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I'm a new pathfinder player that just rolled a gulch gunner: the ratfolk gunslinger archetype that specializes on close quarter attacks with guns to regain grit. I've tried to find a clear answer to this question elsewhere, but have found conflicting information.

From what I understand, rapid reload reduces reloading time for a single-handed pistol from a standard action to a move action. Combining this with paper cartridges further reduces reload time to a free action.

So, if I move to a spot adjacent to an opponent, perform a ranged attack, and provoke an attack of opportunity (thus regaining grit—the principal mechanic of gulch gunner play), can I use the rapid reload (pistol) + paper cartridge combo to reload my weapon without provoking another attack of opportunity that is usually associated with reloading time? Or, does reloading (even as a free action) always provoke an AoO if I am in range?

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Although "[f]ree actions rarely incur attacks of opportunity," reloading a firearm is a free action that totally can. The Paizo messageboards agree that reloading—unless a creature has something special that modifies the action—provokes attacks of opportunity no matter how long it takes to do so.

That is, because neither the feat Rapid Reload nor alchemical cartridges say they eliminate the attack of opportunity that's provoked for reloading a firearm, neither do eliminate that attack of opportunity, even when used in conjunction. In fact, the feat Rapid Reload says, "Reloading a… firearm still provokes attacks of opportunity."

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Yes, reloading as a free action still provokes an Attack of Opportunity for a Firearm for all the reasons mentioned in Hey I Can Chan's answer.

If you wanted to not provoke Attacks of Opportunity for reloading then the Deft Shootist Deed is an option. Unfortunately it also means you don't provoke Attacks of Opportunity when shooting either, so you lose one of the key bonuses for the Gulch Gunner!

You could do some very careful Grit management with this Feat (Have no Grit to start with, provoke an AoO when firing, gain Grit from Daring Adjacent Shot so you don't provoke AoO when Reloading etc.) but this seems like a bit too much effort.

On the other hand, once you have made your initial attack and your opponents have made their Attacks of Opportunity you should be able to Reload quite freely because they generally only have one such attack per round.

A wily GM might start giving enemies Combat Reflexes to surprise you every now and again though, so be warned!

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Yeah, that's a good point about Deft Shootist Deed—seems like a useful deed for gunslingers more generally but does not compliment gulch gunner play at all... \$\endgroup\$ – Thraupidae Sep 12 '16 at 14:39

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