Sidearm is a secondary weapon, used as a backup or to complement a specialized primary weapon choice. Most sidearms are classified as pistols, and there are all kinds of them: automatic pistols to spray down targets at close range, high powered revolvers to blow people’s heads off and plain semi-automatic pistols.
Unlike shotguns, sidearms have some faction flavor to them: Terran Republic sidearms come with lots of bullets, New Conglomerate pistols focus on damage and doing it properly, Vanu Sovereignty aims for versatility and adaptability and Nanite Systems offers classic design of revolvers and other low-tech weapons.
Ultimately, the sidearm choice comes down to what you intend to do with it, your class, gameplay style and other loadout pieces. Due to large variety in sidearm field, there are many ways they can be used:
- As a fallback weapon, when you were caught while reloading your primary weapon, and you can’t escape to reload. Usually this happens at close range, so burst pistols are the best for this.
- As a finisher, when you’ve emptied your primary weapon at the enemy, and he needs just a bit of help dying.
- These two points are especially important when using a weapon with low damage per magazine, like an SMG.
- As a primary weapon for situations where you have completely run out of ammo for primary weapon, and for some reason you don’t want to redeploy or retreat to look for ammo. The main trait required from the sidearm in this case is damage per magazine – it has to be high enough to reliably kill a full health enemy. Second important trait is power, either in DPS, or damage per shot.
- Stalker Infiltrators also use sidearms this way, as they are restricted from using primary weapons.
- A suppressed sidearm, used in a loadout with unsuppressed primary, can serve as a silent way of killing unaware enemies at close range without giving away your position and without risking to get close to use a knife.
- A sidearm with Darklight Flashlight can be used to search for infiltrators in deep cloak, while still using rail attachment slot on your primary weapon for something more versatile.
- To complement primary weapon choice. E.g., a burst pistol can give a bit of close range power to a sniper. Or the Blackhand – a pocket semi-auto sniper rifle – can give a shotgun or SMG loadout a bit of a kick at range.
- For utility – certain sidearms can open new abilities to your class. For example, Hunter Crossbow’s detect bolts give the motion spotting ability to any class, but at the cost of losing sidearm slot.
As you can see, a lot of these uses are very specific, and often can be avoided, so it’s perfectly normal for a player to rarely if ever use his sidearm. If that’s the case for you, then you may as well stick with your faction specific starting sidearm and don’t think too much about it. The rest, I welcome to my sidearm guide.
Detailed sidearm stats can be seen here. It seems there are a few errors in that sheet, so use it only for recoil stats. Basic stats for specific sidearms are presented further below.
Sidearms obey the same Weapon Mechanics as other weapons, but they share these main features:
Short Equip Time of 0.25 seconds
(with the exception of NS Crossbow and its variants)
This means that most of the time it will take 0.5 seconds to equip a sidearm, since Unequip Time of most weapons is also 0.25 seconds.
Equipping and firing a sidearm is:
- 2-3 times faster than equipping a primary weapon
- tenths of times faster than reloading a primary weapon
- if the enemy survived a quick knife swing, equipping and firing a sidearm is at least 36% faster than doing another swing or firing a primary weapon
So in any situation when you need a weapon and your primary weapon is not readily available, equipping a sidearm is the fastest way.
Most sidearms reload in ~1.5-2.0 seconds. NS Revolvers and Crossbow are notable exceptions.
Revolvers’ reload speed / animation inconsistency
Excellent hip fire accuracy and 75% ADS speed
These traits make sidearms good weapons for close quarters combat.
Hip fire accuracy also makes sidearms good for panic situations when you don’t have time to ADS.
Already good starting hip fire cones of fire can be further improved by laser sights, which is the default attachment choice in most situations.
Huge bloom per shot
|Weapon||Damage per bullet||Bloom per shot (hip)||Bloom per point of damage done|
|TRAC 5 TR default carbine||143||0.1||0.1 / 143 = 7 * 10-4|
|TX-1 Repeater TR default sidearm||112||0.2||0.2 / 112 = 18 * 10-4|
This means that compared to most primary weapons, sidearms become inaccurate during sustained fire very quickly. This is less noticeable on semi-auto pistols with high rate of fire.
Super high Rate of Fire: good or bad?
Suppressed sidearm remains effective, but only at very close range
Almost all sidearms have access to Suppressor. It provides all the usual benefits of the Suppressor at the cost of these penalties:
- reduces projectile velocity by 40%
- reduces maximum damage range by 5m
- reduces minimum damage range by 20 to 25m (depending on particular sidearm)
These are rather harsh penalties, and they will have a severe effect on sidearm’s ability to engage enemies 15-30m away. That said, sidearms are mostly used within 10-15m, and within that range Suppressor will just increase the number of bullets-to-kill by one.
Feel free to use my Bullet Damage Calculator to find out specific BTK Thresholds for specific sidearms.
Iron Sight Mechanics
- Most iron sights are bulky and can interfere with aiming.
- Center of the cone of fire is always in the exact middle of the screen, but iron sights wobble all around. In other words, your gun is not shooting where your iron sights are pointing. This is especially hurtful for slow-firing sidearms that have to rely on accuracy.
It’s recommend to upgrade to custom Reflex Sights as soon as possible, if you intend to ADS with your sidearm at all.
Terran Republic sidearms are very spammy; they have high potential rate of fire and large magazines. They fall a bit short when it comes to effective range and damage per shot, but NS sidearms can take care of that.
Repeater is the default sidearm for Terran Republic. It’s a burst pistol with super high potential DPS of 1577, which exceeds some of the low DPS primary weapons. Moreover, this potential DPS is easy to reach simply by spamming left mouse button at the rate of ~5 clicks per second. It’s basically a pocket SMG, almost strong enough to go against primary weapons.
High rate of fire and damage per second give Repeater incredible stopping power at close range. There are two downsides to keep in mind: short effective range due to bullet spread from bursting. You will have trouble killing targets by 15m, and by 20m a full 21 round magazine often won’t land enough shots to kill.
The other downside is that the 21 rounds can evaporate quickly – so make each burst count. Sloppy use of the TX1 will leave you with an empty magazine and a half dead and angry target.
The upsides of the TX1 make it very powerful in the right hands. Sneaking up behind a target will allow you to fire two bursts for the knife kill, even through nanoweave. Depending on how many shots in each burst lands, you can kill most targets in 4 bursts, sometimes 3 if you are very close and get a few hits to the head. I recommend aiming for the center mass, as bursting to the head will result in just as many misses as headshots.
TR’s idea of an accurate ranged sidearm. Emperor has much better damage degradation stats than most pistols, so it has comparatively long effective range.
For maximum DPS you need to click ~7 times per second.
TX2 Emperor does more damage per shot than other TR sidearms. High rate of fire allows for rapid, but controllable fire, and gives the user effectiveness at both close and mid range engagements.
I found the magazine size forgiving enough to be used liberally in hectic encounters, avoiding the problem I had with the TX1 needing to reload while the target is still alive.
It has less stopping power at close range than the TX1, and thus the TX2 is best for finishing wounded targets, preparing for a knife kill (3-4 shots) or engaging beyond 10-15m. However, iron sights can feel cumbersome for longer ranged accurate fire.
TX2 is the most well-rounded TR sidearm. There are few situations where I am left wishing for something else.
Inquisitor features highest damage per magazine among all sidearms by a large margin, comparable to a primary weapon.
Inquisitor has very little recoil, and with its 2x burst mode, can be spammed accurately up to medium ranges. It’s basically a more mid-range oriented version of the Repeater that also has super large magazine.
Large ammo pool can come in handy for Stalker Infiltrators, who have to rely on their sidearms to kill enemies, and they frequently run out of ammo. In general, the ease of use and accuracy of this gun make it a good substitute primary, but it’s somewhat lacking in raw damage.
Fully-automatic pistol with short effective range and lots of firepower within that range. AMP has the highest rate of fire among all small arms, and does almost the same DPS the Repeater can, but without the requirement of clicking for each burst, so more convenient to use.
New Conglomerate sidearms, as everything in their faction, pack a punch, but require a bit of care to handle properly.
Mag-Shot is the default sidearm for the New Conglomerate. It’s a versatile and well-rounded semi-auto sidearm, with good damage per shot, rate of fire and magazine size.
Mag-Shot’s only disadvantage is that in close quarters it gets hard countered by nanoweave, as it increases bullets-to-kill from 5 to 7 (40% increase from 20% damage reduction). This issue can be dealt with by going for headshots. After 2 headshots, Mag Shot will finish off a target with a body shot even through full nanoweave armor. Not to mention that normally sidearms aren’t used against full health targets.
For maximum DPS, you need to click ~6 times per second.
NC’s idea of an accurate ranged sidearm. Features slightly higher damage per bullet than Mag-Shot, and damage degradation starts at 15m instead of 10m, but only 10 rounds per magazine and lower rate of fire.
Rebel has a weird combination of damage per bullet and rate of fire:
- Damage is not high enough to down a target with just a few hits – you will need 4-5 hits on a full health target.
- But the rate of fire is low enough to make misses very punishing. If you try spam click, you risk losing A LOT of your damage output due to missing. Rebel just doesn’t have a large volume of fire. And if you spend time on carefully aiming each shot, you will not do a lot of damage either. Rebel’s damage per shot is not that high.
Between revolvers and burst pistols, Rebel seems to have worst of both worlds, and best of none.
That said, there is one thing that Rebel does well – kills with headshots. Rebel kills a target within 15 meters with just two headshots, regardless of nanoweave, since headshots ignore it. Or one headshot and one knife swing. Or one headshot after hitting the enemy with an EMP grenade.
And, unlike with revolvers, you can put a Suppressor on Rebel, which then becomes very quiet.
For maximum DPS, you need to click ~4 times per second.
NC burst pistol. Remains very stable during sustained fire. Within 8m, Desperado has a scary 3-headshot kill, if you can pull it off. Desperado is a strong, reliable and easy to use sidearm, even when suppressed, but it has somewhat limited magazine capacity.
For maximum DPS, you need to click ~4 times per second.
Shotgun pistol. Can’t use suppressors, but has access to Smart Choke barrel attachment, which increases pellet spread while hip firing, and reduces it while aiming down sights – presumably by 0.5 degrees in both cases.
Mag Scatter also has access to Extended Mags attachment, which increases magazine size by 1. In case of Mag Scatter, extended mags > laser sights.
Here are some posts by CuteBeaver with tips on how to use Mag Scatter as stalker infiltrator: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 (keep in mind MagScatter received some buffs to fire rate and magazine size since that time)
Hegeteus has 17.4k Mag-Scatter kills and counting, and he had this to say:
- I personally use it as Stalker Infiltrator, without smart choke and – mostly – without aiming down sights.
- Mag-Scatter has short range and low firerate, but high damage. This gives you opportunities to quick-knife between your shots while making almost no hindrance to your firerate. So I set up my key bindings so I can shoot and quick-knife in quick and precise succession.
- I advise players to play more calmly with mag-scatter. It is a punishing gun if you miss your shots.
- When you are a stalker and someone runs towards you, it can be safer to engage them head on instead of waiting them to run past you (because you get to use quick-knife).
- EMP-Grenades are a good and obvious choice with mag-scatter. Only downside is that you’ll probably need EMP Shield implant, since it’s hard to throw one without hitting yourself or your enemies being too far for mag-scatter.
Mag-Scatter is not something you use for an easy time as a stalker, but with that and knife you can execute some crazy group kills with it. It doesn’t always go that way, but it’s the possibility that makes mag-scatter so incredibly appealing to me. it’s just a fun gun.
Mag-Scatter doesn’t do enough damage per shot to reliably perform one body shot + one knife strike kills against enemies with full nanoweave armor. You can sidestep this issue by going for headshot opener, or just shooting the enemy again if he survived the knife strike after the first shot.
Vanu Sovereignty sidearms are all over the place. Some of them may seem unoriginal, while others are perhaps too original for their own good. It’s worth noting that VS sidearms do not have bullet drop, which is the reason for their below average projectile velocity.
Beamer is the default pistol for Vanu Sovereignty. It’s an inside-community joke to call Beamer “the worst weapon in the game”, however the joke is overused to the point that some people start taking it seriously.
In reality, Beamer is very similar to TR’s TX-2 Emperor, which has earned the reputation of a versatile and reliable sidearm. Beamer isn’t as effective at range as Emperor due to stronger damage drop-off and lower velocity, but it’s more spammy.
For maximum DPS you need to click ~7.5 times per second. Such high click rate is another reason why some people may consider Beamer weak and hard to use properly, but the simple truth is you don’t have to reach maximum RoF to kill effectively.
Manticore is almost a direct copy of NC’s Mag-Shot. The only difference is that Manticore sacrifices some projectily velocity to gain VS’ no bullet drop trait.
A sidegrade to NC’s LA-8 Rebel. Cerberus has a bit higher rate of fire, but reduced maximum damage range: 8m compared to 15m of Rebel.
Basically, it means that Cerberus is better in 0m – 8m and 15m+ ranges, while Rebel is better in 8m – 15m range.
For maximum DPS you need to click ~5 times per second.
Spiker is the most unique pistol, both in terms of looks/animations and functionality.
By default, it uses a burst mode, and then it’s comparable to Desperado with some minor differences: a bit less consistent recoil, lower CoF bloom per shot and lower damage at range.
In alternative fire mode, you can hold down the fire button for 1 second to charge a single powerful shot that does 350 direct damage and up to 150 splash damage within 1.5m. Charged shots consume 4 rounds.
While charging, Spiker emits an audible sound, and you can’t charge burst while sprinting or cloaked, but you can charge it while flying on the Jet Pack.
Overall, Spiker is overwhelmingly used simply as a burst pistol for close quarters combat, and its charge-up mode rarely sees any action.
A video review by belthazor3457
Nanite Systems sidearms can be used by all factions.
Commissioner is just what you would expect from a magnum revolver: damaging and accurate, but slow to fire and reload, so if you miss you’re pretty much screwed. It has low rate of fire by itself, and you need to shoot even slower to carefully aim all of your shots.
Despite requiring a lot of skill to use properly, Commissioner has had booming success over the years, and earned love and adoration of the community.
Commissioner is known for its consistency:
- kills in 3 body shots within 13m, regardless of nanoweave
- kills in 1 head shot and 1 body shot within 22m, assuming full nanoweave
- kills Infiltrators without Nano Armor Cloaking in 1 headshot within 8m
- 1 headshot and 1 quick knife swing nearly instantly kill most infantry targets
While Commissioner certainly takes skill to use effectively, its devastating damage per shot cannot be overstated. Huge alpha damage is what makes Commissioner so deadly and so popular. Considering excellent hip fire accuracy of sidearms, it is not that hard to land a shot or a headshot, taking 45-90% of enemy’s health in an instant. The potential destructive power of the Commissioner is simply disgusting for a mere sidearm.
Despite being relatively accurate and doing a lot of damage per shot at close range, Commissioner is not effective at range due to severe damage degradation. At 22m, it requires 5 (!) body shots to kill an enemy without (!!) nanoweave armor. If you do want to engage an enemy at range, you should start with a headshot, and then follow-up with body shots. This technique is demonstrated in my Red Baron shotgun video at 1:30 and 3:11.
To find out if Commissioner is right for you:
Find yourself a good fight, then trial the Commissioner, and just use it as if it was your primary weapon. if you get a decent number of kills, then you’ve found yourself a pistol.
If it’s a little too slow and kicks a little too hard, then try the Underboss the same way. If those don’t work out, then you’re probably gonna be best off with another pistol.
A snub-nosed, lower caliber variant of the Commissioner. Underboss is noticeably more spammy than the Commissioner, but lower damage per bullet reduces kill consistency:
- kills in 3 body shots within 16m, if the enemy has no nanoweave
- kills in 4 body shots within 20m, if the enemy has full nanoweave – out of already small 6 round cylinder.
This increase is substantial, and makes nanoweave a hard counter to Underboss.
However, there is a way to make Underboss consistent and deadly: headshots.
- kills in 2 headshots within 39m, regardless of nanoweave
- kill in 1 headshot + 1 body shot within 11m, assuming full nanoweave
Due to the speed of that double tap, Underboss is very lethal if you can manage to get those headshots.
Compared to Commissioner, Underboss has 30% higher rate of fire, 20% higher recoil decrease and 20% lower recoil.
All of this combined substantially increases recentering speed of the Underboss. You can make follow-up shots almost without a pause, because Underboss returns aim to you faster. In essence, Underboss rewards faster and better aiming than what Commissioner allows. But since Underboss packs less damage before reloading, misses are punished more, especially against targets with nanoweave.
A long-barreled “sniper” variant of the Commissioner. Uses only 4x scopes. Has unusually high bullet velocity for a sidearm and increased accuracy, but holds only 4 rounds.
Due to strong damage degradation, Blackhand has weak body shots and gets hardcountered by nanoweave.
- needs 3 body shots against no nanoweave target within 85m, and 4 shots at 86m+.
- needs 3 body shots against full nanoweave within 27m, 4 from 26m to 99m, and 5 at 100m+.
To consistently kill enemies at range you will have to go for headshots:
- kills in 1 headshot and 1 body shot within 68m, assuming full nanoweave. You can start with a headshot, and then perform a quick follow up body shot.
- kills in 2 headshots at any range.
Tip: you get a boost of accuracy for crouching, and for staying still, so remember to do both when fighting at super long ranges.
Tip: by default, Blackhand comes with a terrible crosshair scope, that suffers from same issues Iron Sights do. Get a reflex scope as soon as you can.
Blackhand serves well as a perching long range weapon at virtually any distance you can land a headshot. It truly shines on Light Assaults, who can easily snipe people behind cover from an elevated position. Blackhand also helps in a situation where an enemy is out of reach of your primary weapon, like SMG or a Shotgun.
Blackhand can be used as a backup sidearm in a pinch, but punishingly small magazine makes it a bad substitute primary, when going against full health targets at close range. 4x scope makes aiming in close quarters harder, and even with laser sights Blackhand has bad hip fire accuracy, so it will be weak in the crucial 2-10m segment, where sidearms are usually used as backup weapons.
Wrel’s review: (outdated, Blackhand now does 275 minimum damage)
Hunter QCX Crossbow
It’s a unique sidearm, more of a tool than a weapon. Consider Hunter QCX a weak primary rather than a sidearm. Much like with the bow in Crysis 3, Hunter crossbow is the maximum stealth option, so if you want to take out enemies sneaky-sneaky, this is the way to do it. It is a premiere weapon choice for Stalker Infiltrators.
- access to scope attachments of 1x through 6x, including HS/NV
- damage model 650 @ 35m – 525 @ 60m and 1.5x headshot multiplier
- this means that crossbow can drop most targets with two hits, and can OHK infiltrators on a headshot within 45m.
- consistent two body hit kill against full nanoweave targets within 40 meters
- almost always can finish a target in just one body shot after it had been hit by an EMP grenade, which completely drains shields
- can destroy all deployables in one shot at any distance
- consistent 1 body shot + 1 knife swing kill against targets without overshields, regardless of nanoweave. This can kill a target almost instantly, and makes stalker infiltrators exceptionally deadly.
- sort of “suppressed”, i.e. has no muzzle flash and when you shoot you show up on enemies’ minimap only within 10m
- available to all factions, so when enemies hear the shots they can’t be sure if it’s an ally or enemy shooting
- one arrow and a knife swing instantly kill any infantry target, regardless of nanoweave, except for HA with overshield
- has no visible tracer
- needs to be “cycled” after each shot, much like a pump shotgun or bolt action rifle. Cycling takes 0.85 seconds, which puts a high penalty on misses.
- has equip time of 0.8 seconds, which is considerably longer than for other sidearms.
- this means that Crossbow is hard to use as a quick-draw weapon in panic situations when you need a backup weapon.
- low projectile velocity and strong projectile drop make it hard to use in a direct firefight, and hard to hit moving enemies at range.
Hunter QCX has exclusive access to two ammo types in addition to default bolts, that transform the crossbow to a different purpose.
These barely do any damage, and function similarly to Infiltrator’s Recon Detection Device darts, but last only about 10 seconds. Then again, Crossbow does have a lot more bolts than Recon Detection Device. Detect Bolts are destroyed by Infiltrator’s EMP Grenades. Overall considered weak and rarely used.
As the name suggests, changes ammunition to explosive bolts that do minor splash damage to infantry and minor damage to vehicles:
450 direct damage and 200 splash damage. Splash damage is also applied on direct hits against infantry, so Explosive bolts still kill infantry in 2 direct hits within 30-40m (source: Wrel)
Explosive Bolts change Max Damage range to 30m and Min Damage range to 50m, which makes Explosive Bolts a consistent 8 shot kill against stock MAXes within 40m (source: changelog).
Explosive Bolts can be used in conjuction with C4 to quickly destroy an enemy sunderer. More on that here.
CuteBeaver has a great post, sharing her experiences and tips for using Explosive Bolts. Keep in mind it’s slightly outdated, Explosive bolts no longer inflict any penalties on the Crossbow.
Emissary is a fully automatic pistol with very little recoil and large magazine size, but low damage per bullet and comparatively low rate of fire and subsequently – low damage per second.
Emissary is intended as easy to use sidearm that can substitute a primary weapon for classes that sacrifice primary weapon slot, like Stalker Infiltrators and Archer Engineers, and to give an accessible ranged option to shotgun users.
Emissary puts emphasis on accuracy and effectiveness at range, combined with ease of use. “Baby NS-7 PDW” (c) Wrel.
Unusual Headshot Damage multiplier of 1.8x
Most weapons have 2x. This means that Emissary requires 5 headshots to kill within maximum damage range.
- Extended Mags, increase magazine size by 5 rounds.
- Supressor: reduces maximum damage range by 5m, minimum damage range by 20m and velocity by 12% (unusually small velocity penalty)
Auraxium Pistols are prestige copies of default sidearms: Repeater, Mag-Shot and Beamer. They can’t be purchased with certs or station cash, and can only be acquired through Directives. To get one of these, you have to complete the auraxium tier of sidearm directive.
Auraxium pistols have a unique “alive” camouflage shader for showing off, as well as a unique attachment: Special Suppressor. It has a stronger velocity penalty (50% velocity decrease instead of the usual 40%), but no maximum damage range penalty.
You don’t need to purchase this attachment, and you can’t install any other attachements. Lack of laser sights makes using these sidearms undesirable.
All of these are considered Exceptional Directive weapons. Normally they cannot be purchased, but become available each year for a few days.
NS-Deep FreezeSnow-ball gun. Sold during winter holidays.
NS Candy Cannon 3000
Cracker gun. Sold during Halloween holidays.
Patriot Flare Gun
Fireworks gun. There are NS and faction-specific versions, each fires flares of different color. Sold during 4th of July holidays.
Cosmetic variants of Hunter Crossbow. Sold for DBC during St. Valentine’s holidays.
While technically Flare Gun, Deep Freeze and Candy Cannon are classified as weapons and they do damage, they are extremely hard to kill with, so it is not a wise idea to try to auraxium them to complete the Exceptional Weapon directive. It is possible and it has been done, but it requires immense dedication and time investment.
- Platinum versions of NS-44 Commissioner, Underboss and Hunter Crossbow.
- FB versions of default sidearms (gold trimmed). Facebook promotion.
- AE versions of NS-44 Commissioner (faction colors and logos). Sold as part of 3rd Anniversary Bundle.
All of these are considered Exceptional Directive weapons. Normally they cannot be purchased. Maybe they will eventually become available for a short time. If you want to know when that happens, be sure to follow PlanetSide 2 on all social media – links are at “Community” section of the main site menu.
Developers are also known to give away a few of these weapons during Twitch streams.