I recently started playing Borderlands 2 for the first time. I haven't played any other version of the game.

Weapons are frequently dropped by enemies, and are also available from various vending machines. I'm having a hard time figuring out if any given weapon is an improvement over the ones in my limited inventory. When I hover the cursor over a weapon, I'm helpfully told how that weapon's damage, accuracy, fire rate, etc. compare to the one I'm holding. However, weapons seem to come in the usual FPS varieties (pistol, shotgun, sniper rifle, etc, an idea supported by the apparently limited varieties of ammo one finds lying around) and the weapon property differences seem like they're comparing apples to oranges if I'm not holding a similar weapon. I can currently only hold three weapons at a time (pitiful, but a slight improvement over the two slots I started the game with) and so it feels like fully evaluating a weapon on the ground can involve rummaging around in my backpack to find a similar-looking weapon to swap in and equip so I can compare the stats. It's such an enormous hassle, I feel like I must be missing something.

It would be one thing if weapons were clearly identified as belonging to a particular class, but all I see is what looks like a manufacturer's name ("Torgue," "Maliwan," etc) and a side-view silhouette. When I compare, I've been trying to look for a similar-looking silhouette among the weapons in my backpack, but sometimes there's no obvious match.

Is there some easy way to evaluate whether I should drop a weapon I'm carrying in favor of a new one I've found?

  • "fully evaluating a weapon on the ground" - yeah, pick it up and press 'e'. "It's such an enormous hassle, I feel like I must be missing something."... nope. Except for more inventory space. And the fact that 1/8 of the game will be spent in menus, like any good computer game should be. - Never keep anything 'for later', and always roll out with an empty inventory.
    – Mazura
    Commented Jul 6, 2022 at 11:05

4 Answers 4


This is a complicated question to answer, and there are many opinions on exactly what weapons are worth keeping and what weapons are worth tossing (and what is not even worth picking up).

The general things that most people seem to agree on are:

  • Level is crucial. Because of how damage and health scaling work in BL2, it is very important to have level appropriate weapons. A gun that’s more than about 3 levels below the enemy you are attacking will generally feel very bad to use, and this goes double if you’re using a mismatched elemental type. Of course, this is not always the case (for example, it’s not unusual for a blue rarity Jakobs sniper rifle to out-damage a purple-rarity Jakobs sniper rifle that’s a level or two above it), but it’s a reasonably solid general guideline. Do note if you ever go on to play any other games in the series (and I recommend you do) that they handle level scaling differently (BL3 and TPS both have shallower scaling than BL2, and BL1 has even shallower scaling than that).
  • If the item has red text, level may not be as crucial. Red text is found on legendary (orange), unique (blue and purple mission rewards), seraph (pink) and pearlescent (cyan) weapons, and in all cases does something beyond what is listed on the item card. Sometimes it just tweaks stats (for example, on the Hammer Buster), sometimes it provides a complex additional effect (such as on the Whiskey Tango Foxtrot), sometimes it does both (such as on the Madhous!). In many cases, this is not a huge impact, but for some specific cases it may mean the weapon is still useful even at higher levels because of some effect it has (for example, the Magic Missile grenade mod from the Assault on Dragon Keep DLC is generally useful even underleveled because it’s always a slag elemental effect and it regenerates grenade ammo passively).
  • Higher rarity items tend to be useful for longer than low rarity items. Rarity progression is color coded, and the colors are usually what players will use when talking about rarity. The progression (from lowest to highest) is: White, Green, Blue, Purple, Orange. There are also special cases, but the only one you need to worry about for now are unique items, which are blue or purple items with red text and special effects that are generally obtained as mission rewards, they tend to be really inconsistent in terms of how good they are (it often depends on the exact build).
  • Having a good spread of elemental effects is important. Even in the first playthrough, having a gun that does the appropriate elemental damage type for your target significantly reduces the impact of level. This is especially important because some enemies (for example, the elemental skags varieties) are resistant or immune to certain damage types. This is also important because some missions require certain damage types to be used to progress the mission.
  • Try to ensure you have at least one of every type of gun (not elemental types, but actual weaponry types). This helps to ensure you won’t run out of ammo, and also gives you some extra options in certain situations (there are some places where having a good sniper rifle or rocket launcher makes things significantly easier for example).
  • Try to ensure you have at least one weapon (and keep it equipped) that can reliably drop a target when you are down. Usually this will be a very high damage shotgun, or a rocket launcher. This will help save you money in the long run by allowing you to self-revive much more reliably, and also reduce the burden on anybody you are playing with (because they won’t always have to run to pick you up when you go down).

Beyond that it gets much more into personal preference.

  • 3
    I'd note a few things: 1) you can look up the red text effects online easily, the text itself is rarely descriptive, 2) manufacturers in BL2 have quirks, although it often doesn't matter for unique weapons, 3) different classes will give you bonuses for different weapon types, get to know your class and what perks you have/want and see if it fits a particular type of weapon. Commented Jul 4, 2022 at 12:55
  • While you're second to last point is not wrong, typically your class/skills will focus on certain types and those are the ones you'd prioritize. Commented Jul 5, 2022 at 22:49

Borderlands drops enough loot that most of this is preference. You should pick up weapon types you like between snipers, pistols, etc. Additionally, each manufacturer has a different effect:

  • Maliwan weapons are often strongly elemental
  • Bandit weapons have extremely large magazines
  • Dahl weapons burst-fire when zoomed
  • Hyperion weapons have reverse recoil
  • Jakobs weapons crit harder but are semiautomatic
  • Tediore weapons are thrown like grenades to reload
  • Torgue weapons have slow projectiles but their shots explode
  • Vladof weapons shoot real fast

You might be annoyed by or like some of these perks. You can safely ignore weapons below legendary with a combination of weapon type or manufacturer you dislike. Afterwards, consider a few different things:

  • Level: damage numbers in Borderlands 2 increase, on average, by 13% every level. The level requirement of your weapons tends to be the most important thing.
  • Rarity: orange > purple > blue > green > white. Always equip and try out orange gear as some of the hidden effects can be extremely strong while leveling. Purple weapons of your preferred manufacturer/type can carry you far as well. You can always ignore white items, and once you have good gear for your level you can start ignoring green too.
  • Preferred legendary effects: if you have two legendary (orange) pieces of gear competing for a slot, try them both out and equip the effect you think will help you more.

You can get more complex at max level, looking at weapon prefixes or even the silhouette as you mentioned. That isn't remotely necessary until you reach max level and the second NG+ cycle.

  • "You can always ignore white items" ? - I ignore colors. It's not uncommon for me to have 2 out of 4 of them be 'lame'. Rate of fire and a scope. Burst fire is discarded on principle, as are single shot snipers, and double barrels (actually all) shotguns unless they're explosive. I'm usually half way through the game before I give up that first repeater with a scope that they give you. Rounds on target, and the speed that they're 'distributed'. - The reason the MG42 was slowed down to become an M60, is that 1,200 RPM is unnecessary... IRL.
    – Mazura
    Commented Jul 6, 2022 at 10:48
  • The only sensible answer is if you don't know from looking, You just have to try it. Because w/e your criteria is for a good gun, or on the not list, sometimes it doesn't say in the description, or isn't obvious until you fire it.
    – Mazura
    Commented Jul 6, 2022 at 10:50
  • White items have a lower stat budget, far lower than the rarity of other colors merits. You can of course pick up white items and try them out if you wish, but there's likely two or three blue guns right next to it which are guaranteed to have a higher stat budget for the level. We only have a finite amount of time to try the loot out, after all. Ignoring as many guns as possible (based both on preference and stat budgets) helps keep you in the fun part of the game, shooting things, and away from the dreaded inventory tetris.
    – shiftweave
    Commented Jul 7, 2022 at 16:31

My suggestion is to keep different weapon classes with different elemental effects.
For example a pistol is always useful, an assault rifle/submachine gun for high fire rate, a shotgun for close range and a sniper rifle/rocket launcher for long range.

This helps to check similar properties, because I usually replace a pistol with another one choosing greater ammo capacity, shotguns for higher damage and lower spread, submachines for higher fire rate and so on...

Of course I prefer to have different elemental effects with me:

  • Shock is a must against enemy shields
  • Slag improves every damage, very useful against strong enemies
  • Incendiary against flesh, the most common type of enemy
  • Corrosive against armored/robots


Extending what's added in the comments, you need to understand the rarity colors, starting from the lowest quality:

  • white: Common (useless)
  • green: Uncommon (quite useless)
  • blue: Rare/Unique
  • purple: Very Rare
  • magenta: E-tech (purple Eridium-enhanced weapons)
  • orange: Legendary
  • pink: Seraph (DLC)
  • cyan: Pearlescent (DLC)
  • rainbow: Effervescent (DLC)

Also, keep an eye on unique weapons! A Flavor Text is found on Unique, Legendary and Seraph weapons printed in red. These items contain special effects beyond that which is stated directly on the item card, signifying the item has unique properties.

  • 1
    To add to this: weapons have colours that show their rarity, from common to rare: white-green-blue-purple-orange. Because you level up and loot matches your current level, over time (say after 5-10 levels), eventually even an orange weapon might become less useful. Unless you've held onto rare weapons for an extremely long time though, white and green ones you can almost always get rid of without much thought. And as @pinckerman says, keep a variety of high damage and ranged weapons, and with different elemental effects. Most enemies are resistant to some, vulnerable to others.
    – MiG
    Commented Jul 3, 2022 at 12:49
  • 3
    You can also mark weapons as 'favourite' or 'trash' while sorting through your inventory. When you're done, hit 'delete' (while at a shop) and it'll sell them all. The few interesting weapons you're left with, you can compare with 'E' to see which one you should keep.
    – MiG
    Commented Jul 3, 2022 at 12:51

The other answers are technical, and that's important to know, but it's also important to have the "shoot & loot" mindset.

Borderlands is a pretty silly game. While gear is important, it's not critical that you have the optimal build. Borderlands is designed such that a variety of play styles are effective and enjoyable.

Relax and have fun. Experiment and pick what combinations you find fun and effective with your class and play-style. Or pick whatever gives the most pluses!

If you pick a gun and it turns out to be a dud, don't worry, there will be more! Lots more. SO MANY MORE. Even unique drops from bosses; you can fight most bosses again.

  • *until you hit UVHM/endgame content, when optimization becomes a bit more critical. But playthrough 1 is definitely a lot more flexible Commented Jul 4, 2022 at 20:20
  • When I get a white/green gun, I plan to sell it immediately. If I get a blue, I fire it a few times and see if I enjoy the way it fires. Some reload way too slowly, some burn through ammo too quick, etc. I get rid of those. Then, purple/orange or higher I use for a few fights and see if I like they way they play during a fight and get rid of them if I don't. Commented Jul 5, 2022 at 14:07

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