MHW: Iceborne Best Gunlance Build Guide

Do you want a weapon tapered to a dangerous point, heavy enough to pack a wallop but dextrous enough to slip between a monster’s scales and pierce the soft flesh beneath? Are you drawn to the call of a weapon that takes damage as well as it deals it, fending off even the most formidable attacks before countering with a vengeful flourish?

If so, then you want the Lance. But if you want all of that plus explosions (and who wouldn’t?), then the Gunlance is the weapon for you. It beautifully combines intense melee combat with explosive shells that do devastating damage at close range. 

This week, we’re taking a closer look at the Gunlance, discussing the weapons and skills that make for a strong build foundation before showing off a few example builds that show off the power of the GL. Let’s get started!

Please note our Fatalis update is in progress for this guide. Stay tuned and happy hunting!

Best Gunlance in MHW: Baseline

To start us off, let’s take a look at the unique advantages and disadvantages of the Gunlance. The GL offers a blend of melee and “gunner” combat, balancing the pros and cons of the more singularly-focused weapon types.

Since the Gunlance (to no one’s surprise) shares so many features with the Lance, it likewise boasts good reach and defense. While its guard capabilities aren’t as intrinsic to gameplay as they are with the Lance, they’re a valuable fallback when you need to take a hit and want to minimize chip damage and stamina reduction. And you’ll definitely need to take some hits — while it can fire shells, the GL still requires you to get up close and personal to deal damage.

That said, those explosive shells are excellent for breaking hard monster parts. They deal what’s known as true damage, meaning that you get a fixed amount of damage no matter where you’re hitting. There are three different shell types, allowing for three slightly different gameplay strategies without needing to change weapon types.

As far as disadvantages go, the GL is pretty sluggish. You’re stuck dealing with low mobility when your weapon’s unsheathed, and your dodge executes slowly. This is balanced by a strong shield, but like I mentioned before, guarding with the GL just isn’t as useful as it is with the Lance. It’s great in a pinch, but can be a pain to deal with if you haven’t invested much in Guard and end up tanking a lot of harder-hitting attacks. The weapon also eats sharpness, especially if you loose a lot of Full Bursts.

When looking at skills, we’ll want to focus on combinations that really make the Gunlance’s unique appeal shine. The GL is a melee weapon by trade, but shelling makes things a bit more complicated. Since many of the damage- and affinity-boosting skills only affect melee attacks, we’ll also want to invest in a few skills that add an extra kick to your shell attacks.


MHW Gunlance 01

Shelling types are going to be an important factor in determining which Gunlance is right for you. We’ll talk about those in more detail later — for now, let’s focus on the weapon’s other stats and how they’ll benefit you.

Here’s a quick overview of the best Gunlance MHW options in Iceborne:

WeaponRaw DamageElement/StatusAffinityShelling Type
True Fatalis Gunlance897150 (Dragon)-20%Normal (7)
Safi’s Buster653200 (Any)5%Normal (7)
Lightbreak Gunlance690270 (Blast)0%Wide (7)

The True Fatalis Gunlance deals an absurd amount of raw damage compared to the other top options. It also offers the best potential in terms of decorations, meaning that you can slot in skills for extra benefits (or to counteract the negative affinity).

Safi’s Buster series boasts pretty much the same advantages as every other Safi’jiiva weapon — its base stats are nothing to sniff at, but it offers the added advantage of Awakened Abilities that allow you to further customize your weapon. This customization can cover anything from boosting your damage to slotting in free set bonuses, as long as you’re willing to grind out the Safi siege.

The Lightbreak is, as always, a stalwart sidegrade to the Safi weapons. What you miss out on in customization, you gain in higher base damage and the convenience of not having to deal with repeated sieges to get the pieces you need. 

Shelling Types

Something to keep in mind when choosing your Gunlance is that different weapons allow for different shelling types. There are advantages and disadvantages to each type, which I’ll cover briefly here.

Normal shelling is going to be your best bet if you’re interested in going the Full Burst route. It has the highest capacity (even with Capacity Boost equipped), meaning that you can deal a massive amount of damage with each Full Burst combo. They don’t deal quite as much damage on their own, so it’s best to save this shelling type for the combo moves and relying on melee when you can.

Wide shelling is the best for steady, consistent damage with the occasional powerful burst. It’s got the lowest capacity and the highest damage of the three shelling types, and delivers a damage boost to Wyvern’s Fire and Wyrmstake Cannon. These qualities make it great for play styles that rely on constant attacks augmented by more powerful hits that require a brief cooldown or reload period.

Long shelling isn’t as long-range as its name would suggest. It can shoot from slightly further away than the other two shelling types, but not by much. It seems like it’d be the middle ground between Normal and Wide, but it packs a secret punch when it comes to charged shelling. Its barrel only upgrades to Level 6 (compared to Normal and Wide’s Level 7), but it doesn’t necessarily need it — it still deals immense damage on its charged shells without it. 


Now that we have our weapons in mind, let’s take a look at the MHW best skills for Gunlance builds. As I mentioned before, we’ll want to introduce a blend of melee and ranged skills that make the most of the GL’s varying attacks.

To begin, we’ll want to invest in Artillery. This skill strengthens the attack power of explosive attacks (in this case, GL shells) by 10% per point invested. It also incrementally reduces the cooldown of Wyvern’s Fire, so it’s a good way to get a little extra damage out of your shots. I recommend investing as many points into Artillery as you can — Artillery Secret is built into all of our example builds, as those extra points are absolutely worth the deco slots.

Next up is Capacity Boost, which increases your overall shell capacity. One extra shot per shelling type may not seem like a lot, but it can save you valuable reload time and give you extra damage for the price of a single Level 2 deco slot.

Razor Sharp/Spare Shot is a nice skill to have handy if you plan on executing a lot of Full Burst combos. The attack will demolish your sharpness bar, so a skill that halves your sharpness loss is a must if you don’t want your attacks to bounce (Protective Polish is a good option here, too). Just keep in mind that Spare Shot doesn’t affect your shells — this part of the skill only applies to Bows and Bowguns.

Finally, investing in Guard and Guard Up is always a good idea. A few points into these skills will help you better block incoming attacks when you’re right up next to the monster’s face and don’t have time to evade properly. Just remember that this won’t be the most crucial skill to max out — a Guard 3 GL with Artillery and Capacity Boost is leagues ahead of a Guard 5 GL with fewer baseline skills!

From here, I have a few additional recommendations that can help round out your build. I mentioned before that affinity-based skills won’t be the most important for our baseline this time around, and I stand by that — they only affect your melee attacks, and your shells can’t crit. That said, I’d be remiss to suggest that the extra damage on melee attacks isn’t welcome, so it’s better to evaluate your preferred playstyle and slot in affinity where you feel it’s needed, rather than by a matter of principle.

Here are my recommendations for useful skills (including affinity skills, should you go down that route) that can finish up our baseline:

  • Agitator (increases affinity when the monster is enraged)
  • Critical Eye (increases affinity)
  • Handicraft (extends sharpness gauge, but only applies to certain weapons)
  • Health Boost (increases health and max health cap)
  • Weakness Exploit (increases affinity when hitting weak spots)

That’s it for our baseline build! With these guidelines in mind, let’s take a look at a few example builds. I’ll be focusing mostly on DPS this time around, showing how the meta builds can vary depending on the shelling type you’re using.

Best Gunlance Build: Normal Shelling

MHW Gunlance 03

Let’s start with the best Normal Gunlance build. For this build, we’re going with a pretty traditional meta build using Fatalis armor, which is among the MHW best armor for Gunlance.

True Fatalis GunlanceDragonhead β+
Challenger Charm VDragonhide β+
Temporal Mantle+Dragonclaws β+
Vitality Mantle+Dragonbarbs α+
Kulve Taroth’s Wrath β+

Since we have four pieces of Fatalis armor equipped, we get both the Inheritance and the Transcendence set bonuses. Inheritance removes the level caps of all skill secrets, and Transcendence gives a health and stamina boost at the beginning of fights and after fainting, as well as granting True Razor Sharp/Spare Shot. 

That last benefit is espeically useful for a Normal Gunlance, as we’ll be relying pretty heavily on our Full Burst combo and taking severe hits to our sharpness in the process. Anything that helps us avoid bouncing on melee attacks is a definite bonus!

As far as skills are concerned, this set gives us a pretty good foundation to work with. We get a few points into Weakness Exploit, Critical Eye, and Critical Boost — affinity is pretty useful here, since we’ll want to save our shells for Full Burst and the Fatalis Gunlance has terrible innate affinity. 

When paired with the Challenger Charm V for a few points into Agitator, our current skill list is as follows:

  • Agitator 5
  • Critical Boost 2
  • Critical Eye 3
  • Evade Window 1
  • Stun Resistance 3
  • Weakness Exploit 3

The Fatalis armor set has some truly fantastic decoration slots, so there’s plenty of room to slot in our baseline skills alongside a few other useful options. I recommend the following:

  • Agitator (max out)
  • Attack Boost
  • Artillery (max out)
  • Capacity Boost
  • Critical Boost
  • Critical Eye (max out)
  • Protective Polish
  • Evade Extender
  • Evade Window 

I’ve recommended Evade Extender and Evade Window since the Fatalis armor already has a point into Evade Window, but you can choose to slot in Guard/Guard Up instead if that’s more your speed!

Best Gunlance Build: Wide

MHW Gunlance 02

Wide shelling is the MHW best type of Gunlance to start with if you’re not very familiar or comfortable with the GL just yet. With this in mind, our MHW best Wide Gunlance build moves away from the Fatalis armor in favor of something a bit more accessible.

Lightbreak GunlanceFrostfang Helm β+
Razor Sharp Charm IBrachydium Mail α+
Temporal Mantle+Brachydium Braces α+
Rocksteady Mantle+Brachydium Faulds α+
Brachydium Greaves β+

We get some really fun set bonuses out of this armor — four pieces of Raging Brachy armor gives us both Agitator Secret and Artillery Secret, giving us the increased skill caps we need without needing to invest in Fatalis armor. Equipping the Frostfang Barioth head also gives us Punishing Draw, which is a nice skill to get for free even if it isn’t a focal point of our build.

The armor pieces themselves are nicely stacked with useful skills. We get a handful of points in both Agitator and Artillery, plus a boost to Blast damage that pairs nicely with the Lightbreak GL. Paired with the Razor Sharp Charm I, our skill list before decorations is as follows:

  • Agitator 7
  • Artillery 5
  • Blast Attack 3
  • Critical Eye 2
  • Razor Sharp/Spare Shot
  • Weakness Exploit 2

We don’t even really need to add a lot to our build with decorations — slot in the remaining baseline skills and you’re pretty much set! I recommend the following:

  • Attack Boost
  • Capacity Boost
  • Coalescence
  • Critical Eye (max out)
  • Guard/Guard Up
  • Protective Polish

Best Gunlance Build: Long

MHW Gunlance 04

It’s amazing that we can talk about the MHW best Long Gunlance build, since Long shelling was pretty much useless in the base game. Iceborne introduced some buffs that let it actually compete with the other shelling types.

Safi’s DreambusterDragonhead β+
Earplugs Charm VDragonhide β+
Temporal Mantle+Dragonclaws β+
Rocksteady Mantle+Tentacle Coil γ+
Kulve Taroth’s Wrath β+

We’re returning to a primarily Fatalis build, as it’s some of the best Gunlance gear MHW. It also gives us an opportunity to make this a high-damage, high-comfort set. We get Inheritance as a set skill again (hooray for Artillery Secret!), though we miss out on Transcendence by only having three pieces of Fatalis equipped. You could always swap out the Namielle or Kulve Taroth piece if the Transcendence set bonus is a must for you, but we’ll stick with a more mixed set for the purposes of this build.

The skills built into these armor pieces make for a pretty decent evasion set, so we’re going to focus on that over Guard/Guard Up. We get a few points apiece into Evade Extender and Evade Window, plus a few points into Weakness Exploit for some added damage on weak spots.

With the addition of the Earplugs Charm V, our skill list before decorations is as follows:

  • Earplugs 5
  • Evade Extender 3
  • Evade Window 2
  • Recovery Speed 2
  • Stun Resistance 3
  • Weakness Exploit 2

Now, we don’t have a lot of our baseline skills here, but the Fatalis armor has plenty of deco slots to cover those skills and more. I recommend the following:

  • Agitator
  • Artillery (max out)
  • Capacity Boost
  • Divine Blessing (max out)
  • Evade Window (max out)
  • Protective Polish

The Hunt Begins

That’s it for our Gunlance build guide — thanks for reading! If you have any questions or would like to share your own build with us (we don’t have any true Guard or Evasion GLs listed here, hint hint), feel free to leave a comment.

Happy hunting!


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