Best Pistol Build - Gunslinger

Best Pistol Build - Gunslinger - Fallout: New Vegas (FNV)

By zanuffas
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This post will cover the best Pistol build for Fallout: New Vegas. I will be going in-depth on the main attributes, skills, and gear. This should help you make decisions on how to progress through the game in the optimal matter

Best Pistol Build - Gunslinger

With this build I tried to maximize the effectiveness of pistols in Fallout: New Vegas. Although these weapons are not as powerful as two-handed rifles, they can still be deadly with precise headshots or sneak critical hits.

We aim at maximizing our critical chance which ensures that in direct combat enemies die as fast as possible, after this we maximize Critical damage, to ensure that most of the enemies die instantly from successful crit hit.

pistol build combat deathclaws fallout new vegas

You are free to adjust the build based on your roleplay preferences, as here I concentrated on maximizing the effectiveness. So many of the perks are totally optional. Be sure to check the equipment section as this guides what weapons to use and how the pistol build becomes extremely powerful.

Starting the Game

In this section, I would like to go through some recommendations for the Pistol build. This covers only the start of the game, so read the next section on how you should progress and how the end game build should look like.


Attribute Value Description
fallout new vegas strength attribute specialStrength 4 It is even possible to start with 3 Strength. It all depends if you plan on using something like Li'l Devil, which requires 8 strengths. However, to remain on the safe side, you can go with 4.
fallout new vegas preception attribute specialPerception 5 Although it does not give many benefits except enemy detection, we need it to get an awesome perk - Better Criticals
fallout new vegas endurance attribute specialEndurance 7 A decent amount of endurance will give bonus resistances and an HP pool bonus
fallout new vegas charisma attribute specialCharisma 1 The attribute plays an important role only in companion effectiveness
fallout new vegas intelligence attribute specialIntelligence 7 The attribute unlocks some awesome perks and decides how many skill points you get at every level. This amount is optimal and at level 50, you can have almost everything maxed out.
fallout new vegas agility attribute specialAgility 8 This is one of the most important attributes of Pistol build. It provides bonus action points (for VATS) and faster reload speed.
fallout new vegas luck attribute specialLuck 8 Another important attribute that will maximize your critical chance. It will also allow you to earn more money when playing in casinos.

Tag Skills

These are the ones that you choose at the beginning of the game. Here is what I recommend:

Skill Description
guns skill fallout new vegasGuns This is the main skill for the pistol build. It will ensure that all the weapons have high damage and unlock relevant perks.
sneak fallout new vegasSneak This is a very welcome skill as it allows you to get in the best position without being detected. Moreover, it ensures a guaranteed critical hit for some large damage.
repair skill fallout new vegasRepair Generally any skill works here, it could be lockpicking, science, speech, etc. I prefer Repair, due to some amazing perks like Hand Loader. Moreover, repaired weapons sell for more allowing you to accumulate your war chest faster.


The traits are definitely optional and just recommendations. Pick up to two of them:

  • Skilled - fairly low intelligence can be counteracted with this trait. it gives +5 to all skills making it a bit easier, getting everything you need. Of course, this reduces XP gain by 10%, but you can counteract this with Well Rested.
  • Built to Destroy - increases weapon damage at the cost of faster weapon decay. If you picked Repair tag skill this should not be a problem as you can easily get your weapon to 100% fast.
  • Wild Wasteland - see new and unique encounters in the wasteland

Early game tips

Here I would like to offer some early game tips for the build to make it easier when starting out

Use any weapon that you have on hand

Although we are concentrating on shotguns, the early game can be hard - you do not have caps, no loot, cannot buy ammo, and have low skills. Due to this don't be picky and have whatever weapon you have on hand. The early Courier's Stash DLC provides some good options - Mercenary's Grenade Rifle, Weathered 10mm pistol, etc.

Doing the main quest

Unless you are cheesing some of the game mechanics, and want to experience the game as intended, I recommend doing the main story quest up until you reach Novac. The journey will provide you with two companions:

  • ED-E - in Primm City, it is a robot that you can revive using some scrap parts. The parts can be found on Lone Wolf Radio.
  • Boone - you will find him in Novac. To join you, you have to do his quest and help him

These companions will help you a lot and make the game more fun and easier. Another thing is that Novac will give you your own room, where you can store loot. This makes scavenging easier throughout the game.

After this, it's your choice what to do

Progression and Final Pistol Build

Now I would like to go through the progression for the build and how it should look once "it is done". I will also share some tips and directions to get the most out of it.


Here is how your attributes should look like when they are maximized and you obtain most of the stuff in the game.

Attribute Value Description
fallout new vegas strength attribute specialStrength 7
  • +2 - Get Reinforced Spine in Old World Blues DLC
  • +1 - Purchase the implant from New Vegas Clinic
fallout new vegas preception attribute specialPerception 6
fallout new vegas endurance attribute specialEndurance 8
fallout new vegas charisma attribute specialCharisma 2
fallout new vegas intelligence attribute specialIntelligence 8
fallout new vegas agility attribute specialAgility 10
  • +1 - Purchase the implant from New Vegas Clinic
  • +1 - Divide Survivor, obtained after finishing Loansome Road DLC
fallout new vegas luck attribute specialLuck 10


In this section, I will go through the skills for the Pistol Build. I want to recommend the progression below. This will ensure that you get all the skills that you need for the build. Of course, you can still spend 3-5 points at every level on other choices and this will not create any problems.

I recommend leaving skills at 90 (except science and lockpicks as you may miss some loot) and getting the rest 10 points from skill books in Mojave Wasteland

Order Skill Description
1 repair skill fallout new vegasRepair 70 Strange choice? However, getting this will allow you to get a very powerful quality of life perk at level 6 - Hand Loader
2 guns skill fallout new vegasGuns 50 Enough to improve weapon damage a bit and make combat easier
3 explosives skill fallout new vegasExplosives 20 We level up explosives to unlock Grunt perk for some pistols that we will use with the build
4 melee weapons fallout new vegasMelee Weapons 45 We need to level up this skill to get the Cowboy perk. However, if you do not plan on using any revolver weapons, then, you can totally skip it.
5 sneak fallout new vegasSneak 50 Improves your sneaking effectiveness
6 guns skill fallout new vegasGuns 80 Enough to improve weapon damage a bit and make combat easier
7 sneak fallout new vegasSneak 70 You can now unlock The Professional Perk.
8 energy weapons skill fallout new vegasEnergy Weapons 60 Needed to get Concentrated Fire perk
9 guns skill fallout new vegasGuns 90 Improve weapon handling
10 sneak fallout new vegasSneak 90 You can now unlock The Professional Perk.
11 repair skill fallout new vegasRepair 90 Allows crafting the best hand load ammo and getting Jury Rigging perk.
12 survival skill fallout new vegasSurvival 70 If you wish to get something like a Rad Child perk. Otherwise, you can skip it.

After this you are free to put the points however, you want and prioritize the things that you think are needed based on your playstyle.


Although I list the perk in level order of when you should get them, I recommend assuming that this is a list. Different players will prefer getting different skills first, so some of the perks might be available later/earlier.

Level Perk Details
2 rapid reload fallout new vegasRapid Reload Early in the game shotgun reloading can be painful, so this skill mitigates it
4 educated fallout new vegasEducated This skill should be taken as early as possible (level 4), it will give 2 skill points each level up which accumulate a lot during the game
6 hand loader fallout new vegasHand Loader This is a very valuable perk that the earlier you take the more beneficial it is. You have a higher chance to recover ammunition cases.
8 confirmed bachelor fallout new vegasConfirmed Bachelor/Cherechez La Femme A 10% boost against male enemies. There will be a lot of them during the game, so this bonus is very valuable.
10 cowboy fallout new vegasCowboy/Grunt I recommend prioritizing Grunt if you use something like 9mm. However, Cowboy provides bonuses to revolvers, which are plenty. Moreover, you will not have A Light Shining in Darkness pistol yet, so the Grunt bonus is not as important yet.
12 gunslinger fallout new vegasGunslinger Increases accuracy in VATS with one-handed ranged weapons. This is a mandatory perk for pistol build
14 finesse fallout new vegasFinesse +5% Critical chance, for even more precise shots.
16 better criticals fallout new vegasBetter Criticals Increases critical damage with your weapons by 50%
18 cowboy fallout new vegasCowboy/Grunt Pick the one that you did not take earlier
20 Grim Reaper's Sprint fallout new vegasGrim Reapers' Sprint After a killed enemy in VATS restore 20 AP. This can allow you to take out a large number of weak enemies easily.
22 the professional fallout new vegasThe Professional Gives a bonus of 20% critical damage with pistols when attacking from stealth. However, due to bugs, this applies to all crit hits.
24 light touch fallout new vegasLight Touch (optional) When wearing light armor you will get a bonus 5% critical chance. However, if you do not plan on wearing something like Ulysse's Duster or Joshua Graham's Armor then you can safely skip it
26 jury rigging fallout new vegasJury Rigging The perks make it easier to repair items as you can use similar instead of the same ones. This will save a lot of caps.
28 chemist fallout new vegasChemist Gives a boost to chem duration, at the late game they are very valuable as they can improve your damage resistance, slow time, etc.
30 bloody mess fallout new vegasBloody Mess Increases damage by 5%. Moreover, killed enemies splash around, which can be too gory for some
32 concentrated fire fallout new vegasConcentrated Fire Increases your accuracy in VATS by 5% with each shot
34 living anatomy fallout new vegasLiving Anatomy A bonus of 5% damage against humans and ghouls is a very valuable choice.
36 rad child fallout new vegasRad Child Gives a good health regeneration boost while you have radiation effects. The higher radiation the bigger the bonus.
38 chem resistant fallout new vegasChem Resistant Decreases the chance that you will get addicted to chems. This is totally optional, as you can easily heal from addiction at any clinic if you have the caps.
40 tunnel runner fallout new vegasTunnel Runner (optional) Only take this one if you use light armor. It increases the speed at which you move while sneaking
42 silent running fallout new vegasSilent Running Makes it harder to detect you while sneaking. Use this to get a better position and take out enemies by surprise
44 nerves of steel fallout new vegasNerves of Steel Increases Action Point recovery speed
46 Action Boy Action Girl fallout new vegasAction Boy/Action Girl Increases the total amount of action points to use in VATS
48 certified tech fallout new vegasCertified Tech Increases Critical Chance against robots. Moreover, gives a chance for more valuable loot to them
50 thought you died fallout new vegasThought you Died This skill would be the best option. However, if you cannot take it then go for Just Lucky I'm Alive or Ain't Like That Now

General Tips

At level 15 start Old World Blues DLC

I really recommend starting this DLC. It will give +2 Strength after you finish it.

To start the DLC you can go to the Mojave Drive-in and at night initiate the quest. This way you can avoid the Weapon Handling perk and use perk points elsewhere


This section will cover some gear recommendations for the Pistol Build


There are a wide array of choices for this build

pistol build combat fallout new vegas

Weapon Description
a light shining in darkness fallout new vegasA Light Shining in Darkness I would say this is the best pistol in the game. Although it does not do the most damage, it has the second-highest DPS. Moreover, it can use .45 Super (Hand Load) ammo, which decreases enemy Damage Threshold by 4
Li'l Devil fallout new vegasLi'l Devil Although this weapon has the highest DPS of all pistols, it does not have armor-penetrating ammo. Due to this, it is mostly useful against normal, unarmored enemies.
Ranger Sequoia fallout new vegasRanger Sequoia The most powerful single-shot pistol. A very fun weapon to use.
hunting revolver gra fallout new vegasHunting Revolver (GRA) Similar to Ranger Sequoia it is a bit weaker. What makes it special, is that it has a scope, perfect for landing some sneaky sniper shots.
that gun fallout new vegasThat Gun A perfect beginning weapon, that has decent damage, and uses ammo readily available throughout the game. Be sure to start using as soon as you can

The ammo can either be bought from vendors or crafted at a reloading bench.


Although armor is important, due to how New Vegas works, they can be made redundant. Generally, when dealing damage the minimum amount that will be dealt is 20%. This means that you can reach 85% damage reduction with Med-X, Battle Brew, and Slasher. After this, any Damage Threshold (DT) from your armor is redundant
Armor Description
ulysses duster fallout new vegasUlysse's Duster The best ammo in terms of DPS. It gives +5% Crit Chance and also activates Light Touch for another 5% Crit Chance.
joshua graham's armor fallout new vegasJoshua Graham's Armor This is another good armor and my preferred choice. It has a 15 Damage Threshold and also gives a +3% Crit Chance boost.
elite riot gear fallout new vegasElite Riot Gear This is a medium armor, and it will not benefit from Light Touch. However, it still gives a bit of Crit Chance and looks extremely cool.


Helmet Description
1st recon berret fallout new vegas1st Recon Beret This is hands down the best helmet to use for maximum DPS. It is one of three headwear that gives this bonus (and the highest)
salt upon wounds helmet fallout new vegasSalt-Upon-Wounds' Helmet Gives +2 Crit Chance and provides a 4 Damage Threshold.


Armor Description
lucky shades fallout new vegasLucky Shades These are a perfect option if you do not use a helmet that covers the face. It gives +1 Luck, which ensures the maximum amount for the Crit Chance. It's perfect with 1st Recon Beret
Atomic-valence tri-radii-oscillator fallout new vegasAtomic-Valence Tri-Radii-Oscillator Can be worn together with any helmet. Gives health regeneration and Endurance +1. Moreover, it provides an additional Damage Threshold. Requires Old World Blues DLC
Valence radii-accentuator fallout new vegasValence Radii-Accentuator Can be worn together with any helmet. Gives health regeneration and Endurance +1. Moreover, it provides an additional Damage Threshold. The weaker version of the Atomic-valence Tri-Radii-Oscillator. Requires Old World Blues DLC


Thank you for reading this post on the Pistol build in Fallout New Vegas. I covered the most important aspects like the start of the game and how to progress with your perks. This should give you a guiding hand not get lost in this huge game

Feel free to leave any questions in the comments


Post author zanuffas avatar zanuffas
Gamestegy Founder. I have been writing game guides and builds for 4 years. I like to push myself to create something wonderful for the readers!