With the launch of Modern Warfare 3, it’s once again time to delve into a whole new sandbox and meta full of a variety of firearms to try out.
Figuring out the best of the bunch and the dominating meta is something many players will be doing in Modern Warfare 3, and whilst you can stick to your personal favourites, sometimes the meta is the only way.
In this guide, we’ll be going over how weapons are unlocked, as well as the current meta, and the best guns in Modern Warfare 3.
On this page:
How weapons are unlocked in Modern Warfare 3
What’s interesting about Modern Warfare 3 is that – for the first time in franchise history – weapons from the previous title are carried across.
As part of the 'Carry Forward' feature, all MW2 weapons retain any unlock progress in terms of weapon levels and camos too, meaning if you’re jumping into MW3 from 2, you’ll already have a large and expansive set of weapons to use.
Carry Forward also includes all weapon blueprints and attachments too.
If you don’t own MW2 or still have weapons locked in that game, they are all still available to unlock alongside MW3’s new weapons too, via a mix of weapon level requirements, or unlock challenges that become available once you reach player level 55.
As for MW3 weapons, some are unlocked as part of your general player level climb – that is to say, by playing Multiplayer matches and earning XP, you’ll unlock MW3 weapons naturally regardless of what you use – whereas a large number of others are unlocked via the Armoury.
The armoury is unlocked by reaching player level 25, and is a new system where you complete daily challenges to unlock specific weapons and equipment of your choosing.
With the various ways to unlock weapons and the sheer number of them, there are many to collect which will no doubt make this one of the most diverse metas of any Call of Duty game.
What is the current meta and best weapons in Modern Warfare 3
Whilst Modern Warfare 3 only launched just recently, following its first week, a meta has already taken shape across a wide variety of weapons.
Whether it’s with the likes of the MCW assault rifle or the Striker SMG - notably popular weapons in the beta - on top of all the new and returning weapons available, many have already gravitated towards favourites whilst trying out what else is on offer.
For example, many weapons that weren't in the beta such as the Holger 556 (G36C) assault rifle and the KATT-AMR sniper rifle have also become popular picks, and slowly outclassing what else is on offer.
Read on to see the full list of best weapons that forming the current pre-Season 1 meta.
Best Assault Rifle in Modern Warfare 3 recommendation
How to unlock: Reach player level 44 (MCW) | Armory unlock, Requires Lvl 25 (DG-58)
After the first week, other Assault Rifles have begun to slowly make their way into the meta. First though, let's talk about the MCW.
Not only is it very reminiscent of the classic ACR from the original Modern Warfare 3, the MCW stood out as a solid weapon during the beta, and it has only continued that reign at launch. Whilst it did see a slight nerf to its minimum damage, it also received an increased bullet velocity buff.
Paired with a few attachments such as the 16.5" MCW Cyclone Long Barrel we recommend in our loadout guide, you’ll be able to further increase bullet velocity and range, along with a couple of extra buffs too to make the weapon even stronger.
Whilst all of the ARs have been getting a good amount of usage, there's been a couple others that have stood out more than the rest.
First is the SVA 545 which is essentially MW3's AN-94, and not only is it a strong rifle in itself, it's also unlocked as soon as you get access to custom loadouts. On top of that, owners of the MW3 Vault Edition get access to an entire set of bespoke attachments this gun has access to, more or less setting it up for success.
As more playtime is put into the game however, othr ARs have stood out, whether it's the three-round-burst DG-58, or the Holger 556, the Assault Rifle space is seeming rather busy right now. How this will shake up over time is anyone's guess, but considering the consistency of nearly every assault rifle showing up, you can't really go wrong whatever you pick.
As we move towards and beyond Season 1, it's possible this space will begin to clear up and one will reign dominant over them all, but right now, things are looking very hectic. Be sure to keep checking back across our best Assault Rifle pages and on this page if you're looking to see what's sticking out most going forward.
Best Battle Rifle in Modern Warfare 3 recommendation
Best weapon recommendation: BAS-B
How to unlock BAS-B: Reach player level 17
Whilst it wasn’t one that I personally used much during the beta, the BAS-B was one I saw popping up pretty consistently, even if it wasn’t necessarily top of the game’s weapons overall. After launch, it's one weapon I took for a spin over quite a few games and after earning its Gold camo, it's safe to say it's been a favourite of mine already.
From a high-level view, it’s not too difficult to see why the gun is popular – its stats are the best of any MW3 Battle Rifle, and actually outclasses nearly every MW2 option in all their stats too. Not only that, but it’s also heavily reminiscent of the Honey Badger – particularly with its iron sights – a standout and iconic weapon when it first appeared in Call of Duty: Ghosts ten years ago.
Using it in Multiplayer matches, it's even easier to see why many have gravitated towards it - it's great at lasering enemies down thanks to its great range and fast Time-to-Kill, and pairing it with a red dot and suppressor makes you feel like you're in the good old days due to its Honey Badger likeness. Except now it's a Battle Rifle and outputting high damage, resulting in what I'd say is one of the best weapons in the game overall right now.
With all this in mind, combining its popularity with its likeness and heritage, it's essentially the perfect package, very much like the MCW mentioned before, and the same goes for that of the Striker SMG. Speaking of...
Best Submachine Gun in Modern Warfare 3 recommendation
Best weapon recommendation: Striker
How to unlock Striker: Reach player level 4
The theme of nostalgia only continues with this recommendation, as the Striker is not only a brilliant SMG pick right from the outset, but it’s also quite literally an almost direct copy of the iconic UMP 45 from the original Modern Warfare games.
Embodying that original in a few ways, it’s very similarly quite the powerhouse and as it was in the beta, it continues to be a standout gun many players are gravitating towards as we progress through this pre-season 1 launch period. As we recommend in our loadout guide, it’s a great gun to pair with a suppressor and red dot to make it a stealthy and accurate option for close-quarters engagements.
There’s less of a clear difference between the Striker and other SMGs compared to certain other best-in-class guns like the BAS-B Battle Rifle though, since its stats don’t quite outclass every other weapon in the same category.
That said, there’s a wide net cast with Submachine Guns since they can run the gamut of both range and rate of fire, and the Striker lands pretty firmly in the middle as an effective weapon that still holds up at near-medium range encounters. In doing so, it’s a solid pick to use whilst the dust begins to settle and the full spectrum of subs rolls out into player’s hands.
Whilst the Striker is a decently-balanced weapon stat-wise, a couple of other SMGs have slowly been rising in popularity, namely the AMR9 and Rival-9, both of which we've seen popping up across Multiplayer a fair amount.
Me personally, I got quite attached to the WSP Swarm thanks to a custom loadout I was using before I hit level 4. Though it's one that has a bit of a steep learning curve to, primarily due to its very high rate of fire, so it felt a bit like I was constantly needing to reload. One to practice with for sure, but one that felt pretty effective when hitting shots consistently, even if it meant a bit of a battle with the recoil. For more on the WSP Swarm, check out one of the loadouts we put together for it.
Best Shotgun in Modern Warfare 3 recommendation
Best weapon recommendation: Lockwood 680
How to unlock Lockwood 680: Reach player level 4
For me, this recommendation was only really discovered after rolling into the beta and equipping it as a secondary thanks to benefits provided by the Gunner Vest. Swapping to the Lockwood 680 for close encounter battles as a backup to my primary MCW, it was an incredibly effective option, and one that’s right at home in some of the very small and compact environments you’ll find throughout many of MW3’s maps.
The new Vest system – and Gunner Vest in particular for this gun – can really be a game-changer here though granting a multitude of benefits alongside having access to a second primary.
Throwing on the Gunner Vest and chucking on the Lockwood as a second primary, and you’ve got a great backup shotty that’ll be a great close quarters option for any medium-range-focused build – check out our MCW loadout guide for more on that approach.
Not only that, but the range isn’t too shabby either, with the second-to-highest range of any shotgun across MW2 and MW3’s complete arsenal. While it may not be the king of range, it’s on the upper echelon of shotties when it comes to raw damage.
It’ll be interesting to see how this shakes up over time against MW2’s Expedite 12, as well as MW3’s new full-auto Riveter that’ll no doubt be compared to the classic AA-12 from the original MW2 – featuring a higher fire rate and the best range of all shotguns, it’s possible the Lockwood might have some close competition that’ll continue to play out as it already has done since the game launched. We'll see how this shakes up and see what might take the best shotgun crown for Season 1.
Best Light Machine Gun in Modern Warfare 3 recommendation
Best weapon recommendation: Holger 26 or Pulemyot 762
How to unlock: Armoury Unlock, Requires Lvl 25 (Holger 26) | Reach player level 4, Custom Loadout unlock (Pulemyot 762)
Lightmachine guns are always an interesting beast to dissect and study because they’re a rather niche option that generally doesn’t get too much love. From my personal experience, with a seemingly longer TTK in Modern Warfare 3, LMGs didn’t feel all that good in the beta, and for fast-paced matches, having a long reload time and slowed movement speed doesn’t always feel the best.
However, since MW3's launch, there are a couple of decent options worth checking out, the first of which fits in a nice middle ground between Assault Rifles and LMGs.
Back in the beta, the Holger 26 was the primary LMG I noticed popping up consistently, at least comparatively to the Pulemyot 762 at the time. With the full game, there’s only one other gun to consider from the LMG category, that being the OG-58 LSW which actually is very much in-like with the Holger 26 statistically, with slightly higher accuracy, but lower recoil control and mobility. That's not gained too much traction thus far and the Holger 26 is still the one that stands out from the two.
Contrasting the beta experience slowly over time though is the Pulemyot 762 that seems like it's gaining traction over time. Complete with a huge mag size of 100 rounds, the highest of all MW3 LMGs and only equalised by the Bruen MK9 and Sakin MG38 from MW3, it's an impressive gun that actually has a pretty quick TTK particularly if you're able to resist the gun's strong recoil.
On the whole, LMGs aren't exactly taking the meta by storm like some of the other weapons, but they're still gaining a fair bit of attention that makes them worth considering. With the Pulemyot slowly creeping up since launch, it might be worth keeping an eye on that as the community slowly decides on what they feel is the best Lightmachine gun in the game.
Best Marksman Rifle in Modern Warfare 3 recommendation
Best weapon recommendation: MTZ Interceptor or MCW 6.8
How to unlock: Armoury Unlocks (Requires Lvl 25)
In a similar way to LMGs – and perhaps Battle Rifles too – Marksman Rifles are in a pretty niche spot. They occupy a space between Assault Rifles (ARs) and Sniper Rifles (SRs), but whereas Battle Rifles are more akin to ARs, Marksman Rifles are more akin to SRs. This almost puts them in a similar line of competition to snipers themselves.
Despite the niche window it lives within, there’s actually four new Marksman Rifles that – along with MW2’s collection – brings the total to 12.
Whilst the meta may shake up over time, much like it was in the beta, the MTZ Interceptor takes the crown here, which is no doubt in part due to its total damage which – not including MW2’s Crossbow – is the highest of the lot. It’s also on the upper end of total range and besides the MCW 6.8, it near enough has best-in-class range and accuracy too.
From a high-level view, the MTZ Interceptor and MCW 6.8 look like the two Marksman Rifles to keep an eye on, but with a collection of 12 to choose from, it’s possible this will shake out differently over time.
Best Sniper Rifle in Modern Warfare 3 recommendation
How to unlock: Requires Lvl 4, Custom Loadouts unlock (KATT-AMR) | Reach player level 4 (Longbow)
The sniper rifle scene was looking pretty interesting in the beta, and it continues to do so beyond launch too. Whilst there was a lot of love for the Longbow, it seemed initially like this was mainly due to more players gravitating towards it thanks to there being a unique version you could net by purchasing the Vault Edition of MW3. However, that's not entirely the case since the Longbow can be a very powerful gun in its own right.
On day one, taking them at face value, the KV Inhibitor is the one that stood out to me and seemed to fit the bill for a strong sniper, particularly one that was consistently landing one-shot kills at longer ranges. In a way, the Longbow felt almost like something more suited towards Marksman Rifle territory, and so even if with a strong pairing of attachments it seemed like a powerful gun, the KV Inhibitor was the more sniper-like rifle, and was what we were previously recommending.
However, as suspected, the KATT-AMR has more or less stolen the show as the best sniper rifle right now, essentially taking KV Inhibitor's place since it leans even heavier to the core values of a sniper. Whilst the KV Inhibitor is still a strong gun, the KATT-AMR is the standout what with its impressive max damage stat that's clearly in part why it's dominating for core sniping fans.
For more from Modern Warfare 3, be sure to check out the various guides we have covering all the campaign missions and rewards, the full list of guns in Multiplayer, as well as loadout guides for various guns such as the MCW, Striker, and more.