The ability to use long guns like assault rifles and carbines, shotguns and SMGs among others. Capable of having very high damage output compared to most other weapons.
- Rifles are hyper-accurate. Like all guns, rifles effectively halve their target's dodge, and they also cannot be parried. This is a sufficiently strong bonus that a properly min-maxed rifleman can be hit with every to-hit debuff a player can throw at them, and the rifleman will still never miss in PvP (outside of a small RNG chance of missing, which always exists).
- Rifles have the widest damage portfolio of any class in the game. By loading up with elemental ammo or picking up special guns, rifles can do any of the following damtypes: bullet, beat, slash, stab, EMP, cold, wasting, bleed, explode, electric, irradiation and burn. The only (player-available) damtypes rifles can't do are acid, laser, and all the meme damtypes like crazy. This means that rifles can cover the bases of any mob's weakness in PvE, and in PvP, they can attack with exotic damtypes in large quantities that are difficult or impossible to soak.
- Rifles have high damage across the board. Their pure bullet damage is very high (particularly with handloads) and the elemental ammo types can get scary totals as well, especially considering how hard they are to soak.
- Rifles can attack from cover, forcing melee users to spend time charging at them, and greatly helping you dodge enemy gun users.
- Rifles have a higher magazine capacity when compared to pistols.
- Good rifles are easy to come by. The AR-17 is one of the strongest weapons in the entire game, and the process of crafting one is so trivial that they can be picked up for well under $10,000. The game also literally hands you a free SCAR once per roll if you know where to look; ask a knowledgeable corpmate!
- Rifles can aim, which will often score you a free headshot against certain boss mobs (and foolish or unprepared players). Given the raw power of many rifles, this can effectively auto-win you fights before they even start with a nasty opening crit.
- Rifles get their own custom stun, called "duck and weave". With sufficient to-hit and speed, you can effectively stunlock many opponents with this. This is unique to the rifles class, and you don't need any special preparation or know-how to activate it; it just kicks in on its own.
- Rifles auto-crit berserkers; the first shot you shoot at any player attacking you with on will be an automatic critical hit. This perk is unique to the rifles class, and requires no special commands or preparation -- it's pure free damage.
- Rifles, like other guns, are PC-, which means you need to rely on your dodge to not get hit. Given that rolling to dodge is much better than rolling to parry, however, this is often a blessing in disguise.
- Cover can be hard to utilize against end-game enemies. This can be partly counteracted by queueing the cover action before you enter the tile, or simply using Stench mutation's ability.
- Guns need ammo. Carrying a lot of ammo is a necessity, to be able to go on long stints away from automats and gun stores.
- Special ammo is mildly tricky to get. You'll have to buy it from Camp Benjamin or the Abandoned Highway (though small quantities can sometimes be found elsewhere), which requires good reputation with the FCEF.
- Hand-load rounds require crafters. Unless you're able to buff up your craft, you won't be making your own, and given that it's a boring job with no XP gain crafters can often be reluctant to do it for you.
- The exotic rifles are mildly difficult to acquire (and feed). Plasma rifles/bottles, needle rifles, and tantalum sabot sniper rounds can be tricky to come by, requiring a bit more crafting know-how.
- Guns need to reload. This isn't really a problem, especially with the magical command to manage your clips, because you'll generally kill the other guy long before you need to reload. It can crop up with the lower-capacity rifles, however, and if you forget to reload before a fight you'll be kicking yourself half-way through as you pause to load up. Do be careful that you don't keep shooting after you run out of ammo, otherwise you'll trash your gun.
- Gun mods cost a lot of money. They also require the completion of a short quest before you can buy them yourself.
- Rifles have pre-defined hard caps on their speed, like all guns, and most of these are much slower than the melee speedcap of 2.6. Even though most of them can reach respectable speeds with enough brawn, few can keep up with a jawbreaker on the loose.
Here's a quick overview of some of the more notable rifles in the game. A more exhaustive list can be found on the Weaponry page.
M100 Rifle - Can be bought from Blastarms. Does respectable damage, but is slow. If you come out of the tutorial with no XP to spend, this is the first rifle you'll want to reach for. Grab a 10/22 or ask a corpmate if you can't make it to Blastarms. Don't bother modding it, you'll be moving on soon enough.
American 180 - Craft-only. Uses .22 Pancakes (bought from Blastarms). Notable for having the highest magazine capacity and fastest speed of any rifle, but between its mediocre damage and being craft only, most people skip straight to the Kel-Tec or AR-17.
EMP Shotgun - The proton pack of rifles. Slow, but hits for super nasty damage with ectoblast cells. Loading it up with mk I or II cells for ghosts isn't worth it, you might as well use an AR-17 with thumpers or tsap. These are also one-handed, bizarrely enough.
Kel-Tec KSG Shotgun - The one good rifles shotgun (EMP shotgun doesn't count). As fast as an AR-17 if you work 21 brawn into your build or buffs, and can do the standard shotgun thing of having a bunch of ammo types. The AR-17 or SCAR are usually better picks, but this thing is kinda neat at punching through nullianac packs with incendiary shells.
Needle Rifle - Uses needle clips. A rather exotic rifle with a small pool of niche uses. The best rifle that works underwater, so it makes a great Kraken-killer.
TEC-9 Machine Pistol - Drops super rarely on mobs from the top floor of Nukem Academy. Slightly faster and easier to speedcap than an AR-17, while also doing more bullet damage, but it can't use elemental rounds and is oh so very rare.
AR-17 - Arguably the best all-round rifle. Does heaps of elemental damage, shot damage scales very high, is ludicrously easy to craft, and gets an innate +2 to-hit bonus. Almost any build in the game that can hit 18 brawn and 8 raw in rifles can use this weapon to almost its max potential, aside from being less accurate than a devoted rifleman. High elemental damage can three-shot very tanky mobs like basilisks and big dinosaurs (and most players, through the majority of armor sets you'll encounter). It's a bit slow though.
Bullpup Rifle/Sighted Sturmgewher - Mostly notable for being a noob trap and the weapon you accidentally buy elemental ammo for if you aren't paying attention. Utterly, utterly inferior to the AR-17 in every way except speed, and that isn't worth the -10 drop in minimum damage. Same is true of the wasteland bullpup. The Sturmgewher is a twice-per-roll reward for being a big tough guy in the Skydock. It's a fully modded bullpup reskin, and therefore also terrible, but it's unbelievably sexy.
Sniper Rifle - Incredibly slow, but incredibly high damage. Using tantalum sabot rounds and aiming should allow you to instantly kill almost any player (and make a huge dent in some bosses).
SCAR-L - As fast as a capped-out melee weapon, which is rare among the rifles. Can stunlock pretty well with duck-and-weave if you've got the stats to back it up, and does respectable damage as well. A really solid choice for PvP in particular.
Plasma Rifle - Top-tier burn damage, great crit and solid speed, but horrendous to craft, and the ammo is similarly tricky. Burn damage is also not terribly strong in PvP because of leech-hide and dusters soaking burn so well, and ammo is too expensive to justify for PvE. Fantastic if you're ganking someone who's in studded armordillo or something though; laughs in the face of the ubiquitous Firewalker. Also gets maximum style points for three-shotting nullianacs.
Rifles have a really small mod pool. Every rifle can take the laser sight (which can be crafted or bought), and all of them except for the plasma rifle can take the propellant enhancer. Both are no-brainers; extra to-hit and damage will make your guns even more consistent, which is a very good thing.
What to consider when picking your racial mutation:
Abomination/Hideous Freak - A pretty poor pick, even with the odd min-maxed dodge rifles setup. No matter what, your to-hit will suffer, all your extra cool will be an almost complete waste because you're almost stress-immune anyway, and you'll have to convince someone else to farm elemental ammo for you.
Vampire - The obvious choice. Vampire's playstyle isn't for everyone, but +2 rifles on a silver platter and +4 brawn opens up the door to all kinds of min-max shenanigans; a vamp can speedcap a SCAR without spending a single point in brawn with just a couple implants. The extra senses helps with your PC- dodginess too. Bear in mind that you'll have to put your 2-handed rifles away to grab mobs and give them the succ, so combat feeding doesn't work as well as it does with spears and fists.
Zombie - It used to be that zombies could use rifles with no speed penalty, but this is no longer the case, so Zombie riflers are really slow now. On the other hand, zombie riflers do have the neat potential to become unflappable high-damage terminators (with a crippling achilles heel in weakness to , of course). Also note that a zombie with an AR-17 and enough blacktalons can take on basilisks indefinitely on Coventry Island; they will be literally unable to die a permanent death because basilisks cannot fatality, and they'll be able to punch through basilisks very fast with the bleed damage from the blacktalons.
Chud - On the one hand, this is a pretty poor pick. The mutation gives you -2 rifles as part of the package, and you won't have the fisting stats to buff up your minions. On the other hand, rifles is strong enough that it doesn't really matter unless you won't accept anything but shit-hot stats (and if that's the case, why are you going chud?).
Chromemouth/No Racial - Essentially the same thing for rifles. +3 endurance for -1 brains is a pretty good trade, even if you're going brainy rifles, because endurance is a really nice stat to have, so if you don't want to go Vampire you might as well pick it up. Also, you'll have lots of cool and reflexes, and this mutation buffs your Ride skill on top of that, enabling you to become the sickest skateboarder in all the land if you so choose. If you don't like huffing paint or whatever, going without any racial is also perfectly fine.
PvE - Take cover before every engagement to make every enemy take time to hit you, or lower their tohit dramatically. Using cover and the high DPS of rifles, you can get away with fights that you have no business winning at lower XP totals. More generally, the AR-17 is just about king for PvE. Iceblox and blacktalons cut through dinosaurs and basilisks respectively at a rate that no other class in the game can even come close to, which turns these mobs from dangerously tanky opponents into laughable XP fountains. The AR-17 in particular can also be worked into almost any build in the game that can sustain 18 brawn with minimal skill investment, so this makes a great secondary weapon for many classes who just want to cheese basilisks with blacktalons or something alongside their normal build's power.
PvP - Duck and weave is strong, so feel free to load up a SCAR with your ammo of choice. If you're expecting to go up against Caballero + Studded Armordillo or something, though, you'll want to reach for an elemental AR or plasma rifle instead. The AR is also predictably strong in general; few armor sets can argue with the mountainous elemental damage scaling. There's some debate on whether thumpers or blacktalons are better for PvP. Thumpers offer random stuns and can only be partially soaked by Silicone Skin (or a ludicrously specialist exosuit). Blacktalons can't be soaked at all and can KO on crits, though this is less common than thumper stuns. In the end, both are beastly, so don't worry too much. Iceblox and tsap rounds are inferior because cold and electric damage are easier to soak.
Note that unless you're planning on doing a lot of PvP, rifles are sufficiently accurate that you don't need to worry about investing in Cool too much, despite this ostensibly being one of the class's core stats. Serious PvPers need the accuracy to counter Carrie and other debuffs, but everyone else (especially carebears) can feel free to invest in Senses instead to be super dodgy or Brains to do nerdy stuff -- just remember to slap on some bling to buff up your cool.