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Destiny 2: Best Exotic Hand Cannon, Ranked (PvE & PvP)

Hand Cannons are some of the most popular weapons in Destiny 2, so it’s no surprise that there are a bunch of Exotic options to try out. You’ll likely notice that most of the Exotic Hand Cannon options are more PvP-oriented, but we have several great options for PvE as well.

In this article, we’ll rank all 10 Exotic Hand Cannons in Destiny 2 from worst to best in both PvE and PvP. Let’s get right to it!

Every Exotic Hand Cannon Ranked in PvE

Without wasting too much more time, here is our ranking of every Exotic Hand Cannon for PvE in Destiny 2!

10. The Last Word

The Last Word - no reason whatsoever to use this Hand Cannon in PvE
Image: Bungie, Inc. via HGG / Brett Moss

The Last Word was never really meant for PvE, was it? From the auto-fire intrinsic perk, to the hip-fire bonuses, to Accurized Rounds, everything about this weapon screams PvP.

In PvE, the most use you’ll really get out of The Last Word is having some fun in easy content. In any kind of difficult content, there’s really no reason to ever use The Last Word. (Which sucks, because it’s such a fun weapon to use.)

9. Hawkmoon

Hawkmoon - largely useless in PvE
Image: Bungie, Inc. via HGG / Brett Moss

Yet another Exotic Hand Cannon that’s a lot better in PvP than PvE. It feels like with its randomized perks there would be one that worked in PvE, but there really isn’t.

Its Exotic perk (Paracausal Shot) also doesn’t provide much in PvE, since the damage bonus isn’t enough to have a lasting impact when you could just use a different weapon. Whereas in PvP, it’s much more powerful, providing a way to get one-shot kills.

As cool as Hawkmoon is, there’s just nothing here to make it useful in PvE.

8. Crimson

Crimson - decent option for add-clear in PvE but not much else.
Image: Bungie, Inc. via HGG / Brett Moss

Crimson, just like The Last Word, just isn’t a PvE weapon. While it is entirely a PvP weapon, there is something to be said for the Cruel Remedy perk in PvE. It gives healing on kills and refills the mag on precision kills, so it’s great for clearing out adds.

Perhaps they should bring this back and put it on an SMG or Auto Rifle. But despite possessing a unique perk, Crimson just isn’t a stand-out weapon in PvE.

7. Sturm

Sturm - not really going to see much use in PvE
Image: Bungie, Inc. via HGG / Brett Moss

Sturm has a reputation as one of the Exotics nobody ever uses, but it has more merit than some say. But that merit really only applies to PvP, as everything about Sturm feels horribly outdated in terms of PvE.

While it is a fun weapon to use and can work in some builds, it doesn’t hold up to the standards of more powerful Exotics.

6. Thorn

Thorn - poisoning enemies isn't that great in PvE.
Image: Bungie, Inc. via HGG / Brett Moss

Poisoning enemies is always fun, but it doesn’t do a ton in PvE. Compared to Osteo Striga (another poisonous weapon in the same slot), it just doesn’t hold up for what it was intended to do.

These days, you’re far more likely to find Thorn in PvP (but we’ll talk more about that later). For now, we wouldn’t really recommend using Thorn in much PvE content outside of easier Strikes or some easy raid encounters at most.

5. Lumina

Lumina - the ultimate Hand Canon for a healer.
Image: Bungie, Inc. via HGG / Brett Moss

Lumina allows you to play the healer role better than any other weapon, so naturally it’s great for Warlocks. It’s also even better when paired with the Boots of the Assembler Exotic armor piece, which grants Noble Rounds whenever you’re in a Rift.

Once you’ve got a good Lumina build going, you’ll be hugely valuable to your team. The only downside is that you have to base your whole build around it and only really works well on Warlocks, so it’s not for everyone.

4. Ace of Spades

Ace of Spades - 4th Best Exotic Hand Cannon for PvE
Image: Bungie, Inc. via HGG / Brett Moss

Ace of Spades isn’t known for its PvE presence, but it’s not as bad as you might think.

In addition to just being a well-rounded Hand Cannon, it also has Firefly and the bonus damage from the Memento Mori perk. Those bonus damage rounds are far easier to activate in PvE than PvP, making Ace even more consistent.

It might not be the intended use, but if there was ever a time to try Ace in PvE, it’s now.

3. Eriana’s Vow

Eriana's Vow - 3rd Best Exotic Hand Cannon for PvE
Image: Bungie, Inc. via HGG / Brett Moss

Eriana’s Vow is a special ammo Hand Cannon that does massive damage in exchange for a slower fire rate and longer reload time. It also has a built-in Anti-Barrier mod, so it’s always good for taking out those annoying Barrier Champions.

Unfortunately, even though Eriana’s Vow is definitely a good weapon in PvE, it’s still largely outclassed by other Exotic special weapons. It’s great in specific builds or the occasional Grandmaster Strike, but it’s not a weapon you can just use constantly.

It also gets outclassed by Arbalest in terms of obliterating Barrier Champions, but so does everything, to be honest.

2. Malfeasance

Malfeasance - 2nd Best Exotic Hand Cannon for PvE
Image: Bungie, Inc. via HGG / Brett Moss

Malfeasance being tied to Gambit is probably the only thing keeping Gambit around at all these days, but it’s a pretty good reason at least.

Ever since it got its catalyst, it’s been a valuable weapon in any fireteam. The catalyst gives the Vorpal Weapon perk and a range bonus, which is enough to push it over the top. When paired with the powerful suite of perks Malfeasance already had, it’s hard to beat these days.

From the Explosive Shadow perk, to the built-in Anti-Unstoppable Champion mod, to the bonus damage against Taken enemies and Gambit invaders, there are a million reasons to love Malfeasance.

1. Sunshot

Sunshot - Best Exotic Hand Cannon for PvE
Image: Bungie, Inc. via HGG / Brett Moss

Sunshot manages to stand out against the other Exotic Hand Cannons in PvE, as it fits into several amazing Solar builds as the primary weapon they use. Since it makes explosions on kills and spreads Scorch stacks, it’s just perfect. Solar builds love making things explode, and that’s all Sunshot does.

As Solar builds are largely the best for add-clear these days, Sunshot has had many chances over the last year or so to show how good it is. It’s a close race, but in our opinion Sunshot is the best Exotic Hand Cannon for PvE.

Every Exotic Hand Cannon Ranked in PvP

Exotic Hand Cannons really shine in PvP, especially when you get to the top few picks. Here is every Exotic Hand Cannon in Destiny 2 ranked for PvP!

10. Lumina

Lumina - a bit too niche of a Hand Cannon to recommend for PvP.
Image: Bungie, Inc. via HGG / Brett Moss

To make it clear, even though Lumina is ranked last here, it isn’t necessarily horrible. It’s just incredibly inconsistent and only works well if you have a specific Exotic armor piece (Boots of the Assembler on Warlock).

However, Lumina is still a good weapon that can give some very helpful damage boosts and heals to your team. It’s situational and a bit too niche to rank highly, but it is certainly an interesting weapon to try out and can work in some situations.

9. The Last Word

The Last Word - it's just not meta for PvP.
Image: Bungie, Inc. via HGG / Brett Moss

We really wish we could rank The Last Word higher, but it just doesn’t fit in the meta right now. Since you’re supposed to hip-fire The Last Word in full-auto mode, it’s a bit difficult to control and doesn’t work well at long range.

For mouse and keyboard users, it’s much harder to control without the bonus aim assist that controller users get, so it’s even harder to vouch for. While The Last Word can be very strong if you master it, it’s just not as good as other options.

8. Sturm

Sturm - sadly dragged down by needing to be paired with Drang to be effective.
Image: Bungie, Inc. via HGG / Brett Moss

Sturm is one of the forgotten Exotics in Destiny 2 that you don’t see very often anymore.

Sturm works best when paired with the Drang (either version), as both weapons get intrinsic bonuses from one another. It’s a very unique interaction that you won’t find anywhere else in Destiny 2’s weapon catalog, so it stands out. But that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s great.

The base weapon, Sturm, is very strong, but the gimmick of needing to pair it with the Drang to get max value does drag it down a bit. However, you don’t have to pair them. You can use Sturm without the Drang if you want, as it’s still a strong weapon. It just sucks to miss out on those bonuses.

7. Eriana’s Vow

Eriana's Vow - only needs two shots to kill most opponents.
Image: Bungie, Inc. via HGG / Brett Moss

Eriana’s Vow is the only special ammo Hand Cannon, so it’s very different from the others. You get less ammo, so you’ll have to be far more careful than normal. If you’re good with it and can land precision shots, though, it becomes one of the strongest Hand Cannons out there.

You’ll only need to land two shots (one precision, one body) to kill enemies with Eriana’s Vow, but the slower fire rate and reduced ammo help balance its high damage. It’ll take some time to master Eriana’s Vow in PvP, but it’s certainly worth doing.

6. Thorn

Thorn - being able to poison your opponent is always valuable in PvP
Image: Bungie, Inc. via HGG / Brett Moss

Thorn remains strong after all this time thanks to the poison damage it applies on every hit. Applying poison damage to enemies in PvP is always helpful, since it gives you hit markers (which tell you where they’re at) and blocks healing for a short time.

We’ve seen several new weapons since Thorn that have the same or similar effects, but in terms of Hand Cannons, Thorn is still the king of poison damage. Thorn does struggle a bit from power creep since it’s been around so long, but it’s still a good choice. It’d be nice to see a full update for this weapon sometime soon, though.

5. Sunshot

Sunshot - a great PvP Hand Cannon for Solar builds.
Image: Bungie, Inc. via HGG / Brett Moss

Sunshot stands out as one of the Hand Cannons that benefited the most from the Season 22 Hand Cannon buffs.

The best thing about Sunshot is its explosive AoE damage on kills, which can greatly help out with grabbing multi-kills. It’s also the only 150 RPM Hand Cannon in the game, so it has a unique feel that can’t really be replicated.

Once you get used to the feel of Sunshot in PvP, it’s a great weapon to master due to its potential for getting multi-kills. Sunshot is particularly good on Solar builds, which have a way to benefit from any Scorch stacks you’re able to make via Sunshot’s Solar explosions.

4. Crimson

Crimson - 4th Best Exotic Hand Cannon for PvP
Image: Bungie, Inc. via HGG / Brett Moss

Crimson is kind of hard to rate, as its strength largely depends on if you’re on controller or mouse and keyboard.

Since Crimson has a unique three-round burst, it can be hard to land all three precision shots with all the recoil going on. If you’re using a controller, the bonus aim assist makes landing precision shots with Crimson much easier. But if you’re using mouse and keyboard with much less aim assist, you might struggle with the shots.

So for controller users, Crimson is probably a bit higher up on the list. But for mouse and keyboard users, it’s a bit lower.

Keeping that in mind, we’ll just throw it here in fourth place, as it is very strong if you can make it work for you. Any weapon which has a bit of built-in healing will always be strong in PvP, and the unique burst-fire archetype feels great once you get used to it.

3. Malfeasance

Malfeasance - 3rd Best Exotic Hand Cannon for PvP
Image: Bungie, Inc. via HGG / Brett Moss

Malfeasance never really mattered much in PvP until it got its new catalyst. As the catalyst gives Malfeasance the Vorpal Weapon perk (bonus damage against bosses and Guardians in their super) and +20 range, it has become much more viable.

Vorpal Weapon is obviously a PvE perk, but it has specific uses in PvP since it works against roaming supers. The range bonus is more important for PvP though, and when combined with the Explosive Shadow perk, which causes your rounds to stick in targets and explode after you’ve landed a few, makes Malfeasance a force to reckon with in PvP.

Malfeasance is a 180 hand cannon, so it has its haters. But if you like the feel of these less high-impact hand cannons, this is the one to go with by far.

2. Hawkmoon

Hawkmoon - 2nd Best Exotic Hand Cannon for PvP
Image: Bungie, Inc. via HGG / Brett Moss

Hawkmoon was one of the earliest Exotics with randomized perks, and it was designed mostly with PvP in mind.

The bonus damage round granted from the exotic perk, Paracausal Shot, is incredible for getting an easy precision kill in PvP, while it’s just kind of a perk that exists in PvE. Hawkmoon’s perks also work out really well for PvP, as it can get Rangefinder, Opening Shot, or Moving Target, as well as some other more niche options.

If you’re looking for a consistent Exotic Hand Cannon with a powerful trait, Hawkmoon is a great choice. For a more in-depth breakdown of the god rolls for Hawkmoon, check out our article on it!

1. Ace of Spades

Ace of Spades - Best Exotic Hand Cannon for PvP
Image: Bungie, Inc. via HGG / Brett Moss

At this point, it would be hard to make a case for any other Hand Cannon as the best in PvP other than Ace. There’s really nothing it doesn’t do.

It has great range for a Hand Cannon, feels solid to use, and has two fantastic perks. The first is Firefly, which makes an explosion around targets you kill with precision damage. This is honestly better in PvE, but it’s still a strong effect in PvP when you get to utilize it.

The other is Memento Mori, which is essentially an improved version of Kill Clip. After any kill, just reload to get 6 bonus damage rounds which do 90 precision damage each. They don’t go away until you stow the weapon, either, so you don’t have to worry about them expiring. Plus, with Ace of Spades you always have your radar up while aiming down sights.

Ace of Spaces is without a doubt the best Exotic Hand Cannon for PvP in Destiny 2. It’s the most consistent, has great perks, and just feels like the perfect weapon designed with PvP in mind, without being too overpowered.

Join the High Ground!

And that concludes our tier list of the best Exotic Hand Cannons for PvE and PvP in Destiny 2. What do you think of our rankings? Would you change the rank of one of the Hand Cannons?

Let us know in the comments below! And don’t forget to subscribe to the High Ground for more articles on all of your favorite games.

Happy gaming!


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