, creating the infamous scoped pistol that kills in three headshots... compared to the entire magazine of ammo required from the 60-round 7.62mm assault rifle (that caliber would technically designate it as a battle rifle) to achieve a similar kill... and at a much shorter range. That said, this is somewhat justified: the M6D pistol fired 12.7x40 mm semi armor-piercing high explosive rounds - that's about the same size as the infamous .50 Action Express.
- Largely averted from Halo 2 onward, as weapons like the Battle Rifle and DMR now fill in the role the CE pistol had as a medium-range weapon, with the M6C, M6G, and M6H pistols being significantly reduced in firepower, accuracy, and range compared to the M6D (though the M6H is no slouch itself). That said, Halo 5: Guardians Warzone mode has plenty of pistol variants which are straight examples, including the original Combat Evolved Hand Cannon.
- Subverted in Jagged Alliance 2, where semiautomatic pistols are starting weapons for cheap, low-level mercs and are at best early game, or specialty weapons if using accessories and/or specialized ammo; even then they're surpassed by machine pistols, which also benefit from these but are themselves surpassed by long guns which usually can also benefit from accessories and/or specialized ammo. (The v1.13 mod as of the November 14th, 2008 build leaves pistols with only a lower Action Point cost to ready.)
- Subverted with the Serious Sam titles, at least the First Encounter and Second Encounter, where all guns were equally accurate up to as far as you could see. Sure, that included the rotary gun, but Rule of Fun. You needed that firepower anyway.
- Messed with in Fallout 3. Handguns are usually excellent in the early game, since they have very low AP costs and use common ammo. By the time you encounter your first Super Mutant, though, they simply do too little damage at even the highest levels of Small Guns or Energy Weapons to justify carrying them... until you run into the Scoped .44 Magnum. Even that still does less damage than the rifles, though, with rarer ammunition. Then there's the Alien Blaster, but that has incredibly limited ammo.
- It's best not to count the Mysterious Stranger's .44 Magnum, which causes more damage than a tactical nuke launcher (probably helps that you're not supposed to have access to it). Most bullet weapons inflict tens of HP damage per shot, thereabouts. The Mysterious Stranger's Magnum? 9000. Conversely, the .32 pistol is almost a joke, doing half the damage of the 10mm pistol you were given automatically near the start of the game and wasting ammo that was far more useful when used with the hunting rifle.
- The most powerful conventional rifle in the game, Lincoln's Repeater, is about on par with the best handgun in the game, The Blackhawk (not counting Alien Blaster, since that is an Energy Weapon, though undisputed the most damaging and accurate weapon in the game.) The Blackhawk has slightly better base damage, but the Repeater slightly makes up for this higher crit damage. The Repeater has a tighter spread at minimum range, but the Blackhawk has tighter spread at maximum range. It's a near tie that could be determined by how much weight you give encumbrance and coolness factors.
- Fallout 2 has similar weapon progression. Due to the way the action point system works, though, some pistols make surprisingly good weapons because you can shoot them several more times per round than more cumbersome guns. In particular, the .44 Magnum and the Gauss Pistol can put out 6 shots a turn with the right build, though it sacrifices the massive damage potential of called shots.
- In Fallout, putting enough skill points into pistols lets you get a One-Hit Kill against nearly anything by aiming for the eyes. (A successful called shot to the eyes from any weapon at all will do massive damage, but pistols tend to be the first type of gun you find, and ammunition is plentiful.)
- Fallout: New Vegas has the Honest Hearts DLC, which introduces us to Joshua Graham, the Burned Man. A New Canaanite (read, Mormon) missionary and Caesar's previous legate, Joshua uses an Ace Custom .45 Auto Pistol named "A Light Shining In Darkness." It's a cut-down and heavily customized version of the standard .45 Auto Pistol available in Zion, and in Joshua's hands is an outright Hand Cannon since it does a base 50 points of damage before any bonuses from Joshua are added on. For reference, the sniper rifle available in New Vegas 'only' does 45 damage. It is toned down somewhat when the player uses it, moving it out of Game Breaker territory, but it is still an incredibly useful weapon, dealing damage on par with 5.56mm rifles but with all the handguns' benefits to handling and ability to be smuggled into casinos and other areas that take away your weapons. Or, if you don't have Honest Hearts or revolvers are more your thing, you can easily get within the first hours of the game "That Gun", the .223 pistol from Fallout 2, which deals better damage than full-size rifles firing the same rounds.
- Team Fortress 2 has many types of pistols for the mid-health level characters (Engineer, Scout) as a standard side-arm, but the Spy is the only one to carry a revolver because he's the spy. It happens to be quite loud with a very distinctive sound. It still aims well.
- One of the Spy's "sidegrade" weapons is The Ambassador, which is a bigger revolver. Its base accuracy is the same as the game's sniper rifle, and it does double damage on successful headshots. However, it actually is less damaging per shot otherwise, and its accuracy sustains a heavy penalty during a cooldown period after a shot (and the gun can't headshot during cooldown). It's meant to allow the spy to destroy damaged enemies from close-medium range.
- In Left 4 Dead, all players start out with handguns (although the beginning of each round gives you a selection of other, more powerful guns). The trope is slightly averted since they're not as powerful as the other guns, but they have unlimited ammo, while the other guns do not.
- Averted in all of the Grand Theft Auto games, where the handguns are often the weakest weapons available, with a shorter range than any weapon except the shotgun. Even the more powerful handguns, like the Colt Python in Vice City and the combat pistol in IV, aren't wonder weapons, and are frequently outclassed by sub-machine guns and assault rifles.
- Most of the Killer7 are armed with handguns of various kinds. The exceptions are MASK with twin grenade launchers, Kevin's throwing knives, and Harman's high-powered rifle.
- In Final Fantasy: Dirge of Cerberus, Vincent's three-barreled handgun ("Cerberus") is a very nice weapon to have and is very customizable, even capable of being reconfigured into an assault or sniper rifle.
- In Rainbow Six, pistols are very useful close range weapons because their reticule closes almost instantly regardless of the assault skill of the operative. This means you can fire an accurate shot faster than someone wielding an assault rifle or a submachine gun or a shotgun (though buckshot with a shotgun would probably hit the enemy anyway even if the reticule wasn't closed). Also operatives specializing in fields other than assault (especially snipers for some odd reason) have lower assault ratings (usually) and therefore aim slower with non-pistol guns. This does not apply from Raven Shield and onwards.
- The Area 51 light gun game features you as part of some paramilitary unit. Unlike other shooting games where you were a cop with a pistol because cops don't normally tote rifles around, in this game you're a soldier who's got..still a pistol.
- Wasteland, the RPG, also started your Desert Rangers with some sort of pistol. A character generation exploit would let you take a full inventory of them to the nearest gun shops and get at least rifles.
- Time Crisis is military-themed, yet the VSSE agents all use handguns as their main weapons. However, by the third and fourth installment, they use machine guns, shotguns, and grenade launchers.
- The main characters in all the Metal Slug games use handguns as their primary weapon. However, they can upgrade their weapon to a Heavy Machine Gun, Rocket Launcher, and more.
- In The Godfather, early on in the game handguns, when used effectively, are probably the best weapons to use. The Tommy gun has less accuracy, gives less respect per kill, and runs out of bullets quickly. The shotgun has a very small carrying capacity so it has to be reloaded often, it's slow, and the magnum revolver does comparable damage anyway. However after the Tommy and shotgun are upgraded they're significantly better than the upgraded handguns.
- Pistols are carried as backup weapons throughout the Battlefield games. Certain pistols can become viable primary weapons in Battlefield 3, with the addition of a tactical light, which blinds and disorients enemies.
- PAYDAY: The Heist has a silenced handgun and a standard handgun, both them having decent ammo reserves and are heavily outclassed by machine guns, shotguns, and assault rifles. Security guards and street cops also use handguns against you while the more aggressive SWAT use assault rifles and shotguns.
- Available as decorative custom equipment in Soul Calibur V. Since they're classified as "special equipment", they can be placed anywhere on a character, including in their hand. It's impossible to shoot as it's just decoration, but with some fighting styles and some creative angling, it can give the illusion of bayonet slashing or Pistol-Whipping.
- In Goldeneye Wii this is inverted with the exception of the Wolf .44; most of the games handguns are close to useless in a firefight that in multiplayer melee attacks are almost invariably used over the handgun when the player's primary firearm is out of ammunition.
- Dawn of War: The Vindicare sniper uses a sniper rifle as his main weapon, but in melee he pulls out a handgun and... goes Pistol-Whipping.
- Starcraft II: While in Power Armor, Raynor uses the standard big boxy assault rifle, but keeps his Hand Cannon for particularly dramatic moments like shooting Mengsk (and not Mengsk Jr., so he didn't waste the bullet) or when a voluntarily re-infested Kerrigan puts it to her head and asks if he still trusts her. He empties the clip into the wall. Then, when they finally have Mengsk cornered he uses an entirely different handgun, one that's big enough to be used by said Power Armor yet still comes across as tiny.
- In Sluggy Freelance, while Bun-Bun usually relies upon either raw strength or his switchblade in a fight, he has been shown to own a number of Glock pistols. If handguns aren't enough, he skips right to using a rocket launcher. Granted, regardless of his strength and dexterity, operating a rifle would probably be tricky for a rabbit.
- As would anything involving thumbs, really. Of course, Bun-Bun is too awesome to be stopped by mere physiology, and it's funny.
- Serge of Zokusho Comics seems to prefer these. He has a pair of handguns that he channels his Phantom Shot ability through to get unlimited ammunition, but when he needs more serious firepower he uses his Lucky 7 Revolver. Lucky 7 fires magical bullets with a wide range of effects from trapping people ice, to creating enormous fireballs.
- Typically averted, but also can be played straight, depending on the situation. In combat situations, going toe-to-toe with enemies armed with rifles and SMGs will usually put you at a disadvantage, especially at long-distances. In CQC, you might have a fighting chance however, since moving around is easier with a pistol than a full-sized weapon.
- For civilians, pistols can be a weapon of choice for personal defense. Easy to conceal, easy to store, and in the event of home invasion, easy to wield in CQC situations.
- The real problem with handguns is that they demand a lot of practice to hit your target. For example using only one hand does not have enough grip to prevent your guns aim moving off target while doing something as simple as pulling the trigger. The recoil itself can twist the gun so much off your hand that when firing consecutive shots, the rest will go awfully on the side. The real example just how much skill a handgun needs is that from 25 meters you'll probably be missing your shots even if you hold guns somewhat correctly but while using a rifle even a beginner can hit target from 200-300 meters away. Long story short: no matter how easy Hollywood makes it look, real handgun marksmanship is not simply a matter of "point and shoot."
- The other real problem is power, especially in military contexts where armor is common and only full metal jacketed ammunition is legal(, but even in civilian contexts there is little comparing common long guns to common handguns in the so-called "stopping power"). And in the world of handgun power, once one reaches the realm between the 380ACP to the 10MMAuto, terminal effect pretty much evens out to the point where trauma surgeons cannot tell the difference between the wound tracts of a 9x19 Makarov (near the bottom end of this range) and a 45ACP (near the higher end of this range). All things being equal, a longer barrel will give far more room for powder to burn, allowing rifles to achieve much greater muzzle velocities and use more powerful ammunition to take advantage of this, as well as the far more stable platform a rifle's stock and staggered grip offer. For example, even when fired from a carbine or rifle barrel, the powerful (in terms of handgun rounds) .357 magnum round will have less energy than even the diminutive (in terms of military rifle rounds) 5.56x45mm fired from the same sized barrel. There is a reason armor to protect against rifle rounds is so much heavier and more expensive than those designed to protect only against handgun fire.