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Horizon Zero Dawn weapon mastery guide

Every type of weapon for Aloy to use and the best ways to use them

Horizon Zero Dawn weapons and modifications guide Image: Guerrilla Games/SCEA via Polygon
Jeffrey Parkin (he/him) has been writing video game guides for Polygon for almost seven years. He has learned to love just about every genre of game that exists.

Horizon Zero Dawn has an extensive armory of weapons to use in combat (against both machines and humans). As the weapons get better and stronger, they also get more and more specialized.

In this Horizon Zero Dawn guide, we’ll teach you about weapon modifications, and then move on to the 11 classes of weapons — 12 if you include the spear — available to Aloy (including the weapons available in The Frozen Wilds DLC). Instead of just listing weapons and describing the effects of the various ammos in the game, we’ll describe each type of weapon broadly, and then give you our favorite ways to use them.

Table of contents

Weapon variants and rarity

Every class of weapon (except for Aloy’s spear) has three versions to find. You’ll start with the basic version of each — usually given to you during the story or purchased from merchants. As you progress further into the game and farther into Horizon Zero Dawn’s world, you’ll find better and rarer versions.

The basic version will be green, indicating that it’s uncommon, the rare version will be the Carja variant of the weapon, and the very rare version will be the Shadow variant. Other variants of some weapons can be found in merchant boxes. There are also variations of weapons available in The Cut in the northeast of the map. These are Banuk versions of weapons added by The Frozen Wilds DLC.

The Carja and Shadow versions of weapons add a modification slot and a new type of ammo.

Weapon modifications

Weapon modifications are like upgrade slots for your weapons. Better, rarer versions of the weapons (see above) add additional slots for modifications.

You’ll find modifications everywhere while playing Horizon Zero Dawn — you’ll buy them from merchants or find them by killing machines.

Modifications adjust the stats for the weapons they’re equipped on. They do things like increase damage types, or improve handling (fire rate and speed). The benefits from modifications do stack, so you can get multiple increases by adding multiples off the same modification to a weapon.

Spear (and lance)

Aloy’s spear is your basic weapon and tool. The spear isn’t a specialized weapon, but that means it’s neither strong nor weak. It’s just an all-around weapon. It’s also your only melee weapon, so you’ll rely on it a lot when things go sideways during stealth or ranged combat.

You’ll receive upgrades to your spear as part of the main story and when unlocking Skills. Toward the end of the main story, you’ll receive a new version of the spear, a lance — that we won’t talk about for story spoiler reasons.

In The Frozen Wilds DLC, the “A Secret Shared” side quest unlocks one weapon modification slot for the spear (or two for the lance).

Hunter Bow

Horizon Zero Dawn weapons and modifications guide
The Shadow Hunter Bow with Fire Arrow.
Image: Guerrilla Games/SCEA via Polygon

The Hunter Bow is your basic ranged weapon, as well as the first ranged weapon you’ll get. You’ll start with Hunter Arrows, which are your basic ranged ammo. The Carja Hunter Bow adds Fire Arrows that deal Flame damage and inflict the Burn status. The Shadow version adds Hardpoint Arrows that deal Tear damage.

The first three versions of the Hunter Bow add a Weapon Modification slot and a new type of ammo as you find or buy the better versions. The Banuk Striker bow adds the ability to overdraw (draw back your shot longer to add damage).

Best ways to use Hunter Bows

Being your most basic ranged weapon, the Hunter Bow is a good generalized weapon. Since basic Hunter Arrows are cheap to craft, they’re useful for hunting animals (for crafting supplies) or just picking a fight from a distance.

Fire Arrows will inflict the Burn status and detonate the Blaze Canisters found on most machines. You’ll also find Blaze Canisters in most Eclipse (human) camps. Detonating Blaze Cannisters creates explosions that deal massive damage.

Hardpoint Arrows are great for removing components and armor from machines. You won’t get other options for dealing Tear damage until late in the game, so these are a valuable addition to your arsenal. Removing armor makes machines more vulnerable to attacks, while removing components gives you more valuable resources to pick up and removes capabilities from machines.

Sharpshot Bow

Sharpshot Bows are like the sniper rifles of Horizon Zero Dawn because they greatly increase the distance Aloy can fire. More importantly, though, Sharpshot Bows add useful new ammo options.

You’ll start with Precision Arrows that deal the most damage of any arrow in the game. The Carja version adds Tearblast Arrows that deal a (slightly delayed) blast of Tear damage. The final version introduces Harvest Arrows that don’t deal much damage, but they’re specialized for removing components and resources from machines.

Best ways to use Sharpshot Bows

Basically, Sharpshot Bows increase your range for attacks. This makes them great for sniping human and machine enemies from a distance.

The Carja and Shadow versions are where the Sharpshot Bows become even more useful. Tearblast Arrows, while expensive to craft, are amazing for removing armor and components from machines. Start with Shock Wires from a Tripcaster or tie down a machine with a Ropecaster, and Tearblast Arrows will let you surgically remove a machine’s most dangerous attacks.

War Bow

War Bows have a range similar to a Hunter Bow, but every type of ammo for the War Bow deals elemental damage. That makes the War Bow great for specialized attacks from range.

You’ll start with Shock Arrows. These can detonate Power Cells on machines and (slowly) inflict the Stun status. The Freeze Arrows from the Carja version work in a similar way with Freeze Canisters and the Frozen status. The Shadow War Bow gives you Corruption Arrows that drive targets to attack anything they see.

Best ways to use War Bows

The regular and Carja versions of the War Bow have pretty specialized uses against enemies with exposed Power Cells and Freeze Canisters. Being able to detonate those components is a great way to deal huge amounts of damage when you can hit them.

The Corruption Arrows of the Shadow version are a great tool to have. With those, you can start your attack from a distance and in cover. Once you inflict the Corrupted status on a machine, it’ll turn on anything around it, including other machines. Corrupting a strong enemy in a group of weaker ones will often do your job for you by making them fight among themselves and weaken one another before you even get involved.


Horizon Zero Dawn weapons and modifications guide
Firing the Shadow Rattler at a Grazer.
Image: Guerrilla Games/SCEA via Polygon

Rattlers are a late-game weapon that you can think of as somewhere between a shotgun and a machine gun. Individual shots from a Rattler don’t do much damage, but Rattlers fire rapidly (hence the name) and that damage adds up fast.

The basic Metal Bolts are really only effective against immobilized targets or when you’re looking for crowd control. The Carja and Shadow versions of Rattlers, though, add Freeze and Shock damage respectively. This means you’ve got much faster way to deliver these types of elemental damage than War Bows or Slings.

Best ways to use the Rattler

When you’ve got options for bows and Slings that deal greater amounts similar types of damage, Rattlers don’t seem immediately useful, but there are a few situations where they’re a great option. If you have an immobilized enemy, you don’t have to worry about accuracy as much, and the Rattler is a great way to deal some general damage. More useful though, is the fast fire rate for elemental damage. This makes Rattlers great against airborne enemies like Glinthawks and Stormbirds. Being able to sweep the weapon while dealing damage also makes it useful against cloaked Stalkers.


Horizon Zero Dawn weapons and modifications guide
Tying down a Fire Bellowback with the Shadow Ropecaster.
Image: Guerrilla Games/SCEA via Polygon

Think of Ropecasters as harpoon guns. They don’t deal any damage directly, but they can limit the movement of your target. The variants of Ropecasters add new ammo types, but they don’t deal any elemental damage. Instead, you get more powerful ropes that will tie down machines with fewer shots.

When a machine is tied down, they’re immobilized and effectively stunned. At that point, you can run away and wait for them to free themselves, use the opportunity to override them, or plan your next step.

Best ways to use the Ropecaster

Ropecasters are great for placing precise shots without the hassle of your target moving around. More importantly, they’re a reliable way to immobilize machines to get you in close for an override or a critical hit.

The best use of Ropecasters by far, though, is against flying machines like Stormbirds and Glinthawks. Tying down these flying enemies removes their biggest advantage and makes them much, much easier to defeat.


Horizon Zero Dawn weapons and modifications guide
Slings lob bombs in an arc.
Image: Guerrilla Games/SCEA via Polygon

Aloy’s Slings are really just slingshots that fire bombs. Think of it like a low-tech grenade launcher. It’s the bomb part that makes them a great weapon, since they deal elemental damage over a large area.

You’ll start with Freeze Bombs that deal Freeze damage. Even against enemies with no weakness to ice, these bombs are still capable of inflicting the Frozen status, which immobilizes targets and opens them to overrides or critical hits.

Best ways to use the Sling

Slings are your best mid-range weapon, and they deal huge amounts of elemental damage. While the ammo is expensive to craft, being able to deal area damage and inflict elemental status effects quickly make them useful in almost any situation.

Blast Sling

Blast Slings are a specialized version of Aloy’s Sling. They’re slower to fire and reload than regular Slings, but they add exciting new types of ammo.

You’ll start with Blast Bombs that deal Tear damage over a larger area than Hardpoint or even Tearblast Arrows. The Carja version adds Sticky Bombs. These bombs deal huge damage and Tear damage. Additionally, they’re adhesive so they move with an enemy, delayed to give you time to get away, and undetectable until they explode. The Shadow version of the Blast Sling brings Proximity Bombs that act like Blast Traps that you can place from a distance.

Best ways to use the Blast Sling

Blast Slings work a lot like regular Slings, but the specialized ammo means they’ve got slightly different uses. The Tear damage over a large area is great for removing armor and components from several small machines or one large one. The Proximity Bombs are a safer alternative to traps and are easier to place than Blast Wires from a Tripcaster.

The best ammo for this weapon, though, is the Sticky Bomb. The delayed explosion means you can reposition and hide again even after you start your attack. Even better, it means you can place multiple, high damage bombs on a single enemy without them noticing. This is especially great for herds of machines like Grazers where you’ll damage multiple enemies at once.


The Tripcaster is an unconventional ranged weapon. It fires out a tripwire for machines to detonate, much like placing a trap does. The benefit of the Tripcaster is that Aloy can fire it from cover and at a distance.

Your basic ammo is a Shock Wire that will stun whatever sets them off. You’ll get Blast Wires to deal Tear damage with the second version. The final version will add Fire Wires to deal Flame damage.

Best ways to use the Tripcaster

Tripcasters give you the benefits of traps without having to get as close to set them. Both traps and tripwires act like mines, but tripwires cover a little more area, which makes triggering them more likely.

When you have time to set up an attack on a machine, the Tripcaster is a great way to start. Lay down a Shock Wire if you want to close the distance early to attack in melee range or override the machines. Just note that Shock Wires deal no damage — they only stun. Hitting a tough enemy with a Blast Wire before a fight even begins knocks loose armor and components, exposing weak points and disabling attacks.


Horizon Zero Dawn weapons and modifications guide
Using the Tearblaster to remove armor from a Fire Bellowback.
Image: Guerrilla Games/SCEA via Polygon

Tearblasters are like a handheld version of the Sharpshot Bow’s Tearblast Arrows. Think of them as a sonic shotgun.

There’s only one version of the Tearblaster and only one type of ammo.

Best ways to use the Tearblaster

Tearblasters don’t deal any physical or elemental damage, so they’re a highly specialized weapon. Only use them to remove armor and components at mid to close range. A great use for them is against machines like Shell-Walkers with their multiple components and many annoying weapons. They’re also a great way to deal rapid Tear damage against immobilized enemies.

Forgefire, Icerail, and Stormslinger

We’re lumping the weapons introduced in The Frozen Wilds DLC together. They’re all specialized close-range weapons that deal elemental damage — Flame, Ice, and Shock damage, as you might have guessed from their names.

Best way to use the Forgefire, Icerail, and Stormslinger

The uses for these three weapons are directly related to the elemental damage they deal. In situations where you want to inflict elemental damage and statuses, you can’t go wrong with these.