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The .44 Magnum. Guaranteed to blow your head clean off. Feeling lucky? Well do ya, punk?

"...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 and Professional Killers 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, assassins 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.

In real life, handguns perform poorly when compared to most rifles. note  However, in addition to the advantages mentioned above, the handgun adds a level of dramatic appeal — in effect, the handgun is the modern sword and Stock Ninja Weaponry, preferred by heroes and assassins 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.

Military stories, of course, treat this trope differently. In any work set between roughly 1850 and 1920, one may find certain kinds of soldiers - cavalry, for example - carrying a rifle and one or more revolvers, since reloading a muzzle-loading rifle on horseback is rather difficult. However, things have changed in the modern day. Despite what military video games may have you believe, in most modern armies, regular soldiers are issued only a rifle. Handguns are generally issued to three types of personnel: commissioned officers, whose job is to command, not to fight; support personnel, whose job is not to fight but to support those who do; and Special Forces personnel, who often carry a handgun as a backup weapon to their rifle. A self-defence handgun is common for a Combat Medic too.

However, when it comes to handguns, everyone agrees that Revolvers Are Just Better.


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    Anime & 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.
  • Cowboy Bebop: 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 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.
  • Gunsmith Cats: 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 Negima! Magister Negi Magi 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."
  • Both the main character and villain of Canaan use handguns, a Beretta Px 4 Storm and FN Five-seveN respectively.
  • Throughout most of Princess Principal, Ange le Carre uses a rare semi-automatic Webley-Fosberry revolver.
  • The core five characters of Lupin III have a specific handgun as their weapon of choice, sans Goemon who feels that Katanas Are Just Better.

    Comic Books 
  • Art Ops: The drug dealer Reggie and Jessie go to see pulls out his gun when he sees Reggie being attacked by street graffiti. He accidentally shoots Jessie and kills her, though.
  • The F1rst Hero:
    • Pete pulls out a revolver and points it at Jake's head when he sees him threatening Cooper with his powers.
    • After they've all gotten away from the mafia and the Extrahuman Task Force, Cooper pulls a gun from his sock and shoots Pete in the head with it when he starts freaking out about Rodney's death.
  • The Mall (2018): In Issue #1, the balding mobster brings a pistol to the confrontation he has with Leonard Cardini. It ends up in Diego's hands, and he drops it, causing it to go off and shoot the mobster in the leg. Then it ends up in Lena's hands.
  • Stabbity Bunny: In Issue #1, Amanda packs a gun into her purse before going to confront Larry to rescue her daughter from him.
  • Wonder Woman (1987): Micah Rain's pistol serves him surprisingly well given the ridiculous firepower of Widow Sazia's goons and the fact that the first mobster he pulls it on turns out to be a disguised demon who is Immune to Bullets. He's a PI so he's not using a gun all the time and he needs it to be discrete and easy to carry.

  • 1BR: When Sarah begs for the torture she's being put through to end, Jack pulls out a handgun, implying exactly how it would end.
  • Bad Apples: When one of the girls sneaks into their second on-screen victim's home, she finds a magnum in her drawer. She uses it to kill the woman.
  • Black Wake: Plenty throughout the movie. One notable scene happens when someone is being interrogated by the police about what happened to his friend. He eventually steals one of the policemen's guns and points it at the other. Then he puts the gun to his temple and blows his own brains out.
  • Blood Ransom: A number of the cast have these. Bill uses one to kill a bunch of people in a bar via bullet to the head.
  • The Bloody Man: In Amy's Bloody Man story, the Bloody Man uses a handgun to shoot a baby in its crib.
  • Capps Crossing: Rob secretly brought a gun to the camping trip without the others knowing, showing it off to one of the other guys. He uses it in the climax of the movie to shoot David.
  • Christmas Blood: Many police officers in the movie have these. Detective Rasch uses one to shoot the killer in the beginning and end of the movie.
  • Clawed: One of the female cast grabs a handgun and unloads it onto The Shadow Of Death. It doesn't work in the slightest.
  • Clownface: Owen has a handgun that he intends to use to kill Clownface. When he shoots him with it though, it doesn't work.
  • Die Hard:
    • In Die Hard, although John McClane seeks out a machine gun (ho-ho-ho) at the first opportunity, he's still eventually reduced to his trusty pistol.
    • He's able to take out a helicopter in Die Hard with a Vengeance with a snub-nosed revolver. To be fair, he didn't aim directly at said helicopter...
  • Elves (2017): After the killings start, two girls of the group visit a woman named Chance, who apparently has prior experience with creepy Christmas Elf dolls. When Chance answers the door, she points a gun at them.
  • In The Expendables, Barney Ross's primary weapons include a Kimber M1911 in each hand.
  • The Funhouse Massacre: Sheriff Kate gives Morgan a handgun before they all decide to go back into the park to confront the killers.
  • Ghost Lab (2021): When Dr.s Gla and Wee decide that, for the experiment, one of them should die and come back as a ghost, Dr. Wee pulls out a box and opens it up, revealing a gun and bullets.
  • Ghost Note: One scene focuses on a random man being ordered to walk his dog by his wife. The man is shown to own a handgun. He tries to kill Eugene Burn when he sees him, but Eugene shrugs off each bullet.
  • Ghosts of War: It being a movie set in a computer simulation of World War II, expect to see people on both sides of the conflict having a handgun.
  • Halloween at Aunt Ethel's: Before the confrontation with Aunt Ethel, Mark reveals that he brought a gun with which he intended to kill her. Ultimately, Aunt Ethel gets a hold of it, and shoots Mandy in the head.
  • Hatched: When the military shows up to the dinosaur-infested house, they bring handguns with them.
  • Hayride 2: Steven and Corey grab some handguns to use against Ol' Pitchfork.
  • House Shark: Frank uses a handgun as his weapon against the shark.
  • 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?
  • Jurassic Prey: Detective Cutler has one, being a police detective and all. So does his partner. They're seen using them against a murderer in a theater at the start of the movie.
  • Killer/saurus: Professor Peterson keeps a handgun in his desk. First, he tries to use it to shoot himself, then he uses it to keep the Corrupt Corporate Executive who funded his research from putting Kayleigh through the process to turn someone into a human-dinosaur Super-Soldier.
  • Kruel: In one of their meetings in the latter half of the movie, Ben reveals to Jo that he has a gun, which he took from his father to use against Willie should the need arise. He never gets the chance, as Willie kills him.
  • Mongolian Death Worm: Patrick is revealed to have a gun that he trains on Mr. Bixler when he starts getting too close to discovering Patrick's crates full of treasure. Daniel and Alicia get a gun in the oil facility.
  • For the house fight in the movie Mr. & Mrs. Smith (2005), 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.
  • Nutcracker Massacre: In the climax of the movie, Clara arms herself with a handgun for the final confrontation with the Nutcracker. She actually manages to hurt him with a few shots.
  • Old People: When Ella sees how much trouble they're in, she pulls a handgun from a box in the bookcase.
  • 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 McBain 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).
  • Playing With Dolls: The police detective and the guards surrounding the area are all armed with these. One guard uses his to wound the detective.
  • Redwood Massacre Annihilation: Gus is shown to own a handgun, among all the other guns he brings along. The soldier with the government official at the end of the movie also uses his own handgun to kill Laura and Gus.
  • 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.
  • Chow Yun Fat's signature weapons before he came to Hollywood were a pair of Beretta 92Fs.
  • Sharkenstein: The Nazi in the prologue of the movie uses a handgun to shoot the non-Nazi scientists so he can take their research to the Third Reich.
    • Klaus is also revealed to have a handgun, which he points at Madge, Coop, and Skip when he finds they've come into his house.
  • The most commonly seen, used, and carried firearms in Strapped are handguns. Justified in that everyone is concealing them for their own protection.
  • Strippers Vs. Werewolves: In one scene, Jeanette gives Justice a box, inside of which is a small revolver and a single silver bullet.
  • The Undertaker (1988): One scene shows a man in a car who has a gun. He doesn't get to use it, though, since Roscoe kills him not long after.
  • Virus Shark: Gregory is revealed to have a handgun after agreeing to Shannon's plan to kill the rest of the crew and take the cure once it's been found.
  • Werewolves Within: Pretty much the majority of the cast owns one. The only ones who don't are Cecily, Pete, Joaquim, Devon, and Sam Parker. In Sam's case, though, it's because he has a crossbow.
  • In the war film, We Were Soldiers. Sergeant Major Plumley, a Real Life badass, 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.
  • Yakuza Apocalypse: Plenty of handguns are used in the movie. One prominent example occurs in the beginning, when a rival Yakuza boss tries to kill Kamiura by shooting him with one. Since Kamiura's a vampire, they only wound him, not kill him.
  • The Zombie Apocalypse in Apartment 14F: Bradly owns one, which he pulls out near the beginning of the movie. It only gets used once... to accidentally shoot the guy who was delivering their Chinese food. Thankfully, they don't kill him, and he limps away.

  • Camp X: When they're out on the highway in Mr. Krum's car, Mr. Krum pulls a gun out of his pocket and points it at George and Jack.
  • 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.
  • In Fate/Zero, while Kiritsugu Emiya and his assistant Maiya use all sorts of weapons to get the job done, his ultimate anti-magic Ace in the Hole is a Thompson Contender, a handgun designed to fire rifle bullets.
  • 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.
  • In his biography, Mailed Fist, John Foley describes bailing out of a wrecked tank and leading his crew to safety through German-held territory. He recalls encountering a German infantry section who are trying to emplace a heavy machine gun. Foley only had his standard-issue pistol to try to spoil their day with. Buoyed up by knowing he was recognised as one of his unit's best shots on the pistol range, he tried to get the Germans before they became a threat. And even at close range he missed with every shot. Fortunately, the Germans panicked, dropped the MG, and ran for it. Foley sheepishly led his men on, having realised there's a big difference between hitting every time on the pistol range and doing it for real against a real human target.

    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.
  • Our Miss Brooks: In "The Stolen Wardrobe", thieves valuable clothes stolen Sherry's with Miss Brooks, tricking her into believing it's a prize for being best dressed teacher at Madison High School. Mr. Conklin, Mr. Boynton and Walter Denton attempt to return the clothes, but are shot at by (in Mr. Conklin's words) "a trigger-happy flat-floot" and flee the store. Later, the police-officer, handgun holdstered, shows up at Mrs. Davis' house.
  • 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 usually have shotguns and larger guns in the trunk of the Impala, but they 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.
  • 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.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Warhammer 40,000: 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). Assualt marines favor them for close combat and Primaris Chaplains carry Absolver Bolt Pistols that carry the punch of a Heavy Bolter with the same range!
    • Additionally, Laspistols. Laspistols, especially hotshots, are used by the Imperial Guard and the Commissars that lead them as they are cheap and reliable. Commissars that use laspistols use the hotshots as they instantly burn the wound shut to execute psykers and cowards without shedding blood. Commissar Ciaphas Cain, HERO OF THE IMPERIUM, uses laspistol over a bolt pistol due to the above qualities as well as being much lighter.
    • Plasma pistols are for more important servants of the Emperor such as Space Marines, Inquisitors, and esteemed Commissars. This allows them to deal with heavy armor without carrying a Plasma gun.
    • Finally there are stub guns, the Hand Cannon, autopistols, and flintlock pistols. Stubs (both regular pistols and hand cannons) are made and used by only extremely primitive places, mostly underhive scum, who can't afford even an auto pistol. Flintlocks are ever used by feudal worlds for decoration and local defense or by underhivers who have to make do. Autopistols fire caseless ammunition and are used by primitive poeple as a stronger alternative to stub guns and by Imperial Guard vets as a back up to their laspistols.

    Video Games 
  • ANNO: Mutationem: One of Ann's ranged weapons is the N2 Pulverizer, a standard sturdy handgun that can be equipped with a Fire, Ice, Lightning effect to boost damage. The Tomahawk is able to a shoot a three-round burst for additional fire.
  • Antarctica 88: The Player Character finds a pistol in the lab lobby.
  • A-Tech Cybernetic: You can find what looks like a Glock near the beginning of the game's story mode.
  • 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.
  • Cave In: Your only weapon in the game is a pistol. Luckily it doesn't take more than one shot to deal with enemies in the game.
  • Corridor Z: One of the weapons you can pick up in the halls (or start out with if you have the "Armed Start" perk) is a handgun. It holds 15 shots and can hit one zombie at a time.
  • 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.
  • In the Devil May Cry series, the gunslingers Dante, Trish and Lady go Guns Akimbo with two handguns as their signature firearms. Although they can use other guns that have stronger firepower, the handguns nevertheless remain useful in keeping your Stylish gauge from dropping despite their low damage output. It also helps that the characters never have to reload, can shoot so fast they can keep enemies floating in mid-air by a cloud of hot lead, or keep themselves in the air for a few extra seconds.
  • Diacrisis: Matthew Diacrisis starts out the game with a simple handgun. It can put a zombie down in about 1-2 shots.
  • 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.
  • Gynophobia: You can wield a hangdun in both Dead Hunger and your nightmare.
  • Heaven Dust: You can find a handgun in the safe in the Warden's Office. It can put dowwn zombies in 4-to-5 shots.
  • Lethal Enforcers: As a cop-themed Light Gun Game, the UI shows your ammo count as a cylinder full of bullets, implying that you're using a service revolver.
  • Ninja Outbreak: You find one on the first level. It takes five shots to take down a ninja.
  • 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 92FS 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) handgunnote . 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.
    • In Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, Eva's weapon of choice is a Chinese copy of the Mauser C96. And just guess the weapon that Revolver Ocelot carries.
    • In the MSX/NES games, Snake's default weapon is a handgun, but he can also get a submachine gun that can be suppressed, but has more inaccurate fire, making the handgun the choice for precision.
    • In general, pistol weapons in the Metal Gear games can be suppressed easily, while larger weapons are loud. Because of the emphasis on stealth action, the suppressed pistols are generally superiors to the loud bigger guns (except in boss fights).
  • Save Room: The game has a handgun as one of the items you need to make fit into your inventory. You can also load it with bullets to help free up more space.
  • Spark the Battle Dog: Spark starts the game with a pistol that can hold eight bullets, and can kill a zombie in two-to-three hits.
  • Splinter Cell has Sam Fisher and his trusty FN Five-Seven alongside his other two favourite weapons, the custom FN F2000 and, starting from Chaos Theory, his knife.
  • 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 the usually Non-Action Guy 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.
  • 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:
    • 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 fact that they take up precious inventory space (which is in limited supply) is just another shot against them.
    • The only handgun that has any mid-game viability is the Big Bertha, two ultra-custom Hand Cannon weapons that fire a rifle-caliber 7.62mm NATO round with excellent accuracy, decent range, and slightly better damage than most 7.62mm NATO rifles. However, they're prohibitively heavy for a handgun, and the damage trade-off isn't worth it when you can use much more versatile rifles.
    • The 1.13 mod makes pistols viable again for a variety of reasons: they can load specialized ammunition, they can be suppressed for a much lower cost and with a significantly reduced damage penalty, and they tend to be a little easier for low-skill mercenaries to use accurately. There are also far more variants of handguns available, including specialized versions like the Judge shotgun pistol. Finally, the revamp of the inventory system and the recalibration of weight means that every mercenary can easily carry a pistol and a spare magazine as a backup weapon if needed.
  • 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.
    • Fallout 4 continues the tradition of having good pistols early in the game, and with the weapon modding available they can be upgraded to remain potent for quite a long time. The Alien Blaster remains one of the best pistol type energy weapons, and unlike the previous games can be converted over to use common fusion cells once the Alien Blaster ammo starts to run out while losing only a couple points of damage. Another great gun is Deliverer, a 10mm pistol with the VATS Enhanced legendary effect, giving it improved accuracy and reduced Action Point cost in VATS mode. While it doesn't do that much damage to high level enemies, it can be used to deliver a lot of head shots in a row to stack with perks like Steady Aim or to quickly fill up the Critical gauge.
  • Team Fortress 2:
    • The Scout and the Engineer each have a handgun as a sidearm, offering them reliable medium-range damage to pair with their respective scatterguns or shotguns.
    • The Spy's only ranged weapon is one of a few revolvers to pick from. In general they pale in comparison to his Back Stab, and fire slowly, but are decently accurate and deal enough damage to finish off a singled-out wounded foe with a few well-placed shots. Alternative revolvers deal less damage than the default one, in exchange for dealing critical damage on headshots, dealing Critical Hits for every backstab or successfully sabotaged building, or getting more mileage out of his invisibility watches.
  • 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.
    • The sequel allows you to build a character with points in pistols/handguns, and it is a terrible mistake. Unlike Rifles, Submachine Guns, Energy Weapons, Shotguns and Melee, which all specialize in a particular style of combatnote , Pistols try to fill a gap between Melee and SMG and suffer for it. Pistols don't do as much damage as either Melee or SMG, lack the debuffs possible with Melee weapons, and while they are more accurate than an SMG, the difference is marginal at best. There's also a lack of high-level pistols, making them much less viable in the endgame, and they take valuable ammunition from your SMGs. All in all, it's better to specialize in Melee and fast movement to close the distance to the target as quickly as possible, or use Shotguns or SMGs to attack for more damage at a distance.
  • 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.
  • PAYDAY 2 greatly increases the amount of handguns that the player can use compared to the first game with each of them having slightly different amounts of power, ammo capacity, and different magazine sizes. They're all restricted as secondary sidearms while more powerful guns like rifles are main weapons. However, dual wielding pistols can be used as a primary weapon.
  • 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.
  • Persona:
    • In the original Persona, both Maki Sonomura and Yuka Ayase carry handguns as sidearms.
    • In Persona 2, both Maya Amano and Katsuya Suou use pistols, though only Maya dual-wields them.
    • In Persona 4, Naoto uses handguns, and seems to favor revolvers in particular if Persona 4: Arena is any indication.
    • Persona 5: Your main character uses a variety of fictionalized pistol type guns that can be stored in a pocket and held with one hand. These include a simply named "pistol", the "Sand Hawk" (a Captain Ersatz Desert Eagle), and the "Mad Police" (a GLOCK police pistol equivalent). Additionally, party member Makoto Niijima can use a variety of revolvers.
  • In Girls' Frontline, Handgun units are primarily support units. They have poor damage output compared to other weapon types, but can provide buffs to the entire squad regardless of weapon type, making them an essential addition to most formations. Their high evasion also allows them to take on a tanking role, though their low health makes this a risky strategy.
  • Withstand: You can find a handgun in the game world with some exploring.
  • Dead County: The first weapon you get in the game is a handgun, which can put down a zombie in two-to-four shots.
  • Your weapon in Fever Cabin is a simple pistol. It can put down a regular zombie in four shots (two if you shoot them in the head).
  • Raw Footage: Your only ranged weapon in the game is a simple pistol. It can temporarily stun the monster.
  • HEPH: The handgun in the game can hold up to 10 bullets at a time.
  • Clementine is mostly seen shooting handguns in The Walking Dead, likely due to her small stature. The only exception is Javi meeting her carrying a big shotgun in Season 3 Episode 1, and using it to shoot walkers outside Prescott.
  • Triggore: One of the weapons you can wield in the game is this. It can put down an enemy in two shots, and can hold six bullets.
  • Timothy vs. the Aliens: Timothy starts the game with a revolver. It can hold six bullets, and can put down small enemies in three shots.
  • Virtua Cop: The default weapon of the game is a six-shot revolver, though during the game you can also find the "Automatic" (resembling a Beretta 92) for a higher magazine capacity, or the "Magnum", which resembles a Smith and Wesson, in order to shoot through walls.

    Web Comics 
  • 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.
  • 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.

    Web Original 
  • Justified in Survival of the Fittest, as the students don't really have a choice of what weapon they start with, and most of the firearms Danya assigns are handguns. Most students with handguns swap out their handgun the second they find something more powerful, as well.

    Real Life 
  • 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 at anything farther than point-blank range. 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" note .
  • 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 .380 ACP to the 10mm Auto, terminal effect pretty much evens out to the point where trauma surgeons cannot tell the difference between the wound tracts of a 9x18 Makarov (near the bottom end of this range) and a .45 ACP (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.

Alternative Title(s): Everyone Has Pistols, Handgun