Destiny Hand Cannons In-Depth Guide

Destiny Hand Cannons In-Depth Guide by Asuko_XIII

Hey, I’m Asuko_XIII and I’m going to try and give you an in-depth and detailed guide on my favorite gun, the Hand Cannon.

The Hand Cannon – The Basics

Hand Cannons are your high skill, high reward primary weapons. Typically having a low rate of fire, stability, and range, they make up for it with high impact, and usually do the most damage of any other primary weapon with a single trigger pull. They also tend to have the smallest magazine size at a minimum of 3 round magazine (Bandit Mk. 24) and a maximum of 13 (Fatebringer with Field Scout, Red Hand IX with Field Scout, ect.). Hand Cannons typicall work best for highly skilled players who can pull off headshots frequently at close and medium range. There are three main archetypes of Hand Cannons, the Low Rate of Fire, High Impact Model, The High Rate of Fire, Low Impact Model, and the Balanced Model. But before I go into the archetypes, let’s look at the possible perks and how they work.

Hand Cannons Reforge—–Sights—–Perk One—–Perk Column—–Perk Two
—–Steady Hand ISSureshot ISQuickdraw ISGrave RobberFlared MagwellHigher caliber RoundsSmallboreHidden Hand
—–Truesight ISFastdraw IS—–IcarusArmor Piercing RoundsExplosive RoundsRifled BarrelCounterbalance
—–—–—–—–Hot SwapSpeed ReloadLightweightBraced FrameLuck in the Chamber
—–—–—–—–Triple TapSnapshotExtended MagInjection MoldGrenadier
—–—–—–—–Battle Runner—–Reinforced Barrel—–Army of One
—–—–—–—–Zen Moment—–—–—–Hip Fire
—–—–—–—–Replenish—–—–—–Spray and Play
—–—–—–—–Final Round—–—–—–Outlaw


Steady Hand IS+6+8+8Stable sight. Optimized for excellent recoil control.
Sureshot IS+2+12+12Snapshot sight. Excellent handling. Superb target acquisition.
Quickdraw IS0+15+15Agile sight. Lightning-fast handling.
Truesight IS+5+8+8Flexible sight. Light, with good recoil control. Strong target acquisition.
Fastdraw IS+4+10+10Standard sight. A lightweight design, good for recoil control.

You can see the stats above. Something to note however, is the Sureshot IS with “superb target acquisition”. In layman’s terms, this makes you more likely to pull off headshots, which are so vital for Hand Cannons. If you’re rerolling, this is the sight to choose, regardless of archetype (discussed below). If you can’t, Truesight IS is a close second.

Perk Slot 1:

Perk NameDescriptionPlay PreferencePvEPvP
Grave RobberMelee kills while this weapon is equipped have a chance to refill the magazine.PvEWhile you’ll probably be at close to medium range, Grave Robber isn’t a bad perk in case you find yourself in a sticky situation, and it seems to proc pretty often. Not a bad choice for PvE.If you’re within melee range with your Hand Cannon out, you’re probably already looking at the screen that says “Felwinter’s Lie”, “Party Crasher +1”, or “Matador 64”. Pass for PvP.
IcarusImproved accuracy while airbornePvE?Might not be bad for dealing damage while avoiding enemy fire, but really, how accurate can you be in the air?If you’re hopping around like a crazy person, you’re probably already in someone’s sights. There are better perks in my opinion.
Hot SwapReadying this weapon grants a brief period of bonus accuracy.EitherIf you like to switch between guns a lot, this perk works.If you like to switch between guns a lot, this perk works.
Triple TapRapidly landing precision hits will return one round to the magazine.PvELanding precision hits is (again) super important with hand cannons. Assuming you’re super accurate, you’ve just turned your 9 round magazine into a 13 round magazine.In PvP, firefights tend to be more hectic with a lot more movement. Landing 3 precision shots is going to be difficult, and you’ll probably have time to reload after the duel.
Battle RunnerKills with this weapon grant a brief boost to the sprint’s top speed.PvPThis perk not only boosts your sprint speed, but also your walking speed, allowing you to reload and run away pretty quickly. Not a terrible perk, but there are better options.See the PvE description. Having a bit of extra speed for about 5 seconds to reload or get to cover can be pretty useful. Don’t believe me? Ask any MIDA or Radiant Dance Machines user.
Zen MomentIncreases stability with each hit. (Stability caps at 66% after 5 hits.)PvEThis is a great perk. Hand cannons typically have low stability, so getting extra after each hit on target is great, it’s practically a better equivalent to the Gunslinger’s Trance perk, and don’t even get me started on getting those both together.PvP: It’s just as useful in PvP, although it may have more utility in PvE.
ReplenishThis weapon’s magazine will be refilled whenever a Super is cast.PvPReally? You need a super to fill your magazine? I guess it could be situationally useful, but really, what’s the point?Might be better in PvP if you panic with your super when you run out of ammo. But if you’re out of ammo and panicking, whether you kill your enemy or not, you’ll probably have time to reload anyway.
Final RoundIncreases the damage of the last round of your magazine by 33%.PvPMeh. It’s okay, but you want a gun with more shots in a magazine anyway, so you won’t get this one to proc too terribly often.This can really be useful in PvP, especially with the High Impact, Low Rate of Fire Model. Now you’re guaranteeing a two shot headshot kill, assuming you finish with the last round in your magazine, useful if you’ve got a small magazine size.

Perk Column:

Perk NameDescriptionPlay PreferencePvEPvP
Flared Magwell+100 Reload, -10 StabilityEitherReload quicker. Not bad considering hand cannons typically have a slow reload. Not bad at all.Reload quicker. Not bad considering hand cannons typically have a slow reload. Not bad at all.
Armor-Piercing RoundsAllows your bullets to penetrate multiple enemies but lowers stability of weapon.EitherMeh.Meh.
Speed Reload+50 ReloadEitherSee Flared Magwell. It’s nearly the same.See Flared Magwell. It’s nearly the same.
SnapshotIncreases aim down sights speed by 30%.PvPMeh. There are better options.Might save your life, but probably won’t.
High-Caliber RoundsStaggers enemies but lowers stability.PvEYou know how MIDA stagger enemies as if you sniped them? It’s like that. I personally feel there are better options here, though.Meh. It might make enemies harder to shoot you.
Explosive RoundsUpon impact, your bullets cause explosions with radius of 2 meters. Targets closer to the epicenter take more damage.PvPIf you have any perks that require you to make precision hit to proc, don’t use this perk, it’ll slow your flow, bro.On the other hand, this makes it pretty difficult for opponents to get a bead on you, because it hits twice in one shot. Another personal favorite of mine for the High-Impact, Low Rate of Fire Model.
Lightweight+2 AgilityEitherNothing wrong with Lightweight. There can be better options, but Lightweight is nice.Nothing wrong with Lightweight. There can be better options, but Lightweight is nice.
Extended MagIncreases Magazine stat by 30.PvEThis is the standout perk for PvE. Remember how Hand Cannons have small magazines? This is the PRIME perk for this slot in PvE. No question.Now, you might think that this perk would be useful in PvP too, and you’d be right. However, if you’re running a Final Round Hand Cannon, you want to get to that perk faster, and this is not gonna help you.
SmallboreIncreased Range and Stability, Slower Reload, Reduced Magazine Size.NO.DON’TJust don’t do it. Unless you want to build the worst Hand Cannon possible. Then, by all means.
Rifled BarrelIncreased Range, Slower ReloadWhy would you want this?You don’t want this.See, Smallbore.
Braced FrameIncreased Stability, Reduced Magazine SizePvPJust stop. You need more bullets. NEED THEM.Actually, might be useful if you’re trying to get to your Final Round as quick as possible. Or more proc chances for Luck in the Chamber
Injection MoldIncreased Stability, Faster Handling, Reduced RangePvPNah. Range is kinda important in PvE.Might not be too terrible. But there are DEFINITELY better options.
Reinforced BarrelIncreased Range, Reduced StabilityGood luck hitting those shots!Just use a shotgun if you’re gonna be that close.Seriously.

Perk Slot 3:

Perk NameDescriptionPlay PreferencePvEPvP
Hidden HandThis weapon gains better target acquisition.PvPNot a bad choice, headshots are important AND fun.It’s all about that headshot game, dude. (or dudette)
CounterbalanceDecreases weapon recoil by 9%PvEThere’s better options, but it’s handy. Extra recoil control on a hand cannon is nice.See PvE. <
Luck in the ChamberRandomly grants 1 round in your magazine to deal 33% more damage.PvPIt’s nice, but more tailored toward the PvP game.This is another great perk for those High Impact, Low Rate of Fire models, as it gives you another chance to two shot an opponent. And trust me, it’s pretty frustrating. More on this bad boy later.
GrenadierEach kill reduces the cooldown of your Grenade ability by 10%.EitherIt’s a nice perk, plain and simple.It’s not godly, per se, but it’s always nice to have more grenade usage.
Army of OneUnassisted kills with this weapon reduce grenade and melee cooldown.PvE.It’s like a better grenadier. Not bad at all, but there are better options.You’ll probably be finishing enemies by yourself with a hand cannon, but there’s always the chance you won’t. If you want something like this for PvP, go with Grenadier.
Hip FireIncreases weapon accuracy when firing from the hip.No thanks.Seriously.If you want to hip fire, just use the Last Word. It does more damage from the hip anyway.
Spray and PlayIncreases your reload speed by 50% when your magazine is empty.PvEYou’ll probably end up using your whole magazine more often in PvE. It’s nice, seeing as hand cannons have a slow reload, typically.You usually reload after firefights, right? Either way, not bad, especially if your magazine is lacking.
OutlawSets reload speed to maximum for 5 seconds after a precision kill.PvEThis is the PRIME perk for PvE. Pop off those headshots and reload SUPER quickly.While it’s a good perk, you probably just won’t see as much utility with it in PvP.

The Archetypes:

Low Rate of Fire, High Impact

Examples: Ill Will, Timur’s Lash, Painted Big Chief, Primed Big Sky

Play Preference: PvP

This archetype hits HARD, but fires SLOW and typically has an above average range with an awful stability and reload. While I personally wouldn’t bother with them for PvE content, they can be amazing in PvP if used by a skilled hand. If a Warlock or Hunter don’t put any points into armor, these high impact models can kill in two headshots, and while there are other options that can kill quicker, these can be useful for popping off a shot, ducking around a corner to throw Guardians off, and finish with another two (or potentially one).

PvP Monster Roll: Final Round, Luck in the Chamber (middle perk is your choice, look for the PvP preference) This turns your gun into a mini Hawkmoon. You now have two two-shot potential kills, not counting the Hunter or Warlock who didn’t put any points into armor. The lower the magazine size, the better.

High Rate of Fire, Low Impact Model

Examples: Up the Ante, Word of Crota

Play Preference: PvE

This archetype is the opposite of the above, and performs well by firing rounds quickly and accurately, but doesn’t hit too hard. This archetype usually has a nice sized magazine as well. You COULD take it into PvP, but I’d stick to something else, personally.

PvE Monster Roll: Triple Tap, Extended Mag, Outlaw. Turn your gun into a fast firing, bullet full, super quick reload machine. The party never stops with this bad boy.

Balanced Model

Examples: Fatebringer, Red Hand IX, Jewel of Osiris

Play Preference: Either

Falling somewhere in between the above two archetypes, these bad boys rule in PvE, and play pretty well in PvP. They can kill with three shots, potentially in PvP. It fires faster than the Low Rate of Fire, High Impact archetype and does more damage than the High Rate of Fire, Low Impact archetype. This archetype has typically balanced stats and is good all around.

PvE Monster Roll: Zen Moment, Extended Mag, Outlaw. Nearly identical to the above archetype’s Monster Roll, I’ve given this one Zen Moment to make up for the typically lower stability.

Legendary Hand Cannons that CANNOT be Rerolled.

Fatebringer (Balanced Model)

Play Preference: PvE

Perks: (Steady Hand IS, Sureshot IS, Quickdraw IS), Firefly, (Single Point Sling, Field Scout, Explosive Rounds), Outlaw. (Arc Damage)

Go ahead, ask around. Most will tell you that Fatebringer is the best PvE weapon in the game. And if you ask me, they’d be right. Fatebringer, the Vault of Glass Hard Mode Hand Cannon is a monster in PvE. It comes with Outlaw, the (in my opinion) best PvE perk, and Firefly, which can’t even be obtained on a Hand Cannon. Getting a precision kill causes the target to explode AND lets you reload super-fast. You’re better off picking Single Point Sling or Field Scout, as the explosive rounds can sometimes throw off the precision kills procing Outlaw and Firefly. Field scout only gives you one more shot (13), so I typically use Single Point Sling. Always run Sureshot IS for more precision kills.

Word of Crota (Low Impact, High Rate of Fire Model)

Perks: (Steadyhand IS, Fastdraw IS, Sureshot IS) Zen Moment, (Speed Reload, Hammer Forged, Explosive Rounds) Phantom Gift. (Void Damage)

Play Preference: PvE

The Crota’s End Hard Mode hand cannon is a nice addition to your inventory. It’s well balanced and easy to use. Phantom Gift is simply the Pre-HoW version of triple tap, and Zen Moment is always welcome. This bad boy is accurate AND stable, especially when procing Zen Moment. I usually run explosive rounds on it, because you don’t need to get kills, just precision hits for Phantom Gift to proc. Always run Sureshot IS for more precision kills. It beats the crap out of Atheon’s Epilogue as far as Void primaries go.

Jewel of Osiris (Balanced Model)

Perks: (Steadyhand IS, Sureshot IS, Quickdraw IS) Icarus, (Snapshot, Flared Magwell, Perfect Balance) Third Eye.

Play Preference: PvP

The Trials of Osiris Hand Cannon is pretty lack luster, if you ask me. There are better options for PvP. Third Eye is nice for situational awareness, and Icarus is… There… You could roll better perks than this. It has identical stats to Fatebringer except for a magazine size of 9, so run Perfect balance for an even more stable gun. Again, always run Sureshot IS for more precision kills.

Six Dreg Pride (Balanced Model)

Perks: (Steadyhand IS, Sureshot IS, Quickdraw IS) Army of One, (Hand Loaded, High-Caliber Rounds, Extended Mag) Demolition

Play Preference: PvE

The Prison of Elders Hand Cannon is one I don’t have so I can’t speak too much on it. Army of One is nice for PvE, and Demolition has a chance to stun Fallen Captains. With a 9 round magazine, you’re probably best off running Extended Mag, and, as always, run Sureshot IS for more precision kills.

Exotic Hand Cannons

Exotic Hand Cannons are the Cream of the crop in PvP, and you won’t see them too much outside of it.

The Last Word

Perks: Fan Fire, (Soft Ballistics, Smart Drift Control, Aggressive Ballistics) Hip Fire, (Single Point Sling, High-Caliber Rounds, Perfect Balance) Last Word

Play Preference: PvP

Skill Required: High

The Last Word is infamous for having the fastest time to kill of any primary weapon in the Crucible. (save for No Land Beyond and Universal Remote) The Last Word is super stylish, each time you switch to it, you spin it around your fingers, and you Fan Fire it continuously by holding down the trigger. It also has a really cool Grimoire story surrounding it, linking it to the Thorn below. It kills very quickly at close range, and you should be running Aggressive Ballistics and Perfect Balance for maximum damage and stability, especially because it kicks wildly. The Last Word perk allows you to do more damage by landing hip fire shots, and it’s extra stable when firing from the hip. In the Crucible, you’re best off matching this with a sniper so you have all ranges covered. Do note that blinking will cause you to respin the gun around your finger, potentially wasting extra seconds. The fast firing rate and 8 round magazine will have you pining for something else in PvE though, because you’ll be reloading as often as you’ll be shooting.


Perks: (Accurized Ballistics, Field Choke, Aggressive Ballistics) Final Round, (Snapshot, Send It, Perfect Balance) Mark of the Devourer

Play Preference: PvP

Skill Required: High to Obtain, Medium to Use.

Remember that time that your screen was green and you were trying to run away, but ended up dying anyway? Oh, that happens all the time? That’s Thorn. It’s widely used and abused in PvP, and it’s a monster with a two shot head shot kill if timed properly.Mark of the Devourer is the stand out perk here, as it keeps dealing damage over time on whatever you hit. You should be running Aggressive Ballistics for more damage. It’s up to you if you’d rather run Send it or Perfect Balance, and hinges on how accurate you think are. It’s a well-balanced gun (stat wise) with an amazing perk. Need I say more? In PvE it’s nice to have damage over time, but there are better options, in my opinion. Oh, did I mention the Thorn Grimoire card? It’s really cool.


Perks: (Accurized Ballistics, Field Choke, Aggressive Ballistics) Luck in the Chamber, (Hammer Forged, Quickdraw, Speed Reload) Holding Aces

Play Preference: PvP

Skill Required: High

Sorry, X-Box players, Hawkmoon is (currently) a PlayStation exclusive. It has high enough impact coupled with its perks to deliver two-shot kills easily (42% of the time it can, actually!). It is the only primary (save for No Land Beyond and Universal Remote) that has the potential to kill in a single shot, although the odds are astronomically low. Holding Aces gives you two more bonus damage Luck in the Chamber-esque shots, but they can stack on top of each other for major damage. It has relatively low stability, so it requires a skilled hand to use well. Run Aggressive Ballistics and Hammer Forged for extra damage and range; you don’t really need Speed Reload as it already has a 13 round magazine. It’s fun in PvE, and while there are better options, I’d say it’s the best for PvE next to the other two exotics.

Did I miss anything? Want to argue or point out an oversight? Send me a message or a comment! Thanks for your time!

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