Rifle vs Laser Pistol

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The following discussion originally took place in the Rifle Talk page comparing the basic Rifle against the Laser Pistol. Until a proper article for this section is drafted, the original discussion will be preserved in its entirety for the time being.

Rifle vs Laser Pistol?

Do Rifles offer any advantages at all relative to Laser Pistols, once you get Laser Pistols? In Snap fire, the Rifle has 20% more net accuracy (accuracy x rate of fire), but the Laser Pistol has over 50% more damage per hit. In Auto mode, the Laser Pistol has about twice the net accuracy, plus the same damage advantage (which is even more important if the target has good armour). The only advantage for a Rifle would seem to be for Aimed fire against a lightly armoured target. But how often do we really use Aimed fire? Personally, I just use continuous snap fire instead - if I get lucky, I have some spare TUs to use on other tasks. Probably I would only use Aimed fire if a friendly unit was very near to the target.

The other suggestion that was made in the text is to use Rifles to train up firing accuracy, because of the greater likelihood of a hit. This is true in the early game, but even for this role, the Laser Pistol will create more successful hits per turn (in Snap or Auto) and without ever running out of ammunition.

On top of this, of course, is the fact that a Laser Pistol gives you unlimited ammunition for one item slot, compared to 20 shots for 2 slots with the Rifle. In extended battles, you will run out of Rifle ammo and so spare clips are needed, eating further into the 80 item limit. Plus you have the advantage vs Sectopods and the relative advantage versus AP-resistant aliens. There seem to be no down-sides to the Laser Pistol.

So, in conclusion, do we throw away Rifles as fast as we get Laser Pistols, or is there some other reason for keeping Rifles around? For the time being, I am just going to carry one or two, probably in backpacks, for the occasional long range Aimed shot. And yet, I have the nagging feeling that my soldiers were more effective with Rifles than with laser pistols, especially at longer ranges. Is that just my imagination? Spike 13:56, 21 September 2008 (PDT)

You can CHOOSE TO throw away Rifles as soon as you get Laser Pistols, yes. The Laser Pistol is overall better in most areas(though it is the least accurate weapon in the game in all categories.) The Laser Pistol is in the tech tree between a good weapon and a better weapon. It's hard to use effectively with fresh troops(though vets with Laser Pistols can be SCARY) and you often don't need the extra punch it provides right when you get it.
As such, the Laser Pistol is intended to serve much the same role as the Pistol and Plasma Pistol: a specialist weapon that fits on the belt that can easily by toted by troopers carrying lots of rockets or other large items, or has to carry something in their other hand (Psi-Amp, Medi-Kit, Motion Scanner, or another weapon) and doesn't want an accuracy penalty. (And in the case of the Plasma Pistol, one that also is acceptably accurate and packs quite a punch.)
The main thing the Laser Pistol does in most games is allows the player to quickly gain access to the Laser Rifle. The Laser Rifle is one of the best weapons in the game and makes the Rifle obsolete, offering all the advantages of a Laser Pistol and also topping or matching the Rifle in speed in all categories and topping it in accuracy outside of Aimed mode(which as you noted is rarely used).
One thing that should be noted about weapons is you shouldn't upgrade automatically unless the benefits are clearly insurmountable. If you don't need the extra kick of the Laser Pistol to kill the current aliens, you shouldn't be using them as standard equipment.
But my summed up opinion is as follows: Unless you're having trouble killing aliens, skip the Laser Pistol except as a replacement for Pistols and go straight for the Laser Rifle to replace the Rifle as standard gear. (I expect NKF to disagree.) Arrow Quivershaft 14:46, 21 September 2008 (PDT)

I loves my precious. However I don't quite disagree. Laser rifles are better immediate replacements for the rifle in general, although in the interim, I'd actually replace them with the basic pistol right away, since I want the rapid snapshots and the other hand free for grenades. The pistol and rifle share the same snap accuracy and trade off minimal damage for an extra shot (i.e. more damage overall, better reactions and somewhat better mobility). The loss of autoshot firepower is made up by the grenades and my dedicated rocket launcher. But at the start, it's really up to you what you want to use as your primary weapon set, just as long as you can comfortably handle cyberdiscs when they show up.
By the way, laser pistols do NOT fare well against sectopods with standard armour. Please trust me on that one! -NKF 23:16, 21 September 2008 (PDT)

Laser Pistol Wins- BIG!

Laser Pistols are far FAR better than standard Rifles all the time. This is due to "shots per TU" and cumulative probability. Just use auto all the time.

Shot per shot, rifles are more accurate, but Laser pistols get more shots into the air for the same TU. To be fair you have to factor that in. For example, 1 aimed shot on a rifle is 80% of TU, vs 1 aimed and one auto for a Laser pistol for the same 80% TU. In most cases the laser pistol has a greater chance of connecting with ONE of those shots because you can shoot so many extra times.

Hit =1-[{(%Chance of auto MISS)^3 } X {%Chance of snap MISS}]

For example: A solider with 40% accuracy with any weapon has a:

  • 56.0% chance of missing with ONE shot from an aimed rifle, and a 44.0% chance of hitting ONCE.
  • 53.2% chance of missing with ALL FOUR shots and a 46.8% chance of hitting ONCE out of 4 attempts.

However there is no reason to aim with the laser pistol since aiming sucks... so spending 75% of TU for 9 shots fired on auto:

  • 34.3% chance of missing with ALL NINE shots and a 65.7% chance of hitting ONCE out of 9 attempts.

You can see always compare 9 attempts (75% of TU) to connect with the laser pistol on auto vs firing a single aimed shot from the rifle (80% of TU) including the 110% bonus for rifle aiming. Here are the chances of hitting just a single time with those 2 options:

  • @40% accuracy = 44.0% rifle VS 65.7% laser pistol
  • @50% accuracy = 55.0% rifle VS 74.3% laser pistol
  • @60% accuracy = 66.0% rifle VS 80.9% laser pistol
  • @70% accuracy = 77.0% rifle VS 89.8% laser pistol
  • @80% accuracy = 88.0% rifle VS 92.7% laser pistol
  • @90% accuracy = 99.0% rifle VS 94.8% laser pistol

It doesn't matter how the % of accuracy is arrived at. It's the Accuracy formula excluding "b" (b= weapon type).

As you can 9 shots on auto from a laser pistol is better than a standard rifle. If the soldier has 90% accuracy then he has a 2.1% greater chance to hit. However the laser pistol is still better because of the other benefits such as;

  • unlimited ammo,
  • 5% TU benefit,
  • TU available for reaction shot,
  • no -20% 2-handed penalty,
  • no clip for the 80-item limit
  • PLUS the other 8 shots that miss might remove cover or might hit a 2nd alien.

Laser pistols win hands down. It's so good I prefer it as my primary weapon for all of the game. In early game it's the best choice on a statistical basis, but in late game I still use them because of Experience Training. I still carry Heavy Plasmas in backpacks but rarely use them because I want to put multiple shots into a single alien. Sectopods are a good example when I DON'T use a LP. A 4x4 wall of soldiers in flying suits with laser pistols is nasty.

BTW: In case someone wants to use/check my data, here is a spreadsheet:

If someone wants to play around checking other weapons or making graphs etc, go nuts. Only 6 cells have data so it's easy to throw in stats for other weapons. I never bothered since I don't use the other laser or plasma weapons due to research reasons rather than stats reasons. --Brunpal 18:28, 24 September 2008 (PDT)

Wow...NKF, I think you have competition. You might even have been dethroned. EDIT: Thanks, I actually forgot for once. Thanks. Arrow Quivershaft 18:39, 24 September 2008 (PDT)
I remember a time when people made jokes about the laser pistol and mocked it as being no better than a paper weight or simply as something useless to arm cannon fodder with. I'm really glad I went through the whole convoluted series of events that resulted in me me adopting it as my all-time favourite weapon. I admit it is not always the right tool for every occasion. As you can see by the numbers - it actually has far better potential than the weapon stats appear to suggest.
The laser pistol should pretty much always be fired on auto, and reaction fire. Any other mode of fire is wasteful - hence why I alluded to the submachine gun analogy back in one of the earlier drafts of the LP article. -NKF 22:42, 24 September 2008 (PDT)
I pretty much accept everyone's arguments above. To rephrase my original question - if Laser Pistols were the most advanced weapon you currently possessed, and you had enough of them to arm all your troops, would there be any reason to give any of your troops a Rifle (or a Pistol) - even just carried in a backpack? Putting it another way, is there ever a tactical situation where a single accurate shot or burst is more important than total firepower over the whole turn? I mentioned the situation where friendlies are near the target. Another possibility might be if the alien has high reactions/TUs and you really need that "first shot assured kill".
By the way, NKF, I added your submachinegun point to the LP article. Presumably you would not prefer Pistols over Rifles if you were fighting Snakemen or Mutons? - the armour penalties make the damage difference quite important with those races. And point taken about Sectopods. Spike 12:41, 26 September 2008 (PDT)
I'd originally written it as submachine gun, but hadn't realized it had been changed until you changed it back.
I wouldn't worry too much about Snakemen - they fall easily to pistol rounds. It's their Chryssalid pals that really need the extra firepower that the pistols and rifles don't provide. Mutons and Ethereals have the advantage of protection and lots of health. The pistol is still good for general leisurely potshots on weaker aliens as you don't always need tons of firepower; It's a great way to show off. Of course, a single laser pistol can wipe out an entire alien base, so I'd agree that it is much more efficient.
If anyone hasn't tried it before, it's worth trying a game where you use the three pistols as your primary firearms. It's quite interesting, although the weird pistol arming bug can be quite a nuisance at times when it occurs. -NKF 15:10, 26 September 2008 (PDT)

Any reason to arm troops with regular Pistol? A: Yes- Experience Training and giving love taps to aliens in the hopes of stunning them without killing them (assuming no small launcher). Regular Rifle? A: No. None that I can think of. Any situation I can think of where I'd rather have a rifle, I'd prefer to have a different weapon like a rocket launcher, auto-cannon, heavy cannon. In all tactical situations the standard rifle is at best a 2nd choice given Laser Pistols and other standard weapons. (Maybe in the specific case of having enough STR to carry a rifle, but not enough STR to carry an auto-cannon... but that's a small range of STR and I don't micromanage solider equip to that degree to know the breakpoint while I'm playing.) BTW I've had rifle shots bounce off lowly sectoids so "first shot assured kill" can't apply because even an assured hit is not an assured kill with a rifle.--Brunpal 00:00, 27 September 2008 (PDT)

Save The Rifle From Extinction

Hmm, since it's been clearly established that the pistol owns the rifle any day, what can you think of that would reestablish a bit of balance? For long range firing, there is no question that a rifle should win over a pistol. A crude solution would be to add a "target out of range" message when trying to fire too far with a pistol; this would make the pistol good for indoor situation (assault teams), and make rifles good for peeking aliens in the distance by sweep teams. Seb76 01:51, 27 September 2008 (PDT)
Not crazy about that, but it is simple. I like Seb76's ideas from the wish list talk page more. You should talk to him. ;-) --~~

Prior to getting Laser Pistols, I give Rifles to everyone is capable of doing reaction fire, and everyone else gets heavy weapons (AutoCannon, RocketLauncher, HeavyCannon) - or at least everyone who is strong enough. This is because I don't see the point of loading AP rounds into heavy weapons and I don't want the risk of "friendly fire" from doing reaction fire with HE rounds. The only situation where I think differently is on a Terror mission, when I may need to single out aliens from nearby civilians. In those situation I used to issue more Rifles. But then I got cynical and decided it's better just to kill all the aliens and clear cover with maximum firepower, and let the Public Relations division blame any civilian casualties on the aliens.

After reading NKF's and Brunpal's points I went back to my Firepower spreadsheet and tweaked it to reflect the assumption that weapon Damage level isn't very important for lightly armoured targets (Sectoids and Floaters). If you assume damage is unimportant (probably true since only a few points of penetrating damage causes massive Health loss), the Pistol actually does beat the Rifle hands down in all situations - as NKF has been telling us for ages! So then, as Seb76 points out, there is a game balance problem - the Rifle goes the way of the Dodo and the Heavy Laser. That's not good. It would be nice to get a generic solution to buff all the long-range weapons - Rifle and Heavy Laser.

(There is also the slightly related problem that Aimed Fire isn't efficient. Pretty much across the board, the efficiency ratio, accuracy::TUs used, is worse with Aimed Fire than with Snap Fire. Snap Fire is the most efficient. That's a pretty basic game design flaw, and hard to fix. Definitely it is good to apply Seb76's mod for non-visible targets, as that mod shifts the balance back toward Aimed Fire. This mod also very slightly buffs Rifles relative to Pistols, since in Aimed Fire Pistols are less superior to Rifles - but still superior.)

I can't really see a way of correcting this Rifle obsolescence problem, other than coding in an "effective range" limit for pistol-type weapons (6 tiles?) and then applying a rule similar to the out-of-visual range rule. This could be an additional reduction, that applies as well as any out-of-visual range rule. It would be good to encourage (/force) Aimed Fire for pistol-type weapons beyond a certain "effective range". The penalties might need to be quite high, since for example with the Pistol there is only an 18% base accuracy gain from using Aimed Fire, which is quickly eroded by a 2% per tile linear penalty. Probably these accuracy reductions need to be multiplied with the base accuracy, and not subtracted from it, otherwise there may be some perverse results. Maybe for simplicity, for "effective range" use the same 3 breakpoints Seb76 proposed in this discussion for out-of-visual range fire (7 tiles / 15 tiles / infinity) for pistol weapons, standard weapons, and special "long range" weapons (Rifle, Laser Rifle, Heavy Laser). Spike 11:35, 27 September 2008 (PDT)

PS @NKF: Vs Snakeman or Muton armour (18-20), in close-range combat, Rifles on Auto dish 60% more penetrating damage per average turn than Pistols. Does the freer use of grenades etc really compensate for that? Spike 12:07, 27 September 2008 (PDT)

Definitely - I've always lumped the Snakemen into the same category as Sectoids and Floaters. Lightweights. In fact, due to their lower TUs (compensated slightly by their sliding across terrain), they're probably one of the easier aliens to fight. Granted, their combat skills are better.
Seb76, I think the introduction of the accuracy drop-off in your loader is a good start at rebalancing the rifle. If it wasn't for that nerfed aimed shot cost and damage combo, the rifle's not that bad a weapon. In fact, even as it is I'd much rather have it for short range combat than the standard pistol. The pistols are banking on the fact that even though they may be low in accuracy and damage in general, they get to fire at that same accuracy from any range and at a slightly faster firing rate than most other weapons. However, I feel that if the pistols were toned down too much, then they'd truly become useless, as unlike a weapon like the heavy plasma that is too much of a good thing, the pistols are still fairly balanced thanks to their lower damage levels.
I'm finding it amusing that the pistols are starting to take a turn for the better considering they're the most often ignored weapons. Who knows, maybe the plasma pistol might come back in favour too. By the way: Just to be clear, I've always considered the basic pistol to be the rifle's compliment rather than rival. One excels in auto and aimed (short/long range), while the other excels in snap (mid range). Just pick the one that fits the style of fighting you wish to use. The laser pistol however sits in a class of its own. -NKF 13:31, 27 September 2008 (PDT)
One thing the standard Rifle offers is the largest clip of any purchasable weapon. Beyond that, for damage, Brunpal, that's bound to happen. Damage for firearms against living creatures is randomly 0-200% of the damage listed in the UFOpaedia, so invariably it will happen that even the mighty Heavy Plasma will fail to drop something. In one run of One Mission X-COM, I had a rookie soldier in coveralls soak up SIX shots from alien plasma weaponry and still be on her feet. Though then another alien decided to shoot at her again and the seventh shot did put her down for good. I did get to put her life to good use, though...the aliens spent so many TUs killing her that the remainder of her squad was able to bloody them rather significantly on the X-COM turn. Arrow Quivershaft 18:15, 27 September 2008 (PDT)
Generally think about the strengths and weaknesses of weapons in real life first. Then figure out how to translate that into the game. For example when I think of "heavy" weapons I think of brownings and chain fed machine guns. Those are fired from the hip, and near impossible to aim unless you are laying down on the ground. Plus they suck at fine tuning except with tracer rounds. They are near impossible to fire one bullet. Translating all that into game mechanics that means to me that they should have a huge TU for a snap shot, a tiny TU for auto, reduced accuracy at close range, terrible reaction shots if you have to turn, get big benefits for kneeling, and huge energy cost for aimed while standing. Hell, a solider should have a reduced accuracy if trying to aim a heavy while standing. They are trying to lift a heavy browning to their eyeline when it's designed to be fired from hip and the weight held by a shoulder strap.
Personally I'm fine with weapons being "clear winners" across the board rather than each weapon having a niche. There is a reason why so many use AK-47s in war, and not M1 Garants nor crossbows. A laser pistol could be a superior weapon because it's light, has no recoil and a solider can simply hold down the trigger forever. Imagine if a one hand fully automatic that never runs out of ammo existed in real life. It would be like a wii remote in ease of use with as much stopping power as the biggest hardware used by Rambo. It's hard to imagine a better all purpose weapon. Sometimes new tech is a great idea on paper and useless in the field (heavy laser I'm looking at you). New weapon tech replaces old and gets widespread adoption... if it's better.
But I can also see a reason why gamers want to balance weapons across each other. Makes the game more interesting. On that note here are some ideas I had that I haven't seen mentioned yet:
  • Remove auto from Laser Pistol. (It's only good because it can fire 12 shots a turn.)
  • Reduce accuracy per shot fired past the first. ie: First attack (including all 3 shots on auto) fires at normal accuracy. Then multiply an accuracy reduction against the next attack (mechanic like if the solider was getting increasingly wounded). Fire again and get yet another penalty that stacks. Recoil sucks.
  • Put a maximum number of times a weapon can be fired per turn to a small number like just twice. So a laser pistol only uses 20% of TU, but you can only get off 2 shots (6 on auto). The 60% of TU left cannot be used for weapon fire.
  • Redo TU and/or energy costs so weapons have the best efficiency for the mode that seems appropriate. IE pistols become best at snap shots, rifles at aimed, and heavy at auto. (Rifles would have a max of 50% TU on aimed so they could get 2 shots off.)
  • Play with energy costs. Auto costs a lot of energy so you can't do a full spread every round. Aimed gives back energy.
  • Bump up rifle accuracy for aimed shots past 110%.
  • Change accuracy at point blank. Decrease it for heavy, increase it for pistols.
  • Change bonus accuracy from kneeling based on weapon class rather than 120% standard. Increase it more for rifles and heavies, and less for pistols.
  • Do away with a base bonus for kneeling entirely. Give a bonus based on kneeling + weapon class + firing type. IE pistols get almost nothing from kneeling in all modes. Aimed gets a lot.
  • Change clip size and firing rate along with accuracy. For example, give clips of 100-200 to heavy plasma. Auto fires 10-20 shots instead of 3. Figure out the % chance you want to hit with ONE bullet and work backwards to something reasonable later. (For example a 10% accuracy per shot ends up with a a nice probability curve of one hit with a 15 shot burst.) <bbbbrrrpppt!> Friendlies be advised: Don't get caught within the cone of inaccuracy. {hit curve=45.8%|53.7%|60.5%|66.3%|71.4%|75.7%|79.4%}
If you are hardcore about balancing weapons into niches, my suggestion is to first make a matrix of-
-the 3 weapon classes, (pistol, rifle, heavy)
-the 3 firing options,
-%TU cost,
-energy cost
-ability to react
-accuracy of one hit per turn
Then figure out if it should be very good, good, average, bad, or terrible first then worry about how that translates into in game stats later.
BTW: Even though the Laser Pistol is a clear winner against everything but Heavy Plasma, I still think the weapons are balanced. Why do I say that? Consider how many years and how many games of X-Com you've played. The status of Laser pistol vs rifle is suddenly new info. Can't be that unbalancing or it would have been common knowledge. ;-) --Brunpal 23:21, 27 September 2008 (PDT)

Excellent suggestions, both in detail and for the high-level approach. Actually the Laser Pistol vs Rifle dilemma has been bugging me since I first started playing - I built Laser Pistols to give my Engineers something to do while waiting for Laser Rifles, and right away they seemed very powerful. Now, at a high level, what I think needs to be done is to widen the distinction between pistols and rifles - pistols effective only at short range, rifles superior at medium and long ranges. I agree though that when a new class of weapons (eg Laser) comes along, it is ok if the new weapons makes the older ones obsolete. Spike 03:51, 28 September 2008 (PDT)

Ah, good point... shouldn't something you RESEARCH be all-round better than something you can start the game with? Like, how Blaster Bombs are better than Large Rockets, and Alien Grenades make normal grenades obsolete. Jasonred.

See Also

Weapon Analysis