Introduction

The Gunslinger is a weird, complicated class. It’s a martial Striker which can branch out as a Face and Scout depending on your skills. But if you look at the Gunslinger and think “this is a fighter with guns (or crossbows, technically)”, you’re missing a lot of what makes the Gunslinger special.

The fundamental difficulty with using Firearms, much like crossbows, is that it costs actions to reload them. The Gunslinger goes to absurd lengths to Stretch the action economy (and the hand economy in some cases) in order to make firearms as effective as using a bow. Gunslingers will frequently have turns where they do 5 or more Actions worth of things. Several of those things are reloading, but it’s still pretty cool.

Between the diversity of firearms and the four subclasses published in Guns and Gears (5 if you count the Spellshot archetype), there are enough options to cater to a wide variety of gunslinger concepts and builds, and there is plenty of room to experiment with different weapons as your character advances.

Table of Contents

Disclaimer

RPGBOT uses the color coding scheme which has become common among Pathfinder build handbooks.

  • Red: Bad, useless options, or options which are extremely situational. Nearly never useful.
  • Orange: OK options, or useful options that only apply in rare circumstances. Useful sometimes.
  • Green: Good options. Useful often.
  • Blue: Fantastic options, often essential to the function of your character. Useful very frequently.

Gunslinger Class Features

Key Ability: Dexterity.

Hit Points: 8+ hit points is plenty for a back-line Striker like the Gunslinger. You won’t hold up if enemies focus their attacks on you, but at least you’re not running 6+ hit points like a wizard.

Initial Proficiencies: Gunslingers are offense-heavy, but with only light armor, 8+ hit points, and poor Will saves, they’re vulnerable both to focused attacks and to many spells.

  • Perception: Among the best progressions in the game, though a few classes like the Ranger and the Rogue hit proficiency advances earlier than the Gunslinger.
  • Saving Throws: Roughly average Fortitude saves, really good Reflex saves (not quite as good as the Rogue), and among the worst Will save progressions in the game. Don’t neglect your Wisdom.
  • Skills: A total of 4+Int Trained skills at level 1, which is average.
  • Attacks: You match the Fighter for the best weapon proficiency progression in the game, though only for firearms and crossbows. You even get Advanced firearms and crossbows, but the proficiency progression is one step behind Simple/Martial firearms and crossbows. Proficiency with other weapons is also one step behind firearms, and the Singular Expertise feature prevents you from changing that.
  • Defenses: Light armor and medium, but the Gunslinger is totally dependent on Dexterity, so light armor is your best option. Your proficiency progression is typical for most non-tanky classes.
  • Class DC: The Gungslinger’s class DC is used for very feat things, but the Critical Specialization Effect for firearms calls for a Fortitude save and gives the target Stunned 1 if they fail, which is really good. Crossbows don’t care about your class DC.

Gunslinger’s Way: Subclasses – Gunslinger’s Way, below.

Gunslinger Feats: See Gunslinger feats, below.

Singular Expertise: Your non-firearm and non-crossbow weapons are always one step behind your firearms and crossbows. That’s not a problem for many gunslingers, but it’s a problem for difters and for some vanugards. You get a very modest +1 circumstance bonus to damage, but circumstance bonuses are common and the bonus doesn’t scale.

Skill Feats: Standard for everyone except the Rogue.

General Feats: Standard.

Skill Increases: Standard for everyone except the Rogue.

Stubborn: More Will saves and a second attempt to resist Control effects like the spell Dominate.

Ability Boosts: Standard.

Ancestry Feats: Standard.

Gunslinger Weapon Mastery: Master at level 5 is really good, and you get critical specialization effects for firearms and crossbows, so you’re both more likely to score a crit and you get more benefits for doing so.

Vigilant Senses: The Gunslinger’s Perception progression is excellent. More is always great.

Weapon Specialization: More damage on weapon attacks, and since your proficiency is already Expert or Master with weapons that gunslingers care about, you’re getting a better damage bonus than most classes.

Advanced Deed: Varies by subclass.

Gunslinger Expertise: More class DC.

Evasion: Reflex saves are the most common type of “Basic Save”, and often Basic Saves are the ones where the difference between a Success and a Critical Success is the most significant. This will protect from a lot of damage from area effects like fireballs and breath weapons.

Gunslinging Legend: Legendary at level 13.

Medium Armor Expertise: More AC is always welcome.

Greater Deed: Varies by subclass.

Greater Weapon Specialization: You’re Legendary or Master in the weapons which you care about the most, so this is a big damage boost.

Juggernaut: Better saves are always great.

Shootist’s Edge: More class DC, and you can attack at much longer range than normal before you need to worry about penalties.

Incredible Senses: Legendary in Perception feels really good, and you’ll use it almost constantly.

Medium Armor Mastery: More AC is always great. You get this a few levels behind martial classes like the Champion and the Fighter, but you also need it less than they do.

Subclasses – Gunslinger’s Way

Way of the DrifterGaG

Drifters are built to fight in or near melee using a melee weapon in one hand and a firearm in the other, most commonly a rapier and a pistol of some sort.

Get a pair of Blazons of Shared Power as soon as fundamental runes become an option. You’re going to use two weapons (sword and pistol, etc.) and enchanting both is prohibitively expensive compared to Blazons of Shared Power.

Because the Drifter and the Vanguard are both built for melee, it’s easy to draw comparisons between the two. Drifters use two separate one-handed weapons and generally focus more on damage output, while vanguards use two-handed weapons and are typically more durable.

  • Slinger’s Reload: Reloading Strike: Unfortunately, this doesn’t remove the Manipulate trait from the Reload action, so if you’re in an enemy’s reach you may provoke Reactions. That makes this difficult to use safely unless you’re using a reach weapon like a whip or a gnome flickmace. If you can manage to use this safely, you can easily switch between melee and ranged attacks, using Reloading Strike while in melee to reload your firearm before moving out of melee to get back to shooting.
  • Deeds:
    • Initial Deed: Into the Fray: As many as three free Actions whenever you roll initiative. It won’t matter beyond your first turn, but it also means that your first turn can be something more interesting than drawing weapons and getting into melee.
    • Advanced Deed: Finish the Job: You’re going to miss with attacks. It’s just a reality of the game. This takes some of the sting out of missing, especially if your first attack in a turn misses despite not having a Multiple Attack Penalty.
    • Greater Deed: Drifter’s Wake: The free Stride is nice, and I love that you can attack at any point during the Stride, but there are some frustrating limitations due to ammunition. First, you have no way to reload during all of this. If you started your turn without your crossbow/firearm loaded, you’re down to just melee attacks. Even if you were already loaded, most likely you’re only going to make one ranged attack. Your best bet is to use your one loaded shot, use the Stride to move so that you’re flanking, make your two remaining Strikes with your melee weapoon. You might use your remaining movement to move out of melee reach, or you might stay in place so that you’re helping an ally flank. On your next turn, reload your firearm with Reloading Strike unless you’re happy to make three melee attacks then Stride away.
  • Way Skill: Acrobatics: While not incredibly useful on its own, Acrobatics lets you qualify for Cloud Step and Implausible Infiltration, both of which are spectacular.

Way of the PistoleroGaG

Simple to play, effective, and perhaps the most iconic version of the Gunslinger dating all the way back to its original publication in Pathfinder 1. With a small dependence on Charisma, pistoleroes can serve as a Face outside of combat, and they have just a splash of debuff options on top of their role as a Striker in combat.

  • Raconteur’s Reload: Create a Diversion is great, but it’s hard to make it work more than once in an encounter unless the targets’ Perception DC is absolutely awful. The Confabulator skill will help with this, but it’s not infallible. Similarly, Demoralize will only affect a target once, then they’re totally immune to your Demoralize for 10 minutes. In lengthy encounters, that means that you either need to change targets or repeatedly use Create a Diversion and hope for the best. Either way, this is going to lock you into Deception and/or Intimidation. I recommend using Create a Diversion at the end of your turn so that you’re Hidden to the target until they waste an Action to Seek or until your turn rolls around and you shoot them.
  • Deeds:
    • Initial Deed: Ten Paces: +2 to initiative (it’s a Circumstance bonus so it doesn’t stack with Incredible Initiative), draw a weapon for free, and Step 10 feet at the beginning of your turn so you don’t accidentally start in melee.
    • Advanced Deed: Pistolero’s Retort: A free attack outside of your own turn. Multiple Attack Penalties reset every turn (not every round) so no matter how many attacks you made on your turn you can still make this attack if your crossbow/firearm is loaded. Just remember that you need to have your weapon reloaded at the end of your turn, and if you’re attacking melee you might provoke reactions from other enemies when you do so.
    • Greater Deed: Grim Swagger: This should be the first thing you do (except for your free Steps from Ten Paces) at the beginning of every single encounter. Frightened 2 is a huge debuff, but you might also cause enemies to spend their first turn Fleeing, which puts your party at a massive action economy advantage.
  • Way Skill: Deception or Intimidation: Both good Face skills, and you need either or both to make Raconteur’s Reload work.

Way of the SniperGaG

Where pistoleros are brash, in your face, and use one-handed weapons, the Sniper is generally more reserved, fights at longer range, and uses the biggest two-handed weapon they can manage. Without the reliance on Charimsa-based skills, snipers make excellent Scouts, and in combat they’re a pure Striker with few frills.

  • Covered Reload: The sniper’s whole deal is hiding and shooting stuff before going right back to hiding. Since reloading typically takes an Action, you can Strike, Hide and Reload at the same time using Covered Reload, then still have an Action to do something else. At higher level you’ll frequently use Sniper’s Aim and Vital Shot as your go-to attack options.
  • Deeds:
    • Initial Deed: One Shot, One Kill: Draw a weapon and deal a little bit of extra damage on your first Strike in each encounter. Keep in mind that you need to use Stealth for initiative, so you need to be really consistent about hiding before combat starts.
    • Advanced Deed: Vital Shot: Persistent damage is really good and can add up very quickly, especially since this can apply up to 3d6 of it. Most creatures can’t heal themselves to counteract this, so given enough time this is guaranteed death for most creatures. Ideally, you want to spread this around during combat so that every enemy worth the time is bleeding.

      To clarify how the damage works here: The amount of bleed damage matches the damage dealt by One Shot, One Kill, so it’s 1d6, 2d6, or 3d6 depending on your level. It doesn’t have any actual interaction with One Shot, One Kill. It just uses the damage progression.

    • Greater Deed: Ghost Shot: Covered Reload allows you to hide and reload with one Action, so hiding usually doesn’t cut into your action economy very much unless you’re using a weapon with Capacity (an air repeater, a repeating crossbow, etc.), but that’s not the entire benefit. Ghost Shot allows you to not give away your location, which prevents enemies from moving to where you don’t have cover, and it makes it hard for them to know where to Seek to find you. You can make multiple shots in quick succession with a Capacity weapon, but even if you just use Ghost Shot, reload load, then use Ghost Shot again that’s still a good turn.
  • Way Skill: Stealth: You’re going to be hiding a lot.

Way of the VanguardGaG

The Vanguard tries to turn the Gunslinger into a melee-adjacent Defender. While there are some good ideas, the Vanguard doesn’t give the Gunslinger a meaningful reason to be in melee in the first place, and if you’re not in melee, you’re not using the Vanguard’s features, so why bother being a vanguard at all?

  • Clear a Path: Using Shove to push an enemy away from you before you reload means that reloading won’t provoke Reactions (provided that you successfully Shoved the creature). You get a bonus to the Shove if your previous action was a ranged Striked wit hthe same weapon, but that attack likely already triggered Reactions, so the benefits of the Shove are minor in that case.
  • Deeds:
    • Initial Deed: Living Fortification: Great protection if you roll poorly on Initiative. The Mithral Tree is a great example of a firearm with the Parry trait. Unfortunately, you have no way to activate this later in combat.
    • Advanced Deed: Spinning Crush: Hillarious, but only situationally useful. Because this will deal less damage than a regular Strike with the majority of your weapon options, especially over the course of multiple possible strikes, you generally only want to use this when you can affect 3 or more enemies at once.
    • Greater Deed: Siegebreaker: This should become your go-to attack option. The damage is good, the action economy is good, and it makes it hard for enemies to forcibly move you.
  • Way Skill: Athletics: Necessary for the Shove attack made with Clear a Path.

Ability Scores

Conventional All-Dexterity

Str: Dump. If you’re worried about bulk, there are cheap magic items to solve that problem. Avoid Kickback weapons.

Dex: All Dexterity all the time.

Con: Hit points and Fortitude saves.

Int: If you’re dumping Charisma, you can afford a bit of Intelligence for the extra Trained skills.

Wis: Gunslingers get excllent Perception, but with a bit more you can consistently act early in combat in order to get into an advantageous position.

Cha: Pistoleroes need Charisma to back up Deception and/or Intimidation, but other gunslingers can dump it.

Drifter, Vanguard, and Kickback Weapon Enthusiasts

If you’re going to be swinging a weapon in melee or using a weapon with the Kickback property, you need a bit more Strength than a typical gunslinger.

Str: You need 14 for Kickback, 14 if you want to use Large Bore Modifications, and 18 if you want both. You could ignore that issue if you want to deal with a stabilizer like a bipod, but the Action cost to do so can be a huge nuisance. If you plan to also make melee attacks (the Drifter and the Vanguard are expected to do so), you’ll want some amount of Strength to make those attacks effective, though you don’t need a ton of it if you plan to use a Finesse weapon like a reinforced stock or a rapier.

Dex: Still your Key Ability and essential for both your AC and your firearm attacks. You may not need to max it out if you’re splitting focus between Strength and Dexterity, but you still want it high.

Con: More important for close-quarters builds than for gunslingers planning to fight from long range.

Int: You may want a bit for skills.

Wis: A bit to pad your Will saves and your Perception, but you likely can’t afford to invest heavily here.

Cha: Dump.

Ancestries

CatfolkAPG: With boosts to Dexterity and Charisma, the Catfolk makes a natural pistolero. Unfortunately, the Catfolk’s Ancestry Feats don’t offer any unique synergies for the Gunslinger. There’s always the Cat’s Luck feat tree, but otherwise you’ll want Adopted Ancestry or a Versatile Heritage.

DwarfCRB: Put your free Boost into Dexterity, make sure you start with 14 Strength, and you’re ready to play a drifter or vanguard. Dwarves get access to the Dwarven Scattergun, which is an upgrade from the Blunderbuss. Other gunslinger subclasses are hard to fit due to the Dwarf’s ability boosts. Combining Toughness and Dwarven Stoutness adds a big pile of hit points, which is very helpful for gunslingers on the front lines.

ElfCRB: With high Dexterity but poor Constitution and low ancestry hit points, the Elf is a natural sniper. Cavern Elf for Darkvision or Seer Elf for the wider Seek cone are both good Heritage choices. Unfortunately, the Elf’s Ancestry Feats won’t do much to help you, so look into Adopted Ancestry or take a Versatile Heritage.

GnomeCRB: Putting your free Ability Boost into Dexterity gives you perfect ability scores for a pistolero, but access to the Gnome Flickmace also makes gnomes uniquely appealing as drifters. The Gnome’s Ancestry Feats can get you access to uncommon weapons like the Gnome Flickmace, a familiar, and a handful of spells.

GoblinCRB: The Goblin’s ability boosts are perfect for the Pistolero, and Goblin Weapon Familiarity gets you access to an unusually large number of weapons, including the Dogslicer (useful for drifters), the Flinglenser (effectively a worse blunderbuss), the Goblin Spoon Gun (effectively a Dragon Mouth Pistol with +10 feet of range and Modular instead of Concussive), and the Big Boom Gun (effectively a dueling pistol with better Fatal, worse range, and Modular instead of Concussive). Even better, you can use Junk Tinker to make them all out of garbage. Take class feats like Munitions Crafter, Alchemical Shot, and Shattering Shot, then combine them with the Goblin Ancestry Feat Burn It for a damage boost. Goblin Scuttle can help you get out of melee if you’re not built for melee. I would go for Pistolero first, but drifter and sniper would also work well.

HalflingCRB: Halflings get poor ancestry hit points, but that’s easy to offset with Toughness, and with boosts in Dexterity and Wisdom and a free boost, it’s pretty easy to make any variety of gunslinger work. Distracting Shadows is appealing for snipers so that you can hide behind allies while reloading, but remember that your allies might move, so you may be forced to move, too. That stops being a problem once you can get Ceaseless Shadows at high level and you can just Hide wherever you’re standing. The Halfling Luck feat chain works on basically any character, but none of the Halfling’s other Ancestry Feats have any unique synergy for the Gunslinger, so sniper is your best option.

HumanCRB: Two flexible boosts works for any variety of gunslinger. Unconventional Weaponry can get you access to weapons like the Dwarven Scattergun and the Spoon Gun, and Natural Ambition is always great The Half-Orc’s Orc Ferocity and Orc Sight are both good. You might also look at Adopted Ancestry or a Versatile Heritage.

KoboldAPG: The Kobold’s Ability Boosts work great for a pistolero, but other than Cringe I don’t think the Kobold has any Ancestry Feats that work for the Gunslinger. I would go for the Catfolk or the Halfling first unless you’re absolutely dead set on playing a kobold.

OrcAPG: The Orc’s Abilty Boosts and Ancestry Feats heavily predispose them to fighting with melee weapons, and while the Drifter does that a bit, your really need to be Dexterity-based unless you just want to be a disappointing Fighter.

RatfolkAPG: Very similar to the Elf with similar options. Like the Elf, the Ratfolk has few Ancestry Feats which appeal to the Gunslinger, so consider Adopted Ancestry or a Versatile Heritage.

TenguAPG: The boosts work for any gunslinger, but there aren’t many feats here. Squawk might be helpful with the Pistolero’s Raconteur’s Reload, but otherwise there’s nothing particularly useful here.

Backgrounds

You want a background that complements your subclass’s important skills, such as Deception for the Pistolero and Athletics for the Vanguard. You also want boosts to related ability scores and Dexterity, so many of your best background options will have a secondary ability score as the fixed boost, leaving you to put the free boost into Dexterity.

If you’re having trouble deciding, here are some suggestions:

  • Criminal (Sniper)
  • Gambler (Pistolero)
  • Martial Disciple (Vanguard)

Skills and Skill Feats

You get Skill Increases at 3rd and 5th level to raise skills to Expert, increases at 7th, 9th, 11th, and 13th level to raise skills to Master, and increases at 15th, 17th, and 19th level to raise skills to Legendary. That means that you can maximize at most three skills, and the rest of your skills might not advance beyond Trained.

You get Skill Feats at even-numbered levels, giving you a total of 10 Skill Feats (and maybe another from your Background) by 20th level. Generally, you want to invest these feats in the same skills which you are choosing to maximize, though in some cases you may want to grab feats from skills which don’t require that you be more than Trained.

  • Acrobatics (Dex): While not incredibly useful on its own, Acrobatics lets you qualify for Cloud Step and Implausible Infiltration, both of which are spectacular. Snipers may also enjoy Kip Up because being prone allows you to Take Cover, so you can easily drop prone and Kip Up as needed.
  • Arcana (Int): You don’t have the Intelligence or spare skills to justify this.
  • Athletics (Str): Important for many things that the Vanguard does, including both grappling and shoving. Consider Assurance, especially if you’re not going to invest heavily in Strength.
    • AssuranceCRB: Relying on Assurance for your Athletics checks can make them very reliable and removes the need to invest heavily in Strength, items, etc. to improve your bonus. It also removes the compulsion to fire your ranged weapon in melee to get the Vanguard’s item bonus to the check.
    • Titan WrestlerCRB: Crucial for vanguards beyond low levels so that your subclass doens’t shut down when facing an oversized enemy.
  • Crafting (Int): If you’re going to risk misfiring, you need Crafting to repair your broken weapons. Otherwise, you can skip this.
  • Deception (Cha): Essential for pistoleros, but otherwise you can skip it.
    • ConfabulatorCRB: Essential for Pistoleros since you’ll be using Create a Diversion frequently.
    • Lengthy DiversionCRB: Tempting for pistoleros, but problematic due to the wording of the feat. The GM gets to determine how long the diversion lasts, which makes this feat entirely subjective. Your GM could determine that they’re sick of your nonsense and that the Diversion doesn’t last any longer than the minimum (then end of your turn), in which case this is totally useless in combat.
  • Diplomacy (Cha): Pistoleros will have enough Charisma to make them a Face, but Deception and Intimidation are more important, so prioritize those first.
  • Intimidation (Cha): Essential for pistoleros, but otherwise skip it.
    • Intimidating GlareCRB: The penalty for intimidating creatures that don’t share a language with you will get annoying quickly.
    • Terrified RetreatCRB: A pistolero should expect to Demoralize every enemy creature in every encounter (unless your allies kill them first), and forcing an enemy to spend a turn fleeing puts your party at a huge advantage in the action economy. It won’t work every time, but it will work often enough to matter.
  • Lore (Int): You don’t have the Intelligence or spare skills to justify this.
  • Medicine (Wis): Many gunslingers have decent Wisdom, so Medicine is a good skill choice. Gunslingers aren’t abnormally skilled with Medicine, but if no one else in the party has it, you’re a good candidate.
  • Nature (Wis): An essential knowledge skill, and most gunslingers can afford a bit of Wisdom to back it up. I probably wouldn’t go past Trained.
  • Occultism (Int): You don’t have the Intelligence or spare skills to justify this.
  • Performance (Cha): Not particularly useful. If you’re eyeing Pistol Phenom you will want this, but otherwise it’s not worth having.
  • Religion (Wis): An essential knowledge skill, and most gunslingers can afford a bit of Wisdom to back it up. I probably wouldn’t go past Trained.
  • Society (Int): You don’t have the Intelligence or spare skills to justify this.
  • Stealth (Dex): Essential for snipers, but any gunslinger should have enough Dexterity to make Stealth an effective choice. Most gunslingers don’t need to maximize it to use in place of Perception for initiative since the Gunslinger’s Perception progression is so good.
  • Survival (Wis): Only rarely useful, but you might make it Trained if you don’t know what else to take.
  • Thievery (Dex): Any gunslinger should have enough Dexterity to make Thievery work, and every party needs someone capable of handling traps and the like.

General Skill Feats

  • AssuranceCRB: Pistoleroes rely heavily on Deception and Intimidation, and vanguards rely heavily on Athletics. Consider Assurance for those crucial skills.

Feats

Gunslinger Feats

1st Level

  • Blast LockGaG: This is really cool, but I don’t know why it needs to be a feat. You’re almost certainly dexterous enough to use Theivery, so put a Skill Increase into Theivery instead.
  • Cover FireGaG: A decent counter to enemies attacking at range. If possible, save this for a second or third Strike in a round so you’re not giving the target an AC bonus against your most effective attack that turn.
  • Crossbow Crack ShotGaG: A very modest boost to damage, and only after you reload in that same turn, which makes it exceptionally hard to use this more than once per turn.
  • Dual-Weapon ReloadGaG: Basically only useful for Pistolero, but if you want to dual wield pistols, this is essential.
  • Hit the DirtGaG: Only works against ranged attacks, but it’s really good. Leap gives you a bunch of free movement even if you’re not heavily invested in Athletics, plus the Circumstance bonus to AC is good.
  • Munitions CrafterGaG: Basically free ammunition and low-level bombs. Not hugely impactful unless you also advance your Advanced Alchemy level. But for an alchemist, this is an amazing feat to get via multiclassing.
  • Sword and PistolGaG: Useful for the Drifter.

2nd Level

  • Defensive ArmamentsGaG: Great for gunslingers using weapons like the Mithral Tree in close quarters.
  • Fake OutGaG: Great if you’ve invested in making Aid effective. The +1 for success isn’t especially impactful, but you do this as a Reaction, which is a great use for an underutilized resource in your action economy. This isn’t essential by any means, and you might retrain it once you better uses for your Reaction, but it’ll keep you busy almost every round. If you want to lean into this, the Cooperative Soul feat is a must.
  • Pistol TwirlGaG: Only helpful if you have other things that care about the target being Flat-Footed. Making targets flat-footed reduces their AC by 2, but that’s just not enough to consume an entire Action unless you get some other benefit.

    Also see the Pistol Phenom Dedication feat, which is effectively just a better version of this.

  • Quick DrawGaG: All four of the published gunslinger subclasses allow you to draw at least one weapon as a free action when you roll initiative, which means that this is only useful if you need to draw a different weapon later in combat. At early levels before fundamental runes become available, you could use this to rapidly draw and fire weapons without reloading them, but doing so prevents you from using other, often more impactful actions.
  • Risky ReloadGaG: Unless you’re facing a crowd of enemies of much lower level and can therefore guarantee a hit, I wouldn’t risk this. The risk of misfiring your weapon is simply too high, and the cost of that misfire negates the actions saved by using the feat. You can combine this with a Gunner’s Bandolier to mitigate the Action cost by switching weapons, but the use case is still unusual and the feat and gold cost to make this work is steep.
  • Warning ShotGaG: Definitely effective, and negating language barriers is nice, but remember that you’ll likely need to spend an Action to reload, so the real cost of this is more likely 2 Actions than 1.

4th Level

  • Alchemical ShotGaG: Neat, and persistent damage is great, but you misfire if you roll a failure, and that feels high risk so you don’t want to throw this around in every fight. If you do want to use this, it’s clearly intended to work alongside Munitions Crafter so that you have an easy supply of bombs. If you do make this work well, you could rotate through bomb types and stack persistent damage effects on a single target over several turns.
  • Black Power BoostGaG: Very cool, but invest skill feats in Athletics to improve your jumps before you consider this.
  • Instant BackupGaG: Only useful if you use an action that causes your weapon to misfire. Even then, in most cases you’ll want to quickly fix and reload your firearm because you’ll be more effective with it than with your backup weapon. If you do want to use Instant Backup, be sure to get a pair of Blazons of Shared Power to cut the cost of maintaining your second weapon.
  • Paired ShotsGaG: If you’re using two pistols or two one-handed crossbows, removing the multiple attack penalty from your second shot is good on its own. Applying resistances only once to the two attacks is an added benefit. Be sure to take Dual-Weapon Reload so that you can reload after doing this. Of course, at that point you might realize that just using one pistol is much less effort and not significantly less effective.
  • Running ReloadGaG: Always useful. For ranged builds, step away and reload. For melee builds, move closer to melee and reload. Literally any firearm user can use this to great effect.

6th Level

  • Advanced ShooterGaG: There are some very interesting advanced firearms and crossbows, and this both raises your attack bonus by +2 and improves the damage bonus from features like Weapon Specialization. If you’re using Advanced weapons, this is essential.
  • CauterizeGaG: Only situationally useful. Typically having someone in the party trained in Medicine or who can cast Heal will solve the same problem.
  • Drifter’s JukeGaG: Essential for the Drifter. 4 Actions for the price of 2. Your weapon needs to be loaded before you use this, but Reloading Strike before or after Drifter’s Juke will solve that problem nicely, allowing you to make a total of three Strikes, two Steps, and reload once all in a single turn.
  • Munitions MachinistGaG: If you’re going to use Alchemical Shot, this is essential. Otherwise, this offers inexpensive access to ammunition which might otherwise be too prohibitively expensive to use on a regular basis.
  • Phalanx BreakerGaG: Only situationally useful. Perhaps the best use for this is to knock enemies out of melee reach of your allies. The additional damage for knocking enemies into a solid object isn’t good enough on its own to justify the 2-Action cost to use this.
  • Pistolero’s ChallengeGaG: Decent, but risky. The scaling damage bonus also applies to you, so you need to be sure that you’ll hit the target more than they’ll hit you. Hopefully an ally can stand between you and the target to keep them from attacking you, in which case this is just a damage bonus for you. You want to make as many attacks as possible as quickly as possible to capitalize on this, so consider using an air repeater or a double-barelled pistol so that you can make multiple attacks in quick succession.
  • Scatter BlastGaG: The increased ranges are great, but this is extremely risky so you can’t risk using it frequently.
  • Sniper’s AimGaG: Snipers are all about big single strikes. This makes it much easier to use weapons like the Arquebus and the Harmona Gun without dealing with a stabilizer or investing in Strength.

8th Level

  • Bullet SplitGaG: Very effective, but only situationally useful and it only works for Sword and Pistol builds. If you happen to be the sort of character that can use this in a situation where this works, this is almost certainly your best tactical option.
  • Grit and TenacityGaG: Rerolls are excellent, and this lets you reroll your two worst saves with a +2 bonus. Absolutely amazing.
  • Leap and FireGaG: Very good if you’re facing range opponents, but it’s only usable when your weapon is loaded at the end of your turn, which can be difficult to predict.
  • Smoke CurtainGaG: A great way to give yourself and your allies Concealment. Combining this with Running Reload is a great way to move around while protected from attacks. The misfire chance is a problem, but you if you’re worried you can shoot a low AC target like the ground.
  • Stab and BlastGaG: Very effective action economy, and you can potentially reload and do it again in the same turn. A drifter can use this, reload with Slinger’s Reload, then use it again to make a total of 5 strikes in one turn. Make sure that your weapons are Agile.

10th Level

  • Called ShotGaG: Head can cause spellcasters to lose spells, and Wings can bring flying enemies close to the ground to get them into range of your melee allies. I probably wouldn’t both with Arms or Legs unless a critical hit was somewhat likely, but if you can make it happen Enfeebled 2 for a full minute will really mess with melee enemies.
  • Deflecting ShotGaG: Extremely effective, but don’t take this if it takes more than one Action to reload your firearm or you’re giving up most of your next turn to prevent one attack or reduce a crit to a regular hit.
  • Penetrating FireGaG: Very cool, but too situational.
  • Precious MunitionsGaG: In most campaigns, enemies which will require this ammunition are rare enough that it’s likely easier to just buy the ammunition you need. Devoting precious reagents every day to ammunition you might not use is wasteful.
  • Rebounding AssaultGaG: Very cool, but you’ll often find that your melee weapon is now sitting on the ground at your enemy’s feet. The most likely user of this feat is the Drifter, so just use Drifter’s Juke. The extra d6 damage isn’t worth the stress or such a high-level feat.
  • Redirecting ShotGaG: Unless you’re in a large party, you are likely your party’s best ranged attacker. Spending your Reaction to use this and then later spending an Action to reload to replace the shot you fired is likely less impactful than just spending that Action to attack on your own.
  • Trick ShotGaG: Too situational and too subject to your GM playing along. There’s only so many times that you can convince your GM that an explosive barrel happens to be sitting next to your enemies before they get tired of your nonsense. This isn’t a video game, and enemies don’t leave bright-red explosive barels right next to them when fights begin for your convenience.
  • Twin Shot KnockdownGaG: Knocking an enemy prone causes them to fall if they’re flying, and if they’re not flying it will likely cost them an Action to stand back up. But you need to make two Strikes in a row with the usual Multiple Attack Penalty, so success is certainly not guaranteed.

12th Level

  • Blood in the AirGaG: A useful counter to enemies which you can’t see, this covers hidden, concealed, and invisible enemies. So long as you can damage them once, you can follow up on previous turns with Blood in the Air and hit them with relative ease.
  • DeadeyeGaG: With no other counter to invisibility, this is helpful unless your party’s spellcasters have a good way to reveal invisible enemies to the whole party. But it’s also somewhat redundant with Blood in the Air, so don’t take both.
  • Flesh WoundGaG: Nice insurance against high-AC foes, but by this level you should have several feats which offer more impactful Action options, as well Actions from your subclass which will be more impactful.
  • Ricochet ShotGaG: Only situationally useful, and given the choice I would typically rather deal with cover and use a more interesting and impactful Action.
  • Shattering ShotGaG: If you’re not using a scatter weapon, this may be your best bet for handling crowds. The AOE is decent, but since it uses the damage of the bomb you’ll want something high level. I recommend only taking this if you took Munitions Machinist so that you can produce free bombs.
  • Shooter’s CamouflageGaG: Absolutely crucial for snipers.
  • Unshakable GritGaG: A significant improvement to Grit and Tenacity, which was already really good.

14th Level

  • Blast TackleGaG (Way of the Vanguard): Very exciting and very flashy, but it doesn’t prevent your ranged attacks from provoking Reactions and it doesn’t make you immune to your own Scatter damage, so you’re probably using something like a Harmona Gun. The bonus damage easily offsets the initial Action cost, but you generally want to use this on enemies that really don’t want to be stuck in melee with you because many tough martial enemies have the Opportunity Attack Reaction and will eat you alive if you try using this.
  • Come At Me!GaG: Focus on one target at a time. Having multiple challenges running adds liability without making you more effective. You’re actively hurting yourself every time you use this.
  • Dance of ThunderGaG: Don’t use this at the beginning of combat. Being Fatigued isn’t fun, and the longer combat lasts while you’re fatigued, the more of a problem it becomes. If you manage to hit with the first shot and therefore get to make another three Actions, you’re effectively getting two turns (three if you’re lucky).
  • Disruptive BlurGaG (Way of the Drifter): This is neat, but it won’t prevent Reactions when you reload or when you make a ranged attack.
  • HeadshotGaG (Way of the Sniper): Too many points of failure. You need to score a Critical Hit, which is mathematically unlikely unless you’re fighting enemies that are much lower level. if you do crit, your target still gets a save to resist the effect. That means that this is only useful against lower-level enemies who aren’t strong enough to justify devoting a class feat to.
  • ShowstopperGaG: Feint only benefits you, so to actually make this matter you need to switch between several targets within one turn, which simply isn’t useful or practical.
  • Two-Weapon FusilladeGaG: There are two ways to use this. Option one is to use this with single-shot weapons. Fire both of them, then likely spend your next two Actions reloading them, almost certainly requiring Dual-Weapon Reload. Option two is to use a weapon that holds multiple shots, most likely an air repeater or double-barelled pistol, in which case you can use Two-Weapon Fusillade up to three times in one turn to make a total of 6 Strikes. Sure, the Multiple Attack Penalty is going to make most of them horrendously inaccurate, but how cool does it feel to make six strikes in one turn? This feat feels really cool, but fighting with two pistols is difficult with little reward, and this feat doesn’t solve that problem. Combining this with Pistolero’s Challenge can help, but you still need to actually hit for the damage bonus to matter.

16th Level

  • Fatal BulletGaG: I would only take this if you like to use weapons with big Fatal dice like the Arquebus, and even then it’s not fantastic. This isn’t a huge amount of damage (1d12 at most) and it only matters on a critical hit.
  • Hair TriggerGaG: Good on literally every gunslinger.
  • Instant ReturnGaG: Unless you’re facing a lot of enemy gunslingers, this is too situational to justify. Also, what about gunpowder? What exactly is propelling this
  • Ricochet MasterGaG: To situational on its own, but if you want Ricochet Legend you’ll need it.

18th Level

  • Final ShotGaG: Since you’re Stunned 1 after using this, you’re effectively spending 4 Actions to use it to score a critical with better than usual odds. If you’re going to use this, you need to make it worthwhile. You want to have a big damage die and ideally some property runes that will benefit from critical hits like Flaming or Frost. You might also use ammunition with a special effect on a critical hit like a Glue Bullet. This will alos trigger your weapon’s critical specialization effect, so keep in mind what weapon you’re using: crossbows will immobilize the target until they spend an Action to Escape, and firearms will force the target to make a save or be Stunned 1, robbing them of an Action on their turn.
  • Piercing CriticalGaG: More critical hits is great, but since you can score a critical hit by exceeding the target’s AC by 10, critting on a 19 isn’t as important as it was in PF1 or as it is in DnD. That means that we need to look at the fundamental math of the game to figure out if this is worth the feat. By this level you’re Legendary with firearms, you should have 20 or 22 Dexterity depending on whether or not you have an “Apex Item”, and you should have +3 weapons, so your attack bonus is +34 or +35 before considering temporary modifiers. The Gamemastery Guide’s rules for constructing creatures include a table of AC progressions (table 2-5, page 62) which we can use to do math. An extreme AC for a level 18 creature is 45, which means that we hit on a 10 and a 20 will exceed the target’s AC by 10. That means that for enemies of your level with extreme AC, you’re only scoring a critical hit on a natural 20. By extension, that means that Piercing Critical doubles your likelihood of scoring a critical hit against those creatures. Such creatures are rare, but if you’re facing higher-level foes, Piercing Critical becomes progressively more useful against foes that are higher level than you are.
  • Unerring ShotGaG: Only worthwhile if you find that you’re frequently suffering range penalties. If that’s enough of an issue to consider this as your 18th-level feat, you should really consider changing weapons. The cover benefit is neat, but I don’t think it’s enough.
  • Reach for the StarsGaG: Hilarious, but by this level magical flight has been available for a long time. Buy some winged boots or a bunch of potions of flight.

20th Level

  • Perfect ReadinessGaG: An extra Action to reload or step gives you a lot of useful tactical options, and potentially improves the number of strikes that you can make each turn.
  • Ricochet LegendGaG: Stunned 2 will rob the target of two actions, which gives your party a huge advantage. You can use this once on each target in each encounter, so you can rob enemies of a huge number of actions. Unfortunately, the two feats to get here are costly and not always useful.
  • Slinger’s ReflexesGaG: There are a handful of feats which give you Reactions, and a few of them are decent, but unless you’ve collected those feats over time this may not be worth the feat. Deflecting Shot is easily the best of them, but with no way to reload between turns you probably can’t use it twice.

General Feats

  • Improvised Repair: If you like Gunslinger Class Feats that have a chance to cause a misfire, this is decent insurance. It’s still an entire turn worth of Actions, so you want to avoid using it as much as possible, but sometimes you don’t get a choice.

Weapons

Firearms are stunningly diverse. Even in a game like Pathfinder 2e where there is a diverse array of mechanically unique distinct weaponry, firearms put everything else to shame in terms of diversity, specificty, uniqueness, and versatility. Beast guns, cobbled guns, combination guns. Just the table of regular firearms is almost as large as the weapons table in the core rulebook.

This section will not cover every firearm available. It can’t, or it will eat this entire page. Instead, I’ll focus on the most basic go-to options for each gunslinger subclass. Most players will at least start from those weapons as a point of reference, and switching to other weapons will be a trade from the staple weapons described here. I’m also going to assume that you’re using “classic firearms” rather than something more advanced.

Way of the Drifter Weapons

Drifters are built to fight with a melee weapon in one hand and a ranged weapon in the other. You can certainly build around both Strength and Dexterity, but there’s little reason to do so. More likely you’ll have a splash of Strength for bonus melee damage, but you’ll otherwise build around Dexterity. That means finesse weapons.

Because drifters are comfortable in or near melee, range is much less of a concern. Short-range weapons like dragon mouth pistols work better for drifters than for pistoleros who typically don’t want to be in melee.

Combination weapons and bayonettes look tempting for drifters, but they’re a trap. Reloading Strike requires separate one-handed weapons. You could try two one-handed combination weapons, but doing so means that you’re using two weapons which are both worse and more expensive.

  • Double-Barreled PistolCRB: Less damage than a typical pistol, but having two barrels means that when you’re in melee you can load two barrels by using Reloading Strike twice, then make two shots when you get out of melee.
  • Main-GaucheCRB: Poor damage, but the Parry trait offers a way to boost your AC when you’re stuck in melee.
  • RapierCRB: Deadly d8 is tempting, but your firearm is still your primary weapon.
  • ShortswordCRB: Agile is great since your firearm is your primary weapon. Once you get Drifter’s Juke, you’ll get a lot of mileage out of Agile.
  • WhipCRB: Reach means that you can use this with Reloading Strike without being in your target’s reach. Drifters don’t get a way to negate opportunity attacks when you use a ranged weapon in melee, so this makes it easy to use your firearm and melee weapon in the same turn.

Way of the Pistolero Weapons

The Pistolero is among the simplest gunslingers. The majority of pistoleros will use a single one-handed weapon. Some will instead of use two, but doing so is a build on its own.

If you’re using two weapons, you want either a Capacity weapon or an air repeater. Air repeaters trade low damage for the ability to make 5 attacks before needing to reload, which takes 3 Actions and requires free hands, so you want to avoid it in combat if you can. Capacity weapons take 1 Action to change barrels, but doing so doesn’t require a free hand, so you can use Paired Shots, then spend some actions to rotate barrels. That all sounds great, but then you take Dual-Weapon Reload at level 1 and your capacity weapons are made obsolete by a pair dueling pistols.

  • Air RepeaterGaG: Less damage than a dueling pistol, but the ability to make 5 Strikes before you need to reload means that you can output damage much faster, especially if you get weapon property runes that add more damage per hit. The three actions to reload are brutal in combat, but you can use Raconteur’s Reload three times in total to reload. You can also get a set of Blazons of Shared Power, and instead of reloading you can just use another repeater in your other hand, allowing you to make a total of 10 Strikes before you reload.
  • Clan PistolGaG: Trade the Dueling Pistol’s Concealable trait for another 20 ft. of range.
  • Double-Barreled PistolCRB: Less damage than a typical pistol, but having two barrels means that you can attack multiple times before needing to reload, making reloading a bit more convenient. You might have turns where you reload several times and turns where you fire multiple times and don’t reload at all.
  • Dueling PistolGaG: The go-to weapon for the Gunslinger. Concealable, concussive, fatal d10, 1d6 base damage, and 60 ft. range is enough to keep you at a very comfortable distance from your enemies.
  • Flintlock PistolGaG: Players native to Pathfinder 1st edition likely look first to the Flintlock Pistol, but this is a mistake. Get a dueling pistol instead. The only reason for a gunslinger to use a flintlock pistol over a dueling pistol is that you can actually afford two of them at level 1.
  • Hand CannonGaG: Larger damage die than the Flintlock Pistol, and the Modular trait means that it can also deal slashing damage. But a weapon with Concussive is generally good enough that you don’t need to worry about damage type. The range is also poor.
  • Hand CrossbowCRB: As much damage and range as the Dueling Pistol, but you give up Concealable, Concussive, and Fatal d10 for the Hand Crossbow’s relative quietness compared to a firearm.
  • PepperboxGaG: A trap. Take dual-weapon reload and go for dueling pistols.
  • Slide PistolGaG: A trap. Take dual-weapon reload and go for dueling pistols.

Way of the Sniper Weapons

Snipers typically make a very small number of high-damage attacks. Therefore, you want the biggest, highest-damage weapon you can get and the longest range you can manage so that you can fight from a comfortable distance without worrying about range penalties.

The Sniper’s best weapons have the Kickback trait, so you’ll want to use a stabilizer, take the Sniper’s Aim feat at 6th level, or have 14 Strength to negate the penalty. If you don’t have 14 Strength, a monopod reduces the penalty from Kickback to -1 without cutting into your action economy at the beginning of an encounter. A tripod negates the penalty, but takes an action. A shielded tripod lets you Take Cover, so after you spend the Action to set it up you can use Sniper’s Reload to Take Cover behind it and reload in a single Action.

  • ArquebusGaG: Compared to the Jezail, the Arquebus adds the Kickback property in exchange for another 60 feet of range. While that’s an impressive addition, most encounters won’t make that range difference meaningful, so managing kickback will often be a frustrating allocation of resources and effort for minimal benefit.
  • CrossbowCRB: 30 feet more range than the Jezail, and much quieter than a firearm, but you do give up both Concussive and Fatal Aim d12, so while a crossbow is subtler than a firearm it’s also less lethal.
  • Flintlock MusketGaG: Probably your starting gun, but you want to upgrade as soon as you can afford to do so.
  • Harmona GunGaG: The biggest damage die you can get on a firearm and 150 ft. range, but offset by Kickback. If you got this route, you’re expecting to fight from as far away as possible and you’re relying on that d10 damage die to do all of the work.
  • Heavy CrossbowCRB: Not good enough to justify the 2 Actions to reload it.
  • JezailGaG: While you can use the Jezail one-handed, snipers generally don’t have a reason to do so. If you’re using the Jezail two-handed, it’s a linear upgrade from the Flintlock Musket, improving the damage die by one step, adding 20 feet of range, and increasing the Fatal die size by one step.

Way of the Vanguard Weapons

Vanguards are built to fight in or near melee using a two-handed firearm, and the Vanguard’s features and feats require Athletics checks, so you need the Strength to back up Athletics. That means that combination weapons and weapons with Kickback are easier to manage than they are for more gunslingers.

  • ArquebusGaG: Vanguards are typically in the thick of melee, but since you have the Strength to offset Kickback, it’s a straight upgrade compared to the Jezail
  • BlunderbussGaG: Short range, but Scatter makes it easier to handle crowds (though the damage from Scatter isn’t amazing). Add Large-Bore Modifications when you can to get more Scatter range.
  • CrossbowCRB: 30 feet more range than the Jezail, and much quieter than a firearm, but you do give up both Concussive and Fatal Aim d12, so while a crossbow is subtler than a firearm it’s also less lethal.
  • Dwarven ScattergunGaG: 10 feet more range than the Blunderbuss and it adds the Kickback trait. Vanguards have the Strength to negate Kickback, so it’s a minor upgrade. If you hit 18 Strnegth, add Large-Bore Modifications when you can to get more Scatter range.
  • Heavy CrossbowCRB: Not good enough to justify the 2 Actions to reload it.
  • JezailGaG: While you can use the Jezail one-handed, snipers generally don’t have a reason to do so. If you’re using the Jezail two-handed, it’s a linear upgrade from the Flintlock Musket, improving the damage die by one step, adding 20 feet of range, and increasing the Fatal die size by one step.
  • Mithral TreeGaG: The Parry trait is great for the Vanguard, offering a way to boost your AC while you’re in melee. Grab a Reinforced Stock for melee attacks, and you’re good to go.
  • Reinforced StockGaG: This turns any weapon into a combination weapon. The majority of actual combination weapons which appeal to vanguards will deal more damage (d8), but will have worse firearm damage. Which you prefer depends on how much time you expect to spend in melee.

Armor

  • Explorer’s Clothing: Once you reach 10th level, your Dexterity could reach 20. At that point, Explorer’s Clothing provides the same AC as Leather Armor, but without a check penalty and with less Bulk. You’ll still want to put runes on it to boost your AC, bu transferring runes from your previous armor is easy.
  • Leather: Most gunslingers will live in Leather armor until they raise their Dexterity to 20, and even then you only need to change to Explorer’s Clothing if you don’t have 10 Strength.
  • Studded Leather: If you start with 16 Dexterity, this may be the right choice. You’ll get the same AC as Leather armor with 18 Dexterity, and since the Dex cap doesn’t matter beyond your AC, raising your Dexterity doesn’t mandate changing armor. However, the Strength Threshold is higher than Leather, so if you don’t have 12 Strength you might change to Leather once you have 18 Dexterity, provided that you have 10 Strength to meet Leather’s Strength Threshold.
  • Chain Shirt: Noisy.
  • Hide / Scale Mail: Fine options if you want to stop at 14 Dexterity, but there’s little reason to do so.

Archetypes

  • Pistol PhenomGaG: Depends on your ability to make Pistol Twirl worthwile, and you need to invest in Performance to make the feats work, which is frustrating because Performance has such limited uses otherwise. There some okay options for pistoleros, but nothing amazing. The capstone feat is clearly intended for drifters, but the action economy on the other feats makes it hard to justify the rest of the archetype.
  • SpellshotGaG (Class Archetype): In a lot of ways this is just another Gunslinger Way, but it does lock you into some class feats and makes it hard to take other archetypes. Spellshot notably changes the ability used for your Class DC from Dexterity to Intelligence, which is hard because it means that anything relying on your class DC will be worse than normal. The archetype’s feats aren’t so good that they justify the build limitations imposed by the archetype.