If you played any of the original Destiny, then you know the long and tragic history of pulse rifles in the series. To put it bluntly, they were worthless for a long time. Playing with one felt like you just stopped at a friend’s house only to be handed the knock-off, Cheeto-crusted Mad Catz controller. They just felt like a slower and less useful version of every single assault rifle.

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Even though we’re a few years out from those dark days, the Destiny 2 best pulse rifles have maintained the same stigma from before. But here’s the thing — they’re actually good now. You just have to know which ones to use.

15 Best Destiny 2 Pulse Rifles in 2021

So, in Destiny 2, what is the best pulse rifle? Well, just like with shotguns, that’s somewhat of a complicated question. There are quite a few reliable options you can pick up now, but Destiny 2’s best pulse rifles depend on your playstyle, the game mode you’re playing, and the mod specialization you choose.

To help you start finding the best pulse rifle for your needs, here are the top 15 pulse rifles in Destiny 2 as of 2021.

1. Stars in Shadow

The Destiny 2 best Legendary pulse rifle

Stars in Shadow
Image: Bungie via HGG

More like a retrofitted scout rifle, the Stars in Shadow is slow to shoot with massive stopping power. It has a decently long range, reasonably even stability, and handling stats that are only elevated with the right perk roles.

Why is it one of the best? This pulse rifle has a deep perk pool, which is both a gift and a curse. Yes, it allows you to farm for just the right build, but that can take hours of Crucible play. But if you find PvP and PvE builds that you like, you can become an expert with this weapon.

What’s it good for? This gun works for every mode as long as you get the right role. Here’s are the weapon perks to look for:

PvE and GambitPvP
ThreshQuickdraw
DemolitionistKilling Wind
Kill ClipOutlaw
Disruption BreakFeeding Frenzy
GenesisThresh
Moving Target
Kill Clip
Vorpal Weapon

How do I get it? Stars in Shadow can only be gained as a random drop when playing Crucible matches or turning in Lord Shaax rank-up packages. Be prepared to grind out Crucible for a bit to get it — it took at least thirty matches to finally drop for me.

2. No Time to Explain

The Destiny 2 best Exotic pulse rifle

No Time to Explain
Image: Bungie via HGG

The Stranger was the biggest mystery of the original Destiny storyline. Once you met her, you received her weapon, which quickly got outclassed and forgotten. Now it’s back with a vengeance.

Why is it one of the best? This Exotic takes full advantage of the new Stasis sub-class, allowing you to return ammo to your magazine when hitting enemies affected by it. It also acts as an auto rifle, utilizing a full-auto trigger that’s perfect for crowd control. Things only get better when you unlock the catalyst, which improves your temporal orb ability and amplifies the Time-Slip perk.

What’s it good for? PvE. It’s a powerful weapon at any range, but it requires plenty of bullets to get the job done. Don’t expect to be successful with it in Crucible, where the lack of accuracy and impact will get you bodied.

How do I get it? Purchase the Beyond Light preorder bonus or complete the Beyond Light campaign.

3. Hailing Confusion

The Destiny 2 best kinetic pulse rifle

Hailing Confusion
Image: Bungie via HGG

The Beyond Light expansion has done a lot for pulse rifles. Seemingly every new weapon is a step up, and the Hailing Confusion is no exception. Its adaptive frame setup helps it serve as a well-rounded weapon perfect for more open Crucible maps.

Why is it one of the best? This weapon is incredibly reliable. It feels good to shoot both when aiming down the sights and from the hip. Don’t expect to take someone out in a single headshot, but don’t be surprised if you’re able to land two or three before the enemy Guardian even notices.

What’s it good for? PvP. It may work like a mid-range sniper rifle, but the perk pool almost encourages you to keep moving. With a Slideways, Quickdraw, and Zen Moment roll, you’ll find yourself playing more accurately even when you can’t stay still.

How do I get it? It’s acquired during the Beyond Light campaign. To get rerolls, finish weapon missions for Variks by first unlocking Europan Explorer I in his sabotage menu. Or look to defeat high-value targets around Europa.

4. Cold Denial

The Destiny 2 best pulse rifle PvE

Cold Denial
Image: Bungie via HGG

Season of Arrivals brought a handful of top-tier weapons that have held strong through the following seasons. However, none may be as useful now as Cold Denial. 

Why is it one of the best? Similar to Stars in Shadow, the perk pool on this weapon is insane. It functions best as a PvE weapon, but you can roll it into a solid PvP option. As a high-impact pulse rifle, you can expect to deal a lot of damage at the cost of a slow fire rate. But you’ll be safely out of range and picking off foes with the Extended Barrel and Ricochet Rounds perks, making that fire rate a minimal concern.

What’s it good for? PvE, PvP, and Gambit. This weapon is best for PvE but can be refined for other game modes with the right perk rolls. Expect it to work well with any perk in non-competitive events, but take a careful look before pulling it out in Crucible or Gambit.

How do I get it? It used to be tied to seasonal progression and umbral engrams. Now it’s just a random world drop that is typically more prevalent on the Moon.

5. The Messenger

The Destiny 2 best high-impact pulse rifle

The Messenger
Image: Bungie via HGG

Why is it one of the best? Bungie loves bringing back decent OG Destiny weapons and overhauling them into something excellent. The Messenger is another case where a so-so pulse rifle returns as a deadly and well-balanced variant perfect for PvP. This is primarily due to the higher-than-average base stats and the highly visible weapon sight that makes latching onto a critical shot a piece of cake.

Now, the perk pool is a bit limited, but they’re all very useful damage-centric options. If you can handle grinding in Trials, try for a roll that includes One For All with Killing Wind or Outlaw. This will ensure that almost every stat is amped somehow, making it all the easier to take down the enemy team or a major enemy.

What’s it good for? It’s best for PvP and PvE, thanks to the high-damage output and ability to lay down enemies in as little as three shots. 

How do I get it? Acquire it by earning rewards or opening packages in Trials of Osiris.

6. Sacred Provenance

The Destiny 2 best burst pulse rifle

Sacred Provenance
Image: Bungie via HGG

The best thing about modern Destiny 2 pulse rifles is the potential for them to be something more. That’s never been more evident than in the Sacred Provenance if you happen to roll it with a Rapid Hit perk. Doing so turns a reliable burst rifle with decent range into a rapid-fire powerhouse.

Why is it one of the best? Sacred Provenance is a well-rounded rifle that sacrifices initial damage for range and speed. It makes up for that lost impact by improving precision damage after landing body shots and an additional shot for every burst (giving you four instead of the regular three). Throw in the potential to increase your range by maxing Masterwork and amplify that with Rapid Hit to increase stability, and you can keep on taking down opponents from a distance without fear of kickback.

What’s it good for? PvE and Gambit. With a relatively fast fire rate and deep clip that can be expanded using the Kill Clip perk, this is a great option for crowd control.

How do I get it? Sacred Prominence is acquired as a random drop from defeating bosses in the Garden of Salvation raid within the Black Garden.

7. Vigilance Wing

The Destiny 2 best pulse rifle PvP

Vigilance Wing
Image: Bungie via HGG

In many ways, the Vigilance Wing served as the turning point for pulse rifles in Destiny 2. It’s as if the team at Bungie finally cracked what people want from these weapons. Not another auto rifle, but a dynamic burst rifle with unique perks.

Why is it one of the best? The Sacred Provenance gives you four-shot bursts. Vigilance Wing gives you five. And with the Harsh Truths perk, which provides enhanced health regeneration when an ally dies, this weapon seems like it was built to be one of the Destiny 2 best Crucible pulse rifles. No wonder it could only be acquired in Trials originally.

What’s it good for? PvP and PvE. While it may not be as strong as it once was, the Vigilance Wing still shreds in Crucible. The health regeneration perk alone makes this a clutch option during intense PvP and PvE events. 

How do I get it? Vigilance Wing is a rare random Exotic Engram drop, but you can also get it when it cycles into Xûr’s shop or as a random drop during Trials of Osiris.

8. Last Perdition

The Destiny 2 best energy pulse rifle

Last Perdition
Image: Bungie via HGG

Energy pulse rifles have been somewhat of a mixed bag the last few seasons. Sure, the added element modifier can be nice, but it somewhat defeats the purpose of what can make a pulse rifle useful. Luckily, it’s just the cherry on top for the Last Perdition.

Why is it one of the best? The adaptive frame makes this weapon easy to manage, which meshes perfectly with the longer range. Opt for the SPO-57 Front Scope to increase that range even further and turn this into a slightly more efficient scout rifle. 

What’s it good for? PvE and Gambit. While it drops in Crucible, this weapon is meant for PvE. The stability and range are perfect for taking out enemies from a distance, and the Kill Clip and Outlaw perks only make that more apparent.

How do I get it? It’s a random drop in Crucible.

9. Graviton Lance

The Destiny 2 best Void damage pulse rifle

Graviton Lance
Image: Bungie via HGG

Similar to the Vigilance Wing, the thing that makes this pulse rifle special is its unique perks. This is the mother of long-range and stable pulse rifles, and it rewards you for sticking to your target.

Why is it one of the best? It’s another example of how to make energy damage work with pulse rifles — in this case, by throwing in unique perks. Black Hole makes your second shot incredibly powerful and is balanced by an insane amount of stability. Throw in the Cosmology perk, and on any occasion where Void is the high-damage subclass, you’ll be mowing down enemies thanks to your ability to turn them into target-seeking projectiles.

What’s it good for? PvE. Pull this out when facing down boss enemies that are susceptible to Void damage. Yes, the Black Hole perk could make this useful in Crucible, but the fire rate severely dampers its viability.

How do I get it? It’s acquired as a random Exotic Engram drop or as a purchase from Xûr’s shop when available.

10. Jian 7 Rifle

The Destiny 2 best rapid-fire pulse rifle

Jian 7 Rifle
Image: Bungie via HGG

You likely see a trend with a few of these pulse rifles. They launched when the team was first starting to figure out how to make them unique, but the in-game meta neutered them. Now the Jian 7, like many others, is getting its time to shine.

Why is it one of the best? You could almost mistake this pulse rifle for an incredibly stable assault rifle thanks to the Adaptive Frame and getting a Full-Auto Trigger System perk. If you can, focus on amping up the range on this weapon with mods to truly take advantage of the refined handling. You’ll quickly find it to be effective from long-range, as well as up close.

What’s it good for? PvE and Gambit. The one drawback is the weak impact, which is only rectified if you get the Full-Auto perk. Stick to using this for crowd control and avoid trying to go one-on-one with any Guardians.

How do I get it? Acquire it as a random Legendary Engram drop.

11. Bad Juju

The Destiny 2 best classic Exotic pulse rifle

Bad Juju
Image: Bungie via HGG

When most people think of excellent Destiny 2 pulse rifles, Bad Juju typically jumps to the top of the list. It was probably the first to break out as a viable option and is still a tried and true PvE weapon.

Why is it one of the best? The amplified status effects that help refill your magazine, increase weapon damage, and refill your super are truly a curse on your enemies. Plus, it’s full auto, which can make retaining those buffs difficult but worth mastering.

What’s it good for? PvE. This can be a difficult weapon to master and is best for amping yourself up against large hordes of enemies.

How do I get it? This is now a legacy weapon that can be acquired in the tower if you have the right materials and have played through specific mission chains.

12. Chattering Bone

The Destiny 2 best lightweight pulse rifle

Chattering Bone
Image: Bungie via HGG

Chattering Bone was all anyone talked about after the Last Wish Raid dropped. The elegant design alone makes it worth collecting. And while it may not be top-tier due to recent additions, it still works as a solid option when staying on the move.

Why is it one of the best? You’ll rarely find a Lightweight Frame that can still pack a punch thanks to the right perk rolls. Look to get this with an Outlaw, Rampage, or Kill Clip perk and amp it up even further with a grip mod of your choosing.

What’s it good for? PvE and Gambit. It just doesn’t pack enough of a rapid punch to be viable in Crucible, but it’s great for taking on multiple enemies at once.

How do I get it? Chattering Bone is acquired as a random drop in the Last Wish raid.

13. Premonition

The Destiny 2 best variable pulse rifle

Premonition
Image: Bungie via HGG

With Bungie relying so much on perks to amplify pulse rifles, it was only a matter of time until one dropped that relied solely on perks to be any good.

Why is it one of the best? It doesn’t have bad starting stats, but what it does have could easily be better. But if you can roll one with Kill Clip and Outlaw, you’ll be able to unleash bullets into your enemies only to amplify the damage when you finally reload.

What’s it good for? PvE, PvP, and Gambit. This is a well-balanced weapon that can be useful in any game mode with the right perks.

How do I get it? It’s acquired as a random drop from the Pit of Heresy on the Moon or by turning in Dreambane Engrams.

14. Claws of the Wolf

The Destiny 2 best Iron Banner pulse rifle

Claws of the Wolf
Image: Bungie via HGG

Pulse rifle drops in Iron Banner have been so-so over the last few years. They’re typically mid-tier weapons with a slow firing rate. But the latest iteration of Claws of the Wolf changes that thanks to its rapid-fire frame.

Why is it one of the best? This is a mid-range defensive weapon. Perfect for holding points and dissuading any Guardians from approaching. The only drawback is the small clip, which can be increased with the right perk roll.

What’s it good for? PvP and PvE. Use this as a last stand weapon to hold points or take on waves of enemies. But don’t expect to do massive damage against powerful enemies or when facing Guardians solo.

How do I get it? Turn in Iron Engrams or as a random drop when playing Iron Banner events.

15. Outlast

The Destiny 2 best Solar damage pulse rifle

Outlast
Image: Bungie via HGG

First released with the Season of the Drifter, the Outlast serves as a reminder of how often pulse rifles were just slower versions of auto rifles. Luckily the balanced stats and rapid-fire frame help this weapon get past that issue.

Why is it one of the best? The perk rolls on this weapon can help turn it into a stable auto rifle if you happen to get the Full-Auto Trigger or Rampage. As one of the rare solar trait pulse rifles, it’s your best option when facing solar-powered opponents.

What’s it good for? Gambit. The perk pool and rapid-fire frame are meant to help you take out solar shielded enemies while also doing enough close-range damage to eliminate invading Guardians.

How do I get it? Complete bounties in Gambit Prime.

Honorable Mentions: Destiny 2 Best Pulse Rifles

The following pulse rifles are fairly powerful, but they’re a little too situational to make it into our top 15 list.

Redrix’s Broadsword

The best balance of range and stability

Redrix’s Broadsword
Image: Bungie via HGG

This is the Year 2 version of Redrix’s Claymore, altered to perform best as a PvP weapon. The high impact frame combined with the incredible range and stability makes this a deadly weapon with the right perks.

Why is it an honorable mention? The damage, range, and impact on this weapon are top-notch and only hindered by the slower firing rate. Luckily, the right perks can remedy this. While it won’t always be the best option available, you can expect it to ride out any meta changes and still be effective.

What’s it good for? PvP. Look to roll Desperado and Outlaw to help amp up your firing rate, and you’ll soon see this taking down Guardian health at a rapid pace.

How do I get it? Acquire it as a random drop in Crucible or by turning in rank up packages to Lord Shaxx.

Destiny 2 Best Mod Specs for Pulse Rifles

The mods you use depend on the perks you have and how you intend to play. When it comes to pulse rifles, you’re typically looking to take advantage of the effective range and targeting your weapon already has. These are our general recommendations:

  • Sprint Grip: Temporarily increase the weapon ready speed and aim down sights after sprinting.
  • Targeting Adjuster: This weapon gains better target acquisition.
  • Icarus Grip: Improves accuracy while airborne.
  • Freehand Grip: Increases accuracy and ready speed while firing from the hip.

If you’re able to refine your targeting with armor mods, and looking to specialize in other PvE elements, then these are the best enemy and crowd control mods to use:

  • Surrounded Spec: Increases the damage granted by Surrounded. Bonus damage lingers for a brief time when no longer surrounded by three or more enemies.
  • Rampage: Kills with this weapon temporarily grant increased damage. Stacks 3x.

Look for ways to take advantage of inherent weapon perks when choosing your mods. Other than that, it’s up to your preference and how you’re building out the rest of your armor and weapon mods.

A Little Bit of Time to Explain

Pulse rifles have become a whole new beast in Destiny 2. They’re more unique, more useful, and push players to take on an aggressive mid-range play style that can benefit any Fireteam in Crucible, Raids, or Gambit. For more Destiny 2 guides like this one, be sure to subscribe to our email list, and don’t forget to share this with your fireteam to help compliment their build with the right pulse rifle.

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Update 4/1/21 – added The Messenger to number 5 position and dropped Redrix’s Broadsword to honorable mention