In the wonderful world of videogames, you can take out a target at a thousand yards using your pistol when your sniper rifle runs out of ammo. Sometimes it's possible to pre-aim with a sniper scope, switch weapons to a pistol, and deal out the same damage.
In many cases, this is due to accuracy being determined by recoil, along with no realistic damage/bullet drop. Rather than have the bullets deviate from the cross-hair, the weapon always shoots where it is aimed, but each shot causes your aim to shift. Therefore, carefully lining up the first shot always results in a hit, even if the subsequent shots go wide. Weapons with low damage but high firing rates, such as machine guns, will therefore be hard to aim accurately, while slower firing and more powerful single shot weapons, such as pistols, will be more effective at range so long as you take the time to line up each shot. It's often possible to get the same effect from an automatic if it has the option to switch to single-shot mode (or sometimes it will have the exact same accuracy, which makes even less sense). This is likely a way to work around the limitations of Hit Scan.
In Real Life, accurately shooting a handgun, regardless which type of scope is used, is incredibly difficult and takes a lot of training to master, much more compared to a rifle or carbine.
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First Person Shooter
Doom is the Ur Example. If you pause for about a second in between each pistol or chaingun shot, it will have perfect accuracy. Of course, in an era where headshots didn't exist, this was rarely a viable tactic for killing anything but zombies and imps.
Call of Duty: World at War. It is often possible to shoot AND KILL the sniper who hits you from halfway across a BIG map while lying down in Second Chance position, unable to move and equipped only with a pistol.
They are rather shameless about this trope in this game - there's an achievement in the campaign for finding a pistol somewhere in the level and taking out high-value target with it, when you'd normally be doing it with the scoped Sniper Rifle you started out with.
Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, same thing. If you're out of ammo and one kill short of a chopper, pull out your pistol and snipe. Of course, it's not really as hard-hitting as an actual sniper rifle.
The sequels are no different. Of course, the generally smaller maps made it a bit more justifiable. A bit.
Taken to its logical conclusion in Call of Duty: Black Ops, where in multiplayer you have the option of attaching a scope to the revolver.
Said revolver, along with most of the revolvers from World at War onwards and the Desert Eagle from the Modern Warfare games, will kill a player in a single shot regardless of the range to the target or where you hit them, with perfect accuracy, if you're playing on a hardcore server/playlist. So, you can nail a kill from across the entire map with a revolver by hitting someone who just spawned at full health in the foot.
Second Chance + Hardcore game modes = long range death laser
In Half-Life 2: Deathmatch, a revolver can be used on a sniping map. Also, a zoom script can be a game-winning combinationnote The revolver has power on par with the crossbow, which has a scope (as opposed to every other weapon forcing the player to use the HEV suit's zoom, which prevents them from firing); and the revolver is hitscan whereas the crossbow fires a Painfully Slow Projectile affected by gravity, and as such is pretty much useless for that purpose.
The pistols in Deus Ex are very accurate if you put enough skill points into using them, but their damage is lower than other weapons.
Plus you could fit a scope and laser sight on it. Master-skill-level pistolwork is cheaper (thus earlier) to reach than master-level riflery, but the damage (and range) limits will hurt later in the game.
Due to a bug, if you attach only a laser sight but no scope to your pistol, it will be 100% accurate at any range as long as you're standing still. Combine this with the fact that the game's starter pistol does 1-hit kill headshots and you've got a Game Breaker.
The Shifter Mod fixes this, making the laser account for your character's hand sway. This means you have to be able to actually see the laser dot on your target to be accurate, and eliminates the 150 yard precision accurate kills that were achievable prior to this.
Averted in the sequel Deus Ex: Invisible War, where the pistol is a useless piece of shit, no longer capable of one hit headshotsnote As with every over weapon except the sniper rifle and might as well have been loaded with tissue paper.
The pistol in Human Revolution can become this with the right weapon mods and cybernetic augmentations. A laser pointer means you can see exactly where your shots will land even while moving and a fully upgraded Aim Stabilizer aug will keep your reticule/laser pointer from swaying around; combined together they give perfect accuracy at any range you can see your laser dot at. The pistol's unique mod is armor-piercing rounds. Since enemies gain little health over the course of the game, instead gaining better armor (which the mods lets the pistol ignore), even most late-game enemies will die instantly from a bullet to the head.
The upgrade to the Revolver makes the bullets explode. Better on mechs, but much louder.
Any game by Rare, the developers of Golden Eye 1997. Perfect Dark even gave you a scoped pistol for some levels; you could zoom in and use them just as you would a sniper rifle. In the prequel, the player's default pistol is scoped.
Halo: Combat Evolved, the pistol was very powerful for a pistol, leading to many complaints, and the pistol being nerfed in the sequels (although it was subsequently restored in Halo 4). In universe, it made perfect sense for the pistol in the first game to be as powerful as it was, since it was loaded with bullets that exploded upon impact and had a zoom scope attached to it. It wasn't so much an overpowered gun, as it was a very small tactical rifle, making perfect sense in the game's sci-fi setting. It only bothered players because it was a pistol, and well, pistols don't do that. The sequels replaced with a battle rifle that did pretty much the exact same amount of damage and had the same scope, and nobody complained.
Even so, the M6 pistol was always powerful, accurate, and had a scope built in - it was a literal sniper pistol. In ODST, it's one of the most reliable weapons and in Firefight will often show up as a player's weapon of choice.
You could use the above strategy of lining up the shot with the sniper rifle, and then nailing a headshot with the pistol. This is only useful for unshielded opponents though. It should be noted that headshots were the only use for the pistol; an entire clip worth of body hits won't kill an opponent.
Since Marathon predates the advent of a Sniper Rifle in FPSs, the pistol(s) happens to be the best sniping weapon, possibly bar Infinity's ammo-guzzling flechette SMG.
Since the game lacks crosshairs OR on-gun sights, the pistol's low recoil and slow rate of fire make it the easiest weapon to reliably aim over long distances, once you've got it centered on a target.
KAEDE Smith's long-barreled semi-auto with a scope in Killer7. Some characters lampshade this and the supernatural nature of the Smiths may somewhat justify it, as she's apparently the only person in the whole world who can shoot like that.
And yet she still fumbles with the magazine every time she has to reload.
In Battlefield 2, the pistols are one of the more accurate weapons in the game. In fact, snipers can quite easily use their rifle to score a damaging but non-lethal hit, and then follow with a burst of pistol fire to finish off a target... at 150 yards.
It's even worse in Battlefield 1942, where good players could kill snipers with nothing but a pistol, before the sniper managed to work the bolt on their rifle.
The Operative: No One Lives Forever gives us a silenced pistol which is easily the best weapon of the game (except on certain occasions): silenced + high ROF + ammo found everywhere + most lethal headshots + accuracy of a sniper rifle on long range!
Command & Conquer: Renegade had a rather effective pistol in single-player as well, though you needed bigger guns (or explosives) to deal vehicles and buildings. In multiplayer on the other hand, the pistol is a last resort weapon given to all classes with a woefully limited effective range.
Team Fortress 2 also has pistols that are surprisingly effective at long ranges, especially the Spy's Revolver, which has less shots per magazine than the others, but deals way more damage. For classes like the Scout and Engineer, the Pistol is the weapon of choice to exploit a badly placed sentry gun's limited range. For all classes crits can suddenly make the pistol a lethal long range weapon.
While not a pistol per se, the Pyro's Flaregun has an an incredible range if used correctly (at least for the Pyro, considering the fact that he's meant for short range combat) as does the Medic's Syringe Gun.
The Spy's Ambassador is pretty much made for this, trading fire speed and damage for perfect accuracy and being the only non-Sniper weapon that gets Critical Hits on headshots (which negates the damage falloff from firing at a distance).
An update changed the bullet firing algorithm so that the first bullet fired with any hitscan weapon (if you hadn't fired for 1.25 seconds) is always perfectly accurate and at least one pellet from a shotgun will go straight down the crosshair. Which means you can technically snipe with a shotgun, though you'll only get 3 damage or so, because only one pellet will connect, and almost every weapon has falloff that reduces damage by as much as half.
A nearly ubiquitous Game Mod for online Medal of Honor: Allied Assault is the addition of a silenced Hi-Standard to every player's loadout, which can kill in a single shot from across the map. Averted with the M1911A1, which has dismal accuracy at more than a few meters.
A useful trick is to aim for an enemy with the sniper scope, then switch to the pistol and shoot. This trick is also common in Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory.
In Medal of Honor: Rising Sun, there was a British silenced pistol called the Welrod. Though lacking a scope, the bullet would hit anywhere the gun was pointed (albeit with a slight delay between the time you fired & the time the bullet hit the target) & would kill in one hit. However, the gun only carried one round per magazine. In real life, the maximum effective range of the Welrod was 23 meters (75 feet) & it could hold six rounds per magazine, but it was manually cycled.
Serious Sam did not bother discriminating between weapon accuracies for most of the scopeless guns, so you could snipe with the minigun as well as with the Schofields as long as an enemy was colouring the crosshairs. Of course, the sniper rifle's scope gives it an advantage, while the flamethrower's short reach hampers it.
In Killzone, the character Luger has an automatic pistol equipped with a zoom lens, whose secondary function is to shoot extremely precise individual bullets for which headshots are instant kills. Well, that's the idea; in practice, the game's clunky unpolished bugs idiosyncracies mean that no matter how still you are when you aim, they always seem to go way off target at the most inopportune moments...
In James Bond video games Nightfire, and Agent Under Fire, the basic starting pistol can be used to effectively snipe at any visible targets by a player with good accuracy. It can also typically kill any basic enemy with a single shot to a vital area, and is far more accurate then almost any non-sniping weapon.
It was even covered in a Playstation Underground Cool Move.
All weapons in Turok: Evolution have an alternate fire that you get from an upgrade to that weapon. The standard Sleg Pistol can get a long barrel and scope that swing into place or off to the side of the weapon at the push of a button, converting it into a battle rifle with a scope. The Sleg troops use the pistol in its rifle format as their basic grunt weapon AND sniper rifle throughout the game.
The pistols in Soldier of Fortune. Even the 9mm can take down enemies from fairly long range. Averted, of course, with the second game.
The pistols in Left 4 Dead has surprisingly good accuracy even at a somewhat longer range, plus the Bottomless Magazines can pretty much let you fire like crazy at will. The only thing stopping it from being a Game Breaker is its low power since the pistols were designed to be used as emergency weapons if you were low on ammo for your main gun. The game subverts the trope when you are incapacitated and the accuracy for the pistols are decreased.
Left 4 Dead 2 ups the ante by introducing the magnum pistol, which is a one shot kill on common infected and headshot-accurate when fired from a crouch.
The Magnum is actually powerful enough to be used by many as their Primary Firearm, since being a pistol you can still use it while downed, it has infinite ammo, and it's functionally like the shotgun at any range, killing anything short of a Witch in one or two bullets. Unlike the normal pistols, it preserves the accuracy when downed. You could literally snipe a Smoker several yards away while incapacitated.
Repeater Pistols in Borderlands are ridiculously inaccurate; that is, unless you get one made by Hyperion. The Revolvers, on the other hand, can act as very useful mid-range snipers in a pinch... and as we all know, Revolvers Are Just Better. The Hunter, the class optimized for sniping, is also the pistol expert. To be fair, just about any weapon in that game can come with a scope. Revolvers, rocket launchers, shotguns and machine pistols, they're all fair game to the gun-assembly coding.
It even gets brought up in Mordecai's back story, when he won a sniping competition... with a revolver.
The Conduit and its sequel both feature the HVS45, a powerful scoped pistol that was practically made for sniping. Even the more basic USP is highly accurate.
The Settler Pistol in Rage is effective against all types of enemies, at any range, once it has been upgraded with a monocular sight and Big Mama bullets.
MechWarrior Living Legends has the handheld Autocannon/2 for Battlearmor. It's a bullet hose with a range of about three feet when fired fully automatic. When fired semi-automatic, it's the single most accurate ballistic weapon in the entire game. The only thing preventing battlearmor from sniping each other from across the huge maps is need to lead shots and the lack of a high-powered zoom on the weapon.
Ghost Recon: Future Soldier has the SRR, which is listed in the sniper rifle category but looks for all the world like a typical revolver with a stock and sniper optics bolted on. If you remove all the accessories and use the pistol grip instead of the stock, that's essentially what you get. An eyebrow-raising silenced barrel is also built-in.
PlanetSide 2's Commissioner Hand Cannon is extremely accurate when crouched and does almost as much damage as a sniper rifle, allowing it to be used to finish off targets from long range. However, the gun's awful ironsights - almost flush with the top of the gun - make accurate shooting rather difficult.
ElonaShooter's Revolver-Sniper is a slower-shooting but more accurate Revolver.
Notrium has a literal, hard-to-make, Sniper Pistol being the strongest weapon in the game.
Role Playing Game
Fallout 3 has the Scoped .44 Magnum and its unique variant, the Blackhawk.
To a lesser degree, the functional range on the 10mm Handguns and Chinese Pistols are rather frighteningly similar to those of the unnamed Hunting Rifles and Sniper Rifles, especially in VATS mode.
Earlier titles have the .223 Pistol and Gauss Pistols for long-range mayhem. Their range is nearly as good as a rifle's and they do very good damage. However, the range mechanics of the game make them less accurate than a rifle. Until you got your Small Guns skill up to about 200, anyway. The true die-hard pistol fanatic would probably take the One-Hander trait, which greatly improves accuracy.
Fallout: New Vegas has the Hunting Revolver, which is similar to the Scoped .44 Magnum, except slightly more powerful. The Ranger Sequoia version is potentially several times more accurate, but doesn't get a scope. There's also scope mods for some of the pistols.
Note that practically all of the pistols in both games are actually quite inaccurate compared to rifles of the same tier, averting the trope somewhat.
Energy pistols play with this trope: almost all of them that don't shoot plasma are incredibly accurate, with the basic Laser Pistol tied in max accuracy with the most accurate conventional handgun and the Alien Blaster being the only perfectly accurate gun in the game. However, they are fairly hard to aim because most of them lack sights or have very poor ones, and the accuracy in VATS matches this—unless you take the chem Steady, then this trope fully comes into play.
There's one in Hellgate: London with Rail Pistol, a railgun pistol which is designed for Hunter classes who like to shoot enemies from far away while Guns Akimbo.
Using Chain Shot in Alpha Protocol allows you to hit (and most often take out) any human enemy you can see and aim at. The pistol is also generally the only weapon you will ever need, not only due to Chain Shot but also the ability to crit enemies and make non-lethal takedowns at a distance.
In Mass Effect 1, the pistol was really the only weapon you'd ever need due to absurdly good accuracy compared to every other weapon (except for possibly a fully-upgraded sniper rifle), especially when you activate the Marksmanship Skill.
The pistol in this game is more like a freaking machine gun than a sniper rifle.
Also justified in that the weapons of mass effect apparently have on-board computers that calculate firing solutions, so aiming the sight and firing will presumably work with any weapon at any distance.
Mass Effect 2's "Firepower Pack" DLC adds the M-5 Phalanx, a heavy pistol with a laser sight. All pistols technically fit the description given the lack of long range fights in the game, but the Phalanx always hits exactly where the sight falls.
Mass Effect 3 takes it a step further by adding pistol scopes, which when added to the M-77 Paladin or M-358 Talon produce weapons at least as powerful as actual sniper rifles. The Paladin and the Carnifex are also among the most accurate non-scoped weapons in the game, allowing for extreme-range kills even without the scope. If you're playing as a biotic-based class and have good pistol marksmanship, you can leave the sniper rifle slot empty, lightening your loadout and a decreasing your power cooldown time.
The multiplayer portion of Mass Effect 3 takes this to a new level(guns have different stats in single vs multi player). The multiplayer version of the M-77 Paladin has stats that are almost identical to the N7 Valiant, an equal-tier(both are in the highest tier) sniper rifle. Specifically, the Paladin has the same clip size, fire rate and accuracy, actually does MORE damage per shot and has less spare ammo. Players joke that it is a sniper rifle, just in the wrong category
Also, the Executioner Pistol. It only has one shot per clip, but if you use a High Caliber Barrel/Cranial Trauma Barrel, and a scope, you'll be dropping bad guys very quickly.
The Talon's obscenely effective at sniping, considering it's a pistol-sized SHOTGUN.
Stealth Based Game
Metal Gear Solid 4 takes care of this pretty well. A scoped desert eagle [[note]]this combination sounds very odd, but the gun was originally meant to fire magnum rounds in sports shooting, and doesn't necessarily require a mounting bracket like other pistols. Also, in multiplayer, your pistols are surprisingly accurate and pretty useful - provided you can squeeze a shot off before you get killed by your FN-SCAR-H wielding opponent.
A common cheat strategy in Metal Gear Solid 3 prior to getting the Sniper Rifle is to use the binoculars, zoom, then switch to the weapon-of-choice (usually one of the pistols) and fire. Always hits if done correctly, unless the target moves. That said, the 1911's sights made sniping pretty easy anyway.
In the second game, the SOCOM pistol you get at the beginning of Raiden's mission is your most accurate weapon. Unlike sniper rifles, it does not sway, and headshots are guaranteed 1 hit kills. There's a groove on the pistol's sight. And the bullet always goes wherever that groove is pointing. Allowing you to snipe people across segments of the rig with your starting pistol.
The pistol in Hitman: Blood Money can be upgraded with a scope. And, weirdly enough, you can wield two of them. They're pretty accurate with the right upgrades. (though the actual sniper rifle is still the preferred long range weapon.)
In Resident Evil 4 (at least in the Wii version), it is possible to go through the game using the Pistol instead of the sniper rifle when required. Since almost all guns are aimed via the crosshair on the screen in the Wii version, their corresponding idle swaying has been removed entirely - your accuracy now depends entirely on how steady you hold the controller.
For a particularly silly example, see the Air Taser in Syphon Filter, whose range is practically infinite despite being a taser gun. It's a favorite amongst fans, not the least because of its Video Game Cruelty Potential. Eventually replaced with a taser gun that has a more realistic range, but the original could still be unlocked as an Infinity+1 Sword. The series' actual pistols are also deadly accurate, and headshots with any weapon are a One-Hit Kill to most enemies. Bonus for the silenced ones.
Taken to its literal conclusion in The Omega Strain, with the Desert Sniper scoped magnum.
Mafia City Of The Lost Heaven: While featuring a sniper rifle, it's only found in one level and is basically only used to assassinate the target. The Colt 1911 and Smith And Wesson 27 make for great accuracy weapons though. However most of the game is set in fairly close environments.
Likewise, the first round fired from the Tommy gun is 100% accurate, despite its historical notoriety for imprecision. As long as the player is careful to only fire one shot at a time, it is possible to snipe enemies from across the map.
In Star Wars Battlefront II, getting about 6 kills with a pistol upgrades it to the Precision Pistol, which does about as much damage as a regular sniper rifle (two shots or one headshot to down pretty much anyone who isn't a Wookie or Destroyer Droid), keeps the targeting reticule when unscoped, and has sixteen-shot semi-automatic clips, allowing you to basically mow through any group of enemies you see.
Eat Lead: The Return of Matt Hazard has an interesting bug where sometimes the first shot you make out of cover is completely accurate, even while using blind fire, allowing you to get headshot after headshot without even looking!
In Jedi Academy, the pistol is your least powerful but most accurate weapon, to the point that if you want to kill targets at any range that could be called "sniping" the pistol is really your only option.
Uncharted 3 introduces the Tau-Sniper, a scoped pistol that's kills most enemies in a single shot and can even kill armored enemies in a single headshot, whereas with most guns you have to shoot off the helmet first.
Lara's handgun in Tomb Raider is highly accurate and can one-shot kill most enemies with a clean headshot. You can also upgrade it with a Hollywood Silencer, and taking the Pistol Expert ability has a headshot reticle light up when you're on target. These upgrades make it an even better sniper weapon weapon than the bow, especially since the pistol's higher rate of fire can allow you to pick off multiple enemies in close succession.
One of the weapons in The Last of Us is a single-shot scoped revolver known as "El Diablo".
The Lex and the upgraded Lex Prime in Videogame/Warframe follow this trope exactly, with very high damage and accuracy, but a very slow rate of fire combined with heavy recoil makes these pistols unsuitable for beginners.
Turn Based Tactics
Almost all weapons in the X-Com games have no maximum limit to their range, so a pistol can easily shoot across the map, assuming there's nothing in the way. Soldiers do have a limited range of vision, but this is easily overcome with the use of spotters.
Mostly averted in XCOM: Enemy Unknown, as the pistol does little damage and is pitifully inaccurate range, making it more designed to be used by a sniper up close, if you run out of ammo in a pinch, or just weaken the target for capture. "Mostly" because probably due to a coder oversight, a pistol-wielding sniper on Overwatch with the Squad Sight perk still gets a reaction shot against enemies outside of his/her pistol's effective aiming range (something that is usually reserved for sniper rifles only).
Averted in the UFO Afterblank spiritual successor trilogy. All weapons have two range stats for each of their fire modes - "effective range", beyond which the user will suffer increasing accuracy penalties, and "maximum range", beyond which the weapon cannot be fired at all (the accuracy penalties drop your accuracy to zero at this point, and soldiers will either refuse the order to fire or move closer before shooting depending which game in the trilogy is being played). Pistols have very short effective ranges and short max ranges, especially on full-auto (for those pistols where it's an option), and can't hope to match the range, accuracy and single-shot damage of equivalent tech sniper weapons. As an example, in UFO:Aftermath the entry level sniper rifle (Remington 800) has triple the effective and maximum range of the standard handguns, and equals or exceeds the per-shot damage of all equivalent (and almost all higher-tech) pistols. Generally, pistols conform to their real-life role of small, lightweight backup weapons.
Guns in the hands of Gunners in Tactics Ogre have a range of "So long as there's nothing between me and my target," regardless of whether you're using a pistol or a rifle - using one doesn't even highlight the target range, as is done with all other attacks. In the hands of non-gunners, they're mere bludgeons.
Final Fantasy Tactics: Guns (all of which are magic pistols) have a range of 8 squares (bows have 5) and can do elemental damage. Although they are only usuable by a few classes, they basically make you a sniper wizard.
Zero Punctuation said of the pistols in Saints Row 2 "your handgun can shoot accurately enough to pierce someone's nipple from across town". It was only a slight exaggeration.
One chapter of Gunsmith Cats has Rally selling a customized revolver to a rather creepy customer who uses it for this trope.
Francisco Scaramanga of The Man with the Golden Gun uses his golden pistol to shoot a man on a sidewalk while hiding on a rooftop across the street.
The Waco Kid in Blazing Saddles sets off dynamite from a few hundred yards away with a single shot of his revolver.
Lampshaded in an early scene in 9 Princes in Amber by Roger Zelazny. Random, the weakest brother when it comes to any magic or combat, is shooting stormhounds from a moving car (on an uneven road) with a crappy pistol and each bullet kills a dog. Probably he did get occasional training, and with him being centuries old that did amount to something.
Live Action TV
The tricked-out gun that UNCLE agents use in The Man from U.N.C.L.E., whose accessories include a scope, a stock, and an extendable barrel.
Possible with D20 Future weapon gadgets. By taking a sniper rifle, and applying the Compact and Miniaturized gadgets, you can reduce its size by three ranks. A Large (rifle size) sniper rifle becomes a Tiny (Sites M9 size) weapon, treated by the rules as a pistol. Its range and damage are unaffected. Such a gun requires VERY expensive ammunition though (since it has to be miniaturized too), that must be custom made and as such takes at least 10 hours to buy a batch of 20 cartridges.
World champion Jerry Miculek popped a balloon from 1 km away with a revolver, standing position. To put it into perspective, the 13th longest sniper shot is 1.2 km, and the maximum effective range of a pistol in the hands of an average soldier is 50 m. The 9mm would have lost much of its velocity at that range though, so the 9mm would not very likely be a kill shot. Also, if the wind conditions are less than perfect, it'd be improbable that Jerry Miculek could hit the steel plate consistently.