Much Ado about Pistols: A look at Pistol Relics

Games Workshop has given us a lot of pistol relics. Almost every army has at least one, yet with that, there are very rarely seen in competitive play. Let’s take a look at what they offer, why they are not taken more, and perhaps even an idea on how to fix them.

The Poster Boy for Pistols. And Loyalty, rumors to the contrary.

Pistols in 8th Ed have a few interesting rules to them. First, they cannot be fired in conjunction with other weapons, unless those weapons are also pistols. They can also be fired whilst locked in combat, electing to shoot the unit they are locked with.

Shortcoming of Pistols:

  • They tend to be short ranged. 3″ in some extreme cases, and 18″ as a max. Most however are 12″
  • They tend to have a very limited number of shots. 
  • You are choosing to not take other ‘utility’ relics that can effect more models
  • When talking about them as relics, they are taking up a finite resource with a relatively small return

To look a little more at this last point, I want to compare this to a Melee Weapon. Let’s say the Burning Blade the Space Marines get access to. A pistol may have anywhere from 1-5 attacks, but with some boosts and combos, a melee relic can get 7 attacks (4 base + charge + wl trait + psychic power) that can also potentially explode on 6’s to hit. Point being, melee attacks tend to have more ways to get more bang for your relic, in terms of number of attacks. Number of attacks tends to be a very important factor.

So, let’s see what each Faction has to offer.

Adeptus Sororitas

Wrath of the Emperor

Replaces: A bolt pistol (0 points).

Limits: none

18″Pistol 45-22

This is actually a fairly decent pistol. Good range, good volume of shots, wounding most infantry on a 3, and 2 damage is nothing to scoff at. It is competing with some other utility relics that are better, but this would not be a bad buy all things considered, especially as Sisters have the new version of the relic start, letting them buy as many as they want for 1 CP each. A –

Martyr’s Vengeance

Replaces: An inferno Pistol (7 points)

Limits: Order of our Martyred Lady

12″Pistol 19-4D6 *

*When rolling for damage, roll 2d6 and discard one result

This pistol, to me, exemplifies one of the things wrong with pistol weapons. A lot of damage riding on one roll. Of course, a sisters player can use Miracle Dice to fix some of the variance, but anytime there is a single roll to be failed for the entire attack to fail, I get nervous. B –

Astra Militarum

The Emperor’s Benediction

Replaces: A Bolt Pistol (1 Point)

Limitations: Commissar or Lord Commissar only

12″Pistol 34-12

This pistol may target Characters, even if they are not the closest unit.

With a 12″ range, if a character is that close, you can probably target them anyways. If this was 18″, this would maybe have some play, but at 12″, that special rule is hardly even going to matter….

Other than that, Str 4 and ap -1 is just ok, while Damage 2 is nice. 3 Shots is decent too. Against Primaris you are picking up one model.. which is a bit lackluster for a relic. C+


Replaces: A Bolt Pistol (1 pt)

Limitation: Valhallan Model

12″Pistol 24-12

Friendly VALHALLAN units within 6″ of the bearer can never
lose more than one model as the result of any single failed Morale test.

A pistol that increases morale for nearby troops. Damage wise, it is one shot less impressive than the above one. I guess only losing one to morale is ok…. C

Fire of Judgment

This relic replaces a Hot Shot Las-pistol for the 32nd Thetoid Eagles

12″Pistol 23**

When rolling to attack with this pistol, each successful hit does a mortal wound instead of any other damage.

An interesting relic, that does mortals for hits. The fact it is Pistol 2 means you are looking at reliably two mortals per firing. This is not too bad, but it is let down again by the range. 12″ is not a ton to play with. A semi-reliable 2 mortals though is decent. B+

Blessed BoltPistol

This Relic was FAQ’d to be now replacing a bolt pistol of the 9th Iotan Gorgonnes.

12″Pistol 25-22

This pistol may target characters even if they are not the closest. When targeting psychers, this weapon has a damage characteristic of 3.

Ok, so first things first. This relic had to be FAQ’d to a bolt pistol instead of bolt gun as the former was not able to be taken by a character. This is another relic that lets you snipe characters. Not a bad ability, but not great on a pistol. The actual stats of the gun are pretty nice though. Strength 5 has you wounding most infantry on 3’s while 2 damage and AP – 2 make it a bit of a threat. This relic is not bad, but it is outclassed by other options that could be taken. B+

Chaos Space Marines


This pistol replaces a Bolt Pistol for an Emperor’s Children model

6″Assault D6User-11

This weapon may be fired while within 1″ of enemy models and at enemy units within 1″ of friendly units. If a character is wounded, but not slain by this weapon, roll a d6. On a 6, it takes an additional d3 mortals.

This is an interesting relic, hamstrung by the fact it’s a 6″ range. While not technically a pistol, it replaces and acts much like one. The first unique bit is that you can fire into ongoing combats – which is quite powerful. The strength being user, with Diabolical Strength being a good power, makes this quite interesting as well. A Chaos Lord with a decent Melee weapon and this relic could legitimately be a threat. However, that 6″ range really, really, hurts. That being said, this is probably one of the best pistols relics we have seen yet, and I’d still take many other things over it for Chaos. B+

Crimson Killer

Replaces a Plasma Pistol for World Eaters

12″Pistol 19-33

When making a wound roll of a natural 4+, the target suffers an additional mortal wound.

Another one shot weapon. Typically, I am not a fan of one shots, especially when they burn up a relic slot. This one is not terrible though. The flat 3 damage is nice, as is the strength of 9. 12″ is decent, but nothing spectacular. This helps World Bearers with a slight bit of ranged AT, especially if the target does not have an invul save. It is not a bad pistol, but again the short range and 1 shot hold it back. B –

Craftworld Eldar

Kurno’s bow

12?Pistol 1402

Any wound roll of a 4++ is made at AP -3.

One shot. Zero AP half the time it hits. 12″ range. No thanks. D

Drukari (Dark Eldar)

Parasite’s Kiss

This replaces a Splinter pistol

12″Pistol 2*-22

This is a poison weapon that wounds any non-vehicle on a 2+; vehicles it wounds on a 6+. Any model it kills restores one wound the the bearer.

This is a decent gimmick pistol. Dark Eldar (DE) have the speed to actually make use of the limited range pistols, and 2 damage is decent. Hitting on a 2+, wounding on a 2+ is not to shabby either. The regening wounds part will probably be a very fringe case, but it’s not a bad ability. That all being said, many other DE relics edge it out. B


This pistol replaces an Archon’s splinter pistol if he is of the Kabal of the Poison Tongue.

18″Pistol 2*-1D3

The target does not get the benefit of cover. This is a poison weapon that wounds any non-vehicle on a 2+; vehicles it wounds on a 6+. This pistol does not need line of sight, and may shoot at characters even if they are not the closest model.

So, this pistol is pretty good. Two shots, hitting and wounding on a 2+, able to fire out of Line of sight and target characters. The AP is rather lacking, and the fact it is tied to a sub-par obssesion does not help it either, but as far as pistols go, it is pretty good. Again though, other relics out class it. B+


This replaces a Dark Creed Haemy Stinger Pistol

12″Pistol 3*-41

This is a poison weapon that wounds any non-vehicle on a 2+; vehicles it wounds on a 6+. The target may not take invul saves.

Another interesting pistol. The neat bit about this is the -4 AP and no invul. Unfortunately, it is only 3 shots and damage 1. That is not a huge threat to most things. The nail in the coffin is this is tied to another sub-par obsession. C

Genestealer Cults

Oppressor’s Bane

This Pistol replaces a liberator autostub or an auto pistol

12″Pistol 34-22

This pistol may re-roll wounds when targeting characters, and may target characters even if they are not the closest unit.

This pistol is fairly decent. 2 damage, ap of -2 and 3 shots all add up to be a bit of a threat. The immediate thought is to put this on a Kellermorph. Doing so means the ability to target characters is wasted, as the Kellermorph himself already has that trait. However, exploding shots is nice, and the ability to fire twice in a turn due to a strat is also very nice. 

The issue then becomes with opportunity cost. GSC are still limited in the number of relics they can take, and some others are a bit better. Furthermore, this pistol is only upgrading the number of shots by one and the AP by one compared to a liberator autostub which it replaces. 

Giving the pistol to a different model may be a decent option, especially one that want’s to be up by the front lines. A Clamavus being what I think of first. It gives him some threat, allows him to hang back a touch, and he wants to be close to allow his buffs to help your charging units.

Overall a decent relic that adds a bit of value to an army that wants to get up close and can do so as well. A



12″Pistol d6402

Each time you make a wound roll of a 6+, that shot has an ap of -3.

This is almost, almost, decent-ish. 12″ range is common, and like GSC before them, they have the ability to get up the board where they want to go.  Damage 2 is good, especially in the days of Priamaris. The issue to me then, is the d6 shots. That combined with no innate AP means this will, often times, do very little. Sure, you can maybe proc a -3 ap, but those times are not certain enough to build any kind of strategy around. The real nail in the coffin though is that ‘Quins are limited to 3 relics max and there are at least 5 other relics in line ahead of it. C-


Yup. Necrons. They have a Pistol relic. Bet you never heard of it nor seen it in a game though…. Behold

Gauntlet of the Conflagrator

8″Pistol 1

This pistol may be fired once per battle. The weapon automatically hits it’s target, and you roll a d6 for each model within 8″ of the firing model. On a 6, that model take a mortal wound.

Oh boy. Once per battle – fail. Wounds on a 6 – fail. This, this really hurts. Sure, you could maybe get a ton of hits in if you are in the center of a large swarm, of say 30 gaunts…. but is that really the thing you are worried about? This relic is so niche, underwhelming and just plain sad it is really hard to say something good about it. Ok, here are two good things. It auto hits, and it doesn’t cost you any points to take. F

Space Marines

For Space Marines, I am including all their supplements here as well. The issue with all of them is that Marines already have a ton of good relics, and the others simply outclass them. Please note I am not including each supplement’s special ammo relic. While it could technically be put on a pistol, you are always better served taking it on a different gun should you want it.


This relic replaces a Bolt Pistol or Heavy Bolt Pistol

12″Pistol 25-32

This relic is straightforward. Two shots at 12″ range is common for pistols, but not much to get excited about. The strength 5 and 2 damage with good AP is nice. This would not be bad if the other relics were similarly lack luster. B

Sunwrath Pistol

This relic replaces a Plasma Pistol for Ultramarines

12″Pistol 28-32

A permanently overcharged plasma pistol that can’t blow up. That is not a bad concept, although it smells a touch of xenos technology… 

In any case, range 12″ and 2 shots limit this a bit. This is another not bad but not good relics, that is outclassed. B

Equis-Pattern Bolt Pistol

This replaces a Bolt Pistol or Heavy Bolt Pistol for White Scars

12″Pistol 54-11

Another interesting pistol. 5 shots makes it more usable, and White Scars are know for their speed and tend to try to get stuck into melee. This conjures an imagine in my head of the Wild West, and a gunslinger holding the trigger on his pistol while fanning the hammer. Not bad, but not good. B

Silentus Pistol

This relic replaces a Bolt Pistol or Heavy Bolt Pistol for Raven Guard

12″Pistol 25-22

This pistol may target characters even if they are not the closest model. You may add one to the hit roll when firing this.

Eh. It’s alright. We have that nice profile of Strength AP and Damage let down again by the number of shots and the range, and outclassed by other relics. Starting to sound like a broken record yet? B


This relic replaces a Bolt Pistol or Heavy Bolt Pistol for Imperial Fists

18″Pistol 24-32

This relic may snipe characters.

This is a little better. It counts as a bolt weapon, so 6’s to hit explode. Two shots is a bit of a let down, but range 18″ is nice, especially being able to snipe characters. Good AP and Damage round out this relic. It is almost good enough to take, but unfortunately it is outclassed. B

The Vengful Arbiter

This relic replaces a Bolt Pistol for a Crimson Fist within the Liberation Strike Force specialist detachment

12″Pistol 25-12

Any hits with this weapon allow you to roll to hit again. Those hits may not proc additional hits.

Another interesting relic. It explodes on hits, but could also explode on 6’s to hit if targeting a unit with 5+ models. Other than that is has your fairly standard pistol profile. B

Thousand Sons


This relic replaces an Infernal Bolt Pistol

12Pistol 34-2D3

This is a rather solid gun. Gun, not relic. If this was a point option, it might we worthwhile. The issue here again is other relics are simply better. That being had, if you were hell-bent on using this relic, cult of Duplicity is what makes it usable. Gets you up the board and into range quickly, and able to get out of dodge too if necessary. B

Final thoughts

So, Pistol relics. Not too hot. They all tend to suffer from lack of shots, lack of range, and being outclassed. How do we fix them? While writing this article I went through a lot of ideas, and finally settled on one. Pair them up with another relic, like an almost-good melee weapon. A Sword relic + Pistol relic as one. Both relics are sub-par on their own, but together they might be worthwhile. Pistol + Staff, Pistol + Book, Pistol + Pistol. Outside of that, I am not sure what to do to make them worthwhile without making them not feel like pistols anymore.

Finally, there were a Lot of pistols over a lot of books. Hopefully I did not miss any, or miss any FAQ’s or changes made to them, but if I did I am sure the comments will let me know. I would also love to see any success stories with pistol relics.

Thanks for reading, and happy Wargaming!

And remember, Frontline Gaming sells gaming products at a discount, every day in their webcart!



12 Responses to “Much Ado about Pistols: A look at Pistol Relics”

  1. Avatar
    abusepuppy March 21, 2020 8:03 am #

    I think you’re selling Martyr’s Vengeance a tad short. It’s hitting on a 2+ rerolling 1s, wounding a 3+, and is rolling two dice for damage, so it’s mitigating the randomness of dice at almost every possible step. You do, of course, have to buy the Inferno Pistol to get it, which has problems of its own, but the relic’s upgrades fix almost any complaint you could have with the gun.

    Pietrov’s .45 lets you almost completely bypass the morale phase, which is a pretty big deal when you can get units of 30+ via Conscripts or Combined Squads. You don’t see it as much anymore because of meta shifts, but it’s an incredibly powerful tool to have in IG’s arsenal.

    Also can’t believe you rate Blissgiver higher than either of the above. It is true garbage, since the short range and weak stats mean that it will almost never even be fireable, much less useful.

    • Faitherun
      Faitherun March 21, 2020 7:28 pm #

      I may indeed be selling Martyr’s Vengeance short. I hesitate so much with single shot weapons. Not just because of your rolls, but your opponent passing an invul on that pistol just feel really, really bad. I don’t like single shot weapons most of the time. This one is pretty good though, although the delivery for sister makes me hesitate on getting it into range.

      Pietrov’s .45, like you said, the meta right now negates much of its potential. Even besides that, it is for Valhallan only. And Valhallan already let you mitigate much of the morale issues. I’d love for morale to be more of a feature, but as it stands, it is not.

      Regarding Blissgiver, I think it is actually usable on a jump lord. That gives him range and delivery. There are two points that makes me like this relic. First, it is str user. This allows you to buff the users strength and thereby buff the weapon’s. Secondly, it can fire into combats. That gives it a bit of a unique niche that could give it some play.

      Of course though, your experience with any of these may vary. And overall, they are all still outclassed by other relics available to each army.

      • Avatar
        abusepuppy March 21, 2020 10:37 pm #

        The Str: User is an interesting feature, but the only way I know to actually take advantage of that is Diabolic Strength, which could boost it up to S6- useful, but still not all that impressive. Firing into combats is a nice trick, but it’s for the wrong army- you really want that for a _shooting_ army that is terrified of getting tripointed at the wrong time and thus stuck in a fight that prevents them from acting. Emperor’s Children is not really a shooting army to that degree, and if they need to break out of a combat they’re much more inclined to simply charge a unit of their own in rather than hoping that d6 shots will clear a unit.

        But yes, almost all of these will be second-tier choices when the mainstays aren’t applicable or when you have CP to burn and think their gimmick might help. I would say that the Sororitas pistols are the only ones good enough to consistently take in an army, since they fill a role SoB can use and have fairly low costs to doing so.

  2. Avatar
    Vipoid March 22, 2020 4:21 am #

    I think a big problem with pistol relics is that artefacts now all cost the same and (for every faction other than SMs) are highly limited.

    So not only are pistols in direct competition with force-multiplier artefacts, they cost exactly the same as those artefacts.

    If artefacts actually cost points, then you’d probably see a lot more pistol relics used.

    Another aspect is that the current rules for pistols are utter garbage. The sole benefit of using them over other weapons is that you can fire them in combat. However, after charging, you need to survive two entire rounds of combat (without winning) before you can fire them once.

    I think allowing models to substitute melee weapon attacks for pistol shots would make pistols a good deal more attractive in general.

    • Avatar
      Jace March 23, 2020 8:42 pm #

      That’s a cool idea! plebs with plasma pistols point black blasting would be rad

      • Avatar
        abusepuppy March 24, 2020 1:25 am #

        That used to be how it was done, but it raised another problem: if you can buy a Plasma Pistol (which shoots at range with a good profile and can be used in melee with a good profile) or a Power Fist (which doesn’t shoot at all but has a good profile in melee), why would you ever choose the latter unless it is massively cheaper?

        The issue is even more pronounced with weapons like Fusion Pistols and whatnot.

        • Avatar
          Vipoid March 24, 2020 3:15 am #

          I can see it being an issue for Sergeants (as they often only have 2 attacks), but surely most HQs wouls still want the Power Fist? Otherwise they’d only get a single Plasma shot in melee, and the rest of their 4+ attacks would just be basic attacks with no AP or bonuses.

          Also, I don’t know how much it would help, but I’d probably say that you can only use a pistol in melee if you didn’t fire it in the preceding movement phase (so you can use it in the shooting phase *or* the subsequent melee phase, but not both).

          • Avatar
            abusepuppy March 24, 2020 4:47 am

            Depends on how many attacks you’re allowed to substitute; in past editions, it was somewhere between 50 and 100%, depending; it has also been the case in some of the skirmish games as well.

            I don’t think allowing pistols in the fight phase solves the pistol problem, because then the game has to be much more restrictive with the kinds of stats it puts on pistol weapons. I think re-figuring the role of pistols in the game and the specifics of rules for using them could go a long ways there- for example, if you could fire a pistol into combat (even if you weren’t involved in the combat), that would go a long ways towards redeeming them.

  3. Avatar
    Vipoid March 24, 2020 4:59 am #


    (I could’t continue the comment chain.)

    My suggestion is that you can substitute any number of melee attacks for pistol attacks – but not more than your pistol’s rate of fire.

    So if a model has 3 attacks and is carrying a Plasma Pistol, it can substitute up to one of those attacks for a Plasma Pistol shot. However, since the Plasma Pistol is a Pistol 1, the model can’t make more than 1 attack with it.

    Similarly, an Archon with the Soul Seeker could make up to 2 attacks with it (since it’s Pistol 2), but the remaining 3 attacks would have to be made with regular melee weapons.

  4. Avatar
    LargeinCharge May 6, 2020 1:30 pm #

    What about the Emperor’s Fury relic for Iotan Dragons Tempestus Scions? 3 plasma pistol shots for the price of 1

    • Faitherun
      Faitherun May 7, 2020 7:05 am #

      3 Shots at 12″ is not bad. Plasma profile in all regards, means I would be rather hesitant to overcharge it. Scions have a bit more mobility so able to get it up the field and into range.

      Again, other relics are better, and I would hesitate to risk overcharing it. But I’d give it a solid B. The potential for getting stuck in and blasting an enemy character in the face is just solid gold for the one time that may happen.

  5. Avatar
    Frank Davis May 6, 2020 11:04 pm #

    Great discussion

Leave a Reply