Testing Action Point costs of various weapons and rankings based on total VATS damage output

fallout 4 - Testing Action Point costs of various weapons and rankings based on total VATS damage output

Preface: Several months ago, the powers that be decided to roll me an Assassin’s Explosive -25% AP cost Combat Rifle on my Vats Automatic Pistol character. As primarily a PVP player, it looked quite good. Last month, after being unable to find a decent three-star auto pistol, I decided to respec. This ended up being the best darn decision I could have made. Suddenly, I was able to land over 30 rounds in Vats before running out of AP. I decided to run a test to check how much AP each round was costing me. It was 7. To help put that into perspective, jumping costs 10.

Like most of you, I see many posts and comments praising the Handmade Rifle as the undisputed king of the auto rifles. Out of curiosity, I decided run similar tests on the four comparable ballistic auto rifles (Handmade, Assault, Combat, and Radium). My results were quite enlightening and, mostly, logical. As it turned out, the Handmade was tied for the most expensive AP costs at 33 per semi-auto shot. The Combat and Radium rifles were tied for first with only 26 AP per semi-auto shot. The Assault Rifle, which boasts the lowest base damage of the four, also has the highest AP costs along with the Handmade. It made sense. In exchange for the highest base damage, the Handmade gets the worst AP costs. The Combat and Radium do not deal as much damage per shot as the Handmade, but their cheaper AP costs make them way better Vats weapons. The Assault Rifle… Makes no sense to me. Perhaps its strength lies in range or accuracy; I don’t know or care enough to find out. Anyways, I decided to expand my tests to 21 other weapons.

Methodology: Action Point costs were gathered in-game by a simple before and after comparison. The difference between the maximum and remaining AP would be the AP cost. The Pipboy was set to the alternate, much quicker, view to ensure better accuracy. All tested weapons were at their maximum levels. Tests were on the PC version using an Xbox controller. It takes 4 quick button presses to activate Vats, fire one round, cancel Vats, and open the Pipboy to check remaining AP (bumper, trigger, B, B). This method proves reliable as AP takes about a second to start regenerating, so I can catch the number before it starts to move.

Several attachments effect AP costs. Attachments which typically increase AP costs are scopes and anti-armor magazines. Attachments which typically reduce AP costs include dot sights, some quick magazines, and automatic receivers. Due to the variety of attachments effecting base AP costs, I ensured every weapon tested had all the standard attachments.

I recorded AP costs onto paper and transferred them to a spreadsheet. While it is possible to individually test the automatic receiver versions of many weapons, I decided to use the power of maths to apply what we already know; mainly that automatic receivers apply a 50% reduction to AP costs. This is only true for weapons that have the options for either fire mode. Weapons that only have automatic as their standard fire mode do not seem to gain this benefit.

I gathered damage values from various wikipedia websites in order to make total Vats damage calculations. My tables sort by either AP cost or total Vats damage. As we transition onto out data, please remember these tests were done by hand, not mined from the game files. Human error is a very real thing. So keep that in mind. Let’s take a look at the partial list of AP costs I put together.

Partial List of Weapon Action Point Cost

10mm Pistol21
Pipe Pistol22
Plasma Pistol23
Combat Rifle26
Radium Rifle26
.44 Pistol26
Ultracite Laser Pistol26
Laser Pistol26
Lever Action Rifle27
10mm Submachine Gun29
Hunting Rifle29
The Dragon29
.50 Caliber Machine Gun31
M79 Grenade Launcher31
Double Barrel Shotgun31
Tesla Rifle31
Assault Rifle33
Handmade Rifle33
Combat Shotgun36
Single Action Revolver36
Western Revolver36
Railway Rifle41
Light Machine Gun51

Conclusions: As you would expect, pistols generally have the cheapest AP costs, especially when the pistol has the option to choose a fire mode. Of the weapons I tested, the 10mm Pistol seemed to be the absolute cheapest. One of the wiki’s, which seems to rip most of its info right from the game files, lists the 10mm pistol as having a cost of 24 AP per shot. My tests revealed only 21 AP per shot. Obviously one of us is wrong.

The biggest surprise would be the Plasma Pistol at only 23 AP per shot. Considering it deals a combined damage of 44 ballistic/energy, and the Handmade has 45 base damage at 33 AP per shot, you have a fairly competitive Vats weapon. The biggest uncertainty I have is whether or not changing the weapon from a pistol to a rifle will increase base AP or not. I did not test this thoroughly. I omitted a Pipe Rifle from my results as it was costing slightly more than the pistol variant. I assumed my testing of the rifle was flawed, so I simply omitted it. Feel free to test both yourself.

Many of you may be familiar with the conundrum that is the Ultracite Laser gun. Despite appearing to be an endgame version of the regular Laser gun, it boasts much less base damage. The Pistol version, for example, deals 34 damage verses the regular 40 damage the standard Laser pistol has. My thought was that, perhaps, the Ultracite version has cheaper AP costs. It turns out, they are the same. I am not sure what is happening here. Maybe Ultracite weapons have a hidden bonus stat verses Scorched. I do not know and further testing is needed.


Heavy weapons, as expected, are really damn expensive. The .50 Caliber Machine Gun is surprisingly cheap to use in Vats. It manages to be cheaper than a semi-auto Handmade Rifle. Unlike the Handmade, it is unable to lower its AP costs with attachments. At 15 AGI (210 AP), you would only get 6.7 shots off before running on empty. Given infinite resources, I would have checked to see if the heavy energy weapons were cheaper or more expensive than their ballistic counterparts. A quick search online reveals that the Gatling Laser does get access to some Vats reduction attachments (reflex sight).

Now let’s move on and take a look at the weapons which are capable of using an automatic receiver. Automatic receivers are the most important attachment for making a Vats-centric build. At the expense of about 10% less damage than their semi-auto counterparts, you gain increased rate of fire and a 50% reduction in Vats costs. Instead of using the resources to mod every weapon tested with an automatic barrel, the table below simply reduces the weapons recorded AP cost to 50%. Also, I am fairly certain Fallout 76 rounds fractions up. So the 10mm Pistol, listed at 10.5 AP per shot, likely costs 11, the same as the Pipe Pistol.

Automatic Receiver AP Cost

Auto WeaponAP
10mm Pistol10.5
Pipe Pistol11
Plasma Pistol11.5
Combat Rifle13
Radium Rifle13
Ultracite Laser Pistol13
Laser Pistol13
Tesla Rifle15.5
Assault Rifle16.5
Handmade Rifle16.5
Combat Shotgun18
Railway Rifle20.5

This table removed the heavy weapons and 10mm Submachine gun as they come standard as automatics and few have any attachments which could lower their Vats costs. Unless I am mistaken, this table lists all of the weapons with variable fire modes.

There is not too much to talk about here, but it helps present things a bit clearer. Pistols are dirt cheap in AP costs. A 10mm and Pipe pistol will get off about 19 shots in Vats (210 total AP) before running out of AP. On the other end of the spectrum, The Railway Rifle only gets 10 off. The fan favorite Handmade gets off about 12.

But so what if the Railway Rifle gets less shots off while the 10mm pistol gets more? Let us take a look at the potential damage output in Vats before running out of AP. A small note, these calculations assume that the automatic variant is only a 10% reduction from the base damage. I was able to confirm this for weapons like the 10mm Pistol and Combat Rifle, but for things like the Tesla or Railway Rifles, I am just assuming.

Damage output before empty AP at 210 total AP

Auto WeaponDamage
Tesla Rifle951.1
Combat Shotgun945.0
Railway Rifle875.9
Plasma Pistol723.1
Combat Rifle581.5
Laser Pistol581.5
Radium Rifle537.9
Handmade Rifle515.5
10mm Pistol504
Ultracite Laser Pistol494.3
Pipe Pistol446.7
Assault Rifle378.0

At approximately 70 and 81 damage per shot, the automatic Tesla Rifle and Combat Shotgun have the highest potential damage output in Vats. There is one caveat, however. The Shotgun has fairly high damage falloff at range forcing you to get very close. I have never used the Tesla myself, but I also noticed the weapon shoots only so far. It does, however, seem to arc from enemy to enemy extending the range.

The Railway Rifle is high up on the list. There is one issue with the weapon. It does not seem to gain any accuracy increases from Concentrated Fire, meaning you are forced to go for body shots, losing out on the weak point damage multiplier. And that damage multiplier is essential for Vats-centric builds. Anecdotal evidence and some initial testing suggests shooting a weak point doubles your damage (2x).

For the Plasma Pistol, I combined both instances of damage. In reality it is only doing 362 Ballistic and 362 Energy damage. Together makes it 723. I did not see any issues combining the damage. I don’t see how it could be misleading. Damage with all types of weapons will vary depending on enemy armor in a realistic situation. For simplicity we are just looking at the math. The Plasma Pistol looks like an absolute monster in Vats.

The Handmade Rifle, despite it’s damage, is actually worse in Vats than the Combat and Radium Rifles. The Handmade is the most popular weapon of choice for many players. Bullet for bullet, it deals more damage, but if you are a Vats-centric character, you will get more out of one of the “worse” rifles.

So that is all I have for you folks today. Hopefully, this post will help open up more choices for the Vats playstyle. Personally, I think those of us using Vats should give the Combat, Radium, and Plasma Rifles more attention. The Handmade is superior in damage per shot, but being able to land more shots, against enemy weak points, from stealth, with damage ramp from Concentrated Fire, Gun-Fu, and Furious legendaries will parse more damage over time.

I do want to end with one final thought about how AP reduction stacks. I simply do not know. My Combat Rifle uses an automatic receiver (-50% AP cost), a red dot sight (-15%?), a quick eject magazine (-5%?), and the legendary prefix (-25%). That totals out to approximately -95% AP costs. My actual AP cost per shot is about -75% of base (down to 7 from 26). Clearly, these bonuses are not additive. One of two things is happening: either it works like Anti-armor does, or there is a total cap on AP cost. A great way to test this would be to mod my sight and magazine back to standard and see if there is any difference. Perhaps another day.

p.s. Many workshop owners were harmed in the making of this post. I needed crafting materials somehow…

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