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Ranged Emergency Weapon

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Experienced fencers carry with them a small crossbow that is easily concealed under a coat or cape. Slow to load and sometimes thought dishonorable to use, it is in fact very useful, and those of their ranks who live long enough to be veterans typically do so by making such concessions to utility and survival.
Duelist description, Battle for Wesnoth

While most Emergency Weapons are close-ranged melee weapons in the hands of characters who normally fight at long range, sometimes the inverse happens and a character who specializes in primarily close-range fighting lands in a situation that cannot be resolved without some manner of long-range striking ability.

The Ranged Emergency Weapon is generally not very effective as an attack (it's usually not an actual gun or bomb), but it may be enough to, say, flip a door switch behind that open mesh grate.

This is fairly rare, mainly due to the story wanting to focus more on the melee action: If a guy is an awesome swordsman why make him use a gun or bow? Also, there's a tendency for good guys in fiction to be great shots whatever their melee skills. However, a handful of characters graduated from the Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy even as they kick ass at melee.

In movies, a character without such a weapon can always rely on Throwing Your Sword Always Works; unfortunately very few video games give you that option.

Contrast Punch-Packing Pistol, for when a sidearm is comparable or sometimes even superior to the main arsenal.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Berserk: Against the various horrible monsters he fights on a near-daily basis, Guts' bandolier of throwing knives sees comparatively little use compared to his BFS and Arm Cannon (both the crossbow and the actual cannon). Against mere human bandits and such, they work just fine.
  • Sword Art Online: During Kirito's time in Gun Gale Online, he finds himself a Photon Sword that lets him put his swordsmanship skills to use; Sinon convinces him to get a handgun as a sidearm. He's only seen using it twice; one during the BoB preliminaries, and once during the duel with Death Gun, to short out his Optic Camouflage before it fully takes effect. In both cases, he's in the process of closing the range and shoots at his opponent just to keep them busy.

    Film - Live Action 
  • Captain Nemo in The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen is shown using a pistol at one point against a group of Mooks that are standing on a platform above him, but a comment he makes earlier in the film suggests he Doesn't Like Guns and prefers to subdue his enemies with martial arts.
  • Aragorn carries a bow in The Fellowship of the Ring but rarely uses it, largely because Legolas is usually present. One of the only times Aragorn uses his bow is during the escape from Moria, when he and Legolas get into a Sniper Duel with several orc archers. The idea came from Viggo Mortensen, who asked that he be given a bow to suit Aragorn's outdoorsman lifestyle (noting that if he didn't have a bow, he would struggle with hunting game and likely starve on long journeys).

  • In the Dragonlance novel Dragons of Winter Night, when Sturm needs to buy time for Laurana to use the Dragon Orb, he decides that he needs to draw the attacking dragons toward him, and fires a bow at them to do so, even though he never otherwise uses a ranged attack.
  • The Dresden Files: Harry Dresden, a wizard with a long trail of burned-down buildings behind him, carries a series of increasingly large revolvers for emergencies. The laws of magic forbid killing humans with magic, but leave killing with weapons to the far more forgiving mortal authorities most of the time, and it's also possible to run out of magical power after casting too many powerful spells in a short period. On top of that, many extremely powerful beings in the universe can easily No-Sell magical attacks but are more vulnerable to bullets. Especially bullets made of silver or iron.

    Tabletop Games 
  • This sort of thing is common in Dungeons & Dragons
    • In all editions until 4e, the main factor in hitting with a weapon is your Base Attack Bonus (or THAC0, in AD&D), which is the same value for melee and ranged attacks, so an otherwise melee-focused character could still probably hit with a bow or a thrown weapon if the situation called for it. Most characters would carry around a backup weapon, "just in case".
    • Fourth Edition hyper-specialized weapons in favor of turning spells into MMO-like "powers" including some that couldn't be run out of.
    • Fifth Edition scaled back the need as well, by granting all spellcasters some cantrips that do damage and thus also won't run out (as well as other abilities; Eldritch Blast is often considered mandatory for Warlocks), but it's not uncommon for spellcasters to have ranged weapons on hand.
    • An inversion also existed for ranged attackers; in 3.5e, the Weapon Finesse feat allowed a character to use dexterity for certain weapons (the stat added to their attack bonuses for ranged weapons), which 5e made a standard ability (marking melee weapons that optionally allowed users to use their dex modifier instead of strength with the "finesse" quality). This means that ranged focused combatants can have a melee Emergency Weapon.
  • BattleTech
    • Battlemechs that depend upon missiles or ballistic weapons usually mount an energy weapon or two in the Centre Torso in case ammo runs out, if an ammo explosion takes out their primary weapon, or if an enemy 'mech gets inside their main weapons' Arbitrary Weapon Range. Most commonly these will be a small array of medium or small lasers. The TBT-5N Trebuchet and CLPT-C1 Catapult are both good examples of this, carrying enough medium lasers that they can reliably fend off a light 'mech.
    • Close-ranged Battlemechs often mount a fairly long ranged backup weapon such as a long-range-missile launcher or a large laser. They generally don't carry enough ammo or heatsinks to fire them for long, leaving them as finishing weapons or for plinking at enemies as they close the gap. The best example of this is the Kodiak, which has a single ER large laser as its token long range weapon, which is also too hot to include with the rest of its kit when firing. This is not much loss, however, because the rest of its kit is the most lethal close-combat package in the game.

    Video Games 
  • In Yakuza: Dead Souls, the Pistol has infinite ammo, making it this for most characters. The only exception is Akiyama, whose primary weapon is a pair of pistols, which serves to ease the player into the game (since Akiyama is the first playable character).
  • The video game version of The Lord of the Rings gives Gimli throwing axes. They're by far the least effective of the characters' ranged weapons (with the possible exception of the hobbits knives in the Return of the King) and are slow to throw, but they're useful for dealing with archers or enemies who are a long way away.
  • Dragon Age: Origins uses Strength to determine whether a character can wield big melee weapons and Dexterity for bows. There are also Strength-based crossbows to provide Warriors with an ranged option. which is ironic given that crossbows' whole point is not relying on muscle. They also suck in the game — they receive no benefit from stats, unlike bows, which means that even the absolute weakest bow in the game (an Elm Shortbow) is far more effective than even the strongest crossbow.
  • Darksiders gives War a gun and a boomerang for long-range work, but there's no question that he's a melee-character - neither of them can do much of any damage, but there are a few situations where you're forced to use them on enemies you either can't reach, or don't want to be standing next to. Additionally, the boomerang can be upgraded to ricochet many times between several enemies, tying them up well enough for War to finish what he's doing and come beat them up.
  • In Heroes of the Lance, Flint Fireforge has a single axe he can throw in addition to his melee axe.
  • Throwing knives in Mount & Blade require no skill in throwing to use and take up 1 of your 4 weapon slot (opposed to a bow/crossbows 1 another for ammo) but do poor damage. Their primary use is to give a sword/shield/lance user some range. Many infantry units have a chance at having proper throwing weapons at creation. And there are rocks for people who are really short of money.
  • Hand axes and Javelins in Fire Emblem have the attack power of the most basic axes/lances with lower accuracy and much lower durability, but have a range of 1 or 2 tiles, as opposed to every other melee weapons' range of 1. (There are stronger versions with the strength of higher grade weapons, but they are rare and typically can not be bought.)
  • Possible in Diablo for the warrior. The bow is hardly his most useful weapon but it can be handy if an enemy is behind a grate or if you need to exchange fire with something that won't let you close enough to engage in melee for a meaningful length of time.
  • The Team Fortress Classic Engineer gets a railgun that doesn't share its ammo with any of his other weapons. It's practically useless due to its low rate of fire and damage output, suggesting it was included for this reason.
  • The Engineer of Team Fortress 2 carries a pistol and more ammo than he can likely spend in one life (especially considering collecting metal for his buildings will also replenish it). While he has the shotgun as a primary, it is slow to fire and reload, and its spread makes it hard to use beyond medium range, so the pistol's the only real option to hit anything past sentry range.
  • Many melee specialists in Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War have a ranged weapon or an upgrade that gives them one, pretty much only useful against flyers due to the inaccuracy of firing while moving.
  • The pistol in Warhawk is weak and can't damage vehicles, but has infinite ammo.
  • In Rune: Halls Of Valhalla, any weapon can be thrown with the obvious drawback of not having said weapon in your hands anymore. In Player Versus Player duels, throwing your last remaining melee weapon is usually unexpected and can bring victory, but if it fails you're weaponless. You can pick up one of every kind, giving you quite an arsenal to throw with. You can also pick up chopped off pieces of enemies and throw those – it's ineffective, but funny.
  • Both Left 4 Dead games feature pistols with an endless supply of magazines as your sidearms. That's not to say they're ineffective, as even on Advanced (Hard) mode they'll down common zombies in three body shots, kill any Special Infected in less than fifteen, and can be spam-fired in emergencies, especially when dual wielded; they're decent-to-good against anything that isn't a Charger, Witch or Tank. Left 4 Dead 2 adds the Desert Eagle ("Magnum Pistol") as an alternative to your regular pistol, with more power but less capacity and no dual wielding. Should you decide to pick up a melee weapon to replace your sidearm, get knocked on the ground and it becomes a single pistol; justified as melee weapons are a one hit kill against almost all infected, and being downed is supposed to put you at a disadvantage. The chainsaw also becomes a single pistol when it runs out of fuel, so the player wielding it isn't rendered totally helpless.
  • In City of Heroes when the custom mission creator was released it was possible to make custom enemies with no ranged attacks allowing a ranged character to fly up and fight them in perfect safety. Consequently all custom enemies with a melee attack set now get Throwing Knives or Shuriken as a ranged attack power. Much earlier, a quintet of origin-based attacks was introduced to guarantee that all players had at least one (very weak) ranged attack.
  • Valkyrie Profile:
    • Not a single weapon, but Lenneth's ability to equip bows is likely this in the first game. While there's no enemies that can't ever be reached by melee, an early boss battle has a powerful mage protected by a pair of very durable henchmen, which you'd have to break through to reach the mage with melee, during which the mage will be pounding you with spells. It's possible to have recruited an archer prior to this, but just in case you haven't, the game advises you to switch Lenneth from her usual sword to a bow.
    • The Valkyries are consummate warriors in the game's universe just like in Real Life (Real Myth?). There's a reason her Finishing Move has a bow version as well as a sword version.
  • In World of Warcraft all ranged weapons are this for all classes except Hunters. They consist of guns, bows, crossbows and throwing knives for warriors and rogues and wands for mages, priests and warlocks. The most common use of them is initiating battle from a distance in order to lure mobs to a more favourable positionnote .
  • Most WoW or Lineage 2 inspired MMOs have ranged weapons serve this purpose for melee characters. In the case of the Party tank, a solo ranged pull is often safer than running into the middle of the room with the Taunt key held down as it allows the player to control how much aggro he gets and what mobs notice him. More recently, they have stopped bothering with actual ranged weaponry for any class other than dedicated ranged fighters and instead give them fairly weak abilities that serve the same purpose.
  • All of the melee weapon styles in DC Universe Online offer some manner of ranged attack capability, via some combination of Razor Wind, Throwing Your Sword Always Works, Shockwave Clap, throwing rocks, shuriken, or a straight-up elemental Charged Attack.
  • While not deliberate, many Modern Warfare 2 players have been absolutely shocked when a knife rusher (commando-marathon-lightweight) actually shot at them, since they (usually) rely on One Hit Kills from their melee.
  • Blake Stone had the Auto-Charge Pistol, a self-charging, silent energy pistol with infinite ammo but a roughly three-second delay between shots; good for stealthily taking out individual guards, but tactical suicide against anything else. Basically, it filled the same role as Wolfenstein 3-D's knife, only trading the knife's speed for a pistol's long range.
  • Quake:
    • Back in the days of Quake, there were a lot of mods intended to provide a set of alternate classes and weapons to play with, usually including a melee fighter. As the game's maps used a lot of shoot-to-activate switches, the mods tended to include a key binding to throw a rock for minimal damage (the "Hitscan sword" alternative was rare).
    • As for the Quake games themselves, there's the Blaster energy pistol in Quake II and Quake IV. In II, it has poor damage, fire rate and projectile speed, and is best left to shoot distant switches or to light up dark sections of the levels with the brightness of its projectiles as soon as you get better weapons. In IV, it's buffed to be hitscan with spammable semi-automatic fire, the option of a Charged Attack, and have a mounted Infinite Flashlight. In both cases, it has infinite ammo and dead-on accuracy for those rare moments when fights are long-ranged and you have no machine gun or railgun ammo.
  • In the Xtended mod for X3: Terran Conflict, the Repair Laser normally mounted on the EVA space suit is replaced by a pathetically weak Impulse Ray Emitter on difficulties past "Easy". Its only practical use is for shooting down incoming missiles, because enemy NPCs don't stop shooting when you bail out.
  • At some point in Star Wars: Republic Commando, you will likely run out of ammo for your Swiss-Army Weapon and find yourself resorting to the weak and extremely underwhelming DC-15s blaster pistol. Its two main benefits are that it never runs out of ammo and that it's mostly accurate. Beyond that, it's only got eight shots in its magazine at a time, recharges slowly, doesn't do a lot of damage, and using it forces you to switch away from your main gun and the rather powerful vibroblade installed in your armor's knuckle plate. It is considerably more effective to avoid spending your last few regular rounds just so you can blade-punch your opponents, rather than shoot them with the blaster pistol — inexplicably, using the pistol forces you to rely on an equally weak and underwhelming Pistol Whip for your melee attack instead of the much more useful vibroblade.
  • In the Metroid Prime games, Samus's Power Beam is either this or Boring Yet Practical:
    • This is most apparent in Metroid Prime 2: Echoes, where all the other beam weapons have limited ammo (as well as a further example of this trope, in that they can still fire a single shot via a fully charged shot, so the game doesn't become unwinnable by trapping you behind a door or enemy that only reacts to one of them).
    • Even in the first game, the Power Beam fires very fast, has the best range, and is generally the thing to use for those pesky Fragile Speedster enemies you come upon fairly often (even though the ice, plasma and wave beam also have infinite ammo and special effects).
    • Metroid Prime 3: Corruption averts this entirely by making the different beams stack on top of the basic one (as in the 2D games), although the beam cannon still has infinite ammo compared to the far more powerful missiles.
  • Lucky for Samus in Metroid: Zero Mission, when her suit is destroyed and she's forced into a No Gear Stealth-Based Mission aboard the Space Pirate Mother Ship, is she managed to grab her self-charging emergency pistol that effectively has the power of Morph Ball Bombs. Unlucky for her is, aside from very briefly stunning them when fully charged, the weapon can't harm the pirates at all. You'd better run your ass off if you get spotted.
  • Serious Sam has infinite ammo for all of his pistols, though the magazine has to be taken out and reinserted for the technomagical ammo replenishers to work. Said pistols are modeled after Hand Cannons, but are not much good for more than small groups of weak enemies or lone mid-tier foes.
  • In MechWarrior Living Legends, all but the most overspecialized Battlemechs carry either a long-range weapon (for a Close-Range Combatant) or a short range weapon (for a Long-Range Fighter) for backup. The Bushwacker "Delta" for example, has a long range large X-pulse laser which it can spam until it gets within range of its far more effective medium X-pulses and short range missiles. On the opposite extreme, the Vulture "Alpha" carries a pair of extreme range Gauss Rifles backed up by a single short range missile launcher for point defense against enemy battlearmor
  • Mercy's sidearm in Overwatch. It fires a slow-moving and easily dodged projectile, meaning the player has to Lead the Target, but it's accurate and packs a fair sting. It suffices for self-defense in emergency situations, as well as things like spooking twitchier snipers or clearing out Symmetra's short range turrets.
  • Fable has this as an Anti Frustration Feature: one stage of the Final Battle against Jack of Blades takes place outside of melee range, so someone helpfully abandons a low-level longbow right outside the Boss Room in case the Player Character never got any ranged weapons or magic.
  • Unreal features the Dispersion Pistol as this in its two main games.
    • In Unreal, it starts off as this, firing very weak energy bolts at a fast rate and recharging over timenote . The main gimmick about it is that you can upgrade it by collecting hidden power-ups throughout the game, and each makes it more powerful but slower-firing, going from REW to Punch-Packing Pistol and to Hand Cannon when the max of five upgrades are collected; a fully upgraded Dispersion Pistol is BFG-tier when used with the Amplifier, able to 3-shot the brutish Skaarj Berserkers and 1-shot the versatile and nasty Skaarj Lords.
    • Unreal II: The Awakening: The basic T-13 is so weak that flavor text states it's commonly called a "popgun", and that while it works well for law enforcement, it's not adequate for military use save for as a last resort. It recharges and can fire faster than the first game's version (continuous firing will give you more than the 8 shots of regular capacity before it needs a break), can hold the charged shot indefinitely so long as you don't let go of the trigger and recharges even while it charges, but at the same time it can't be upgraded.
  • Doom
    • The starter pistol in the classic games is a peashooter that won't be used for more than killing a former human or two until you get the shotgun, and after that to snipe enemies at extreme distances. As soon as you get the chaingun, you're unlikely to press 2 on purpose for the rest of the game or chapter, as it does everything the pistol does but better and faster.
    • Similarly, the pistol in Doom³ is weak, slow and overall not useful for facing any serious opposition. It does have its own ammo supply, so you can use it to dispatch small groups of minor nuisances without wasting more powerful hardware, but the game swamps you with so much ammo that it's a moot point.
    • In the GMOTA mod, Doomslayer can use an arcane pistol from the start. It has infinite ammunition and shoots blue projectiles that deal a decent amount of damage to enemies.
    • Doom (2016) offers a similar peashooter for emergencies that also has infinite ammo but deals pitiful damage unless you use the Charged Shot Secondary Fire. The most common use for it is to set up Glory Kills on already weakened enemies.
  • XCOM 2
    • Psi Operatives nominally wield assault rifles as their primary weapon, but being this game's equivalent of the mage class, their real mainstay is their Psi Amp with which they unleash their psionic abilities. Although assault rifles are in no way weak, a properly trained PsiOp will only ever use theirs in the rare event that all their numerous abilities are either on cooldown or unsuited to the situation. It's fairly common for high-level PsiOps to not use their rifle at all despite holding it in their hands the whole time.
    • Explosives in any War of the Chosen mission involving The Lost. Yes, they deal significant damage in a large area, but any explosion will accelerate the arrival of a Lost horde by one turn. Overuse of explosives can quickly get you swarmed.
  • Deep Rock Galactic: While every class has options better suited for long range than close, the one that most qualifies is the Driller's Subata 120 pistol, which is somewhat undersized compared to everyone's arsenals but it will hit reliably at a longer range. When his other weapons are twin drills, a flamethrower and a satchel charge, it's the one option he can use when an enemy's staying far away.
  • Hades: Zagreus always starts the game with a Blood Crystal, which can be Cast at a single enemy for 50 damage (less than two attacks with most weapons) and will embed itself into that foe until said foe is slain, after which it is retrievable. It is the only ranged option available for Zagreus if he chooses to wield Stygius or The Fists of Malphaon, and allows him to attack foes out of reach. Aegis also has a Throwing Your Shield Always Works option, which is even weaker than the Blood Crystal but infinitely reusable. However, the Crystal can be upgraded so that it either has the ability to induce status effects or just outright turn into other forms such as spinning blades.
  • Every fighter in Digital Devil Saga primarily fights in the form of a demon, but they can also return to human form to use their guns. Guns are an element, and flying demons and humans are weak to it. It is also one of three elements that the Demi-Fiend does not resist.
  • In Battle for Wesnoth, many (but not all) melee-focused units also have a ranged weapon that is weaker than their melee weapon. It's intended to allow them to fight back against ranged enemies, or to poke enemies without such options without fear of retaliation. Examples include human Spearmen also having javelins to throw, human Duelists/Dragoons having a single-shot crossbow, elvish Fighters practicing Bow and Sword in Accord, and so on.
  • Warframe:
    • While the game is usually fairly generous with ammunition, some weapons such as bows, sniper rifles, and launcher weapons are prone to running out of ammo at inconvenient times. Secondary weapons usually have enough ammo to keep a Tenno fighting until they get more ammo for their primary... but if they also chose a secondary weapon with a low ammo count (such as a mini grenade launcher) this can also run dry. In these instances, most players will have to revert to their Amp, which recharges over time and provides infinite ammunition as a result. Some Amps are also quite powerful and can be primary weapons in and of themselves.
    • The special "Pax Charge" upgrade for Kitguns can turn them into a reliable emergency weapon—by taking slightly longer than the normal reloading time to charge, the Kitgun can instead regenerate all of the ammo in its magazine, allowing a Tenno to keep shooting (with pauses for recharges) as long as they have the health. Pair this with something like the Rattleguts for an infinite-ammo laser machine pistol.
    • The Plinx pistol seems to have been designed with this concept in mind. It does not consume ammo, instead automatically recharging its small internal battery as charges are used up firing. It also does very little damage per shot, and makes a cute little 'pew-pew' sound when firing. It even has an aesthetic not that far removed from a NERF Maverick. A Plinx probably won't carry you through a mission, but if you have nothing else available, it'll still allow you engage enemies and destroy objective targets you can't reach with melee attacks.
  • Pistols in the Delta Force games are a realistic take on this trope. While a sidearm is capable of dropping an enemy with a single shot like any other weapon in the game, they have a short effective range, smaller magazine capacity, and fewer reserve magazines than primary weapons, making them a poor choice for protracted combat. However, a silenced pistol can be useful for close range stealth kills if the player doesn't want to alert the enemy yet.
  • Halo Infinite introduces the franchise's first true emergency weapon with the MK50 Sidekick. The weapon abandons some of the hallmarks of the series' past Punch Packing Pistols in having relatively weak damage, reduced accuracy and a lack of a scope, but in return it gains a fast rate-of-fire, a lightning-quick draw and reload animation, and it retains the ability to one-hit kill an unshielded opponent. This makes the Sidekick true to its name: A poor primary weapon, but the perfect backup for when you run out of ammo mid-fight or you need to finish off a wounded opponent.
    • It's worth noting that the Sidekick is chambered in 10mm, when the M6 series uses 12.7x40mm and is typically loaded with Semi-Armor Piercing High-Explosive rounds.
  • The first three Gun Survivor games — Resident Evil: Survivor, Resident Evil: Survivor 2 - Code: Veronica and Dino Stalker — all gave your basic firearm infinite ammo. The final game in the series, Resident Evil: Dead Aim, averted it with the need to find handgun ammunition, and you don't even get a knife as a consolation.

    Real Life 
  • The Liberator Pistol made during World War II was a crude, single shot .45 caliber pistol. It was intended to be dropped into occupied territory and be used by resistance groups to kill occupying soldiers and take their much better weapons. It never saw much use in Europe, but was employed in numbers in the Philippines and China. Due to its unrifled barrel, though, the "ranged" part is debatable. And it holds the honor of being one of the few firearms ever produced where it was faster to manufacture one then it took to reload one. Its real value was as Paranoia Fuel for occupiers in territories the Liberators were dropped over - they would inevitably find some and figure out what was going on, but they couldn't possibly know exactly how many were dropped overall or whether they had rounded them all up; any random civilian the occupying soldier came across on a patrol could have had one hidden in their pocket, waiting for an opportunity to shoot him in the back and take his gun.
  • A survival weapon has a history in the United States Armed Forces. The M6 Aircrew Survival Weapon and the M4 Survival Rifle, were both meant for crashed aircraft crews to be able to forage for food by hunting. The GAU-5A Aircrew Self Defense Weapon was issued in 2019 to various survival kits in the US Airforce, though more for defense from hostile forces then hunting (it's essentially a compact version of the standard-issue M4 that folds up into an easily-stowed package).
    • The XM9 Beretta "Hush Puppy" was a prototype pistol for a similar purpose. The name come from the extensive modifications to make it nearly silent, but only up to 25 shots.
  • The AR-7 is a civilian model of the AR-5/MA-1 aircrew survival rifle, which was never properly adopted by the Air Force. The AR-7 has the barrel, receiver, and two magazines stored in the rubber waterproof stock and only fires .22 Long Rifle rounds as it's meant for foraging small game and last ditch defense.
  • This is the basic design concept of the snubnose revolver. The short barrel makes it harder to take long-range, accurate shots, but it also makes it easy to conceal and quick to draw out.