First, I'm only interested in rules-as-written supported tactics and strategies. No creative interpretations, no GM adjudications necessary. The only exception to this is that my GM has preemptively given me the okay to use the Gunsmithing feat to craft revolvers for 2000 gp and 4 days downtime.

I'm pretty adamant about using revolvers as opposed to multi-barreled one-handed early firearms. Rapid Reload only reduces reloading to a move action for early firearms, which means reloading during a fight is even worse. The revolvers at least have a capacity of six shots versus the double pistol's two, so I can make a full-round attack with my full BAB and an off-hand attack and still have ammo left over. When you add in the fact that early firearms carry the risk of exploding due to misfires and the worse range, they just aren't a viable long-term solution. Paper cartridges also increase the chances of a misfire, which increases the chance of an explosion (and a misfire is an automatic miss with my attack). Furthermore, you have to reload each barrel of a multi-barrel early firearm separately. I think my GM would have a problem with me using 4+ free actions to reload in a single round during a full-round attack, which is what would be necessary to make a full-round attack at 16+ BAB and an off-hand attack from TWF without being out of ammo when my next turn came up.

Multiclassing is fair game, and I can use anything on the D20 Pathfinder SRD. I suspect that this will lead to a dip in a class that provides sneak attack. Answers that make this suggestion should include the best levels at which to take said dips, and should compare the value of these dips to the value of True Grit (see below).

Play begins at first level and stats are obtained via 30 point buy. Prioritize DEX and WIS, dump STR and CHA. I'm thinking something like 7/18/16/14/18/5 (STR/DEX/CON/INT/WIS/CHA) after racial modifiers but I'm open to alternatives since this array leaves me with 1 remaining point that I can't spend on any of my scores. I'm also currently planning on putting 4 out of my 5 stat increases into DEX; I'll probably start with Leather Armor because it has no armor check penalty, I'll have a small carrying capacity due to low STR, and it carries a max DEX bonus of +6 which perfectly matches my eventual minimum 22 DEX score.

I'm primarily interested in feat progression. Answers suggesting dual-wielding and TWF should explain how best to reload in the heat of battle without holstering one of my guns, since even with Rapid Reload making reloading an advanced one-handed firearm a Free Action, reloading still requires one hand being free. I'm also interested in optimal Prestige Class choices.

Obviously, assuming the game lasts long enough for me to get True Grit at 20th level (and I decide not to multiclass), my first choice will be Up Close and Deadly to get the additional 5d6 damage to all my attacks for free but I'm interested in hearing suggestions for the second choice.

Skill-wise, assume that I will put at least 1 point into Craft (Alchemy) and keep Perception maxed out. I'm open to suggestion for maximization on the rest of my skill points but I don't think they will contribute much if at all to my damage output except for helping to craft better guns/ammo, or investing in Stealth for use with sneak attacks if multiclassing.

For traits, use the default restrictions:

There are a few rules governing trait selection. To begin with, your GM controls how many bonus traits a PC begins with; the default assumption is two traits. When selecting traits, you may not select more than one from the same list of traits (the four basic traits each count as a separate list for this purpose). Certain types of traits may have additional requirements, as detailed in the section above.

Remember also that traits are intended to model events that were formative in your character’s development, either events from before he became an adventurer, or (in the case of additional traits gained via the Additional Traits feat) ones that happened while adventuring. Even if your character becomes a hermit and abandons society, he’ll still retain his legacy of growing up an aristocrat if he took the relevant social trait. The one exception to this is religion traits—since these traits require continued faith in a specific deity, your character can indeed lose the benefits of these traits if he switches religions. In this case, consult your GM for your options. She may simply rule that your character loses that trait, or she might allow him to pick a new religion trait tied to his new deity. Another option is that if your character abandons a religion, he loses the associated religion trait until he gains an experience level, at which point he may replace a lost religion trait with a basic faith trait.

Assume that my chosen deity is the dwarven deity Droskar.

  • \$\begingroup\$ That is why the greater reliable enhancement is much beloved by gunslingers. As an aside, I'd hate to see what your GM would think of one of my theory-craft gunslingers(who makes 20 attacks/round at level 18) \$\endgroup\$
    – Guest
    Commented Jul 24, 2015 at 8:49

2 Answers 2


This is a progression to level 11, involving 4 classes. Vivisectionist Alchemist grants sneak attack, a mutagen to improve Dex as well as opening up discoveries(to take an additional limb to allow for reloading of firearms. Urban Barbarian allows for rage to improve Dex rather than Str/Con. Weapon Master Fighter aids in the protection of the weapon as well as providing additional bonus to hit and damage.

The benefits of increased attacks vs True Grit, are somewhat difficult to ascribe numerical values to, however(assuming a minimum dexterity of 34 which is what is likely to be had with this build design, and only a +1 weapon enhancement within the 30 Point-Blank requirement), each additional shot will be doing 1D8+20 average damage 25/max 28. The average of 5D6 is 18/max 30.

  1. Gunslinger: Point Blank Shot
  2. Gunslinger
  3. Gunslinger: Precise Shot
  4. Gunslinger: Rapid Reload
  5. Gunslinger: Rapid Shot
  6. Alchemist(Vivisectionist)
  7. Alchemist: Discovery: Extra Arm/Tentacle + Deadly Aim
  8. Barbarian(Urban)
  9. Fighter(Weapon Master): Two Weapon Fighting + Improved Two Weapon Fighting
  10. Fighter: Cluster Shot
  11. Fighter: Weapon Focus
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ It sounds like you've already made up your mind that True grit is the best choice. \$\endgroup\$
    – Sandwich
    Commented Jul 24, 2015 at 10:35
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ @Dyndrilliac As Issac alludes to in the question's comments, if play begins at level 1 and, presumably, ends at level 20, then, over the course of the character's career, a smaller bonus to damage earlier may deal more damage than a larger bonus later. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jul 24, 2015 at 11:13
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Included minor numerical breakdown benefit to additional attacks. \$\endgroup\$
    – Guest
    Commented Jul 24, 2015 at 18:37

There are three ways I can see to make TWF with one-handed firearms viable: possess more than two arms, take the Gun Twirling feat, or dip into Juggler Bard.

  • More than two arms: Since the question is asking for an optimized Dwarf build, the Kasatha race is a non-starter, and it represents the easiest way to get more arms. The other option is the Alchemist's Tentacle discovery which is the recommendation made by Guest's answer. On the surface, this seems to be a perfect fit. However, one major thing I dislike about it is in order to make maximum use of the Dexterity enhancement mutagen, you have to take a hit to Wisdom which is the Pistolero's second most important ability score. A -2 hit to Wisdom means one less Grit point in your pool to spend on Up Close and Deadly which is the Pistolero's bread and butter. Another thing worth considering is that the Vivisectionist is banned from organized PFS play.
  • Gun Twirling feat: This option allows for the most "ideologically pure" Pistolero build because it prevents you from having to multiclass. Unfortunately, this route is far too feat intensive: Weapon Focus, Dazzling Display, and Quick Draw are all pre-requisites for Gun Twirling and most of them have little if any practical use.
  • Juggler Bard: You won't get access to the bard's spellcasting if you dump CHA, but you do get some nice class skills you didn't have before (Escape Artist, Sense Motive, and Stealth). You also get Deflect Arrows for free and can ignore the Improved Unarmed Strike pre-requisite, in addition to earlier access to Evasion. Finally, you get Combat Juggling which allows you to act as though you have a free hand for the purposes of reloading and using Deflect Arrows even with both hands holding weapons and making full-round attacks.

The following progression goes from 1 to 20 and opts for the Juggler Bard approach. Compared to a full 20 levels of Gunslinger you end up losing 1 point of BAB, your 19th level Deeds, a bonus feat, True Grit, and your last 1d6 damage boost to Up Close and Deadly. On the other hand, you get a boost to your Will save. The loss of True Grit is mitigated by taking the Signature Deed feat, which also allows you to spam your primary damage boosting deed earlier than you would have if you had waited for the 20th level capstone.

Taking at least 17 levels of Gunslinger is important because you get your last damage boost from Pistol Training at 17. You could swap out the 18th level for a level of Unchained Rogue or any other class that grants sneak attack at 1st level and only lose out on a point of BAB and your last Nimble boost to AC.

Class/Feat Progression

  1. Gunslinger (Pistolero) - Rapid Reload
  2. Gunslinger (Pistolero)
  3. Gunslinger (Pistolero) - Point Blank Shot
  4. Gunslinger (Pistolero) - Precise Shot
  5. Gunslinger (Pistolero) - Deadly Aim
  6. Bard (Juggler) - Deflect Arrows
  7. Bard (Juggler) - Two-Weapon Fighting
  8. Gunslinger (Pistolero)
  9. Gunslinger (Pistolero) - Improved Critical
  10. Gunslinger (Pistolero) - Clustered Shots
  11. Gunslinger (Pistolero) - Improved Two-Weapon Fighting
  12. Gunslinger (Pistolero)
  13. Gunslinger (Pistolero) - Signature Deed (Up Close and Deadly)
  14. Gunslinger (Pistolero) - Greater Two-Weapon Fighting
  15. Gunslinger (Pistolero) - Hammer the Gap
  16. Gunslinger (Pistolero)
  17. Gunslinger (Pistolero) - Rapid Shot
  18. Gunslinger (Pistolero) - Critical Focus
  19. Gunslinger (Pistolero) - Improved Initiative
  20. Gunslinger (Pistolero)


I recommend Adopted to get the Warrior of Old trait from the Elf list for +2 to Initiative. This also allows you to pick a trait from the Combat list (which you couldn't do if you had picked up Reactionary instead since you're limited to one trait from each list). Killer lets you add your weapon's critical multiplier to each of your critical hits' damage, making them even more deadly. A +4 static bonus that stacks with all of your other bonuses is nothing to sneeze at.

Attack/Damage Breakdown

  • Level 5: +8 attack against touch AC dealing 1d8+9+2d6 damage with Point Blank Shot, Deadly Aim, and Up Close and Deadly. Add another +4 if it's a confirmed critical.
  • Level 10: +10/+10/+5 attacks against touch AC each dealing 1d8+12+2d6 damage with Point Blank Shot, Deadly Aim, and Up Close and Deadly. Add another +4 for each confirmed critical.
  • Level 15: +14/+14/+9/+9/+4/+4 attacks against touch AC each dealing 1d8+16+3d6 damage with Point Blank Shot, Deadly Aim, and Up Close and Deadly. Hammer the Gap will increase this further for each previous consecutive hit against the same opponent during that full-attack sequence. Add another +4 for each confirmed critical.
  • Level 20: +17/+17/+17/+12/+12/+7/+7/+2 attacks against touch AC each dealing 1d8+20+4d6 damage with Point Blank Shot, Deadly Aim, Rapid Shot, and Up Close and Deadly. Hammer the Gap will increase this further for each previous consecutive hit against the same opponent during that full-attack sequence. Add another +4 for each confirmed critical.

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