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Arbitrary Gun Power

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In Real Life, the range and lethality of a firearm is dependent on the kinetic energy imparted by the bullet, with guns that fire larger caliber ammunition (more gunpowder and a larger projectile) doing more physical damage to the target.

In entertainment media, however, the creators may arbitrarily assign any given gun more or less power than it should have, be it in movies, where whatever the heroes use fire Instant Death Bullets while the mooks can never kill anyone when they manage to land a shot or the weapons in a video game do damage relative to their design (e.g., a pistol does 10 damage per shot, a sniper rifle does 20, anything automatic does 2), or that a (gun with more kick back does more damage in a twisted sense of Newton's Third Law note . Maybe it's to fight Complacent Gaming Syndrome, or perhaps the creator just wanted something dramatic. It may not make sense that a weeny pistol in real life does more damage than a rifle, but it sure is cool.

Depending on what you consider arbitrary, this trope is near universal to a varying extent in FPS video games, even seemingly realistic ones for a multitude of reasons. A major root of these differences is that games in general are designed to be fair, winnable, and balanced within the scope of their design, whereas in Real Life the idea is to get as large an advantage as possible.

In real life, rifles are also just all-around better than pistols. Their higher velocity ammunition makes them more powerful, more accurate, and longer-ranged. If they weren't, nobody would bother with the bigger, bulkier guns. The only advantages of pistols are that their reduced size and weight makes them easier to carry and easier to use in cramped spaces, and for civilian (or criminal/assassination) use they're much easier to conceal. But those advantages rarely play much (if any) role in video games, because the player character getting fatigued by the weight of their gun would be frustrating rather than fun for players. But many pistols are iconic to the time period that a game takes place in, so the developers want to include them and make them useful, and thus give them arbitrary advantages over rifles.

Some weapons in multiplayer first-person shooters are balanced based on rate of fire rather than caliber to avoid min-maxing: in a game, a gun that fires rapidly and does high damage will always be more widely used than a gun that does only one of the two. However, some games tend to balance that with recoil, making the gun harder to control, or accuracy, making its rapid fire only useful in close ranges.

This can lead to some extreme oddities, such as certain guns having wildly different damage outputs despite using the same caliber, or even the same model, just modified for a different role. It can become even stranger in games that feature some kind of bow weapon, which will usually compensate for the obvious weaknesses by upping its damage to the point of being among the best single-shot weapons in the game—despite even the most primitive guns far outclassing any handheld bow in raw power.

This trope may also result from efforts to make the player's choice of weapon require real thought. Some games have weapons which are too similar and there is thus no real difference in which one you choose. Other games have a variety of weapons which are similar, but include one that is totally superior, to the point that there is no disadvantage to choosing the best gun every time. And while there are clear distinctions between guns in real life, many of these involve subtleties that most games don't model, so games with a wide range of guns are forced to make distinctions within the parts that they do model if they want to give the player real choices, even if these distinctions aren't realistic.

Compare Guns Are Worthless and Sorting Algorithm of Weapon Effectiveness. Contrast Instant Death Bullet, which usually applies to guns in other fiction, and Punch-Packing Pistol.


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  • The Spanish film 800 Bullets includes a scene where an old man blows up a backhoe with one shot from a lever-action rifle.
  • In Dead in Tombstone, the power of Guerrero's Hand Cannons varies greatly. Sometimes a shot from them is enough to blast someone backwards through a closed door, and at other times a head shot leaves nothing more than a gentle spray of blood on a window.
  • The guns in Django Unchained seem to deal whatever damage makes the coolest shot at the time. During the final showdown, Django shoots Lara Lee and the body is thrown clean out of the room in a different direction entirely, while another victim merely drops to the floor where he stands.
  • Last Man Standing, an American remake of Kurosawa's Yojimbo, has Bruce Willis' Sanjuro-analogue armed with a pair of what appear to be normal 1911 semiautomatic pistols that nonetheless strike with such incredible force, his victims are literally hurled dozens of feet through the air, sometimes while being folded in half, other times turning full flips midair. The guns have only normal recoil, as well, despite apparently firing full cannonballs at people.
  • In The Matrix, Trinity's relatively weak (in real life) Beretta pistol somehow has the ability to make an agent fly about 10 feet when shot point blank. In fact, in that whole lobby scene, most of the guns got an upgrade in power.
  • The final scene of The Quick and the Dead. Sharon Stone shoots Gene Hackman so hard in the head, he is flung a good thirty feet backwards, flipping through the air. It is especially odd since the rest of the movie mostly averts this trope, with one other notable exception when someone has a 4 inch hole blown through their head.

  • Otakon LARP has guns, fists, swords, ki blasts… All damage is dealt to players in HP. Items and buildings or Mechas can have Structural Hit Points that are damaged by guns.

  • Since the gameplay in Destroy the Godmodder runs around Hit Points and any source of damage only decreases them, guns are no exception. They'll never do any instantly fatal damage as is typical in real life. In addition, other ranged weapons such as bows, crossbows, and even melee weapons can be just as effective, as the power of an attack depends purely on the creativity and effort put into it - and, for games that use it, the level of the weapon alchemized with the Alchemiter.

    Tabletop Games 
  • In d20 Modern, a Tec-9 fired semiautomatic was one of the most damaging pistols in the game. And, of course, due to Critical Existence Failure, mid-to-high-level PCs could absorb multiple rockets to the face, drop grenades at their own feet, and generally laugh off the consequences.
    • And in Spin-Off D20 Future, weapons stop getting better at PL 7 (out of 9). PL 8 and 9 weapons get cooler descriptions, but identical or slightly worse damage for some reason.
    • One notorious example is the FN 5.7mm round. For no discernible reason, it was given the highest damage of any pistol round, equal to that of a .50 Desert Eagle.
  • Downplayed in The Dresden Files, which has an abstract weapon rating system that goes from 1-5 for anything mundane, and is more about the narrative danger than the physical danger. A derringer might be Weapon:1. Most regular pistols are considered Weapon:2, long guns and magnum pistols are Weapon:3 and "battlefield quality" weaponry like heavy machine guns or explosives are Weapon:4. Weapon:5 and above are either magic or getting hit with a vehicle. Played more straight with the possibility for Mortal Stunts, low-cost specializations that can boost damage in certain circumstances, such as at point-blank range or by emptying the clip.
  • Dungeons & Dragons: Guns obviously don't appear in every setting, but most editions have given rules for them. Because of how armor works a firearm is generally no more likely to hit a target than any other ranged attacks, even if in theory the target is hard to hit because of, say, plate armor that shouldn't be very effective against a rifle. Plus, while they might do more damage, a gun is still just going to damage a targets HP, so things like a Barbarians rage reduce the damage bullets do, and any sufficiently high level character can take a few bullets without slowing down at all. Guns also often do only slightly more damage than more classic weapons like a bow or a sword, and even have drawbacks like misfiring or taking longer to reload in order to keep other weapons relevant.
  • Played straight and averted in Feng Shui. A regular shot is an Instant Death Bullet for the regular Mook, but protagonists (PCs and relevant NPCs) suffer reduced damage, just like the movies.
  • GURPS contains one of the most systematic aversions yet, as firearm damage is calculated from known muzzle energy and bullet diameter using a standardized formula.
  • Explicitly the case in In Nomine, which deliberately reduce the effectiveness of guns, because swords and powers are more genre appropriate.
  • Present in Iron Kingdoms. Whether you're using a gun or a bow is almost irrelevant; range varies widely and they're all in the same Power range, so whether the gunner or the archer is more effective depends on the skills of the wielder more than anything else.
  • In the Low Fantasy RPG Ironclaw wheel-lock guns deal Slaying damage, meaning each successful attack dice deals two damage instead of the normal one. While in Myriad Song and Urban Jungle, sci-fi and noir games from the same company using derivatives of the same rules, guns deal normal damage.
  • Explicitly averted in kill puppies for satan. The rulebook notes that game rules for guns are never particularly realistic and refuses to give any specific rules, instead offering some real-world information on guns and their effects. Essentially, the GM is supposed to wing it if the PCs insist on using guns.
  • Mutants & Masterminds: the granularity of the damage system means that all pistols do about the same amount of damage and howitzers do the same amount of damage as Batman's punch.
  • The Old World of Darkness used this trope but not as flagrantly as many Role Playing Games. All guns were fairly lethal, though a bit less so than real life weapons. Additionally, a weapon's lethality was more like real world lethality than many games. Velocity and caliber, not rate of fire, dictated damage. Supernatural creatures only resisted firearms by virtue of their powers, not because the guns themselves weren't deadly. Finally, a shot with more successes was a more well-placed shot and rolled more dice for damage. It was still extraordinarily difficult to kill anyone instantly with a handgun, however, regardless of how many successes the attack rolled since the damage dice would usually reduce this to a deadly but still survivable level.
  • Spycraft has it both ways. Most gun damage is based on the bullet used (a few minor variances are there, but one or two points is reasonable, especially if moving to a longer barrel). But there's the feat 'Style Over Caliber', which lets someone with a .22 holdout pistol deal more damage than someone wielding a 9mm combat handgun.
    • The Spycraft-derived d20 Stargate game mostly sticks with fairly constant damage within weapon classes, except for the Dragunov sniper rifle, which somehow gets stuck doing less damage than a 9mm pistol and has the shortest range of any rifle-calibre weapon.
  • In Traveller, crossbows have better damage than any slug pistol, better range than any energy pistol, and better accuracy than any rifle — some of the deadliest weapons of the Space Age!
  • Warhammer 40,000 has an odd version, in that lasguns (which are explicitly more powerful than modern assault rifles, but still among the weakest weapons in the game) have no armor penetration value. This means a normal human wearing a flak jacket has a 1 in 3 chance of shrugging off a lethal wound, under the justification that their "armor", which covers at best their upper chest, shoulders, and head, stopped it. And then other weapons pack the same strength as the lasgun, but are impossibly better at piercing armor despite no other change in performance. For example, the hellgun, which has just as much theoretical power as the lasgun, is capable of ignoring space marine armor. That puts it a factor of two better at piercing armor than the Marines' own full-auto-rocket-propelled-grenade-firing guns.
    • Then again, most personal armor in the 40th century is excellent compared to 21st century stock. The aforementioned "flak jacket", the Imperial Guard Flak Armor, is actually a very high-quality personal protection system that would be capable of withstanding fire from a real light machine gun and preventing its user's death. It's as good as tissue paper most of the time only because it's in a setting where the average power of personal weapons is just that high.
    • Averted in most cases, really — a failed To Wound roll with firearms means the target was hit, but was wounded non-fatally and not incapacitated. A failed armor roll either means the firearm pierced the target's armor or hit them in a place where the armour couldn't protect (say, a lasgun-toting conscript taking out a Space Marine with a lucky shot through the visor). Since most infantry only have one wound, this means they can be easily killed by a single good hit. On the other hand, there are infantry which have more than one wound. They may be very badass non-humans which served as a more reasonable justification, but may be simply very badass humans that play the trope straight. Commissar Yarrick, for instance, who is apparently a normal human pushing 70 and can not only survive three consecutive blasts from a fusion gun, but still get back up and give the opponent a Power Fist to the face.

    Video Games 
  • Almost any remotely modern military RTS will display this as a result of trying to harmonize combat roles with the Bottomless Magazines, Short-Range Long-Range Weapon, Easy Logistics, and potential hitscan weaponry. For instance, soldiers capable of taking multiple anti-tank rocket hits, but then getting pasted by a much smaller and weaker hand grenade.
  • ArmA III is noted to take place in a near-future where body armor has advanced further beyond the protective abilities it has nowadays. NATO and the fictional CSAT have as such upgraded to more powerful standard weapons utilizing caseless 6.5x39mm bullets to compensate, and can still drop foes in one or two bullets, but this makes life hell for the indigenous army of Altis and the local guerillas, who as standard issue are stuck with old 5.56mm weapons that are now about as effective as bee stings - you can shoot a man wearing even a simple pilot helmet in the head and face multiple times with the AAF's "Mk 20" (an FN F2000), and until you've put at least five or six of them into his brain all you'll accomplish is turning yourself into a mild annoyance. This also makes pistols generally worthless as well, outside the "heavy" ones in .45, and also gives the NATO special forces in the Apex DLC a distinct disadvantage, with them moving back to 5.56mm weapons while CSAT moves on to Chinese rifles in 5.8mm that perform pretty close to their 6.5mm rifles from the base game. Funnily enough, the best armor in the game, the Carrier Special Rig, rating Level V, is described at a hefty 24 armor and 90% base resist. Looks tough as nails and sounds like you'd be able to take a mag of ammo and not drop, right? Nope! Around five 9mm handgun hits drop you. It might let you take three or four 5.56 hits, and forget about 7.62, those will drop you in around three. Meanwhile, in testing, a modern-day Level III trauma plate for civilians sustained eight to ten hits.
  • Battlefield:
    • In Battlefield 1942, machine guns such as the BAR are treated as video-game-style assault rifles, meaning that they have weak power but are automatic... and they're the primary weapon of the assault classes. Historical standard-issue bolt-action and semi-auto rifles are wielded only by engineers in the game. Fixed machine guns are laughably weak and whoever uses them is forced to stand straight up, exposed to enemy fire. The only instant kill shot is a sniper headshot. Presumably, these were all Acceptable Breaks from Reality, but the Forgotten Hope mod makes weapon damage and weapon assignments much more realistic and historical, and was generally well-received.
    • Battlefield: Bad Company 2, on top of somewhat deadlier weapons overall, has a Hardcore mode similar to the Call of Duty examples at the top of the page. True to the trope, though, the M93 machine pistol still does less damage per individual bullet than the starting M9 pistol, solely because it fires faster.
    • Battlefield 3 plays it a bit less straight as guns of the same caliber do the exact same damage per bullet and suffer the same damage-falloff, making the guns of the same caliber different by the fire-rate, magazine size, spread, and how the weapon reacts to recoil... well, mostly, aside from when the guns do the same damage when they actually aren't the same caliber (such as the 7.62mm RPK being mistaken as the 5.45mm RPK-74 and given the same lower damage profile as the AK-74M).
  • Borderlands has an extremely wide range of damage dealt by similar guns that fire the same ammunition, although this is occasionally justified by the elemental damage that many deal. However, player characters can take skills that let them do more damage with certain weapon types, and even increased magazine sizes in various weapons, including revolvers. That's right, you can somehow store nine bullets in a six-gun just by being good at it. Don't ask how. Just go kill something with it.
  • Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth features both a 1911 pistol and a Model 1917 revolver, with the revolver being more powerful. In reality both guns fire the same .45 ACP round. The fully-automatic Thompson uses the same round. None of these weapons share an ammo pool, either.
  • Throughout the history of the Call of Duty series, pistols compensate for their small reserve ammo pool, bad range and relatively low accuracy (large cone of fire when hip-firing and no zoom when aiming down the sights) with incredible close-range firepower - even the diminutive 7.62x25mm of a Tokarev competes with the .30-06 of the M1 Garand on how few shots are needed to take an enemy down when you're within ten meters or so.* Multiplayer in a few of the games also includes the "Stopping Power" perk, which arbitrarily increases the damage of every weapon you use.
    • Call of Duty: World at War gets ridiculous with its laughably-underpowered, damn-near-useless M1 Garand. As the starting weapon of the Rifle class, it's nerfed to the point that you'd think it was chambered in .22 Short. But the M1 carbine (incorrectly called the M1A1 in the game; that would actually be the paratrooper model with the folding stock) is somehow a Hand Cannon because it's the last weapon unlocked in the game. That's also ignoring the purest embodiment of this trope with the Garand and the bolt-action rifles, which will have their damage ratings boosted upon the attachment of a sniper scope for absolutely zero reason other than because players expect sniper rifles to be more damaging, even when the only difference is the addition of a scope.
    • World at War's submachine guns ended up being the most literal example of this trope possible in an odd form of balance that ended up achieving the complete opposite. They were all balanced mathematically, in that they should take the same amount of time to kill as one another. What the devs hadn't accounted for was that, because they all fire at different rates of fire, this meant the actual damage per-bullet had to noticeably, and sometimes wildly, differ so they would literally kill in the same amount of time if every bullet hits - or that Stopping Power's power boost is percentage-based rather than a flat boost, so higher-powered weapons benefit more. The end result is that, with Stopping Power, an MP 40 can kill in one headshot (one of the only submachine guns in the entire series that has been able to do so) while a PPSh requires three, solely because the PPSh fires more than twice as fast.
    • In Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare and World at War, in normal multiplayer mode, headshots take two to three shots to kill, unless it's a sniper rifle or certain weapons with Stopping Power. Hardcore mode seems to be an aversion at first glance (as you die much more easily), but this is only due to you having far fewer hit points, making bullets that might not hit the vitals act as an Instant Death Bullet as well depending on the gun's damage (like a gut-shot with the Skorpion in CoD4). In both modes and all later games (until Call of Duty: Black Ops III, which requires a dedicated melee weapon for it), melee and anything similar to it (throwing knives/tomahawk and ballistic knives), even if dealt to the foot, is always an insta-kill.
    • The need for "better" guns at higher ranks in multiplayer, along with generally terrible balancing and the devs having an apparent and irrational dislike for certain weapons, also results in guns being wildly different in performance and usefulness in-game than they should be. Call of Duty 4, for instance, includes two semi-auto battle rifles under the "Assault Rifle" label, but one of them only deals damage on par with the other assault rifles because it's unlocked 20 or so levels earlier than the other, otherwise only an upgrade over them by its ridiculously-high semi-auto fire rate cap to balance its lower capacity. Meanwhile, Modern Warfare 2 allows the UMP45 - a submachine gun firing a low-ranged, high-recoil pistol bullet - to beat sniper rifles at almost any range in which the user can see the sniper because it managed to get into the game with higher damage than most assault rifles and absolutely no recoil while firing when aimed; but then the shotguns, especially the automatic ones, are usually beaten out in range by the knife, even without the perk that increases the knife's effective range.
  • In City of Heroes, the Assault Rifle and Dual Pistol powersets run on this trope. Not only can Badass Normals and Squishy Wizards sustain multiple gunshot wounds with no lasting damage, your own guns will barely even affect NPCs that are four or more levels above you. They are also no more powerful than any other Blaster powerset, including Sonic Screams, Ice Blasts, and Archery.
  • The assault rifle in Deus Ex is seriously underpowered, despite being chambered for 7.62mm NATO, a rifle cartridge that's considered excessively powerful for the purpose it is used for in-game. A pistol will be a One-Hit Kill on nearly any enemy across the game if you nail them in the head, but a full five-round burst from the rifle will only do a single extra point of base damage over that pistol shot.
  • The Devil May Cry series is a huge offender in this regard. A shot from one of Dante's handguns, at least in gameplay, is about as powerful as a mosquito bite. Of course, he wields two, they have Bottomless Magazines, and they can be rapid-fired or charged up, but as far as raw damage goes you're better off marching up to the enemy and slashing it to death. In this case, it may be as the enemies are typically demons they're highly resistant to small arms even when shot in the head - Dante, even only being half-demon himself, actually takes a bullet to the forehead on at least one occasion in a cutscene in Devil May Cry 3 and is only mildly annoyed about it. When you have to overcome their healing, slashing them up with an enormous sword would likely be more efficient.
    • Confirmed by the description of Nero's revolver, which has to fire two rounds in quick succession to do anything meaningful. (One to break the carapace and one to damage the innards.) Dante overcomes this by using his demon magic to unload endless amounts of rounds into the demons, and Lady has to use a rocket launcher.
  • In Enlisted, the infantry-based cousin of War Thunder, all bolt-action rifles deal a standard 20 points of damage. However, semi-automatic rifles, even if they use the exact same caliber as their bolt action cousins (like the G43 using the exact same round as the Kar98k), only do around 12 points of damage to balance out their superior rate of fire. On the flip side, the StG44, chambered in a smaller intermediate cartridge as befit an assault rifle, still does around the same amount of damage as the G43 even though the latter uses a fully powered cartridge.
  • Fallout
    • The original game, and the sequel, are pretty consistent about damage when it comes to the rounds used, rather than the gun shooting them. The 10mm pistol and the 10mm SMG, for example, do the same amount of damage, but the SMG has a 10 round burst fire that can inflict far more damage at the cost of using more ammunition. There are some discrepancies, however.
      • The .223 Pistol, a handgun that uses a full-sized rifle round, does more damage than the Hunting Rifle, which uses the same round. The trade-off is that the Hunting Rifle has better range.
      • The shotguns all use the same 12 gauge shells, but have very different damage. The Double-Barreled Shotgun (available extremely early in the game) is much, much weaker than the Pancor Jackhammer (only available late in the game), and the Jackhammer has a burst fire mode to really put the Double-Barreled Shotgun to shame.
    • Fallout: New Vegas is a notable aversion, after Fallout 3 pretty much played it completely straight. Though the .357 and .44 Magnum weapons are somewhat ovepowered, all of the gun damage values are remarkably consistent and logical: .22 weapons do base 10-12 damage, 9mm weapons do 13-16 base damage, 10mm Auto weapons 19-21, 5.56x45mm weapons 20-25, 7.62x51mm/.308 weapons 40-50, .45-70 Govt weapons 60-75, .50 BMG weapons 110-120, and so on. Additionally, AP rounds for the more modern rifles can ignore much more of an enemy's damage threshold than older rifles or pistol rounds (5.56mm, .308, and .50 MG AP all ignore 15; .45, .44, 45-70 Gov't can at best ignore between 4 and 6 while no 12.7mm variants have any AP properties). On top of that, the base 5.56x45mm and 5mm rounds have inherent DT reduction effects (-3 and -10 respectively) to reflect their nature as high-velocity rifle rounds. Notably, if a weapon fires the same round as another, they'll both do about the same base damage: for instance, the Varmint Rifle (19), Service Rifle (20), Marksman's Carbine (24), Light Machine Gun (20), and Bozar (20) all fire the 5.56x45mm round; guns firing the same round are divided into tiers based on reliability, accuracy, weight, rate of fire, and capacity, instead of simple damage. In fact the game also completely subverts the common Punch-Packing Pistol trope, as all of the pistols do noticeably less damage than a rifle firing the same round due to the shortened barrel (e.g. the 12.7mm pistol and 12.7mm SMG compared to the Survivalist's Rifle, the .44 Magnum Revolver compared to the Trail Carbine, the Hunting Revolver compared to the Brush Gun, the .357 Magnum Revolver compared to the Cowboy Repeater). It even extends to energy weapons, which have all the excuses in the world to use this trope: the laser pistol is much weaker than the laser rifle, both plasma pistols are much weaker than the weakest plasma rifle, the strongest plasma rifle is much weaker than the plasma caster, and so on.
    • Perks, unique weapons, and DLC play this straight, however. Unique pistols in both the base game (like That Gun) and DLC (like A Light Shining In The Darkness) out-damage most rifles per shot, and unique rifles (like Paciencia and the All-American) outdamage their vanilla counterparts firing the same rounds for no real reason. This is not too bad in Dead Money (because there are only three new guns, only one of which is guilty of this trope) or Old World Blues (because most of the new weapons are energy weapons), but gets very ridiculous in Gun Runners' Arsenal and Honest Hearts. The latter in particular has ridiculously overpowered .45 ACP weapons like the M1911 and Thompson Submachine Gun.
    • A gun's damage in Fallout 4 varies tremendously depending on which mods are equipped, despite most of them not changing the ammunition used. Switching a gun from semi-automatic to fully automatic drops the damage per bullet significantly, even with same-level mods. Even stranger, the part that affects damage and fire rate is the receiver, which in real life is just the gun's casing — while fire rate could be excused by abstracting the receiver mods to include everything within said receiver (e.g. modifying the bolt carrier to be lighter or heavier, thus speed up or slow down ejection and chambering), if anything should be affecting damage, it would probably be the barrel. It's not for nothing that several modded guns have either semi- and full-auto as an entirely separate mod category that affects nothing else or another category for arbitrary damage boosts to undo the nerfed damage of full-auto receivers.
  • Final Fantasy: No matter how sci-fi the series gets, at most one or two party members per game can even use guns (at about the same damage output as swords and bare hands) and enemy mooks with machine guns are about as dangerous as any other enemy.
  • GoldenEye (1997) has this trope all over the map. Starting with the Klobb, this is the game's weakest gun, requiring up to some three-four head shots to kill an enemy. Another oddly underpowered gun is the sniper rifle, which is about as good as picking enemies off with the tiny, silenced PP7. The KF7 Soviet is apparently weaker than the AR-33, which has enough penetration power to pierce people, crates, and doors. The Cougar Magnum is probably the most ridiculous, being able to shoot through bullet proof glass.
    • GoldenEye (2010)'s guns tend to get better within each class as you progress rather than matching the attributes (e.g. power, effective range) of the particular real-life guns they were modeled after. The AK gets particularly dismal ratings for being the opening gun, and as a class, earlier assault rifles in general receive little benefit in accuracy over submachine guns on semi-auto, or even handguns in the game's ratings, despite the very large differences of effective range in real life (which is particularly noticeable in larger levels). A real life AKM on semi-automatic should have double the effective range of an FN P90 (Vargen FH-7) or MP7 (Stauger UA-1) and about 8x the effective range of the handguns and TDI Vector (Strata SV-400).
  • Half-Life and Half-Life 2 have the crossbow, which is the most damaging non-explosive weapon in the series despite firing tranquilizer darts in the first game and heated dull chunks of rebar in the second. And despite being fired at about the speed of a thrown baseball, said rebar is apparently able to embed itself a good foot into solid concrete.
    • The revolver is also a textbook case in all games, doing way more damage than is reasonable from a simple .357 Magnum. It outperforms assault rifles, sniper rifles, heavy machine guns, and even autocannons in pure damage per shot. Interestingly, early textures for its ammo indicated it was supposed to be a .44 Magnum revolver instead, which would have slightly justified the increased power over other weapons, but not by the ridiculous degree the game shows.
    • The first game follows Punch-Packing Pistol to a tee: 9mm rounds magically do more damage and are more accurate when fired out of a comparatively-tiny Glock 17 than when fired out of an MP5 for whatever reason; the only reason the latter is even of any use at all is because of its underbarrel Grenade Launcher. This gets especially ridiculous when using the official high definition pack (which can be enabled in the pause menu for the Steam version) or playing the PS2 port, where the MP5 is replaced with a Colt Commando in 5.56mm.
    • Opposing Force's sniper rifle is incredibly powerful, behaving more like an anti-materiel rifle than the 7.62 bolt action it's supposed to be. It does more damage than the M2 Browning machine guns firing the much stronger .50 BMG round at higher velocities, and is powerful enough to one-shot any infantry unit and take down an attack helicopter in only a couple of hits.
  • Halo:
    • Halo: Combat Evolved: Going by official sources on the ammo used by the assault rifle (7.62x51mm) and pistol (12.7x40mm), you'd think they'd be about the same power (similar rounds have around the same muzzle energy in real life). The rifle requires some odd 20 rounds (1/3 of the magazine) to down a shielded Elite and 3-10 to kill Grunts and Jackals (depending on rank). The pistol is one of the most powerful weapons in the game, allowing for a one-shot of all the Grunts and a few shots for Elites.
    • The SMG in Halo 3: ODST is rather odd. Despite only firing 5x23mm submachine gun rounds, the weapon seems to drop Brute shields just as effectively as the much larger (and logically more powerful) 7.62x51mm rounds used by the assault rifle. Halo 2's SMGs were realistically weak by comparison, in part because it was designed for the then-new Guns Akimbo ability (meaning using one without pairing it up with another gun was pointless) though for some reason could still cut through non-shielded Covenant forces. Then again, Armor Is Useless when worn by the Covenant, very consistently, in all games, books, and cutscenes.
    • Halo: Reach's DMR does just shy of three times as much damage per shot as the faster-firing assault rifle. Canonically they're using the exact same round from similar barrel lengths, even if their ammunition isn't interchangeable in-game.
    • And of course we have the infamous Needler. This is a gun that fires shards of glass the size of your arm that stab into you, yet the direct damage it does is rather unimpressive. It's mostly useful for a causing a One-Hit Kill when enough are stuck in an unshielded target.
  • In the Jak and Daxter series, it's partially justified, since what you're shooting usually has super-strong armor.
  • The hunting rifle in the Left 4 Dead series is based on a weapon (Ruger Mini-14) that should be firing the same bullets (5.56x45mm) as the assault rifle (M-16), but in-game is a terror that deals thrice as much damage (33 vs 90) and will penetrate and instantly kill as many zombies as you can line up in one shot; meanwhile the assault rifle will barely penetrate one zombie and often requires multiple bullets to put them down. The pistol-versus-rifle issue is at least played somewhat closer to reality, as the standard pistols suffer in accuracy and damage per shot compared to any of the primary weapons, but because they have infinite reserve ammo and a high yet controllable maximum rate of fire, a lot of players still swear by them (even without the achievement for completing a campaign using nothing but the pistols, since some players will continue relying on them even after getting that achievement). Meanwhile, the Hand Cannon Magnum introduced in Left 4 Dead 2 trades capacity and fire rate for damage jacked-up close to that of the sniper rifles' — even Realism mode's ridiculously tough common Infected can tank two or three shots from an assault rifle with no problem, but will die where they stand from a Magnum shot to the gut. Specifically it deals 80 damage per shot, over twice as much as the assault rifle's 5.56mm rounds (which have about the same kinetic energy as the Magnum's .50 AE rounds in real life) and just a hair less than the sniper rifle's 7.62x51mm rounds (which have about twice as much kinetic energy in real life).
  • Operation 7 averts this completely, wherein a weapon's base damage is entirely dependent on the ammunition being fired. To elaborate, every type of ammunition (e.g., 5.56x45mm, 9x19mm, .40 S&W, etc.), and load variants in each type of ammo (Standard ammo, match-grade rounds, etc.), have their own damage numbers. The only aspect of a weapon that determines actual damage dealt per shot is their "Range" stat, and the higher the stat, the less of an effect that damage drop-off over range will have on the projectile.
  • Parasite Eve plays this trope straight when you attempt to increase the firing rate. Modifying a single-shot weapon to fire two rounds at once causes its bullets to only deal around sixty percent their original damage, for instance. Averted, however, by Parasite Eve 2, where cartridges deal the same damage regardless of the gun that fires it—instead of getting more powerful guns, you get more powerful ammo. The difference between guns of the same caliber is weight (how much is slows you down/how long it takes to ready it), range, rate of fire, and critical hit rate. Generally speaking, the higher rate of fire weapons, like the M93R you start with, have shorter ranges, weigh more, and have a worse chance of a critical hit.
  • Phantom Doctrine: Pistols and revolvers do a few more points of damage than rifles of the same tier when firing single shots. Handguns can also perform headshots, which are even more powerful and ignore cover. Question: why bother with rifles? Answer: rifles can perform burst and fully automatic fire, which have much higher minimum damage; and headshots use up the shooter's precious Awareness.
  • In Puzzles & Survival, heroes that use guns as one of their combat skills cannot instantly kill opponents. When their shooting skills are used in combat, they only cause health damage to the enemies.
  • Red Dead Redemption features an Anachronism Stew of firearms manufactured between 1855 and approximately 1903. The game includes a few oddities, such as a Volcanic pistol that is more powerful than a Single Action Army. In real life, the Volcanic's "Rocket Ball" ammunition was pathetically underpowered and the weapon was obsolete long before the time the game takes place. Meanwhile, the .45 Colt cartridge is the weakest in the game, even though it should logically be the strongest. Compared to other pistols, though, the Volcanic is the weakest, even though they all use generic "Pistol" ammo.
  • All the Resident Evil games do this. Realistically, one bullet to the brain ought to kill a Licker or a Hunter as well as it does a zombie, but in-game, they're just not powerful enough. Gets a little more ridiculous in the fourth and fifth games, where you can individually upgrade the guns' power by set amounts.
    • This shows up in every Resident Evil game with automatic weapons. Even 5.56 or 7.62mm automatic rifles that should completely devastate an enemy in a single quick burst will require a good four or five seconds of concentrated fire to drop one mook, while your substantially weaker-in-real-life 9mm handguns do more damage per shot and your also much-weaker-in-real-life .357 or .44 Magnum revolver is a consistent One-Hit Kill. Ostensibly, this is done for the sake of gameplay balance, since if your assault rifles were as effective in-game as they are in real life (to give you an idea, the ballistics on the relatively small 5.56 rifle round are roughly on par with a .44 Magnum pistol round), even without the percentage-based ammo count the earlier games give them (Resident Evil 3: Nemesis lets a thirty-round M4 magazine hold three hundred rounds), you wouldn't need to use much else.
    • To really hammer the previous point home, the only automatic in the series to actually act like an automatic in real life is the Chicago Typewriter in Resident Evil 4. Fully automatic, accurate to far range, downs most Mooks in a single bullet, and will reduce any boss to red curry paste in about three seconds of sustained gunfire. It's no small wonder the devs decided to make it a Purposely Overpowered unlockable for New Game Plus (and give it unlimited ammo to boot).
    • The remakes of Resident Evil 2 and 3 both downplay it, though moreso in the former (where both of the full-auto SMGs use a round that really is weaker than 9mm in reality). Your automatic weapons still aren't quite as damaging per round compared to your standard handguns and most of them cannot perform critical headshots on zombies, but they get enough of a power upgrade to share the same functional role as your pistols, and they are actually quite effective at drilling down on enemy weak points.
    • One example in both versions of RE2 that just so happens to be justified is how Leon's default VP-70 handgun is slightly weaker than Claire's Browning Hi-Power. It's ostensibly done to make up for a higher capacity compared to the Browning, but due to the technical aspects of its designnote , the VP-70 really does fire 9mm at a lower velocity compared to other handguns with similar specs. Whether this is a case of Shown Their Work or Accidentally-Correct Writing is unknown.
    • Funnily enough, the arbitrary power does not even stay consistent between games. The M1911 is treated as a magnum weapon in Resident Evil 4 (stronger than even a sniper rifle), but it's treated as a normal pistol in Resident Evil Village. Magnum-caliber pistols based on the 1911 do exist in real life, however.
    • Speaking of Village, the unlockable WCX assault rifle is an impressive aversion, packing a substantially bigger punch per round compared to even the most powerful of your regular handguns. As if to prove the original point about this trope's use in the series, once it's fully upgraded you can easily coast through the entire game using only it.
  • In Resonance of Fate, most of the handguns you get do about 5-6 damage a bullet. In later chapters, you'll be facing enemies that have multiple thousands of health. Really, at that point you can be filling the enemies with so much lead that it makes up 98% of their body composition and they still have over 80% of their health remaining. On the other hand, machine guns, which you will be relying on to do most of the damage, can't kill enemies at all by themselves, because their damage is magical self-healing "scratch damage" that only becomes real damage when the target is later shot with a handgun.
    • Within each gun category, though, aspects of this trope are averted. Handguns and SMGs available later in the game are more high-performance than your starting ones, but that's due to having larger magazine size, better accuracy, and more expansion slots rather than doing more damage per bullet.
  • This is a gameplay mechanic for the Sniper Rifle introduced in Serious Sam: The Second Encounter. Its NETRICSA info for that game makes mention of a pressure-venting system to minimize risk to the user by slowing down the bullet if it detects that it's not fired from a stable stance - what this means is, if you use the scope and fire you'll get a shot that's as powerful as two rockets hitting the target, while if you fire it from the hip, the same bullets will become significantly weaker, closer to a single shotgun blast. Later games switched to a system more typical of other games, making the bullets deal the same damage regardless but noticeably less accurate if you fire without the scope.
  • Starfield: Changing a rifle from full automatic to semi automatic will enormously increase its damage, without changing anything else about the gun. Weapons in the future seem to lack selector switches: this change can only be made at a weapons workbench.
  • S.T.A.L.K.E.R: Shadow of Chernobyl balances its weapons by giving rifles high armor penetration but extremely poor damage, while shotguns, pistols and submachine guns have much higher damage but with poor armor-piercing properties. This fits together with a health/armor system where mutant enemies (both animals and human-derived monsters) have large health pools but no armor to speak of, whereas normal human enemies have very little health but can wear many types of armor, some highly effective. This system works pretty well in terms of making buckshot or high-caliber pistol slugs strong against mutants but not against military-grade combat armor. Where it falls down is that this makes rifles bizarrely ineffective against mutants, to the point that it may take an entire 30-round mag of expensive rifle ammo to kill a wild boar when a single cheap shotgun shell would have done the trick. This balance element tends to persist in the many mods and conversions that exist for the series, presumably because if rifles were realistically powerful and effective against all enemies then the other weapons wouldn't have much reason to exist.
  • The System Shock series is a notable aversion of the common FPS trope in which handguns do comparable damage to or more damage than assault rifles to balance out their lower rate of fire and magazine size. Realistically, the handguns in both games deal significantly less damage than the assault rifle (even the Magnum in the first game is noticeably weaker than the assault rifle), making the assault rifle superior in every way barring ammo availability in the first game or the required skill point investment to actually use it in the second.
    • The first game has a weird variant where it has realistic relative weapon power but balances it out with arbitrary gun capacity. The most blatant example is the assault rifle, which is as hard-hitting as you might expect but compensates by having a smaller magazine size than the weaker weapons - which are all handguns. This makes it serve as a standard "magnum" weapon (big damage, scarce ammo, constant reloading) while the actual Magnum acts as the Boring, but Practical general-purpose weapon an assault rifle would usually serve as.
  • Team Fortress 2 has this a lot, but it provides very well balanced game play. Because the game is HP based, damage is calculated through a complicated series of formulas based on certain variables, allowing for every weapon to do different damage. For example, a headshot with the Sniper's Sniper Rifle would normally automatically act as a critical hit (which does more damage than any class has total health), and kill the target instantly. However, if you take the Heavy (who has the highest health of all the classes) and equip him with the Fists of Steel (a melee weapon that, when active, reduces damage from non-melee attacks by 40%), you'll reduce the damage enough for the Heavy to (rather unrealistically) survive the headshot, even without an overheal.
    • A more hilarious similar example is a headshot with the Huntsman. It's quite entertaining to see the Heavy running around with three arrows stuck in his head.
    • You'd think the Soldier's rocket launcher would be hilariously overpowered because they're rockets, right? No. While a close-range rocket is very powerful (though you'd probably kill yourself too with the splash damage), shooting a rocket from long-range does a rather small amount of damage (40-50 damage). This is because of "damage falloff", so players don't just stand back and spam projectiles all day (some still do anyway, but it's not very effective even when they actually hit something).
  • Damage in TimeSplitters is just plain hilariously random. Being shot by the exact same gun can do a sliver of damage the first time, and flatline you the second. And due to the way 'character abilities' work when turned on, this gets absolutely crazy with high-stamina enemies/characters, even human ones. Giant louts like Hector Baboso can take a full magazine to the head then punch you to death while you reload, while little girls like Viola and Krayola will wilt if clipped in the hand.
  • In Tomb Raider (2013) while bullets tear through flesh easily enough, they're apparently so weak that they're stopped entirely by metal plates, despite the proliferation of firearms being the reason heavy metal armour became obsolete in Real Life in the first place. Even weirder, mooks become magically more resistant to damage as the game goes on, though unarmoured enemies still die instantly from a headshot regardless.
    • The game's shotgun is the most jarring example. Unless the thing was loaded with a few rat-shot pellets, you really can't explain how a normal mook wearing no armor is able to take 3-4 complete shells to the chest and face.
  • Total War is very guilty of this. In Real Life, the main reason that early matchlock firearms were quickly and overwhelmingly adopted even by societies with a strong archery tradition (e.g. Japan) in spite of their expense and long reload times (they could manage maybe 1-2 shots per minute compared to 6 for a skilled archer) was because guns were incredibly powerful. They packed twenty to forty times the kinetic energy per shot of a longbow arrow or sword strike, and well over ten times the kinetic energy of a crossbow bolt, enabling their bullets to blast right through the vast majority of armor and inflict horrific wounds. Later firearms were even more potent as powder quality and metallurgy improved, not to mention standardization of the flintlock and then percussion cap mechanism facilitating far higher rates of fire (average 3-4 per minute for the former). In the games ranging from Medieval II to Warhammer I/II/III, firearms will do at most two or three times the damage of arrows, to keep the latter at least somewhat relevant.
  • The Turok series fan favorite Mag 60 fires 3 bullets per tap in primary burst-fire mode. Does maybe 10-15 points of damage, a full load will barely kill a purim or another player in deathmatch. Move into alt-fire, however, and you charge up and use 15 at once, which does nearly double damage what 15 normal shots would do on the same creature in the same location. Damn near instant kill on small enemies (removes limbs, decapitates, blows them in half), one or (but usually) two to down a purim, aiming center mass and then firing upon a purim puts a truck-sized hole in its stomach on the second shot. The first time you see this in action, even you will stare as incredulously at it as he does. Typically most weapons follow this format, with alt-fire using more ammo but being stupidly overpowered for what it fires, especially the rapid-fire weapons.
  • In Uncharted 2: Among Thieves, enemies can sometimes swallow three or four headshots from pistols and machine guns before dropping, but a hit from the magnum or the sniper rifle kills them instantly, even if you tag them in the foot.
    • We also have the minigun mooks that can eat several rockets from the RPG, the most powerful weapon in the game (excluding the miniguns themselves, which just aren't practical). These rockets can kill the other mooks in one hit, but they don't really phase the minigunners. And later in the game, rockets kill the tank in 3-4 hits. Fighting just two guys will use more precious rockets than fighting a main battle tank! Drake calls them mutants, perhaps there's some truth to that...
  • In Unreal II: The Awakening, .50 Cal pistol is extremely powerful, accurate, have reasonable range and can fire in short bursts. Save for small magazine capacity and very rare ammo, it will make a much better assault rifle, than an actual assault rifle. In fact, ingame description explicitly tells, that said pistol should be used " for medium range targets, when you're too far away for a shotgun, but too close for the sniper rifle".
  • In the Valkyria Chronicles series, engineers' pistols do slightly less damage shot-for-shot than scouts' rifles, which in turn do far less damage than shocktroopers' assault rifles, including headshots.
  • In World of Warcraft guns, bows and crossbows of the same level are generally equal in power and choice depends on what you can get your hands on. In hands of warriors and rogues, they are next to useless (and in the Mists of Pandaria Expansion Pack, unusable at all), while when used by Hunter class they are as deadly as magic and other weapons of other classes (that is to say, still not nearly as deadly as they would be in real life).
  • World of Warships uses ships that were made in real life or at the very least were some kind of prototype design, while also splitting them into tiers of ship quality. As the ships are given the correct gun size & count, they have to be balanced by things like rate of fire and accuracy. A major example of this is the United States Heavy Cruiser line, which is 5 ships who all have the exact same main gun (203 mm (8 inch)/ 55 Caliber) with several ships having the same 3x3 gun battery configuration. The Tier 7 New Orleans has the exact same gun setup as the Tier 8 Baltimore, but fires slower than the latter even with the exact same guns.


    Western Animation 
  • The Transformers: Megatron often does more damage transformed into an Ikea Weaponry Walther P-38 (scaled-up for use by giant robots), than shooting his Arm Cannon with a barrel the size of his head.