I am considering playing a Gunslinger when next we play Pathfinder (I am currently GMing a game, and we'll be switching off afterwards), and thumbing through the Ultimate Combat Playtest v. 2, and I'm wondering how best to keep my damage progression on a decent track. I've considered a couple of things, like taking the various feats which increase damage and critical threat range (seems most guns crit at x4), and enchanting my gun, but I was wondering if anyone had some other ideas on how to keep damage high.

There are a couple of things working against me:

  • Ammo is expensive: A single shot, if made by the Gunslinger costs a minimum of 1gp 1sp, and that's the kind of ammo which takes a standard action to reload (move if you have rapid reload). Alchemical rounds cost something like 6gp a piece.
  • Guns are expensive: A single shot pistol is 1,000 gp (but the Gunslinger can make one for half). Ultimately I think I want a revolver so I can get up to 6 shots before having to reload.
  • Guns don't add ability bonuses: Like crossbows, they do static damage. 1d8 for a pistol.

Things working for me:

  • Within one Range Increment, guns resolve against touch AC: Which means I will probably almost always hit. That's awesome, but doesn't help my damage.
  • Aimed shots at level 7: These are kind of awesome, and can cause nifty status effects.

I don't really need powergaming levels of damage here, just want to keep a moderate level of damage.

  • 12
    \$\begingroup\$ "Which means I will probably almost always hit. That's awesome, but doesn't help my damage." Actually, it does. While your per-shot damage stays the same, your damage over time increases. As long as fights last longer than one shot, upping your chance to hit CAN improve your average damage quite a bit (as long as hitting isn't trivial to begin with). \$\endgroup\$
    – AceCalhoon
    Commented May 3, 2011 at 15:46

12 Answers 12


Be a Pistolero, take two weapon fight, two double pistols, and rapid shot (and pre-reqs). At 11th level take signature deed (or w/e it's called) and place it on the bonus deed you got from becoming a pistolero. You'll also need rapid reload and alot of alchemic rounds.

Using the double pistols special each shot can shoot 2 bullets, since it's now a free action to reload and you only need to possess 1 grit point in order to perform the deed given to you at first level.

You can fire 3 times a round off of your normal attacks + 1 from 2 weapon fight + 1 from rapid shot which = 5 shots. Each shot is shooting 2 bullets so 10 shots a round. Say you miss with every shot 10 * 3d6 / 2 on average = 45 damage a round WHEN YOU MISS ALL OF YOUR TOUCH ATTACK SHOTS. :P Have fun.

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    \$\begingroup\$ This is a great answer on the damage and mechanics, but does not address the cost factor at all. \$\endgroup\$
    – wax eagle
    Commented Mar 6, 2012 at 15:07
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    \$\begingroup\$ When the original answer was made, this combination actually worked via the use of Weapon Cords (allowing you to drop and juggle your pistols while you reload). A recent errata changed the way Weapon Cords work, specifically to depower a lot of this combo. However, you could still use the dual-double pistols for at least 4 attacks in a round, and possibly more if you drop the secondary pistol to allow reloading the primary. \$\endgroup\$
    – YogoZuno
    Commented Jul 28, 2014 at 3:15

Your main problem is that the Gunslinger is gimped by the awful Pathfinder gun rules. It will never have comparable damage to other characters. Consider getting your DM to allow better firearm rules, they exist for example in the Pathfinder Freeport Companion and Adamant Entertainment's Tome of Secrets.

Here's a set of gun rules I wrote for Pathfinder from the Geek Related blog. We've used them in a naval/pirate campaign for 6 years now and they've served us well; we have a cleric of Gozreh whose primary weaponry is guns. He carries a batch of them to offset the long reload. He has some trouble hitting things, but that's largely because he's just a L8 cleric with a modest DEX. These rules were published in a free supplement by LPJ Games that's gone missing from RPGNow.

My rules basically:

  • Use flat-footed AC not touch AC, because no other physical attacks ignore armor. If an ancestral rune encrusted +5 sword has to contend with your enchanted armor, so should bullets. Otherwise you can have all the super magic adamantine armor you want and it is zero worth against chunks of lead. Making specific nondamaging attacks touch is fine but shooting someone and hitting them to do damage is never a touch attack by core d20 ruleset theory.
  • Use high damage - 2d4 for a pistol, 2d8 for a musket, x3 crit, with "exploding" damage dice (reroll max damage dice and add to it)
  • Have slow reload (2 full round actions, Rapid Reload takes it to one), require Exotic Weapon Proficiency

By making guns have a big punch but not able to be fired multiple times a round, you get both greater realism vis-a-vis historical firearms ("I shot a flintlock 3 times last round whee" - really?) but you also get good burst damage output.

Then I've had some special firearms appear - Azlanti railguns, a magical powder horn that can be used to shoot underwater... Works out well for my group.


Guns aren't bad weapons with the base rules, they just seem to require a different kind of investment, like different magical bonuses and special magic items on the side...

Guns are expensive

Being a gunslinger allows you to craft your own weapons for half the price of the weapon. Since you mentioned wanting to use a revolver, it would cost you 2000 gp, as well as 4 days work. This can be compared to a fighter acquiring a suit of full plate armor (1500gp). It's a serious investment, but not one significantly higher than what other party members can expect to pay for their gear.

However, you are going to use those guns in a way that allows you to ignore armor modifiers to AC (within 5 range increments for a revolver, as its an advanced firearm). Ignoring armor is a bonus not unlike that of a brilliant energy weapon, which is a +4 bonus equivalent for a magic weapon.

In the end, as equipment goes, a gun is on the expensive side, but its main quality (ignores armor) is worth a lot more than what you're paying for. It's basically a rip-off!

Ammo is expensive

Is it? The abundant ammunition spell allows, for 1 minute per caster level, to replenish any ammo taken from a container, such as a quiver or a pouch. According to item creation rules, crafting a bullet pouch that refilled itself every time you took ammo out of it (use-activated) isn't so expensive :

  • 2000 gp base price (2000 x spell level 1 x caster level 1)
  • 100 gp for material components (unlimited charges costs the equivalent of 100 charges, which means 100 bullets worth 1 gp each)

Although the craft wondrous item feat has a pre-requisite of caster level 3rd, the craftsman can elect to cast the spells required for the item at a lower caster level, thus reducing the total cost of the item (included in the above estimate). If your wizard friend has the craft wondrous item feat, he can halve these costs, as you only need to supply him with the base materials. Alternatively, having the bullet pouch cast abundant ammunition on itself for 1 minute upon speaking a command word would reduce the cost slightly (1800 gp base price instead of 2000 gp).

As far as magic items go, this one is pretty cheap considering you'll never have to worry about ammo again! As a precaution, however, I'd recommend buying the spell fabricate bullets for your wizard friend to learn. That way, if you ever misplace your magic bullet pouch, you can still have him create 30 bullets per casting, providing you can find 2 gp worth of metal...

Guns don't add ability bonuses

At level 5, a gunslinger gains the gun training ability, which allows you to add your DEX modifier to the damage roll of one type of firearm. By definition, "pistols" should include revolvers. This is even better than bows, as you only need one single stat to do everything!

I guess that's it for this point: guns do apply ability modifiers to dmg rolls, at least for gunslingers of level 5 and above.

How to keep up with the damage output of other classes?

  • Get dexterity augmenting items: Your damage and chance to hit are both dependent on your dexterity. Boosting this stat should be your priority. As a bonus, your AC also goes up!
  • Prioritize elemental weapons over higher bonuses: You already ignore armor to hit, meaning you'll hit more often than your friends. Instead of going from a +1 gun to a +2 gun, opt for options like flaming, frost or lightning, which all add 1d6 to your damage. Alternatively, if your campaign is heavily thematic and you encounter mostly one type of enemies, bane becomes a very strong property.
  • Use the clustered shots feat: This feat allow you to add the damage of all your shots before applying enemy damage reductions. This will allow your gun damage to stay relevant on higher end monsters. This also allows you to cheese the massive damage optional rule if your GM uses it.
  • Use the deadly aim feat: This one is a matter of preference. Deadly aim is like the power attack feat for ranged weapons. However, the firearms rules state that using the deadly aim feat is not a touch attack even if within the proper range. (This means you still hit against touch AC and gain the benefit of deadly aim) If you can deal with that (you do have high DEX and the best BAB available, after all), it's potentially great damage.
  • Get more attacks: By dual-wielding pistols, you can get up to 8 attacks with the proper feats (4 base attacks, 3 for the dual-wielding feats, 1 for rapid shot).

After 2 rounds, my guns are empty! How do I reload fast enough to keep going?

In the real world, speed loaders exist. These devices allow you to load 6 bullets in a revolver simultaneously. You have to pre-load them with bullets, however. But... They're some sort of container, then... or do they not hold 6 bullets? If you can create a bullet pouch that refills infinitely, why not a speed loader? Note that you'll need 2 such speed loaders to recharge 2 pistols, as they can only refill once at the start of each round. With the rapid reload feat, a speed loader should allow you to reload a pistol as a free action, if your GM allows it.

  • \$\begingroup\$ No such thing as a late entry here! Funny that you should mention speed loaders, as there's a spell for that: paizo.com/pathfinderRPG/prd/ultimateCombat/spells/… \$\endgroup\$
    – Cthos
    Commented Nov 18, 2014 at 15:22
  • \$\begingroup\$ Now some critiques: Abundant Ammunition doesn't cover the cost of black powder, just the bullets. The powder is by far the more expensive of the components required to use guns. Fabricate Bullets has the same problem. I also think your calculations on the wonderous item creation cost are a bit off, you're missing the x2 cost for the spell being minutes per level. So it'd be 4,000 GP, not 2,000. \$\endgroup\$
    – Cthos
    Commented Nov 18, 2014 at 15:28
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ The spell says it replaces non-magical ammunition, with no distinction made between projectile and propellant. If both of these can be combined into a single item, "ammunition", why would the spell cover for only half of the ammo? I mean, people have been known to use paper cartridges for their musket and flintlocks for almost 500 years. Ammunition is also often defined as "the projectiles with their fuses, propelling charges, or primers fired from guns". There's a case to be made, here, and I guess it would be up to the GM to decide. \$\endgroup\$
    – Dungarth
    Commented Nov 18, 2014 at 23:01
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ See the thing is there are paper cartridges too: paizo.com/pathfinderRPG/prd/ultimateCombat/combat/firearms.html. I suppose you could replicate those. The main problem with just the bullets is you're pulling the bullets from a pouch, and the powder from a different container. But yeah, the cartridges could work. \$\endgroup\$
    – Cthos
    Commented Nov 18, 2014 at 23:29

I may be a bit late with this, but one thing to keep in mind if you play in the normal Pathfinder setting (Golarion). If you've got your eyes on a revolver, your DM may be more stringent with their availability - just because they're on the equipment tables doesn't mean you'll be able to find one.

The finalised gun rules* mention different stages of firearm availability and Golarion defaults to "Emerging Guns", meaning revolvers and other Advanced Firearms are very rare:

Firearms become more common. They are mass-produced by small guilds, lone gunsmiths, dwarven clans, or maybe even a nation or two—the secret is slipping out, and the occasional rare adventurer uses guns. The baseline Gunslinger rules and the prices for ammunition given in this chapter are for this type of campaign. Early firearms are available, but are relatively rare. Adventurers who want to use guns must take the Gunsmithing feat just to make them feasible weapons. Advanced firearms may exist, but only as rare and wondrous items—the stuff of high-level treasure troves.

Basically; it's entirely up to the DM where, when and how you get a revolver if you're using the normal Pathfinder setting as-is.

If this doesn't apply to your question, then just ignore it - but maybe it'll help anyone else who finds this page through Google.

*Found here: http://www.d20pfsrd.com/equipment---final/firearms


The answer to your cost-per-shot problem is buried in the starting Feats for Gunslingers.

Gunslingers start with Gunsmithing Feat. The Gunsmithing Feat allows you to (among other things):

"Crafting Ammunition: You can craft bullets, pellets, and black powder for a cost in raw materials equal to 10% of the price. If you have at least 1 rank in Craft (alchemy), you can craft alchemical cartridges for a cost in raw materials equal to half the price of the cartridge. At your GM's discretion, you can craft metal cartridges for a cost in raw materials equal to half the cost of the cartridge. Crafting bullets, black powder, or cartridges takes 1 day of work for every 1,000 gp of ammunition (minimum 1 day)."

So there you go. Gunslingers make their own ammo for 10% of the listed cost.

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    \$\begingroup\$ That's actually included in my calculations. The market price for a single shot is 11gp, 10 gp for the powder, and 1 gp for the bullet. paizo.com/pathfinderRPG/prd/ultimateCombat/combat/firearms.html :( (Also note that I said "A single shot, if made by the Gunslinger costs a minimum of 1gp 1sp"..) \$\endgroup\$
    – Cthos
    Commented Jun 6, 2012 at 18:27

The double pistol. It is a standard action to load each barrel of the gun, or a move action if your character has Rapid Reload for the specific gun (p. 136, Ultimate Combat).

The Gunslinger gains a massive damage boost at level 5 when you gain Gun Training, adding you Dex to damage, and as you are using a ranged weapon, and Dex is one of the biggest boosts to your AC, it is a huge damage bonus.

Your damage per hit might not be the highest in the party, but you are the most likely to hit of any member in the party, meaning your damage is likely to be the most consistent, and the highest on average. The only way to keep your damage on par and increasing at the same rate as your other party member is to have advanced firearms paired with rapid reload, so you can pump out the maximum amount of ammo. The Pistolero deed Up Close and Deadly also helps, especially when paired with Two-Weapon Fighting, Rapid Shot or Snap Shot feats.

The Gunslinger is not designed to be the highest damage-dealer, as they gain other abilities such as Nimble and Deeds, along with having more skills than a fighter. So, they are better understood as a cross between Fighter and Rogue.


Deadly Aim and Point Blank Shot combined with Rapid Shot offer the best boosts to damage. In my opinion, there is nothing wrong with the Paizo firearm rules. A misfire is easily resolved by a Gunslinger.


From my experience, gunslingers are just not going to end up doing as much damage as other combat focused characters. Damage isn't everything though and they are quite powerful in their own way. Being able to deal damage vs touch AC with a weapon is incredibly powerful.

A fighter has the best BAB you can get because it needs it. He needs to be able to beat that 30+ AC from monsters once he reaches higher levels or he can't deal damage and he may still only hit 2-3 times with his 4-5 attacks (hasted.)

A wizard has the worse BAB progression and can still only fire off 2 rays that hit touch AC a round (with a swift cast from metamagic.)

A gunslinger has the best BAB you can get. With haste you can attack 5 times. Add all the two-weapon fighting feats and you get 8 attacks. If you're using revolvers, and getting full attacks off every round, you are hitting for 8-64 damage with no bonuses from magic whatsoever and you're probably hitting 7-8 times because touch AC is not hard to beat when you are adding double digit bonuses to every attack.

You may not hit hard, but you will most certainly be dealing damage. The longer combat goes on, the more you'll balance out with the rest of the party if not surpass them.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Can you address the problem around spending 8.8 gp while making all these attacks? Seems like at "lower" (right after being able to get multiple attacks) you'll be spending a fair chunk of your wealth-per-level on ammunition. Especially if you throw in alchemical rounds. \$\endgroup\$
    – Cthos
    Commented Jul 14, 2014 at 17:40
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Cthos Leadership, and a wizard cohort (or a wizard dip or custom magic item). Blood Money + Fabricate Bullets. Abundant Ammunition. Reloading Hands. BM+FB still needs powder, and RH only gives you one free shot per gun per round, but both still help. AA is best of these, and if combined with Rapid Reload, 2 Pepperboxes, and a pouch with 1 more alchemical cartridge than the number of shots you make per round, can get your ammunition costs to zero fairly easily. There are probably plenty of other ways, but these are what come immediately to mind. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jul 30, 2014 at 0:31
  • \$\begingroup\$ @MatthewNajmon - Sounds like a good answer if you can flesh it out a bit more. \$\endgroup\$
    – Cthos
    Commented Jul 30, 2014 at 15:53

Dont go for number of shots instead go for vital strike and its variants. It will make each shot more damaging and all for the price of one shot instead of multiple. Also go for improved critical if viable and devastating strike to add just a touch more. Also one of the gunslinger abilities adds your dex to damage plus a small amount of extra. That's what I did with my Gunslinger and he keeps up with the fighter most of the time while taking less damage most of the time.

  • \$\begingroup\$ From a cost/shot perspective, you're right. However, your damage is lacking if this is your main idea. At level 7, two shots from a Gunslinger at BAB 7 + Dex 6 (max + belt) + Enhance 1 = Total +14 vs. Touch using a Pistol would get 1d8+7 each for a total of 2d8+14 damage potential, as opposed to 2d8+7 damage potential with Vital Strike. Worse, Vital Strike has the same chance to miss as your primary attack. I'm not looking super-deep into the mechanics for a comment, but I disagree that Vital Strike is a good investment for a Gunslinger based on numbers. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Apr 14, 2018 at 15:40

I've played a lot of gunslingers, and they usually end up being the primary damage dealers for the party (until the fighter starts going up his vital feat chain more). First trick is to pick a style and it's corresponding archetype...not as required as one might think, but if you're trying to etch out as much damage as you can, either going Musket Master (for the fast reloading, allowing you to multi-hit with a 1d12 musket with full attacks) or Pistolero (for up-close-and-deadly deed).

The second bit is to pick your weapons well...Musket Master gives you the Musket, Blunderbuss, Rifle, and Shotgun...plus their double-barrel variants where appropriate. For Pistols, you've got the single and double barrels, the revolver, and if your DM is fun, sawn-off-shotguns (which are awesome, though currently homebrew only...so we'll ignore that for now).

Now, remember the double-barrels because they are important. Most double-barrel firearms have the option to fire both barrels with each attack, allowing you to double your damage output per a hit. A 1d8 pistol becomes 2d8...a double barrel shotgun loaded with solid slugs does 4d8. Now, you might be saying to yourself: But that's a -4 penalty...and using bullets in your scatter weapon, that's another -2/4....true...and if you were making normal attacks, that would be a problem. Especially once you start throwing in Deadly Aim, Rapid Shot, Called Shots...etc.

And this comes in the third thing to remember: Your range. If you're a musket master, you're at your best at 30ft typically. Point Blank Shot kicks in. If you're a pistoleer, this is 20ft (10-15 if you're using dragon pistols). Stay in this range as much as possible...not only for PBS...but also to keep your attacks against Touch AC.

Because you're not having to punch through armour, shields, Natural armour, etc, you can typically afford to allow for those penalties to accumulate. There is a point where the pens can get aggregiaous, but it's typically situational at which point this occurs.

Example. I'm a level 5 Musket Master (18 DEX) with a Masterwork Double-barrel Musket. I'm making my attack at +4/+4 ranged touch, do to Rapid Shot, Deadly Aim, and firing both barrels at once. Each of those attacks are worth 2d12+9...or 2d12+18 (depends on how your DM reads the rules...but either way, it's a pretty brutal). If you crit, that's 8d12+36/72. That +4/+4 might be a problem, if i

Eventually, throw on feats like Clustered Shots (count all of your attacks as a single attack for purposes of DR, allowing you to bloow

  • \$\begingroup\$ How are you firing two shots at level 5? Even with class abilities and rapid reload, it's still a move action to reload each barrel. You could use alchemical cartridges, but they increase the misfire chance, and the cost of ammunition dramatically, as you only get a 50% discount to crafting them, as opposed to the usual 90%, and you also have to expend skills in craft alchemy to do so, and a lot of them if you don't want to risk wasting material on failed attempts. \$\endgroup\$
    – Zach
    Commented Feb 12, 2015 at 11:17

I don't know if this is exactly completely RAW but this is what I did. Get the biggest gun you can, most damage as possible. Every last bit is important. There's a feat in PF that lets you double, triple, then quadruple your damage with each shot. Vital shot it was called and its improved versions. Then you enchant your gun to have double crit range, take a feat to increase crit range and all that. You should be able to get it to 10-20 crit range. Then what you do is do the sniper shot where you roll all your attacks into one shot. If one is a crit they're all basically crits. So what happens is your attack is equivalent to 4 shots, it crits for 16 times damage, then with your feats its around 64 times damage. On a 1d8 pistol that's 64-512 damage.

Edit: There's also a god-touched template that doubles crit rate with all weapons so its possible to get 10-20 crit rate. But other than that, yeah, I doubted that was okay but still. I tried. :P

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    \$\begingroup\$ This does not work for at least three different reasons: 1. "Keen" does not stack with "Improved Critical", nor do any other crit-range modifiers AFAIK. 2. Vital Strike requires the use of the Attack action (aka a standard action attack), and is thus incompatible with Dead Shot. 3. Vital Strike's Bonus Weapon Dice explicitly do not multiply on a critical hit. \$\endgroup\$
    – MrLemon
    Commented Jul 14, 2014 at 17:03

You should have a high DEX-Bonus because you can rise your damage by adding DEX directly (on Level 5) or by reducing your attack roll to increase your damage roll (double Barrel or 2 weapons Shooting simultaneously or feats)

I'm still Level 4 and I got the feat for -1 on attack rolls, +2 on damage rolls, rising every 4 BAB by -1/+2 on this Level, using a musket and dealing 1d10+4 or next Level 1d10+8 damage by adding the Dex-bonus with gun Training
for a normal sized char that would be 1d12+8, if you use a double-Barrel-weapon u get a second dice, for more damage u should get the feat for faster reload, this should be some damage.

And again, Level 7 you get dead shot, asking your GM he may allows you to make a double Barrel shot with both Barrels as a "single attack" for this, giving you 2 additional dices for every additional attack you could do with your BAB, on Level 7 that would be 4d of your weapon, the bigger the weapon the more damage.

If that's not much damage for a touch-attack if u stay in range, then I need references for the damage you want to deal because compared to the last 3 parties I have played or seen this is above average, even the berserk had more, but not much more.

Now comes something which you haven't exactly asked for, but may be also useful. Gunslinger is a class which got also some stats useful if the party lacks a rogue/ranger, with his need of wisdom and dexterity he can use nearly every skill which is important for both of this classes.

Also Gunslinger doesn't Change much for damage calculation if you use small or normal sized classes if you reach Level 5, because the damage step reduces the damage by 1-2 but the static damage rises by 1 for DEX-Bonus all small races I can remember have, so its one of the best Options for damage with small classes.

Using other feats for stealth or similar things, it's nothing special to get a +15 bonus on stealth if you think he should be a bit sneaky to get into a good shooting position (maybe the roof of a near building), if it is a small race, and even normal sized can get a +10 bonus or something close to that very early.

Additionally if you've just got an average chain skirt made of mithril you easily achieve an AC of 20 or even more on low levels without slowing you down in any way (my Kobold Level 4 got 24), which is huge compared to most characters in not-heavy-armor.

It's very important because a gunslinger is a ranged fighter, but he still stays at close range to get the best use with his weapon, so he sometimes gets caught in melee fights.

Better watch the whole pack instead of a single part.
The gunslinger is one of the few classes which get a really decent damage even with a terrible strength, beside magic users, crossbow users and the first hit of a stealthy thief.

Who uses a crossbow as main weapon? No one, it has no style.

And thieves get only a first hit with this damage (maybe with some feats a second one, I'm not sure) IF he is able to sneak.

So only magic users are left and they've got very limited uses of spells.


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