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Punch-Packing Pistol

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In Real Life, there are very good reasons why the militaries of the world unanimously arm their soldiers with rifles as primary weapons. As a whole, long guns have far better accuracy, effective range, and muzzle energy than any pistol. Intermediate-power assault rifle rounds (ex. 5.56x45mm NATO) and Full-power battle rifle rounds (ex. 7.62x51mm NATO) have way higher kinetic energy than all common handgun calibers (9x19mm, .45 ACP. 40 S&W, 10mm etc). This also includes .44 Magnum, the most powerful handgun caliber commonly used by civilians.

Handcannon-tier handgun calibers stronger than .44 Magnum such as .454 Casull, .50 Action Express, .475 Linebaugh, and .500 S&W Magnum CAN surpass 5.56 NATO and match 7.62 NATO in energy, with specific ammo loads. However, rifle calibers stronger than 7.62 such as .338 Lapua Magnum leave the handcannon calibers in the dust, thus reinforcing the trope once more.

The best soft body armor vests will stop just about any pistol round short of "handcannon" tier calibers, (even the mighty .44 Magnum gets stopped), yet will be zipped through like butter by any intermediate-power rifle round. Wounding profile is slightly less lopsided in favor of rifle rounds due to some pistol rounds having fairly high momentum and mass, but even then, assault rifle bullets tend to inflict far worse wounds.

But in video games? Not so. In both First- and Third-Person Shooters, starting handguns often have a damage per bullet that's at least comparable to the standard issue assault rifle, if not superior. These games also often offer the player a 'heavy pistol' or revolver which is vastly more powerful per shot than even the sniper rifle, usually capable of taking out mooks with a single headshot.

Why does this happen? While having one weapon be overwhelmingly superior might be realistic, it doesn't make for particularly fun gameplay. If video game pistols reflected the same role they do in Real Life, players would come to the same conclusion real militaries do: that there's little reason to ever use them other than as a backup tool. Developers want to give players a variety of more-or-less balanced weapons and tactics to choose from, and dramatically boosting the power of pistols allows them to stay fun and useful weapons, despite their lower capacity and (in games where you can aim weapons) harder-to-use ironsights, without making any glaring inaccuracies to the average player.

Contrast Ranged Emergency Weapon, when the pistol is the weakest gun in the game instead, as well as Sorting Algorithm of Weapon Effectiveness, where the starting weapon(s) get outclassed quickly. See Shotguns Are Just Better for a similarly "basic" weapon being among the most effective of a game. May also affect whether a pistol is a Sniper Pistol or not. Not to be confused with a punch-triggered pistol.


  • All Points Bulletin has the Obeya FBW pistol. It looks like your typical 9mm handgun, but it is very accurate, has a good magazine size and can fire very quickly, making it effective both at short and medium range. Also, since the last major patch, it has become the default starting weapon for players, which means everyone gets it permanently for free. Many players prefer it over any other secondary.
  • Alpha Protocol's pistols can get a Hollywood Silencer to deal with targets without a fuss, use tranq darts to deal with enemies non-lethally, can be used for critical hits while you're inside cover, and its armor piercing ammo allows you to deal with bosses with contemptible ease. And that's before one adds in Chain Shot, a Time Stands Still Gun Fu skill that allows you to fire up to five shots with perfect accuracy in less than a second and lets you clear rooms in one go, or insta-kill bosses in a single Chain Shot + Brilliance + Chain Shot combo. Like all Alpha Protocol weapons it requires plenty of skill points investment, but once you get that skill up there's really no reason to own anything else regardless of playstyle.
  • In Arcanum: Of Steamworks & Magick Obscura, pistols are lame and similar while larger guns are quite assorted, but the most powerful firearm is Droch's Warbringer, a Lost Technology pistol which has the same power as the Elephant Gun, but is twice as fast and ammo-saving, lighter, smaller, doesn't require skillpoint investment to assemble and can be wielded one-handed. The only drawback is that the components and crafting recipe lay in the penultimate dungeon and are guarded by high-level monsters. But if you know where it is and bring along some Invisibility scrolls, it may become a Disc-One Nuke or even a Game-Breaker.
  • Ashes 2063
    • The .45 Revolver, Scav's signature handgun, is powerful enough to drop most gangsters in one shot and a pit fiend in two. In Afterglow, this is even more pronounced with the tier 1 upgrade, which increases the revolver's firepower by about a third.
    • The 9mm autoloader, when upgraded twice in Afterglow, gains a 3-shot burst that can one-shot a pit fiend and wear down mutants really quickly. As an automatic weapon, it competes comfortably for damage with the Machine Pistol.
  • BioShock
    • BioShock hands you your starting pistol in a baby carriage, and that baby'll carry you through the game start to finish. It fires decently fast, allows for both anti-armor and anti-personnel rounds in addition to standard fare, and once you have the damage and magazine upgrades it covers the middle ground between the fast but weak machine gun and the slow but powerful shotgun, and these are the weapons you'll likely use most just by virtue of ammo being easier to come by.
    • In Bioshock Infinite, if the Season Pass is downloaded, the Pistol becomes this. It has two further damage upgrades, which make it more powerful as you go on, and a mag size increase. Along with that, it is very accurate, can be fired as fast as the trigger can be pulled, has an extremely high critical damage multiplier, a quick draw speed, and the upgrades are cheap. Once fully upgraded, it becomes a straight upgrade to the Hand Cannon, provides solid performance at all ranges, and you can even take down Handymen with it.
  • The Borderlands series:
    • Borderlands
      • While most repeating pistols are fairly weak, the procedural weapon generation system means you may stumble upon one with quite heavy damage, an elemental effect, or both. Some unique pistols like the Firehawk (very high fire elemental tech, procs for six times the regular damage) and Krom's Sidearm (3-round burst when sighted, 3x shock element) are notable examples. Knoxx's Gold, which is typically Shop Fodder since it's fully random what parts you get, certainly classifies as a punch-packer when it gets an elemental accessory (boosted by the Gold's defining trait, its material) and a high damage or high accuracy barrel.
      • Law revolvers work as this more than the Hand Cannons that other kinds of revolvers tend to be. A Law's base damage is lower, but they can pop three to four caps in the same time that a Justice, for example, can shoot only once or twice. Couple it with a fast reload typical of Tediore guns, and as long as its cylinder is not a two-shot like most Laws not made by Tediore, even a common white Law trumps the majority of repeaters, even decent ones.
    • The Firehawk is a legendary Maliwan pistol with a x4 fire damage modifier that's actually x6 function-wise. It doesn't deal that much direct damage but essentially every bullet fired will have an incendiary effect, and individual burning effects stack, so it'll torch any enemy, even fire-resistant mooks.
    • Borderlands 2
      • As a rule of thumb, pistols trump assault rifles. Not only do they have a better swap speed and faster reloads, they outdamage AR's of the same manufacturer. The only fields they lose in are ammo capacity and firing speed.
      • The game also continues the tradition of having revolvers, especially Jakobs's ones, be among the most powerful and reliable weapons in the game, as well as being an excellent primary weapon choice for Zer0. It helps that you can fan them for up to (theoretically) an insane 15 rounds per second. Zer0 is especially nasty with the Vladof Infinity, a legendary pistol with unlimited ammunition — every round is the first out of the mag, effectively, and so every shot benefits from up to a 60% bonus damage from 0ne Sh0t 0ne Kill.
      • Torgue's revolvers are usually second to Jakobs in damage per shot — basically trading off pure, raw damage for area-of-effect explosive damage, but still packing a much stronger punch than a Dahl, Hyperion, Maliwan or Vladof pistol.
      • Vladof's machine pistols have similar fire rate to submachine guns, despite having much higher damage and larger magazines than even assault rifles. Essentially their only disadvantage is poor accuracy/recoil, which you can make up for by using them close-range, or if a Vault Hunter's lucky, using one with the shoulder stock accessory. They're wonderful choices for Salvador and Gaige, given their abilities.
      • The legendary "Unkempt Harold" and Moxxi's unique Rubi revolver are almost compulsory for Gunzerker and Commando builds. The legendary "Maggie" is no slouch in Anarchy Gaige builds, either (it's a revolver that fires buckshot, and in the hands of a Mechromancer with 400 Anarchy stacks and Close Enough 5, a guaranteed 900 damage from a level 17 Maggie as long as it's pointed somewhere in the same room as the enemy — for comparison, the Morningstar, a sniper rifle seven levels higher, only deals about 730 on a non-crit).
      • The Sheriff's Badge unsurprisingly dropped by Nisha turns pistols from being above average into obscenely powerful guns, rivaling assault rifles and SMG's in DPS. Especially combined with the aforementioned Unkempt Harold (turning it effectively into a "weak" rocket launcher) or the Infinity, which has infinite bullets and gains a fire rate and damage superior to SMG's as long as the user can deal with the fixed pattern spread. If pistols are primarily used in your build, the Sheriff's Badge is superior to every other relic in the game by a wide margin.
      • The Lady Fist unique pistol you can get from Una Baha has reduced bullet damage by default, but compensates for that with an absurd Critical Hit damage modifier of 800%.
    • Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel! lets Nisha dual-wield any pistol. She gets bonuses for using Jakobs revolvers too, but nearly all designs can work. If Claptrap uses a certain class mod that lets him have pistol bonuses, he can make use of this trope as well.
    • Borderlands 3 continues the tradition of having Jakobs revolvers being capable of outdamaging a Vladof sniper rifle — this time, however, they have been nerfed with either a tiny 2-4 round top-break cylinder, or a ridiculously slow round-by-round reloading sequence.
  • Dead Space has the pistol-equivalent, the Plasma Cutter, and many people genuinely believe it to be the most efficient weapon in the entire series, especially once fully upgraded. There's an achievement for going through the first game using nothing but the Plasma Cutter, and doing so actually makes the game easier — you only get ammo drops for weapons you have equipped, so if you only have the one weapon all of the ammo that drops will be for it. You'll get so much you'll be able to sell most of it without worry and spend the money on something useful like upgrades.
  • Destiny has a class of weapons known as the Hand-cannons, which are rather large revolvers roughly the size of a sawed-off shotgun. They are difficult to use in PVP, but they hit like a truck.
    • Sidearm secondary weapons in the House of Wolves expansion pack. This expansion introduced a measly two Sidearms (a normal one, Vestian Dynasty, and a much rarer Exotic one, Dreg's Promise), but they are remarkably effective, since they fire and reload fast, have mags of 15 (Dreg's Promise has 18), hit decently hard and the player can carry lots of ammo for it.
  • Deus Ex
    • The first game is infamous for its pistol, which almost perfectly fits the trope description. This trope applies to your enemies as well as you in the harder difficulties: a mook can easily one-shot you with the pistol. This is especially so when combined with the Laser Sight upgrade, which in the unmodified game completely negates aim spread if it's not attached in tandem with a scope.
    • Deus Ex: Human Revolution continues the tradition by making a silenced pistol with a laser scope and armor-piercing mod one of the best weapons in the game. Then they went even further and added in a .357 Magnum revolver that can be upgraded to shoot explosive rounds. As many players found out (to their delight), those two weapons can easily carry you to the end of the game, using the silenced pistol for day-to-day wet work and saving the revolver's slightly-harder-to-find, more powerful ammo for boss fights and robots. Ironically this is a consequence of how the game's ammo distribution was balanced versus the first one: you basically receive scraps of rifle, shotgun and other ammo but receive a too plentiful amount of 10mm pistol ammo (it's possibly the most common and plentiful ammo type in the game besides special heavy weapons). Designed to make the pistol somewhat viable as a backup, it made it an almost ideal weapon.
  • Devil May Cry: Nero only has Blue Rose as his firearm, but it has explosive firepower to compensate. When it made its debut in Devil May Cry 4, its Charge Shot already deals significant damage even at Level 2, while its Level 3 upgrade adds a delayed explosion to deal even more damage and interrupt most enemies' moves. In Devil May Cry 5, its normal shots are slower than it did in the previous game, but the Color Up ability allows Nero to fire special bullets that deal high damage and can stun enemies. The Tomboy Devil Breaker turns Blue Rose into a weapon of mass destruction by overcharging its shots, but the drawback is that Nero is forced to stand still to handle the recoil and has to manually aim rather than rely on lock-on or auto-aim. By the final mission of DMC5, Nero recovers the original Charge Shot ability and its damage output can still be supplemented by his Color Up bullets.
  • The Project Brutality Mod for Doom 2 beefs up the dinky pistol into a powerful side arm, capable of being suppressed for silent headshots or used in both hands reducing accuracy but increasing damage and fire rate. Seeing how most of the monsters in game can be killed with a few shots to the head, this can save you ammo when your bigger guns are low or you're trying not to have that Revenant attack you.
  • The Empires Mod generally has such vast expanses that the scout's ability to zoom in remains decently useful, but the Anti-Infantry rifleman is almost completely made obsolete by the pistol available to every other class, it being capable of your basic Instant Kill Boom, Headshot! and accurate to the pixel when crouching (for at least one shot every several seconds). Made worse by one of the game's very few aversions of Cosmetically Different Sides, in which only Brenodi forces have access to a burst-fire variant that is practically automatic in fire rate.
  • Fallout and Fallout 2 had the .223 pistol, which is a rare, justified case. The description makes it clear that it's a custom-made pistol only in the sense that it was made by cutting down a rifle and further modifying it to work as a particularly powerful sidearm. Fallout 2 also has the Gauss Pistol, which combines high damage and armour penetration with a very high rate of fire to punch through nearly any enemy.
  • Fallout: New Vegas:
    • Honest Hearts introduces Joshua Graham's Ace Custom M1911, A Light Shining In Darkness. Despite being a small handgun that shoots quite fast, it is absolutely deadly, particularly the NPC version he uses. Even the standard 1911 you can get with the DLC is obscenely powerful, especially with the "Grunt" perk that increases your damage with "military"-style weapons like it, with only ridiculously-huge handguns firing rifle ammo like the 12.7mm pistol or 5.56mm "That Gun" being able to beat it in damage per shot.
    • For those who prefer energy weapons, the game has Pew-Pew, a unique laser pistol jury-rigged by its previous owner to deal six times more damage (more than a plasma caster) than the standard variant, at the cost of five times the ammo consumption and the need to reload after only two shots. Moreover, it has very high critical chance multiplier, so with right gear and perks it's possible to achieve 100% crit rate — at which point you may kill a Deathclaw with a single head shot. Finally, it's also a Disc-One Nuke, as you can find the location and collect 50 special bottlecaps (with a lot of Save Scumming, though) required to open the vault right at the start.
  • F.E.A.R. has two examples:
    • The first game, First Encounter Assault Recon and its expansions, Extraction Point and Perseus Mandate, have the Rakow AT-14. When used single, it's not much more than a backup gun, but when it's dual wielded, the pistol slot grants you more ammo capacity and damage output (both per bullet and per second) than the HV Penetrator, a mid-game precision/anti-armor gun which you'd be really hard-pressed to find ammo for and only has the upper hand in accuracy and rate of fire — even in those fields, its advantage is slight at best. The increase in the rate of fire that akimbo provides also has the advantage of the common "press fire once, shoot twice" aspect being completely averted; they're still semi-auto and single-shotnote . On top of that, two to five headshots will down any human enemy short of the absurdly durable Nightcrawler Elites from Perseus Mandate's endgame, and it disperses Nightmares with one shot; and for situations where sheer damage-per-second is necessary, the pistols are perfect for it when combined with Slow-Mo, since semi-automatic weapons like it actually fire faster in Slow-Mo. They're even better in the expansions as ammo pickups for them become more numerous; whereas the base game would eventually require you to drop them or otherwise fall back on another gun before you could find enough pickups to use it again, the expansions have at least one every level or two letting you keep using them throughout almost the entire game. Having dual AT-14s in your inventory is practically essential for the first game's last level, which the game helpfully insures by stripping you of everything except a single pistol before shortly providing you with a second one when the Nightmares really kick into overdrive.
    • F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin (and the Reborn DLC campaign) make this better and worse with their version of the basic pistol, the Seegert ACM46. It can't be paired up anymore to double its fire rate and capacity, but it's still about as powerful as before, and in fact that same power is more useful now with less-armored enemies like ghosts and Armacham goons being more common across the entire game. Plus, the game has one more weapon slot than the first one does, and while ammo does get rare later on, it doesn't completely disappear — in particular, just about any enemy can be made to drop a pistol in certain circumstances.
  • Far Cry:
    • While most of the games try to balance handguns between "faster and weaker regular guns" versus "slower and stronger hand cannons", the introduction of Signature weapons in Far Cry 3 allowed for a super-pistol to slip in, with the "Shadow" 1911 unlocked for liberating 17 outposts boosting the standard 1911's power and accuracy through the roof. Once you have it you can almost sail through the rest of the game just with it, with everything short of Heavy Troopers on the second island (who wear full face-concealing masks, compared to the first island's Heavies wearing faceplates that are still vulnerable at the back) going down with one well-placed headshot.
    • Six of the twelve Energy Weapons available in the Far Cry 5 DLC Lost on Mars are massive handguns. All models are extremely accurate, the weakest one has a damage rating of 5 (out of 10, stronger than the tier-1 assault rifle), the strongest is the only gun in the game with a maxed-out damage bar, two of the six fire explosive rounds (one of them homing missiles), one model can neutralize any target very quickly by turning it into a chicken or cow, and their ammo capacity generally lies somewhere between "decent" and "damn, will this thing ever stop shooting?". Long story short: with only one decent assault rifle and one sniper rifle available to you, and shotguns being utterly useless most of the time, chances are you'll come to rely on the various handguns for much of the game.
  • Half-Life:
    • For some reason, the same 9mm cartridges are more accurate and do more damage when fired from the Glock than when fired from the MP5 (this was changed in the sequel and in the Black Mesa Fan Remake). Also, the Glock is given the miraculous ability to be fired underwaternote .
    • The Colt Python is an interesting case. It was originally meant to be an even larger Anaconda in .44 Magnum, but was changed at some point in development to the .357 Python... but its damage values weren't notably lowered to fit the lower-powered cartridge. It's got a slower fire rate and only a third of the capacity of the Glock or USP, but that doesn't matter when the six bullets it gets are still more than enough to kill anything that moves. It is also pinpoint accurate; use the zoom function from Half-Life 2 to aim and then fire once. The round will go exactly where you aimed.
  • The basic VICE 9 pistol in Saints Row 2 has ridiculous accuracy coupled with a decently generous 12-shot magazine and quick fire-rate to let the player easily headshot things to death from afar. The NR4 pistol is a bit slower in fire-rate but otherwise even further exemplifies the trope since it's guaranteed to kill enemies with one shot to the head.
  • Saints Row: The Third continues the tradition and then makes it better with upgrades, giving the player the choice of the KA-1 Kobra with its armor-piercing ammo, insane mag size and Hollywood Silencer increasing its accuracy, or the .45 Shepherd with its slightly smaller mag size and explosive ammo making it good against everything short of a tank.
  • A few examples in Halo:
    • The M6D Magnum from Halo: Combat Evolved had a scope and ridiculous power. Thanks to the way the game was coded, headshots were instant kills on unshielded enemies, and even the Hunter's exposed parts were flagged as "head" for damage purposes. Justified in-universe as firing "12.7x40mm Semi-Armor Piercing High Explosive" Rounds — bullets even bigger than the infamous .50 Action Express used by the frequent-trope-offender Desert Eagle. Not surprisingly, Halo 2 weakened the pistol and removed the scope so it wouldn't be a Game-Breaker when combined with the ability to go Guns Akimbo; Halo 3 brought back some of the power, but lowered the rate of fire and magazine capacity.
      • Note that this isn't just Gameplay and Story Segregation, unlike most examples of this trope. The M6D is also shown to be more powerful than the assault rifle per shot in books and movies, taking down energy shielding in fewer shots and inflicting larger wounds on flesh. Again, this would be justified by the enormous round, which would actually have more kinetic energy than the bullets the assault rifle uses, assuming similar muzzle velocity to a modern Desert Eagle. On the other hand it would be inferior at piercing armor due to being fat and stubby, but non-Brute Covenant armor is consistently worthless against even pissy little SMG rounds anyway... though being a high-explosive round makes a fat and stubby design moot anyway.
    • The pistol got both its scope and rate of fire back in Halo 3: ODST, and has kept them ever since, with the exception of Halo 5: Guardians lowering the firing rate again. Even with the just-mentioned nerf, the pistol post-ODST is still nearly on par with primary weapons such as the DMR, since Halo 5 also increased its already respectable firepower, magazine size, and accuracy.
    • Additionally, Halo 5 introduces some special pistols that are only usable in the "Warzone" multiplayer mode and cannot be equipped permanently; the "Whispered Truth" is a silenced magnum that fires three-round bursts capable of killing a fully shielded Spartan in only two headshots, while the "Void's Tear" is a special plasma pistol that can fire miniature black holes. A later update also brought back the original M6D Magnum in all its overpowered glory, with it now even giving its wielder a speed boost.
  • In the new Hitman trilogy starting with Hitman (2016), two pistols fit this category: the Striker and "El Matador". Both are M1911 variants equipped with high caliber magnum rounds (.452 Magnum to be more specific) but the game does not discern them with other pistol ammo that can be picked up. The two pistols are slow-firing and have huge recoil, but are ridiculously powerful to the point where they kill in one shot, pierce bodies and launch enemies through the air upon impact. "El Matador" is the weapon of Rico Delgado (although he never uses it), while the player can unlock both these pistols for personal use.
  • In both Left 4 Dead games, the ordinary pistol is quite an effective weapon, particularly when used Guns Akimbo. The original even has an achievement for completing an entire campaign with only them. Left 4 Dead 2 then ups the ante with a Magnum pistol that deals damage comparable to the sniper rifles; it even further exemplifies this trope in Realism mode, where the common infected can now survive two shots from said sniper rifles, but a single Magnum bullet to any part of their body still puts them down where they stand.
  • Zig-zagged across the Mass Effect series:
    • Pistols in the original Mass Effect have the lowest damage per shot, but can be used by all classes, have low heat production and are easy to use whilst on the move. It should be noted, though, that the pistol skill (Marksmanship) is far and away better than the assault rifle skill (Overkill) so with a proper build (Commando Infiltrator) you essentially have permanent Marksmanship and pistols do more damage.
    • In Mass Effect 2, however, the trope is played straight, with the addition of "heavy pistols" and "hand cannons", which all deal more damage per shot than the galaxy's standard military-issue assault rifle, as well as an "elite" battle rifle and a rare light machine gun. But they have inferior DPS due to their low rates of fire, and very low spare ammo capacity, limiting their usefulness to sidearms and anti-armour weapons. The trope is played especially straight with the M-5 Phalanx, a DLC pistol that (when you go into aim mode) has a Laser Sight that is very accurate at long ranges and can punch messy holes in just about anything, giving you what is essentially a Sniper Pistol. This is very useful for players who picked biotics instead of technology or combat skills, because they don't have access to sniper rifles until well into the game. Even if you do have access to sniper rifles, it still beats the starting Mantis sniper rifle for rate of fire and ammo capacity and can match the later rapid-fire Viper sniper rifle.
    • Played somewhat straight again in Mass Effect 3, where pistols can outclass assault rifles, sniper rifles, and shotguns that are supposed to fill the same role. For example: the Talon, a Cerberus pistol that shoots shotgun rounds, outperforms all but two of the actual shotguns. The Carnifex is an accurate Hand Cannon that kills most enemies in one or two headshots, depending on whether or not they have Deflector Shields. It outperforms all but a few of the sniper rifles. The Paladin is an even more powerful variant of the Carnifex that is only outperformed by the game's four absolute best sniper rifles. And finally, the N7 Eagle is an automatic pistol that is nonetheless very accurate and easily outperforms both automatic assault rifles. It is, however, far outperformed by the heavier light machine guns and some battle rifles, which for some reason are classified as assault rifles.
    • Mass Effect is actually a Justified example of this trope, with Gameplay and Story Integration explaining it, for three reasons:
      • One: unlike modern firearms, barrel length is largely irrelevant to mass accelerator weapons, since they're coilguns. Theoretically, all you'd have to do to make a pistol as powerful as a rifle is stick a more powerful generator in it — though this would likely be more expensive, and you'd still have to deal with recoil. Lo and behold, heavy pistols are generally more expensive than the equivalent assault rifles in-game, something which is sometimes mentioned in the codex (e.g. the Carnifex's description).
      • Two: the pistols are absolutely enormous, looking comically over-sized in the hands of most characters. Per the official dimensions, even the basic Predator is considerably more voluminous than a modern Desert Eagle. The third game's weight system doesn't forget about this: the pistols usually vary in weight from 0.5 to 0.75 units (with a couple going beyond), or 50%-75% of the basic assault rifle (Avenger). Assuming the Avenger weighs 4 kilograms (same as a loaded M16), that easily puts every pistol in the game as being as heavy or heavier than a Desert Eagle. Which would be useful for handling the recoil that would be generated by having such a small weapon with muzzle energy comparable to much larger ones.
      • Three: despite the above justifications, this trope is still realistically averted. Compared to the equivalent rifle (e.g. Eagle vs Avenger, Carnifex vs Viper, Paladin vs Valiant, Phalanx vs Mattock), heavy pistols almost always have higher recoil, lower firing rates as a result of the latter, less ammo capacity, and slightly lower damage in addition to being more expensive to buy and upgrade. While high-level pistols can easily outperform mid-level rifles (like those the enemies use), if you invest similar cash and mods into both then the only real advantage most pistols have is weight. Which can be a pretty big advantage of its own to certain classes.
  • The Hi-Standard Silenced from Medal of Honor: Allied Assault kicks ass and wrecks face. It's an almost-guaranteed One-Hit Kill even on a body shot and the silencer makes it all but inaudible to NPCs. Not bad for a .22 Long Rifle gun, huh? Its only downsides are that it has to be cycled manually after every shot and the accuracy past a couple feet leaves something to be desired — neither of which is a deal-breaking downside for stealth missions where you should be using it as your primary weapon, and the high power combined with the AI's tendency to rush in close, but only one or two at a time, means it's still extremely effective even when the game expects you to pull out something bigger.
  • Metal Gear:
    • For every game in the series, as soon as you can find a silencer for your pistol, it instantaneously becomes your best weapon. This is especially true when the series introduced firing your weapons from first-person view in Metal Gear Solid 2, because you can line up headshots so easily. Combine this with the fact that every gun is wildly accurate, and you can easily have situations where you line up a headshot from across the loaded map to where you can barely see the enemy textures, and it will work.
    • Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater not only skips the step of making you find the silencers which make the pistol so effective (though they now degrade, so you can run out and need to restock them), but when you get the custom 1911 five minutes into the main portion of the game, Naked Snake goes on an extended monologue about how awesome the pistol is, and if you call Sigint later, he'll go even more in depth. Snake Eater is also one of the few games to justify this trope on a wider level in-universe: Snake explains on one occasion that a pistol is much easier to use and maneuver with in close quarters.
    • Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots almost seems to lampshade this when they give you the Operator at the beginning of the game, which is already a good gun, (according to the in-game stats) but then you can acquire the similar except better Mk 23 (the SOCOM from the original and Solid Snake's weapon of choice) and the M1911A1 that Naked Snake used in the third game, each gun being better than the last.
    • Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes and Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain finally downplays this trope by adding bullet drop to all weapons. Pistols are heavily Nerfed in terms of effective range and reserve ammunition capacity, though the tranquiliser pistol is still a useful tool throughout, as the main purpose of the latter game is to recruit new soldiers.
  • Handguns are the best overall weapon in Parasite Eve with having the quickest aim and being the most maneuverable. Rifles and submachine guns often have multiple shot mods attached, which split the same damage across multiple bullets, doing nothing except wasting ammunition.
  • Overwatch:
    • In a game taking place in 2076, Cassidy's main weapon is a slightly modified Peacekeeper revolver. Doesn't sound impressive, but every bullet from this gun deals 70 damage — over 3 times more than Soldier: 76's assault rifle, and enough to kill an average hero in 3 shots, or 2 if one's a headshot. On top of that, his weapon is perfectly accurate and has enough effective range to qualify as Sniper Pistol. Especially when it's HIGH NOON.
    • Mercy and D.Va (when out of her mech) both wield automatic pistols as Ranged Emergency Weapons. While they have the drawback of firing fairly slow projectiles, they both deal damage per shot on par with 76's rifle (though with slower fire rate), and unlike him, they don't suffer damage falloff, meaning they're just as effective in close range as they're when shooting across the map. They're also capable of headshotting, so opponents expecting an easy kill might be in for a nasty surprise.
  • PAYDAY 2:
    • The Judge is a revolver that fires shotgun shells. The gun's damage output is absurdly high — on par with the strongest primary shotguns, the double-barreled Mosconi and Joceline or the lever-action Breaker — and it has great concealment due to its small size, which makes The Judge a perfect weapon to use for stealth as a backup plan if stealth fails or for Dodge-based builds that require high concealment in open combat. The Judge can also be fitted with a suppressor for stealth runs, a laser sight to aid in hip firing, and scopes for better iron sight aiming (not that the latter is particularly necessary if you're going for stealth, since its sights are already really good, if a little small). Not only that, but because The Judge is a revolver, all the shells are reloaded at the same time, and faster than any other mag-fed shotgun as well because it shares its animations with the Bronco .44 revolver. The only downsides to the gun is extremely poor base accuracy (which isn't much of a hindrance, unless you're using slugs), it shares the same sort of low capacity as the other super-strong shotguns (40 shells maximum, and that's assuming you don't use alternate ammo types that you can carry less of), and it costs over $700,000 to purchase.
    • A weapon rebalance that came along with the 2015 Crimefest event and wasn't fixed until around Christmas turned almost every pistol into one of these. Even the smallest, weakest pistols with suppressors and other mods to reduce their damage were still strong enough to floor security guards in one bullet, dealing the exact same damage as an unmodified assault rifle; slightly-bigger ones like the Crosskill and Interceptor were powerful enough that you almost didn't need a primary weapon below Overkill difficulty because they killed everything short of specials in one shot, even without going for the head (and going for the head let you kill at least one special per magazine). Even after all the weapons in that class were given a nerf, they're all still really good in the right hands, particularly the other non-Judge revolvers, the Deagle, and the "Baby Deagle" (pictured above dealing three times the damage per-bullet of an AK); later patches and additions exemplified this even further with things like the Broomstick's Precision Barrel and the 5/7 AP or Parabellum pistols, which deal damage on par with the weakest of the sniper rifles.
  • Perfect Dark's Phoenix pistol, like every other weapon in the game, has an alternate-fire mode. In this case, the rate of fire drops considerably but each round explodes, and can one-shot almost any enemy in the game. Even a near-miss will still cause damage.
  • PlanetSide 2's TX2 Emperor — a sidegrade pistol from the Terran Republic's standard issue burst-fire TX1 Repeater — has a massive magazine, impressive accuracy, good damage and rate of fire. It may lack the sheer power of the .44 Magnum Commissioner revolver, but it's far more controllable and forgiving.
  • The Settler Pistol in Rage (2011) starts out rather weak but loading 12 rounds. Load it with Fat Boy rounds, and it becomes more powerful at the cost of halved ammo capacity, like a good revolver. With Big Mama rounds, it becomes a monster capable of killing multiple enemies in a line with one shot.
  • The last two pistols available in Resident Evil 4, the Red9 and Blacktail, pack a huge punch. The former (an antique Mauser C96) isn't as spammable as the other options, but its max firepower is a huge 6.5, it fires decently fast, and with a stock, it becomes a super stable carbine. The Blacktail is a more generic modern pistol, with firepower topping at less devastating 4.5 and being the fastest-firing handgun in the game, as well as the one with the highest magazine capacity.
  • Resistance: The HE Magnum introduced in the second game does more damage per bullet than the M5A2 assault rifle. For bonus points, after you've shot a guy, the bullets lodged in them can be remotely detonated for massive damage.
  • Resonance of Fate: Breaking your pistols is actually one of the main game mechanics. It doesn't show on the models, but in the inventory screen you can see your pistol decked out with ridiculous stuff like a drum magazine for absurd amounts of ammo before having to reload, scopes stacked on top of each other, and multiple handles for decreased recoil.
  • RoboCop: Rogue City starts true to the original films and goes beyond them with the titular cyborg policeman's trusty sideram, the Auto-9. At the start of the game, while a single shot is not particularly powerful, its three-round burst default fire mode, impressive magazine size of 50 and unlimited supply of spare magazines put it on par with assault rifles in terms of effectiveness. A few missions later, though, it receives a modification which allows Murphy to install a motherboard in it and upgrade it using chips salvaged from OCP tech, both numerically improving the gun's stats such as damage, accuracy, clip size, reload speed and armor penetration and unlocking significant alterations to its functionality such as switching the firing mode to full auto (or, the opposite, single highly damaging shots), adding a laser sight, an ammo feeder, armor-piercing bullets, splitting bullets, exploding bullets, etc., in various combinations depending on the board and chips at hand. Some of late game motherboards qualify as Infinity Plus One Swords, as they essentially turn Auto-9 into a high-powered, surgically accurate bullet hose that never needs to be reloaded and can drill through anything you aimed it at in seconds.
  • In Soldier of Fortune II, pistols are nothing to scoff at. They're dead-on accurate, kill with one or two headshots, and can be fired fairly fast. That's a very good thing, as some of the endgame levels are of the Blackout Basement variety, and the Mk. 23 is the only gun to mount a very necessary tactical flashlightnote .
  • In Sniper Elite: Zombie Army Trilogy, the British-made Webley Mk. VI revolver has downright stupid stopping power - the Colt and the Luger both need a headshot to be really effective against a zombie, whereas the Webley can one-shot a zombie with a torso shot, blow arms and legs clean off, and penetrate through and kill any other zombie who happens to be standing behind. This makes the Webley an amazing panic weapon, although it's balanced out by a very slow reload, slightly slower firing rate, and miniscule ammo count.
  • In the Star Wars games Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast and Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy, the lowest-ranking weapon is the "heavy blaster pistol". Its normal-fire mode is single shots that are as powerful as the stormtrooper blaster, but more accurate. Its alternate-fire mode is slower but packs up to five times the power per shot, depending on how long you hold down the trigger button before firing. With the alt-fire, a single headshot is enough to kill most enemies.
  • In the original Star Wars Battlefront II, the default pistol is an almost-useless peashooter, with the only advantage of having unlimited ammo. However, after achieving enough kills in one life, the player is awarded a Precision Pistol, which not only can kill most enemies with a single headshot, not only can it snipe from across the map, it can also fire as fast as the player can pull the trigger, making it capable of killing dozens of enemies in a split second, making it by far the most powerful weapon in the entire game.
  • The System Shock series is a rare aversion. The assault rifle is significantly more powerful per shot than the basic pistol (they both use the same generic bullets), to the point of outclassing the Hand Cannon, and can be fired full-auto. However, bullets are scarce and most enemies die in just a few shots, so you're encouraged to fire it semi-auto.
  • In Time Crisis 4, the basic handgun inflicts more damage than the machine gun due to a Nerf to the latter since Time Crisis 3. The only time the machine gun out-damages the handgun is when fighting "beetle"-type Terror Bites.
  • Unreal has not one, but two.
    • The Dispersion Pistol is the first gun you get. At first, it's a wimpy Ranged Emergency Weapon that recharges, but as the game goes, you collect power ups for it that add ten charges to its capacity, increases its damage output and triggers a cool little animation where the gun's appearance changes. By the time the fifth upgrade is reached and especially if you're using the Amplifier item, it's a straight example of Hand Cannon: bulky, slow-firing and powerful as all hell.
    • A subtler example is the Automag, the second weapon available. This 20-round handgun has to reload every once in a while, but ammo is extremely plentiful, its shots hit a lot harder than the Minigun's (which uses the same ammo as it does), and in primary fire, it's pinpoint accurate. Its secondary fire is a Gangsta Style mode that spews leaden death at double the speed and less than half the accuracy that isn't much good at a distance but wreaks havoc on any mook within spitting distance. And finally, it's a hitscan weapon, which means those pesky Skaarj can't roll out of the way of your shots. From the second level of the game to the very end, it'll be a sweet mainstay in your arsenal even after you get more powerful hardware.
    • Zig-Zagged Trope in multiplayer. In Unreal Tournament, Unreal Tournament 3 and Unreal Tournament 4, the Enforcer serves as your character's starting pistol, at which it does a perfectly admirable job, killing people in a small handful of shots. However, its true power is only unlocked if you can get a second one... which, in most cases, means killing someone who has just spawned and has not had a chance to pick up a new weapon. If you're able to do that at all, chances are you've already got another pretty good weapon — the Shock Rifle, for instance, or the One-Hit Kill Flak Cannon mega-shotgun — and it may be wiser to stick with those.
  • Uncharted has several examples from over the years, including the Tau Sniper, a pistol with a sniper scope and power to match. Perhaps the most famous examples are the Wes-44 and the Desert-5, as at the time they're introduced they can one-shot almost any enemy when shot at any part of the body. Both are offset with low magazine capacities (6-7 shots), but while the Wes-44 is sullied with a long reload time (being a revolver), the Desert-5 has the same reload time as an ordinary pistol, making it extremely adaptable. Use it smartly, and it can carry you through multiple Chapters as you scavenge from the odd foe that uses them.
  • Your starting pistol in Urban Chaos: Riot Response packs a good punch and has above-average accuracy to begin with, but after a few upgrades it becomes the most useful weapon in the game, capable of pulling off flawless headshots at a decent range even without the optical sight (with the sight, it becomes a full-blown Sniper Pistol). Just about the only situation it can't adequately handle is a close-up gang of bad guys.
  • For Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines characters who don't specialize in combat, the late-game Colt Anaconda offers the best combo of accuracy and firepower. Even combat-based characters may find themselves using it primarily, despite the availability of automatic rifles and shotguns.
  • In Warframe you can buy a Lex pistol very early on. It's a vicious Hand Cannon; in terms of per-shot damage, it's matched only by the Seer (a literal Sniper Pistol), the Angstrum (which shoots pencil rockets), or the Marelok family (powerful, but expensive). Accuracy is high, modding it is easy, and it focuses on puncture damage, effective against most of the game's more dangerous threats. The only reason not to keep it around is to eventually replace it with the Lex Prime or the Vaykor Marelok.
    • The Fortuna update featured the Solaris people and their kitguns. The most brutally powerful kitgun in the game is the Tombfinger, a preposterously blocky magnum type barrel that pairs well with the Haymaker pistol frame. It is known among fans as the Tombmaker, and for good reason — it can produce more damage than most primary weapons and often hits its target so hard that they are launched into low orbit, making it a Spiritual Successor to the popular Sonicor.
  • Wasteland 2, or at least the Director's Cut re-release of the game, has significant number of pistols that pack absurd amount of power. This is further compounded by tiers of equipment, where what is a wimpy tier 5 pistol will still do more damage than an excellent tier 3 assault rifle and make tier 1 heavy machine guns look like toys. Most notable example is tier 6 Colt M1911, which is one of the ultimate weapons in the game and by itself makes the pistol skill worth picking at all. In real life, that gun has an effective range of 30 meters and despite a lot of myths and legends, near non-existent fatality rate in military use. The M1911 example is particularly notable, because in the original Wasteland it was the starting gun and was what it is in real life — a last resort sidearm for personel that for whatever reason can't carry a rifle.
  • X-COM
    • Plasma pistols in XCOM: Enemy Unknown hit about as hard as ballistic assault rifles, and even harder with the proper Foundry upgrades.note  To boot, they don't need reloading like bigger guns. Not bad for a sidearm. A Sniper (or any soldier, depending on Training Roulette) with a plasma pistol and the Gunslinger perk can outdamage a light plasma rifle —useful for a class that has to switch to it after moving to shoot or Overwatch in the same turn. This also makes them a good choice for anti-EXALT covert operations in Enemy Within, where the only weapon the soldier can take is a pistol.
    • XCOM 2 features the Darkclaw, which is slightly more powerful than the base sniper rifle and ignores up to 5 points of armor.

Non-Video Game examples

  • Warhammer 40,000, Most standard sidearms have the same power and armor penetration rating as that army's standard infantry weapon, albeit having shorter range and a lower rate of fire. Some squad leaders, commanders, and special characters however have significantly better options. Most commonly seen with Plasma Pistols. They follow the same trend as other pistols, compared to a Plasma Rifle, but are still much stronger compared to what most basic troopers and even some elites carry. At the risk of a 1/6 chance of them overheating and injuring the user, they are very good at handling most potential threats save the largest of monstrous creatures or heavily armored vehicles.
    • And its various Tabletop RPG including Dark Heresy, Rogue Trader, Deathwatch, Black Crusade, and Only War play with this even more, having variously detailed weapons. Starter grade las, auto, and snub pistols tend to be weaker than their large basic gun versions, having lower range, penetration values, and flat additional damage. But they tend to be popular due to their ease of use, acquisition, and special ammo options. In most cases, a Bolt Pistol is considered the highlight for most players, as it is significantly stronger than most other common weaponry, without being so rare and hard to acquire ammo that it avoids crossing into Too Awesome to Use territory. The Hellpistol (AKA: Hot-Shot Las pistols) is just below that, being Boring, but Practical option with slightly stronger damage than standard Lasguns and Autoguns but being able to rip right through most body armor, while being even easier to acquire ammo for it.
    • Most Commissars carry bolt pistols, smaller versions of the iconic bolters (like gyrojets, except they work), less for their destructive ability and more for their ability to go *click* *BOOM* to inform surrounding Guardsmen that one of their own has shown cowardice in the face of the enemy, insufficient faith in the Emperor, or was otherwise found Lacking in Moral Fibre, and they had better start shooting straight without regard for their personal safety if they don't want to be next.
    • Primaris Marines bring a couple of their own variety of pistols. The Heavy Bolt Pistol is a heavier version of the standard bolt pistol, that has better armor penetration capability. The Absolver Bolt Pistol ups the ante by having not only the enhanced armor penetration, but packs a heavier punch and longer range. Inceptor squads take this to the very extreme by dual-wielding Assault Bolters or Plasma Exterminators, the former being a hand-held version of the Heavy Bolter machine gun, and the later a hand-held version of the new Plasma Incinerator which is itself an upgrade and refinement of the Imperial Plasma Gun. That being said, these are expensive pieces gear only worth issuing to elites.
    • Perhaps the straightest example is the standard Laspistol which is equivalent in power to a Lasrifle, but has a shorter range, is more expensive and fires slower than a Lasrifle and being a pistol it is also harder to aim. Accordingly, it's mostly a holdout weapon for officers and sergeants who weren't lucky enough to get a Hotshot Laspistol and can't afford to feed Bolt Pistols and Plasma Pistols expensive bolt shells and Plasma flasks. Sure, it isn't as good as a lasrifle on any factor but weight and shot strength and is clearly outmatched by more advanced weapons, but it'll still put a hole in a charging enemy.
  • Interestingly, this was the actual idea behind the construction of the Heckler & Koch Mark 23 handgun, with its design emphasizing use as a primary weapon, rather than as a secondary or fallback weapon. This also, rather helpfully, demonstrated why this trope isn't an accurate reflection of reality, as to be good enough to use like that required the weapon to be ridiculously large and heavy: at almost a foot and a half long and weighing five pounds while loaded and with the full SOCOM kit, only two pounds lighter than a loaded M4 carbine — hell, it's half a pound heavier than the infamously-huge Desert Eagle — the special forces that had the option to use it generally didn't.