In the entry for firearms in Ultimate Combat, pistols are not explicitly given a classification of light weapon or otherwise, so I'm unsure how the Two Weapon Fighting feat would apply to dual-wielding pistols. The only piece of information I saw was that they can be easily concealed like light weapons.

The closest comparison I can draw is to hand crossbows, which like pistols are exotic weapons capable of being wielded and fired with a single hand. Hand crossbows are considered light weapons, so do the same rules apply to a pistol?


6 Answers 6


You fire with a -4/-4 for two weapon fighting with pistols because there is no rule anywhere saying that they are anything other than one handed weapons. The comparison for light crossbows is for "firing when prone" and "concealing", which is pretty weak to make a case. You would actually have the same penalty dual wielding light crossbows anyway (see below).

Crossbow, Light: You draw a light crossbow back by pulling a lever. Loading a light crossbow is a move action that provokes attacks of opportunity. Normally, operating a light crossbow requires two hands. However, you can shoot, but not load, a light crossbow with one hand at a –2 penalty on attack rolls. You can shoot a light crossbow with each hand, but you take a penalty on attack rolls as if attacking with two light weapons (see page 202). This penalty is cumulative with the penalty for onehanded firing.

A light crossbow takes a -2 on being fired with one hand. This means you have a -2/-2 with a -2 to each for firing one handed... for -4/-4, the same as if you were just firing a one-handed weapon.

In addition, you are going to have problems with reloading, crossbows or pistols, since you need a hand free to reload them, which makes using a single double barrelled pistol more attractive in this case, since you always have a hand free.

It is worth noting that hand crossbows don't get the -2 for being wielded in one hand, but light crossbows and pistols weigh 4lb, and hand crossbows 2lb.

  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ I can see your case on the light crossbows, though the original comparison was against hand crossbows instead. I think you're probably right regardless and pistols probably aren't light weapons (at the very least because of recoil or something), but I doubt the weight of the weapon is any kind of determining factor. Light maces are also 4 pounds, but still considered light weapons. \$\endgroup\$
    – Barillas
    Commented Mar 5, 2015 at 17:48
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Pistols aren't one-handed weapons but they aren't light either so this ends up basically correct. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Feb 16, 2017 at 17:09

Strictly speaking, no, they do not.

The Hand Crossbow entry explicitly defines it as a light weapon.

The Pistol entry doesn't say anything about two-weapon fighting.

On the other hand, double-wielding pistols is a classic action trope.

It makes perfect sense to have some pistols count as light weapons.

It doesn't fit for all pistols -- I wouldn't think of a Desert Eagle as a "light" weapon -- but the Beretta 84FS certainly qualifies.

A reasonable rule would be for the Coat Pistol to be a light weapon, with other pistols being one-handed weapons.


No, pistols are one-handed weapons

Firearms have a clear definition regarding their size and hands necessary to use them. From the firearms rules:

Firearm Descriptions

There are two general categories of firearms: early and advanced. Firearms are further divided into one-handed, two-handed, and siege firearms. As the category’s name implies, one-handed firearms need only one hand to wield and shoot. Two-handed firearms work best when you use two-hands while shooting them. Two-handed firearms can be shot with one hand at a –4 penalty on the attack roll.

This is also repeated on the rules about concealing firearms:

Concealing Firearms: Like light weapons and hand crossbows, one-handed firearms are easy to conceal on your person. Some smaller firearms (like the coat pistol) can grant bonuses to conceal a weapon on your person.

This is also implied on this FAQ about the necessary hands and the actual weapon's size:

Inappropriately Sized Firearms: Does this rule (page 136) allow a Medium or smaller creature to use larger firearms of any size?

The text of the rule is, "The size of a firearm never affects how many hands you need to use to shoot it." The intent of that rule was to prevent a Medium character from using a Small rifle as a one-handed pistol; it wasn’t intended to let a Medium character use a Large, Huge, Gargantuan, or Colossal two-handed firearm as a two-handed weapon. Just like with non-firearms, a creature cannot wield a weapon that’s far too big or small for it. Specifically in the case of firearms, a Medium character can’t use a two-handed firearm sized for a Large or larger creature, and a Small character can’t use a two-handed firearm sized for a Medium or larger creature.

Finally, according to Stephen Radney-MacFarland (Paizo's developer), the intent is for small firearms like pistols to be one-handed weapons:

Guns work different. It's not only the truth, it is the goal. They work differently when it comes to proficiency, they work differently when it comes to size, they work differently when it comes to attacks.

There is no such thing as a light firearm, a small rifle is still a two-handed weapon in the hands of a Medium creature (though they do get the penalty for using a weapon not of inappropriate size.

Even with bows, if you reduce the size, they don't become one-handed or light weapons.

Note that this was posted during Ultimate Combat's playtest, and I found nothing official changing this decision from the design team since then.


As has been stated in other answers: no pistols are not light weapons.

The main reason is that pistols in the default setting are similar to the old muskets. They are big and bulky.

To be a light weapon, it should have very little inertia so you can flick it around from target to target with just a wrist or finger flip. So, only very small light handguns would qualify.

If you were using Pathfinder rules in a modern setting, some pistols could be considered light weapons. Though a Desert Eagle or any pistol tricked out with a laser sight or many of the other fun gadgets that can be added would not qualify as a light weapon.

I would go so far as to say that even Wild West era handguns would not be light weapons.


The 3.5 rules set does not classify ranged weapons as light, one-handed or two-handed, yet this classification is required to accurately determine modifiers for two-weapon fighting. Ranged is the only classification, with the exception of this from TWF:

Treat a dart or shuriken as a light weapon when used in this manner, and treat a bolas, javelin, net, or sling as a one-handed weapon

With melee weapons that can be thrown, like a dagger or spear, you get the classification from it's melee counterpart. Sometimes, you can read the description for more information, like with a composite longbow to determine you need two hands to wield it, but it only grants bonus Strength damage as a one-handed weapon. This lack of size classification for ranged weapons was carried over to Pathfinder.

There is this bit of information from Ultimate Combat

Concealing Firearms: Like light weapons and hand crossbows, one-handed firearms are easy to conceal on your person. Some smaller firearms (like the coat pistol) can grant bonuses to conceal a weapon on your person.

While not stating they are light, this does state one-handed firearms are "like light weapons", at least with respect to concealing one.

There is an example monster listing, the pale stranger that uses two pistols.

treats pistols as light weapons for the purposes of determining penalties from two-weapon fighting

However, it is among a list of Supernatural abilities that are are unique to the pale stranger, like the ability to "supernaturally reload". Whether or not their mention of "as light weapons" was intended to be a supernatural benefit, or simply adding an otherwise missing but necessary piece of information is up to the reader.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Wait, are you trying to say that pale stranger text justifies them always being light, or not? Because to me it makes it clear they're not, as them being light for the stranger is part of a long list of benefits in a (Su) ability. \$\endgroup\$
    – mxyzplk
    Commented Aug 7, 2015 at 16:26
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Here's a wrinkle: The section (not feat) Two-weapon Fighting says, "Thrown Weapons: The same rules apply when you throw a weapon from each hand. Treat a dart or shuriken as a light weapon when used in this manner, and treat a bolas, javelin, net, or sling as a one-handed weapon" (PH 160). Emphasis mine. It would've been great had the designers had called them projectile weapons or something rather than ranged weapons. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Aug 7, 2015 at 18:26
  • \$\begingroup\$ I wouldn't say "justifies". I'd say it's the only place where you'll find them classified, since the rules set(s) are missing this classification for projectile weapons, at least if the text doesn't specifically include it (none makes the distinction between light and one-handed, except the hand crossbow, but some say two hands are required). Whether or not this is considered a special benefit, or whether it should apply in all cases is up to the DM, since this classification is missing from the rules in the first place. I am a bit shocked an official FAQ doesn't exist for this. \$\endgroup\$
    – Wyrmwood
    Commented Aug 10, 2015 at 16:36

Pistols don't count as light, even for two weapon fighting. The reason is that they hit touch AC.

  • 6
    \$\begingroup\$ Hello, welcome to RPG.SE! We expect answers here to cite sources you base them on. This question was also actually answered already before you. :) \$\endgroup\$ Commented Aug 4, 2017 at 23:50
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ I don't know of any rule that mandates that weapons that hit touch AC can not be light. I can see this might be a balancing factor (the weapon already has a special property, adding another one would be too much) but Pathfinder designers have stated (while supporting the fact that some exotic weapon are so bad that they wouldn't need to be behind a feat wall) that making things look realistic is their main concern, and they don't care if it's not balanced. \$\endgroup\$
    – Zachiel
    Commented Aug 5, 2017 at 13:24

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .