Destiny 2 Weapons Types: Understanding classes and slots

by | Dec 13, 2021

Destiny 2 features a powerful weapon system that is, unfortunately, not very intuitive for newcomers. In fact, even experienced players can have a hard time explaining the difference between weapon classes and types, special weapons and energy weapons, etc.

This guide will walk you through Destiny 2’s weapon system, starting with the basics, but also covering its more nuanced aspects.

Weapon Classes in Destiny 2

Weapons in Destiny 2 are divided into three classes: Primary weapons, Special weapons, and Heavy weapons. These classes are defined by the type of ammo they require, either the always available Primary ammo (white boxes), the rarer Special ammo (green boxes), or the hardest to obtain Heavy ammo (purple boxes).

Ammo art Destiny 2

Weapon types in Destiny 2

There are several weapon types available in Destiny 2, and with the exception of a few exotics, they all use a specific ammo type:

Weapon Type Ammo
  • Hand Cannons
  • Scout Rifles
  • Auto Rifles
  • Pulse Rifles
  • Sidearms
  • Submachine Guns
  • Combat Bows

Destiny 2 Primary ammo

  • Fusion Rifles
  • Shotguns
  • Sniper Rifles
  • Trace Rifles
  • Breach Grenade Launchers

Destiny 2 special ammo

  • Rocket launchers
  • Linear Fusion Rifles
  • Swords
  • Grenade Launchers
  • Machine Guns

Destiny 2 Heavy ammo

Primary weapons

Primary weapons are the foundation of your loadout. With infinite ammo, they are the weapons you will use most of the time. Generally, they will be the best tool against red-bar enemies (ads), allowing you to save your precious Special and Heavy ammo for more challenging enemies.

There are currently 6 Primary weapon types in the game that use primary ammo.

Primary weapons   Role
Hand Cannons Hand cannon weapon type Destiny 2 Decent damage and range
Scout Rifles Scout rifle weapon type Destiny 2 Good damage and range
Auto Rifles Auto rifle weapon type Destiny 2 Good damage, decent range
Pulse Rifles Pulse rifle weapon type Destiny 2 Average damage, decent range
Sidearms Sidearm weapon type Destiny 2 Highest damages, lowest range
Submachine Gun SMG weapon type Destiny 2 High damage, limited range
Combat Bows Combat bow weapon type Destiny 2 Near infinite range

If you’re looking for precise damage figures or simply wonder what the highest damage weapons are, check out our Weapon damage chart.

Special weapons

Special ammo is harder to come by, but with the right mods and playstyle, you can ensure you always have some Special ammo in hand.

For this reason, Special ammo is usually reserved for tougher enemies, such as Majors, ad clear when dealing with groups of enemies, or during boss damage phases once you’ve run out of Heavy ammo.

There are currently 5 weapon types in the game that use special ammo.

Special weapons Main Role
Fusion Rifles Fusion rifle weapon type Destiny 2 Add Clear, Single Target Damage
Shotguns Shotgun weapon type Destiny 2 Single Target Damage
Sniper Rifles Sniper rifle weapon type Destiny 2 Single Target Damage
Trace Rifles Trace rifle weapon type Destiny 2 Add Clear
Breach Grenade Launchers Grenade launcher weapon type Destiny 2 Add Clear, Single Target Damage

Note that Primary and Special weapons can either deal Kinetic or Energy damage.

Heavy weapons

Heavy weapons being the most powerful in the game and heavy ammo being the harder to find, you will want to save them for the most challenging encounters: Emergency ad clear and boss damage phases.

There are currently 5 Heavy weapon types in the game.

Power weapons Main Role
Rocket Launchers Rocket launcher weapon type Destiny 2 Burst Damage
Linear Fusion Rifles Linear fusion rifle weapon type Destiny 2 Single Target Damage
Swords Sword weapon type Destiny 2 Add Clear, Single Target Damage
Grenade Launchers Grenade launcher weapon type Destiny 2 Add Clear
Machine Guns Machine gun weapon type Destiny 2 Add Clear

We cover Heavy weapons in-depth here (top tier options, their place in the meta, etc).

Weapon slots in Destiny 2

There are 3 different weapon slots in Destiny 2:

  • Kinetic: Kinetic weapons do more damage to enemies without a shield but cannot do elemental damage.
  • Energy: Energy weapons do elemental damage (either Arc, Void, or Solar) and do extra damage to shielded enemies with matching elements.
  • Heavy: Heavy weapons do elemental damage too, but also require Heavy ammo (which is harder to find).

And this is where things become confusing. Weapon types and weapons are not always the same thing. This cumbersome system is the result of a significant overhaul that the weapons system received when the Forsaken expansion was launched.

But to keep things simple:

  • Weapon types are defined by the ammo they use (and how powerful they are)
  • Weapon slots are defined by the type of damage they do

Kinetic weapons

Kinetic weapons sit in the Kinetic slot, and unlike Energy and Heavy weapons, they cannot do elemental damage. This means they aren’t ideal when dealing with shielded enemies, but on the other hand, they do extra damage to unshielded enemies.

A little-known fact (and something that even veterans tend to forget) is that Kinetic weapons do more damage to unshielded enemies than Special weapons in PVE, 10% more damage to be precise.

Energy weapons

Special weapons are those that sit in the Special slot and do element damage. Energy weapons can do either SolarArc, or Void damage, and are perfectly suited to deal with shielded enemies. Kinetic weapons may be able to deal more damage to unshielded enemies, but Special weapons can simply tear through enemy shields, as long as you are using a matching element.

Destiny 2 element icons OLD art

Energy weapons do roughly 3 times more damage to shielded enemies until their shields are destroyed.

Primary and Special ammo

Kinetic and Energy weapons do have one thing in common, they both include Primary and Special ammo weapons:

Primary and Special Ammo bricks Destiny 2

Pro tip: You can also tell whether a weapon is Kinetic or Special simply by looking at its icon orientation:

  • Kinetic weapons point to the left
  • Special weapons point to the right

Heavy slot

While Kinetic and Energy weapons both include Primary and Special ammo weapons, Power weapons only include guns that use Heavy ammo, aka, the purple ammo boxes.

Heavy ammo Destiny 2

Just as Energy weapons do, Heavy weapons also do element damage, either SolarArc, or Void damage, and are perfectly suited to deal with shielded enemies.

Needless to say, Heavy weapons are the most powerful in the game but their ammo is the most difficult to find.

Your turn

You now know everything there is to know about Destiny 2’s weapon system. This information is, of course, useful, as it will allow you to better understand how everything works and eventually create the best loadout you possibly can.

About The Author

Ric Molina
Ric Molina
I've been covering gaming since 2012, and some of my work has been featured by large brands, including, Forbes, Rock Paper Shotgun, and more. I've been obsessed with Destiny 2 (and now Diablo 4) for years now, and I hope to provide new and returning players with the guides and resources I wish I had when I first started.
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