The Plasma Pistol is the first in the alien's plasma weapon line. It is the most powerful, accurate and lightest pistol-class weapon available. It also has the fastest auto shot in the plasma weapon line. As it is a pistol, it fits on the belt and makes a respectable sidearm for a heavy weapons specialist.
This weapon suffers several drawbacks. In relation to the other plasma weapons, it does not stand out, and the requirement for ammunition makes it less desirable as a sidearm as this will cut into the item limit. The biggest drawback is its limited availability as it does not take very long for the aliens to stop using this weapon. They have good reasons to abandon it: it is not very effective against the second generation of X-COM armour and HWPs. This means X-Com will not have a reliable supply of free clips and must manufacture them for further use. This requires Elerium, although it is notable that the plasma pistol is the most efficient of the three plasma weapons to make ammunition for. This means little however as the other weapons rarely need to have their ammunition manufactured.
Plasma Pistol Clip:
Despite being a powerful pistol, its role is superceded in almost every way by other weapons. The Heavy Plasma and Plasma Rifle outclass it for accuracy (even taking into consideration the -20% penalty), power, ammunition and most importantly availability. The laser pistol outclasses it with speed and thus has a much higher damage potential, and not requiring any ammunition allows for more equipment flexibility.
What it does have over the other plasma weapons is that it is very light and compact, thus can be stored easier. What it has above the laser pistol is its increased damage potential per shot and increased accuracy to make up for its lack in speed.
Overall it is a moderately well balanced weapon, but this is also its weakness.
The plasma pistol is an isolated research topic that does not lead to new developments. If you don't intend to ever use them, consider skipping the research on the weapon and its clip until you stop recovering them in battle. Recovering as-yet unresearched items will add additional points and improve your end-of-mission scoring.
If you do intend to make limited use of the plasma pistol as a specialist weapon, consider treating them the same way as Plasma Rifles and only only keep one or two of them and stockpile every clip you can find. It's a finite supply, but should last a considerable while if used conservatively.
The following lists how many times a soldier can fire the gun by shot type continuously in any given round and the remaining percentage of any left over TUs that cannot be spent as a shot.
- Aimed: 1 Shot, 40% Remaining TUs (enough for 1 Snap shot or 1 Auto burst)
- Snap: 3 Shots, 10% Remaining TUs
- Auto: 3 Bursts (9 Shots), 10% Remaining TUs
- The lightest sidearm, weighing 6 weight units when loaded.
- The slowest but most powerful sidearm.
- The TUs needed for a Snapshot and the time needed for an Autofire burst are the same; this means that the only time you should NOT spray the enemy with autofire is when accuracy or ammo are a concern. The Plasma Pistol has a reasonably large ammo count.
- For the most bang for your buck per unit of Elerium used in ammo manufacture, look no further.
- This weapon will often disappear by April; if you haven't captured one by then, you won't ever get the chance.
- Recommended for heavy weapons troopers or scouts. Also pairs very well with the Laser Pistol, allowing you to alternate between brute force or volume when necessary.
- If you don't intend to use the weapon, leave it unresearched until they no longer appear, so you can reap the benefit of points that you get for unresearched artefacts.
General pistol warning
This note covers the regulation Pistol, Laser Pistol and the Plasma Pistol.
Pistol-class weapons are prioritized so that they will always be the last weapons to be selected by your soldiers. In addition to that, there is also a rather unusual culture amongst X-COM troops regarding pistol-type weapon distribution in general. Sometimes everyone gets the weapons, as normal. At other times, only one person will be armed with the pistol and will be carrying all the clips if applicable. This can prove to be a minor annoyance.