I have never used a pistol, ever.

The damage is too low. I just do not see what the point is in either the original XCOM or the remake.

  • 6
    Pistols stand out especially on Impossible difficulty, as an HE grenade leaves enemy sectoids at exactly one health.
    – Fadeway
    Commented Jul 28, 2015 at 11:50

4 Answers 4


Useful applications of the pistol

  • Snipers can use the pistol on a turn that they move and can be more accurate than a rifle at close range

  • Shotgunners can be more accurate at range

  • Characters that are out of ammo can keep firing instead of reloading on a critical turn

  • When pistol damage is enough to finish off an enemy, you can conserve ammo in main weapon to postpone the need to reload.
  • If you're trying to stun an enemy for live capture, a pistol can get their hit points down low enough to use the arc thrower without killing them. (Hat tip to @JasonBerkan)
  • 23
    You can knock off a couple of hit points of damage in order to make it possible to stun the alien.
    – au revoir
    Commented Jul 28, 2015 at 3:23
  • 1
    And you can upgrade pistols in the foundry in three different ways, making the shoot rather than reloading even more attractive Commented Jul 28, 2015 at 7:49
  • 6
    Pistols are also the only weapon an undercover operative can use during an Exalt operation.
    – Nolonar
    Commented Jul 28, 2015 at 21:21
  • 2
    Don't forget the gunslinger anility which grants sniper class soldiers 2 extra damage. This guarantees killing sectoids with a regular pistol, and makes laser/plasma pistols even more attractive.
    – Magnilex
    Commented Aug 11, 2015 at 10:12
  • Indeed, using a Sniper as your undercover operative in Enemy Within (although this query asks about Enemy Unknown) with the Gunslinger ability guarentees you a highly-accurate pistol shooter that does respectable damage, instead of improvising with some scrub. I found this strategy very effective. It could be that they buffed pistols in EW, but I think the accuracy over range and damage of a Gunslinger might surprise the OP. Commented Oct 12, 2015 at 20:40

They make more sense in the remake (Lawton some good points). But when dealing with superhuman difficulty, every bit helps - even in the original.

In the original, they were tricky due to their lack of range and power, but still very useful for your grenadiers - using a rifle reduced your accuracy with grenades, and having a grenade in the other hand reduced your accuracy with the rifle. The same applies to other tools, like flares. It could also save lives when coupled with the med-kit - every action point counts when healing a bleeding soldier.

Less important, but still there - it was a backup weapon for your rocket-launcher guys. You're not going to be shooting rockets in the corridors and rooms of most UFOs, and a guy with a plasma pistol is much better than a guy with nothing. The pistol also fits in the belt - instead of taking valuable space in the backpack - meaning you could take one more rocket (or, in the case of heavy plasma, two rockets).

The default pistol was close to useless, lacking both the power and accuracy to be anything but annoyance to anyone but sectoids. However, this was also the reason for its use later on, because it made it incredibly awesome for training your troops, especially the rookies. Just keep that last muton alive, strip if of its weapons (panicking/stunning/mind controlling), make everyone switch to pistols, and enjoy the massive boost to your soldiers' firing accuracy and reactions :) Being rarely capable of even penetrating the armour (and just as importantly, incapable of penetrating your armour), it allowed a lot of shots to be fired and even to hit, boosting your skill training significantly for very little risk.

  • we got skill training by firing?
    – user4951
    Commented Jul 28, 2015 at 13:11
  • 8
    @JimThio In the original? Of course. The soldiers improved by doing - if they run around a lot, their speed increased. If they carried heavy equipment, their strength increased. If they did a lot of reaction shooting... Or are you really referring to XCOM: Enemy Unknown as the original and XCOM: Enemy Within as the "remake"? I wouldn't have guessed. I assumed you mean the original original, UFO: Enemy Unknown a.k.a X-COM: UFO Defense.
    – Luaan
    Commented Jul 28, 2015 at 13:35
  • Wonderful answer! Is this training effective in X-COM Apocalypse too?
    – Ciacciu
    Commented Jul 29, 2015 at 12:23
  • 1
    @Ciacciu The weapons in Apocalypse are a bit too strong for that. However, you can use the Toxigun when raiding e.g. the Cult of Sirius. It does almost zero damage to humans, so just do the usual stunning/mind controlling to get rid of Sirius' weapons, and shoot away with the toxigun. Awesomely, the toxigun also has a completely crazy firerate, so you're going to be triggering a lot of reaction fire (though I think this works a lot more in turn based; realtime still uses reaction times, but you'll need some micromanagement to let the squads lose their target and reacquire continuously).
    – Luaan
    Commented Jul 29, 2015 at 12:26
  • @SableDreamer Yeah, seems Jim was a bit confused about what a remake is :) But apparently, the answer is deemed useful or interesting by enough people, so I'm reluctant to just delete it...
    – Luaan
    Commented Jul 29, 2015 at 15:12

In XCOM: Enemy Unknown (and Enemy Within) a sniper with the Gunslinger perk can do a surprising amount of damage with a pistol. It gives +2 damage, making a pistol in their hands do as much damage as an assault rifle, without needing to be reloaded.
As you advance through the game, you can get foundry upgrades for pistols, further increasing damage, accuracy, and critical chance, making them really good backup weapons for your Assaults and Supports, and amazing backup weapons for your snipers.

  • snipper need pistols. I don't think the rest need it except for the run out of ammo scenario.
    – user4951
    Commented Oct 19, 2015 at 1:31

A pistol is lighter, and therefore someone using one will run/move faster.

  • 7
    I do not belive this is true in the context of the game in question. When answering a question, please make sure to take in account the the game the question is related to.
    – DJ Pirtu
    Commented Jul 29, 2015 at 8:49

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