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Valorant Pistols: Some are better than others

By Carver FisherJuly 23, 2020
Figuring out what to do with Creds can be a difficult proposition when trying to learn Valorant. In later stages of the game, buys can be pretty straightforward: buy a Vandal, Heavy Armor, maybe some abilities. The Operator can be a good choice, and the Spectre is good if you’re down on economy. Obviously it’s a bit more complicated than that, but most players can get by without experimenting with other options. Sticking to the meta works, but there’s usually other options worth exploring.
The same could be said of the pistol round. Why not stick with the Classic and save your money? Or, if you’re confident in your aim, why buy anything other than the Ghost? Well, there’s more to the weapon selection than those two guns, both in pistol round and beyond. Let’s take a look at all the Sidearm options, as well as other strategies for finding an early lead in the pistol round.

Classic

The Classic is anything but. Yes, it’s the pistol everyone starts with. It’s free and reliable when necessary, but there’s more to the weapon than meets the eye.

Pros:

It’s free! Never a bad choice due to how valuable economy is in early rounds.
30 meter dropoff range gives it a longer effective range than some other Sidearms as well as all of the SMGs and Shotguns.
Effective alt-fire when used properly.

Cons:

Lowest DPS out of all the Sidearms at close range.
78 headshot damage, meaning the Classic will always take at least two shots to kill.
Alt-fire expends ammo quickly, making the magazine feel like it has less than 12 rounds.

Should you buy it?

This pistol is always a solid option. Problem is, it’s never the best option. Getting out-traded by someone who has a Ghost and hits a headshot is a common occurrence in pistol rounds, and it can often be worth the investment to buy a better Sidearm. That said, holding onto your economy and setting yourself up for future rounds is a good strategy.
However, there’s a way to circumvent the issue by purchasing Light Armor and knowing how to use the Classic’s alt-fire. Two body shots followed by a right-click will easily secure kills on non-armored targets, and the investment in Light Armor doesn’t feel too bad when the Classic is free, anyways. Remember to shoot single fire before using the shotgun-like alt-fire, as the fire rate delay incurred by using the alt-fire won’t matter if the enemy is already dead. Using the alt-fire and not killing your target usually results in getting killed, so make sure you know the three-shot spread will kill the target. This will take a while to get the hang of, but it’s an integral part of succeeding with this weapon.

Shorty

It’s easy to write off the Shorty. Beyond a few meters, this weapon is a joke. If you miss the two shots the weapon has before requiring a reload, your fate is sealed. On paper, there’s a lot of cons to purchasing the Shorty. However, that doesn’t mean it’s not worth taking a look at.

Pros:

Unbeatable at close range amongst the other Sidearms.
Doesn’t require headshots for a fast time to kill.
Very cheap at 200 Creds.
Can kill in one shot.

Cons:

Very quick damage fall-off combined with a wide pellet spread makes this weapon inconsistent past 5 meters.
Two shots isn’t a huge margin for error.
Should never be bought outside the pistol round.
Worse at higher levels of play.

Should you buy it?

Honestly? The Shorty is almost never worth it. It can be a fun option, but it’s also something of a crutch. A good player with a Ghost will always have better one-shot potential than someone with a Shorty. It’s only good in very limited situations, and the lack of flexibility in a game with so many long sightlines makes it hard to warrant purchasing a Shorty.
That said, there are a few ways to make the weapon work. The most effective way to use this weapon seems to be by purchasing it in tandem with vision-obstructing abilities. For instance, buying a Shorty with Phoenix’s Curveball can be a great way to entry frag in the pistol round. Another strategy is to have all five players buy a Shorty and rush together. Is that a good strategy? No, but it’s definitely a fun one.

Frenzy

This weapon’s name suits it well. The Frenzy is all about doing the highest DPS possible by having a fast fire rate. Problem is, the small magazine size and unpredictable spread make it hard to recommend.

Pros:

Highest rate of fire in the Sidearms category.
Decent damage numbers; it does the same damage per shot as the Classic at 20 meters or below.

Cons:

Unpredictable spread.
Low magazine size and low ammo reserves.
Gets beaten at longer ranges, while being a worse close range option than other guns in the category.
Costs 400 Creds for no real advantage over other Sidearms.

Should you buy it?

There’s a reason it’s extremely rare to see a Frenzy in-game. Yes, having a high fire rate is nice. The problem is that fire rate comes at the cost of accuracy and magazine size. Unfortunately, there isn’t a scenario where the Frenzy is a viable option. At least, not over other weapons in the category.

Ghost

There’s a reason the Ghost is king of the pistol round.

Pros:

105 damage to the head at up to 30m, meaning a one-shot headshot on anyone without armor.
Highest magazine size in the category with 15 rounds.
Accurate enough to be reliably used at longer range.
Rewards high skill.

Cons:

Effectiveness falls off after the pistol round, does poorly against armored foes.
Requires high skill for a noticeable advantage.
Pricy at 500 Creds.

Should you buy it?

If you’re willing to dish out the Creds, this is the best option in the category. It’s the most reliable weapon in the pistol round due to the high magazine size and one-shot kill capabilities. Even if the enemy team decides to buy Light Armor (which is somewhat rare for pistol rounds), a one-shot kill turns into two. That’s still a huge advantage over every other Sidearm.
Other options might be a bit more friendly to newer players, but don’t be afraid to purchase the Ghost if you don’t think you’re the best at shooters. The pistol round is much more forgiving than any other round that introduces other weapons into the mix, so it’s the perfect opportunity to get good with the weapon. In other words, play to become a better player rather than relying on easier to use weapons against players of similar skill. I know it’s appealing to grab a Shorty and rush someone who can’t land shots, but it’s better to be the player who rushes someone and headshots them with a Ghost.

Sheriff

The Sheriff is a weird case. When it comes to the pistol round, there’s no reason to buy this weapon. It performs worse than the Ghost in almost every situation, and it’s more expensive than any other option. However, there are points in the game that this weapon has its uses. This is the only Sidearm that can be recommended for a purchase outside of the pistol round in my opinion, but that’s only for a few players.

Pros:

One-shot headshot on players with Heavy Armor up to 30 meters out. Against anything but a 150 health target, it’s a one-shot headshot at any range.
While it’s too expensive for a pistol round, the Sheriff is a great economy option for later rounds.

Cons:

Small magazine size.
Worse than the Ghost in pistol round in almost every way, and more expensive at 800 Creds.
Requires a high skill level and confidence to use in later rounds. If you don’t headshot your target, you lose.

Should you buy it?

The Sheriff holds a strange place among the other Sidearms. There’s no situation I’d recommend this gun in for the pistol round unless you’re trying to flex on the enemy team. The Ghost is cheaper and more reliable. However, if you’re confident in your ability to hit headshots, this is a great economy option if you’re down on Creds in later rounds. Instead of buying a Spectre with Heavy Armor, why not drop 800 Creds and have enough to buy what you want for the next round? Taking a gamble can pay off sometimes, and it’s a fun way to test your skill while simultaneously setting yourself up to be in a good place for the next round.

General Pistol Round Tips

Space Your Shots

Spacing out shots is important when using the Ghost, Classic, and Sheriff at longer ranges. Bullets will quickly deviate from the center of your crosshair if you spam shots. Taking the time to breathe, land shots, and stay calm under fire is a skillset that takes a while to self-discipline. However, learning how to master this tactic with pistols will guarantee that you can out-trade most players at range.

Only Purchase Abilities if You Have a Strategy

This is one of the biggest mistakes newer players make. There’s some characters whohave abilities that are well suited for the pistol round. For instance, I mentioned Phoenix earlier; his Curveball is great if your team is trying to rush a certain part of the map. However, most abilities in Valorant are meant for area denial and vision obstruction. Fighting with pistols at long range takes a lot more precision than using an Operator on a long sightline, so having abilities like Jett’s smoke on pistol round won’t give nearly as much of an advantage as they will in later rounds.
While it’s true that abilities don’t go away upon death, they can’t be sold, either. Putting Creds into abilities might be the difference between having solid buys the round after pistol round and getting destroyed by other players who can afford SMGs. Economy is important for the entire game, so don’t put yourself at a disadvantage from the get-go.

Take Fights Carefully

This tip applies to defense for the most part, although it can be useful for attacking as well. It’s a good tip in general, but especially for the pistol round. Let’s say that your team leaves you to defend a certain angle by yourself. The round starts, and a thunderous cacophony of footsteps echoes down the hallway. Running into the entire enemy team or waiting for them to come to you is probably a bad idea. Instead, run the other way and call for your team to rotate.
The call might be different in other rounds. A Vandal would be able to spray and take out one or two guys, maybe more. One man with a Ghost isn’t nearly as powerful against a huge force like that, and your death is all but guaranteed. It’s ok to be patient and avoid taking engagements that will most certainly end in death.

Don’t Be Afraid to Take An Eco Round

It’s not gg if your team loses the pistol round. Often, the team that wins pistol round will invest in Armor and mid-tier weapons (most often the Spectre). Taking pistols into a machine gun fight will often result in a loss, but that’s not a huge deal. It feels bad to lose two rounds in a row out the gate, but that’s preferable to being behind on economy for the rest of the game.
Mastering the pistol round is more difficult than it’d initially appear. There’s a lot of decisions to make depending on what Agent you’re playing and how much you want to commit to winning the pistol round. Getting used to the pistols is an important part of improving, so get in there and try a little bit of everything! Except for the Frenzy.
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