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Over the last few weeks I’ve been playing a lot of Fallout 4. Like, a lot. An unhealthy amount, even. Despite the random crashes and glitches (seriously, how do you get the mayor’s elevator back down?) it’s still a fantastic game. One of the really cool features is the ability to customize your weapons, and for those wandering in the Commonwealth as well, I want to give you one word of advice about that: don’t bite off more scope than you can chew . . .

Just about every gun in this game can be scoped, from a 44 magnum handgun to a proper sniper rifle. For some guns it makes sense to have a bit more magnification, but wanderers should be wary of throwing scopes on everything.


There are moments were a scoped weapon makes sense. When assaulting the Saugus Ironworks, I was able to whip out my suppressed .50 cal hunting rifle and pick off the Forged on the roof with ease. That’s a good use of the tech, but it can also be a bit dangerous. For example, my focus on clearing the rooftop with my scoped rifle meant that I was completely oblivious to the three Forged coming at me with flamers on the ground. Needless to say things did not end well.


Fallout 4’s generous draw distance (on my nice gaming PC, at least) means that the scoped weapons are indeed useful, but that doesn’t mean that I whip them out at every opportunity. My go-to guns are a combat rifle and combat shotgun, both fitted with simple red dot sights. For most combat in the Commonwealth I’ve found that this is more than enough even for longer distance engagements, and the lack of magnification means that I can keep an eye on what’s going on around me while trying to take down that pesky Super Mutant.

I think you can see where I’m going with this, and why this is on a gun blog and not a gaming blog.


The same concept applies to firearms in the real world. For most engagements you’ll ever possibly find yourself, a red dot is sufficient. It will allow you to get rounds on target quickly and accurately, but most important it will allow you to keep your situational awareness. It doesn’t matter if you can hit the guy shooting at you from 500 yards away if it means you lose track of the guy trying to stab you from five feet. There’s a balance to everything, and red dots do a great job of maintaining that balance.

Then again, there are going to be times where magnification helps. Like I said — balance.

In short, don’t go crazy when it comes to scopes either in real life or Fallout 4. There’s definitely a time and a place for some extra magnification, but when you’re roaming around with a .38 caliber pipe pistol and a scope that makes you think “I CAN SEE GOD FROM HERE” you might be doing something wrong. With the way the maps are constructed in Fallout 4 (and life in general) you’ll probably be best served by a red dot or a holo sight on 90% of your guns.

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  1. Here here! Fallout 4 is a useful tool to demonstrate real world firearm concepts! But I have a melee character that can one shot nearly anything and can happily take super mutant suiciders to the face… while carrying hundreds of pounds of ammunition. Perhaps it’s of limited didactic value. It has also taught me that the most valuable firearm tool is VATS…

  2. Glad to see this here! I’ve been thinking the same thing, Fallout really does the weapon customization right and really shows that the right set up on a gun can make all the difference. Its really interesting the difference in effectiveness can be between a gun with iron sights and one with a red dot even if its otherwise the same gun, or like you say, if you stick too much scope on a gun not suited for it.

  3. One of my favorite things about FO3 was the Modern Weapons Mod. It replaced all of the original guns with (over 300 IIRC) Mauser 98ks, M1 Garands, Mosin Nagants, 1911s, Webleys, Steyr AUGs, Stens, HK MP7s, Mossberg 500s, Barrett M82s, etc. In FO Mod Manager, they can be edited to change rate of fire, reload rate, damage per round, even the sound files used for firing/reloading.
    By the time I was done modding, it was like a different game. Now if only it hadn’t burnt up my video card from playing nonstop. ;/

    • That’s pretty awesome! I’m an audio/video guy and I used to tinker a bit too. I think if I went that far I would be at the range with my audio recording equipment trying to capture actual gun shots! In one game I replaced the reloading noises with real reloading noises I captured with audio equipment and a handful of real firearms but I never got a chance to capture actual shots (nor did I really want to, easy way to blow out a good mic if you arent careful).

    • Video games are a little different. Most guns aren’t good out past 200 yards.

      Pretty much take whatever the real distance is, and divide that by four. FO4 has short, medium, and long scopes. Short scopes start coming in handy around 50 yards; but your enemies can close that distance very quickly, so best to stick with red dots. Beyond 100 yards, medium scopes are good. Past 150, you need a long scope.

  4. The ATF should use the Fallout 4 weapons mod function to try out possible future tax stamps. 😀

    I just like that Fallout 4 allows the user to live in a world without the NFA. No worries about sbr’s, cans, or even full auto. Its like a dream come true.

    For example creating a silenced sbr bolt action 308 with a pistol grip seems all sorts of weird. Or a full machine pistol with a can and explosive ammo.

    A man can dream! 😀

    Fallout 4 is the ultimate NFA simulation. We just need to add AR’s to the game. Think of the possibilities.

    • Pleases don’t even joke about that. They will start thinking the spray n’ pray is a real weapon. On the other hand that could get Thompson’s classified as an AOW, which could be a good thing. but then Feinstein Would see and would be oMG bullets are explosive, for the children, etc etc. if it saves just one deathclaw it’s worth it

  5. I’m mildly shortsighted, so I’ll generally take a 2x or 4x scope for anything over thirty yards, but then again, I’m not shooting anything that moves… or shoots back.

  6. Or, if you hit the lottery, there’s the best of both worlds – the Elcan Specter.

    Although we used the simple 3.4x one in the Canadian Army, and it worked well for most things – the very wide FoV helped.

    • I have a current gen SpecterDR. I didn’t hit the lottery other than finding a dealer who wanted to get rid of his only (still new in the box unit) for a little more than it would have cost for me to get an ACOG.

      It’s a great scope but still for 1X it is only about 70% as good as a real holographic or red-dot sight since you can definitely get scope eye with it and it has a very specific amount of eye-relief that works best.

  7. Nice to see Fallout 4 supports that level of weapon customization.

    Gaming got me into shooting, and I’ve been pleasantly surprised that much of what works will in gaming carries over to real-world shooting as well. I’ve amassed a pretty decent collection of optics based, in part at least, on what has served me well with a controller in my hand. One of my altogether favorite setups is an Aimpoint Comp M4 with twist-on magnifier atop an Arsenal SAM7-SF. Both the rifle and optics are flexible, durable, rugged and reliable.

    • “Gaming got me into shooting, and I’ve been pleasantly surprised that much of what works will in gaming carries over to real-world shooting as well.”

      Another example of my hypothesis that gamers are a key to the future of the 2A in America.

      And an honorable mention to shoot-em-up Hollywood action movies as well…

      Thank you, ‘Youth of today’…

  8. heh in fallout 3 and New Vegas you had the choice of zooming in or using the crosshair. It was no big deal to scope everything and then simply use the optic when needed. Can’t you do this in FO4? I won’t have the game for a few more weeks

    • The on screen cross hair represents hip fire. Depending on SPECIAL/Gun/Mod/Perk is nowhere near as precise. It’s good enough for blasting away at a ghoul trying to eat your face, not so hot when you are trying to hit the right arm of a Super Mutant Suicider trying to take you to the aloha snackbar.

  9. I just picked up Fallout 4. My first time with Fallout. I’ll start it once I am able to tear myself from Metal Gear Solid 5 The Phantom Pain.

  10. I am curious – what about the usefulness of magnifying/telescopic combat sights like the Trilux S.U.I.T., S.U.S.A.T., and A.C.O.G.? Or would they fall into the same category, more or less, as a regular “sniper” scope?

  11. I use a Recon Scope on a Suppressed 50 cal, otherwise it is all reflex scopes or just irons. I don’t like the night scopes because they are impossible to use in any kind of fog or haze. Recon Scopes are nice because they will actually show you where the target is from good distances.

    Combat Rifles+ Scopes=Cancer

  12. After a week without, I am going to finally be able to fire up Fallout 4 after work tonight.

    There are a dizzying array of possible permutations, some of which I’d love to see in real life.

    Medium scopes have served me well to this point, so I will stick with them until I get some more
    points in weaponry.

  13. Gaming article, hell to the yeah. Been enjoying Fallout 4 even thought Im only level 12, not too crazy about the new perk system. I dont generally scope many weapons in the game, Im pretty satisfied with the performance of the irons and the red dot mod.
    Guess who got the “Gun Nut” perk 🙂

    • You really need the Science! perk as well, maxed out, to get the recon scopes and other Science!-ey goodies. The recon scopes are nice since they allow you to identify enemies well beyond their perception range so you can decide to give them a headshot or simply bypass them for whatever reason (they’re significantly higher level, too many, you’re low on ammo/chems, armor is trashed from the last fight, etc).

      Me, I’m collecting power armors. Do remember to pop the Fusion Core and take it with you when you park it, otherwise settlers or enemies will hijack it during a fight. Gunner mofo jacked my Atom Cats T-60 when they attacked the Atom Cats garage, as I neglected to take the Fusion Core out.

  14. My biggest conundrum is that I love the night vision scope crosshairs best but I don’t love how it’s nearly useless during the daytime. In NV the night vision scope meant night vision only at night. And I only really use the medium scopes. If it’s too close to be killed with a scoped weapon, I’m using a pistol

  15. My build is the exact opposite. Mine is a sneak sniper build, so I spend most of my time behind a sniper scope.

    About the only time I switch to other weapons is in closer quarters. Then I have a red dotted laser rifle, and a red dotted shotgun. And even then I typically start the engagement with the sniper rifle, hiding hoping that they don’t find me after the shot.

  16. 2 complaints about FO4

    1.) suppressors don’t make .308s and .50s THAT quiet.

    2.) it is clear that there are “civi” guns, home made from pipes and nails, and a seperate “military” grade that apparently was only issued to soldiers. You’d think that in this ultra jingo world there would be a stronger 2a, and that citizens would have had the good stuff. How else would you deal with those “commie meemees?”

    Other than that, my advice is to switch to 3rd person mode and just use the itty-bitty dot; with a decent acc rating you will hit spot on every time out to 300 yds. I haven’t even used VATS at all yet, and I hit level 42 yesterday.

    • I have a theory on your number 2:

      We only see the “good stuff” in military areas, or in the hands of military/merc groups, because most of the stuff in civilian hands was looted long ago, probably faster than military compounds were looted, and was used and abused into nothing in the subsequent 200 years. There are still plenty of areas protected by pre-war security systems (or other hazards) that could only be breached by more organized, better equipped groups. That’s probably why we only see energy weapons in large-scale use by groups like the Brotherhood and the Gunners.

      In short, any decent weaponry in civilian hands was lost or destroyed within the past 200 years.

      The pipe firearms and similar weapons were for sure made post-war, to make up for the dwindling supply of firearms. Why every other safe I open has a pipe pistol in it, I’m going to chalk up as an oversight on Bethesda’s part.

    • Remember, the Commenwealth is Massachusetts… No guns for civies… It’s the best commentary on why the 2cd Amendment is about Individual Rights.

      • The other thing to remember is that Fallout universe is alt-history that diverges from ours since 1950s. Among other things, by the time the nuclear war hits, the USA has been reorganized into 13 commonwealths, each combining several states, and with a lot of formerly state powers brought up to commonwealth or federal level (which is why the US flag that you see in the protagonist’s house at the very beginning of the game has 13 stars in a circle). And overall, the backstory describes a government that is both more aggressive externally (invading Mexico and Canada), and less democratic and republican internally. So what degree of civilian gun ownership there was in that universe at the time of the war is unclear, but almost certainly lower than what we had to day.

  17. I admit it… I’m a HUGE Fallout Fanatic. Sadly thought I don’t have steady access to a computer that will play it! Fate is a cruel mistress that way.

    Anyway… yeah. You know I’ve been thinking you’d could could strait up build some of these firearms in this new games. Some of these game models are so intricate you could just about build real guns off of the 3D models. It’d be an INSANE undertaking, but I could see it happening.

  18. The in-game ballistics of the .45 ACP may be slightly exaggerated. The .45 ACP “Combat Rifle” makes for a fantastic marksman weapon with a long recon or NV scope on it.

    The visual design of the “Assault Rifle” drives me bonkers though.

  19. MGS5 did a better job in terms of weapon customization and especially optics. I’m really surprised FO4 didn’t have any flip to the side magnifiers. Those fix everything. The 4x magnifier in MGS5 turned a single rifle into all I needed.

    But the real beauty of FO4 is creating 8- story buildings out of wood and sheet metal in which no story of the building actually touches any other story, besides the wooden ladder.

  20. Personally, I have been leaning on using General Cho’s Revenge (it’s a sword) because the strength increase from power armor makes melee on par with any gun. But when I need to roll heavy the Minigun fits the bill.

    War, war never changes….


    Sorry, couldn’t help it. But Fallout is good stuff.

    A lot of good games out this fall / winter… something to do until the weather gets warmer and it’s time to go shooting again outside!

  22. Silenced .50 Reba II with a long scope, silenced 10mm auto tricked out for the close stuff, spray ‘n pray for when things get hairy, and a quad barreled missile launcher for the OMGWTFBBQ DEATHCLAW BEHEMOTH I’M GONNA DIE moments.

  23. I’m not sure which I love more, the fact that the weapon customization is so elaborate, or the fact that you can re-name them so that you can build task-dedicated weapons and label them so that you don’t mix them up when you’re sorting out your inventory. I was even able to build a to-spec Gunsite Scout rifle that even meets Cooper’s weight requirements. (Use a Hunting Rifle with a short scope, light frame reciever, short light barrel, full stock, standard magazine, and no muzzle).

  24. I have an AR-10 that had an ACOG sight on it. I bought a Milspec “sniper” scope. Great scope and I like it but I still put the ACOG back on the rifle. I like both eyes open shooting, I have shot it(ACOG) out to 417 yards, hitting a 10 inch gong with ease. The scope now sits on a hunting rifle.

    • And freewheels the cylinder…

      I’m still undecided about the game over all, I really like New Vegas, but I’m only about 25 hours into F4.

      IMO, crafting and settlements are ok, could be a little bit better. The menus suck, it doesn’t tell you nearly as much as it used to about an item by just looking at it, and you can’t equip or compare from all crafting menus but you can from the power armor one for some reason. The power armor hud is cool and a nice touch though. VATS is useless. The pip boy menus are obnoxious, if I hit M for the map then I should be able to hit M to close it like every other game.

      But the things I like about it are the gun crafting and the perk system. I too experienced exactly what you did Nick, too much focus on guys on a roof while I’m get my legs chopped off by attack dogs.

      What I really like though is that even with really good equipment compared to everyone else, you still can get rekt just like in the old games. It didn’t matter if you had power armor, that laser minigun was gonna mess you up anyways.

  25. Sorry guys – not a gammer so I cannot relate to all this. One thing I do know though; I’d much rather be shooting my guns realtime than playing on a game consul.

  26. i think you would find that long scopes are intended to be used long distance, no shit.

    this actually meant that VATS are not even kicking in yet and when you are crouched down and the enemy’s head is as small as the center dot. which also meant that you never get a ‘caution’ prompt or a ‘caution’ going to a ‘danger’ prompt. Ever.

    a silenced long recon scoped 10mm works well to drive enemies crazy in the dark from a really far distance. you still hit but they have no idea what hit them.

    in real life, you don’t need red dots even at close distance, if you are familiar with your weapon, you literally can shoot from the hip. scopes just makes things easier, doesn’t mean you HAVE to use them.

    just saying.

  27. More pragmatically, from in-game numbers- a reflex scope for a hunting rifle gives you 1.5x zoom, -15% to sight spread (compared to shooting with iron sights), -15% to VATS cost, and -10% sight time (the time it takes to get your eye down the scope. A small increase in zoom, better accuracy, can fire more times in VATS, and quick to see.

    With a short scope, though, things are worse- you get 4x zoom and your sight spread is -20%, which is nice, but you also get +20% sight sway (which you can only prevent by holding your breath and wasting Action Points), it takes 10% more time to get the scope up (which might not seem like much, but when you need to be quick to find your target it won’t help you, either), and a 30% increase in VATS cost. And that’s just for the short scope- you get a 40% and 50% increase in VATS cost for the medium and long scopes, respectively. It’s not worth that kind of cost just for a 5% decrease in sight spread and the ability to see far.

  28. I must be the only guy in the country with no desire to play video games. Watched my kids play Call of Duty and it looked cool and all, but those controllers just don’t match up with the muscle memory of the real thing. I’d real survival is the goal, seems to me we’d be better off spending that time running drills on steel with live .556 or at least a rimmfire AR.


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