Starfield: All Weapon Types and Effects Explained | GAME3A

Starfield: All Weapon Types and Effects Explained

Starfield is Bethesda's first new intellectual property in 25 years. While this game incorporates many familiar elements from previous Bethesda titles...

Levi Winslow Sept 16, 2023
Starfield: All Weapon Types and Effects Explained

Starfield is Bethesda's first new intellectual property in 25 years. While this game incorporates many familiar elements from previous Bethesda titles, Starfield features numerous unique systems that can be somewhat confusing to grasp. One such system is the weapon types.

Weapons in Starfield come in all shapes and sizes, from old-fashioned revolvers to particle cannons. Finding the right weapon for your character can be challenging, especially due to the multitude of unique damage types in the game. However, understanding the categorization of weapons is surprisingly straightforward. This guide provides an overview of all available weapon categories in Starfield and explains the effects of each damage type.

All Weapon Types In Starfield

Starfield All Weapon Types And Effects, Explained

The weapons in Starfield are divided into six categories:

  • Pistols
  • Rifles
  • Shotguns
  • Heavy Weapons
  • Melee
  • Throwables/Explosives

Pistols are one-handed weapons that are considered all-rounders. Starfield offers a wide selection of pistols, including handguns, revolvers, submachine guns, and energy pistols. Most pistols inflict ballistic damage.

Rifles are ambidextrous weapons with a variety of firing modes and archetypes. Assault rifles, sniper rifles, burst-fire weapons, submachine guns, and ambidextrous energy weapons are all considered rifles. If there is a playstyle or type of damage you can think of, there is a rifle for it.

Shotguns are ambidextrous weapons that fire multiple projectiles with each trigger pull, typically ballistic shot pellets. Legendary weapons with the "One-Inch Punch" affix are not considered shotguns.

Heavy weapons consist of mining tools and massive, ambidextrous weapons that slow down the user. Some examples of these are rivet guns, miniguns, grenade launchers, and the cutting laser.

Melee weapons refer to anything used in close combat. Knives, axes, and swords all benefit from melee-related advantages.

Thrown projectiles, sometimes called explosives, consist of grenades and mines that are used by holding down the grenade button. Grenades explode after a short delay and come in many variations, while mines only detonate when an enemy is in close proximity.

How Can I Tell What Weapon Type I'm Using?

Starfield All Weapon Types And Effects,

The information card of a weapon displays all the information about itself, including its archetype. The weapon's archetype is always listed beneath its name. For example, the legendary weapon shown above, "Keelhauler," is listed as a "Pistol" beneath its name, meaning it is influenced by all benefits and item modifiers associated with pistols.

Determining the damage type of a weapon is somewhat complicated. Generally, any weapon that inflicts physical damage is considered a ballistic weapon, while most weapons dealing energy damage are classified as laser weapons. Particle weapons cause both physical and elemental damage, and explosive weapons are typically throwable items or heavy weapons.

Damage Types Explained

Starfield All Weapon Types And

Every weapon in Starfield inflicts at least one type of damage, sometimes even multiple types due to legendary effects or special ammunition types. You can view the damage types of a weapon by inspecting it in your inventory. The base damage indicates what type of damage the weapon inflicts. More exotic damage types such as radiation and tesla are reserved for legendary affixes.

Weapon Damage Types

Starfield All Weapon Types

With the exception of legendary properties, every weapon in Starfield inflicts one of two damage types: physical or energy damage. Physical damage is what most weapons cause, including ballistic weapons, particle weapons, explosive weapons, and melee weapons. Energy damage is found in energy weapons, EM weapons, and particle weapons.

Ballistic Weapons

Exclusively deals physical damage.

Ballistic perks affect their damage.

EM Weapons

Deals energy damage, but it cannot kill organics.

EM and energy perks affect EM damage.

Energy Weapons

Exclusively deals energy damage.

Energy perks affect their damage.

Explosive Weapons

Deals physical damage, energy damage, or both.

Explosive perks affect their damage.

Melee Weapons

Deals physical damage, energy damage, or both.

Melee perks affect their damage.

Particle Weapons

Deals a hybrid of physical and energy damage.

Particle perks affect their damage.

In general, shotguns, heavy weapons, and most particle weapons deal the highest damage in Starfield. All three categories tend to have high base damage, scale well with combat bonuses, and benefit the most from higher-level variants.

Elemental Damage Types


The target suffers continuous physical damage over time.


The target's armor is reduced for 10 seconds.


The weapon deals damage over a small area.


The target suffers continuous energy damage over time.


The target becomes slowed.


The target falls into despair and temporarily flees from the battle.


The weapon emits electricity, damaging and slowing down the targets it hits.

Elemental damage types are reserved for weapons of blue quality or higher. These damage types only appear on item attributes with a random activation chance. Nearly all elemental damage types cause a significant damage explosion when triggered along with their listed debuff effect. A target can be affected by multiple elemental damage types simultaneously.

Spaceship Damage Types

Starfield All Weapon


Fires a massive projectile that inflicts additional armor-piercing damage.

Reloads between every shot.


Fires a massive projectile that inflicts additional shield damage.

Reloads between every shot.


Fires smaller projectiles rapidly, causing additional shield damage.

Recharges shortly after you stop firing.


Fires an explosive projectile that targets designated ships and inflicts additional hull damage.

Reloads shortly after you stop firing.

Spaceships utilize a similar damage system to infantry combat, employing both physical and energy damage for all weapon types. Physical damage is used by ballistic weapons and missiles to increase damage against a ship's hull. Energy damage is employed by EM weapons and energy weapons such as laser cannons, which are ideal for penetrating a ship's shields. EM weapons also have a chance to disrupt a ship's engines when you have the EM weapons system bonus at maximum rank. Since spaceship components do not have legendary variants, there are no elemental damage types in spaceship combat.