The best weapons in Fortnite

It’s possible to win a round of Fortnite with nothing but a basic pistol and a handful of grenades, and you can even do it without firing a single shot. But you’ll have to be really damn good or very, very lucky to pull it off. To reliably reach the late game and rack up the Victory Royales, you’re much better off kitting yourself out with the game’s best weapons and building a flexible loadout that will prepare you for an encounter at any range.

With that in mind, we’re going to break down the top shotguns, rifles, and the other best weapons to lean on in some common scenarios. But first, the basics. Let’s start with some tips for managing your inventory, along with the weapons that you need to have up your sleeve.

How to choose the best weapons

Balance your loadout

Collecting a balanced set of weapons is more important than simply grabbing the best guns in the game. A tactical shotgun is great up close, but at mid to long range it’ll lose to even the most basic assault rifle. Always think about what weapons you’ll use in any given situation, and make sure you have something that can deal with enemies at any range.

Not ideal, but getting there. 

Not ideal, but getting there. 

For example, if you’re lacking a close-range weapon, don’t be afraid to drop something shiny for a shotgun at the first opportunity, or even an SMG. If you’re fully loaded with shotguns, clear out space for a scoped rifle when you have the chance. 

You have five inventory slots, and ideally you want to fill them with five of the following six item types, depending on your play style:

  • An assault rifle (or a silenced pistol)
  • A shotgun
  • A sniper rifle
  • Explosives – preferably a rocket launcher
  • Shields
  • Healing items

Personally, I prefer having four weapons and one set of shields or healing items. You can normally heal up after you kill an enemy by picking up a med kit or shield potion from their body, using it, and then grabbing your weapon again. 

Play to your strengths (and weaknesses)

In Fortnite, the trade-off for high damage is often a slower fire rate. For example, the pump shotgun can crush an enemy with full health and shields in one shot. But if you miss, then you’ll have to wait more than a second to fire again. That might not seem like a long time, but in a close-range battle it’s an age. If you know that your aim isn’t great, then the tactical shotgun might be a better option. In a single shot it will deal less damage, but it churns out more damage per second because of its fast fire rate, and so you’ll likely land more shots.

The same is true with snipers: the bolt-action single shot rifle is superior, but if you’re new to the game and still learning how to aim, the semi-automatic sniper might be a better fit, and will help you get used to bullet drop-off. 

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You might also have some weapons that immediately click with you, so feel free to prioritise them. Some players prefer the silenced pistol—which deals less damage but generates less noise—to an assault rifle. Basically, judge how well you perform with each weapon, and think about the trade-offs. Your preferences will likely change as improve at Fortnite: as your aim gets better, you’ll want to choose high damage weapons when you can, because you’ll miss fewer shots.

Set up your weapon slots

You can click and drag your weapons around your toolbar in your inventory screen, and you absolutely should. The 1 key is for your pickaxe, so use 2, 3, and 4 (the most accessible keys) for the weapons that you’ll need to switch to at shortest notice. I always put a shotgun on 2 in case someone creeps up on me and I need to pull out a short-range weapon fast. I put an assault rifle on 3, to switch to if I see an enemy at medium range, and my sniper on 4. Slots 5 and 6 can be used for healing and shields. 

In other shooters, you might want to bind certain weapons to any customisable mouse keys you have, and while that’s an option here it’s probably better to use those keys for your building tools. You never know when you’ll need to throw down a wall under fire, but that’s all advice you can read in our collection of Fortnite building tips

Let’s move on to the best weapons in the game—what to look out for, what to use as a backup, and what to avoid.

Fortnite's best shotgun: pump vs tactical

Shotguns are the most useful weapons up close, and there are three varieties: the pump shotgun, the tactical shotgun, and the heavy shotgun.

The pump is high damage but slow firing, the tactical is less lethal but fires quicker, and the heavy shotgun is somewhere in the middle. The pump and tactical shotguns are easier to find, and each come in three varieties: Common, Uncommon, and Rare. 

At the moment, there’s no real reason to pick up a heavy shotgun if you’ve already got a decent version of the other two. You lose too much damage to the pump action, and even a Rare-grade tactical shotgun can almost match the heavy shotgun’s damage shot-for-shot, while still being able to fire quicker.

The real question is: tactical or pump? It really depends on your playstyle, your ability, and what mode you’re playing in. If your aim is good then nothing beats the pump in a 1v1 battle: a single headshot can delete an enemy, and even its most common variant deals nearly 100 damage per body shot. But if you know you’ll miss a lot of shots, then it might get you into trouble because it fires slowly, and you can easily die between clicks. The tactical shotgun lets you fire more rapidly, which suits more aggressive playstyles where you’re constantly bouncing around. It’s also good for duos and squads because you can switch between targets quicker.

Personally, I prefer the pump action, because I like to play sneaky and only take on engagements when I have the drop on my opponent. But you can’t go wrong by simply picking up the highest quality gun you see: swapping an Uncommon pump shotgun for a Rare tactical shotgun is a fine choice, for example.

Your other close-range options include SMGs and pistols. The silenced pistol is strong, but is better suited to mid-range battles because of its lower damage (see section below). SMGs are decent, especially the tactical variants, and are more versatile than shotguns. But you should only lean on them early in the game when you don’t have an assault rifle to deal with enemies at mid-range. Up close, shotguns better them.

Fortnite's best rifles: SCAR and burst-fire assault rifle

The SCAR is the best weapon in the game right now. It’s an excellent all-around choice in either its Epic or Legendary variants, with more damage per second than anything else in Fortnite. It fires quickly, it packs a punch—with around 90 damage per headshot—and you can fire it without much recoil. It’ll lose to a shotgun at ten paces and to a sniper rifle across the map, but it’s reliable for everything in between. If you see it, grab it.

The next best thing is the burst-fire assault rifle. It’ll deal roughly 30 damage per body shot, and its three-round burst means you can deal 90 damage in a single punch. If you land some headshots, you’ll rip a shielded enemy to shreds. The automatic M16 assault rifle is solid, and useful early on, but its bullet spread and lower damage mean that the SCAR and the burst rifle are the better choices later in the game. You should only really consider hanging onto the blue, Rare variant of the M16.

For a more left-field choice—but one that many players are coming around to—you could consider the suppressed pistol. It deals nearly as much damage per shot as the assault rifles, and it fires as fast as you can click. If your hand is steady you can therefore dish out a lot of pain, with the added advantage that it doesn’t make as much noise as an AR, so enemies often won’t know where you’re firing from.

It sits at the shorter end of mid-range, but if you like to stay within earshot of your enemies then it’s a good pick. If you don’t like the sniper rifle, it could replace that as another shorter-range option. Just remember to practise with it first: I still haven’t got the hang of it, and every time I try to click rapidly my aim bounces about all over the place.

Use the minigun to tear up buildings: it’s too inaccurate to rely on in firefights.

Fortnite's best sniper rifle: Bolt-action sniper

The bolt-action sniper rifle is hands-down the best long-distance weapon in the game. It packs absurd power in each bullet, with every headshot dealing more than 200 damage, making it a one-shot kill on any enemy. It’s the one you want to go for.

The semi-automatic rifle gets a bad rep, but it’s a decent backup. It’s especially good when you first get into the game: your aim won’t be as good, and so you’ll want to fire off more shots. Tapping with the semi-auto is a good way to learn about bullet drop and adjusting your aim for moving targets. Once you’ve got that down, you can move onto the bolt-action. 

The scoped rifle doesn’t have the range or zoom of the snipers, but if you can’t find a bolt-action—or if you’re avoiding very long-distance fights—then it’s also good backup. It doesn’t have any bullet drop, so all you have to do is click on heads. It’s perfect for wearing enemies down while you get close enough to take them out with other weapons. 

Crossbows are more situational, but they deal a lot of damage, and the fact that they’re virtually silent means they work well for stealthy players. Make sure you test it out before you start picking it over a rifle, and remember that the purple, Epic variant is a massive step up from the blue, Rare one, dealing 50% more damage.

Fortnite's best explosives: rocket launcher

Explosives come into their own in the late game when everybody is camping in the structures they’ve built. A rocket or two will take care of most of those buildings, and the splash damage will often kill anybody inside. 

Your best bet is the rocket launcher. It travels in a straight line wherever you fire it, so you can pick out the weakest bit of a building and let it rip, safe in the knowledge that nothing will nudge it off course. In a 1v1, firing it anywhere near an enemy’s feet guarantees a kill, and if you can claim the high ground then it’s game over.  

The only thing to watch out for is that you avoid your own splash damage—I’ve panic fired a rocket at an enemy directly in front of me and killed myself more times than I’d care to admit.

The grenade launcher should be your backup: it fires in an arc, which makes it harder to aim, and it doesn’t have the range of the rocket launcher. Basic grenades are good, but late in the game you’ll want something a bit more spectacular. And if you're lucky enough to nab a remote-controlled rocket launcher, just remember it's more of a situational tool. Don't go wasting them on busting forts—prioritize subterfuge and fun. 

Fortnite's best healing items and shields

If you want a Victory Royale you’re going to need to stay healed up and guzzle as many shield potions as possible. If you’re able to use healing items as soon as you find them, then you should. It’s much better to patch yourself up in the safety of cover than to fumble around in the heat of battle.

In terms of what to carry around, small shield potions are the best bet. You can gulp them down in no time for 25 shield points, and although they can only give you a maximum of 50 at a time, they’re perfect for keeping you sustained between firefights. The standard shield potions, which grant you 50 points apiece, are good too, but generally you won’t be carrying them around because you’ll use them as soon as you see them.

For health, having bandages on hand is always good (they heal very quickly, which is so important late in the game). If you’re an aggressive player that gets into a lot of fights then they’re arguably the best healing item, and then you can pick up medkits, which will fully heal you, from dead bodies and use them immediately.

Chug Jugs are hard to turn down because they fully replenish both health and shields. If you can find a slot, it’s worth having later in the game—it essentially doubles the damage you can take, fully healing shields and health. Problem is it takes 15 seconds to drink, which means it's often hard to find a good spot to crack it open.

If you’re only going to carry one healing/shield item into the late game, I’d make it the small shield potions, and then rely on downed enemies for healing items. 

Samuel Horti

Samuel Horti is a long-time freelance writer for PC Gamer based in the UK, who loves RPGs and making long lists of games he'll never have time to play.