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Five VALORANT agents emerge through smoke, weapons drawn, ready to fight on VALORANT's newest map Sunset.
Image via Riot Games

The definitive VALORANT weapon tier list

We ranked all 17 weapons in VALORANT.

VALORANT has become one of the premier tactical shooters on PC since its release in 2020. The game combines unique abilities and characters with tactical gunplay and weapon choice to create a strategic, multi-layered masterpiece.

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Although each agent’s visually stunning abilities are a key factor in the game—offering a variety of functional debuffs to your enemies in the form of flashes, smokes, and stuns—gunplay is still at VALORANT’s forefront. Weapon choice at the start of each round dictates the flow of your team’s economy, an incredibly important factor in navigating through a match successfully.

This tier list for all 17 weapons in VALORANT should help you understand the basics to be able to decide on the perfect weapon every time.

Contents

VALORANT weapon tier list

S TierVandal, Phantom, Operator
A TierSheriff, Spectre
B TierGuardian, Ghost, Odin, Marshal
C TierFrenzy, Judge, Shorty, Bulldog, Classic
D TierStinger, Ares, Bucky, Melee

Our definitive tier list is based on not only the strength of each weapon, but also takes into account several other factors, like versatility, price, and skill ceiling. Though our list is thoroughly compiled, if you have a particular fondness for a certain weapon or have a game plan that involves a weapon for a specific scenario, feel free to use your best judgment.

S Tier weapons

A Vandal rifle in VALORANT.
Image via Riot Games
  • Vandal (2,900 Credits)
  • Phantom (2,900 Credits)
  • Operator (4,700 Credits)

This tier brings together the strongest weapons in the game. These weapons are the ones you should go for when your teammates say to “full buy.”

The Vandal and Phantom are the two premier automatic rifles in VALORANT, and are both incredibly versatile thanks to their consistent damage, long-range, and high fire rate. They should almost always be your top priority in the shop. Which one you choose is largely based on personal preference, as one is not strictly better than the other.

The only time you should be investing in an Operator, the most expensive single weapon in the game, is when you have a knack for sniping your enemies and have a plan for doing so. Buying an Operator can be a risky investment, but it is the hardest-hitting gun in the game, with one body shot being enough to kill an enemy even with full armor. The Operator’s downfall is that it is slow and clunky, meaning agents with high mobility are best to pair with it to offset this.

A Tier weapons

The Sheriff pistol in VALORANT.
Image via Riot Games
  • Sheriff (800 Credits)
  • Spectre (1,600 Credits)

The Sheriff is the most expensive sidearm in the game for a reason. It deals 159 damage to the head and 55 to the body (with no armor), making it almost as good as a main rifle if you can hit your shots.

There are two scenarios in which a Sheriff is an optimal buy. The first is if you’re looking to go all-out on a pistol round with no utility or shields, instead trusting your aim. If you do this, you’re guaranteed to have the strongest weapon in the entire lobby, since the maximum amount you can spend on a pistol round is 800 credits.

The other time when you should buy a Sheriff is if your team is trying to save some money for the next round. It’s not too heavy of an investment, but in the right hands, this weapon can seriously make a dent.

The Spectre is the best SMG in VALORANT. Its cheap price, moderate range, and surprisingly high damage make it an all-around good weapon. It will lose out in long-ranged battles, but it excels in close quarters. If you fancy spraying down enemies at close range and like to get right up in their faces, the Spectre is a great choice on a save or half-buy round.

B tier weapons

The Guardian rifle in VALORANT.
Image via Riot Games
  • Guardian (2,250 Credits)
  • Ghost (500 Credits)
  • Odin (3,200 Credits)
  • Marshal (950 Credits)

Most weapons in this tier can be incredibly effective but require a decent amount of skill to actually be useful.

After winning the initial pistol round, you’ll often find yourself a few Creds short of a Vandal or Phantom. If you want to pick up armor and utility and you’re not keen on SMGs, the Guardian is the way to go. It’s affordable and it deals a ton of damage, especially when you hit heads. The Guardian is also a great choice in general for players with a very strong aim, as it only fires one bullet with each click. You need to hit your shots for this buy to be worth it.

The Ghost is one of the most reliable guns in the game, despite being a sidearm. It costs 500 Creds, but in the right hands, it has the potential to deal deadly amounts of damage. The key to performing well with a Ghost is having excellent crosshair placement and trigger discipline.

The Odin is the game’s heavy artillery machine gun. It’s best for spamming through walls, choke points, or when faced with a barrage of enemies at once. It’s not the most versatile of weapons, but if you combine it with the right utility, like a Sova dart or Cypher cam, it can wipe an entire team.

The Marshal is a weaker version of the Operator, but it’s still an acceptable weapon in the right hands. Unlike the Operator, you won’t really get as much value out of body shots with the Marshal, so hitting heads is best.

C Tier weapons

The Judge shotgun in VALORANT.
Image via Riot Games
  • Frenzy (450 Credits)
  • Judge (1,850 Credits)
  • Shorty (150 Credits)
  • Bulldog (2,050 Credits)
  • Classic (Free)

The Frenzy is a great versatile pistol option, especially if you prefer to play a duelist or another agent who interacts mostly in close quarters, though it can hit mid-range shots as well. Pistol choice is often up to personal preference, and while we wouldn’t put it up there with the Ghost or Sheriff, the Frenzy isn’t a bad choice.

Shotguns are rarely top-tier weapons in tactical shooters. Their short range means they’re worthless in most circumstances, which is why we put both the Judge and Shorty in C Tier. If you want to defend a spike site, hold a position, or lurk behind your enemies, buy a Judge. If you find yourself up close and personal with the shotgun in hand, it will almost always come out in your favor.

A Shorty isn’t a bad buy, but should only be used as a sidearm combined with a more long-range rifle for emergency situations. A common purchase for Jett players, for example, is to buy an Operator and then have a Shorty in your back pocket just in case.

Burst fire can be a nuisance in tactical shooters, especially if you’re on the receiving end of a rush. There’s almost nothing you can do but tap your gun and hope for the best. The same can be said for the Bulldog, but in the right circumstances, it’s a perfectly acceptable buy. Just make sure you’re familiar with the rifle’s firing pattern, as bullets only release in sets of three.

The Classic is the game’s free gun for a reason but is absolutely fine for a pistol round. Those playing agents with very powerful utility should focus on buying that first and stick with a Classic. However, the gun has low damage output and its fire rate just isn’t up to scratch. Its alternative fire mode, which shoots a burst of three bullets at the same time, can come in handy.

D Tier weapons

The Ares machine gun in VALORANT.
Image via Riot Games
  • Stinger (950 Credits)
  • Ares (1,600 Credits)
  • Bucky (850 Credits)
  • Melee (Free)

In its current form, the Stinger is a far worse version of the Spectre, its SMG companion. The Stinger is a few credits cheaper, but its low magazine size, quick fire rate, and awkward burst fire don’t add up to much. It’s not worth buying unless you aren’t confident about hitting Sheriff shots and can’t afford a Spectre.

The Ares is a very weak machine gun, basically an Odin with a much smaller magazine size. This makes it pretty useless in most situations, and it’s almost always better to save up for a better weapon. However, sometimes players can come up big with this D-tier gun.

Nerfs to the Bucky have left it in an awkward position. It’s neither here nor there anymore, bringing very little to the table. The Judge is the stronger and more reliable option. For the Bucky’s cheap price, though, it still has some potential with agents like Jett or Raze.

Your Melee weapon is more of a flashy toy than anything else. You should never use your knife to kill an enemy unless you’re on a super secret flank and can (literally) backstab them.

Phantom vs. Vandal: Which is better?

A question that has puzzled VALORANT players of all levels for years, the debate over the Phantom or Vandal unfortunately has a bit of a boring answer. From analysts to ranked demons to pro players, pretty much everyone agrees: The choice is up to personal preference.

Your playstyle, aim style, and agent picks are the main factors for influencing a choice of the Phantom over Vandal or vice versa, but in all honesty, there is no wrong choice. As long as you’re buying one of these rifles on your team’s buy round, you’re golden.

The Phantom has a silencer and invisible tracers, meaning it can’t be heard from across the map, and also doesn’t have firing lines for enemies to see where your bullets are coming from. The gun’s downside is that it cannot one-shot headshot enemies with full shields unless you’re at very close range. The gun’s damage falloff hurts its stats. The Phantom is better if you like to play close, aggressive angles because the gun’s spray pattern is also easier to control.

The Vandal’s strength is its one-tap-one-kill mechanic. It can one-shot enemies with a perfectly placed headshot. This means it has long been the favored rifle for high-skilled players with precise aim. The Vandal also has no damage falloff, making it better for long sightlines and engagements from afar. The downside to the Vandal is that it is hard to control the spray pattern, and does not have a silencer or invisible tracers.

What is the best weapon for beginners in VALORANT?

If you’re a beginner getting used to aiming in the game, the best weapons to start off with are the Phantom, Spectre, and Ghost.

The Phantom is easier to control than the Vandal at first and is the most versatile weapon a beginner could have. The Spectre is similarly lightweight and feels easy to maneuver, though you won’t get much value from afar. The Ghost is a great weapon to train your aim with and is a great venture into the other pistol weapons.

What gun do VALORANT pros use most?

A graph detailing each weapon's usage in the VALORANT pro scene.
Screenshot via TheSpike.gg

According to data from TheSpike.gg, the weapon that professional VALORANT players in the 2023 VCT Americas league use the most is the Vandal, though it is closely followed by the Phantom. The two main rifles have swapped out that top spot frequently in the VCT’s history. The other two VCT leagues had similar statistics for 2023. The least used weapons are the Ares and Bucky.


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Author
Image of Jerome Heath
Jerome Heath
Jerome Heath is a senior editor at Dot Esports.
Author
Image of Nadine Manske
Nadine Manske
Nadine is a graduate of the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University. She covers VALORANT and Overwatch with a focus on the Asia-Pacific region and marginalized genders in esports. Before joining Dot Esports as a freelance writer, she interned at Gen.G Esports and the Star Tribune in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Her favorite Pokémon is Quagsire.