There’s a multitude of different weapons to find in Fallout 76’s West Virginia wildlands, but we've gathered up some of the best. Some can be crafted and some can be found in the early game, while others can be prayed for during a Nuke raid. While Fallout 76's RPG elements can greatly affect the viability of certain weapons, exotic variants (denoted by a special name, a star, and the inability to scrap them at workshop table) can provide some considerable upper hand to players in the early game, with some being so good they’re probably worth keeping around in the (limited) C.A.M.P. Stash.
Fallout 76 released in November after an extensive series of beta sessions, introducing a strange detour from the franchise with an NPC-free, action-RPG. Since then, critical appraisal of Fallout 76’s perceived lack of focus, combined with its premium cost (along with microtransactions), has stung review scores and earned much in the way of consumer regret. It's been approximately one month since release, and while the game continues to have its ardent supporters, there’s something decidedly disappointing about its performance and continued presence in the headlines.
Still, regardless of the lack of dialogue trees, there are plenty of hours of gameplay to be found in Fallout 76, and an overwhelming emphasis of combat. Most weapons in the game are subject to a balancing trade-off — damage at the cost of high ammo consumption, accuracy and distance at the cost of lengthy reload times, etc — although certain ones deliver better bang for your buck. Screen Rant has rounded up some of the best common and exotic weapons in Fallout 76, along with some methods to obtain them (or at least increase your chances), so read on to find out what’s worthy of your precious inventory space.
The large clip size and rate of fire for combat shotguns make them a great tool to keep on hand for crowd control scenarios, as well as for taking out smaller and quicker enemies, like mole rats and mutant dogs. Players sticking closely to the Overseer’s quest line may not run into these weapons until a bit later in Fallout 76 (and take note that they’re restricted to level 20 and above). Aside from Scorched enemies, they’re an extremely common drop from Mole Miners, who often congregate around and inside mining operations (interestingly, their squat shape also makes them an ideal target at which to point these weapons). For a better chance of finding a combat shotgun, check out Garrahan Mining HQ, Blackwater Mine, the Mountainside Bed & Breakfast (which Mole Miners have completely taken over), and the Mole Miner Tunnel for starters. Mole Miners are also commonly found peppered throughout the Ash Heap region, though certain sections of it might prove troublesome for lower-level players.
The main demerit for Fallout 76's combat shotgun lies in its lengthy reload animation, which methodically plunks 8 shells into the weapon, one at a time — even with shotgun reload perks, it can feel egregious. All the same, keeping a fully-loaded one in a quick-slot means that you can swap off of it for a sidearm and reload it once clear of danger.
Okay, this relatively common two-handed weapon may not sound overpowered, but an important thing to keep in mind is the amount of Super Mutants all over Appalachia, even early in Fallout 76 (there’s always a crowd clogging up any relay towers on the map, and Eastern Correctional is another solid early-game haunt). Most of them drop boards and other low-tier melee trash, but you’ll often run into a Skirmisher-variant who may drop a sledgehammer, and the wide arc of these powerhouse weapons makes them the perfect way to take down feistier low-level mobs without expending any precious ammo.
Sledgehammers can’t be crafted until later in Fallout 76 (minimum level 30), but you can add mods onto them at a weapons bench to make a trusty one-hitter for when you’re surrounded. Their heavy weight and slow wind-up represent the most obvious downsides, but for a free common weapon that’s in relatively frequent supply throughout starter areas, it’s a good thing to keep around, while equally acting as a stress-free disposable item when your inventory’s clogged up, too. Non-melee builds can still get some use out of these, and that’s well in advance of encountering the Super Sledge.
Combat knives are highly functional, low weight, and rarely a bad backup weapon to keep in a quickslot, even when you’re not optimizing melee in your build. Plus, if you’re lucky enough to stumble onto a the Legendary Vampiric effect on a combat knife, you get the added benefit of lifesteal, which can turn certain high-level encounters into cakewalks. Legendary weapons have a chance to drop in nuked areas or primo loot caches, and the Vampiric modifier can be found attached to all different types of weapons, but combining it with the ridiculous speed of the knife proves especially powerful. Some Fallout 76 players even report that stabbing the air with this modded knife prompts a small amount of heal on its own, but it’s likely that this will be patched out in future updates.
Combat knives can be found all throughout Fallout 76's world map, and can also be easily crafted at a weapons bench, with quality ranging from level 1 to 50.
Quick note about the Gauss Rifle, which often makes the top of many Fallout 76 weapon lists: some players have noticed that the Gauss Rifle features commonly bugged stats. It has a charging mechanic that increases damage per shot, but the consistency of this aspect varies from player to player. It'd be good to swap the Handmade Rifle for the Gauss Rifle if Bethesda fixes any remnant bugs associated with it.
In comparison to the Handmade Rifle, after scrapping a few extras, the Hunting Rifle reveals some solid modifications, like long-range scopes and magazine increases, but the Handmade Rifle is a more significant upgrade and can be found fairly early, at about level 15. It requires venturing into The Mire, but certain quest lines will push Fallout 76 players into the residential town of Harpers Ferry (the actual location of abolitionist John Brown’s historical raid in 1859), which is manned by the faction known as the Free States. A vendor in the northern area of Harpers Ferry will then sell the plan for the Handmade Rifle for 270 caps.
Think of the Handmade Rifle as Fallout 76's AK-47, hosting a vast collection of unlockable mods that turn it into one of the most versatile base weapons in the game. Crafting can bring it all the way up to level 45, and its base ballistic damage of 32 with a 20-round clip ensures that players collecting rifleman Perks can position it as the linchpin of their loadout. Just keep in mind that if you want to see how the Handmade Rifle fits into your arsenal, you should be equipped with the Gunsmith Perk at level 3 to craft it. To score a Handmade Rifle without having to craft it, it can also be looted from a rooftop in Berkeley Springs.