Mass Effect Weapons: best weapon options in ME1, ME2 & ME3

Given that the series is largely about blasting your way through space bad guys, finding the best weapons to fight Shepard's war in the Mass Effect trilogy is pretty vitally important. However, picking what guns you want to use isn't as easy as you'd think.

Part of what makes it complicated is that how guns work varies between each of the three games in the series. There's a little crossover between the weapons of Mass Effect 2 and the weapons of Mass Effect 3, but the first game in particular is just completely different. Things like your choice of character class will weigh heavily on what weapons might work best for you, with the results also varying from game to game.

On this page, we list our picks for the best weapon in ME1, ME2 and ME3, covering each game in the trilogy separately. You can jump to a specific game by hitting a link or simply scrolling. So, let's get to it-


How to get the Best Weapons in Mass Effect 1

The entire weapon system in the first Mass Effect is a more complicated, traditional RPG style web of different weapon types, brands, and rankings - and BioWare pretty quickly identified that it was a bit much and pared it back for the sequels. That also has a natural effect on any ranking of the best weapons in Mass Effect 1, as ultimately there's a hell of a lot more range in this game than in the others - and the exact best weapon you'll want to choose will vary based on your play-style and your choice of character class.

When talking about weapons in ME1, there's a few basic things you need to keep in mind:

  • Weapons rank from I-X, with the roman numerals determining how powerful they are. The same goes for armor. That means that a Devlon Industries Raptor I assault rifle is the entry-level of that model - and a Raptor VII will naturally be significantly better. A Raptor X is the best in that brand and type of gun.
  • Each type of weapon has its own base strengths and weaknesses. Some are cheaper, while some can fire more shots before overheating, and so on. The base setup of each weapon doesn't change from rank-to-rank, only their power. That means if you fall in love with the properties of a particular gun at a lower rank, you'll love its higher rank version just as much - it'll just be better. 
  • One thing to consider strongly is weapon training. Each class type is trained in using a couple of different types of weapon, and appropriately only the Soldier can effectively use all the weapon types in Mass Effect. While you can equip and fire weapons you're not trained in, you won't be able to do so as efficiently or in as damaging a manner. These penalties are reduced in the remastered Legendary Edition of ME1, but they're still present. That brings us to our first tip, then - always focus on picking up powerful weapons that you have a specialty training in first.

Armory Licenses in Mass Effect 

If you want access to the best weapons at all times, you should buy every Armory License. Each armory license basically gives the arms Requisitions Officer character in the Normandy cargo and engine area, near the Mako, the right to sell more brands of weapons. So the more licenses you have, the better his shop - and his is the best shop in the game. They're all relatively cheap for where they're found in the game, and each unlocks a wide range of weapons. Here's where to find all of the Armory Licenses in the game, for the record, broken up by the three points at which they unlock in the game:

  • Open from Level 1: 
    • Aldrin Labs License - C-Sec Requisitions Store, Citadel
    • Elanus Risk Control License - Morlan's Store, Citadel Ward Lower Markets
    • Elkoss Combine License - Expat the Volus in the Citadel Upper Ward Markets, or from Opold the smuggling Hanar merchant on Noveria
    • Hahne-Kedar License - Normandy Requisitions Officer
    • Sirta Foundation License - Delan the Hanar Merchant on the Citadel Presidium, or Petozi the Elcor in Novera's Peak 15
  • Open from Level 18+ (Classic Level Scaling)
    • Ariake Technologies License - C-Sec Requisitions Store, Citadel
    • Armali Council License - Commander Rentola on Virmire, or Nassana Dantius if you charm her after completing the Asari Diplomacy assignment
    • Devlon Industries License - Delan the Hanar Merchant on the Citadel Presidium
    • Haliat Armory License - Leda the Salarian Merchant on Feros
    • Rosenkov Materials License - Opold the smuggling Hanar merchant on Noveria
  • Open from Level 36+ (Classic Leveling)
    • Armax Arsenal License - Expat the Volus in the Citadel Upper Ward Markets
    • Geth Armory License - Morlan's Store, Citadel Ward Lower Markets
    • Kassa Fabrication License - C-Sec Requisitions Store, Citadel or Petozi the Elcor in Novera's Peak 15
    • Serrice Council License - Delan the Hanar Merchant on the Citadel Presidium, or from Commander Rentola if you have Captain Kirrahe on Virmire
    • Spectre Master Gear License - Available after Obtaining 1,000,000 Credits.

How to get the Spectre Master Gear, the best weapons in Mass Effect 1

With all of the above noted, there is an absolute best set of weapons in each class in Mass Effect - and that's the Spectre Master Gear weapons. There's one range of each weapon type in the game - but they're,only unlocked much later in the game, and only under certain circumstances. They also only have two variants you can obtain naturally - the Level 7 (VII) gear, and the Level 10 (X) gear. 

To get the Spectre Master Gear weapons, you simply have to be rich enough. The criteria is to amass over one million credits, which is exactly enough to trigger the 'Rich' achievement in the original version of the game. In the Legendary Edition HD Remaster this achievement no longer exists, but the criteria to unlock the best weapons is the same. As soon as you have over 1 million credits and are over Level 36 (level 19 in legendary edition), these weapons will be available for purchase in their level 7 forms from either Normandy or C-Sec Requisitions Officers. Each type of weapon has a unique name, with both Advanced and Basic variants:

  • HMWA - Assault Rifles
  • HMWSG - Shotguns
  • HMWP - Pistols
  • HMWSR - Sniper Rifles

Only level 7 weapons will be available initially; to get the level 10 Spectre Master Gear, you'll need to have such a high level that it's almost impossible to achieve in your first play-through. You'll see the Level 10 Spectre Master Gear pop up in New Game Plus - and those truly are the best weapons in the game - but if you're planning to move right on to Mass Effect 2, you might never see them - and that's okay. 


The Best Weapons in Mass Effect 2 - Weapon guide

In the two years between the first ME game and Mass Effect 2, the world has changed - a lot. Alliances have changed, friends have become foes... but most importantly for this guide, the entire galaxy's complement of weapons has changed. Gone are the overheating, ammo-free guns we found in ME1, replaced with more traditionally-reloading guns, albeit with an in-universe excuse that makes them line up with the first game's lore.

Mass Effect 2 also ditches the weapon ranking system in favor of something much more simple: a wide range of weapons you can acquire throughout the game, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. While there are a couple of guns that flat-out suck, generally speaking every weapon in ME2 has its own uses and utility depending on play style - and you know what that means:

If you're looking to find out the absolute best weapons in Mass Effect 2, you'll find that the answer is a little more complicated and not so black-and-white. Some weapons will work better for some than others. Which weapons you want will depend on your loadout, including things like your bonus power and advanced weapon training.

You should treat this guide as suggestions, but also experiment yourself. We've done a lot of experimenting, however - so here's our choices for the best weapon of each type in Mass Effect 2, along with some alternative suggestions in most types:

Best Assault Rifles in ME2

  1. M-96 Mattock: For our money, we'd go for the M-96 Mattock above all other assault rifles in Mass Effect 2 - though it also functions quite differently to many other rifles. It has incredible accuracy and great damage - but it's not a spray-and-pray assault rifle, as it only fires each time you pull the trigger. It has lower ammo reserves too, which matches this more measured way of shooting. Its accuracy makes it almost like a faster pistol or a lower-range sniper rifle in utility, if you're comfortable with it. In the original ME2 it is DLC that's available right from when you get the Normandy, while in the Legendary Edition version of the game you can buy it from Kenn's Salvage on Omega.
  2. M-15 Vindicator: Take everything that makes the default M-8 Avenger AR great and pump it up to be even better and you get the M-15 Vindicator. You have to choose your shots carefully thanks to smaller magazine sizes, but this is a powerful weapon that's highly accurate. You can pick it up during the Archangel recruitment mission on Omega.
  3. M-76 Revenant: We'd be amiss to not mention this weapon, though it's only available to the Soldier class, and only of a Soldier takes the Assault Rifle Advanced Weapon Training aboard the Collector Ship. If you do that, however, you get a highly situational assault rifle that, when it comes into its own, is practically unbeatable. But, like we said: situational.

Best Submachine Guns in ME2

  1. M-12 Locust: The Locust is such a good SMG that we actually bump up the mission where you acquire it, Kasumi's Loyalty Mission, right up to the front of the game in our suggested Mass Effect 2 mission order. For every class against Soldier, we'd say this is totally the best SMG of choice and a must-have. Highly accurate with strong damage and low recoil, it has properties that make it rival several assault rifles - which is great for the classes that can't initially use ARs, which is all except Soldier.
  2. M-9 Tempest: While there's no real competition between this and the Locust, the Tempest should get an honorable mention for how its high rate of fire makes it a great SMG for classes that get up close and personal, like the Vanguard. However, you can't get it until a little later in the game at Tali's recruitment mission.

Best Shotguns in ME2

  1. Geth Plasma Shotgun: Geth weapons all have the gimmick that since they fire plasma, they rip through shields but do less damage to actual health. The Geth Plasma Shotgun also has an extra feature, however - you can charge up shots, and charged shots are both more damaging and more accurate. The main concern is ammo, and making sure you use appropriate powers or squad make-up to ensure you can still handle enemy shields. It's DLC, and in Legendary Edition is sold by Kenn's Salvage on Omega for 10,000 Credits.
  2. M-27 Scimitar: If you want a more traditional Shotgun, the Scimitar is it, providing absolutely brutal stopping power, a high frame rate, and a good magazine size. It pairs perfectly with getting right into the enemy's face - but compared to other shotguns, it's more about unleashing a flurry of shots rather than one devastating blast. That makes it pair better with some classes than others. You can grab it on the Justicar recruitment mission.
  3. M-22 Eviscerator: This list practically cascades from least traditional shotgun to most traditional - the Eviscerator keeps things simple - highly powerful, more accurate than you'd expect, but only allowing a few shots before needing to be reloaded. It works better for classes that are able to get up close, but want to deal explosive damage quickly to neutralize the threat fast.

Best Sniper Rifles in ME2

  1. M-98 Widow: The Widow is the best Sniper in the whole game, but it's also fairly exclusive - only the Soldier and Infiltrator can get it, and only by choosing Sniper Rifle Advanced Weapon Training when aboard the Collector Ship. It's just a dream of a sniper rifle, with everything you'd want from such a weapon. Just rack up the headshots and enjoy how the high damage tears enemies to shreds... if you can qualify to get it.
  2. M-92 Mantis & M-97 Viper: The rest of this category is pretty even, but the Mantis is probably our favorite of the rest. It's great for Infiltrator in particular. Meanwhile, the M97-Viper is a more well-rounded weapon that isn't really about one-shot scope sniping - instead, think of it and treat it a bit more like a slightly longer-range assault rifle, in a sense.
  3. A Note on the M-29 Incisor: I know that this weapon's fire rate might be tempting, but no. You can get a better fire rate and damage off an Assault Rifle. However, note that this weapon is actually really quite good in the hands of sniper-expert squad members like Thane, and might even be better in their hands than the Widow - just don't ever equip it yourself.

Best Heavy Pistols in ME2

  1. M-6 Carnifex: The two good pistols are the Carnifex and the M-5 Phalanx, and they're honestly pretty interchangeable. However, the Carnifex has a greater utility because it deals out good damage and has a decent fire rate - it balances well. The Phalanx is more devastating, but is far slower. Which you choose is up to you, but given the pistol will largely be a last resort backup for most fights, we think the all-rounder Carnifex is stronger and takes our pick for the best.

Best Heavy Weapons in ME2

  • If you want one-shot devastation: Try using the M-920 Cain, which is basically a nuke, or the Arc Projector. Both eat up ammunition, but can clear the screen in an instant.
  • If you want a weapon you can aim and shoot: The Collector Particle Beam is absolutely your best option, and can be brilliant for blasting down bosses and other singular highly powerful enemies.

The Best Weapons in Mass Effect 3 - Weapon guide

Unlike the major change between ME1 and ME2, things haven't been changed up nearly as much for Mass Effect 3 - though weapons are indeed subtly different, which of course then impacts our thoughts on the best weapons in Mass Effect 3 - though one could make the argument that the way ME3 democratizes the use of guns across all classes means that choosing the absolute best gun is less important than getting your overall load-out right.

In full, the weapon system in ME3 is mostly built off its direct predecessor, with many systems matching up to ME2. But there are also several features that appeared in the first game that make a return such as equippable weapon modes, a wider range of weapons, and the ability for any class to equip, carry and fire any weapon in the game regardless of its type. This system has been built with trade-offs in mind, however.

In Mass Effect 3, any character class can carry any type of weapon. In fact, every class can carry up to five weapons of their choice - though only one from each weapon class. The trade-off for this is that every weapon has a weight stat - and the more weight Shepard is carrying, the greater their cooldown times will be on their powerful skills, whatever they may be. The result of this is pretty natural: a soldier relies less on skills and more on firepower, so they make more sense as a class that'll carry multiple weapons. A biotic-slinging Adept has access to plenty of powerful skill-based damage output, however - so they may only want to carry a handful of weapons. There's a risk/reward system at play here, in that a strong Adept player could genuinely only carry one light weapon, such as a submachine gun, and try to otherwise fight their way through every battle with their biotic skills thanks to lightning-fast skill cooldown times. Other classes might fall somewhere in the middle. 

Weapon mods play a big role in this system, as mods can do things like power up certain weapon stats, but they can also reduce weight, thus allowing you to effectively carry more. Heavy Weapons do return, but in a more limited role: they're no longer something you equip, but you might find them out in the battlefield. You use them until ammo is depleted, then toss them aside.

That means we're left with five weapon classes - Assault Rifles, Shotguns, Sniper Rifles, Submachine Guns, and Heavy Pistols. On this page, we offer up our suggestions for the best weapons of each type for ME3 single-player (multiplayer weapons have differing stats!) - though as ever, do just treat these as suggestions and try to come to a conclusion of your own. ME3 has more guns than ME2 by far, which makes picking just a handful difficult - but we'll do our best.

This section is a work-in-progress - more weapons and notes are to be added!

Best Assault Rifles in ME3

  1. Cerberus Harrier: remember the M-96 Mattock, our best assault rifle in ME2? Well, say hello to the sequel. It looks the same, but it's now fully-automatic and has less recoil. The trade off is slightly less power, and the fact that the higher rate of fire works against its low ammo count. Mods and armor can offset this negative edge, however, and the power of the gun when used right in strict bursts of fire can't be understated. It's DLC, and in Legendary Edition costs 150,000 credits from Spectre Requisitions.
  2. N7 Typhoon: now, we know - looking at this weapon, you'll likely see the weight and balk. It's the heaviest assault rifle in ME3. However, for Soldiers it is a total beast, with a crazy ammo capacity and a fire rate to help you burn through the hundreds of rounds you can carry. Its rate of fire increases the longer you fire for, and you get a damage bonus when firing for longer. It even penetrates shields well. The weight just means it isn't for every class, sadly. Tell you who it is great for, though: squad members. They don't quite play by the same rules as Shepard, and this gun is deadly in their hands. In the remaster, the Spectre Requisitions shop sells it for 150,000 credits.
  3. M7-Lancer: this is a gun that fans of the original Mass Effect may want to use; it's a rare gun in ME3 that uses the unique overheating/recharging system from the first game - meaning no worrying about ammo! It's very powerful considering its fire rate, and the advantages of not having to reload or worry about picking up ammo speak for themselves. It can be picked up during the Citadel shore leave DLC missions.
  4. M-99 Saber: for a gun of its type, the Saber has top-class stopping power, but it has a slow rate of fire to balance it out. It's technically an Assault Rifle, but it's an Assault Rifle trending towards the skill set of a sniper. It's a great weapon, but many will want to have a sidearm that can be fired more quickly when you come across fast-moving enemies. The exception to this is a Soldier, who can offset its shortcomings with Adrenaline Rush. You can pick it up during Priority: Horizon.
  5. M-96 Mattock: we mentioned it above in its modified form as the Cerberus Harrier, but if you want to get your hands on a very close equivalent for free, you can go for the M-96 Mattock - which is just as good in ME3 as it was in ME2, where it was the best weapon of its type. Slap a scope on it and it can handle pretty much any scenario. You can pick it up during the Grissom Academy Emergency Evacuation side mission.

Best Submachine Guns in ME3

  1. N7 Hurricane: the Hurricane provides pretty much everything you'd want from an SMG that'll be used in medium to close range - a reasonable weight, a blistering fire rate, and high ammo capacity. The damage and accuracy isn't bad either. Its fire rate is crazy due to the fact each bullet 'fired' actually fires two shots at once in a very minor spread. For classes where SMG might be your main weapon, the primary concern is the high recoil and the rate of fire depleting ammo - so this is not a weapon to take out on its own. It's extremely powerful in the hands of companions, however, and mods can improve it to be the best in its category. It was DLC, and in the Legendary Edition is a cheap-ish buy from the Spectre Requisitions terminal in the Citadel Embassies for 75,000 credits.
  2. Blood Pack Punisher: the punisher lives up to the gang for which it's named, with a bonus where it fires an armor-piercing round for every 8 rounds fired from the main barrel. It's a strong all-around SMG - but it has to be, because it's one of the heavier viable SMGs for high-level play. The armor piercing shots are great, and you can control if they come out at all by doing burst fire. This is a weapon that grows into its role and gets significantly better as you're able to mod it, especially to take some of the weight off or by upping the damage with a high-velocity barrel. In the remaster, buy it from Elkoss Combine Arsenal Supplies in the Presidium for 10,000 credits.
  3. M-25 Hornet: consider the Hornet as a slightly lesser version of the N7 Hurricane; while it does have unique elements, it's generally outclassed by that weapon - but some might prefer the specific setup of this gun, which has a crazy rate of fire and a solid effectiveness even at a slightly longer range - though recoil can prove challenging. It can be picked up during Priority: The Citadel II, or found in some shops. 
  4. Geth Plasma SMG: as you'd expect for a Geth plasma weapon, it has a sort of electrical power. Ultimately it functions a lot like any SMG, however, with the main differentiating gimmick being how its rate of fire speeds up the longer you hold down the trigger. It's a solid option, and works particularly well as a sidearm thanks to low weight but high power. Mods can make it need reloading less often to make it even more devastating.

Best Shotguns in ME3

  1. Reegar Carbine: a DLC weapon originally released in the Firefight Pack, this shotgun is unique because it's electrical element in nature, firing electricity instead of bullets. It has short range, but its power is ridiculous when it's used right. You won't want to carry this as your only weapon, but as a situational choice it is difficult to beat, able to tear down high-tier enemies in a heartbeat. You can even use powers while firing. Don't give this to squadmates, however - the AI really doesn't understand this gun's gimmick. In the Legendary Edition you can buy this from the Elkoss Combine Arsenal Supplies store in the Citadel Presidium for 10,000 credits.
  2. Venom Shotgun: the Venom can fire uncharged or charged shots - but really this is less like a shotgun than it is a low-end grenade launcher. The uncharged version shoots a single round, while the charged shots fires a cluster round that explodes into five smaller rounds when it hits its target. The main drawback of the Venom is how heavy it is, but with mods it can become much more viable - and we really can't overstate just how incredible the damage output of this shotgun is. In the original game it's DLC from the Groundside Resistance pack, while in Legendary Edition you can buy it from Aegohr Munitions on the Citadel for 7000 credits.
  3. M-11 Wraith: if you want a more traditional shotgun over the two above, which admittedly have gimmicks, the Wraith is the one. It's a quintessential shotgun, with low accuracy and stupid-high damage - but it'll need to be reloaded often. Despite this, it reloads quite quickly. It's also light for a shotgun of its abilities. It can be purchased from the Spectre Requisitions store for 250,000 credits.
  4. N7 Piranha: this shotgun is great if you want all that boomstick power but you don't want to wrestle with recoil - low recoil is present here, but noy in exchange for power. You'll still need to get into close range, but this gun also lets you be reactive as it's very comfortable to fire from the hip. It's a great gun by default, but can really be elevated to top-tier with some mods. It was DLC, and in the Legendary Edition can be bought from the Spectre Requisitions terminal for 125,000 credits.

Best Sniper Rifles in ME3

  1. M-90 Indra: the Indra is unique in that it's the only sniper rilfe in ME3 that can be fired as a fully automatic weapon - but the trade-off is a basement bottom damage per shot. It all balances out, though, as the huge ammo capacity and sheer rate of fire makes up for it. If you're not that comfortable with one-shot, one-kill action, it's a great Sniper Rifle option that basically can function like a slightly high-end, longer-range assault rifle. Indeed, if you don't aim down the scope, it feels a lot like an AR. It's a great option for people who want to do a more aggressive Infiltrator build, too. It's DLC, and in Legendary Edition is found at Kassa Fabrication in the Presidium for 10,000 Credits.
  2. Black Widow: this is a Spectre Requisitions rifle, following on from the finest tradition of the Spectre arms in ME1... and it's a direct sequel to the M-98 Widow, ME2's best sniper rifle. It's highly accurate, very powerful, and has a 3-shot magazine compared to its predecessor's one. It's the ultimate one-hit-kill sniper. The biggest drawback its its weight, relatively hefty recoil, and its price -  whopping 250,000 Credits from the Spectre Requisitions store.
  3. N7 Valiant: another highly expensive rifle, this was originally a collector's edition bonus. It doesn't deal as much damage as the Black Widow, but retains the accuracy and has way less recoil, making it much more comfortable for players who struggle against recoil. It can be had from the Spectre Requisitions store in the Citadel Embassies for 250,000 credits in the remaster.
  4. AT-12 Raider: this shotgun can only be grabbed in the Leviathan DLC quest. It's got a rate of fire that outstrips any other shotgun in the game - and it does this despite keeping a very high damage rating. It only holds two shots, however - so you'll be reloading often, and having to get in very close to offset a scattershot accuracy.

Best Heavy Pistols in ME3

  1. M-11 Suppressor: this is arguably the best Heavy Pistol in the game, featuring high damage, high fire rate, and a massive damage boost whenever you naila headshot. If you mod a scope onto it you can seriously almost use it as a low-end sniper rifle in a pinch. Unfortunately, it's tied to the Citadel DLC - you gain it on the Citadel Wards: Ambush section of that mission. On our ME3 Mission Order we don't recommend you do that until you get into the late part of the game, just because Citadel is better saved until the end - but you could break that order and complete the non-party section of the mission earlier if you want.
  2. M-358 Talon: this is the weapon that Cerberus Guardians use, and it's a high-power, spread-based pistol... like a mini-shotgun. That makes this a deeply situational pistol - this is only one for classes that want to get up-close and personal with the enemy. It's also worth noting that the weight of this is high for a pistol, and should be addressed with mods as early as you can. You can pick it up during Priority: The Citadel II. 
  3. Arc Pistol: the clue to what makes this pistol special is in the name - it's a hand-held version of the Arc Projector heavy weapon from ME2. You can either charge up a high-energy shot or fire it quickly for less damage - though charged shots use multiple rounds at once. Despite the fact that the arc shots don't jump from one enemy to another, it's still excellent thanks to great damage, accuracy, rate of fire, and a lot of ammo for this weapon type. 
  4. Acolyte: what do you want from a handgun? If the answer is a staple of your offense rather than just a backup, the Acolyte is an option - it's more than a backup thanks to how it launches grenade-like projectiles that you can even bounce off walls and around corners. It's incredible against shields and biotic barriers, so you can use it to tear down shields and then flip over to a shotgun, AR, or SMG to finish enemies off. The low ammo capacity also supports this use. It was DLC in the original game, and in the remaster is sold by Nos Astra Sporting Goods in the Presidium for 10,000 credits.