There are a wide variety of weapons availale in RimWorld. Using them effectively can give you a sizable advantage against raiders.
There are four main categories of weapon this guide will cover:
- Melee - Weapons made for close combat. Pawns are unable to fire guns at melee range, so these weapons have a wide variety of uses, from using hallways to bring enemies to you, to rushing a troublesome centipede.
- Ranged - Generalist - Weapons that work well (or poorly) during most situations. They are good for open combat, or where both combatants can fire from full(ish) range. Threats like breachers may force you to fight outside the perimeter of your base, which is open combat. They function perfectly fine when inside a killbox.
- Ranged - Specialist - Weapons that work for specific situations. The differences between "generalist" and "specialist" are somewhat arbitrary, but some weapons are clearly more niche than others. For instance, the sniper rifle can pick off enemies, but its terrible firerate makes it bad in a firefight. They function well in their niche, and may be great inside specialized killing setups.
- Explosive - Grenades, launchers, and other oddball weapons/utility items like the doomsday rocket launcher. In addition to raw explosions, many grenade-type weapons have a special effect, like molotov cocktails starting fire. Most explosives do not rely on accuracy, Shooting skill, Manipulation, etc.
There are also three technology levels to consider:
- Neolithic - Bows, spears, and clubs. Often necessary when starting a Lost Tribe or Naked Brutality run, but usually it is quick to replace them. (Tribal)
- Early Industrial - Weaker firearms, like pistols. These weapons are often carried by eary pirate raiders. For the purposes of this guide, this includes any gun from Blowback operation and before, as well as medieval technology like longswords and greatbows. (Earlygame)
- Modern / Spacer - Weapons from Gas operation onwards. Even an endgame colony can find industral era weapons viable - charge rifles and miniguns aren't always the best weapon just because they are higher tech. (Midgame)
(As melee weapons are largely "more damage = better", their technology considerations are omitted)
Melee weapons specialize in hand-to-hand combat.
Pawns who are adjacent to each other are forced into melee combat, even if they are wielding a shotgun. A gun's barrel is quite ineffective compared to a sword. Melee lends itself well to disruptive tactics, like rushing down a sniper or grenadier, or peeling off enemies from your gunners. The melee block - create a chokepoint with 3 melee outside, where only 1 enemy can melee at a time - is extremely effective. You can have gunners fire just behind them.
The main con with melee is that damage is unavoidable. Later in the game, and especially with higher difficulties, enemies will vastly outnumber your colony. A 200 tribal raid will eventually wear down your most well-geared melee fighters, even in the best scenarios. The second con is that melee in open combat actually has to approach ranged fighters, meaning it quickly becomes weak in those situations. Animals will always fight back against a melee weapon, even against a 0% manhunter, making them terrible for hunting.
- Give your best melee pawns the strongest melee weapons, assuming you desire to get into melee at all.
- Shield belts are invaluable to give protection against bullets. They give melee pawns a new use - to serve as tanky distractions.
- Try to avoid using melee in the very early game; ranged weapons and spike traps are stronger than the weaker melee choices.
Sharp weapons are the bread and butter of melee weapons. They are the most common type of melee, dealing strong all-round damage.
When made of plasteel, a longsword of sufficient quality (1-2 levels above) can outdamage a monosword. A masterwork plasteel longsword will outdamage a good monosword, though has less AP. A plasteel knife is roughly on par with a steel longsword of the same quality. The next best weapons from longswords are spears and gladiuses. Faster weapons (like knives) have some niche to training melee.
- Zeushammers are the strongest blunt weapon. They also cause a small amount of EMP, stunning turrets and mechanoids.
- Uranium maces are the best craftable blunt weapon, and 2nd best overall.
- Uranium warhammers are better against armor, but 3x as expensive, and slightly weaker overall.
Blunt wounds do not bleed, are much less likely to destroy limbs, and blunt weapons are often weaker in DPS than their sharp counterparts. However, blunt weapons are great for penetrating armor, as most items have a poor Blunt armor rating. They also have a small chance to stun for 45 ticks (0.75 secs) on hit. In addition, non-bleeding can help with capturing prisoners. Note that enemies have a Death on Down chance from pain, so this does not increase the actual capture rate by a great amount. Weaker blunt weapons can help supress berserking pawns.
In terms of raw damage, zeushammers lose to monoswords until facing foes in marine armor. Even centipedes don't have the Sharp% armor to resist a monosword. Maces lose to longswords until facing flak vest-level armor, and longswords can still harm the unarmored areas of the body better. Like with monoswords and longswords, a masterwork uranium mace can beat a good zeushammer.
Artificial body parts can be used while holding a gun. Fulfilling the role of a sidearm, these implements are weaker than dedicated melee weapons. You can put these on your frontline gunners, who may not always be able to supress combatants in melee. These parts can slightly increase damage in melee; due to the melee verb system, sometimes the fists / body parts will be used as a weapon.
Creating these bionics is an advanced technology, so they are usually reserved for the mid- to late- game. Body parts can also be bought, though the surgery can be a bottleneck if you don't have a good doctor. Also note that pawns will prioritize their "best" melee attack; only one part is required.
Power claws are roughly equal to a normal plasteel longsword. Hand talons are stronger than elbow blades, which are stronger than a knee spike, though knee spikes have more AP. All three are roughly on-par with a normal steel longsword. Note that combat parts are incompatible with other artifical parts: hand attachments get in the way of a field hand, hand / arm attachments don't work with a bionic arm, and knee spikes don't work with a bionic leg. Venom fangs are the weakest of the bunch, but do not occupy any useful area of the body.
Melee - Nonhuman
- Thrumbos are the best animal, but are notoriously difficult to tame and keep tame.
- Megasloths, elephants, rhinos, and both bears are behind the thrumbo, but can be found in the wild.
Animals are much more expendible than a colonist, and most have a lot more health than a colonist. However, they cannot be drafted, limiting their combat use severely. In addition, they require one or multiple pawns proficient in the Animals skill in order be tamed and trained. They thus have 2 main uses:
- Animals trained in Attack can... attack. They will rush towards nearby enemies, acting as a powerful distraction for your gunners.
- Animals can be put in an allowed area in a hallway raiders are passing through. Raiders and the animal will be forced to attack each other, resulting in a melee block scenario. Pen animals will not be attacked by raiders, and in any case are unable to be zoned.
Animal selection is also limited by biome, and large animals can turn hostile in failed taming attempts.
Other than shooting an animal and hoping it attacks the raiders, there are three dedicated ways to make wild animals hostile to your enemies:
- Psychic animal pulser is a single use item that turns all wild animals on the map manhunter.
- The manhunter pulse psycast turns all animals in a large, 57-tile radius into manhunters. Reusable.
- The animal warcall gene turns a specific animal hostile against your opponents.
For the psychic animal pusler, you should wall in doors (to prevent exit via mental break), and watch the carnage. Stronger animals like megasloths or a herd of elephants can easily end smaller raids, or at least force sieges to attack. These are heavily dependent on your map's current fauna. Also note that using wild animals like this becomes progressively weaker as raids become stronger. An elephant can't handle 30 gun-wielding raiders, for instance.
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- Scythers are the most effective at melee combat.
Mechanoids have all the advantages of being an animal, but then some, including the ability to be drafted like a colonist. Mechs can be repaired of all damage for just the cost of power and can be resurrected for a couple of steel. This negates all the long-term problems that lategame melee faces (though mechs are, of course, not invincible).
Mechs have their unique costs. They require their mechanitor nearby to actually control. They cost bandwidth, which could have been used for any amount of ranged mechs. And they create toxic wastepacks, which will eventuallyy pollute your landscape. As combat mechs can be turned off, the actual costs of power and pollution are rather limited.
Scythers (2 bandwidth) are the strongest and most effective at melee, and move slightly faster than a baseline human. Tunnelers (3 bandwidth) have twice the armor of a scyther and a natural 250 HP shield belt, but are much slower and don't do as much damage (though it is blunt damage). Tunnelers can also mine. Centipedes (4) and mechanoid commanders (5) have similar armor to the tunneler, and have much higher actual health, though are mainly used for ranged combat.
Ranged mechanoids are not covered in this guide, due to a larger number of factors that come with using them. See each mechanoid's page for more specific analysis.
Ranged - Neolithic
Bows are a mid range, generalist option.
- Short bows are the simplest ranged weapons in the game, only requiring wood and a crafting spot.
- Recurve bows are a direct upgrade to the shortbow, with an increase to damage, accuracy, and range, for only 10 wood more. Tribal starts begin with Recurve Bows unlocked, meaning they just need a Crafting skill of 5 to make these. At maximum range, recurve bows are suprisingly competitive with early firearms, especially at high qualities. (These can also be made at a crafting spot.)
Bows are at least something to fight raiders without having to engage in melee. Even without a single melee fighter, 5 tribals with shortbows can easily repel raids. Focus fire on 1 target, and don't let melee enemies too close. Doors can help with early ranged tactics. For example - place 2 doors on opposite ends of a larger building, and when melee raiders get too close, go to the door on the other side.
Naked Brutality players will want to rely on spike traps to kill raiders at first, using the shortbow for hunting and to save on traps. Of course, new tribes (and other colonies) can also use traps to their advantage.
Pila are incredibly short ranged support weapons.
- Pila lose even to a shortbow in raw damage. They have a small range and a massive cooldown, so are terrible as standalone weapons. However, the pila can stagger humans. The best use of the pila is a support weapon; place a low-skill fighter with a pila behind melee fighters. They also have some use as a hunting weapon. The high per-shot damage compensates for the lowered range.
Due to its weaknesses, pila shouldn't be actively created or sought after. However, a Lost Tribe will start with one.
Flamebows are specialist weapons that cause fire.
- Flamebows create fire on the tile it lands on. Watch out for your base. Pawns lit on fire will run around widly, unable to attack until doused. Fire can also be used to quickly heat up any place considered "indoors", causing any enemies to get heatstroke and burn up. Special traps can be made to take advantage of the heat, just like with molotov cocktails. Flamebows cannot be crafted, only bought or dropped from impid raiders.
Ranged - Early Industrial
Low-tech, conventional firearms. These weapons are often carried by early pirates and outlanders, such as the Scavenger Gunner, Pirate Gunner, and Town Guard. Scavenger gunners and pirate gunners in particular can only carry these weapons (and the incendiary launcher). These weapons will eventually be outclassed by superior firearms, like the heavy SMG and chain shotgun.
Note that weapon quality has a large impact on combat. Even if you prefer revolvers, a poor autopistol will likely outperform an awful revolver, and a good recurve bow can outperform both (at maximum range). This applies to all weapons, but especially if you are reliant on obtaining weapons from raiders.
Handguns are close-mid range, general combat options.
- Revolvers are a low-tier firearm with decent damage at the closer ranges. Unlike many lighter firearms, revolvers can stagger humans, slowing them slightly when a shot hits.
- Autopistols are slightly better DPS than revolvers at any range, but do not stagger humans. Autopistols also have the fastest cooldown cycle in the game, lending well to hit-and-run tactics against melee opponents.
As the lowest tech firearms, pistols are weaker than most of the options here, but still better than a recurve bow at all ranges. Inaccurate from max range. They are roughly the same, but revolvers are better as a support weapon, and autopistols better as a main damage dealer.
These options are effective in any situation (outside of close combat), mostly due to the small effective range of these lower-tech weapons.
- Greatbows are on-par with most pistols, but have a higher range. "Greatbows are better than pistols at the pistol's max range". While costing only wood to create, actually researching greatbows is usually not worth all that effort - even for Tribal starts, when other guns are easy enough to get from raiders. Also, they are outclassed by the bolt-action rifle in every reasonable statistic.
- Bolt-action rifles are a fairly standard, mid-long range option, only outranged by the sniper rifle. Best range in this catgory by far, it can shoot just about any enemy as they approach. Good for open combat, and great for hunting. Preferably used with high-skill shooters.
Due to enemy AI firing from the closest available cover, meaning they often fire from near-max range, both of these weapons perform very well in the open. Both weapons are good in a long distance firefight, though bolt-action rifles are statistically superior.
Pump shotguns are a specialist weapon, great at both support and close-range damage. Machine pistols are strong up close, but a good overall weapon (for its tech level).
- Pump shotguns are both powerful and accurate - technically the most accurate weapon in the game, but have a measly 15.9 tile range. Damage is great, and shotguns can stagger pawns as large as centipedes.
- Machine pistols fire a burst of 3 bullets with a very quick cooldown. Overall DPS beats both handguns up to 19.9 tiles, this weapon's maximum range. It even surpasses the pump shotgun at touch range (3 tiles). Fast cooldown cycle makes it good for hit and run tactics. A clearcut winner if you don't have any better equipment.
Short ranged weapons are best used directly behind melee fighters, but remain decent at their maximum range. Like with melee, you can make hallways and tunnels so that you can gun enemies at an effective range. Counter these weapons by using a long range weapon, engaging them in melee, or luring them into spike traps before they get too close.
Ranged - Modern
Ranged weapons unlocked from Gas Operation and onwards. Most, if not all, of these weapons have some sort of niche or viability even for late- and end- game colonies.
Rifles & SMG
Rifle-class weapons are generalist weapons, dealing great damage at any range.
- Assault rifles are perfect for open engagements, with good damage, above-average range, and high accuracy. Strongest weapon for repelling against breachers and sappers, good overall. Skill friendly.
- Heavy SMGs are very skill friendly, close-medium range weapons. Great damage and accuracy up close, remaining decent at longer distances. A strict upgrade to the machine pistol. SMGs are best for low-skill shooters.
- Charge rifles are high-tech versions of assault rifles. Stronger, and with high AP, but with shorter range and less accuracy. Charge rifles are the strongest weapon in a killbox that can remain flexible outside of one.
In general, these weapons are great for base defense, whenever in static setups or when dealing with breachers and sappers. They are also the best options for attacks outside of your base. Assault rifles are overall best outside of a killbox, charge rifles deal the most damage, and SMGs are best at lower skill.
LMG & Minigun
Weapons with a large burst of bullets, but low accuracy and long cooldowns.
- LMGs fire a 6-shot spray of bullets. Can stagger humans, but lower single-target DPS than the rifles. The LMG is decent for crowd-control, and a good support weapon.
- Miniguns fire a massive 25-shot burst, a massively heavy SMG. High cost, widly inaccurate, and with a huge cooldown cycle, miniguns are dedicated to crowd-control in specialized, stationary setups. Extremely powerful in the right situations.
Both weapons are good as support, and for at mowing crowds of enemies. Missed shots can hit other enemies in the vicinity, meaning their low accuracy is compensated when attacking a horde of tribals. Both weapons do well in crowded, stationary setups. The minigun is much more extreme - its optimal DPS is miles above any weapon in the game, but the user becomes a sitting duck.
Sniper & Lance
Longer range, single-shot, specialist weapons.
- Sniper rifles have the highest range in the game, but low firerate. Overall DPS is weaker than a bolt-action rifle, but snipers are clearly not a damage weapon. Useful for picking off sieges, lone centipedes, etc. Very reliant on Shooting skill.
- Charge lances have a large per-shot damage and high AP. However, its range is equal to an assault rifle, leading to a profile much similar to rifles rather than a sniper. Actual DPS is weaker than the assault rifle, and the armor penetration isn't actually that big. This gives it a weak niche, despite its cost and tech level.
Sniper rifles (not charge lances) are great weapons for kiting stationary enemies and the best weapon for hunting. Fire a shot, and as enemies approach you, back off until they reset to their original position. They are also great at luring sieges to assault your colony, assuming the siege doesn't have snipers of their own. Charge lances are closer to assault rifles than snipers for their overall weapon profile, and may have use in dealing with heavily armored enemies.
A very high damage, decent accuracy, low range specialist weapon.
- Chain shotguns are the strongest non-minigun, non-consumable weapon in the game, but with pitiful range. Perfect for drop pods and infestations.
Chain shotguns are amazing when you can expect or force close combat. Infestations are inevitable for mountain bases, while mountains are naturally defensive against breachers, or enemies you can't force to be close by. Shotguns are not and should not be exclusive for mountains; they are great weapons to support melee attackers, and powerful weapons in any close-range scenario.
Grenades have the shortest range of any colonist weapon in the game, only thrown up to 12 tiles. All grenades have a forced miss radius.
- Frag grenades are standard explosives. While powerful, they are virtually unable to hit a moving target. Can be thrown straight for a few tiles in a hallway, lending some use behind melee blockers. Grenades are also very effective against structures and walls. While breaking a wall fast is rarely helpful, this property is great for taking out mech clusters.
- Molotov cocktails create fire. Unwieldy, and with a small blast, molotovs aren't very effective to throw on top of raiders. Instead, fire can quickly heat up any place considered indoors, burning raiders and insects alive via temperature mechanics. Mechs are immune to fire and heat.
- EMP grenades stun mechanoids and turrets for a massive duration and break both shield belts and low-shield packs, but are harmless against organic targets. Invaluable for mech raids. Its blast radius is much bigger than the other grenades. As the blast is bigger than the forced miss radius, these are fairly reliable.
- Tox grenades create tox gas. This affects colonists and raiders alike, though you can outfit colonists with toxic protection. Tox grenades are best for attacking enemies who are passing through long, winding, and tight corridors, which have no recourse against the poison. Vents allow tox gas to transfer between rooms.
Launchers have a greater range than grenades, but have a very long cooldown (2nd slowest in the game, just faster than the pila).
- Incendiary launchers create fire, like molotov cocktails, and just as unwieldy. Despite the range, it is no more accurate. Worse than molptovs for creating ground fires, as it shoots slower.
- EMP launchers stun mechanoids with EMP damage. They fire slower than EMP grenades, and have a much smaller blast radius than grenades; this usually makes launchers the worse option. While launchers do have a range increase, most mechanoids still outrange it, so this advantage is rather small. Note that Masterwork/Legendary quality launchers can stun longer than a grenade.
- Smoke launchers create blind smoke, which completely prevents turrets from locking on. Invaluable for taking out turret encampments and mech clusters. Smoke also reduces ranged accuracy for any bullet that passes through. Both colonists and enemies are affected equally, so can be useful to support melee attackers.
- Toxbomb launchers also create tox gas. Fires slower than tox grenades, but extra launcher range makes it better as a support weapon. Make sure colonists in the blast have some form of toxic protection.
Weapons of mass destruction. Rocker launchers have a large warm-up and cooldown for the user. Targeters can be deployed quickly, but also takes some time to actually start firing. None of these can be crafted by a colony.
- Doomsday rocket launchers fire 1 large explosion, followed by smaller flame explosions. Extremely effective against humanoid raiders and lighter mechnoids, as a single launch can cause an entire raid to retreat. Available from trade or quests.
- Triple rocket launchers fire 3 explosions. Each of the three rockets deals the same damage as the doomsday's main explosion, though with a much smaller radius. Effective against mechanoids and structures in particular, and can still damage a raid quite heavily. Available from trade or quests.
- Orbital power beam targeters create a massive, fire-based beam centered on a target in line of sight. Incredibly powerful against humans, but useless against mechanoids. Can attack through overhead mountain. Quest only, so limited in practice.
- Orbital bombardment targeters fire a total of 30 explosions over a large, 20-tile radius. Stronger than a doomsday against large groups, this item is also quest only.
- Tornado generators create a tornado at your map. This is likely to destroy your base when used in a colony, so is mostly useful for offensive operations (or as a last resort). Quest only.
As these are all rare, single-use items, use them for when you can't handle a raid, such as an extra-nasty siege.
Mortars are not handheld weapons, but are weapons nonetheless.
- Mortars have a 500-tile range, but costs a mortar shell for each shot, and take 1,800 ticks (30 secs) to reload. With a massive Forced Miss Radius (9 tiles, reduced by Shooting skill), they are mostly effective against large, stationary targets. In addition, they require reinforced barrels every 20 rounds, unless Classic Mortars are turned on.
Mortars are extremely useful against enemy sieges. Until they take enough casualties, a siege will their own mortar shells, which is devastating to every colony not under overhead mountain. They are great against other stationary opponents, such as crashed ship parts or mech clusters.
Each mortar shell has its own purpose:
- High-explosive shell: General purpose shell, good against any target.
- Incendiary shell: Great for igniting a siege's own mortars/mortar shells on fire, potentially causing a chain reaction. But as the game will start rain if a fire spreads too far, these shells aren't very useful otherwise.
- EMP shell: Stuns mechanoids. Massive explosion radius makes this somewhat accurate. Can also disable mech high-shields, so that other mortars can fire.
- Firefoam shell: Creates firefoam, extinguishing fires. The introduction of firefoam pop packs and foam turrets have mostly left the shell obsolete.
- Smoke shell: Creates blind smoke in a large radius. As with the smoke launcher, it prevents turrets from locking on and reduces accuracy. While the smoke launcher is free to use, the smoke launcher has a larger radius and can be used from further away.
- Antigrain warhead: A weapon of mass destruction, on the level of a doomsday rocket. Quest only, so use it wisely.