sidearm guide

Sidearms

Sidearm is a secondary weapon, used as an emergency backup or to complement a specialized primary weapon. Most sidearms are 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.

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 mostly copies other two factions with a varying degree of success and Nanite Systems offer classic design of revolvers and other low-tech weapons.

Sidearm Applications

Sidearms can be used in a lot of different ways, some of which are more specific than others. Starting with most common:

As a fallback weapon, when you are caught while reloading your primary weapon or using another piece of equipment, and running is not an option. Especially important for playstyles that spend a lot of time switching back and forth between different pieces of equipment, and for loadouts with primary weapons that take a long time to reload.

As a finisher, when you’ve emptied your primary weapon at the enemy, and they need just a bit of help dying. Especially important when using a weapon with low Damage per Magazine.

For both of these uses you want your sidearm to be good on the quickdraw.


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 compensate for your primary weapon’s weaknesses to make the loadout more versatile. For example, a burst pistol will give a bit of close range power to a sniper. Or the Blackhand, a “sniper” revolver, will give a shotgun or SMG loadout a bit of a kick at range.


As a replacement primary weapon for:

  • Situations when you have completely ran out of ammo for your primary weapon. 
  • Stalker Infiltrators, as they are restricted from using primary weapons.
  • Engineers using NS-AM7 Archer as their primary weapon, as it’s weak against infantry.

The main traits required from the sidearm in this case are:

  • Damage per Magazine – it has to be high enough to reliably kill a full health enemy.
  • Power, either in terms damage per second or damage per shot. 

For utility – certain sidearms can open new abilities to your class.

For example, Hunter Crossbow with special ammunition can give any class the ability to deploy smoke or detect moving enemies, but effectively at the cost of losing the sidearm.

And a suppressed sidearm can be used to silently assassinate enemies at close range without giving away your position, when used in a loadout with an unsuppressed primary. You could always use a knife or that purpose, but going into melee range can be dangerous.

Good damage degradation stats will make suppressor’s penalties less severe.

Sidearm Mechanics

sidearm mechanics

Sidearms obey the same Weapon Mechanics as other weapons, but they share these main features:

Shortest Equip Time. Most sidearms have a super short Equip Time of 0.25 seconds. Unequip Time of all known items is also 0.25 seconds, which means it will take only 0.5 seconds to equip most sidearms.

Equipping and firing a sidearm is:

  • 2-3 times faster than equipping a primary weapon.
  • Tenths of times faster than reloading a primary weapon.
  • At least 36% faster than doing another swing or firing a primary weapon if the enemy survived a quick knife swing.

In any situation when you need a weapon and your primary weapon is not readily available, equipping a sidearm is the fastest way.

All that said, some sidearms have longer Equip Time:  Hunter Crossbow and its variants, as well as Blackhand, Commissioner and Showdown.

Fast reload. Most sidearms reload in ~1.5-2.0 seconds. NS Revolvers and Crossbow are notable exceptions. This makes sidearms “low maintenance” – it takes little time to reload them after an engagement. It also lets you quickly chain engagements.

Short effective range. Vast majority of sidearms have a relatively short effective range of ~20m or so, due to a combination of factors:

  • Strong damage degradation and low Damage per Magazine.
  • Low ADS Accuracy.
  • Low projectile velocity.

There are exceptions, though.

  1. Reloading more than 50% of rounds.

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. Sidearms have higher Bloom per Shot than primary weapons for the equivalent damage tier, and in most cases bloom doesn’t reduce while ADSing. For comparison:

Weapon Damage per bullet Bloom per shot (hip) Bloom per point of damage done
TRAC-5 143 0.1 0.1 / 143 = 7 * 10-4
TX-1 Repeater 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. However, this is mostly compensated by excellent initial Hip Fire accuracy, as well as high Rate of Fire:

You would think that this puts high RoF semi auto sidearms at a disadvantage, but it’s not necessarily true:

  • You don’t have to reach maximum rate of fire in order to kill the enemy effectively. 

Go here to learn how to reach optimal performance with semi-auto and burst weapons.

Sidearm Suppressor Penalties

Suppressor‘s penalties are usually consistent within a weapon class, but sidearms are the exception, and their penalties are all over the place:

Weapon Max Damage Decrease, meters Min Damage Decrease, meters Velocity Decrease, percent
NC4 Mag-Shot 5 20 12
TX1 Repeater 3 20 12
Beamer VS3 5 20 12
LA8 Rebel 5 20 12
LA3 Desperado 3 20 12
TX2 Emperor 7.5 20 12
TS2 Inquisitor 5 20 12
T4 AMP 3 20 12
Manticore SX40 7.5 20 12
Cerberus 2 10 7.5
Spiker 5 20 12
NS-61 Emissary 5 20 12
NS-45 Pilot 5 20 12

Quickdraw

Quickdraw is a combination of stats that determines how good is a weapon when you need to quickly pull it out and deal damage. Quickdraw includes:

  • Equip Time – how long it takes to pull out the weapon.
  • Hip Fire accuracy – how good is a weapon at quickly dealing damage without having to ADS.
  • Alpha Damage – immediate damage of the first shot or a first burst. 

Sidearms are often used as an emergency fallback weapon in situations that massively benefit from the quickdraw, and different sidearms will have different quickdraw properties:

  • Some sidearms, like the Commissioner, have a slightly longer Equip Time, which diminishes their quickdraw. While longer Equip Time is no doubt a disadvantage, you should use this time to pre-aim the weapon while it’s being pulled out. 
  • Some sidearms, like the Blackhand, have comparatively worse Hip Fire accuracy, which diminishes its quickdraw, despite dealing a ton of damage per shot.

Alpha Damage is also vastly different between sidearms. For example:

  • TX2 Emperor deals 167 damage right after it’s equipped, and that’s that.
  • LA3 Desperado deals the same 167 damage per shot, but it fires in bursts of two shots with the Rate of Fire that’s more than double of the Emperor’s, so in this case both shots can be safely included in the Alpha Damage of the quickdraw, amounting to 334 damage within shorter maximum damage range.
  • NS-357 Underboss has the same Equip Time and nearly the same Hip Fire accuracy as both of the mentioned weapons, but it deals 375 damage per shot within maximum range, so it has massively better quickdraw.
  • NS-45 Pilot takes 0.16 seconds to fire off a 3-round burst that deals up to 600 damage within maximum damage range. If at least two of those are headshots, it can potentially execute a full health enemy right then and there, as long as there’s no Nanoweave or Aux. Shield involved.

Terran Republic

terran republic sidearms

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.

TX1 Repeater

DAMAGE 112 @ 8m – 77 @ 50m
RATE OF FIRE 845 RPM
VELOCITY 375 m/s
AMMO 21 / 105
RELOAD TIME 1.7 sec / 2 sec

TX1 Repeater

3x Burst

Repeater is the default sidearm for Terran Republic. This burst pistol is basically a pocket SMG with super high potential DPS of 1577, which exceeds some of the low DPS primary weapons. It is highly competitive in close quarters. 

While mechanically Repeater is a burst pistol, there is no forced delay between bursts, so with proper handling it can be effectively fired in full auto.

ADSing with a Repeater gives it a noticeable boost to effective range, though it still remains fairly inaccurate.

Repeater has an interesting quirk – its maximum Hip CoFs are only 2.5 degrees, which means it won’t bloom past that mark while firing. This value is not reduced by Laser Sight. 

If you do have a Laser Sight equipped, it would take the Repeater 8 shots to hit that maximum while Hip Firing while Standing Moving, and after that it will fire without becoming even more inaccurate. This is a nice little perk, though it won’t make much difference during outside a “sweet spot” range bracket of around 10-15m, and unless you keep firing as fast as you possibly can, Cone of Fire will have some time between bursts to reset at least partially

Repeater is also notoriously bad at killing deployables, such as mines and Motion Spotters, though it’s a fairly specific thing.

For maximum DPS you need to click ~5 times per second.

High Rate of Fire and Damage per Second give Repeater incredible stopping power at close range. There are two downsides to keep in mind:

1) 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.

2) 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. 

Mustarde

TX2 Emperor

DAMAGE 167 @ 15m – 112 @ 60m
RATE OF FIRE 400 RPM
VELOCITY 390 m/s
AMMO 21 / 84
RELOAD TIME 1.525 sec / 1.8 sec
UNLOCK COST 325Certification Pointsor 250 Daybreak Cash

TX2 Emperor

Semi-Auto

Emperor is fast firing and highly accurate semi-auto pistol. It has better damage degradation stats than most pistols, so it has comparatively long effective range.

Emperor is accurate, consistent, easy to use and… weak. It deals little damage and requires a lot of hits to down a full health opponent. Despite being semi-auto, you still need to spam the hell out of it, and even then it doesn’t kill fast enough. 

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.

Mustarde

TS2 Inquisitor

DAMAGE 143 @ 10m – 91 @ 60m
RATE OF FIRE 531 RPM
VELOCITY 375 m/s
AMMO 30 / 120
RELOAD TIME 2.1 sec / 2.4 sec
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TS2 Inquisitor

2x Burst / Semi-Auto

Inquisitor is a high capacity burst pistol. Its Damage per Magazine can rival a primary weapon, and it has a lot of reserve ammo as well, which makes it a decent replacement primary, although somewhat lacking in raw damage.

Same as with the Repeater, Inquisitor has no forced delay between bursts and can be potentially fired at full auto.

Inquisitor has very little recoil, and with its 2x burst mode, can be spammed accurately up to medium ranges. It’s basically a hybrid between Repeater and Emperor with a huge magazine. Inquisitor is easier to use than Emperor and has a better Time to Kill at all ranges, even though it has slightly worse accuracy. 

Semi-auto firemode is available in case you need to “snipe” a deployable. 

T4 AMP

DAMAGE 100 @ 8m – 71 @ 50m
RATE OF FIRE 937 RPM
VELOCITY 375 m/s
AMMO 25 / 150
RELOAD TIME 1.6 sec / 2 sec
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T4 AMP

Auto

T4 AMP is a fully automatic sidegrade to the Repeater. Overall they have very similar performance. AMP is also one damage tier lower, so it will require an extra hit to kill most enemies. There are also some differences in Recoil and Cone of Fire statistics, but it honestly doesn’t matter much. Both pistols are close-range bullet hoses. 

The main difference is mechanical: fully automatic fire means you do your own Cone of Fire management, and you decide how long your bursts are. For Repeater this mostly happens automatically between bursts, but it also means you’re missing out on a tiny bit of potential DPS. 

AMP also has a touch more Damage per Magazine, so it should be a tad more reliable when it comes to killing enemies within one magazine.

While ADSing, AMP is easier to hold on target, but you’ll have to consciously burst a lot, since there’s a lot of CoF Bloom.

New Conglomerate

new conglomerate sidearms

New Conglomerate sidearms, as everything in their faction, pack a punch, but require a bit of care to handle properly.

NC4 Mag-Shot

DAMAGE 200 @ 10m – 112 @ 60m
RATE OF FIRE 351 RPM
VELOCITY 375 m/s
AMMO 15 / 75
RELOAD TIME 1.6 sec / 1.9 sec

NC4 Mag-Shot

Semi-Auto

Mag-Shot is the default sidearm for the New Conglomerate. It’s a versatile and well-rounded semi-auto pistol, with good damage per shot, “just right” Rate of Fire and ample magazine capacity.

Mag-Shot’s main disadvantage is that in close quarters it gets hard countered by Nanoweave, as it increases bullets-to-kill from 5 to 7, which increases Time-to-Kill by 50% – just due to 20% damage reduction! Though this is noticeable only when going against full health targets, and can be fully mitigated by going for headshots, which also offset Mag-Shot’s low-ish DPS.

For maximum DPS, you need to click ~6 times per second.

LA8 Rebel

DAMAGE 250 @ 15m – 143 @ 60m
RATE OF FIRE 261 RPM
VELOCITY 375 m/s
AMMO 10 / 60
RELOAD TIME 1.4 sec / 1.7 sec
UNLOCK COST 325Certification Pointsor 250 Daybreak Cash

LA8 Rebel

Semi-Auto

LA8 Rebel is a hard hitting semi-auto precision sidearm. It deals higher damage per shot than Mag-Shot, has greater ADS accuracy and better damage degradation stats, but takes a hit to Rate of Fire and Damage per Magazine.

Rebel has a weird combination of damage per bullet and Rate of Fire:

  • Rate of Fire is low enough to make misses punishing. If you try to spam click, you risk losing a lot of your damage output due to missing. Oversampling is an issue as well, though it can be avoided after some practice. 
  • At the same time, even at maximum RoF, Rebel has low DPS, and you kinda need that damage output to effectively kill enemies. 
  • Damage per Shot is not high enough to down a target with just a few hits – you will need 4-5 hits on a full health target. Spending time to carefully aim each shot will lead to obscene Time-to-Kill.

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. If you are capable of consistently landing headshots:

  • Standard infantry dies to 2 headshots within Maximum Damage Range.
  • Or one headshot and one quick knife swing.
  • Or one headshot after hitting the enemy with an EMP grenade.

In this regard Rebel, gets dangerously close to revolvers in terms of killing power, all the while having noticeably better Hip Fire accuracy. And, unlike with revolvers, you can put a Suppressor on Rebel, which then becomes very quiet.

However, Rebel has no overkill on any of this, so there are a lot of things that can “break” the consistency: Aux. Shield, heals, shield repair, damage degradation.

For maximum DPS, you need to click ~4 times per second.

LA3 Desperado

DAMAGE 167 @ 8m – 100 @ 50m
RATE OF FIRE 896 Burst / 500 RPM /
346 RPM Semi Auto
VELOCITY 350 m/s
AMMO 14 / 84
RELOAD TIME 1.55 sec / 1.85 sec
UNLOCK COST 1000Certification Pointsor 699 Daybreak Cash

LA3 Desperado

2x Burst / Semi-Auto

Desperado is a New Conglomerate burst pistol. Unlike with the Terran Republic burst pistols, Desperado has a small forced delay between bursts. However, Cone of Fire does not start to reset until that forced delay is over, so there is no “automatic” CoF recovery between bursts if you fire as fast as possible. 

Desperado has lower potential DPS than Repeater, but in return it gets better ADS accuracy and more stable recoil, as well as a semi-auto firemode to snipe deployables. 

During the burst, Desperado has the highest Rate of Fire among sidearms, and almost the highest DPS, which gives it higher alpha damage than Repeater.

Within 8m, Desperado has a scary 3-headshot kill, if you can pull it off. Overall, Desperado is a strong, reliable and easy to use sidearm. The only downside is somewhat limited magazine capacity.

For maximum DPS, you need to click ~4 times per second.

NC08 Mag-Scatter

DAMAGE 100 @ 12m – 60 @ 24m
PELLETS / SPREAD 6 / 3
RATE OF FIRE 133 RPM
VELOCITY 300 m/s
AMMO 5 / 30
RELOAD TIME 1.8 sec / 2.6 sec
UNLOCK COST 1000Certification Pointsor 699 Daybreak Cash

NC08 Mag-Scatter

Semi-Auto

Mag-Scatter is a shotgun pistol, with all the quirky mechanics associated with that weapon type, including the reduced headshot damage multiplier. Mag-Scatter can’t use suppressors, but instead has access to several exclusive attachments:

  • Smart Choke – a barrel attachment that increases Pellet Spread while Hip Firing by 0.5 degrees, and reduces it by 0.5 degrees while ADSing.
  • Extended Mags – a rail attachment that increases magazine size by 1.
  • MPL – a rail attachment that reduces Pellet Spread by 0.25 degrees at all times. Stacks with Smart Choke.

ADSing with both Smart Choke and MPL equipped reduces your total Pellet Coverage from 4 to 2.75.

Mag-Scatter is hilariously ineffective and unreliable outside of very close ranges, and slow Rate of Fire is its biggest disadvantage. Whenever you need an extra shot to kill an enemy, add unacceptable 0.45 seconds to your Time-to-Kill. 

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. Speaking of which, Mag-Scatter’s low Rate of Fire and sidearm-tier Equip Time mean that you can weave quick-knife attacks between shots almost without losing in shots-per-minute, and thus significantly increasing your overall damage output.

Hegeteus has 47k+ Mag-Scatter kills, and he had this to say:

MPL enhances hipfiring quite a bit, and it’s what I use most of the time, since mobility is the key to my gameplay.

Mag-Scatter is still slow and equipping MPL takes away one round, which is why I’ve been using Fujin to compensate for the smaller magazines and Mag-Scatter’s poor agility. I know many people speak badly of the Fujin, but it has bought me crucial time and damage when I’ve needed it.

Despite buffs, Mag-Scatter is still not an easy gun to use as a stalker cloaker. Its effective range remains small, and you won’t go unnoticed once you fire it. As opposed to Commissioner, your faction is given away too. In case you want to use it effectively, be prepared to the kind of conflict stalkers normally don’t deal with.

  • 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, though 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.

Vanu Sovereignty

vanu sovereignty sidearms

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 VS3

DAMAGE 167 @ 10m – 100 @ 60m
RATE OF FIRE 451 RPM
VELOCITY 325 m/s
AMMO 17 / 85
RELOAD TIME 1.45 sec / 1.75 sec

Beamer VS3

Semi-Auto

Beamer is the default pistol for Vanu Sovereignty. It’s an inside-community joke to call Beamer “the worst weapon in the game”,  which is not that far off from the truth.

Beamer isn’t absolutely worthless, and has some positive traits, but those are not what people usually look for in a sidearm. 

Overall, Beamer is very similar to TX-2 Emperor, but with lower velocity and worse ADS accuracy, smaller magazine and faster reload, higher RoF and lower damage at range. 

Beamer’s maximum Rate of Fire requires the user to click ~7.5 times per second, and it’s hard to achieve by conventional means (without using a macro), while still trying to actually hit something. 

However, this means that Cone of Fire will nearly always have time to reset between shots, so each shot will be as accurate as it possibly can, and you can click as fast as you can without risking to oversample the weapon.

Beamer’s massive downside is low Alpha Damage and generally low Damage per Shot, and sustained accuracy of semi-auto fire isn’t a valuable trait for a sidearm. 

Manticore SX40

DAMAGE 200 @ 15m – 112 @ 60m
RATE OF FIRE 351 RPM
VELOCITY 325 m/s
AMMO 15 / 75
RELOAD TIME 1.6 sec / 1.9 sec
UNLOCK COST 325Certification Pointsor 250 Daybreak Cash

SX40 Manticore

Semi-Auto

Manticore is almost a direct copy of the NC4 Mag-Shot. The only differences are: 

  • Manticore sacrifices some projectile velocity to gain the no-bullet-drop VS trait.
  • Manticore has slightly worse Hip Fire accuracy, but gains 5m of extra Mag Damage Range, making it more consistent in close quarters and slightly increasing damage at range. It’s basically like having SPA.

Cerberus

DAMAGE 250 @ 8m – 112 @ 50m
RATE OF FIRE 300 RPM
VELOCITY 300 m/s
AMMO 10 / 60
RELOAD TIME 1.65 sec / 2 sec
UNLOCK COST 1000Certification Pointsor 699 Daybreak Cash

Cerberus

Semi-Auto

Cerberus is a hard hitting semi-auto pistol. It is overall similar to LA-8 Rebel,  but with a few differences:

  • Reduced maximum damage range from 15m to 8m shortens the range bracket where Cerberus can consistently kill enemies.
  • Higher potential Rate of Fire slightly improves Cerberus’ DPS and TTK.
  • Cerberus technically has worse ADS accuracy, but it’s unlikely to have a significant effect during normal gameplay.
  • Unusually mild Suppressor penalties.

Basically, it all 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

DAMAGE 167 @ 10m – 84 @ 60m
RATE OF FIRE 769 Burst / 480 RPM
VELOCITY 325 m/s
AMMO 16 / 84
RELOAD TIME 1.53 sec / 1.845 sec
UNLOCK COST 1000Certification Pointsor 699 Daybreak Cash

Spiker

2x Burst / Charge

Spiker is the most unique pistol, both in terms of looks/animations and functionality. By default, it uses a burst fire mode, and then it’s nearly identical to LA3 Desperado, with these differences: 

  • Spiker has better CoF Bloom for both ADSing and Hip Firing, as well as better ADS CoFs.
  • Spiker has more time between shots, but less time between bursts. Firing Spiker at optimal Rate of Fire is slightly more challenging, and in that case it behaves closer to fully automatic fire.
  • 1st shot in a burst has only half the Vertical Recoil.
  • A couple of extra rounds per mag.

In alternative firemode, Spiker’s Damage Resist Type is changed to Type 40, same as for  Anti-Materiel Rifles, which means it becomes capable of dealing damage to heavily armored vehicles, and deals bonus damage to MAXes. 

In that alternative firemode, you can hold “fire” to charge up a more powerful shot that will also deal splash damage to infantry in a small radius.

Charge Level Charge Time,
sec
Ammo Direct Damage
(Type 40)
Indirect Damage
(Type 6)
0 0 1 50
1 2 2 200 50
2 4 4 400 150
  • Direct Damage is the same at all ranges (no damage degradation over range).
  • A fully charged shot is roughly equal to an Archer shot within its max damage range.
  • While charging, Spiker emits an audible sound.
  • You can’t charge while sprinting or cloaked, but you can charge it while flying on the Jet Pack.
  • Suppressor should apply to both firemoded – remains to be confirmed by testing.

Overall, Spiker is an excellent sidearm, and a worthy opponent to Repeater and Desperado, though the alternative firemode is a funny gimmick rather an actually useful combat option, outside of maybe some very specific Stalker Infiltrator shenanigans. 

Nanite Systems

Nanite Systems’ sidearms can be used by all factions.

NS-44 Commissioner

DAMAGE 450 @ 8m – 225 @ 42m
RATE OF FIRE 170 RPM
VELOCITY 450 m/s
AMMO 6 / 42
RELOAD TIME 3 sec / 4 sec
UNLOCK COST 1000Certification Pointsor 799 Daybreak Cash

NS-44 Commissioner

Semi-Auto

Commissioner is just what you would expect from a magnum revolver: damaging and accurate, but slow to pull out and reload. It has low rate of fire by itself, and you need to shoot even slower to carefully aim all of your shots.

Despite requiring some skill to use properly, Commissioner has had booming success over the years, and earned love and adoration of the community, known for consistency and overwhelming headshot damage. 

  • 1 headshot within 8m will instantly kill an Infiltrator without Nano Armor Cloaking.
  • 2 headshots will kill a Heavy Assault through any kind of overshield, creating an unprecedented time-to-kill of just 0.35 seconds. 
  • 1 headshot and 1 bodyshot will kill infantry in full nanoweave within 22m. 
  • 3 body shots will kill infantry in full nanoweave within 13m.
  • 1 headshot and 1 quick knife swing nearly instantly kill most infantry targets.

Commissioner requires proper crosshair placement and trigger discipline to use effectively, but its devastating damage per shot cannot be overstated. Huge alpha damage is what makes Commissioner so deadly and popular. Considering excellent hip fire accuracy of sidearms, it is not that hard to land a shot or a headshot, taking 36-90% of enemy’s health in an instant. The potential destructive power of the Commissioner is simply disgusting for a mere sidearm. 

Besides the skill requirement, the only downside of the Commissioner is that it takes 0.2 seconds longer to pull out than most other sidearms, which can be crucial in the heat of combat.

Commissioner is relatively accurate, and remains effective at longer ranges than most sidearms thanks to high damage per shot. However, Commissioner still loses a lot of damage over range: at 39m 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 sidearm.

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.

Aquilae

(Outdated, doesn’t include these changes)

NS-357 Underboss

DAMAGE 375 @ 8m – 200 @ 42m
RATE OF FIRE 221 RPM
VELOCITY 350 m/s
AMMO 6 / 42
RELOAD TIME 2.5 sec / 3.5 sec
UNLOCK COST 1000Certification Pointsor 799 Daybreak Cash

NS-357 Underboss

Semi-Auto

Underboss is a snub-nosed, lower caliber variant of the Commissioner. It is noticeably more spammy than the Commissioner, and has 30% higher Rate of Fire, 20% higher Recoil Recovery Rate and 20% lower Vertical Recoil.

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 Nanoweave – out of already small 6 round cylinder. This increase is substantial, and makes Nanoweave a hard counter to Underboss.

While Commissioner is perfectly serviceable with bodyshots, lower damage of the Underboss makes it necessary to land headshots, but as as long as you are landing headshots, Underboss is almost directly superior to Commissioner:

  • Has shorter Equip Time and faster reload.
  • Kills standard infantry in 2 headshots within 39m, regardless of nanoweave
  • Kill standard infantry in 1 headshot + 1 body shot within 11m, assuming Nanoweave
  • Kills NMG / Adrenaline Heavy Assaults with 2x Headshots at close ranges.
  • 1 headshot + quick knife swing nearly instantly kill standard infantry.

A lot of these points echo Commissioner’s capabilities, but Underboss also shoots faster. This makes Underboss the go-to sidearm for competitive infantry players, more so after the nerf to Commissioner’s Equip Time.

When ADSing to engage enemies at range, you can take advantage of Underboss’ superior recoil statistics, which lead to great recentering speed. Underboss returns aim to you faster, so you can take follow-up shots almost without a pause. 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.

Commissioner vs Underboss ADS Recoil Animation

Both Underboss and Commissioner have heavy recoil animation when aimed down sights. The gun kicks upwards and obstructs your field of vision for a moment. This is notably different from faction-specific sidearms, and makes it challenging to take rapid follow-up shots.

Timeline after you fire the first shot:

  1. Your aim will be kicked up by recoil, but the gun itself will not move on your screen. 
  2. Then, the gun model will kick upwards, obstruction your field of vision. 
  3. Then, the gun will return and you will be able to see your target once again, and take a more or less accurate follow-up shot.
  4. If you don’t take another shot, your aim will return to its original position on target. 

Here are the time values, according to my rough testing:

Commissioner Underboss  
117 ms 83 ms First recoil
233 ms 167 ms View obstruction
200 ms 167 ms Recoil recovery
352 ms 271 ms Weapon refire time

The point to take away from this, is that not only Underboss fires faster, it also allows the user to take accurate follow up shots faster, because its recoil animation is ~40% less obstructive. 

NS-357 IA

DAMAGE 250 @ 2m – 167 @ 30m
PELLETS / SPREAD 2 / 1.25 HIP, 0.75 ADS
RATE OF FIRE 180 RPM
VELOCITY 300 m/s
AMMO 6 / 42
RELOAD TIME 2.55 sec / 3.55 sec

Semi-Auto

NS-357 IA is a special modification of the Underboss: it fires two shots at the same time, though each shot deals less damage than usual, and the rate of fire is reduced to be roughly on the level of the Commissioner.

The only available attachment is Darklight Flashlight. NS-357 IA has no scope attachments, and is forced into using unusual side-mounted iron sights.

NS-357 IA is one of the possible item rewards for winning a Critical Mass Alert, this is the only way to obtain it.

NS-357 IA is created and named in honor of TheDeringer, creator of Instant Action Podcast and otherwise a prominent member of the community. He made a video demonstration of the weapon.

NS-45 Pilot

DAMAGE 200 @ 8m – 112 @ 42m
RATE OF FIRE 750 Burst / 441 RPM
VELOCITY 350 m/s
AMMO 12 / 60
RELOAD TIME 1.85 sec / 2.35 sec
UNLOCK COST 1000Certification Pointsor 799 Daybreak Cash

3x Burst

NS-45 Pilot is a compact high-caliber burst pistol. It fires 3 round bursts at a high Rate of Fire, but there is a forced delay between bursts, so overall Rate of Fire is lower. It takes the Pilot only 0.16 seconds to fire off a burst that deals up to 600 damage. 

While 12 round magazine may seem small, it amounts to roughly the same damage per magazine as for other burst pistols. Additionally, Pilot has access to Extended Mags rail attachment, which increases magazine size by 3 rounds, but it is mutually exclusive with Laser Sight.

Headshots with Pilot are truly devastating. Landing a whole burst on the head will kill standard infantry targets within 20m, giving Pilot the shortest potential TTK among all sidearms. That said, landing a whole burst on the head is actually quite challenging outside of point blank range. 

Pilot requires a steadier hand than other burst pistols. You need to be careful about spamming this gun in close quarters, as every missed shot will be extra costly. If the enemy is being the least bit evasive, it’s a good idea to take an extra moment to properly aim each burst and let CoF reset in the meantime. 

Pilot is mostly a close quarters sidearm, but remains potent at range if you can get good ADS hits on an exposed enemy. Outside of ~20m damage degradation and strong Vertical Recoil will make it hard to kill an aware target. Missing a whole burst is especially unforgivable.

This is a general issue with Pilot – the fact that it fires out a whole quarter of its magazine with a whole burst:

  • It makes every burst important. Every time you need an extra burst to kill a target, your TTK goes up considerably.
  • Unlike with other burst pistols, you can’t be just spamming it in general direction of the enemy. 
  • It makes you more likely to encounter the Long Reload, though it’s not a big deal.

Pilot is a very strong sidearm that combines high DPS of burst pistols and high Alpha Damage of revolvers, though it is also harder to use; landing a burst is still not exactly the same as landing a shot with a revolver. It’s harder and doesn’t deal damage immediately.

Besides the steep skill requirement, another big disadvantage of the Pilot is that it gets hardcountered by Nanoweave, same as all other 200 damage weapons. Pilot requires 5 bodyshots (2 bursts) against standard infantry target, but full nanoweave targets will require 7 bodyshots (3 bursts), which significantly increases TTK.

It’s not a big deal when finishing off wounded enemies, but when going against full health targets, it’s better to try and work in a few headshots to offset the potential nanoweave.

You can watch some Stalker Gameplay with NS-45 here.

NS-44L Blackhand

DAMAGE 450 @ 8m – 275 @ 125m
RATE OF FIRE 170 RPM
VELOCITY 550 m/s
AMMO 4 / 40
RELOAD TIME 3 sec / 4 sec
UNLOCK COST 1000Certification Pointsor 799 Daybreak Cash
NS-44L Blackhand

Semi-Auto

A long-barreled “sniper” variant of the Commissioner. Uses only 4x scopes. Has unusually high bullet velocity for a sidearm, extended Minumum Damage Range and increased ADS accuracy, but holds only 4 rounds and has a reduced Hip Fire accuracy and Hip CoF Recovery Rate.

Blackhand is relatively ineffective with bodyshots:

  • needs 3 body shots against no nanoweave target within 86m, and 4 shots at 87m+.
  • needs 3 body shots against full nanoweave within 30m, 4 from 31m to 99m, and 5 at 100m+.

However, it truly shines with headshos:

  • kills in 1 headshot and 1 body shot within 70m, 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.

Same as Commissioner, Blackhand requires extra 0.2 seconds to pull out. That, and relatively poor Hip Fire accuracy make it a subpar backup sidearm in a pinch, and a 4x scope also makes aiming in close quarters harder, so it will be weak in the crucial 2-10m segment, where sidearms are usually used as backup weapons.

Punishingly small magazine makes it a bad substitute primary when going against full health targets at close range. 

Overall, Blackhand is good at what it does, but it’s a fairly specialized weapon to be used as a general-purpose sidearm.

Wrel’s review:
(outdated, Blackhand now does 275 minimum damage, also these changes)

NS-44L Showdown

DAMAGE 450 @ 8m – 275 @ 125m
RATE OF FIRE 180 RPM ADS / 120 RPM Hip
VELOCITY 550 m/s
AMMO 4 / 32
RELOAD TIME 3 sec / 4 sec

Semi-Auto

Showdown is a unique variant of NS-44L Blackhand. The only way to obtain is to get it as a random Alert Reward. Overall, it is similar to Blackhand, but it has some meaningful mechanical differences, and functions differently in Hip Firing and ADSing:

While Hip Firing, Showdown:

  • Has no CoF Bloom, so every shot is as accurate as it can be. 
  • Uses the same CoF for all stances, so you don’t get an accuracy boost for staying still or crouching.
  • Has reduced Rate of Fire.

While Aiming Down Sights:

  • Showdown doesn’t use any sights and has no zoom, and still uses the regular Hip Fire crosshair.
  • Accuracy is significantly increased.
  • Each shot has a huge Bloom, but maximum ADS CoF is limited at 2 degrees. 
  • CoF Recovery Rate is reduced to 8, so you need to wait ~0.24 seconds after each shot to let CoF fully restore. It would take ~0.21 seconds to fully recover Recoil after a shot.
  • Rate of Fire is increased. This also means that CoF and Recoil Recovery start earlier, and at closer ranges you can fire before CoF Recovery is fully finished for increased effective RoF compared to Hip Firing.
  • ADSing reduced your movement speed by 75%, which is an unusually harsh penalty to say the least.
  • ADSing with Showdown takes several times longer than with most other weapons, including the Blackhand.

There are several other differences from the Blackhand:

  • Darklight Flashlight is the only possible attachment.
  • Vertical Recoil is stronger: 3.0 vs 1.8
  • Bullet Drop is 50% more pronounced.

Overall, Showdown is a somewhat weird weapon, mostly used for prestige and novelty rather than for actual combat effectiveness. Video of gameplay by a lucky owner (outdated, doesn’t include these changes).

Hunter QCX

DAMAGE 650 @ 35m – 525 @ 60m
RATE OF FIRE 59 RPM
VELOCITY 150 m/s
AMMO 4 / 28
RELOAD TIME 2.5 sec / 3.5 sec
UNLOCK COST 1000Certification Pointsor 799 Daybreak Cash

Hunter QCX

Pump-Action

Hunter QCX Crossbow is a unique weapon, more of a weak primary than a sidearm. It fires slow, but silent and powerful bolts, and needs to be cycled after each shot. The crossbow is the premiere weapon choice for Stalker Infiltrators.

Pros:

  • Crossbow deals high and consistent damage:
    • Nanoweave targets die in 2 body shots within 40m.
    • Infiltrators without NAC are killed with one headshot within 45m.
    • Almost always can finish off a target in just one body shot after it has been hit by an EMP grenade.
    • Can destroy all deployables in one shot at any distance.
    • Consistent 1 body shot + 1 quick knife swing nearly instantly kill most infantry targets, regardless of Nanoweave. This is called Crossbow Combo.
  • Access to scope attachments of 1x through 6x, including HS/NV
  • Reduced Minimap Fire Detect Range of only 10m and a nearly invisible tracer.
  • available to all factions, so when enemies hear the shots they can’t be sure if it’s an ally or enemy shooting.

Cons:

  • Needs to be “cycled” after each shot, much like a pump shotgun or bolt action rifle. Cycling takes 1.02 seconds, which puts a high penalty on misses.
  • Takes 0.8 seconds to pull out, which is 0.3 seconds longer than for most 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 makes it hard to use in a direct firefight or to hit moving enemies at range.

The crossbow has an interesting interaction with quick melee attacks. In short, if you want to perform a melee combo with the crossbow, you should wait at least 0.17 seconds after the shot before you quick melee. That will let you perform the quick melee during the crossbow’s rechambering animation, and shave off ~0.5 seconds off the recovery time before you can fire again.

Hunter QCX has exclusive access to special ammo types in addition to default bolts, that transform the crossbow to a different purpose.

Detect Bolt. 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 due to short duration, small area coverage and long time between pulses.

Explosive Bolt. As the name suggests, changes ammunition to explosive bolts that do minor splash damage to infantry and minor damage to vehicles:

Direct Damage: 450 @ 30m – 270 @ 55m (could be 50m)
Direct Damage Type – 3 “Explosive Bolts”
Indirect Damage: 200 @ 0.35m – 85 @ 2m
Indirect Damage Type – 6 “Common Explosion”

Explosive Bolts are moderately effective against MAXes, and without taking damage degradation into account require 8 hits to kill without Ordnance Armor.

Smoke Bolts. These deal less damage, and reduce Crossbow’s ammo capacity to 2 / 8. On impact, they will produce a thick cloud of smoke. Smoke lasts for about ~9 seconds.

NS-61 Emissary

DAMAGE 125 @ 15m – 91 @ 60m
RATE OF FIRE 577 RPM
VELOCITY 360 m/s
AMMO 25 / 150
RELOAD TIME 1.8 sec / 2.8 sec
UNLOCK COST 1000Certification Pointsor 799 Daybreak Cash

NS-61 Emissary

Auto

Emissary is a fully automatic low caliber pistol. It has average DPS for a sidearm, and its main advantages are excellent sustained accuracy and improved damage degradation stats. Low Recoil and Cone of Fire Bloom make it easy to hold on target.

Emissary is intended as an 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.

To effectively engage with Emissary, you have to continuously hold aim on target, which is  comparable to most automatic primary weapons, but different from other sidearms, which either require a few precise shots, or are capable of being spammed in the general direction of the enemy. 

Most weapons deal double damage on headshots, but the Emissary has reduced Headshot Damage Multiplier of 1.8x, which means it takes 5 headshots to kill a standard infantry target within maximum damage range.

Emissary is one of the few sidearms that has access to Extended Mags rail attachment, which increases Magazine Size by 5 rounds. Mutually exclusive with Laser Sight. 

  • Laser Sight should be used if you – for whatever reason – are using Emissary as a general-purpose sidearm, though it’s not very strong in that role.
  • Extended Mags should be used if Emissary is filling for a primary weapon for you.

You can check out some of the Emissary gameplay by Moukass in this video, and Wrel’s review below.

Best Sidearms

I’ve put together a table of how different qualities of different sidearms relate to average values. This table takes a very shallow and approximate approach to comparisons, so don’t treat it too seriously. It’s intended to provide a quick insight into sidearms’ strengths and weaknesses at a glance, nothing more.

Sidearm Table
Click to enlarge

Notes:

Alpha Damage:

  • For Semi Auto pistols, only damage of the first shot is taken into account.
  • For Burst pistols, damage of the first burst.
  • For Automatic pistols, damage they can do in 0.2 seconds.
  • This isn’t exactly the most fair comparison, so take it with a grain of salt.

DPS assumes maximum Rate of Fire available to the weapon and doesn’t take Damage Degradation into account.

Damage Degradation takes weapons’ Minimum and Maximum Damage Ranges, as well as percentage of damage lost between them. 

ADS Accuracy and Hip Fire Accuracy don’t take CoF Bloom into account.

Reload Speed is not included, however, pretty much any non-revolver sidearm is quick to reload.

Tier List

In this tier list, sidearms are rated on how good they are as a general-purpose sidearm. A low score on this list doesn’t mean a certain weapon is bad, but it may be too specialized to be used all the time as a reliable backup in a standard infantry loadout.

Community’s Take

In April 2018, all community members on reddit were invited to take a sidearm quiz and rate each sidearm on a scale of 1 to 7 of how effective it is for a competitive infantry player as a “sidearm” in a traditional sense of this word: an emergency backup weapon. 

The results below should tell you popularity and reputation of these weapons. Note that Candy Cannon was added just for memes.

Commissioner 6.3
Underboss 6.0
Pilot 5.0
Desperado 4.9
TX1 Repeater 4.8
Blackhand 4.5
TS2 Inquisitor 4.4
Rebel 4.2
Mag-Shot 4.2
Emissary 3.9
Spiker 3.9
TX2 Emperor 3.6
Hunter Crossbow 3.6
Beamer 3.6
Cerberus 3.5
Manticore 3.5
T4 AMP 3.5
Mag-Scatter 3.4
Candy Cannon 2.8

Infantry Mentors’ Take

Infantry Mentors on PlanetSide 2 Discord were asked to take the same quiz. They are some of the best players in the game, and ever ready to provide useful advice to anyone willing to improve themselves. 

Underboss 7.0
Commissioner 6.8
TX1 Repeater 5.0
Rebel 4.7
Blackhand 4.5
Pilot 3.8
Spiker 3.5
Cerberus 3.3
Mag-Shot 3.3
Beamer 3.3
TS2 Inquisitor 3.0
T4 AMP 3.0
Desperado 3.0
Mag-Scatter 2.7
Manticore 2.0
Emissary 2.0
TX2 Emperor 1.7
Hunter Crossbow 1.0

In addition to their scores, Infantry Mentors had this to add:

The best use for a true sidearm is to be able to quickly get off two headshots or a headshot/knife combo. Due to its fast draw time, Rate of Fire, and Alpha Damage, the Underboss does this the best. The Commissioner is more forgiving with its slightly higher Alpha Damage (and more consistent performance with bodyshots), but doesn’t have the same potential as the Underboss.

The Blackhand is a good choice for longer range Alpha Damage shots, but won’t be as useful as a Commissioner/Underboss in CQC. I find it especially useful in Light Assault duels, where it allows you to finish off someone who repeeks you with low shields.

To summarize, Underboss is the best CQC sidearm, Commissioner is a lower skill floor Underboss, and Blackhand is good for Light Assaults.


Most pistols aren’t that bad, hell some of them are even real good. Problem is – revolvers are just better for general use, if you are good.

Auraxium Pistols

The President

The President

The Executive

The Executive

The Immortal

The Immortal

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:

  • No penalties to Maximum Damage Range and Projectile Velocity.
  • Reduces CoF Bloom while Aiming Down Sights by 50%, which considerably increases the accuracy of sustained fire. 
  • There is still a penalty of -20m to Minimum Damage Range.

As a downside, these sidearms have reduced magazine size: by 3 rounds for President, and 2 rounds for Executive and Immortal. They also cannot equip any Rail Attachments.

It’s clear they are built around stealth and sustained fire while aiming down sights, which is a rather niche application for a sidearm. 

Holiday Sidearms

All of these are considered Exceptional Directive weapons. Normally they cannot be purchased, but become available each year for a few days.

NS-Deep FreezeNS Deep FreezeSnow-ball gun. Sold during winter holidays.

NS Candy Cannon 3000NS CandyCannon 3000
Cracker gun. Sold during Halloween holidays.

Patriot Flare Gun
NS Patriot Flare Gun
Fireworks gun. There are NS and faction-specific versions, each fires flares of different color. Sold during 4th of July holidays.

Blackheart
Blackheart

Heartstring
HeartstringCosmetic 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.

Promotional Sidearms

  • 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.

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