Escape From Tarkov (EFT) is one of our favorite games out there and we recommend most shooter fans to give this a try. But picking up this hardcore shooter is a daunting task for even the most dedicated gamers. In this guide series we will take you through your first hours in this game. But before we start, a small disclaimer: EFT is still in beta so even the most fundamental gameplay mechanics may be subject to change.
Escape From Tarkov is filled to the brim with items and the most important of all are weapons, of course. But picking your firepower can be a mini-game on itself. And with 27 assault rifles (19 of which are AK-variants), 14 pistols, 8 sniper rifles, 5 DMR’s, 5 shotguns, 14 SMG’s, 4 assault carbines, and one light machine gun there’s a lot to choose from. This guide will give you a basic idea of what to expect from the different classes as well as the perfect tool for specific jobs.
But before we start, it is important to know that weapons are just part of the equation. Ammo is arguably way more important than the weapon it is coming out of. Our full ammo guide is in the works, but for now this official ammo chart will have to do. Look for the required caliber and cross reference damage and penetration. Damage resembles how much a bullet damages an unarmored body part while penetration reflects what happens when you hit armor.
From zero to hero
One of the cheapest ways of getting started in Escape from Tarkov is by bringing in a mere pistol or even just your melee weapon. As of February 2020, taking in too little gear makes you ‘tagged and cursed’ though, which means Scavs will hunt you down vigorously. Taking in just a melee weapon (called ‘hatchet running’ a.k.a. being a ‘hatchling’) is considered lame by part of the community.
It is however also a way to have zero risk of losing your gear, while being able to gain anything you find in raid. But even getting in killing range of a Scav – despite the occasional potato A.I. – is difficult. Killing another player with a melee weapon is virtually impossible.
But getting into the zero to hero-zone is still possible: Just bring a pistol. You can’t get any cheaper than running a Makarov and because of Tarkov’s realistic and unforgiving damage system, a headshot will do the trick just fine. The ‘macky’ ammo is quite underwhelming though. For some decent yet cheap firepower any 9×19 (9mm) pistol or the Russian TT will do. Just go for the head and you’ve got a decent chance of killing your enemy. If your enemy has a face shield and/or helmet though, you best head for the hills.
Don’t be fooled by appearances
Apart from early in a wipe-cycle, pistols aren’t really a viable choice though. For just a few thousand roubles extra you can get yourself some pretty decent guns. Shotguns are interesting; they devastate unarmored targets, but players usually run some protection, so then it loses some effectiveness. You could always go for the legs though because of damage distribution, but more on that in our upcoming dedicated healing guide.
There’s a solid assortment of World War II-era weaponry in Escape from Tarkov too, and you’d be surprised how effective they can be. The SKS is a good example; with a 10-round internal magazine and firing the high-powered 7.62×39 round it can shred most armor pretty quickly. The legendary Mosin Nagant (I call it the death stick) even punched through almost every piece of armor in the game. It’s a one-shot machine that won’t set you back by too much.
Most early-game weapons are semi-automatic, pump-action or bolt-action though. Not a bad thing per se, but sometimes what you need is just a whole bunch of lead down range as quickly as possible. The SMG’s are a great way to get fully automatic while not having to spend too much money. They’re great in tight spaces and have very minimal recoil. The downside is that you’re mostly firing 9×19 rounds; cheap but fairly low penetration.
But the point is that appearances can be deceptive; a small MP5 may not seem that powerful, but with close to a thousand rounds per minute it can shred armor and the people wearing it quite easily. Even a disgusting looking civilian grade (semi-automatic) AK with the dust cover and stock missing is often a better choice than a pistol. Point being: even if it looks like a Nerf gun, with some solid aim and intelligent positioning even these cheap options are deadly.
Kalashnikov for life
After you’ve finally climbed out of the poor echelon of Tarkov, you should be looking at Mother Russia’s pride: the Автома́т Кала́шникова, a.k.a. the AK. Like we said in the intro, there’s a bunch of variants in this Russian-made game. Picking the right one is important, but whichever you choose, you should be fine (again, provided you’re using good ammo).
The 7.62×39 AKM-variants are the most powerful of the bunch, but you do sacrifice some control as it kicks like a mule. Nothing a few mods can’t fix though! The AK-74’s in Tarkov are a little less powerful as they fire 5.45×39, a much smaller round that generally does less damage, but penetrates armor a bit easier. All smaller AKS-variants pack the punch of a regular AK 74, but come in a smaller form factor. That means easier manipulation in close quarters, a slightly lower price point but obviously also quite some extra recoil.
Lastly in the realm of AK’s, there’s two civilian-grade ones and a 5.56 NATO AK. Starting with the first two, the Vepr 136 and 209 look very similar. They’re both semi-automatic AK-like weapons (all the AK mods are compatible), but while the 136 fires the powerful 7.62 AKM round, the 209 uses .366 TKM. That’s a howitzer round versus a Nerf dart. Still, even a Nerf dart is usually a one-shot when you hit them in the head!
Guns from the US of A
Besides all the Russian weaponry there’s plenty of European and American guns to choose from in Escape from Tarkov. These are generally speaking a little more expensive though. Firearms like the Austrian P90 submachine gun, German MP7, the American-made FAL, and the iconic Colt M4A1 are just a few of your high-end option. They shred targets like butter but their respective ammunition is something mostly exclusive for the rich, high leveled players.
An integral part of being ‘good’ at EFT is knowing what’s worth what and how it performs in different situations. For the time being, knowing your pistols, shotguns, semi-automatic rifles, lower-tier submachine guns and AK’s will get you a long way. Experiment with different weapons and learn their weaknesses and strengths. Once you get some money built up and start to get a feel for certain weapons, you could begin modding them and maximizing your investments. Oh yeah, and did we mention you almost always want to go for the head?
We’ve got a whole slew of EFT guides coming up. We plan to cover Loadouts, detailed Scav Raids, Ammo, Weapon Modding, Inventory Management, Psychology Management, Healing and much more. Stay tuned!