Weapon Archetypes: Handguns

Edit: If you are interested in a concrete example of what this looks like, I've posted a handout with handgun stats here. This handout uses the house rules outlined in another post.

Some GMs (myself included) are borderline autistic stat-junkies who can happily spend an afternoon making giant tables of weapons, each with its own unique strengths and weaknesses. If you don't believe me, go back and look at the AD&D 2nd edition weapon damage table. Although I disagree with much of what is on there (only 1d4+1 for a heavy crossbow?! are you sh*tting me?) I cannot fault the love that went into that table and recognize a kindred spirit in whichever poor soul back at TSR tried to decide whether a ranseur or a glaive should do more damage, or whether a bill-hook should still get to do extra damage when set to receive a charging opponent.
Other GMs would probably rather fritter away their time making interesting NPCs, or worldbuilding, or coming up with interesting encounter ideas. In that spirit, these posts are going to be for GMs who want more varied weapons then the super general lists that come with most games, but don't want to spend a bunch of time trying to figure out how many different light pistols they need and working out ways to make them different. The idea is the same one that games like World of Darkness and Star Wars use ('light pistol,' 'heavy pistol,' etc), just with an extra layer of detail that can be added as desired to give subclasses of firearms slight mechanical advantages based on their intended role.

So - here's my breakdown of the main types of handguns:

First, some general comments on handguns compared to other firearms. Handguns are like daggers - small defensive weapons that you can carry easily, and that are pretty ok for deterring threats and killing people at very close range (<50 feet, or about the distance someone can sprint in 2 seconds). They are not particularly powerful - handgun caliber gunshot fatalities generally bleed out after the fact unless the shooter hits the nervous system, lungs, or heart. But they do have some important advantages over long guns (rifle, shotguns, etc). They are (much) easier to conceal, are more likely to be legal to carry, and are easier to use in tight spaces (like the inside of most residential buildings) or in close combat (especially grappling or groundfighting). Two final things to bear in mind when running a game with handguns. First, hollowpoint rounds are the default for self-defense, and therefore do not need special stats. Second, it usually takes to hands to effectively use a handgun. You can shoot one-handed, and it's a pretty standard part of defensive shooting courses, but your accuracy and the time it takes to line up your next shot will both suffer. Using two pistols at the same time, matrix style, should take super-human coordination.

I've broken these down by role, with the assumption that any given system already has the generic categories 'light pistol' and 'heavy pistol'.

Duty Gun - These are the handguns that police forces and most branches of the military use. They are reliable, relatively inexpensive ($400-500), generally have large magazines (15-18 rounds), and have pretty good accuracy and stopping power. The usual drawback is that duty guns tend to be large - size improves accuracy, and the people who use them don't generally need to worry about concealment.

Mechanical Notes:  None really, if you have generic pistol stats, these are what it should apply to.

9mm: ('light pistol') - Baretta M9, Glock 17, Springfield XD-9
 .45 ACP: ('heavy pistol') - Glock 21, Springfield XD-45
 .38 Special/.357 Magnum: (these are revolvers, most of which will be built for .357 ('heavy pistol'), but can also fire .38 ('light pistol)) - Ruger GP 100, SW Model 586.

High-End Pistol - Refined death. These are the best off the shelf handguns that money can buy (~$1000). Large organizations generally don't use them, since they are much less efficient than duty weapons when 'effectiveness per dollar' is considered. These can be found as backup weapons for clandestine operatives, professional bodyguards, and their ilk. They are more accurate than duty guns, and at least as reliable. They are usually also something of a status symbol - like a rolex that you can kill people with.

Mechanical Notes:
Slightly more accurate or longer accurate range, perhaps a bonus to aimed shots - the match grade accuracy really comes into play when the shooter has a second or two to line up that shot.

9mm: ('light pistol') - HK P30 or P2000, CZ-75 SP01
.45 ACP: ('heavy pistol') - HK 45, HK Mk23
.38 Special/.357 Magnum: (these are revolvers, most of which will be built for .357 ('heavy pistol'), but can also fire .38 ('light pistol)) - Colt Python

Subcompacts - Pistols chambered in 'real' calibers (9mm and up) that have been shrunk down for concealed carry, common as backup guns for off-duty police officers, and 'everyday guns' for private citizens who carry. They are not especially good for covert ops though, as the addition of a silencer negates the only advantage the gun has. These pistols are generally just large enough that the shooter can effectively hold them - the grip is often too small for the entire hand. They can still be high quality guns, but the short barrel (which also means a short distance between front and rear sights), and the increased recoil felt by the shooter because of the pistol's lightness relative to the power of the cartridge being fired can make them difficult to use accurately. 

Mechanical Notes:
Easier to conceal. Lower accuracy (or shorter range depending on the system). Small magazine (7 rounds is pretty normal).  

9mm: ('light pistol') - Glock 26, Springfield XD-9 subcompact, Kel-Tec PF9
.45 ACP: ('heavy pistol') - Glock 36, Springfield XD-45 subcompact
.38 Special/.357 Magnum: (these are revolvers, most of which will be built for .357 ('heavy pistol'), but can also fire .38 ('light pistol)) - Ruger SP 101

Pocket Guns - These are a special class of subcompacts chambered for particularly low powered cartridges (usually .22 and .380). When compared to the subcompacts above, these are usually even smaller and have much less recoil. The downsides are that they don't usually have useable sights, and although they are better than nothing, they have poor stopping power even for a handgun.

Mechanical Notes:
Same as subcompacts (maybe slightly easier to conceal or more accurate), but also low damage - below whatever a 'light pistol' does.

Ruger LCR (revolver, .22), Walther PPK (.380)

Junk Handguns - This includes both the archetypal 'Saturday night special' - a cheap, low caliber gun of dubious quality even when new, and handguns that have suffered years of neglect. Although these guns will do as much damage as an expensive gun of the same caliber, they are much less accurate, and prone to all sorts of mechanical problems (more on those in a later post). 

Mechanical Notes:
Lower accuracy, mechanical failure on a critical miss, or the system's equivalent.

Pocket 9mm from certain manufacturers (who shall not be mentioned) with rough machining, brittle and ill-fitting components, and a tendency to jam when fired, or fire when dropped. ('light pistol')
A battered 1911 knockoff with duct tap around the grip frame in place of a proper grip and rust flaking out of the slide ('heavy pistol')

Extra-Heavy Pistol - Most of these are novelties, albeit intimidating ones. Although chambered for the most powerful handgun rounds available, and often quite accurate, these guns tend not to be all that useful. They are expensive (as is the ammunition), very large, often unreliable, and generally only hold 6-7 rounds. For the money and bulk involved, a submachine gun is generally a more effective choice. A favorite weapon of armchair survivalists, Clint Eastwood fans, and the deranged.

Mechanical Notes:
Higher damage (lower than or equal to 5.56mm NATO), low reliability, low concealability, low magazine capacity, higher than average strength required to use them effectively. 

Desert Eagle (.50AE), Taurus Raging Bull (.454 Casull), Taurus Judge (.410 gauge shotgun shells)

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