Best Helldivers 2 weapons: Tier list, for Automatons, bugs, and early game

Helldivers 2 gameplay
(Image credit: Arrowhead Game Studios)

To have any hope of succeeding in Arrowhead Game Studios' popular co-op PvE shooter Helldivers 2, you'll need to slay dozens or even hundreds of Terminid bugs or Automaton machines during each mission. The powerful airstrikes and support gear you can call in with stratagems will help your squad deal with high-priority targets, but you'll also need to choose a good primary and secondary. These are the workhorse weapons you'll come out of your pod with, and are what you'll use against the numerous rank-and-file threats that complement heavier units.

These are unlocked with progress through the game's Battle Pass-like Warbonds (both the free and Premium one), and while several of them are fantastic overall and some excel in specific niches, a fair few are rather underwhelming and aren't worth spending your Warbond Medals on.

I've put about 80 hours into the game at this point, and have tested these weapons extensively. Thus, I've put together a tier list below that ranks all of them from best to worst, along with a breakdown of the best Helldivers 2 weapons to use in general, against each enemy faction, and in the early game.

Helldivers 2 weapons ranked: Tier list

A tier list of every primary and secondary weapon in Helldivers 2. (Image credit: Windows Central / TierMaker)

While all of Helldivers 2's 18 primary and secondary weapons are viable in lower and medium difficulties, some of them perform significantly better than others in harder ones such as Challenging, Hard, Extreme, and above. These weapons have a strong balance of damage, range, accuracy, fire rate, and ammo economy, and some also boast bonus capabilities like stronger armor penetration.

To give you an idea of which weapons you should take into battle and which ones you should generally avoid, I've put together a tier list (visible both in the image above and in the table below) that ranks them based on my own in-game experience as well as community sentiment.

Swipe to scroll horizontally
TierWeapon
SSG-225 Breaker, AR-23 Liberator, P-19 Redeemer
ASMG-37 Defender, R-63 Diligence, AR-23P Liberator Penetrator, JAR-5 Dominator
BR-63CS Diligence Counter Sniper, PLAS-1 Scorcher, MP-98 Knight, P-4 Senator
CSG-8S Slugger, SG-8 Punisher, SG-225IE Breaker Incendiary, AR-23E Liberator Explosive
DSG-225SP Breaker Spray and Pray, LAS-5 Scythe, P-2 Peacemaker

Something to keep in mind is that fun matters above all else, so even if I've ranked a weapon in a low tier on this list, you should give it a fair shake if it sounds like something you'd enjoy using. You may also be able to make certain weapons work better than I have; for example, I found that the increased recoil, reduced magazine size, and slower fire rate of the AR-23E Liberator Explosive made it less effective than the other variants of the rifle overall, but if you can get used to those drawbacks, you'll do lots of extra damage to enemy weak spots by hitting them with explosive rounds.

Best Helldivers 2 primary weapons

These are the best primary weapons to use in Helldivers 2. This category consists of rifles, SMGs, and shotguns, and these are the firearms you'll be using to take on most common threats as well as larger, more dangerous ones whenever you don't have a support weapon to use.

SG-225 Breaker

The SG-225 Breaker. (Image credit: Windows Central)
  • Damage: 330
  • Capacity: 16
  • Recoil: 30
  • Fire rate: 300
  • Traits: Light armor penetrating

Helldivers 2 may not have a defined overall meta at the moment, but pretty much everyone agrees that the best primary weapon in the game is the SG-225 Breaker shotgun. Though it does chew through ammo a bit quickly, it also does excellent damage-per-shot, can be fired quite stably in full-auto mode, and has a tight pellet spread that allows it to be used from surprisingly long ranges. This makes it an exceptional choice against both Terminids or Automatons.

You can obtain the Breaker by using Warbond Medals to unlock it from Page 4 of the free Helldivers Mobilize! Warbond.

AR-23 Liberator

The AR-23 Liberator. (Image credit: Windows Central)
  • Damage: 55
  • Capacity: 45
  • Recoil: 15
  • Fire rate: 640
  • Traits: Light armor penetrating

The standard assault rifle Helldivers 2 starts you off with also happens to be one of the game's S-tier weapons, and one that will serve you well in any situation and difficulty. It fires very fast and sports low recoil — you can hold the reload input to change its firing mode to burst or semi-auto, if you want even greater control — while also dishing out solid damage-per-shot. Since it has a scope, you can also snipe with it, albeit not as well as you can with one of the marksman rifles.

It's the ultimate jack of all trades firearm, and one that both new and experienced players can depend on when they need a reliable, versatile rifle to dive into the fray with. Also, it's called the Liberator, which is a perfect name for a weapon you'll be using to spread managed democracy.

SMG-37 Defender

The SMG-37 Defender. (Image credit: Windows Central)
  • Damage: 70
  • Capacity: 45
  • Recoil: 10
  • Fire rate: 520
  • Traits: Light armor penetrating, one-handed

What if the Liberator had a slower fire rate, but some extra damage? That's essentially what you get with the SMG-27 Defender, which is really more of a rifle than a submachine gun. It's a great alternative to the Liberator, especially for Terminid levels where more of your battles will be at close-to-medium range and you won't miss the Liberator's scope too much. It's also a fantastic pick for data retrieval missions, as you can fire the Defender one-handed while carrying the hard drive objective.

You can obtain the Defender by using Warbond Medals to unlock it from Page 3 of the free Helldivers Mobilize! Warbond.

R-63 Diligence

The R-63 Diligence. (Image credit: Windows Central)
  • Damage: 112
  • Capacity: 20
  • Recoil: 35
  • Fire rate: 350
  • Traits: Light armor penetrating

Though it's more situational than the Breaker, the Liberator, and the Defender, the R-63 Diligence designated marksman rifle (DMR) is nevertheless a great pick in large, open maps, as well as in missions where you'll be fighting the Automatrons. It kicks harder than most primaries in Helldivers 2 do, but it also deals a whopping 112 damage-per-shot, and it can two-shot pretty much every medium-armored Automatron unit with headshots. It's less viable against hordes of Terminids, but can definitely still work if you have steady, consistent aim and position yourself well.

You can obtain the Diligence by using Warbond Medals to unlock it from Page 2 of the free Helldivers Mobilize! Warbond.

Best Helldivers 2 secondary weapon

There are three secondaries to choose from in Helldivers 2, but one of them is head and shoulders above the others in terms of overall viability. Even when using the best one, though, you should treat it as a sidearm and only pull it out when you need to kill something, but don't have time to reload your main weapon.

P-19 Redeemer

The P-19 Redeemer. (Image credit: Windows Central)
  • Damage: 60
  • Capacity: 31
  • Recoil: 11
  • Fire rate: 1100
  • Traits: Light armor penetrating

Ultimately, your secondary is an emergency weapon you should only draw when you need something dead and don't have time to reload your primary (or don't have ammo for it). Of the three secondaries in Helldivers 2 right now, the P-19 Redeemer SMG is indisputably the best at fulfilling this role, as it has a ridiculously high fire rate, great damage, and large 31-round magazines. It'll quickly run dry if you use it for sustained fighting, of course, but at that point, you should simply reload your primary.

You can obtain the Redeemer by using Warbond Medals to unlock it from Page 2 of the free Helldivers Mobilize! Warbond.

Best Helldivers 2 weapons for Automatons

The Automaton faction in Helldivers 2. (Image credit: PlayStation Studios)

These are the weapons I recommend using against the Automatons, which are fewer in number than the Terminid bugs but have firearms of their own that force you into cover, as well as more medium-armor units that require effective targeting of their weak points.

  • SG-225 Breaker: The Breaker's high rate of fire combined with its impressive damage and tight pellet spread makes it an excellent weapon to use against any Automaton infantry unit. Thanks to its spread, it's also fairly easy to headshot with.
  • AR-23 Liberator: Whether you're spraying down rank-and-file bots at close-to-medium range or scoping in to hit weak spots, the Liberator is a strong pick.
  • AR-23P Liberator Penetrator: A good alternative to the regular Liberator with lower raw damage, magazine size, and higher recoil, but medium armor penetration. Great against heavier Automatron infantry, especially if you hit their weak spots.
  • R-63 Diligence: An excellent weapon to use if you can post up and take measured, accurate shots. Kills most basic robots in one or two hits, and can two-shot armored infantry with headshots.
  • JAR-5 Dominator: The R-63 Diligence on steroids, with explosive damage, medium armor penetration, and recoil that kicks like a horse. Amazing against armored Automaton infantry and can even be used on the weak spots of heavier units, but hard to control.

Best Helldivers 2 weapons for bugs

The Terminid "bugs" faction in Helldivers 2. (Image credit: PlayStation Studios)

Facing off against Terminid bugs? The best weapons to use against them are fast-firing and most reliable at close-to-medium range, as you'll rarely have the opportunity to pick off aggressive hordes from afar.

  • SG-225 Breaker: High damage and full-auto make the Breaker a standout pick against the bugs, too. Don't get too careless with your spraying and praying, though.
  • AR-23 Liberator: The Liberator offers the close-range reliability you need to succeed against the bugs, while also giving you the option to snipe faraway Terminids when you spot them.
  • SMG-37 Defender: The second best close-range weapon to use, after the Breaker. Stable, powerful, ammo-efficient, and easy to hipfire with.
  • MP-98 Knight: The actual SMG primary in the game that's only accessible if you buy or upgrade to the Super Citizen Edition. Incredibly high fire rate, but a bit unwieldy due to the strong recoil.
  • P-19 Redeemer: The Redeemer is undoubtedly the best secondary in general, but it's especially useful against the bugs. When you've got a horde bearing down on you and your primary runs dry, this little SMG that could will save your life. I guarantee it.

Best Helldivers 2 early game weapons

Consider using the following weapons while you're in the early game. (Image credit: PlayStation Studios)

While many strong weapons can't be obtained until you've leveled up quite a bit and have progressed far into Helldivers 2's Warbonds, several are obtainable soon after starting the game. Here are the early game weapons I recommend using:

  • AR-23 Liberator: The rifle you start with, and one that remains a top pick for the entire game. The perfect balance of damage, range, fire rate, and ammo economy.
  • P-19 Redeemer: This SMG sidearm in Helldivers 2 is available on the second page of the  free Warbond, and is best-in-slot thanks to its high damage and absurdly high rate of fire.
  • R-63 Diligence: Also unlockable on Page 2 of the free Warbond. A precise, powerful weapon that excels against the Automatons.
  • SMG-37 Defender: You can grab this one from the third Warbond page. Essentially a Liberator with less recoil and slightly more power, but a slower rate of fire. Great against the Terminids.

Helldivers 2 is available now for $39.99 on both PS5 and PC, and so far, it's one of the best PC games of the year. Notably, the game also supports cross-platform play between PS5 and PC. 

Helldivers 2 — $39.99 at GMG (Steam)

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Battle aliens, robots, and other beasts in humanity's quest to spread democracy through an unforgiving galaxy. It's 4-player co-op at its absolute best, and its most refined.

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Brendan Lowry

Brendan Lowry is a Windows Central writer and Oakland University graduate with a burning passion for video games, of which he's been an avid fan since childhood. You'll find him doing reviews, editorials, and general coverage on everything Xbox and PC. Follow him on Twitter.