The Pistol and the SMG: Unappreciated Pea-shooters?

In the majority of FPS games, your selection of weapons includes at least these three Faithfuls: the pistol, the machine gun and the shotgun. Your pistol is typically considered a back-up weapon, acquired early in the game and perhaps coupled with a melee option. Your machine gun is quite inaccurate but delivers lots of ouchies per second. Your shotgun is slow to fire and only effective at close range, but makes up for it by blowing your enemies’ heads open in one hit.

TF2 is not the majority of FPS games. Just think about Soldier for a second. Valve could have easily given him an AK-47 and sent him marching up the hill in Badlands. But no, they gave him a rocket launcher so he could propel himself up and right onto the control point, dismembering his foes in the process. The only form of machine gun used by a class is the Sniper’s SMG. Unless you count the upgraded Sentries, that is.

I’ve covered the shotgun in a different article ( ) and why it’s a lot more useful than it may look. The fact that four classes (five including Scout’s Scattergun) use the shotgun should be enough of a hint. So that leaves the Pistol, which is used by Engineer and Scout as a stock secondary. All three of the Faithful Trio are to be found in this beloved game.

What I can’t help but wonder is, are the Pistol and SMG unnecessarily weak? Why haven’t they been granted the firepower of their counterparts in other games? My friends generally agree that they’re a bit underpowered and shrug it off as being a property of all stock weapons. My enemies tend to answer the question by setting me on fire. Then it’s Shotgun time.

Here are some stats for the two pea-shooters in question, from the TF2 wiki:

TF2 Pistol and Machinegun stats
Screenshots from

According to the above, at its optimal range the Pistol can manage 88 damage per second, the SMG just 80. That’s ignoring fall-off (ugh) or ramp-up (go away Pyro). It’s enough to remove a decent slice of an enemy’s health. If you’re an Engineer, the Pistol can finish off those who weren’t hammered enough by your Sentry. If you’re a Scout, you can use it to annoy Engineers because that’s your job. If you’re a Sniper going against an overhealed Heavy, your SMG can make up for whatever your headshot didn’t take off them.

That’s not bad, but in TF2 you might not even get one second before that Pyro fries you. Or you might run out of ammo too early. Or your target might be dodging like the Chosen One and making you waste bullets. It’s understandable why players might get frustrated with these basic weapons.

Consider some other game featuring a pistol and a machine gun. I’d pick the example of BioShock, that brilliant combination of steampunk engineering and misuse of gene therapy. In the BioShock series you have the Faithful Trio which all sort of complement each other. The shotgun, pistol and machine gun are all powerful assets when used correctly. Your pistol behaves more like a real gun than a spam weapon, and your machine gun will tear off faces without their owners ever knowing you were there. Of course, in the original game you could also load up three different ammo types, but that’s a whole other article.

Why didn’t Valve give the TF2 equivalents that kind of strength? Sure, the Pistol and SMG we know might be more accurate. Also the Pistol tends to have a higher magazine capacity than in other games. However these little advantages don’t seem like enough to compensate.

What I’m really asking is, why aren’t these weapons like the weapons in other games? Think about it; the answer’s actually quite obvious.

Robotic Pyro watching TV underwater
Well, depends on your definition of obvious.

What about all these other original weapons and skills that Valve have granted us? Unique melee tools for each class, rocket and stickybomb jumps, syringe launchers and urine-charged sniper rifles. In the bigger scheme, that little Pistol and that unimpressive SMG aren’t such a problem. They provide back-ups to other, more useful and more interesting gear. They aren’t like their equivalents in other FPS games because TF2 isn’t like other FPS games. That is why it’s such a great game!

Not that there’s anything wrong with BioShock, of course. Just that it wasn’t made by Valve.

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