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Warzone best guns to use in Season 1 meta

The best weapons to use in Warzone and Modern Warfare 3 Season 1.

With the launch of Season 1 in Modern Warfare 3 and Warzone a slew of new weapons and balance changes have been implemented, it's led to the biggest shakeup in the meta since launch.

Figuring out the best of the bunch and the dominating meta is something many players will be doing in Modern Warfare 3 and Warzone, and whilst you can stick to your personal favourites, sometimes the meta is the only way.

In this guide, we’ll be going over how weapons are unlocked, as well as the current meta and what's new in Season One, and the overall best guns in Warzone and Modern Warfare 3.

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What is the current meta and what's new in MW3 and Warzone Season 1

Whilst Season 1 of Warzone and Modern Warfare 3 has only just launched, thanks to the new weapons and balance changes to all existing guns, the meta has been slowly evolving across a wide variety of weapons.

Whether it’s with the likes of the MCW assault rifle or the Striker SMG - notably popular weapons since launch - on top of all the new and returning weapons available, many have already gravitated towards favourites whilst trying out what else is on offer.

For example, many other wepapons like the Holger 556 (G36C) assault rifle and the KATT-AMR sniper rifle have also become popular picks, and slowly outclassing what else is on offer.

two soldiers in a rundown corridor by a small set of steps, holding guns, and a dead body on the floor behind them
Image credit: Activision

Along with a slew of buffs and nerfs to various existing weapons across the existing MW2 and MW3 offerings, Season 1 brings with it three new weapons and several new Aftermarket Parts via weekly challenge and Battle Pass unlocks.

On the firearms side, there's the RAM-7 assault rifle, XRK Stalker sniper rifle, and Stormender launcher, whilst there are several new Aftermarket Parts for weapons, including the underbarrel JAK Purifier flamethrower, as well as other conversion kits that change how a gun functions like the Rival 9's JAK Headhunter, and more. Many of these attachments will roll out week-over-week and are awarded via weekly challenges, whilst the JAK Purifier and all the aforementioned weapons are unlocked via levelling up the Battle Pass and claiming tiers throughout the various map sectors.

How the meta shakes up over time is difficult to say right now with so many new and re-balanced weapons and attachments, but there are still plenty of great picks which we can easily recommend for use in Season 1 as outlined below.

Best Assault Rifle in Warzone recommendation

Best weapon recommendation: MCW, DG-58

How to unlock: Reach player level 44 (MCW) | Armory unlock, Requires Lvl 25 (DG-58)

After some time through MW3's launch weeks, Assault Rifles have largely dominatd the meta and it seems that'll continue into Season 1.

The MCW largely took the lead as the most popular assault rifle in MW3 since launch and it seems that'll continue for Warzone and Season 1. Reminiscent of the classic ACR from the original Modern Warfare 3, it's a solid all-round rifle unlocked in the upper end of the initial level 1-55 climb. Whilst it did see a slight nerf to its minimum damage, it also received an increased bullet velocity buff in a pre-season balance pass.

Paired with a few attachments such as the 16.5" MCW Cyclone Long Barrel we recommend in our MCW loadout guide, you’ll be able to further increase bullet velocity and range, along with a couple of extra buffs too to make the weapon even stronger.

Whilst all of the ARs have been getting a good amount of usage, there's been a couple others that also have stood out.

The MCW (ACR) Assault Rifle in Warzone/Modern Warfare 3.

First is the SVA 545 which is essentially MW3's AN-94, and not only is it a strong rifle in itself, it's also unlocked as soon as you get access to custom loadouts. On top of that, owners of the MW3 Vault Edition get access to an entire set of bespoke attachments this gun has access to, more or less setting it up for success.

The SVA 545 Assault Rifle in Warzone/Modern Warfare 3.

As more playtime is put into the game however, othr ARs have stood out, whether it's the three-round-burst DG-58, or the Holger 556, the Assault Rifle space is seeming rather busy right now. How this will shake up over time is anyone's guess, but considering the consistency of nearly every assault rifle showing up, you can't really go wrong whatever you pick.

The busy AR space has only become even more hectic with Season 1 thanks to the addition of a new fighter - the RAM-7 is a new, fully-automatic bullpup rifle many may liken to the MTAR, a popular assault rifle first introduced in 2012's Black Ops 2. Its got a fire rate that exceeds that of most other MW3 rifles and so may be best suited to more close-quarter, run-and-gun playstyles.

Beyond that, the M4 - a MW2 weapon available thanks to Carry Forward - received a 25-per-cent maximum damage buff this season, making me wonder if we'll see that slowly moving back to the top after a lengthy dominance throughout effectively the entire run of MW3's predecessor. I'd seen it here and there already in MW3, so is this its chance to reclaim the crown? Only time will tell!

As we move further away from Season 1's launch, it's possible one AR may reign dominant over them all, but if it continues to play out like it did at launch, there'll be plenty of assault rifles in play. Be sure to keep checking back across our best Assault Rifle pages and here if you're looking to see what's sticking out most going forward.

Best Battle Rifle in Warzone recommendation

Best weapon recommendation: BAS-B

How to unlock BAS-B: Reach player level 17

Whilst it wasn’t one that I used much right away at launch, the BAS-B was one I saw popping up pretty consistently, and so I decided to take it for a spin over and after using it enough to earn its Gold camo, it's safe to say it's become a strong a favourite of mine in the overall meta.

The BAS-B Battle Rifle in Warzone/Modern Warfare 3.

From a high-level view, it’s not too difficult to see why the gun is popular - its stats are the best of any Warzone and MW3 Battle Rifle, and actually outclasses nearly every MW2 option in all their stats too. Not only that, but it’s also heavily reminiscent of the Honey Badger - particularly with its iron sights - a standout and iconic weapon when it first appeared in Call of Duty: Ghosts ten years ago.

Using it in Multiplayer matches, it's even easier to see why many have gravitated towards it - it's great at lasering enemies down thanks to its great range and fast Time-to-Kill, and pairing it with a red dot and suppressor makes you feel like you're in the good old days due to its Honey Badger likeness. Except now it's a Battle Rifle and outputting high damage, resulting in what I'd say is one of the best weapons right now.

As a small bonus, in the Season 1 update, its had its damage multipliers increased whilst in semi-auto firing mode - whilst I stuck to using it in full-auto, that's a nice bonus to keep in mind should you prefer to play with more manual and accurate control in your gunfights.

With all this in mind, combining its popularity with its likeness and heritage, it's essentially the perfect package, very much like the MCW mentioned before, and the same goes for that of the Striker SMG. Speaking of...

Best Submachine Gun in Warzone recommendation

Best weapon recommendation: Striker

How to unlock Striker: Reach player level 4

The theme of nostalgia only continues with the Striker Submachine Gun, not only a brilliant pick right from the outset, but also quite literally an almost direct copy of the iconic UMP 45 from the original Modern Warfare games.

Embodying that original in a few ways, it’s very similarly quite the powerhouse, continuing to be a standout gun many are gravitating towards as we enter Season 1. As recommended in our Striker loadout guide, it’s a great gun to pair with a suppressor and red dot to make it a stealthy and accurate option for close-quarters engagements.

In the Season 1 update, its even had its sprint-to-fire and aim-down-sights speed buffed by 9 and 7 per cent respectively, making it feel a little bit snappier too.

The Striker (UMP 45) Submachine Gun in Warzone/Modern Warfare 3.

Statistically, there’s less of a clear difference between the Striker and other SMGs compared to certain other best-in-class guns like the BAS-B Battle Rifle though.

However, there’s a wide net cast with Submachine Guns since they can run the gamut of both range and rate of fire, and the Striker lands pretty firmly in the middle as an effective weapon that still holds up at near-medium range encounters. In doing so, it’s a solid pick to use whilst the dust begins to settle and the full spectrum of subs rolls out into player’s hands.

Whilst the Striker is a decently-balanced weapon stat-wise, a couple of other SMGs have risen in popularity, namely the AMR9 and Rival-9, both of which we've seen popping up across Multiplayer a fair amount.

Left: The AMR9 Submachine Gun in Warzone/Modern Warfare 3. | Right: The Rival-9 Submachine Gun in Warzone/Modern Warfare 3.

Me personally, I got quite attached to the WSP Swarm thanks to a preset loadout I was trying out before I hit level 4. It does have a bit of a steep learning curve admittedly, primarily due to its very high rate of fire, and so it felt a bit like I was constantly needing to reload - one to practice with for sure, but one that felt pretty effective when hitting shots consistently, even if it meant a bit of a battle with the recoil. That particular build of it included in the preset loadout, there's something about it that just screamed Call of Duty Multiplayer to me, especially with its fan-favourite red-dot-and-suppressor combo.

In fact, much like the Striker, it too received buffs to increase its snappiness with a reduced ADS time and increased sprint-to-fire speed, nice adjustments considering its high recoil and limited range. For more on the WSP Swarm, check out one of the WSP Swarm loadouts we put together for it.

Best Shotgun in Warzone recommendation

Best weapon recommendation: Lockwood 680

How to unlock Lockwood 680: Reach player level 4

For me, this is one I discovered way back in MW3's beta, having it equipped as a secondary thanks to benefits provided by the Gunner Vest. Swapping to the Lockwood 680 for close encounter battles as a backup to my primary MCW, it was an incredibly effective option, and one that’s right at home in some of the very small and compact environments you'll find throughout many of MW3’s maps, and Warzone's Urzikstan.

For MW3 specifically, the new Vest system - and Gunner Vest in particular for this gun - can really be a game-changer here though granting a multitude of benefits alongside having access to a second primary.

The Lockwood 680 Shotgun in Warzone/Modern Warfare 3.

Throwing on the Gunner Vest and chucking on the Lockwood as a second primary, and you’ve got a great backup shotty that’ll be a great close quarters option for any medium-range-focused build.

Not only that, but the range isn’t too shabby either, with the second-to-highest range of any shotgun across MW2 and MW3’s complete arsenal. While it may not be the king of range, it’s on the upper echelon of shotties when it comes to raw damage.

The Riveter shotgun in Warzone/Modern Warfare 3.

It’ll be interesting to see how this shakes up over time against MW2’s Expedite 12, as well as MW3’s new full-auto Riveter that’ll no doubt be compared to the classic AA-12 from the original MW2 - featuring a higher fire rate and the best range of all shotguns, it’s possible the Lockwood might have some close competition that’ll continue to play out as it already has done since the game launched. We'll see how this shakes up and see what might take the best shotgun crown for Season 1.

Best Light Machine Gun in Warzone recommendation

Best weapon recommendation: Holger 26 or Pulemyot 762

How to unlock: Armoury Unlock, Requires Lvl 25 (Holger 26) | Reach player level 4, Custom Loadout unlock (Pulemyot 762)

Lightmachine guns are always an interesting beast to dissect and study because they’re a rather niche option that generally doesn’t get too much love. From my personal experience, with a seemingly longer TTK in Modern Warfare 3, LMGs didn’t feel all that good initially, and for fast-paced matches, having a long reload time and slowed movement speed doesn’t always feel the best.

However, as the dust has settled, there are a couple of decent options worth checking out, the first of which fits in a nice middle ground between Assault Rifles and LMGs.

The Holger 26 Light Machine Gun in Warzone/Modern Warfare 3.

Back in the beta, the Holger 26 was the primary LMG I noticed popping up consistently, at least comparatively to the Pulemyot 762 at the time. With the full game, there’s only one other gun to consider from the LMG category, that being the OG-58 LSW which actually is very much in-like with the Holger 26 statistically, with slightly higher accuracy, but lower recoil control and mobility. That's not gained too much traction thus far and the Holger 26 is still the one that stands out from the two.

Contrasting the beta experience slowly over time though is the Pulemyot 762 that seems like it's gaining traction over time. Complete with a huge mag size of 100 rounds, the highest of all MW3 LMGs and only equalised by the Bruen MK9 and Sakin MG38 from MW3, it's an impressive gun that actually has a pretty quick TTK particularly if you're able to resist the gun's strong recoil.

The Pulemyot 762 Lightmachine Gun in Warzone/Modern Warfare 3.

Not only that, but for Warzone specifically, having more ammunition may be worth the slot - and since you can equip two primaries to any of your loadouts, you'll have a bit more flexibility when using one of these, particularly if equipped with the reload-speed-buffing Sleight of Hand perk, for example.

On the whole, LMGs aren't exactly taking the meta by storm like some of the other weapons, but they're still gaining a fair bit of attention that makes them worth considering and may find more of a home in larger game modes and Warzone matches. With the Pulemyot having gained traction in MW3's early days, it might be worth keeping an eye on that as the community slowly decides on what they feel is the best Lightmachine gun in the game.

Best Marksman Rifle in Warzone recommendation

Best weapon recommendation: MTZ Interceptor or MCW 6.8

How to unlock: Armoury Unlocks (Requires Lvl 25)

In a similar way to LMGs – and perhaps Battle Rifles too - Marksman Rifles are in a pretty niche spot. They occupy a space between Assault Rifles (ARs) and Sniper Rifles (SRs), but whereas Battle Rifles are more akin to ARs, Marksman Rifles are more akin to SRs. This essentially puts them in a similar line of competition to snipers themselves.

Despite the niche window the class lives within, there are actually four new Marksman Rifles that - along with MW2’s collection - brings the total in this slot to 12.

Left: The MTZ Interceptor Marksman Rifle in Warzone/Modern Warfare 3. | Right: The MCW 6.8 Marksman Rifle in Warzone/Modern Warfare 3.

Whilst the meta may shake up over time, much like it was in the beta, the MTZ Interceptor takes the crown here, which is no doubt in part due to its total damage that - not including MW2’s Crossbow - is the highest of the lot. It’s also on the upper end of total range and besides the MCW 6.8, it near enough has best-in-class range and accuracy too.

From a high-level view, the MTZ Interceptor and MCW 6.8 look like the two Marksman Rifles to keep an eye on, but with a collection of 12 to choose from, it’s possible this will shake out differently over time.

Best Sniper Rifle in Warzone recommendation

Best weapon recommendation: KATT-AMR or Longbow

How to unlock: Requires Lvl 4, Custom Loadouts unlock (KATT-AMR) | Reach player level 4 (Longbow)

Since the launch of MW3, the sniper rifle scene has been interesting to watch shake out. Whilst there was a lot of love for the Longbow, it seemed initially like this was mainly due to more players gravitating towards it thanks to there being a unique version you could net by purchasing the Vault Edition of MW3. However, that's not entirely the case since the Longbow can be a very powerful gun in its own right.

On day one, taking them at face value, the KV Inhibitor is the one that stood out to me and seemed to fit the bill for a strong sniper, particularly one that was consistently landing one-shot kills at longer ranges. In a way, the Longbow felt almost like something more suited towards Marksman Rifle territory, and so even if with a strong pairing of attachments it seemed like a powerful gun, the KV Inhibitor was the more sniper-like rifle, and was what we were previously recommending.

Left: The KATT-AMR Sniper Rifle in Warzone/Modern Warfare 3. | Right: The Longbow Sniper Rifle in Warzone/Modern Warfare 3.

However, as suspected, the KATT-AMR has more or less stolen the show as the best sniper rifle right now, essentially taking KV Inhibitor's place since it leans even heavier to the core values of a sniper. Whilst the KV Inhibitor is still a strong gun, the KATT-AMR has been the standout since launch what with its impressive near-max-damage stat that's clearly in part why it's dominating for core sniping fans.

It appears however that with the launch of Season 1, we're looking at potentially even more of a shakeup thanks to the introduction of the XRK Stalker, a sniper rifle that not only has the absolute best damage of the lot - with a maxed out damage stat - it also beats out the KATT-AMR in all but range by a significant margin. Unlocked via the Battle Pass, I wouldn't be surprised to see the XRK Stalker shred through the meta and replace the KATT-AMR relatively quickly in Season 1, and it's one that I'll definitely be looking to take for a spin in these opening days of Season 1.

How weapons are unlocked in Warzone and Modern Warfare 3

What’s interesting about Warzone and Modern Warfare 3 is that - for the first time in franchise history - weapons from the previous Call of Duty title are carried across.

As part of the 'Carry Forward' feature, all weapons from MW2 are usable and retain all unlock progress in terms of weapon levels, attachments, and camos too, meaning if you’re jumping into MW3 or Warzone from MW2, you’ll already have a large and expansive set of weapons to use.

The M4 and a few other Assault Rifles usable in warzone and Modern Warfare 3 with the 'Carry Forward' feature.

Carry Forward also includes all weapon blueprints and attachments too.

A couple of examples of unlock requirements for weapons originating from Modern Warfare 2, usable in MW3.

If you don’t own MW2 or still have weapons locked in that game, they are all still available to unlock in Warzone and MW3 alongside all the new weapons too, via a mix of weapon level requirements, or unlock challenges that become available once you reach player level 55.

As for Warzone and MW3 weapons, some are unlocked as part of your general player level climb - that is to say, by playing Multiplayer matches and earning XP, you’ll unlock MW3 weapons naturally regardless of what you use - whereas a large number of others are unlocked via the Armoury.

Left: One of the weapons unlocked via the new Armoury system. | Right: One of the weapons unlocked via the traditional player level climb.

The armoury is unlocked by reaching player level 25, and is a new system where you complete daily challenges to unlock specific weapons and equipment of your choosing.

To see whether a weapon is from the MW2 or MW3 era, look out for the game's respective logos - this logo can also be seen in the top left of the screen, next to a weapon's name when in the loadout customisation screen.

With the various ways to unlock weapons and the sheer number of them, there are many to collect which will no doubt make this one of the most diverse metas of any Call of Duty game.

For more on Warzone and Modern Warfare 3, be sure to check out the various guides we have covering the Season 1 Battle Pass, the latest patch notes, as well as loadout guides for various guns such as the MCW, Striker, and more.

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Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 (2023)

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Josh Mckenna