Meet the Shotguns

Saint Landwalker’s Guide to Shotguns: Part 1

Ubisoft’s The Division 2 is, like its predecessor, a game with scores of options for building your formerly-secret embedded government superagent, whose breadth of weapon proficiency is rivaled only by their complete absence of responsible oversight.

Many players, upon finishing the game’s “story” content and progressing into the end-game, will seek to optimize their builds, making the “shooter” part of the looter-shooter genre increasingly efficient.  They seek the best weapons, the best gear combinations, the best skills.  This article is not for those players.

Welcome to the first installment of a series of articles catered entirely to my fellow maniacs.  

Other players will latch on to specific islands in the loot archipelago in spite of things like “common sense” or “sanity.”  Come hell or high water, they will build around their favored weapons and playstyles and seek to squeeze viability out of them like blood from a stone.  For the most psychologically damaged of these off-meta diehards, like myself, that obsession is the shotgun.  If that sounds like an all-too-familiar predicament, please accept my condolences, and welcome to the first installment of a series of articles catered entirely to my fellow maniacs.  

Shotguns in The Division 2 are a wildly varied breed, spanning a huge statistical range in almost every major category, whether it’s base damage, rate of fire (ROF), magazine size, or reload time.  Despite their disparity in individual statistics, however, virtually all of them are viable (at least, as much as shotguns ever are), and many of them have very similar sustained DPS.  Because of this, picking the right shotgun for you will largely come down to what you’re most comfortable using and what, other than suffering, you’re hoping to get out of this experience.

From a “feel” perspective, the biggest difference in the shotgun roster is between tube magazines that reload one round at a time on one side, versus those that have more conventional detachable-magazine reloads.  Tube reloaders can be painfully slow—the longest takes over eight seconds to fully reload without any modifiers, which makes LMGs seem blazing fast by comparison—but they come with the unique ability to interrupt their reload cycle at any point, letting them cancel the reload in an emergency and get back to the whole shooting thing that most of us are here for to begin with.  Once a player gets familiar with the tube magazine reload mechanics, these can provide a great deal of versatility in moment-to-moment action.

But enough about all that.  Let’s meet the shotguns.

(Before we dive in, a quick note on terminology.  When I refer to “burst DPS,” I mean the weapon’s DPS before it has to stop to reload.  When I refer to “sustained DPS,” I mean the weapon’s average DPS, including reload time, if fired continuously with no breaks in the action.)

Double-Barrel Shotgun and Sawed-Off Double-Barrel

Double-Barrel – Double Fun Skin, Sawed-Off Double-Barrel – Sidekick Skin

Let’s get this out of the way right up front:  The “full-sized” and “sawed-off” variants of the double-barrel shotgun are, statistically speaking, exactly the same.  There is no difference at all in damage, range, reload speed, nothing.

And speaking of damage, that is the double-barrel’s calling card.  It has not only the highest base damage in its class, but the second highest base damage of any non-specialization weapon in the game (trailing only a fully-charged Nemesis).  Among the shotguns, the double-barrel’s base damage is nearly 3.7 times that of the ACS-12.  Coupled with its relatively high rate of fire (200 RPM), the double-barrel has, by an enormous margin, the highest immediate-burst damage output… but for the least amount of time, thanks to holding a paltry two rounds.

Despite its tiny magazine, the double-barrel’s high base damage and ROF mean that in addition to the highest burst DPS, it also has the second-highest sustained DPS, trailing only the ACS-12.  While this may seem like a good thing, in practice you may find that the frequent pauses to reload make it difficult to take advantage of every opportunity that you get during combat.  On top of this, the double-barrel has another salient drawback:  It has no weapon mod slots whatsoever.  No sights, no magazine mods, no underbarrel slots.

All told, the double-barrel is likely to be more valuable as an emergency backup weapon—but a very potent backup weapon—than as a primary weapon, due to its many interruptions and incompatibility with weapon mods.

The double-barrel comes with two named variants.  The Boomstick is a full-sized double-barrel with the Perfect Pumped Up talent.  Talents will be covered in a future article, but this particular talent is one of the best.  While it (unfortunately) doesn’t provide a higher full-stack bonus than its regular counterpart, Perfect Pumped Up accumulates those stacks five times faster, letting you reach its maximum bonus extremely quickly.  This makes the Boomstick a strong close-range secondary weapon, since it will require only five reloaded shells before reaching the full +25% Weapon Damage bonus.

The Backup Boomstick is a sawed-off double-barrel that has no unique talent of its own.  Instead, it has a guaranteed roll of +16% Shotgun Damage (which is 1% higher than the usual roll maximum for that attribute).  The guaranteed +16% takes an important chunk of the R out of RNG for this weapon, and the player can carry any eligible talent to go along with it, making it a flexible sidearm.  If you’re going to carry a sawed-off as a sidearm, this is the one you want.  

KSG Shotgun

KSG – Barrage Skin

The weapon of choice for Black Tusk Rushers is based on the real-life Kel-Tec KSG, although the game’s mechanical limitations mean that it’s missing the Kel-Tec’s signature magazine-toggle feature.  

The in-game KSG does, however, boast the largest by far capacity of the tube-magazine shotguns.  As of Title Update 9.1, the KSG also has the third-highest base damage (tied with the SPAS-12), clocking in at about 88% of the double-barrel.  These characteristics combine to give the KSG significant lasting power before having to stop and reload, but the weapon also has the longest base reload time from empty in the entire game: 8.05 seconds.  

This brutally long downtime means that the KSG has the second-lowest sustained DPS in its class, and the sluggish rate of fire (70 RPM) results in also having the worst burst DPS.  This makes it a difficult pick for its class, even after familiarizing yourself with the “reload interrupt” mechanic, but the sheer amount of damage it can hold in a full magazine can pair very well with certain talents like Close & Personal, where it can often get the most benefit from the buff’s limited up-time.

… if you’re shooting at something 32 meters away with a shotgun, something’s already gone wrong anyway.

The KSG’s named variant is The Send-Off, which can only be acquired through crafting after completing the Technician specialization’s field research tasks.  Unfortunately, it’s a frankly terrible weapon—in the game’s current state, crafting is already the worst way to get good equipment, and the weapon is crippled by its own talent.  Perfect Distance increases the Send-Off’s optimal range from 16m to 32m, a virtually useless benefit.  At that range it’s impossible to put all of a shot’s pellets on-target, and if you’re shooting at something 32 meters away with a shotgun, something’s already gone wrong anyway.

SPAS-12

SPAS-12 – Base Skin

As of Title Update 9.1, there’s nothing at all to recommend the SPAS-12.  It has the same high base damage as the KSG, but a smaller magazine, slower per-round reload speed, and to cap it all off the weapon only has a magazine mod slot, with no mod options for sights or barrel attachments.  The Title Update 10 PTS has suggested that the SPAS-12 will get a larger damage boost than the KSG, however, so the weapon’s miserable position in the weapon list may be worth reevaluating once Title Update 10 goes live.  While the real-life Franchi SPAS-12 can toggle between pump-action and semi-automatic, the in-game version is pump-action only, dragging the SPAS-12 down with its terrible rate of fire.

All of that sounds pretty bad.  And it is.  Really bad.  However, the SPAS-12 also happens to be the template for the game’s only exotic shotgun, the Sweet Dreams (sometimes skinned as the Lullaby).  The Sweet Dreams stands out from its mundane counterpart with a higher base damage, roughly 94% of the base for the double-barrel, although this doesn’t result in a game-changing improvement to either burst or sustained DPS.  The Sweet Dreams also has three mod slots, although they cannot be changed:  +15% reload speed, +25% optimal range, and +15% accuracy.

The most notable quality of the Sweet Dreams, however, is its talent.  Sandman foregoes the opportunity for a damage-based benefit in favor of instantly killing any red or purple enemy with a melee attack once every 15 seconds.  This alone makes the Sweet Dreams an extremely good secondary weapon for a character who’s primarily focused on a different weapon type.  Not only does the Sweet Dreams have typically high base damage for close-quarters emergencies, but its talent is excellent for killing enemy rushers, or for rushing an enemy yourself who’s cowering behind cover.

M870

Military M870 – Carbon Skin

Deriving from the Remington Model 870 and its many variants, the M870 boasts very high base damage, second among non-exotics to the double-barrel and only slightly behind the Sweet Dreams.  However, its five-round magazine capacity and a ROF only barely better than the KSG and SPAS-12 mean that the weapon falls on the lower end of sustained and burst damage output.  

The Cuélebre named M870 variant comes with the Perfect Jazz Hands talent, granting a beefy +30% bonus to reload speed.  This is good for a roughly 12.5% increase in sustained DPS, assuming no other reload speed adjustments, bringing the M870 from near the bottom to third-best in its class (which should give you an idea of how close together many of the shotguns are in this regard).  This talent could be useful for the right character, but as a primary weapon it’s probably outclassed by more damage-oriented talents that capitalize on the weapon’s high base damage.

Looking back over the pump-action, tubular-magazine shotguns—the SPAS-12, KSG, and M870—it becomes apparent that these weapons are not very well-suited to sustained damage due to their long reloads, and the fact that this will require frequent repositioning to keep out of harm’s way while managing those reloads.  However, their high base damage can make them effective for intermittent snap-shots and particularly useful for characters who are otherwise not very invested in weapon damage.

Super 90

Marine Super 90 – Base Skin

Inspired by the Benelli Super 90 line of shotguns, and the M4 in particular, the Super 90 is one of two semi-automatic shotguns in The Division 2.  This gives it a relatively high rate of fire of 160 RPM, more than double that of its pump-action competitors.  Of the two semi-automatic shotguns, the Super 90 is also the only one with a tubular magazine, making it something of an intermediate weapon.

The Super 90 enjoys its high ROF at the expense of significantly lower base damage, clocking in at about 57.6% of the double-barrel.  However, it boasts a respectable magazine capacity (eight rounds) and can empty that magazine faster than any other shotgun except the SASG-12 and double-barrel.

Curiously, despite its differences in fire speed and damage, the Super 90’s sustained DPS is almost exactly the same as that of the M870.  However, the Super 90 can empty its magazine a full second faster than the M870 can, making it a very good burst-damage candidate—in fact, it has the second-highest burst DPS in its class, only beaten out by the double-barrel.

The Super 90’s named variant, The Enforcer, is only available for players who preordered the Warlords of New York expansion.  It cannot drop, it cannot be crafted, and you only get the one as a preorder reward.  If you missed out on the Enforcer, though, don’t worry—it has mediocre rolls on its two core attributes, and doesn’t have a secondary attribute at all.  The weapon can be recalibrated, but as with all non-exotics it cannot be rerolled, so you’re stuck with its mediocrity forever.  The Enforcer’s talent, Perfect Pummel, gives a +40% weapon damage bonus after two consecutive kills, but the poor rolls and lack of a secondary attribute make the weapon largely useless at high difficulties compared to other options.

SASG-12

Tactical SASG-12 K – Base Skin

If the SASG-12 looks awfully similar to the AK-M, that’s because they share a common background—the game’s only semi-automatic, box-magazine shotgun is based on the Kalashnikov Saiga 12 and shares the distinctive silhouette of its assault rifle cousins.

Between the two semi-automatic options, the SASG-12 sports a slightly higher rate of fire, but the second-lowest base damage in its class (at roughly 48.5% of the double-barrel’s base damage, and 82% compared to the Super 90).  However, it does have a very significant point in its favor, being one of only two shotguns with detachable, non-tube magazines.  This gives it a relatively fast reload time, but it also means that (just like all box magazine weapons), the reload is all-or-nothing.  The SASG-12 also does not have a magazine mod slot, as this is something unique to the tube-magazine shotguns.

The SASG-12’s base magazine capacity is seven rounds, but like many box-magazine weapons it can load an extra round in the chamber if reloaded before it’s empty.  Regardless of whether it carries seven or eight rounds, the SASG-12 has the third-highest sustained damage output among the shotguns… if you can put every shot on target.  The gun can sometimes have enormous sideways kick between shots, requiring far more aim correction than is typical for shotguns; curiously, the faster you fire the gun, the less barrel drift occurs.

The Tsunami is the named variant of the SASG-12, and shares the Perfect Pummel talent with the Enforcer Super 90 (above).  Unfortunately, the SASG-12’s low base damage makes proccing the talent very challenging on high difficulty levels, and the weapon’s relatively quick reload time devalues the talent’s instant-reload benefit.  If you want a SASG-12 with an on-kill damage bonus talent, you’ll probably be better off with something like Close & Personal or Killer, but the SASG-12 in general is well-suited to talents that aren’t kill-dependent such as Optimist or Sadist.

ACS-12

ACS-12 – Manhunt Skin

Last but not least is the game’s only fully-automatic shotgun and favored firearm of Black Tusk Controllers, inspired by the Auto Assault 12 now produced by Military Police Systems (formerly the Atchisson Assault Shotgun, designed by Maxwell Atchisson).  Appropriately, the ACS-12 has the highest rate of fire (300 RPM) and magazine capacity (20) in its class.  Curiously, it also has the fastest reload time (aside from the two-round double-barrel), faster even than the SASG-12 despite using a bulky 20-round drum magazine.

Not surprisingly, the ACS-12 also has by far the lowest base damage among all shotguns, clocking in at a dismal 27% of the double-barrel’s base, and only 56% of the base damage for the next-lowest gun, the SASG-12.  

Despite the low damage, the ACS-12’s high ROF and large magazine, combined with its quick reloads, give it the highest sustained DPS by a significant margin, and the third-highest burst DPS (behind the SASG-12 and double-barrel).  However, the weapon has poor stability, bouncing around like a slow-firing LMG without the “narrowing” reticle.  Like the SASG-12, the ACS-12 has no weapon mod slot for its magazine.

The Rock n’ Roll named variant (which only drops in the Dark Zone) comes with the Perfectly Extra talent, which increases its magazine size from 20 to 30.  This translates to an effective increase in sustained damage output of about 14%, but only assuming the agent is continuously firing.  It’s certainly not the worst weapon talent you could use (looking at you, Send-Off), but it’s important to consider whether or not you’ll be able to achieve continuous, on-target fire in order to take advantage of the talent.

Conclusion

Shotguns are a diverse bunch, and can cater to a variety of preferred styles.  Players who enjoy volume of fire will likely gravitate towards the ACS-12, or perhaps the SASG-12.  Those who prefer rapid-fire burst damage will likely favor the Super 90.  Those who like to hit as hard as possible with fewer shots might find the pump-action weapons more to their taste.  Aspiring shotgun acolytes are encouraged to try as many of the possibilities as they can get their hands on to see which feel best suited to their particular idiosyncrasies.  

As important as trying the different shotguns is to finding the one that feels right, it is equally important to try out different talents to find the ones that you can extract the most benefit out of. In the next installment of this series on bad decisions, we’ll look at some of the most notable talents available to shotguns, as well as other best practices for players who value style over sanity by undertaking the shotgun journey.

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