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Essentially, I'm looking for a cheap, lazy proxy to determine which of my weapons in a given category (shotguns, say) is the overall best.

Yes, I know I can (and probably should) compare each feature, and that it depends on my playing style and whether I prefer to see enemies be dissolved by acid or consumed by a fiery explosion. And in some cases, I do think hard about the scope magnification, etc.

But I'm lazy, and detest inventory management, so for the weapon types I don't use as often, I'd often just assume switch to the "all-around-best-rated" gun I have and sell the rest without much testing or thinking.

Is monetary value a good proxy?
I used to mostly use that, but I've found some cases where it seems off (possibly because rarity may be a factor- one that is not necessarily associated with quality?)

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In short, the answer is "no."

In long, there are actually a handful of things you can evaluate.

First of all, money is a terrible indicator. It tells you nothing. I've had weapons worth a 10th as much as others that were OBVIOUSLY better. I think money is calculated based on part levels and rarity, but those often mean quite little in the latter part of the game.

While it seems like it can be easy to calculate DPS of weapons, it can often be hard as reload speed can often factor in quite a bit. For example, I once had a weapon with only a two round magazine with a high damage and wanted to compare it to a weapon with a slighter lower damage output but a much larger clip. Well, since I was playing a hunter, I had lots of points put into my pistol re-load speed, so it made it really hard to figure it out.

What I did then, was fire each of them continuously for a set period of time (say 20 seconds) and count the number of times each of them fires. This then factors in your reload speed as well. Then, simply figure out how much damage each shot does (multiplying for shotguns if necessary) then divide by time. I determined that even though I was reloading VERY frequently with the smaller magazine revolver, it's damage output was a full 33% higher than the other gun.

While this strategy works great for guns without elemental effects, it's a lot more challenging when it comes time to compare elemental damages. As a basic rule of thumb, compare apples to apples, i.e. compare fire to fire and so forth. x4 beats x3, etc, so that's often easy to figure out. You also generally want to try to have at least a fire and a corrosive gun on you at all times, and hopefully an electricity gun at all time. So when you are comparing, compare specific elemental slots to each other.

There are a few factors that you can't count for, such as zoom factor. Some people like zoom, other don't. It's worth something different to everyone, so give it as much weight as you want. Magazine size, bullet count, and damage can all be used to calculate overall DPS as I listed above.

Finally, learn what the special effects on the rare weapons do. There's a great list here:

http://borderlands.wikia.com/wiki/Special_Weapon_Effects

Some of the effects are pointless, only affecting things like the spread of the bullets, meaning that you could easily find a purple or even a blue better than said orange. Other effects significantly increase the damage of the element or something similar, so be sure you know what you have.

There's nothing clear cut, but you can do pretty well most of the time. Finally, there's no accounting for tastes/real world experience. If you can't decide which is better, carry both for a while and see which one feels most awesome. Use that one.

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If they differ based on individual features which make them adapted to one's playing style, how is it possible to easily identify an "overall better" weapon?

Instead of trying to proxy overall potential, the best option for you is to pick the one attribute you think would probably be most useful to you when using these weapons, and just pick the weapon that rates highest. For example, if you want the quick comparison on shotguns, you probably want to know which one yields the greatest raw offensive power. The fact that it might not be the most powerful in all situations is irrelevant since you've already dropped any concern about situational application. In honesty, there's few situations where raw damage output of a weapon is not the best option when you don't want to focus on optimization.

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Also, in addition to playing style, some of the weapons have elemental damage which is more or less effective against certain enemies. Also, your class and associated benefits thereof. There are a lot of things that have to be taken into account to determine the "best" weapon. –  hokiecsgrad Jul 13 '10 at 20:39
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