Successful shooting comes from adequate levels of understanding. Here are the best guns and a preferred general load-out for GTA Online.
The best weapons and load-out for GTA Online
GTA Online is about guns. Guns, guns, guns. If you want to succeed, you’ll need to understand the advantages and disadvantages of the game’s many weapons and their roles in a wide variety of situations.
Below you’ll find my preferred load-out for GTA Online and detailed reasoning for my choices.
The best general load-out for GTA Online
Here’s the load-out I generally use. I’ll swap out the MG with the Combat MG at rank 80, the Sniper Rifle with the Heavy Sniper at rank 90 and the Grenade Launcher with the Minigun at 120, but little’s going to change for me now.
Check out our full list of GTA Online ranked unlocks to see when you’re going to be able to buy and equip these guns, and be sure to bookmark our full GTA 5 and GTA Online guide for loads more information and advice.
Moving clockwise from the top, my choices are:
- Pistol: AP Pistol
- Machine gun: MG (change to Combat MG at rank 80)
- Assault rifle: Special Carbine
- Sniper rifle: Sniper Rifle (switch to Heavy Sniper at rank 90)
- Melee: Hatchet
- Shotgun: Assault Shotgun (switch to Bullpup Shotgun at very close range)
- Heavy weapon: Grenade Launcher (switch to Minigun at rank 120)
- Thrown: Grenade
Read on for notes on why I use this specific set-up. Here are some quick tips for each class for the tl;dr types:
- The AP Pistol and Micro SMG are the only full-auto weapons that can be fired from cars.
- Keep the Micro SMG in the machine gun slot until you hit 50 and unlock the MG. The other SMGs are essentially useless.
- The Special Carbine and the Bullpup Rifle have exactly the same stats and are best-in-class weapons.
- Buy the Huntsman Rifle for mid-range shooting in built-up areas. Think JFK. Use the Sniper Rifle (with its zoom scope) for longer ranges.
- The melee weapon choice doesn’t really matter. Do what thou wilt.
- Only switch away from the Assault Shotgun if you’re in a tight situation or feeling particularly funky.
- The Minigun is ludicrously OP. If you get to 120 you’ve been playing for hundreds of hours, so you probably deserve it. Until then, stick to the Grenade Launcher.
- Keep the Grenade equipped as a go-to general explosive, but be sure to properly understand the roles of the other thrown weapons.
The AP Pistol is, pound for pound, the best-in-class weapon, purely based on its full-auto firing mode. Don’t underestimate this gun: with the extended clip it carries 36 rounds, and can produce a real mess against weaker AI. If you’re down on ammo and in a clinch, you could do far worse.
If you’re looking for a semi-auto handgun, the Pistol .50 is probably the way to go: it has the highest damage of all the pistols.
Best machine gun
This category contains both SMGs and LMGs, but the SMGs are, unfortunately, a useless class. You’re almost always better off using an assault rifle. The only exception is the Micro SMG, which can be fired from cars. Apart from the AP pistol, it’s the only full-auto weapon capable of doing so.
That aside, the best machine gun to have equipped in this slot is the Combat MG. It features slightly higher damage than the MG (3.2/10 compared to 3/10), but the real benefit comes from increased fire-rate (6.5/10 compared to 6/10), accuracy and clip-size (200 rounds compared to 100 rounds, both extended). Both guns have the same range at 6/10, but the Combat MG is a fine choice when attacking vehicles, and especially helicopters. There’s a reason the game gifts you one in the fourth round of a Survival.
But, assuming you aren’t level 80, go for the normal MG. It doesn’t unlock until rank 50, unfortunately, so until then you’re going to be stuck with the Assault SMG and it’s 2.2/10 damage. Really, though, the only circumstances you should be using a machine gun over an assault rifle against human targets is either because you need full stopping power at the longer end of mid-range or you have an ammo problem.
There is an oddity in this class. The Gusenberg Sweeper came free with the Valentine’s Day Massacre Special DLC, and hasn’t been carried over into the new-gen versions, presumably because it’s so OP. It features a very high rate of fire (600 RPM) with significantly higher damage than the basic, AK-47-based assault rifle (5/10 compared to 3/10). It also has a slightly greater range. Did you get it? Lucky you.
Best assault rifle
The assault rifle will likely be your default weapon for most combat situations, as they’re more powerful than SMGs and more accurate than machine guns.
The Special Carbine is my go-to assault rifle. It was part of The Business Update DLC, and it’s unlocked from rank 1 in GTA Online. Fully tricked out it’s a devastating gun, a truly multi-role weapon capable of the toughest jobs that has no problem scoring head-shots at range. If you’re looking for an alternative, the Bullpup Rifle has exactly the same stats.
Some higher level players prefer the Advanced Rifle because it has an increased fire-rate over the standard Carbine, but it’s less accurate and the extra rounds-per-minute don’t compensate for the drop-off in damage.
The Advanced Rifle debate is an odd one, because many, illogically, see it as the preferred option. The Advanced Rifle was one of the original assault rifles in GTA 5 before DLC added more, so its relatively high fire-rate over the standard Carbine Rifle put it at the top of older tests. Now, though, the stats make the Special Carbine or Bullpup an easy choice, as they beat the Advanced Rifle on damage (5.7/10 over 3.4/10), accuracy (6/10 over 5/10) and fire-rate (7.3/10 over 7/10). Straight up: they’re better guns.
Best sniper rifle
There isn’t much of a choice here. The basic Sniper Rifle unlocks at rank 21, but the Heavy Sniper doesn’t appear until a far distant rank 90. The Heavy is the superior weapon, with better range, damage and accuracy. More than one long-time player has claimed the Heavy is the best gun in the entire game, but you’re a long way off owning one if you only started with the new-gen GTA 5 release.
The only alternative is the Marksman Rifle, a recent addition from the Last Man Standing Update. I actually use this a fair amount. It has the best fire-rate of any of the three sniper rifles (4/10 compared to the Heavy’s 2/10), the pay-off being a relatively short scope with no zoom. I don’t have the Heavy yet as I’m rank 65-ish, but I tend to find I use both the Marksman and Sniper Rifle in equal measure, depending on the distance to the target.
Best melee weapon
Take your pick. The Hatchet is probably the funniest, so I tend to go with that.
There are a two schools of thought in the shotgun class. The first is based on one-shot kills. This is normally used for a situation in which you’re looking to deliver as much damage as possible to a hard target (probably another player) at very close range. The second is willing to sacrifice the immediate take-down for an increased fire-rate and longer range. This is better for a more open scenario with mixed distances, such as a Deathmatch.
The gun you’ll pick will depend on your play style and the situation in which you find yourself. GTA Online definitely has a “thing” for shotguns; whichever way you decide to go, there’s hardware to suit your needs.
The obvious, correct overall choice in this category is the Assault Shotgun. This beast of a gun has a 32-round extended clip and fires full-auto, making it pretty difficult to argue with. Its fire-rate is off the chart at 5/10 compared to the Sawed Off, Bullpup and Pump, which all stand at 2/10.
The Assault’s extremely powerful, but it’s not the only option. It’s fire-rate and range come at the expense of damage. The two hardest hitting shotguns in the game are the Bullpup Shotgun and the Sawed-Off Shotgun. Both suffer from glacial fire-rates but are seriously powerful, the Sawed-Off being the most potent. The Bullpup causes less damage, but is more accurate, has a higher range and carries more shells. I prefer the Bullpup: you really do have to be standing close to get the most from the Sawed-Off, and in a situation in which you need to take down more than two enemies there’s going to be a reload issue.
As a final note, I’d count the Heavy Shotgun out. It was added with the Last Man Standing Update and looks good on paper as it causes more damage than the Assault Shotgun, but it suffers from significant damage drop-off at range and the mag only extends to 12 rounds.
So yeah: Assault in general, Bullpup for “personal” work.
Best heavy weapon
You won’t even get a heavy weapon until you buy the grenade launcher at rank 60. The only other two weapons in the same class are the RPG at rank 100 and the Minigun at rank 120.
Even when you hit 100, you’re probably going to keep the grenade launcher equipped. The RPG’s only advantage is its ability to fire an explosive in a straight line, and is therefore useful for taking out choppers, but the grenade launcher carries ten rounds and fires semi-auto. It’s capable of turning even the most desperate situation into a total bloodbath (although it’ll cost you: Ammu-nation charges nearly $4,000 for a full clip), and even a single, well-placed shot can save any day.
When you get to 120, it’ll be Minigun all the way. It’s the most powerful weapon in the game by so many miles, a gun in front of which police choppers turn into immediate matchsticks. All others transmute to pieces of exploding meat when you finally get your hands on one of these. That’s life, I guess.
This is a bit of a dud. The thrown weapons in GTA 5 vary in role, so you’ll need to swap them out depending on what you’re doing. I usually keep the normal frag grenades equipped. Remember that you can now throw grenades by swiping up on the PS4 touchpad while you’re aiming with another weapon. It’s an essential firefighting trick for the new GTA 5 versions.
To understand the other thrown weapons and their uses, check out this Wikia page. You should make particular note of the Sticky Bomb: it’s commonly used in PvP car chases and attacking security vehicles.
Check out the rest of our GTA 5 and GTA Online guide for loads more information and advice.