Ill give my opinion based on non pvp and leveling your characters. I have almost caped pistol and rifle spy, apu and hyb monk. Half way caped Droner, and almost caped Pistol PE.
PE was easiest for me to level to almost caped, i think thats because PE skills are well rounded and generous on earning xp. If you want to use ht pistols only put enough tc to equip the weapon since the pistol skill will give you most damage, when ur caped you can play with pistol and tc to see what yealds the best damage for you.
I have my PE set up for leveling only no hacking yet, all skill in Intel is going to WEP so the reticle closes faster when i aim on mobs, and implanting because I am mostly a solo player as well, you want to be able to poke your self unless you dont mind going to go get a poke in town then gr'ing back to your leveling spot. 60 implant is best at higher level so you can use the implant glove to poke higher lvl implants otherwise just enough to poke your current implants. Makes you very self sufficient.
Recycling make sure is enough to recycle your medkits, stm boosters, and ammo, this way you can stay out leveling longer without having to go to the gogu for items, all is left is repairing your armor which should sustain you for a long time before having to go get it repaired in town
I decided not to hack on my PE because i wanted it all in WEP to help to faster damage, I think youll have to choose between implant and hacking with your PE, I think implant is more important for a solo runner, maybe 30 hacking at most after you complete your epic so you can get stuff from the faction DB but not an ounce more, othen than that i wouldnt worry about getting in chests or locked doors in some areas i have found no real good that come from that other than if ur lucky you may find another runners goods in a chest somewhere and most times they wont be good goods
However you may want to hack warbots eventually to farm rare techparts im this case all you need is about 36ish hacking and 3 or four hacking implants, cant remember atm what i use on my spy but you can check the item db and look at the hacking implants then do some math
. But my spy is great at hunting and hacking wb's with the epic tangent pistol and the hacking implant setup i mentioned, all you need to hack wb's efficiently is about 78 hacking including implants and he has almost no WEP because hes also my constructor (the best WB farmer I have).
Oh almost forgot, pistols vs rifles, if you go rifle the tangent epic rifle is going to be very good wb rifle at least it was back in the day, i havent hunted much with sniper rifles like that since the old days though and one reason only is because durring titan release they took away the abillity to be in third person and still shoot at targets, you may want to try the tl 79 commando sniper though it may be better.
There are various rifles, quick shooting assult rifles are great leveling rifles that can shoot pretty far keeping you foe at a distance and out of range, fusion rifles are not my favorite they do more damage the further you are away form your target which i see as a disadvantage than the other rifles, plasma rifles are pretty good leveling rifles but ddo less damage the further away from target at least the ones i have used.
I like the pistols, probly not the best aginst fire mobs in the canyon and crp unless you have great resists and can take alot of damage because you gotta be somewhat pretty close to your target most of the time the exception is the Rocket Pistol, i love that thing, its an aoe pistol, the best for leveling at regents just make sure you have at least a 3 slot made and mod it with dmg, frq, and explosive ammo mod, explosive ammo for the rocket pistol is going to be the best aginst regants mobs for leveling, i used it to level my PE and Spy also tested dmg with other ammo types except havent tested the rocket ammo aginst crp mobs but have leveled there as well with my PE and it deos good damage with explosive ammo.
ATM I cant say much about what Walker mentioned about rifles having more damage than pistols because i havent revisited all the rifles and pistols yet but from what i can tell so far the snipers def do more damage than pistols do but the other rifles ive used have been about equal to pistols ive used.
BTW thats a good idea about leveling PE as HC user Walker, wish I would have thought about that but i didnt think it would make much of a difference though since i never had a tank or used HC weapons.
atm i am so tired and wrote this pretty fast so hope i covered everything well for you, please ask if you have any more questions.