Fallout New Vegas — A Gun Guy Goes Gaming

I have an embarrassing amount of hours of Fallout under my belt. I’ve been playing since Fallout 1 and have maintained an unhealthy relationship with the series. Fallout New Vegas is, without a doubt, my favorite of the series. New Vegas came out in 2010, and young LCPL Pike was fresh off an Afghanistan deployment. Instead of celebrating making it through the deployment alive by partying, drinking, and womanizing, I sat in my barracks room and played New Vegas.

Fallout New Vegas Video Game

Hell, to this day, I play New Vegas, and my latest run has over a hundred hours in. That might not seem that impressive, but I’m a dad of three kids, husband to an awesome wife, and employee at two jobs, so give me some credit. New Vegas is without a doubt the best Fallout, especially for gun nerds.

That New Vegas Gunplay

Combat in Fallout games is a little clumsy. Much like the Elder Scrolls, these games don’t have deep combat systems. This is no cover shooter, it’s not fluid like Doom, and there isn’t Halo-style movement and shooting dynamics or anything too crazy. It’s fairly simple, and while the cover can be handy, don’t expect brilliant A.I. to use much of it.

What changed from Fallout 3 to New Vegas is the ability to look down your weapon’s sights. I loved this in 2010 and love it now. I dislike the rudimentary zoom of Fallout 3 and much prefer looking down the sights.

Fallout New Vegas
No one plays New Vegas for the combat.

The variety of guns does allow you to customize how you play. There isn’t really a wrong way to play the game. You can be a sneaky player with silenced weapons, a sniper, a cowboy with lever guns and six-shooters, or a dozen other builds using the wide variety of different guns. The guns do offer different specs, which change the gunplay.

For example, shotguns and handguns work well at close range, big powerful rifles have slower rates of fire, and you can quickly lose control of your full auto gun if you don’t use short bursts. You’ll also need to deal with armored threats, and just like real-life, handguns and shotguns suck at dealing with armor, as do SMGs and lever-action guns firing revolver rounds.

Fallout New Vegas
We can’t expect God to do all the work.

If you just spray and pray, you won’t last long. You have to think tactically about how you approach enemies and situations, especially if you ratchet up the difficulty. Sure the tactics aren’t about how to clear a room, but that doesn’t mean tactics aren’t required.

What About the Guns?

Fallout has a long tradition of mixing in a variety of real guns with a number of fictional guns, combinations of multiple guns, and of course, Sci-fi weapons involving lasers, magnets, and more. New Vegas is no different, but the real weapons included a mix of the WW2 era and western era rifles with a few modern touches here and there.

We get guns like the Browning Hi-Power, the Ruger 22/45, the S&W Model 29, and more. Shotguns include simple single shots, an 870, and the lever-action 1887. In the rifle department, we get a wood adorned M16A1, a Colt Model 933, and an M1 Garand known as This Machine. As in, “Well, This Machine Kills Communists,” a play on a sticker that adorned Woodie Guthrie’s guitar.

Fallout New Vegas rifle
This Machine is my favorite rifle.

I can’t forget the western-themed lever-action rifles or single-action sixguns either, plus a Mad Max-style double-barreled shotgun makes a predictable appearance. Later DLCs would bring in the BAR, a Colt New Service, the Thompson, M1911 pistols, and more.

Fallout New Vegas revolver
Cowboy is a valid play class.

We also get real guns in differing configurations. For example, the Grease gun is a 9mm SMG, an early CAR 15 style rifle is in a fictional 5mm cartridge, and the 1887 is in 20 gauge.

We get some of the futurist Fallout norms, including the 10mm Pistol and SMG, the Gause Rifle, and a number of laser and plasma weapons. One of the laser weapons has a Thompson vibe worth mentioning. Don’t forget the handheld minigun and portable mini-nuke launcher, either.


Guns wear out in-game, and over time you’ll need to purchase weapon repair kits, pay vendors, or develop repair skills to keep your guns running. This includes cannibalizing other guns to repair your guns.

Besides just getting tons of guns, players can also customize their weapons in New Vegas. With the exception of unique weapons, most guns can be modified and upgraded. Ths upgrades vary depending on the weapon. They include suppressors, optics, extended magazines, and other predictable upgrades.

9mm pistol with scope modification fallout new vegas
Weapons can be upgraded extensively.

They also include a lightened bolt for the M3 Grease Gun, automatic rifle upgraded internals, custom bolts, and custom actions that increase your rate of fire—reinforced parts and pieces that improve your weapon’s durability.

Hell, shotguns even get chokes to reduce spread. Certain attachments increase the capacity of tube-fed weapons, and you realistically have to reload each round shell by shell. It’s a nice touch and shows good attention to detail.

Ammo Choices

Not only do you have tons of gun choices, but also various ammo types. The most common is predictable the standard FMJ loads. However, that’s far from all. In New Vegas, you can use a variety of ammo types that can change depending on the guns you use.

Handguns often get hollow points, special hand-loads, and even +P rounds. Rifles get AP loads, Hollow points, Match loads, and more. Rifles can chamber both 5.56 and .223, with 5.56 doing slightly more damage. Shotguns get a ton of loads, including buckshot and slugs, but also pulse slugs for anti-robot fighting, coin shot, bean bag, 4/0 buckshot, and even Dragon’s breath style loads.

Fallout New Vegas gun mods
Let’s not even get started on the guns the mods offer.

You can swap rounds depending on your situation. The heavy-hitting JHPs work well on unarmored targets, AP rounds chew through armored baddies, and pulse slugs make short work of robots.

Surplus rounds tend to be cheap and deal more damage at the cost of quickly lowering the condition of your weapon. Ammo types can increase or decrease the rate of wear. Most powerful loads deteriorate the guns faster, but weaker rounds like 38 Special in a 357 Magnum or 223 in a rifle cause less wear.

The rates of wear are a game mechanic and not exactly accurate, but I appreciate the attention to detail. +P rounds can wear a weapon down faster in real life, and that’s replicated here at a greatly increased scale.

The Game Was Rigged From the Start

New Vegas might be over ten years old, but it is still the best Fallout game. Bethesda has yet to top it with FO4 or ‘76, and it’s not likely they will anytime soon. The guns and ammo aspect are just one small detail in a massive game. However, it’s one of the better details and one a gun nerd like me will always appreciate.

Travis Pike is a former Marine Machine Gunner and a lifelong firearms enthusiast. Now that his days of working a 240B like Charlie Parker on the sax are over he's a regular guy who likes to shoot, write, and find ways to combine the two. He holds an NRA certification as a Basic Pistol Instructor and is probably most likely the world's Okayest firearm instructor. He is a simplicisist when it comes to talking about himself in the 3rd person and a self-professed tactical hipster. Hit him up on Instagram, @travis.l.pike, with story ideas.

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