by: M.S. Smith
; edited by: Eric Stallsworth
; updated: 4/18/2012
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Small Guns are an incredibly common weapon, and although their name makes them seem harmless, they are actually one of the most effective firearms in the game. High in firepower, easy to find, and easy to feed, Small Guns pack a big punch.
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My Life For A Rifle
Small Guns are one of the most common weapon types in the entire Wasteland. They can be found on nearly every kind of raider, and ammo is plentiful, although not unlimited. For many players, Small Guns will be their primary offensive skill. But the numerous Small Guns available makes it easy to pick up a poor weapon by mistake and continue using it. The stats which are made available in-game are not sufficient for judging the true ability of the game's various weapons, which is where this guide comes in. Again, this portion of the guide covers Small Guns.
This is the third article of a guide which covers all non-unique weapons. Unique weapons are not covered because they are rare, and you'd have to perform specific steps to get ahold of them. It is not the intention of this guide to include spoilers.
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Chinese Pistol - DPS: 3 - The Chinese Pistol is possibly the easiest gun to get a hold of in the game, but that doesn't make up for the fact that you'd do more damage by throwing tennis balls at your opponents. There is really no reason to ever use this gun, and since it is nearly worthless to vendors, there is little reason to ever pick one up.
Dart Gun - DPS: 2 - This is an interesting one. This is a weapon built from schematics, and while the DPS from the gun itself is low, what the DPS rating doesn't tell you is that this gun can fire poison darts which inflict large amounts of poison damage over time. A critical with the dart-gun can one-shot most minor enemies in the game. The poison effect also instantly cripples the targets legs, making this a very useful weapon against fast melee enemies like Deathclaws. This weapon counts as a silent weapon as well, so enemies are not alerted if you miss.
.32 Pistol - DPS: 10 - Though twice as powerful as the Chinese Pistol - technically - this little gun still feels rather anemic. You can make do with it for your first few levels, but if you find yourself stuck with it past level 3, you'll need to buy a new gun in a hurry.
Silenced 10mm Pistol/10mm Pistol - DPS:14/16 - These pistols are nearly identical, but the 10mm Silenced Pistol counts as a silent weapon (as you might expect) so firing the weapon won't automatically alert enemies to your presence. The silenced version is also just slightly less powerful. Both of these pistols are good side-arms for the early levels, providing decent punch, and chances are you'll emerge from Vault 101 with a 10mm Pistol in hand, which is why the previous junk pistols are so useless. The Silenced 10mm Pistol can be used at nearly any level in the hands of a stealth-based character, who can use it to pick off enemies one-by-one with head-shots.
Scoped .44 Magnum - DPS: 63 - This is one mean gun, capable of dropping tough enemies with a few shots at a respectable range. Due to its high amount of firepower, it is usable throughout most of the game. The only drawback - and it can be large one - is that .44 ammo is both hard to come by in the Wasteland and very expensive at vendors. As a result, the .44 Magnum tends to be best used as a boss-killer throughout much of the game.
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10mm SMG - DPS: 35 - This fast-firing 10mm machine-gun does a fair bit of damage, but it's ultimately not that useful. This is because it is hard to come by in the early game. Chances are that by the time you can get your hands on a 10mm SMG, you'll also have your hands on a Chinese Assault Rifle, which is a better weapon in any scenario.
Assault Rifle - DPS: 32 - The Assault Rifle is an easy weapon to find in the early game, but also quickly eclipsed by the more powerful Chinese Assault Rifle. In fact, the Assault Rifle is made obsolete more so than the 10mm SMG, because not only does it do less damage, it also fires the same ammo.
Chinese Assault Rifle - DPS: 42 - Apparently, while the Chinese are horrible at making pistols, they're not bad at all at making assault rifles. The Chinese Assault Rifle is a mainstay weapon for those using Small Guns, doing high amounts of damage at medium range. It also fires the extremely common 5.56mm round, which can be found nearly as easily as 10mm ammo. There are definitely better weapons, but the abundance of ammo available for this weapon, combined with its respectable damage, means you will always want to have one of these on you.
Hunting Rifle - DPS: 16 - Found early on, the Hunting Rifle does good damage in one shot and has high criticals, but it is hampered by its bolt-action design. Range is disappointing, as well - you won't be picking off opponents hundreds of yards away with this crude weapon. The Hunting Rifle becomes obsolete when you pick up the Sniper Rifle, yet you will probably still find yourself using this weapon a great deal in the early levels, simply because Super Mutants also often use it and you can loot their bodies for nearly unlimited ammo.
Railway Rifle - DPS: 60 - This schematic built rifle fires railway spikes. It is as deadly as it sounds, dealing significant damage per shot, and blessed with good critical-strike damage. Even better, the Railway Rifle can instantly cripple limbs, a feature that can be abused to render nearly any enemy harmless at close ranges - simply aim at their arms, fire, and watch your opponent's weapon go flying out of their hands. This weapon will likely be your weapon of choice at higher levels, but it is restricted by the fact that it fires railway spikes, which aren't exactly common. As such, you'll find yourself wanting to use this weapon all the time, but it is usually best to only whip it out in situations which appear challenging.
Sniper Rifle - DPS: 42 - This weapon is what most people probably want the Hunting Rifle to be when they first get their hands on it. Accurate at long range, deadly, and with a high amount of bonus damage added to criticals, the Sniper Rifle is the must-have Small Arms weapon for headshot freaks. It isn't ammo bound, as .308 rounds are easy to come by at most vendors. When you find your first Sniper Rifle, keep it.
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Sawed-Off Shotgun - DPS: 24 - The Sawed-Off Shotgun is odd. It is not that common of a weapon, and yet it is not that powerful either. You'll likely come across a Combat Shotgun first, or at the same time, in nearly every game. And that means the Sawed-Off Shotgun is mostly useless. Still, if you find yourself grabbing one off a bandit at level 2, it can provide a good amount of power until you come across the Combat Shotgun.
Combat Shotgun - DPS: 35 - The Combat Shotgun will likely be the most powerful weapon in your arsenal in the early levels. It can do a massive amount of damage in a single shot, making it great for fighting ranges enemies who will allow you to fire, retreat, and then fire again. It also has good critical-strike bonus damage. The trusty Combat Shotgun does begin to wear its welcome as the levels run past. By the time you have your hands on a Magnum and enough ammo to use it frequently, the Combat Shotgun will begin to collect dust more often than kills.
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This is the third article of the series. The first covered Unarmed Weapons and Melee Weapons. The second article covered Big Guns. Article four will cover Energy Weapons and article five will cover Explosives and give a few quick pointers. Even if you don't choose to go through every article about every category, it is a good idea to train both your character and yourself in the details of at least two types of offense. Combining different weapons is useful even if you're not highly skilled in all of them, and it is a good idea to know what weapons are best in each class, in case you find yourself out of ammo for your primary weapon.
So, you have the best perks, your skills are high, and you think you're ready to take on a thousand Deathclaws at once. But wait - you're missing perhaps the most important part of survival. Your Weapon.