Ok, time to delve into what makes an effective load-out. Which guns and gear should you be considering and what play-style best suits you. The previous piece in this series on Trades and missions can be found here.
This ‘should‘ be pretty straightforward though it does come with the following disclaimer: The advice here is based off my particular play-style (which I’ll explain in a minute), but I have tried to make some general comments based on other styles as well. Depending on how you play you may want to adjust appropriately.
It’s going to be a looong post though, so maybe grab a cuppa…
So in Tarkov 3 main play-styles have emerged : Rat, Chad and Honey Badger. I’ll go into each of these briefly as it will frame the discussion below.
This is for the careful player- who’s content to sneak around the map, avoiding combat where possible (except for occasional Scav). They pick their engagements, often avoiding unnecessary combat altogether; their primary focus is to ensure extraction with lots of lovely loot.
These are players who come in to Hunt. Sure, they may do a bit of ‘impulse’ looting but they go looking for combat and will run towards gunfire to go ‘join in’. They tend to go in with good armour, good guns and the best ammo they can afford.
Recently added by FairTX, the HoneyBadger is someone who primarily plays as a Rat, but then sometimes, you know, gets carried away….
Now these are by no means the only play-styles, and you can play this game any way you want but typically, a player falls into one of these camps. I’m a HoneyBadger by the way.
So now we’ve covered that, I’m going to go through each section and try to give you the basics, some general advice, and then some more specialised advice where I can/where it is appropriate.
This is what you take into the raid. It includes all your armour, your rig, bag, pockets and secure case. Now what you take in will vary depending on your play-style AND what you’re going in the raid for, but there are some basics to consider.
The best you can afford, but I don’t mean the best you can afford with all your money! You should be ‘pitching’ your gear at the 5-10 raids level- i.e. you have enough money to put this loadout together 5-10 times without running out of money. This will help prevent you going ‘too-hard too-soon’ and losing all your cash.
Generally, don’t bother with armour below level 3, 2 will work for some pistol bullets and shotgun shells, but other than that it doesn’t do much. It certainly wont be of any use against PMC’s/Raiders or Scav Bosses. Happily you should be able to afford most level 3 sets early on- the green SSh-68 army helmet for example is great as not only is it cheap and level 3, but has a ridiculously high ricochet chance meaning the bullets can glance off without doing any real damage.
You have a choice between going armour and rigs, or an armoured rig. I almost never use armoured rigs as although you do save some weight, they never have enough slots (with the notable exception of the AVS)- so I tend to stick to the specialised ones.
For Body Armour I recommend these early doors:
-Zhuk-3 Press armour (level 3)
-6B23-1 armour (Level 3) <— my recommendation
And these when you’ve got a bit of bank:
-6B13 Assault (level 4)
-IOTV Gen4 High mobility kit (level 5) <— my recommendation
-LBT 6049A Plate carrier (level 6)
For Helmets, to start with I’d use this:
-SSh-68 (the green army helmet) (lev 3)
-LZsh light helmet (you can attach a visor to this one) (lev 3) <— my recommendation
And then move to one of these when you have the cash:
-MSA ACH TC2001/2 (Lev 4)
-Crye precision airframe (lev 4)
It’s worth noting that once you are on the higher level helmets that you should be looking at visors. I helmet won’t stop you being shot in the face, and as that is in fact your best bet for killing top-level players you know they’ll be thinking the same.
All this said, I almost never buy the absolute best armour as it’s a huge investment and to be honest, once you get to a certain level and have access to level 4/5 armour I don’t see it adding that much. I know some will disagree here, but I maintain that if you pick the engagement and attack with conviction- most players are going to die regardless of what they’re wearing (ammo pen assumed).
Dealers choice really. Bank Robber and Triton work well to start with and are pretty affordable. When I don’t have to worry about cash I almost always run with the Blackrock or the Wartech Mk3 as they have plenty of slots and the Blackrock in particular has a handy 4×4 which is often invaluable for some of the bigger loot items.
Anything in these rigs are classed as ‘immediately’ available and can be used on the fly through hotkeys. So you’re going to want to put ammo/spare clips in here, along with any consumables/throwables you may need- so think meds, pills, grenades etc here.
Biggest you can afford (within the 5-10 rule). Scav backpack is serviceable right through the game. After that I favor the Tri-Zip. There are bigger ones, but they’re either bright purple (!) or divided into sections which I actually find less useful. You cannot use items in the bag on the fly- you have to stop and open your inventory to access them. So don’t put anything in there you’re likely to need in a rush, like spare magazines….
Like the rig, the pockets are classed as immediately available and are present whether you have a rig or not.
-A keytool/doc case/siic case. These will allow you to store keys, keys and money, or keys, money and secure access cards/bitcoins. They turn one/two ‘slots’ into multislots and are invaluable.
-Meds. I like to keep an IFAK in there as a backup (meds and bandage combined in a single slot) NEVER go into a raid without a way to bandage, bleeding will kill you. Trust me it is exceptionally annoying to start bleeding without a bandage and then be unable to find one…
-CMS/Survival surgical kit. This will depend on how big your stash is, but one of these allow you to turn ‘black limbs’ (i.e. zero health and unusable) into ones you can use again. If you’ve got a long way to walk and you have no painkillers… they’re invaluable.
-Anything else you think is important- quest items or other things you find usable but don’t want to lose.
Now, I could quite easily do a full post on guns alone going into the specifics and benefits of each along with the mods/alterations to use to get the most out of them, but I’m not going to do that. I’m not trying to tell you here how to get the best gun and the best setup as its very much situational and down to personal taste, but I will try to give you an idea of what works. You will find a combination and set-up that works best for you, but having experience with others is valuable.
Early doors/start of raid:
You’re going to have very limited options. I’d get to know the SKS and the AKS-74U as well as you can. They’re both very capable guns; SKS is a semi-auto carbine with good starting ammo and the AKS-74u is a base-level AK with semi and full auto fire. Both do a good job early on and one mission specifically requires you to use an AKS-74U so getting to know it early is a good idea. The 74U in particular is heavily modifiable so a good way to try modding in a ‘safer’ and cheaper environment. There are two main versions of the SKS- a brown wooden one which is un-modifiable and a yellow ‘OP’ version that you can mod and fit a scope too. That version I still use late-raid and just yesterday killed two M4-weilding PMC’s with it (one lev 31, one lev 40), so you can see it’s a very serviceable gun.
Once you’re approaching mid-game though you’ll be at the stage where you need to start choosing your gun based on the map and the mission. Obviously, I can’t detail exactly what you’ll need as I don’t know what you’re going to do, but I can give rough guidance based off certain situations.
Mosin. It’s an absolute beast- especially with a scope and a silencer. There are ‘better’ and more specialised snipers out there, but bang for buck (sorry) it just can’t be beat. The new 0.12.7 patch has nerfed it slightly, but it’s genuinely the only sniper I use.
The base LZH ammo, while it will no longer 1-shot anyone in the chest it will still ruin their day. SNB ammo will go through pretty much anything. Including walls as I found out hilariously the other day. It’s bolt-actioned though, so make your shots count as you wont get many before they start firing back,
A decent back-up is the SKS which has a higher rate of fire.
For Close quarters combat or indoors/underground (wombiling free):
SMG/PDW’s. Honestly, people turn their noses up at them but they’re really handy. At entry level you have the MP5 (which can be traded for 8 knives right from the start of the game), which while it doesn’t do spectacular damage it makes up for it with a ridiculous rate of fire. Sure the first few bullets may not kill them, but by the time they’ve hit the next 10 are already on their way.
Once you’re in the mid game you’ve got the P90 and the MPX. Both incredible guns. The P90 fires specifically-designed armour piercing bullets. The MPX is the MP5’s bigger brother and can be fully modded. Both can have silencers, large clips, and spit out lead at an absurd rate. I kill high-level players with these regularly. The P90 has the slight edge here given the penetration of it’s base ammo- but an MPX with luger ammo will shred anything. I’ve used it to hunt Scav bosses before.
Once you’re rolling in cash, or at least have your bitcoin farm up, I recommend only one gun: the MP7-A1 variant that can be traded, fully modded, for one bitcoin. When I’m at this level it’s the only gun I run when I’m not sniping or going shoreline/woods. It has an incredible rate of fire, practically zero recoil and its subsonic ammo (which is surprisingly affordable) will drop anything. It’s also exceptionally light and compact- allowing you to carry more purloined goods. For me, it’s the hands-down best gun in the game. Other people favor the VSS as the ‘meta’ gun, but trust me. Try The MP7.
Just don’t. You’ll have a few missions you’ll need to use them for in which case grab the Saiga. Otherwise there’s better options for almost all situations, so I wouldn’t bother.
Things get a tad more complicated here. There are numerous AR types with two main lines of ammunition (either 5.45×39 or 7.62×39, which are incompatible with each other) and a dizzying array of mods and other options.
Frankly, there’s little difference between them, especially when you start adding mods. The AKM is required for a mission and once modded is actually a pretty decent gun- so early on I’d recommend that.
That aside, I get a lot of mileage out of ADAR 2-15’s. They’re only semi-auto, but they pack a punch. We then, of course, have the entirely serviceable AKS-74U that we’ve already discussed, even late-raid I still have a kitted-out in sitting in my stash for times I want to go muck about on customs.
Once you’re in the mid-game though you’re starting to look at the likes of the DT MDR or the HK 4165A, which is basically a fully-auto and fully modifiable ADAR 2-15.
At the top of the tree we have the M4-A1 and the SA-58. The M4 with the right (exceptionally expensive) ammo is a beast that will kill anything dead. and anything behind it. and anything behind them. It’s the kind of gun you take into Labs when you know you’re going against people with top-level gear. As a result though it’s ridiculously expensive to run; I tried using it for a spell last wipe and just ran through money at such a rate that I dropped it again. You may fair better, but for me that just stops it being viable. The SA-58 you’ll often find in Scav hands, and indeed there is also a mission requiring the use of one. It’s a good gun, very dangerous but the ergonomics are awful meaning it’s a bit unweildly to use.
For me, the HK 4165A sits in the sweet point here, especially with the right ammo, though as i’ve mentioned above, I rarely tend to use AR’s.
You’re not going to be using these very often unless for very specific reasons. Your best budget bets are the MP-443 ‘Grach’ or the Glock 18. Both very good for what they are and have a surprising level of modificaiton.
If however you’re doing a pistol run on a dangerous level (reserve/factory) then I submit that the FN-57 is the best pistol in the game- it uses the same armour-piercing rounds as the P90 and will drop armoured Chads with a few well placed shots. If you have to go pistol and have the funds, run this.
Phew, nearly there folks. Bear with us.
There is a dizzying array of ammo types for each weapon and they all do slightly different things (I mean, besides inserting themselves into people). Some are designed to damage health (HP), some are designed to penetrate armour (P) and some are designed to fragment on impact (F, dealing upto 50% extra damage). It can get a little complicated at times, but you’re basically going to want to run the ammo with the best P and highest HP that you can afford. And again, use the 5-10 raid rule here. Can you afford 100-300 rounds of this per raid?
There is often a trade off between damage and penetration, and as of writing the fragmentation isn’t quite working as it should so I wouldn’t factor it into your calculations.
The best chart I’ve found for this is below- and linked here.
As a general rule, these recommendations will help you get started:
For AR’s you’ll start with PS and want to move to T or BT as soon as you can. BP when rolling in money.
The SKS is actually pretty good with plain old PS, but BP will increase that penetration significantly.
For shotguns, if you insist on using them- I tend to favor the lead slugs or if you’re flush- AP ammo.
For the Mosin, LZH is great, SNB if you’re expecting armour.
Pistols, Luger or AP ammo if you can.
SMG’s, depends on the model, but Luger, subsonic, AP-6 all work wonders.
But as I said before, you’ll need to assess against your available funds, the type of mission you’re going for, the map and what you’re hoping to achieve. Sometimes you’re going to want to avoid PMC’s, so the best ammo doesn’t matter. Sometimes you will go hunting PMC’s, so then penetration is really going to matter. As ever, it’s an on-the-spot context-lead decision, so use the chart and the 5-10 rule, and make the best pick you can at that point.
And there we have it. You’ve earned another brew. From here we’re going to be moving onto the Hideout in part 5, before we delve into more advanced concerns in Part 6’s ‘Meta game’ and part 7’s Advanced tactics. Hope to see you then.
As ever, if this, or any of the other pieces have raised any questions, feel free to come and ask me when I stream at Spats1e , Tuesdays and Thursdays 21:00 GMT.