The Call of Duty franchise is, and always has been, one about shooting. Its legacy spans three generations of console gaming, including PC and even handheld releases. Did you know there was even a CoD game on the Nokia N-Gage? While the series spent its infancy as a WWII shooter and looked like it'd be set that way forever, the pivotal release of Call of Duty 4 took the setting into modern times and set a lot of standards that are still adhered to over a decade later. As the Modern Warfare brand became a household name, with Black Ops right after, and some side story arcs released inbetween, the series has grown to portray times and places ranging from a spy fiction version of 60s Cuba to beyond the bounds of earth in a far distant future.
And that means that we get to see a lot of cool guns from cool times and cool places that do a lot of cool things.
From humble pistols and rifles to orbiting gun platforms and handheld gravity well cannons, the Call of Duty franchise has featured a lot of exotic weaponry, many of which are based on real-world designs but with some notable original concepts.
But with so much exotic equipment to choose from, let's keep our enthusiasm limited to guns for now.
15 AK47 Kalashnikov
"I would have preferred to have invented a machine that people could use and that would help farmers with their work - for example, a lawn-mower." -Mikhail Timofeyevich Kalashnikov
The Long Arm of the Kremlin. The quintessential 'Bad Guy' gun, except when it's the quintessential 'Freedom Fighter' gun. So simple a child could use it, and unfortunately some do. The soviets put it on a coin. Mozambique put it on their flag. It's the most popular rifle in the world by a large margin, yet it is banned by name in many countries including the US and Canada. Neither rain nor sleet nor hail nor snow will ever stop this rifle, literally or figuratively. The AK47 is a true classic, and variants of it are still produced today in a wide variety of calibers from .22LR to 12 Gauge shotshell.
Its first appearance in the franchise was in Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, where it is used by Russian Ultranationalists as well as by the Kuwaiti Coup d'Etat forces. It is also widely used in Multiplayer thanks to its full-auto trigger, reasonable recoil, decent damage, and the opportunity to field one that's been gold-plated. While it's not the most exciting rifle in the game, it's just as practical and popular as its real life counterpart. Accept no substitutes.
14 Armalite AR-15 (and friends)
"Tap, Rack, Bang." - Common advice on fixing a jammed M16
The new Long Arm of the Free World, it came onto the scene 10 years after the AK47, in 1957, headed by Eugene Stoner as part of a side project that was never expected to go anywhere. Hastily adopted due to the replacement of the rapidly aging M14 and the failure of another weapons program to make its deadlines, the M16 went on to become one of the most popular and effective assault rifles in the world despite its turbulent upbringing in the design studios of middle America through to the jungles of Vietnam.
Like the AK, it first appeared in Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare and never saw use in the WWII titles for reasons I hope are obvious. It is the default weapon (No, not "Default Weapon," that's something else) through much of the singleplayer campaign, and one of the first weapons one has access to in multiplayer.
Several variants are used in the game, including the M16A2, M16A3, M16A4, M4A1 SOPMOD, M4A3 Grenadier, and AR-15A3. And that's just in Modern Warfare. Even more models of it have appeared over the rest of the series and often sporting slightly different charging handles, handguards, or other fine details.
Much like real life, it and the AK are hotly debated over as to which is the best rifle of all time. Its stats are balanced slightly differently, but are still balanced in general, making it just as easy to use. Much like in real life, which one is better is really down to personal preference. They're both good. They're both iconic. They're both cool.
13 Ballistic Knife
"In the time it takes the average officer to recognize a threat, draw his sidearm and fire 2 rounds at center mass, an average subject charging at the officer with a knife or other cutting or stabbing weapon can cover a distance of 21 feet." -Dennis Tueller, "Surviving Edged Weapons"
With one of these in play, you have a lot further to worry about than 21 feet.
The ballistic knife is a fairly old concept and first appeared in the Call of Duty franchise in the Black Ops I multiplayer portion as a secondary weapon to replace the more boring pistol options. Boasting a one hit kill, faster and further reaching melee attacks, maximum movement speed with it out, a fast draw time, fast reload, and perfect accuracy, this unimpressive-looking knife was a constant source of delicious salt from inexperienced players on both sides of the blade.
Using it can be tricky because of the travel time and drop of the blade, but it makes for a very satisfying kill, and scoring a round-ending frag with it is sure to get riotous laughter out of the server.
12 M2 Flamethrower
"I don't believe it is necessary for me to state the personality disorders evident in an individual who enjoys, or more accurately 'revels', in spraying their enemies with flaming napalm aerosol." -Bungie, "Marathon Infinity Game Manual"
An often forgotten feature of Call of Duty: World at War is its fire effects. To play it up the power of their engine branch to show off fire, they implemented the M2 Flamethrower.
Imagine being a fresh-faced marine recruit saddled with flamethrower duty. It is now your job to charge over open ground, weighed down by almost 31 kilograms (that's 68 pounds for you yankees) of steel and fuel, pushing against machine gun and sniper fire, to root yourself in the mud and aim a rather small wand at a pillbox so that you may, for seven fleeting seconds before the tank runs dry, introduce the occupants to what it's like to have all the air around them replaced with fire.
It's a little grisly, sure, but what part of a shooter isn't? The grislier, the cooler, that's the whole point of a shooting game.
11 XM25 Grenade Launcher
"See that guy? F#?$ him and everyone around him." -Unknown US Marine
The real-life XM25 was developed as part of the Objective Individual Combat Weapon, or OICW, project in the 80s. It's appeared in tons of movies, video games, and even novels. But what makes its inclusion into Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 so unique?
The thing actually works as intended.
Most games, and even movies and novels, erroneously portray it as a simple magazine-fed grenade launcher. But it's so much more than a primitive bomb-thrower. The grenades used in the XM25 are programmable and can be set to airburst at a chosen range so the user can attack targets behind cover or around corners without having to get close enough to hook a hand grenade or fiddle with tricky (and dangerous) impact fuzed grenade trick shots. This feature is usually cut from games that feature it because they don't want to saddle the player with extra controls to mess up in the heat of battle, but Modern Warfare 3 doesn't think so little of the player; you can use the specific key while zoomed in to set the range at which the grenades will explode using a rangefinder, similar to how the real weapon works.
The real-life project was canned for various reasons, but it lives on in TV, movies, novels, and games. Games like Modern Warfare 3, where it's actually as slick as it is in real life.
10 FGM 148 Javelin
"Make it rain!" - Fat Joe, "Make it Rain"
Let's talk about tanks for a moment.
Tanks are typically driven by human beings, which means they need a way to get in and out. Every side has to have heavy armor since an attack could come from any angle, so the hatch to get in is usually located on the top. So that you don't have to have Herculean strength to open the hatch, the top armor of a tank is generally fairly thin and light compared to the rest of it.
Enter the FGM-148 Javelin missile launcher. Developed in the mid-80s to let ground troops fight tanks without having to call air support or artillery to do the job for them, it fires a 127mm guided tandem-warhead missile up high into the air only to have it crash down at high speed into the soft upper quarters of the tank of your choice. It first appeared in CoD4 for a couple of singleplayer segments involving some pesky armored vehicles in your squad's way. It was first implemented into multiplayer in Modern Warfare 2 where it has been upgraded to be able to both fire freely on any visible point on the ground, as well as engage aircraft. It also had a sordid history with a bug that enabled suicide-bombing, and is still unfortunately a dumb (or spiteful) enough launcher to let you kill yourself with it by firing it indoors.
In real life, the Javelin requires at least two people to set up and operate, but Modern Warfare is thankfully a cool enough subseries to let you run around with it at full speed. How sweet.
9 120mm Howitzer
"No, man. I am strapping the plane to the gun. The plane is an accessory." -Smith, "BOrangeFury's Fallout Let's Play"
Once upon a time, a man in china invented gunpowder. Shortly after, someone had the bright idea to put it in a tube, light it on fire, and use it to propel a metal ball at incredible high speeds. About a thousand years later, someone else designed a gun with a bore 12 centimetres in diameter, attached to a system of rails and levers to mitigate recoil, improve accuracy, and make it easier to load.
And then some madman in 1968 thought the whole contraption should fly.
For several years, modern shooters were plagued with the "AC-130 Level." But it all started with Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. The level "Death from Above" is on par with "All Ghilled Up" for most memorable level in CoD4, if not the whole franchise. Echoing the eerie silence and misplaced cheerfulness of Apache gunner videos that had come out of the 2003 Invasion of Iraq, this level managed to both be fun, but also somewhat controversial. But at least the AC130's entrance at the end of "Hunted" was a sight to behold back in 2007, due in no small part to the glorious 120mm cannon it opened fire with on a group of men poised to end your game after a twenty-minute long mission with few checkpoints.
8 ODIN (and LOKI)
"States Parties to the Treaty undertake not to place in orbit around the earth any objects carrying nuclear weapons or any other kinds of weapons of mass destruction, install such weapons on celestial bodies, or station such weapons in outer space in any other manner." -"Outer Space Treaty, Article IV"
Call of Duty: Ghosts was a bad game, but it got some things right: Rendering fur, rendering some things that are not fur, and having a dog in a story that doesn't die for once. But looming high above all those achievements is one of the coolest weapons in the entire series: the Orbital Defense Initiative and Low Orbit Kinetic bombardment platforms, or ODIN and LOKI.
Armed with an array of 6 metre long tungsten rods on ODIN and slightly smaller ones on LOKI, this total of 24 space stations are constantly manned and readied to drop said rods on the planet, resulting in a hunk of metal over 330kg in mass and traveling at over Mach 10 striking the earth, resulting in a release of energy similar to a bunker-busting tactical nuclear bomb.
They also appear in multiplayer as the KEM Strike, which can actually alter the layout of the map on some stages. This feature was as of yet unprecedented in the Call of Duty franchise, and is rare in shooters in general. This "Rods from God" concept dates back to the 1960s, but even now it's rare for an online shooter to allow players to change the layout of the map in any meaningful way. That level-changing functionality is the real cool aspect of this whole thing.
7 Storm PSR (Piercing Shot Rifle)
"Fat lot of good seeing in the dark is going to do you when all you can see is that there are more enemy tanks than you have antitank rounds." -Zack Parsons, "My Tank is Fight!"
The Storm PSR, found in Call of Duty: Black Ops II, is a sniper rifle with two unique mechanics. First off, it has an X-Ray RADAR scope that lets you see enemies through walls for easy kills through cover and in low-light conditions. The other unique mechanic allows it to build up a "charge" the longer it is kept sighted-in. This charge-up mechanic leads to it often being mistaken for a railgun. However, its description reads:
"See enemies through walls, hold the trigger to queue bullets and release for extreme material penetration."
That's right. This thing charges up to fire multiple shots so quickly that it quite literally drills rounds into targets.
I bet Australia is responsible for this. It's basically a Metal Storm crossed with the railgun from Eraser.
6 Pytaek LMG
"Sucking At Something Is the First Step to Being Sorta Good at Something" -Jake the Dog, "Adventure Time"
Unlike the other entries in this list that are there for being iconic, historically relevant, overly destructive, or just plain impressive for whatever other reason, this plain-looking light machine gun is here because it has a subtle but interesting mechanic.
For those unfamiliar with the gunplay of Call of Duty, weapon recoil is simulated by kicking the player's view and the gun's model around. The amount it kicks is random, but the ranges of that randomness never change. This makes it easy to manage recoil by moving your mouse or control stick on smaller guns with minimal recoil or heavily weighted patterns, but machine guns and heavy rifles will kick too randomly and too far around to control on reaction, making them spray all over the place before long.
The Pytaek, however, is different. Its level of view and gun kick will actually decrease the longer it is fired, until it becomes laser-accurate and with zero recoil. It's different; a nice change of pace.
5 Ray Gun
"This interactive laser musical instrument enables you to imagine yourself making unbelievable sounding music by moving your hands through laser beams." -Flo Rida, "Beamz by Flo™"
This is it. This is where Call of Duty truly went off the rails.
While most players know it from the Zombies mode of World at War, it was also available as an easter egg during the single player campaign level "Little Resistance" by laying in a particular puddle for a very long time and then speaking to some Shisa statues. I have the feeling that a Miyamoto-esque story about encountering mean cats as a child might have led to that one.
In any case, the Ray Gun is available from Mystery Boxes in the Zombies mode of World at War, and appears again and again throughout the Black Ops subseries. It's exactly what you'd expect from a gun that looks like this -- it fires lasers, the lasers do splash damage, and the whole affair is a mess of intensely destructive lights and colors.
Not only is it cool as a nifty little retro-future zeerust number, but it also represents a turning point in the Call of Duty franchise where the developers began experimenting a lot more boldly and brazenly, bringing in more fantastic plot elements and sillier gameplay items.
4 Gravity Vortex Gun
"Lo, I have found the holy grail of firepower! Mine eyes can but weep as they bear witness to the magesty... The BFG." -Doomguy, "Doom"(Comic)
If the Ray Gun is where Call of Duty went off the rails, the Gravity Vortex Gun is where the series reached escape velocity.
Introduced in Infinite Warfare, this device fires a projectile that produces a black hole on contact with a surface or enemy that slowly pulls in objects and players, damaging them over time or instantly killing them on contact. The black hole will explode after a small amount of time, dealing further damage and tossing around whatever was being sucked into it.
Some people dislike it because it's not quite as effective as the more mundane bullet or explosive weapons and it's a little light on spare ammo. But on the other hand, it also has a flip-out reflex sight with a gaudy reticule, a design straight out of Tribes, and firing it will cluster ragdolls, dropped weapons, bad players, and other such trash around the projectile before tossing them all around the room in a hilarious show of force. In my opinion, that makes it one of the best weapons to appear in the franchise so far, because the series has traditionally not had much in the way of physics dickery. And all games need more physics dickery.
3 Luger P08
"Lösch das." -Unknown Wehrmacht Soldier
Millennials won't get this one! The Luger only appeared in Call of Duty 1 and 2 where it was just another pistol. It was a prized trophy for Allied soldiers during WWII and features a very unique action: Unlike other semi-automatic pistols, it uses what is called a "toggle-lock" system. Instead of a slide that rockets back under the pressure of firing a bullet, the entire barrel and breech assembly slides back only a short distance, but then a jointed arm built into it strikes a cam that causes the jointed arm to unlock.
While Call of Duty 1 and 2 predate the fad of having weapon attachment systems in video games, the real-life Luger had a wide variety of attachments, extended magazines, and other aftermarket parts. It really would fit right in next to the M4 for sheer ridiculousness of tacked-on bits and pieces, ranging from a 32 round "snail" magazine to full-auto trigger groups and collapsible stocks.
2 M1 Garand
"Bang! Bang! Bang! Bang, Bang! Bang, Bang, Bang! Ping!" -An actual M1 Garand
Appearing in every WWII-set Call of Duty game, as well as Black Ops I, Advanced Warfare, and Infinite Warfare, the M1 Garand is a common favorite of gamers and real-world shooters everywhere for the distinctive metallic "Ping!" sound it makes when the magazine has run dry.
Unlike other rifles of its time, however, this thing is complicated. Its eight round magazine must be completely exhausted before it can be reloaded, since it uses a cross between a magazine and a clip. The distinctive "Ping!" is a result of the action hitting that clip, making them degrade faster than a magazine while not being as cheap and disposable as a clip. Reloading them is finicky, resulting in a common injury known as "Garand Thumb." There's also no rails on it, so you could never fit a scope to it. No way.
Just kidding. You can put a scope on it... It just has to be a few inches to the side or about a foot forward of where a scope usually goes, so you can have room to load the thing.
Still, despite all these drawbacks, it's a one-of-a-kind weapon, and you gotta love it just for that.
1 Sturmgewehr 44
"The principle of this weapon ... was probably the most important advance in small arms since the invention of smokeless powder." -R. R. Hallock, "M-16 Rifle Case Study"
The StG-44 is widely considered to be the grand-daddy of all assault rifles. While that title should technically go to the Fedorov Avtomat, or even one of the many submachine guns of the day, the StG-44 is probably the first automatic intended to be deployed the same way modern assault rifles are.
The StG has had a place of prestige in the Call of Duty franchise ever since its roots as a WWII shooter. Through the pre-modern games, it was a serious power weapon, offering automatic fire and high damage where most other weapons were either semi-auto at best, or terribly weak to balance their rate of fire. CoD4 brought it into the modern setting by offering it as a weapon for skilled players to prove they don't need fancy attachments and launchers to score kills online, making it a weapon for classy dudes and dudettes only. Black Ops I gave it the power to gib enemies, and it was patched into Advance Warfare just for fun because it's such a fan favorite. It's been in the second highest number of CoD games of any weapon, and with good reason. It's sweet as heck.
Plus, its name literally translates to "Storming Rifle." How cool is that?