Welcome to Chuck80’s school of shotgun surgery!
In this, i’m gonna try and deconstruct my favorite weapon type: shotguns. Their strengths, weaknesses, how to play them and how to get the most out of them. What’s great about shotguns is that they have a lot to offer within a single weapon type: from the sniper-like striker to the AoE Flakker. Shotguns are diverse and very fun to play.
Please note that most of this is based on my observations, a bit of poorly thought-out math, my experience as a player and other things like that… therefore:
The object of this thread is to debunk received ideas and get people thinking. The results, methodology, opinions expressed therein and conclusions are all debatable, and are meant as examples of a larger idea, not as proofs that I am right. Keep in mind that the ideal testing method doesn’t exist, and actual gameplay will have a TON of factors to consider that are WAAAYYY out of the scope of this guide. This is my opinion, not science.
Tl;dr: this is food for thought, not empirical evidence of anything.
With this out of the way, let’s get down to business.
And a table of shotgun prefix, courtesy of @Sljm
And a nice breakdown video by @Derch (made for BL2, but it’s completely relevant here too)
shotgun strengths and weaknesses
When using a type of gun, it’s important to know what they do well and not so well, so that you can play to their strengths and minimize their weaknesses. If you understand that part, you’re well on your way to be most efficacious with them.
- Shotguns are very powerful. As far as DPS goes, there are very few things in the game that can deliver as much potential damage.
- If you think in terms of pellets, shotguns have the fastest fire rate of all weapons type in the game: they often fire 10 or more shots at once. A rustler’s Quad can output 36 shots within half a second… nothing else in the game comes close. To put out as many shots, even the fastest SMG will need at least 3 seconds. So you can think of shotguns as SMGs that unload a whole clip at a time
On the flip side, Shotguns have 2 IMPORTANT weaknesses:
- Their range is limited. Not per se, but their EFFECTIVE range is. (we’ll get to that later)
- Their accuracy is MUCH worse than any other weapon type in the game. If we re-use the rapid fire analogy, think of them as firing through recoil at all times: more pellets = less accuracy.
so it comes at no surprise that shotguns are most effective at short range. Just how short depends on brand and parts.
Effective range and Barrels
The most important thing to know with shotguns is this:
Bigger barrels = more pellets = wider spread
that’s the core of the shotgun problem. The more pellets you crank out, the more damage potential you have, but the closer you have to be to be able to benefit. Conversely, the less barrels/pellets you have, the farther away you can be efficient.
Think of a shotgun’s blast as a cone.
Since pellets get a random distribution within a cone, you are better not have that cone be wider than your target for a set distance. So the wider the cone, the closer your target has to be.
for each barrel type there is a breaking point: a set distance where one barrel starts to be better than the next. Too close with a small barrel and you could have been dishing out more damage with a bigger barrel, too far with a big barrel and your pellets are all over the place.
Shotguns are the analogical guns, while all the others are more binary. With other guns, you hit or miss. With shotguns you either get a good hit or a bad one…it’s much more a question of degree. And fine-tuning this relationship between target and shot pattern is at the core of the Shotgun playstyle
In short, with shotguns:
Accuracy = Damage
Keep that bit in mind for when we’ll discuss accessories too.
…is already past the breaking point between twin barrels and triple barrels.
That’s right: to be more efficient with a Triple barrel than a double barrel, you have to be closer than that, and even closer for a quad barrel. Needless to say that you will NOT be shooting exclusively from this distance with most shotguns.
I have not calculated the breaking point between single barrels and double, but the band is pretty slim between “single barrel are better than twin starting here” and “Shotguns as a whole are inefficient from here” Still, they have their use, and they are also more ammo-efficient.
Generally speaking, double barrels are the best choice for most ranges and applications. quads are almost never useful and triple barrels are just a bad compromise.
In short, the only barrels you should worry about are single and double, for medium and short range respectively. (there are exceptions to this as we’ll see later when talking about Torgue and Hyperion shotguns)
Of course, skills and gear can alter the stats, and specific conditions will also be a factor. those are just general guidelines. please use common sense.
Shotgun brands and accessories
There are 5 Brands of shotguns out there, each with their strengths and weaknesses. But as for parts, there are a lot of similarities across brands.
There are also 7 different possible accessories.
While the conventional idea is that the vertical grip is always the best, it is not so most of the time. Let’s break it down:
- Vertical grip: Increases pellet count by 2, increases fire rate,
Improved max accuracy, Reduces min accuracy, wider pellet spread
- Critical hit: Tightens spread a bit, increases critical damage by 50%
- Side-loader: Increases mag size, reload speed, fire rate, slightly
- General boost: slightly increases damage, fire rate, reload speed
and mag size
- Blade: boosts melee damage by 50%
- Mag size: Increases mag size, reduces reload speed
- Accuracy: Tightens the spread, increases fire rate, reduces damage
Hyperion shotguns are odd birds, and that’s a good thing. Since they have the Hyperion gimmick working for them, they’re the best for hip-firing and sustained fire. Their drawback are…well, they don’t have a lot of them They hurt a bit less and they spend a lot of time reloading (not terribly more so than other brands, but they empty their mag much faster, so they spend more time reloading than most) Hyperion shotguns are among the very best.
sustained pinpoint fire is their hallmark, so the most efficient barrel for them is the Hyperion barrel.
Since they have great accuracy and don’t suffer from recoil at all, a vertical grip is awesome on them.
A note must be made however for Quad-barrels Hyperion shotguns with the BL2 skin (Developments, not crowd-pleasers): they kinda break the general rule and have very good accuracy (Comparable to twins barrels of other brands)… so with them, you’re not making as big a sacrifice in that department to compensate for the extra power (you’ll still burn through ammo faster though.)
Back on the BL2 forum, Sljm wrote a little guide on the Hyperion accuracy gimmick. Have a look if you want to better understand it.
Jakobs shotties are my personal favorite. They can’t come with elements, have to reload every 1-3 shots, don’t have any better accuracy than other brands and suffer from the worst recoil of the category. To make up for that, they pack the meanest punch of them all and they have better critical power than all others. Remember when I told you about playing to your weapon’s strengths ? well Jakobs understand this very well with their shotguns.
Jakobs shotties aren’t affected by a fire rate boost and they have a higher pellet count than other brands. right away the vertical grip looks pretty lackluster. If it adds 2/5 extra damage to other brand’s single barrels, it only adds 2/7 to Jakobs. Playing to your gun’s strengths and weaknesses, Jakobs guns have increased critical hit and they reload very frequently. The obvious choices then are the Critical hit, side loader and general boost accessories.
Scav shotguns would be among the best if for one thing. They have a HUGE mag, so cutting down on reloads would be a welcome change of pace, but their fire rate is so slow that it completely negates their best feature. Still, with the right build you can make this work.
Scav shotguns are better off with the twin barrels. since their fire rate is pretty slow and they have a huge mag, they can afford to shoot 2 at a time.
any accessory that increases fire rate is awesome on them, so vertical grip, Side loader general boost or accuracy.
Not much to say about these guys. They’re the standard by which all other are judged. They are middle of the pack in damage, fire rate, mag size… and their special gimmick is almost wasted on them since shotgun mags are a bit small. They benefit from a twin barrel too.
Since they are so average, almost all accessories will be good with them… yawn
However, that being said, their unique versions are usually VERY good, and home to some crazy special gimmicks. So don’t let that rating fool you when you get your hands on a red-text Tediore shotgun.
Torgue go BOOM! Torgue shotguns have slow fire rate, slow projectiles, slow reload and a lower pellet count than other brands. But, they have added splash damage. they can keep up with Jakobs and Hyperion as DPS goes, and they are also the most ammo-efficient manufacturer since they output more damage per pellet.
When it comes to barrels, Torgue shotguns are another exception: with their slow projectile speed, you are almost forced to use them from point blank range, so you can get away with more barrels. Athena can get the most out of Torgue shotguns, since maelstrom boosts their damage, so consider them outstanding on her if you have a CS build.
Since half their output is splash, the crit accessory is not as good on them.
Accessories that will speed them up are good. so vertical grip, side-loader, accuracy or general boost are the best on them.
A word on scopes:
Scoped shotguns… really ?
Here’s a quick scope breakdown for you:
On the striker: Jakobs or Hyperion scope
On literally EVERYTHING ELSE: Torgue or NONE!
The kind of views scopes give you all start to be useful where shotguns are already ineffective. ADS with a shotgun does not tightens spread and should be done only to fight recoil,
Unique and legendary shotguns
This one was overlooked in BL2, but it’s much better than people think. It fires twice in very quick succession, so it’s kinda like a Quad barreled gun…except it retains almost twin barrels accuracy, and does not get diminishing returns out of the extra ammo (it fires 22 shots instead of 17) A very solid option.
Scav grip, locked accessory (blade), can come in all elements (including cryo, for those melee-inclined builds)
Sniper-like accuracy and Increased critical damage makes this the only shotgun you can really use at long range. a truly powerful weapon in the right hands.
Jakobs grip, Doc’s prefix.
Drops from Belly
Boomacorn (4 stars on Nisha)
That thing is bonkers. For 2 ammo, It shoots 5 mini rockets (which means it can’t crit) of a random element each, but they deal so much damage that it more than makes up for it. Does a neighing sound when shot. Should be aimed low so that any missed shot will still hit the ground and catch your intended target in the ensuing splash.
On Nisha, this thing is even more silly, since she fixes all of its weaknesses: It can get to a mag size of 5 with FFoB, is still considered a non-elemental gun by Magnificent 6 and Tombstone can make the rockets crit.
World drop since the january 2016 hotfix
Fires a “block” of flak in front of the user. each pellet fires off 10 unlisted additional pellets with splash. This thing is a bit hard to use at first and it has a sort of learning curve, but once you’re comfortable with it, there are few things more powerful in this game. Athena, Nisha and Claptrap can use it to one-shot Iwajira for example.
Drops from Even-More-Disgusting Tork, a non-repeatable boss during the quest “All the little creatures.”
Best parts: Casual prefix, Torgue grip
Bullets ricochet off target, Corrosive only. Not much to say about this one.
Hyperion or Scav grip, Vertical grip accessory
Fixed triangular spread. +100% Splash on the pellet (compared to 85% on basic Torgue Shotties)
3 “Flaks” per pellet, each also doing 100% Splash 2 seconds after impact, or if they come in contact with a surface. Boosted by Grenade Damage, affected by gravity.
Casual does add pellets and flaks, but each comes out right on top of one of the main 3.
AKA the mini-Flakker. Much more user friendly for not much less powerful.
Quest reward from “Torgue-o! Torgue-o!” side with Mr Torgue
Too Scoops (Unrated)
Shoots 2 balls of cryo that act as AOE and explode when hitting something or after a certain distance traveled
I’m not giving this a rating because, although it uses shotgun ammo, it doesn’t act like one at all. It’s apparently awesome on Claptrap. it’s a bit out of the scope of this guide. Derch made a thread about this gun, so if you want further info, inquire there.
Quest reward for Bunch of Ice holes. Turn in to Bar-bot
Fixed spread, 5 rounds in a wide pentagon. With Casual prefix, each of the 2 additional rounds comes out next to a random one of the other five.
Initial pellets act as normal Torgue weapons, with 100% base and 85% Splash, with the latter boosted by Grenade Damage.
If they hit terrain, they explode after 0.5 seconds if an enemy is within proximity, or after 5 seconds otherwise, for 150% damage as Radius, NOT boosted by Grenade Damage. AKA, the landscaper 2.0… The landscaper was terrible, and so is this.
Quest reward from “Zapped 3.0”
This gun talks, and it’s not entirely polite at it. Base damage is comparable to a purple Firehose (3-barrel), thanks to an extra pellet, with the accuracy of a Sweeper (2-barrel), and more mag size and Fire Rate than either. All that combined makes it one of the better shotguns in the game, let alone among Scav alternatives. The only drawback is the ammo consumption.
Fires 10 pellets in a fixed sine wave pattern that converge and diverge. Retains the best accuracy of all shotguns in the game because of it. can come in all elements except explosive. Pretty useful with Athena as she can’t ADS while the aspic is out. A bit lacking in the damage department though. The fixed spread also means you can consistently crit with all pellets to the sentinel’s face.
Quest reward for lab 19 quest
Scav grip, royal or gentle prefix
Yes, 4 stars: it’s that good.
The Blockhead and the Torguemada had a baby, and it’s glorious!
Fires 5 pellets, BUT! they explode into pretty fireworks! The reload also does the same.
A bit hard to get used to and slightly unpredictable, but if you land your shot right, it can take out mobs in one hit. Especially good with Athena as the multiple hits from the fireworks will stack Maelstrom very quick, even quicker in atmosphere. Sadly, the splash damage it produces is not affected by grenade damage boosts.
Only comes in Fire. Gentle prefix, Tediore or Jakobs grip (Scav is not too bad either)
Can be found in the Holodome, round 4
Fires 7 bullets in a smiley face with a sin-wave pattern, kinda like the Tidal wave from BL2. Also has 50% explosive splash. Has a bit of a learning curve, but a very good gun when you get used to it.
Quest reward for Red, then dead quest
jakobs grip, Rustler’s prefix
Like a Coach gun, but with 2 more pellets and a much bigger mag. So everything that is right about the coach gun is doubly so on the Flayer. One of the best guns in the game.
jakobs grip, Doc’s prefix
And now, a word from Sljm:
Sljm’s highly-subjective Shotgun Analysis (use if you want, I just feel like sharing)
Firstly, a DPS table, to be taken with a grain of salt because it doesn’t factor in spec or other gear, but it gives a general idea of the effectiveness of options within a certain brand. I don’t think it’s satisfying to say that one brand is better or worse than the others, because they’re different.
Firstly, I don’t generally find anything higher than a double barrel to be necessary or practical, with a few exceptions. Two shots from a 2-barrel will outdo one shot from a 4-barrel, while being only slightly slower due to Fire Rate disparity, with the difference being made up in the total throughput.
Notice on the chart that the differences between 4 and 3 barrel DPS is pretty similar, with the 3-barrel winning out at longer ranges. At the highest range I accounted for, 2 or 1-barrel guns typically sustained more DPS than either 3 or 4.
Ammo scarcity is another concern. During my testing of 3 and 4 barrel shotties, I found myself scrounging for ammo just a bit more often than with lower consumption weaponry.
In any case, I’ve established a hierarchy of preferences for each manufacture based on my spreadsheet and playtesting.
Sljm’s Shotgun Shortlist
(The Uniques/Legendaries are disproportionately exceptional compared to the basic drops)
- Coach Gun
- Moonface (Explosive splash, fixed spread)
- Too Scoops
- Longrider (Striker is more accurate, Scattergun has higher base damage. Either of those would fit better than this one)
- Anything else
- Octo (HOLY SH*T THIS GUN)
- Party Line
- The rest. Unfortunately outclassed by Scav alternatives, which are also kinda bad
- Sledge’s Shotgun
- The rest… Nearly as bad as the Tediore equivalents. Even multi-barrels are lackluster.
- FLAKKER (DUH FLAKKER, ALSO FLAKKER)
- Pounder (Double Barrel gives the most practical power without sacrificing too much accuracy or ammo)
- Torguemada (Mini-Flakker, and even without the Flaks, generally the best single-ammo-cost here, if you can cope with the triangular spread)
- Bangstick (Easier to hit with than Torguemada)
- Stalker (outclassed by Bangstick, which is practically as accurate but with more base damage)
- Wombat (harder to use properly than Torguemada, and lower DPS)
So. Given all of this, we can break this down by ammo consumption:
Coach Gun (Jakobs)
Sledge’s Shotty (Scav)
Too Scoops (Jakobs)
Party Line (Tediore)
It’s important to note that Jack and Clappy seem to be able to make better use of Quads/Ravagers than Athena, so those might have some use on them.
But that’s a case of making an unusable gun shine, rather than talking about guns that are good no matter what.
Comparison: Min Min Lighter can be made very effective with various synergies, but is a bit anemic on its own. But fun.
A = (P - 4) * .25
A is Type A Critical Damage other than from the Critical Accessory
P is the number of Pellets without the Vertical Grip Accessory
This is the amount of Type A Critical Damage other than from the Critical Accessory you’d need to exceed for the Vertical Grip to give you more Critical DPS than the Critical Accessory.
5 Pellets = 25%
6 Pellets = 50%
7 Pellets = 75%
10 Pellets = 150%
Chuck80’s top 5 Shotguns
While i’m there, I might as well list my personal favorites
There is even less science in that part than the rest, and some of my choices might be bad choices for some characters and builds. Conversely, some shotguns that would be PERFECT for some build might not make it on my list. again: use common sense.
With damage on par with a bangstick (since it’s pellets do more damage), accuracy a non-issue because of it’s fixed spread, 100% splash damage instead of 85%, gets a lot out of the vertical grip. Very low ammo consumption, spawns extra unlisted flak that also inflict 100% splash damage on hit, reward from a piss-easy quest… the Torguemada is a bit hard to use at first, but it’s worth getting to know better. It’s a bit like the Flakker… with range… and subtle historical reference.
Tediore Party line
If this came in all elements, it would be my favorite gun in all of borderlands. About as good as it gets for sustained combat: decent fire rate, great reload speed, GREAT ammo efficiency…what’s not to like ?
and last but not least: it makes fireworks!!!
Make SURE to get this one with a vertical grip (gentle prefix)
Jakobs Flayer/Coach Gun
Versatility, plenty of power, decent ammo consumption. They work great on any character and can be used both as a Knockout punch from point blank and at medium range effectively. The increased elemental modifiers hurt them a bit. Consider these #1 for NVHM and TVHM.
Tediore splitter lasers
While not technically shotguns, those things act like they are, so they might as well make it on the list. And what awesome guns they are! 6 beams, accuracy somewhere between single and double barrel, almost no recoil, big mag size and a fire rate that rivals the fastest Hyperion shotguns. A bit more damage and they would be higher on the list. Maliwan splitters are almost as good.
What’s not to love ? Cool name, cool skin, cool sound and amazing results.
Honorable mention: Torgue Flakker
I’m not THAT comfortable with it, but I understand that it’s me who’s failing the Flakker, not the other way around Truly a beast of a gun.
More sections to come, including a section on grips, more on effective range, serious maths action and a few more nifty pictures to make this thread look more serious.