Best Shotgun Build

Best Shotgun Build - Fallout: New Vegas (FNV)

By zanuffas
Last updated:

This post will cover the best Shotgun build for Fallout: New Vegas. I will be going in-depth on the main attributes, skills, and gear. This should help you make decisions on how to progress through the game in the optimal matter

Shotgun Build

This build embodies total carnage, particularly at close range, ragdolling enemies and blowing them to pieces. I am of course a little bit exaggerating, but not much. Although the game does not offer a wide array of choices for shotguns, the ones we get are very good choices.

shotgun build riot chotgun combat fallout new vegas

Shotguns are also unique weapons in terms of ammo. They get multiple choices (probably the most choices out of all weapons). This allows you to maximize your damage and even change how they work like Dragon Breath ammo, which spews fire

Of course, these weapons have their downsides, usually slow reload rates, and burning through ammo. However, with the perks we pick this should be compensated for the best experience. Maybe, my gripe is that their critical damage is not as good as you would expect. Each pellet has a separate critical chance, so making all pellets crit is very very rare.

So let's dive deep into how you should create the best shotgun build.

Starting the Game

In this section, I would like to go through the recommendations for the Shotgun build. This covers only the start of the game, so read the next section on how you should progress and how the end game build should look like.


Attribute Value Description
fallout new vegas strength attribute specialStrength 4 This is enough Strength, to fully use all shotguns with DLC perks and implants.
fallout new vegas preception attribute specialPerception 5 The skill is not very useful by itself, however, once we reach 6, it unlocks one of the best offensive perks. Moreover, perception provides easier enemy detection.
fallout new vegas endurance attribute specialEndurance 8 As shotgun build relies on close-quarter combat this attribute will give more HP and survivability. Moreover, it will give more slots for implants in the New Vegas Clinic
fallout new vegas charisma attribute specialCharisma 1 Unfortunately, by itself, the attribute does not do much, only provides base Speech and Barter, which we can easily level up. It also improves companions' effectiveness, but most of the damage you will be doing by yourself.
fallout new vegas intelligence attribute specialIntelligence 6 The attribute gives bonus skills for each level up.
fallout new vegas agility attribute specialAgility 8 Agility is a very important offensive attribute. First, it increases reload speed, and shotguns do a lot of reloading. Second, it gives bonus Action Points that can be used for VATS or sprinting
fallout new vegas luck attribute specialLuck 8 Luck is a very powerful option. It increases Critical hit chance, greatly improving DPS. Moreover, it makes it easier to win games like Blackjack or roulette for some sweet caps. You can use them to buy ammo.

Tag Skills

These are the ones that you choose at the beginning of the game. Here is what I recommend:

Skill Description
guns skill fallout new vegasGuns This is an obvious choice. It is your main skill, that improves Shotgun damage.
repair skill fallout new vegasRepair More efficient repairing and allows selling items for much more once they have higher durability.
lockpick skill fallout new vegasLockpick I recommend this one. The main reason is that you will find many containers holding additional weapons and ammo. You can then use them to repair your shotguns.


The traits are optional and just recommendations.

  • Skilled - is my favorite trait. although it decreases XP gain, it instantly gives 5 skill points to each skill, which is worth the downside. The XP gain decrease can be counteracted by sleeping in an owned bed with a Well Rested buff.
  • Good Natured - this perk is perfect for this build. Because we only use Guns, sacrificing 5 skill points to improve 5 utility skills is a perfect choice.
  • Fast Shot - this might be a bit risky choice. However, if you have already played New Vegas, then take it. It will fire rate with weapons, making shotguns even more deadly. Of course, this increases the spread, but as you mostly do close-range combat, this is the perfect choice.
  • Wild Wasteland - provides some unique encounters in the game. Generally, if this is your first playthrough I recommend this one.

If you play on Hardcore:

  • Logan's Loophole - this is a perfect choice and once you unlock Old World Blues DLC you can switch this trait for something else

Early game tips

Here I would like to offer some early game tips for the build to make it easier when starting out

Use any weapon that you have on hand

Although we are concentrating on shotguns, the early game can be hard - you do not have caps, no loot, cannot buy ammo, and have low skills. Due to this don't be picky and have whatever weapon you have on hand. The early Courier's Stash DLC provides some good options - Mercenary's Grenade Rifle, Weathered 10mm pistol, etc.

Doing the main quest

Unless you are cheesing some of the game mechanics, and want to experience the game as intended, I recommend doing the main story quest up until you reach Novac. The journey will provide you with two companions:

  • ED-E - in Primm City, it is a robot that you can revive using some scrap parts. The parts can be found on Lone Wolf Radio.
  • Boone - you will find him in Novac. To join you, you have to do his quest and help him

These companions will help you a lot and make the game more fun and easier. Another thing is that Novac will give you your room, where you can store loot. This makes scavenging easier throughout the game.

After this, it's your choice what to do

Progression and Final Shotgun Build

Now I would like to go through the progression for the build and how it should look once "it is done". I will also share some tips and directions to get the most out of it.


Here is how your attributes should look like when they are maximized and you obtain most of the stuff in the game.

Attribute Value Description
fallout new vegas strength attribute specialStrength 7
  • +2 - Get Reinforced Spine in Old World Blues DLC
  • +1 - Purchase the implant from New Vegas Clinic
fallout new vegas preception attribute specialPerception 6
fallout new vegas endurance attribute specialEndurance 9
fallout new vegas charisma attribute specialCharisma 1 Nothing special here, as we do not plan to increase it
fallout new vegas intelligence attribute specialIntelligence 7
fallout new vegas agility attribute specialAgility 10
  • +1 - Purchase the implant from New Vegas Clinic
  • +1 - Divide Survivor, obtained after finishing Loansome Road DLC
fallout new vegas luck attribute specialLuck 10
  • +1 - Purchase the implant from New Vegas Clinic
  • One caveat, if you plan on using Lucky Shades, then you can put this point to any other attribute or take Intense Training perk.


In this section, I will go through the skills for the Shotgun Build. I want to recommend the progression below. This will ensure that you get all the skills that you need for the build. Of course, you can still spend 3-5 points at every level on other choices and this will not create any problems.

I recommend leaving skills at 90 (except science and lockpicks as you may miss some loot) and getting the rest 10 points from skill books in Mojave Wasteland

Order Skill Description
1 repair skill fallout new vegasRepair 70 Strange choice? However, getting this will allow you to get a very powerful quality of life perk at level 6 - Hand Loader
2 lockpick fallout new vegasLockpick 50 Allows unlocking average locks to scavenge even more loot
3 guns skill fallout new vegasGuns 70 Enough to improve weapon damage a bit and make combat easier
4 lockpick fallout new vegasLockpick 75 Allows unlocking Hard containers and doors
5 repair skill fallout new vegasRepair 90 Unlocks Jury Rigging skill
7 lockpick fallout new vegasLockpick 100 Allows unlocking Very hard containers and doors
8 guns skill fallout new vegasGuns 90 Further, improve shotgun damage
9 survival skill fallout new vegasSurvival 70 Using this to get Rad Child perk

After this you are free to put the points however, you want and prioritize the things that you think are needed based on your playstyle.


Although I list the perk in level order of when you should get them, I recommend assuming that this is a list. Different players will prefer getting different skills first, so some of the perks might be available later/earlier.

Level Perk Details
2 rapid reload fallout new vegasRapid Reload Early in the game shotgun reloading can be painful, so this skill mitigates it
4 educated fallout new vegasEducated This skill should be taken as early as possible (level 4), it will give 2 skill points each level up which accumulate a lot during the game
6 hand loader fallout new vegasHand Loader This is a very valuable perk that the earlier you take the more beneficial it is. You have a higher chance to recover ammunition cases.
8 confirmed bachelor fallout new vegasConfirmed Bachelor/Black Widow 10% damage increase and unlocks new dialogue options. Very powerful perk throughout the game, as there will be mostly male opponents.
10 and stay back fallout new vegasAnd Stay Back This is a very powerful perk, specifically for shotguns. Each pellet has a 10% chance to knock the enemy down, making them immobile for a few seconds.
12 Shotgun Surgeon fallout new vegasShotgun Surgeon This is an essential perk for Shotgun users. It takes down flat 10 points from the enemy Damage Threshold. This results in higher damage against many armored enemies in the game.
14 finesse fallout new vegasFinesse Increases critical chance by 5%. The flat increase is very valuable and results in higher overall damage with shotguns.
16 better criticals fallout new vegasBetter Criticals 50% critical damage increase, this is huge and will ensure that enemies die easily
18 rad child fallout new vegasRad Child This is an interesting skill. Just with a minor Radiation poisoning, you get very fast HP regeneration.
20 jury rigging fallout new vegasJury Rigging Makes it easier to repair items as you can use similar items rather than the same.
22 bloody mess fallout new vegasBloody Mess Bonus 5% damage, and a little more gore? Not a problem
24 light touch fallout new vegasLight Touch If you wear light armor, definitely pick this one. It gives a bonus of 5% critical chance and decreases the enemy's critical chance by 25%
26 living anatomy fallout new vegasLiving Anatomy Bonus 5% damage against humans and ghouls.
28 chemist fallout new vegasChemist Increases the duration of chem effects, this also works with consumables like alcohol.
30 Intense Training fallout new vegasIntense Training Use it to get one additional skill. For example, if you do not plan on getting Lucky Shades, get luck. If need more survivability, get Endurance, etc.
32 chem resistant fallout new vegasChem Resistant Makes you less likely to become addicted to Chems. They should be an important part of your gameplay as you accumulate money and can buy them readily
34 stonewall fallout new vegasStonewall Gives so bonus protection against melee attacks but most importantly you cannot be knocked down
36 strong back fallout new vegasStrong Back Increases carry weight by 50lbs, allowing to carry more gear and loot.
38 nerves of steel fallout new vegasNerves of Steel Although we will not use VATS that often, it allows sprinting more often.
40 Toughness fallout new vegasToughness As you are always in close range, additional defenses help
42 certified tech fallout new vegasCertified Tech Makes you more effective against robots, by getting a higher critical chance. Moreover, they give additional loot to make more caps.
44 cowboy fallout new vegasCowboy If you use a lever-action shotgun. Otherwise, pick any other perk
46 travel light fallout new vegasTravel Light This is an optional perk. If you do not plan on using light armor, then skip it.
48 Any Perk You can take any preferred perk
50 thought you died fallout new vegasThought you Died This skill would be the best option. However, if you cannot take it then go for Just Lucky I'm Alive or Ain't Like That Now

General Tips

Use different ammo

Try various ammo types for shotguns. This weapon type has the widest array and can be useful against various enemies. I did a shotgun ammo analysis recently. Generally, use 12 Gauge, Magnum when you can or keep it for highly protected enemies. 12 Gauge, Buckshot is good enough choice otherwise

At level 15, start Old World Blues DLC

I recommend starting this DLC. It will give +2 Strength after you finish it. This is very important as you can then use Riot Shotgun without penalties.

To start the DLC you can go to the Mojave Drive-in and at night initiate the quest. This way you can avoid the Weapon Handling perk and use perk points elsewhere


This section will cover some gear recommendations for the Shotgun Build


There are a wide array of choices for this build

shotgun build dinner bell combat fallout new vegas

Weapon Description
Riot Shotgun fallout new vegasRiot Shotgun This is probably the best shotgun from close range. It has a large clip, a fast fire rate, and a very fast reload speed. The only downside is its range, but in the late game you will have good armors, plenty of Stimpaks and Med-x
big boomer fallout new vegasBig Boomer Although this is the strongest shotgun in terms of single-shot damage, it is very inaccurate. I only recommend it if you enjoy running close to the enemies and releasing a few pellets to blow them up.
Dinner Bell fallout new vegasDinner Bell This shotgun is perfect for some long-range combat. Put on slug ammo, and you can take out enemies from much longer distances. I found it perfect against normal grunt enemies like Fiends as they do not have much HP. Although if you are looking for the most accurate shotgun, then Hunting Shotgun + Choke modification is your choice
hunting Shotgun fallout new vegasHunting Shotgun This is a decent mid-game choice. It is very accurate, especially with Choke modification.
single Shotgun fallout new vegasSingle Shotgun Although not powerful, it is a good starting game choice. As we take Rapid Reload, this will allow us to shoot it faster. Moreover, it has very good accuracy thanks to low spread. In the early game, every hit hurts, so having the capability to shoot from a longer range is welcome.

What makes shotguns also special is their wide selection of ammo. This offers more options to fight specific enemies. here is my in-depth analysis of the best shotgun ammo

The ammo can either be bought from vendors or crafted at a reloading bench.

Weapon Description
12 Gauge, Coin Shot Looks to be the strongest option against 0 DT and 15 DT enemies. However, it requires Legion Denarius to make at the Reloading Bench
12 Gauge, Magnum The second best option can be crafted at the Reloading bench and does good damage against most enemies.
12 Gauge, Buckshot The normal ammo variant. It is a decent option with this build and surpasses even many modified ones.


Armors are important as they provide a bonus damage threshold to reduce damage, give unique bonuses and last but not least provide good looks

Although armor is important, due to how New Vegas works, they can be made redundant. Generally, when dealing damage the minimum amount that will be dealt is 20%. This means that you can reach 85% damage reduction with Med-X, Battle Brew, and Slasher. After this, any Damage Threshold (DT) from your armor is redundant
Armor Description
ulysses duster fallout new vegasUlysse's Duster This is hands down one of the best armors. Gives a 5% Crit Chance and also activates Light Touch.
joshua graham's armor fallout new vegasJoshua Graham's Armor Has a good Damage Threshold and increases Crit Chance by 3%. Moreover, this will activate Light Touch
elite riot gear fallout new vegasElite Riot Gear Gives a 5% Crit chance boost, however, you lose the effect of Light Touch. On the other side, you gain a very cool-looking armor with minor DPS loss.
Gannon family Tesla armor fallout new vegasGannon family Tesla armor I think this deserves an honorable mention. This is a medium armor that has the highest Damage threshold. It also looks cool and makes it viable for this build


Helmet Description
1st recon berret fallout new vegas1st Recon Beret This is hands down the best helmet to use for maximum DPS. It is one of three headwear that gives this bonus (and the highest)
salt upon wounds helmet fallout new vegasSalt-Upon-Wounds' Helmet Gives +2 Crit Chance and provides a 4 Damage Threshold.
Elite Riot Gear Helmet fallout new vegasElite Riot Gear Helmet Take this if you would like to introduce sneaking with a unique Sneak Sight effect.


Armor Description
lucky shades fallout new vegasLucky Shades These are a perfect option if you do not use a helmet that covers the face. It gives +1 Luck, which ensures the maximum amount for the Crit Chance. It's perfect with 1st Recon Beret
Atomic-valence tri-radii-oscillator fallout new vegasAtomic-Valence Tri-Radii-Oscillator Can be worn together with any helmet. Gives health regeneration and Endurance +1. Moreover, it provides an additional Damage Threshold. Requires Old World Blues DLC
Valence radii-accentuator fallout new vegasValence Radii-Accentuator Can be worn together with any helmet. Gives health regeneration and Endurance +1. Moreover, it provides an additional Damage Threshold. The weaker version of the Atomic-valence Tri-Radii-Oscillator. Requires Old World Blues DLC


Thank you for reading this post on the Shotgun build in Fallout New Vegas. I covered the most important aspects like the start of the game and how to progress with your perks. This should give you a guiding hand not get lost in this huge game

Feel free to leave any questions in the comments


Post author zanuffas avatar zanuffas
Gamestegy Founder. I have been writing game guides and builds for 4 years. I like to push myself to create something wonderful for the readers!