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Destiny: The Taken King Pulse Rifle Guide- What Makes a Great Pulse Rifle

So you want a good pulse rifle, huh? Let’s look at what goes into making a world-class gun.

We’ll use the following ranking system for perks:
  • Tier 1 - competitive at the highest levels of play
  • Tier 2 - mediocre, situational or dependent on archetype or playstyle
  • Tier 3 - irrelevant, detrimental or of limited utility to most players

No more reforge, so Tier 3 doesn’t mean dismantle - it just means that perk slot has many better options.

Important Note:

Use the vendor Hawksaw, Nirwen’s Mercy or Red Death. Otherwise, make sure your gun has a Tier-1 Stability-boosting perk and good synergy with the other perks.

Before you ask a question, remember: archetype, manufacturer and specific perks matter much more than particular gun! Hawksaw and PDX-45, for example, are nearly identical base guns - it’s the perks that make one gun better than another.

What matters in a pulse rifle?

Headshot bursts are key. If you can consistently land all 3 (or 4) headshots in a burst, your pulse rifle is one of the most deadly weapons in the game.

Easier said than done.

Most pulse rifles, without the effects of perks or scopes, have far too much recoil to land all crits in a burst at all but the closest ranges. So when selecting a pulse rifle, our primary goal is to reduce recoil and tighten the burst.

This is primarily achieved through boosting Stability, so we want to select optimal Stability perks like Braced Frame, Perfect Balance or Smallbore. Less effective Stability boosters like Fitted Stock can be useful on pulses with high base Stability but aren't sufficient on most guns.

Make sure your gun has at least one Stability boosting perk, ideally Tier 1. This is the only real requirement for a pulse rifle in The Taken King.

However, recoil direction is also important. Purely vertical recoil is easier to control, and will push body bursts up into crits. The perk Counterbalance will make your recoil purely vertical. On low-Stability guns with strong horizontal recoil like Spare Change.25, this perk is highly desirable. But it's just one perk - for most guns, if you don't have it, it's not a dealbeaker.

Stability isn't everything, though. Sure, your bursts will be tight enough to land crits at distance. However, Range will ensure that your damage, accuracy, and most importantly aim assist are intact at even the longest ranges. Perks that boost Range like Hammer Forged are a welcome addition to any gun; perks that decrease Range like Oiled Frame should be avoided. Hand-Laid Stock (which boosts Stability at cost of Range) is better than nothing but far from ideal.

The hidden perks Handling and Aim Assist are very important for feel, so do your research. Most guns within each archetype balance Range against Handling and Aim Assist, so choose a gun that fits your play style.

For pulse rifles, ammo and reload are the least important perks - most magazines are large enough for at least 3 kills, and pulse-loader is readily available on gauntlets. For this reason, we’ve given perks like Outlaw low ranking (although it’s certainly not a bad perk), and perks that sacrifice magazine size or reload like Smallbore or Braced Frame are ranked highly.

What gun should I use?


There are four primary archetypes of pulse rifle, balancing Impact with Rate of Fire. Each archetype has pros and cons, and each can be effective in competitive play with the right perks.

The Messenger archetype (Spare Change.25 and Lyudmila-D) boasts the fastest theoretical Time-To-Kill, and a single all-crit burst is capable of completely demolishing an opponent's shield. However, this archetype is the least forgiving - miss a burst and your TTK is lost, if not your life.

The Red Death archetype (Nirwen’s Mercy, The Villainy, Herja-D, Suros PDX-41, No Time To Explain, and Apple of Discord) is a very popular choice. This archetype can consistently kill targets with 3 bursts (even if you don't land your crits) and the vendor Nirwen's Mercy was available during Iron Banner with an excellent stock roll.

The Bad Juju archetype (Hawksaw and Suros PDX-45) is a fantastic all-around choice. If you consistently land crits, it can kill in three bursts, and shoots fast enough to cause devastating flinch.

Finally, the Praedyth's Timepiece archetype (only available in The Taken King with Grasp of Malok) shoots very quickly, boasts a surprisingly fast Time-To-Kill, and can cause continual flinch. However, the high rate of fire means you must consistently land all of your shots, more like an auto rifle than a pulse rifle.


Additionally, there are three manufacturers of pulse rifles, each with their own perk configurations and rolls.

Classic pulse rifles (Spare Change.25, Nirwen’s Mercy, The Villainy and Grasp of Malok) have the standard 1/3/1 perk configuration, offer a great selection of scopes, and are capable of variety of excellent rolls.

The Suros pulse rifles (Suros PDX-41, Suros PDX-45 and Hawksaw) have a 2/1/2 perk configuration, offer some of the finest scopes in the game, and are capable of laser-like stability with both Perfect Balance and Rifled Barrel/Smallbore possible on the same gun.

Hakke pulse rifles (Lyudmila-D, Herja-D and Apple of Discord) have a 1/1/3 perk configuration and shoot four rounds per burst. However, Hakke pulse rifles do not have access to the top-tier Stability-boosting perks and four rounds are harder to land than three.

What roll should I use?

First - three top-tier guns are available with excellent rolls - the vendor Hawksaw, Red Death and the Iron Banner Nerwin's Mercy. You're best off using one of these unless you get a better drop.

You must have a Stability-boosting perk on your gun. Non-negotiable. Past that, good perks are good perks. No more rerolling, so don't let a tier-3 turn you off. Above all - if it feels good and gets you kills, use it.

Each gun should have at least one decent sight/scope. Choose a scope that boosts an important stat (like Stability for Classic pulse rifles, Handling, or Aim Assist/Target Acquisition) and one that looks good and does not take up a lot of screen real estate. Suros projection scopes, in particular, are noted for the their extremely minimal appearance.

Perk Tiering (Methodology)

Perks are sorted in this guide by 3 categories: Stability, Stat Boosters, and Flavor perks. The perks are ranked in tiers 1 (best) through 3 (worst). Perks are NOT organized by perk location due to the variation of node setup and perk availability between the different manufacturers (Classic 1-3-1, Suros 2-1-2, Hakke 1-1-3).

(Perks that permanently increase Stability base stat)

Stat Boosters
(Perks that permanently modify base stats - except for Stability Boosters)

Note: Perks increasing Range and Aim Assist are more important than boosting Magazine Size, Agility, or Reload Speed for pulse rifles.

(Perks that are conditional, or that do not fit in the Stability or Stat Booster category)

Note: The “Flavor” perks are the lowest priority on a pulse rifle. For Classic and Hakke pulse rifles, these perks appear in two slots and only compete with Counterbalance for modifying core stats. For Suros pulse rifles, these perks appear in every perk slot and almost always at the expense of a better perk.

“God Rolls” Summary

1/3/1 Setup

2/1/2 setup

1/1/3 Setup

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Credits: Special thanks to scott, famousbirds, maniacgreek and suinoq for creating and sharing this guide.