When it comes to absolute raw damage, the Explosive minigun is arguably the most devastating weapon in Fallout 4. The damage that thing can churn out is unbelievable. But if we’re talking best overall weapon, the minigun isn’t even in the running. There’s one gun in Fallout 4 with top-tier damage and versatility, and that’s the Gauss Rifle.
The Gauss Rifle has been a staple endgame weapon in the Fallout series since Fallout 2 and is arguably at its’ best in Fallout 4. Before we get into our Gauss Rifle Fallout 4 Guide, let’s look at the history behind this rifle.
History of the Gauss Rifle
The Gauss rifle first appeared in Fallout 2 as the M72 Gauss rifle. Utilizing 2mm EC as ammunition, it was the rarest and most expensive gun in the game to use. And also one of the most powerful. Enclave members regularly use the Gauss rifle, making them extremely dangerous opponents.
High-ranking NCR authority figures, elite guards for the Shi, and high-level Bounty Hunters also carry them. Fallout Tactics brought back the M72, and it functions virtually the same as it did in Fallout 2.
The Gauss rifle returned in Fallout 3 as one of the rewards for the DLC Operation Anchorage. The weapon saw changes that both hurt and improved it. Unlike Fallout 2, where you could obtain a Gauss rifle in numerous ways, there’s only one in Fallout 3. Ammo used went from 2mm EC to the less expensive and more plentiful micro fusion cells. It also gained the ability to knock enemies down for four seconds after landing a critical hit.
Given the switch from turn-based combat to real-time, the Gauss rifle became riskier to use. Both the firing rate and reloading speed are pretty long. Fallout 3 also introduced a condition system for weapons and armor.
Since there’s only one Gauss rifle in the game, you cannot repair it yourself with other Gauss rifles. Your only options are alien epoxy from the Mothership Zeta DLC (Which is of limited quantity) or have merchants repair the gun, which costs you a fortune.
Fallout: New Vegas brings back the Gauss rifle, though it is arguably a more nerfed version of the Fallout 3 variant. The standard Gauss rifle now uses five microfusion cells instead of one, making it more expensive to use. Caps are more plentiful in NV than in 3, however, so it’s not as bad as it seems.
Gauss rifles are rare in the Mojave Wasteland, and you won’t come across many of them. However, thanks to weapon repair kits and Jury Rigging, they’re easier to repair. Gauss rifles in New Vegas no longer have the knockdown on critical hits effect but are still extremely powerful.
New Vegas also has a unique version of the Gauss rifle, known as the YCS/186. The YCS/186 uses four microfusion cells instead of five and has better item HP and accuracy. You can only obtain the YCS/186 if you didn’t select the Wild Wasteland perk.
That brings us to Fallout 4.
Fallout 4’s Gauss Rifle
The Gauss rifle is a large rifle that uses magnetic induction to deliver rounds at high speed and deal devastating damage. In Fallout 3 and New Vegas, the Gauss rifle uses micro fusion cells. Bethesda changed the ammunition type in Fallout 4 to 2mm EC. It is the only weapon that uses 2mm electromagnetic cartridges as ammunition. The Gauss rifle had conditioning issues in Fallout 3 and (To a lesser degree) New Vegas due to the scarcity, making it hard to repair yourself. With the removal of weapon conditioning in Fallout 4, this is no longer a problem.
It’s still an endgame weapon, one of the best, but it’s not nearly as rare. Numerous weapon vendors can stock it, and you can obtain one in the midgame. You don’t come across enemies that use these often, but high-level Gunners, Railroad heavies, and Brotherhood of Steel members use them. And yes, they can one-shot you with them.
The Gauss rifle uses a charging mechanic during combat. You have to hold the trigger before firing if you want your shots at maximum power. When not charged, Gauss rifle shots only deal about 50% power.
Using VATS can bypass the need to charge your Gauss rifle entirely and is a strategy I highly recommend you employ. The Gauss rifle has a steep AP cost of 40 per shot, making it pretty VATS-unfriendly until you develop your character build with perks tailored towards VATS combat.
Early Game Viability
The early game viability of the Gauss rifle is pretty much nonexistent. The change in ammunition from microfusion cells to 2mm EC alone makes the Gauss rifle a rich wastelander’s weapon. 2mm EC is one of the most expensive ammo types in Fallout 4. Vendors don’t have much 2mm EC in stock, especially early into your playthrough.
The Gauss rifle is not an easy weapon to find, and you will go many hours into Fallout 4 before you come across enemies wielding them. And even if you do come across one fairly early on, it would be a waste to use it. The enemies won’t be tough enough to warrant bringing out this absolute monster of a gun.
Once you get into the deep end of Fallout 4, the Gauss rifle is arguably the best weapon in the game. Damage-wise, few weapons can outclass the Gauss rifle, and it is capable of one-shotting almost every enemy you come across. With the right perks and legendary effect, it becomes the most powerful sniper rifle in the game.
The Gauss rifle is a very effective weapon for VATS-centric Sole Survivors. Using VATS elx`iminates the need to charge your shots, and with the various AP restoration perks, you can fire in VATS excessively.
Cons of the Gauss Rifle
The primary weakness of the Gauss rifle is it is not the greatest as a hip-fire weapon. The recoil is significant, and just like the laser musket, the wind-up time to charge your shots is a disadvantage. It’s less of an issue if you’re peeking out of cover and taking potshots, but knee-deep into a firefight, and it’s not a fun time. Reloading is fairly long as well.
The shooting mechanics in Fallout 4 are infinitely superior to those found in Fallout 3 or New Vegas, and many players prefer not using VATS because they want to enjoy the improved mechanics. And I completely understand that, as I do it myself.
So, if you find yourself in this camp, then the Gauss rifle won’t be your number one weapon. I still recommend bringing one along for the ride as a just-in-case weapon when you get in over your head.
Gauss rifle ammo is expensive, so it may take a while before you can even afford to use it as your primary weapon.
What perks should I get for the Gauss Rifle?
Rank 4 of Gun Nut is necessary to create every mod for the Gauss rifle. With the Contraptions DLC, you can craft 2mm EC with Gun Nut 4.
Science! Rank 3 is necessary for the best mod for the Gauss rifle, the Capacitor boosting coil. If you want the best damage output for your one-shot cannon, you need this mod and this perk.
The Gauss rifle is one of the many weapons under the Rifleman umbrella, making Rifleman a must-have. At level 46, your Gauss rifles will be dealing out double damage. In the immortal words of Count Dooku, “Twice the power, double the fall.” Only it’s your enemies that’ll be doing the falling.
Everyone who plans on using the Gauss rifle as a sniper rifle, or any gun for that matter, needs rank 1 of the Sniper perk. It goes a long way towards reducing aim sway.
Lady Killer/Black Widow
Rank 3 provides a flat 15% damage increase to enemies of the opposite sex. Anything to increase the likelihood of your Gauss rifle one-shotting an enemy helps.
The third and fourth ranks of Lone Wanderer give +25% damage and 25 Action Points, respectively. You can only use Lone Wanderer if traveling by yourself or with Dogmeat. If you’re okay with no bipedal companions, pick this up.
Even if you don’t intend to use the Gauss rifle as a stealth weapon, the first rank gives +15% damage to silenced weapons. If you are going down the stealth route, max this out.
Similar to Mister Sandman, Ninja is a must for stealth builds. At rank 3, the Ninja perk will give your Gauss rifle a 3.5X sneak attack damage multiplier.
At rank 3, Bloody Mess gives a flat 15% damage increase while in combat. A very simple but very effective perk.
Who doesn’t like more critical damage? With Rank 3 of Better Criticals, your critical hits will deal 2.5X damage. Better Criticals synergizes exceptionally well with the last two perks.
Grim Reaper’s Sprint
At Rank 3, Grim Reaper’s Sprint has a 35% chance of restoring your Action Points and refilling your Critical meter with every kill in VATS. Seeing how almost every shot in VATS will be a kill, you can see how good this perk is.
Four Leaf Clover
Each rank of Four Leaf Clover gives an increasingly higher chance of filling your Critical meter for every hit in VATS. The more time you spend in VATS with a Gauss rifle, the more critical hits you do, the better.
What are the best Legendary Effects for the Gauss Rifle?
Even a standard Gauss rifle is one of Fallout 4’s best weapons, but to truly take it over the top, you need legendary ones. Two legendary effects, in particular, are widely considered the best for the Gauss rifle:
Any weapon with the Instigating effect deals double damage to enemies at max health. Occasionally, enemies out in the open might fight one another, like raiders and wasteland creatures, but this is rare. 99% of enemies you encounter in the game will have full HP, so Instigating weapons will work 99% of the time.
I’m sure I don’t need to explain too much about why the Instigating effect is so good for the Gauss rifle. The sole purpose of this gun is to one-shot enemies consistently. Adding a flat 2X multiplier to every shot will go a long way towards achieving that goal.
Take the base and modified damage of your weapon and add them together. Then, split the combined damage evenly between two projectiles while only firing one bullet. Add in some more recoil, and you’ve got the Two shot effect.
Given the added recoil this legendary effect adds to a weapon that already has below average recoil, you can see the risks. The second projectile can miss, even when in VATS, and it will be even worse when firing from the hip. It’s still an incredibly potent legendary effect for a Gauss rifle but has a higher risk factor than Instigating does.
Long story short, if the enemies are at max HP, Instigating is better, but if they aren’t, Two shot is better.
Can I farm for Legendary Gauss Rifles?
Legendary weapon and armor drops are random. In my latest playthrough of Fallout 4, I got my hands on an Explosive minigun 200 hours in. Some players have thousands of hours in Fallout 4 and have never obtained one. So even if you know what the best legendary effects for a Gauss rifle are, it’s not of much use if you can’t get your hands on one, right?
That’s true, but luckily for all of us, there’s an easy way to obtain any weapon or armor with the legendary effect you want.
How it works is you need to find a legendary enemy (Obviously). I recommend farming at a location where the enemies are inside a building to lower the chance of messing it up. Autosave plays a crucial role in this process, and autosaves occur whenever you enter a building. It also works for rooms that initiate short loading screens.
Make a hard save outside the location you plan on farming. Head inside and kill the legendary enemy until it drops a legendary Gauss rifle. It doesn’t matter what legendary effect it has.
Next, reload your AUTOSAVE. NOT the hard save. The legendary effect of the drop will reset, but the item itself will always be a Gauss rifle. Do this over and over until you get an Instigating or Two shot Gauss rifle.
The Last Minute
The Last Minute is the sole unique Gauss Rifle in Fallout 4. You can purchase it from Ronnie Shaw. But to first do so, you have to advance well into the main questline for the Minutemen. It has a cool name, but unfortunately, The Last Minute isn’t a great weapon. It has the Crippling legendary effect, which increases limb damage by 50%.
Don’t get me wrong, Crippling is a decent legendary effect. But for a weapon intended to one-shot everyone, extra limb damage isn’t of much use.
How to get a Gauss Rifle Early
While I did say that the Gauss rifle is a terrible early-game weapon, you still want to get your hands on one for when you’re ready to make the best use of it. And I’ve found the best way to acquire one is by joining the Railroad.
That’s right; Tinker Tom doesn’t just have a bunch of conspiracies theories about the Insitute. He also has Gauss rifles. Players can purchase Gauss rifles from vendors starting at level 25, but Tom seems to be the only one to have them in stock consistently. You will need to do the Jackpot missions before he can sell them to you, but you need to do those anyway for the ballistic weave mod. Something I highly recommend you do as quickly as possible.
Question: Should I feel bad for farming legendary Gauss rifles?
Answer: If it weren’t possible to go thousands of hours without obtaining a specific legendary weapon or armor piece, I would say yes. But when you’re 3 Kneecapper missile launchers deep into Fallout 4 and still don’t have a single decent legendary Gauss rifle, do what you have to.
Question: What are the best locations for farming legendary weapons and armor?
Answer: Gunners plaza, Monsignor Plaza, and the National Guard Training Yard are the three locations that I use. All of them are very consistent.
Question: Is crafting 2mm EC worth it?
Answer: I would say this is a hard no. It takes rare resources to craft 2mm EC, including the ever-precious oil, and each batch is only 10 2mm EC. You’re better off just buying the ammo from vendors.
The Gauss rifle has been a blast to use in every game it has been in, and I find myself enjoying it the most in Fallout 4. It can scale to ludicrously high levels of damage. Sure, it’s not the most enjoyable weapon if you want to play Fallout 4 like a standard first-person or third-person shooter, but other than that? It’s top-tier.
But the Gauss rifle is just one of many weapons in Fallout 4. While it’s one of the strongest, I recommend experimenting and having fun with all sorts of different instruments of mayhem.
What’s your favorite weapon to use in Fallout 4? At the moment, mine’s the Rapid Radium rifle. I’ll see you next time here at Wasteland Gamers!