Destiny 2's best weapons: the guns to look for in PvE

There are over 100 weapons in Destiny 2, each with unique stats and behaviors, most of which drop at random. And this time, they drop in alarming abundance. Knowing what to keep for use in PvE activities is largely a matter of personal preference, but for those that want to curate a collection of Destiny 2's best weapons to use in Destiny 2 against the imminent Cabal threat, we can help.

Matthew Grossberg (Mercules on /r/DestinyTheGame) is founder of the Destiny Massive Breakdown podcast and YouTube channel.

Auto rifles

Sweet Business
Kinetic - Exotic - Unique

>Pros - Very high mag size, aim assist, and recoil direction. Exotic perks boosts RoF and automatically loads picked up ammo as you hold down the trigger, and increases hip fire accuracy.

>Neutral - Average stability.

>Cons - Low range. Very low reload speed and handling speed. 

Stats:

  • Rate of Fire: 450 (900 max) 
  • Impact: 18  
  • Range: 37 
  • Stability: 46 
  • Reload Speed: 10    
  • Handling: 10 
  • Mag Size: 99 
  • Recoil Direction: 100  
  • Aim Assist: 80 

Perks:

  •  Sights/Barrels - Polygonal Rifling 
  •  Magazine - High Caliber Rounds 
  •  Exotic Perks - Payday and Business Time 
  •  Mod - Composite Stock  

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Hard Light
Energy - Exotic - Adaptive

>Pros - Very high stability, reload speed, handling, aim assist, and recoil direction. High mag size. Exotic perk negates damage fall off, and makes rounds over-penetrate targets and bounce off hard surfaces.

>Cons - Below average range. Poor visual recoil. 

Stats:

  • Rate of Fire: 600 
  • Impact: 21 
  • Range: 46 
  • Stability: 68 
  • Reload Speed: 68    
  • Handling: 75 
  • Mag Size: 100 
  • Recoil Direction: 100  
  • Aim Assist: 49    

Perks:

  • Sights/Barrels - Polygonal Rifling 
  • Magazine - Alloy Magazine 
  • Exotic Perks - Volatile Light and Arc/Solar/Void Core 
  • Mod - Composite Stock 

Helped along by truly amazing exotic perks, Hardlight and Sweet Business are hands down the two best, and most enjoyable, auto rifles to use in PvE content. Sweet Business finds itself right at home in the raid, and the ability to fire basically without stopping as long as you have a rally barricade or ammo on the ground makes it a monster for the Calus engagement (not to mention most other boss fights). In addition, the perk High Caliber Rounds guarantees your enemies will be staggered much more quickly than with other options. 

Hard Light, on the other hand, is possibly the most useful weapon for Nightfalls with the Prism modifier, as it has the ability to change its Energy type at will, simply by selecting a different core. Volatile Light allows the projectiles to over-penetrate enemy targets, meaning it makes short work of grouped up mobs, and the bouncing rounds, although not necessarily the most useful of things, at least give you a light show and the chance to do extra damage should you miss. 

There are a couple other honorable mentions here in terms of legendary options if you don't want to waste your exotic slot. Ghost Primus and Scathelocke are solid Kinetic options, with GP allowing you to overflow the magazine if you wipe a few adds before reloading, and Scathelock using High Caliber Rounds to flinch adds and prevent them from firing back. In terms of Energy weapons, I think Uriel's is the best option, due to the relatively high damage per shot and again, the presence of High Caliber Rounds. 

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Pulse rifles

Graviton Lance
Energy - Exotic - Adaptive

>Pros - Very high stability and mag size. High reload speed and handling. Above average range. Last shot in a burst has no damage falloff, and enemies killed by this weapon detonate.

>Neutral - Average recoil direction.

>Cons - Low aim assist. 

Stats:

  • Rate of Fire: 360  
  • Impact: 29 
  • Range: 55 
  • Stability: 91 
  • Reload Speed: 61   
  • Handling: 59 
  • Mag Size: 39 
  • Recoil Direction: 65   
  • Aim Assist: 50 

Perks:

  • Sights/Barrels - Hammer-Forged Rifling 
  • Magazine - Accurized Rounds 
  • Exotic Perks - Black Hole and Cosmology 
  • Mod - Fitted Stock 

Although Graviton Lance was slightly disappointing when the game first released (compared to what we had seen of it in hype trailers), I've come to love it in PvE. The fact that it is the only pulse rifle we have that can do bonus damage on kills (similar to Firefly from Destiny 1, but it doesn't require a headshot) is enough to make it a recommended weapon, but the fast reload speed and high mag size really push it over the top to best in class. 

As for honorable mentions, Nightshade and Inaugural Address both sport Kill Clip, which in my opinion is one of the best overall perks in the game, as it allows a pretty significant chunk of bonus damage to be done for a short time if you reload after a kill. Heart of Time would have been up here too if FWC had won the faction rally, as it has Destiny 2's equivalent of Firefly, but no such luck this time around.

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Hand cannons

Better Devils
Kinetic - Adaptive

>Pros - Above average stability, aim assist, and mag size. 

>Neutral - Average range and reload speed.

>Cons - Below average handling and recoil direction. 

Stats:

  • Rate of Fire: 140 
  • Impact: 84 
  • Range: 46 
  • Stability: 48 
  • Reload Speed: 46  
  • Handling: 46 
  • Mag Size: 10 
  • Recoil Direction: 90    
  • Aim Assist: 75 

Perks:

  • Sights/Barrels - Fastdraw HCS, SteadyHand HCS, Sureshot HCS 
  • Magazine - Extended Mag, Flared Magwell 
  • Set Perk - Explosive Payload 

Better Devils is universally considered one of the best hand cannons in the game, and with good reason (personally, it's my favorite PvE kinetic). Solid reload speed and mag size, plus the addition of either extra rounds with Extended Mag or faster reload speed with Flared Magwell, plus Explosive Payload means this weapon basically has no downside for PvE. Explosive Payload is perhaps the tier-1 perk on hand cannons and scout rifles in PvE, due to the fact that it does bonus damage thanks to the explosion, and is wonderful for clearing adds that are grouped up, or one-shotting high level red bar combatants. 

In a similar vein, both of my honorable mentions have similar perks, being the FWC hand cannon True Prophecy (round does minimal impact damage, but more explosive damage) and Sunshot. The only reason those two aren't more highly recommended is they both have lower mag sizes and aren't as overall well balanced, but if you haven't gotten a Better Devils I wouldn't let that stop you from taking them for a spin. True Prophecy hits for more damage and has Appended Mag to slightly boost the mag size, but it has a slower rate of fire and the explosions are delayed instead of happening on impact. Sunshot has an even smaller mag size (but makes up for it with a quick reload and the fact that enemies killed by it explode), does less damage per shot and takes up an exotic slot, but it's still my most recommended energy hand cannon. 

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Scout rifles

Nameless Midnight
Kinetic - Precision

>Pros - Very high mag size. Above average reload speed and handling. 

>Neutral - Average range and aim assist.

>Cons - Below average stability. 

Stats:

  • Rate of Fire: 180 
  • Impact: 62 
  • Range: 46 
  • Stability: 44 
  • Reload Speed: 50  
  • Handling: 47 
  • Mag Size: 16 
  • Aim Assist: 62 

Perks:

  • Sights/Barrels - Red Dot 2 MOA, Red Dot Micro, Rifle Scope SSF
  • Magazine - Flared Magwell, Steady Rounds 
  • Set Perk - Explosive Payload 

Just like with hand cannons, scout rifles with Explosive Payload are top notch in PvE. Nameless Midnight has EP, it has good reload speed and handling, and Flared Magwell that increases the reload speed even higher. Can't get much better than that. Thanks to being in the Precision archetype, it also has the best mix of large mag size, high impact, and fast RoF, a perfect combination for doing damage to bosses or taking down yellow-bar Majors and Ultras. 

As far as alternates go, we're still going to look for weapons that have the capability to make things go boom, so Manannan SR4 and Tone Patrol are my two choices, both in the Energy slot. Tone Patrol has Destiny 2's version of Firefly, which isn't as great as Explosive Payload, but is still pretty nice to have. The Manannan has Explosive Payload but unfortunately is in a lower impact archetype, so it just doesn't do enough damage per shot for me to call it the best. Also an option is the exotic Skyburner's Oath, which had the potential to be amazing, but unfortunately the bonus damage to Cabal just doesn't seem to be enough to make a real difference in the raid. It's not worth the exotic slot either.

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Sidearms

Etana SI4
Elemental - Omolon Adaptive

>Pros - Very high mag size. High stability. Above average range. 

>Neutral - Average recoil direction.

>Cons - Below average reload speed and handling. very low aim assist.

Stats:

  • Rate of Fire: 415 
  • Impact: 75 
  • Range: 45 
  • Stability: 80 
  • Reload Speed: 40 
  • Handling: 53 
  • Mag Size: 30 
  • Recoil Direction: 90   
  • Aim Assist: 60 

Perks:

  • Sights/Barrels - Shortspec SAS, Tactic SAS 
  • Magazine - Appended Mag, Steady Rounds 
  • Set Perk - Hip-Fire Grip 

I've been a fan of the Omolon Adaptive sidearms since day one, and it's always fun when one of the best weapons or archetypes from PvP ends up also being great for PvE too. The Omolon Adaptive sidearms as a whole are the best option, mostly due to their ability to dish out far more damage than opposing sidearm archetypes in a single magazine, and thanks to the base mag size of 30 (even higher with Appended Mag) the Etana is my favorite sidearm to use in strikes or the raid. It will melt through shielded enemies, and, even though the range isn't tremendous, up close you won't even need to go ADS, thanks to the hip-fire accuracy being so good. 

Seriously though, it's like a laser from the hip. In PvP I found it difficult to use well, but in PvE you might as well not even go ADS. You can honestly hit targets from farther away with better accuracy if you hip fire. If you don't have an Etana, either of the other two Omolon sidearms will work, but they just don't have quite the same mag size.

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Submachine guns

Riskrunner
Energy - Exotic - Adaptive

>Pros - Very high stability and mag size. High range and recoil direction. Above average reload speed. 

>Cons - Very low handling. Below average aim assist.

Stats:

  • Rate of Fire: 900 
  • Impact: 20 
  • Range: 55 
  • Stability: 60 
  • Reload Speed: 42   
  • Handling: 51 
  • Mag Size: 37 
  • Recoil Direction: 94   
  • Aim Assist: 50 

Perks:

  • Sights/Barrels - Arrowhead Brake 
  • Magazine - Extended Mag 
  • Exotic Perks - Arc Conductor and Superconductor 
  • Mod - Short-Action Stock 

Although I'm not generally a fan of SMGs in PvE, Riskrunner is the one spot I'll make an exception. Against any type of enemies that deal Arc damage, it is hands down one of the best weapons in the game. If you take Arc damage, then Riskrunner has the chance to both chain its shots to other enemies and return ammo to the magazine. At the same time it makes you resistant to incoming Arc damage, so that alone is worth it. Add in the high mag size and Extended Mag, which counteracts the main weakness of SMGs in low mag sizes for the RoF, along with great stability, range, reload speed, and recoil direction and you've got a friendly weapon that is fun to use in the right situations. 

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Fusion rifles

Merciless
Exotic - High-Impact (90-100)

>Pros - Very high mag size. Above average stability and recoil direction. Non-lethal hits decrease charge time. Reloading after a kill grants bonus damage for a short time.

>Neutral - Average range, reload speed, and handling.

>Cons -  Very slow charge time for first shot. Below average impact and inventory.

Stats:

  • Charge Time: 900 
  • Impact: 75  
  • Range: 45 
  • Stability: 39 
  • Reload Speed: 49   
  • Mag Size: 8 
  • Recoil Direction: 64  

Perks:

  • Sights/Barrels - Chambered Compensator 
  • Magazine - Extended Mag 
  • Exotic Perks - Conserve Momentum and Impetus 
  • Mod - Fitted Stock 

Massive mag size and a fantastic set of exotic perks make Merciless one of the go-to power weapons for D2 PvE. The ability to do eight fusion rifle shots worth of damage to a boss without having to reload, each one quicker than the last, means it's almost unequaled in terms of DPS ability. On top of that, it has the exotic version of Kill Clip to boot. No other fusion in the game can match its usability, and very few power weapons can even come close, so I highly recommend taking this into your next engagement with Calus. 

If you don't want to use an exotic slot on your power weapon (many people made this same mistake in Destiny 1, see Gjallarhorn) then there are a couple of other worthy alternatives. I think Main Ingredient is probably the best overall, as it has fast charge time combined with bolts that still hit for high damage, and it has Rampage, which boosts damage after getting a kill. It's a fantastic add clean up machine, though not as good against bosses. If you don't want either of those, then Shock and Awe is next on my list, thanks to perks that increase stability dramatically making it extremely easy to use while also having Destiny 2's equivalent of the Plan C perk, which grants increased handling and faster charge speeds immediately after switching to the weapon. 

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Rocket launchers

Sins of the Past
High-Impact

>Pros - Very high blast radius and stability. High handling. Above average inventory size.

>Cons -  Low RoF. Very low velocity and reload speed. 

Stats:

  • Rate of Fire: 15 
  • Blast Radius: 95 
  • Velocity: 50 
  • Stability: 63 
  • Reload Speed: 42  
  • Handling: 70   
  • Mag Size: 1 
  • Inventory: 38 

Perks:

  • Sights/Barrels - Confined Launch, Linear Compensator, Smart Drift Control 
  • Magazine - Cluster Bomb, Ambitious Assassin 
  • Set Perk - Auto-Loading Holster 

Not just the best rocket launcher for PvP, Sins of the Past also has everything we look for in PvE. Near max blast radius combined with Cluster Bombs promises to melt adds and stack bonus damage onto bosses, and auto-loading holster means there is no down time between shots. Simply switch weapons, fire away your energy or kinetic ammo, then switch back and you're good to launch another rocket. Ambitious Assassin is an interesting perk, in that you can theoretically get an extra rocket in the mag if you get a multikill before reloading, but I haven't thoroughly tested what the qualifications are to activate this perk yet, so I'm unsure as to how viable it really is. 

If you haven't been lucky enough to grab yourself a Sins of the Past, Wardcliff Coil and Morrigan-D both offer decent alternatives, mostly due to their abilities to track enemies with their shots instead of having to land a direct hit or rely on splash damage.

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Sniper rifles

A Single Clap
Adaptive

>Pros - High stability. Above average RoF.

>Neutral - Average mag size, range, and handling.

>Cons - Below average reload speed, inventory, and aim assist. 

Stats:

  • Time Between Shots: 0.67s 
  • Rate of Fire: 90 
  • Impact: 70 
  • Range: 53 
  • Stability: 48 
  • Reload Speed: 44    
  • Handling: 47 
  • Mag Size: 4 
  • Inventory: 37  
  • Aim Assist: 59 

Perks:

  • Sights/Barrels - SSO-05 Sniper, SSO-07 Sniper, SSO-08 Sniper 
  • Magazine - Tactical Mag, Steady Rounds 
  • Set Perk - Explosive Payload 

Although, at the moment, sniper rifles aren't really exceedingly useful in either PvP or PvE, there are still a couple hidden gems. A Single Clap is one of these, thanks to the combination of a good short range scope (SSO-08), Tactical Mag (boosts mag size to 5) and Explosive Payload. Explosive Payload provides you with bonus damage to enemy combatants in PvE, and an extra round in the mag is just more damage to be done before reloading. Short range scopes are basically a necessity if you want to be able to use your sniper in any realistic scenario in the game, so I highly recommend only using a sniper that has one. In addition, this weapon hails from the Adaptive archetype, which means it has a nice blend of damage per shot and solid RoF, as opposed to heavy hitting and slow, or fast firing and very weak. 

If you're going to take a sniper into PvE, I pretty much recommend it be this one, but Show of Force is an okay substitute, being that it is an Aggressive archetype sniper that can get a mag size of 4 thanks to Tactical Mag. 

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Shotguns

Hawthorne's Field Forged Shotgun
Lightweight

>Pros - Very fast RoF. Very high reload speed and mag size. Above average range and handling. High aim assist.

>Neutral - Average stability. 

>Cons - Very low inventory size.

Stats:

  • Time Between Shots: 0.33s 
  • Rate of Fire: 90 
  • Impact: 65 
  • Range: 50 
  • Stability: 37 
  • Reload Speed: 64    
  • Handling: 64 
  • Mag Size: 7 
  • Inventory: 10  
  • Aim Assist: 50 

Perks:

  • Sights/Barrels - Rifled Barrel, Smoothbore 
  • Magazine - Tactical Mag, Assault Mag 
  • Set Perk - Full Auto Trigger System  

I'm not a huge fan of shotguns in PvE, simply for the reason that I find fusions to cover the mid to close range, high blast of damage niche quite well, but Hawthorne's is a notable exception. With an amazingly fast RoF thanks to Full Auto Trigger System and Assault Mag, on top of a huge mag size of 7, and the intrinsic Lightweight perk, this weapon is about as good for running and gunning as it gets. Not great for bosses, but absurdly fun when used against adds or yellow-bar enemies. .

Legend of Acrius is a fine substitute if you don't happen to have Hawthorne's (or you want to burn an exotic slot) but it will trade a slower RoF for the ability to shoot through targets. 

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Grenade launchers

The Day's Fury
Precision

>Pros - High blast radius, reload speed, handling, and mag size. Very high stability. Above average inventory and aim assist.

>Neutral - None.

>Cons - Low RoF. Below average velocity.

Stats:

  • Time Between Shots: 0.60s 
  • Rate of Fire: 100 
  • Blast Radius: 40 
  • Velocity: 46 
  • Stability: 60 
  • Reload Speed: 65  
  • Handling: 68 
  • Mag Size: 6 
  • Aim Assist: 71 
  • Inventory: 42 

Perks:

  • Sights/Barrels - Countermass, Confined Launch, Volatile Launch
  • Magazine - Mini Frags, Spike Grenades 
  • Set Perk - Snapshot Sights 

Although Grenade Launchers may be on the weaker side in the Crucible, in PvE they're a ton of fun, allowing you to spray explosions across an arena and do a lot of damage to bosses quickly. My favorite one is The Day's Fury, which is from the Iron Banner, because it quite simply has the best of most worlds. Perks and stat-wise it's a clear front-runner, thanks to high blast radius, reload speed, handling, mag size, stability, inventory and aim assist—and my personal favorite perk, Spike Grenades, which deals bonus damage on direct hits. Really, the only drawbacks are a slow-ish RoF and slower projectile speed, but both of those can easily be worked around. 

If you didn't snag The Day's Fury in the last IB, then Orthrus (very similar stats but with Augmented Drum to increase Mag Size instead of Spike Grenades) or Play of the Game (faster RoF, and proximity detonation grenades) can work in its place.