In Monster Hunter: World, hunters are tasked with using their wit and cunning to track and slay enormous wild beasts, armed with razor sharp claws, thorny tails, and the capacity to breathe fire and ice. Easy, right?
Hunters aren’t completely toothless in this task, though — they have 14 different weapon types to choose from to help bring down these giants. They're all different, and it can be tough to understand what makes them all unique. Let this guide help.
On top of descriptions on how they work, recommendations of accompanying Armor Skills, which give you bonus abilities when you equip certain pieces of armor, charms, or decorations, will also punctuate the entries. Hopefully, this will be a good source of basic guidance to help you pick the weapon that’s right for you.
Sword and Shield
Strengths: Balanced mobility, offensive, and defensive capabilities.
Weaknesses: Short-to-mid-range, limited aerial presence.
The Sword and Shield is the bread-and-butter weapon in Monster Hunter. A staple since the very beginning, it can output significant damage without compromising defense, thanks to its ability to block. Your shield won’t be absorbing massive amounts of damage, though, so you should still prioritize avoiding attacks completely, relying on the shield as a backup.
The S&S’s special ability keeps it relevant well into the late game. Without having to sheathe your weapon, you can use items and fire your slinger. This saves a ton of time, and can make all the difference when you need to plop down a trap in the nick of time.
Another plus of the S&S is that it can do both cutting and impact damage with its pair of combos. This means you can cut off monster tails and knock them silly while bashing their heads. Sword attacks and shield attacks are mapped to separate buttons, to help make switching back and forth between attack types intuitive.
Note that you will not be doing epic, one-hit damage with this weapon. With only one aerial attack, locked at the end of a backstep-combo, you won’t be doing much mounting either. But you will be prepared for anything with this weapon, both solo and in multiplayer. With the ease of item usage you'll enjoy, you’re in a unique position to do some team supporting with AOE items like Lifepowder.
Armor skills that compliment the diversity of play using S&S are equally diverse. Guard will help you fill the gap between your shield’s defensive capabilities and that of the bigger, better shields on weapons like the Gunlance, in terms of knockback mitigation and stamina cost. You’ll be attacking a lot, so power/affinity boosting skills like Attack Boost and Critical Eye are solid choices, as well as any of the elemental attack up skills.
Strengths: Overwhelming offence, high speed and mobility.
Weakness: Very close range, and no defenses.
The Dual Blades are weapons you can choose to free your inner berserker. Quick and agile strikes allow for a competent hit and run strategy, and let you plant and unleash big combo flurries to blend monsters into oblivion.
The Dual Blades have two advanced modes – Demon Mode and Arch-Demon Mode. By toggling Demon Mode on, you gain speed, damage, and some wind resistance (meaning gusts caused by monster landings won’t knock you off balance). You also add a new move flurry of swings called Blade Dance, at the end of your main combo. Blade Dance can’t be repelled by hard armor, so none of its strikes will bounce off a monster. But make sure you use this powerful ability when a monster is vulnerable, because you will be locked into its animation until it's over, leaving you wide open for a counter strike.
Demon Mode gradually drains stamina, so toggling it off to restore stamina every now and again is essential. You’ll want to stay in Demon Mode for as long as you can, though, as every landed strike fills your Demon Gauge. When the gauge is full, toggle Demon Mode again to put you into Arch-Demon Mode. With pulsing gauge and glowing blades, your offensive capabilities will reach new heights for a limited period of time. All of your attacks do more damage, some will have new properties, and some will change completely. Every attack you use will use some of your meter, and when it’s empty, you’ll return to normal mode.
Getting the most out of Dual Blades also means speccing armor skills around its strengths. You’ll be doing a ton of attacking, so skills that increase your attack damage and help mitigate stamina depletion are good calls. I like Attack Boost for upping damage and increasing Affinity at higher levels (for better critical hits). Stamina Surge and Marathon Runner help stamina recovery speed and slow stamina loss. All that attacking will dull your weapons faster, so Speed Sharpening might be a good take. Also consider Focus, which will help raise your Demon Gauge faster.
Strengths: Long reach, quick combos, generally sharper than other comparable weapons.
Weaknesses: Requires several combos before unlocking its damage potential, no defense to speak of.
Maybe one of the most popular weapons in all of Monster Hunter, the Long Sword is aggressive, deadly, and stylish. It has very wide horizontal strikes, and can reach tall enough to cut off the tails of wyverns like the Rathian or the Diablos while standing. It’s grants wielders a great deal of mobility for a weapon of its size, allowing you to roll and evade out of a combo after each swing.
The Long Sword’s power comes from the Spirit Gauge, which fills up a bit every time an attack hits. Spirit Attacks are special swings that do more damage and never bounce off of monsters because of sharpness, but cost some of your Spirit Gauge. Three Spirit Attacks in a row makes a Spirit Combo. If the last attack of the Spirit Combo hits, your Spirit Level will rise. Each Spirit Level grants a passive damage bonus to all Long Sword attacks, up to a maximum of 3 levels.
Heavy use of Spirit Combos to keep your damage high is key to putting out consistent hurt on monsters throughout a fight. You can lace Spirit Attacks into your normal combos to extend the damage, which is a great element of tactical play – especially since you can’t really plant and stand your ground against monsters, because Long Swords cannot block.
Attacking is your primary role on the ground, so armor skills that help you do that well should be your focus. Evade Extender/Evade Window are good focuses, as they will give you the biggest window to dodge enemy attacks together. Critical Eye will give you a great affinity boost for a weapon primed for lots of crits. Speed Sharpening isn’t a bad thought either, as it will keep your damage high by speeding up your sharpening pit stops.
Strengths: Fast to fire, mobility in spades, diverse ammo selections.
Weaknesses: Heavy recoil, shorter range.
Of the two bowgun varieties, the Light Bowgun is made for short-to-mid-range skirmishes, where blasting enemies quickly and moving to a new position before they can retaliate is the order of the day. You don’t hit as hard as you would with the Heavy Bowgun, but you are far faster.
You can hip fire without aiming, but it is less accurate. There’s special ammo that recharges over time that can do things like planting defensive mines, and dodging in succession lets you initiate a slide that evades for an extended distance. Guns don’t have weapon-based elements or ailments, it’s all ammo dependent. The guns themselves are more of a menu, determining what sort of ammo you can fire.
An important note for doing damage with ranged weapons: mind your distance. Shooting from outside of the optimal range will lower your damage potential dramatically. An easy way to tell if you are in full damage range is to check your reticle. If it’s orange, you’re in business.
Your armor skill selection will vary. Special Ammo Boost is a must, to get more damage out of shots like Pierce and Spread. Elemental Attack Up skills should be treated like selecting the right elemental weapon for a monster's weakness, and can be cycled accordingly. Attack Boost is always a good option, as well
Strengths: The strongest one hit damage potential in the game, can block incoming attacks.
Weakness: Incredibly slow, dulls quickly when defending a lot.
The Great Sword is maybe the most iconic Monster Hunter weapon in the series. Most of the game covers feature a gnarly beast snarling at a steadfast hunter wielding an obnoxiously garish blade. Put those on your mood board if Great Sword-ing is in your future.
Great Swords have powerful and wide-arching attacks, perfect for clearing out waves of small monsters, and touching those hard-to-reach places on the big guys. Your vertical slash can be held down and charged up to three levels for incredible amounts of damage. You have a shoulder tackle and a sword "slap" available in combos for some KO damage, and a kick that is good for setting off barrel bombs (if you really need to do that with your feet.)
These powerful attacks come at the cost of speed. The act of swinging the sword is a test of patience, and being overly reckless means you will commit to a swing that is easily dodge-able, or easily countered. This goes double for charged swings, which take so much time to get the most out of, that you’re better off reserving them for use only when a monster is trapped or knocked down.
Typically, you’ll be running around with your weapon sheathed, swinging only when you know you’ll hit something, and only a couple of times, before sheathing and re-positioning. You’ll only want to block when your hit-and-run strategy is putting you in the path of a big attack that you couldn’t otherwise dodge. You’ll prevent some of the damage, but you’ll take a big hit to your sharpness, something you’ll really want to keep as high as it can be to fight as efficiently as possible.
Damage-forward armor skills are a must with the Great Sword. Attack Boost and Critical Eye should be your priority, with Elemental Damage Boosts a secondary concern. Also consider Focus, which could lower the charge time of your best attacks.
Strengths: Overwhelming blunt damage, surprisingly mobile when charged.
Weaknesses: No defense, slow attacks, low sharpness.
The Hammer is a classic Monster Hunter weapon tailored towards players who love the high risk/high reward style of monster slaying. The Hammer has a short reach and slow start up, with elaborate attacks that are difficult to get out of once initiated. But when any of these attacks make scaly contact with a foe, it’s incredibly satisfying.
Hammers are pretty consistent melee weapons, and are great for hitting target locations in succession without having to compensate too much. This is what makes it so good at knocking down monsters, as you can clobber the head of a wyvern rapidly and repeatedly with ease.
It also has charged attacks like a Great Sword, but hunters can move freely while charging through its tiers, so you are better at making the most of your hit-and-run schemes. Hammers don't have the sharpness of other weapons, which means that you will bounce off of monsters more often than most, so be mindful that even your best opportunities might yield less-than-optimal results.
With its penchant for dizzying monsters, the Slugger armor skill seems like the perfect pick to bring the most out of this particular quality. Focus will help you get those charged swings off faster, as well.
Strengths: Precise damage, surprising mobility, incredible defense.
Weakness: Small hit range, slow movement.
To be a walking tank, you have to be sturdy, reliable, and damn near impenetrable. The Lance will make you the most solid of rocks.
Part of your relative unstoppability lies in how active your guard is. While dashing, you can guard and turn 180 degrees. Power Guards can greatly diminish push-back from guarding. Well-timed Power Guards launch a special counter attack. Both of these help you stay unreasonably close to monsters while still safe.
While there, your precision strikes can be directed out in front of you, or just above you. You’ll have a big sweeping horizontal attack to help you keep small monsters at bay, and to catch bigger, faster ones trying to flank you. The Lance’s signature move, though, is its Dash Attack, which will send you jousting forward like a pointy freight train.
The longer you run, the faster you go. Small monsters you collide into will take damage and get pushed aside. Big monsters take big damage, but are not always stunned by your presence. When it comes to these guys, you usually want to nail them with a finishing strike, executed by pressing your attack buttons. You can also get in the air pretty reliably off of this charge, giving you more mounting potential than you might assume is available to lancers.
Guard is a valuable Armor Skill for Lancers because it boosts your defensive capabilities into the stratosphere, especially when paired with Defense Boost. A focus on your sharpness and affinity and power will reap rewards, so Attack Boost and Critical Eye can work wonders here.
Strengths: Highly defensive, excellent burst damage.
Weaknesses: Much less mobile than the lance.
Gunlances are very similar to lances in their ability to keep your safe in situations other weapons can’t (i.e. moving). Where the Lance has some added mobility in its dashing guard and charging abilities, the Gunlance has awesome, explosive power when you decide to hunker down and let loose.
Along side basic pokes and swings, Gunlances also have shelling attacks, where rounds are fired out of a pokey bit for extra damage. Shelling can be comboed into your basic attack strings, as well as be utilized as big combo-enders. Shelling requires rounds, displayed next to your sharpness meter. When empty, you have to reload, which is decidedly faster than reloading a Bowgun, but still a pain. Shelling also deteriorates sharpness at an alarming rate, so you my find yourself sharpening way more than average.
When you find a long enough opening, gunlances have a big attack called Wyvern’s Fire. A torch is lit at the end of your lance, and after a charging period, a large blast hits everything in front of you. Now, you are stationary (besides changing the direction you're facing) when using this, so only initiate Wyvern’s Fire when you know getting countered is unlikely.
An armor skill like Speed Sharpening might really help mitigate the constant pit stops you’ll be making to keep this weapon’s damage output high. Otherwise, Guard will keep you impervious, while Critical Eye will help you get the most out of each blow. Artillery will add extra bite to your shelling and Wyvern's Fire.
Strengths: Big damage from long range, access to more special ammo.
Weakness: Quite unwieldy, requires good positioning.
The Heavy Bowgun is a lot like the Light Bowgun, but enjoys a wider range of ammunition choices and gives up a lot of maneuverability.
Heavy Bowguns are heavy hitters, and can really beat a monster down from long range when given the opportunity. The ammo available is vast and is usually capable of shooting higher levels of elemental and normal shots than Light Bowguns. They also get some devastating special ammo options, which turn your bowgun into a rattling machine gun or an armor cracking sniper rifle.
You will not get the safety of being able to escape danger spryly, though. You can mitigate this risk by attaching a shield to the front of your weapon, but positioning is key.
Like the Light Bowgun, you’ll benefit from the same sorts of armor skills. Elemental Attack/Special Ammo Boost and Attack Boost are good buys. Consider Artillery as well, to get the most out of your more explosive shells.
Strengths: Can do high damage in short bursts, very adaptable attack suite in both forms.
Weakness: Must use axe form to get to sword form.
The Switch Axe is a modular weapon with lots of versatility, but that also means it has a pretty high skill floor, and probably shouldn’t be your first weapon out of the gate.
In its axe form, every attack fills a phial gauge, that will allow you switch it to sword mode when filled enough. Both forms have their merits — the axe has great range, and the sword offers wicked damage. Mastery is a matter of knowing when to use which form, and how to manage your gauge so switching is always at your fingertips.
There are combos that switch back and forth between the modes, which is good because alternating between modes is the best way to get the most out of the weapon. Some notes to remember; in axe mode, spamming your special attack will open up a constant combo that drains stamina gradually, and while in sword mode, constantly attacking can put you in a fervor that does more damage.
Attack-forward armor skills are the key here. Attack Boost and Critical Eye are the go-tos for these sorts of things, of course. Focus might be worth looking into, as it helps fill gauges faster.
Strengths: Very powerful in axe mode, and can potentially be very defensive in sword mode.
Weaknesses: Very technical, and easy to miss out on big damage.
Another highly technical weapon, the Charge Blade can do basically anything you want it to — with practice. In its sword mode, it operates a lot like the sword and shield weapon with slightly improved blocking capability and no real shield-bashing to speak of. Attacks in this form charge the blade with energy, that must be stored in the shield. When transformed into the axe, you will see similarities between it and the Great Sword or Switch Axe.
The axe form is where you can make use of that stored up energy. The special attack button will burst a capsule to provide blasts of energy for your next attack. Axe form is where most of your damage will be done, but switching back and forth between weapons will keep you on your toes, phials charged, and the enemy on the back foot.
When you have full vials, you have unleash a huge special attack that does big damage but spends all of your phials. When canceling that attack right before it happens, you can return that energy back to your shield, turning it red and increasing its defensive capabilities.
It would be an easy choice to grab the Critical Eye and Attack Boost armor skills and call it a day. But consider Elemental Attack Boosts as well, since the elemental bursts from your phials can really be turned up a notch with it. Artillery is made for its bursting attacks, too.
Strengths: The most mobility of all weapons, the most aerial offense.
Weaknesses: No blocking, obtuse kinsect mechanic.
The Insect Glaive is the only weapon in the game that can vault hunters into the air at the touch of a button. Darting and dashing above monsters makes glaive wielders hard to catch while giving them an amazing amount of opportunities to mount monsters.
You’ll notice that a large bug sits on your arm. This kinsect can be fired at parts of large monsters, where they will harvest extract from them and bring it back to you. Different colors of extract can be pulled from different parts of the creature. When a combination of three are brought back to you, you will gain some sort of buff, like increased damage. Kinsects can be equipped separately to the weapons, and mixing and matching bugs and blades is a big part of the weapon's depth.
This is basically what you’ll be doing when on the ground — extracting to buff yourself and get yourself into a position to continue attempting to mount. Going toe-to-toe with monsters on the ground is risky, since you can’t block their incoming attacks.
Master Mounter should be a goal armor skill, as it will be one of your primary roles. The Evasion skills are good for defense, while Attack Boost is a great offensive choice.
Strengths: The only true support weapon, heavy hammer damage.
Weaknesses: Very complex, not very mobile.
The Hunting Horn makes a bard out of you, giving you the power to make your team stronger as well as dishing out your own share of punishment. It has high blunt damage output, making it just as good at stunning big monsters as the hammer.
Hunting horns are very combo dependent, though, because combos set up melodies. Individual notes are mapped to attack buttons (and both attack buttons pressed together), and once three in a row are played, you have your melody. Melodies play tunes that grant a buff to you and all of your allies, like CC protection or a defense boost, and can be stored in a queue of up to three. Each horn can play its own specific set of melodies, and that will determine how you attack with the weapon in combat.
Horn Maestro and Slugger are great armor skill picks for any horn user, and the Evasion skills make great defensive options, since you cannot block.
Strengths: Agile and quick ranged attacks, easiest ranged weapon to start with.
Weaknesses: Low coating counts, requires practice to be most effective with.
The Bow is a great mid range distance weapon the allows you to pelt enemies with a stream of arrows from relative safety. Bows don’t have ammo limits or combos — you can fire forever, but every shot costs stamina, and holding shots will charge them to higher tiers, costing even more stamina. Higher tier shots do more damage and often fire more projectiles. This is a good thing to remember when using coatings to apply status effects, because the more you hit, the more chances to proc the effect.
Not every bow can use all coatings, mind you. So on top of elemental attack selection, coating array is yet another factor in choosing the right bow for the job. Special shots also vary from bow to bow, so deciding between things like Arc shots or Spread shots are just another layer of depth and tactical options.
Special attacks using the Bow are called Dragon Piercers. After a lengthy charge up, you let loose a huge shot that drills through all targets in front of you. Other special features include a quick evade that rewards well timed dodges and follow up attacks by leveling up the tier of the shot without having to charge for it. Shots in quick succession (also timing based) can upgrade the tier without extra cost, as well.
Outside of your regular damage fare of Attack Boost or Critical Eye, Stamina Surge and Constitution armor skills will help stave off the heavy stamina cost of firing bows. Evade Window/Evade Extender will help you get some safety in your dodging, as well.
Hopefully this guide put you on track to find the weapon of your dreams. For more information, come to our Monster Hunter: World Wiki.
Jarrett shares his love of video games and geek culture through feature articles on Gamepedia. He prides himself on his deep attraction to Japanese beat-em ups and his god-like Bushido Blade talents.