Best Modern Warfare guns: The weapons that can help you get fast kills

Thanks to the gunsmith system, almost any weapon can be considered one of the best Modern Warfare guns if you set it up right. With that said, some of the guns in Call of Duty Modern Warfare are simply more powerful than others in the same category, whether you want an assault rifle that packs a punch without modifications or a guaranteed one-hit-kill sniper rifle. 

So you might have favourite main, but situations or modes will change the demands and you might find you need a few reserve options to fall back on. Below you'll find each class of weapons ranked from worst to best, along with a little detail on why we think the top ranking weapon is the best Modern Warfare gun in the game so far. Nerfs and patch updates aside, this should help you settle on a few choices to cycle between as you play. 

Modern Warfare best M4A1 builds | Modern Warfare MP5 builds | Modern Warfare best AUG setup | Modern Warfare 725 builds

Best Modern Warfare assault rifle: M4A1

(Image credit: Activision)

You won't get far in Modern Warfare without the ability to wield an assault rifle. While game modes like Ground War and rounds with Realism rules in play can often require a speciality in other weapon types, you'll need to get comfortable with assault rifles to deal with Modern Warfare maps propensity towards short-to-mid range engagements. 

There are eight assault rifles available in Modern Warfare as of writing. While each of them is pretty balanced to help you out in a variety of pinches, you'll find that a few are more versatile than others. You should look for one that has a solid balance between recoil, firing rate, and mobility – and there's a clear winner in our eyes. 

The M4A1 is undoubtedly the best Modern Warfare assault rifle in the early game. It's a reliable and well-balanced rifle, helping you out of a variety of situations that you may sprint into. The basic variety of the M4A1 effectively covers all of the bases, working well in short-to-mid range engagements without sacrificing the capacity to pick enemies off at longer-range should you be able to mitigate the weapon swing and recoil. The M4A1 can be customised to better suit any particular map or mode once you start levelling it up, unlocking attachments, and altering it in Gunsmith, and we've got more details available about the Modern Warfare best M4A1 builds. If you're looking to get an early lead in Modern Warfare, you'll want the M4A1 to have a prominent position in your loadout. 

Best Modern Warfare SMG: MP5

(Image credit: Activision)

Modern Warfare features a variety of small maps, which work to quickly push you into engagements. That, combined with the reduced time-to-kill, means you might want to consider taking an SMG out with you as a primary weapon. In Modern Warfare, the SMGs are best used when playing with a squad that can provide covering fire or overwatch to help mitigate the lack of a mini-map. What the game lacks in immediate stopping power it makes up for with huge versatility. Consider bringing one of these with you when you think enemies will be moving speedily on smaller maps; if you shoot (and hit) first with an SMG you should come out on top. 

While the MP5 lacks the firing rate speeds of many of its SMG brethren, its improved stopping power and manageable recoil make this one an absolute must. You'll want the MP5 with you if you're playing an aggressive build – perfect for objective-based rounds – although it'll struggle to be effective beyond a short-to-mid range of fire. If you're wanting something a little faster but no less effective, you could always pivot to the P90 – it's a powerful weapon if you can hang just outside of melee distance from an enemy. One thing to be wary of with the SMGs, messing around with them too much in Gunsmith can have a big impact on performance, so add attachments responsibly. 

Best Modern Warfare Sniper Rifle: AX-50

Modern Warfare guns

(Image credit: Activision)

While Modern Warfare has camping build into its very being – with players now able to take advantage of the ability to "mount" their weapon onto pieces of cover in the environment, locking you in place in exchange for improved weapon stability, recoil, and the ability to pivot on a tight axis, this is largely designed for assault play. Sniping – succeeding in long-range engagements, generally – is tough in Modern Warfare thanks to the smaller maps and larger reliance on interior combat. Still, sniper rifles are a must when it comes to Ground War so they are always worth having in your arsenal for that specific game type, new to Modern Warfare. 

The AX-50 is a bolt action sniper rifle that is absolutely destructive upon impact. Of course, landing that shot is easier said than done. Given its heft, it's actually surprisingly mobile – perfect for those that fancy themselves a bit of a quickscoper. Still, you'll want to consider ducking into Spec Ops to grind out some easy levels for the AX-50 in an effort to quickly unlock some absolutely must-have attachments to help improve its utility and use-ability. You'll want to put a focus on attachments that decreases the time it takes to aim down sights, and consider a Muzzle Break to better manage its monstrous recoil; avoid heavy stocks and keep an eye out for scopes that may work across smaller engagement distances but help increase stability and ADS speed. 

Best Modern Warfare Marksman Rifle: MK2 Carbine

(Image credit: Activision)

While Sniper Rifles have a little less utility in Modern Warfare thanks to the reduced engagement ranges across the majority of the maps, it means that marksman rifles have come back in a big way. Marksman rifles are typically single-shot rifles that offer a mobile alternative to the sniper rifle. While they aren't offering the versatility of the assault rifle or the raw damage of a shotgun, the marksman rifles will dominate at mid-range engagements, especially if you find yourself responsible for holding down corners for your squad or providing auxiliary cover in lieu of a sniper. 

The MK2 Carbine is the best marksman rifle in Modern Warfare right now. While there's a good chance that Infinity Ward will take another look at weapon balance in the weeks to come, as it stands, it will help those of you with the right loadout and reactions to absolutely dominate. The MK2 Carbine is a high-accuracy, high-stability rifle that will comfortably take down an enemy with two shots to the chest; if you fancy your chances in TDM, objective-mode variants on the midsize maps, or in the Realism ruleset playlists, you'll find that the MK2 is a versatile rifle that's perfect for point defence. It'll take some skill to wield effectively, but if you put the time in you'll find that this is one marksman rifle that won't let you down when it counts. 

Best Modern Warfare Launcher: STRELA-P

(Image credit: Activision)

With killstreaks back in the mix, launchers are more important than ever. As you can switch up your loadout on the fly in Modern Warfare, launchers don't need to be an ever-present part of your equipment but you should be prepared to switch them in at a moment's notice. Ground War and objective-focused game modes are a bit of a nightmare for killstreak spamming, so you'll want to work out which of the launchers you feel most comfortable with quickly. 

When it comes to working out what the best Modern Warfare launcher is, it really does depend on what the situation at hand calls for. The STRELA-P can lock onto vehicles, so it's great for knocking aerial kill streaks out of the sky and, thanks to the fact that you can fire this without needing to wait for a lock-on, which means it has a little more utility than the PILA. If you're playing an objective-based game mode and need to work in a little bit of area-denial around a point while you wait for your team to regroup, then the JOKR can be pretty useful. 

Best Modern Warfare Shotgun: ORIGIN 12 SHOTGUN

(Image credit: Activision)

Shotguns get a bit of a rough ride in Call of Duty games, but if you're able to wield them with any skill and precision you should find yourself cleaning up kill with ease – particularly in some of the smaller maps. Slow firing rate and stability is mitigated by high mobility and damage output, an intoxicating mixture in a Call of Duty with such a quick time-to-kill. 

Easy to wield, this semi-automatic shotgun is basically crying out for an Infinity Ward nerf. The firing rate is pretty solid, taking enemies down in two or three shots without fail. While it has terrible range, this shotgun can dominate on smaller maps, particularly those that feature a lot of interior combat zones. If you're looking for something with slightly longer range – but less chance for mistakes and misfires – the 725 is a breakneck shotgun that works as a solid alternative. 

Best Modern Warfare LMG: PKM

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare

(Image credit: Activision)

Outside of the chaos of Ground War, the LMG isn't the most useful of weapons in Modern Warfare. Thanks to the low mobility, huge recoil, and low use-ability at a range of engagement distances, the LMG really does struggle in the chaos. That said, if you can get your head around the best opportunity to bring an LMG into play you may just find it to be a reliable support weapon that can effectively suppress enemies and create momentary area-denial. 

Of all of the LMGs in Modern Warfare, the PKM impressed me the most with the time that I've spent with it thus far. If the conditions are right, it offers a surprisingly fast time-to-kill, the recoil is manageable, and its sprint-out and ADS-time isn't horrendous. That said, its reload speed is pretty horrendous; given how quickly spawn points rotate on this map, it's really easy to be caught short with the LMG. If you're dead set on taking one out with you then the PKM is likely to be your best bet. 

Best Modern Warfare pistol: .357 magnum

(Image credit: Activision)

There isn't much to say about the pistols; effective sidearms if you can remember to pull it from your hip rather than waiting for a reload in a tough spot – remember, it's always faster to equip your pistol than it is to reload your primary. Here's what we've made of the Modern Warfare pistols so far. 

It's as slow and as difficult to wield than the .50GS Desert Eagle, but the .357 magnum is a real delight to use in a pinch. Two to the chest, one to the head; if you can work this into your play instinctively, you'll find that this sidearm will improve your survivability. It'll take some time to get comfortable with the recoil and stability of the .357 magnum, but it's such a solid hitter that it'll be worth your investment of time.  

Call of Duty Modern Warfare review | Modern Warfare tips | Modern Warfare operators | Modern Warfare maps | Modern Warfare watches | Best Modern Warfare guns | Modern Warfare best pistol | Modern Warfare best SMGs | Modern Warfare best shotgun | Modern Warfare perks | Modern Warfare killstreaks | Modern Warfare trials  | Modern Warfare patch notes

Josh West
UK Managing Editor, GamesRadar+

Josh West is the UK Managing Editor of GamesRadar+. He has over 10 years experience in online and print journalism, and holds a BA (Hons) in Journalism and Feature Writing. Prior to starting his current position, Josh has served as GR+'s Features Editor and Deputy Editor of games™ magazine, and has freelanced for numerous publications including 3D Artist, Edge magazine, iCreate, Metal Hammer, Play, Retro Gamer, and SFX. Additionally, he has appeared on the BBC and ITV to provide expert comment, written for Scholastic books, edited a book for Hachette, and worked as the Assistant Producer of the Future Games Show. In his spare time, Josh likes to play bass guitar and video games. Years ago, he was in a few movies and TV shows that you've definitely seen but will never be able to spot him in.