Destiny Pulse Rifle Guide

Destiny Pulse Rifle Guide by scottsarg

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.


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 perkCounterbalance 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.

Check out Debo37’s Pulse Rifles 101

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 vendorNirwen’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)

Perk Effect Tier Comment
Braced Frame Increased stability, reduced magazine size 1 Classic Only
Counterbalance This weapon has increased stability 1 Available for all manufacturers
Perfect Balance This weapon has extremely low recoil 1 Not available for Hakke
Smallbore Increased Range and stability, slower Reload, reduced Magazine size 1 Not available for Hakke
Fitted Stock Increases weapon stability 2
Hand-laid Stock Increased Stability. Reduced Range 2
Injection Mold Increased Stability, Faster Handling. Reduced Range 2
Rodeo Reduces the severity of this weapon’s recoil 3

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

Perk Effect Tier Comment
Hammer Forged Improved range and accuracy 1 Suros only
Hidden Hand This weapon gains better target acquisition 1 Suros only & Reflection Sum
Rifled Barrel Increased Range, slower Reload 1 Suros only
Hand Loaded This weapon is effective at extended range 2
Single Point Sling Switch weapons faster. Move quicker while aiming 2
Snapshot Aiming this weapon is incredibly fast 2
Reinforced Barrel Increased Range, reduced Stability 3 Same range boost as Rifled Barrel, but lowers Stability
Appended Magazine Increased Magazine Size, Slower Reload 3
Casket Mag Increased Magazine Size, Reduced Stability 3
Feather Mag Faster Reload, Reduced Magazine Size 3
Lightweight When held, this weapon grants +2 character Agility 3
Oiled Frame Faster Reload. Reduced Range 3
Speed Reload Reload this weapon quickly 3

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)

Perk Effect Tier Comment
Hip Fire This weapon has bonus accuracy while firing from the hip 1 Only available on Suros
Army of One Unassisted kills with this weapon reduce grenade and melee cooldown 2
Crowd Control Kills with this weapon grant bonus damage for a short time 2
Feeding Frenzy Kills with this weapon increase reload speed for a short time 2
Full Auto This weapon can be fired in full auto mode 2
Grenadier Kills with this weapon reduce the cooldown of your grenade 2
Headseeker Body shots with this weapon increase precision damage for a short time 2 Best archtype to have Headseeker Discussion
High Caliber Rounds Oversize rounds built to stagger enemies and leave them reeling. Their mass makes a weapon harder to handle 2 Believed to have an effect in 2.0, but could use additional testing
Last Resort This weapon handles and reloads faster when the wielder is the last living player of their Fireteam 2
Life Support Kills with this weapon while critically wounded have a chance to start regenerating health 2
Outlaw Precision kills with this weapon dramatically increase reload speed 2
Rangefinder Aiming this weapon increases its effective range 2
Spray and Play Increases the reload speed of this weapon when the mag is empty 2
Third Eye Radar stays active while aiming down this weapon’s sights 2
Unflinching It’s easier to aim under fire using this weapon 2
Zen Moment Causing damage with this weapon increases its stability 2
Icarus Improved accuracy while airborne 2
Secret Round Missing a shot in a burst grants a 4th shot 3
Danger Close This weapon gains increased reload and handling when two or more enemies are in close proximity 3
Exhumed This weapon gains improved range and handling for a short time after revival 3
Eye of the Storm This weapon becomes more accurate as your health gets lower 3
Glass Half Full The bottom half of each magazine causes additional damage 3 Damage increase very minimum
Guerilla Fighter Increased accuracy, handling and damage resistance when shooting this weapon from behind cover 3
Partial Refund Chance to return a portion of the magazine after an assist 3
Private Eye Optical zoom length is increased while crouching 3
Skip Rounds Increases the chance of bullets ricocheting 3
Surrounded This weapon gains bonus damage when three or more enemies are in close proximity 3
Take a Knee Gain bonus accuracy while crouched 3

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

Column 1 Column 2 Column 3
Counter Balance Smallbore Any
Perfect Balance
Braced Frame

2/1/2 setup

Column 1 Column 2 Column 3
Perfect Balance Counterbalance Smallbore
Hammer Forged Hidden Hand Rifled Barrel
Hip Fire

1/1/3 Setup

Column 1 Column 2 Column 3
Crowd Control Counterbalance Handlaid Stock
Headseeker Injection Mold
Fitted Stock
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