Here is a short practical guide for veterans or wannabe Gunners in MH4U. I noted that ranged weapons were growing popular on Multiplayer mode but i rarely see anyone using it very efficiently apart from veteran hunters. This blog will list a bunch of tips to help people improve their gunning skills or if they just want to beat the game by the ways of ranged weapons. Don't hesitate to add precisions in comments if i forget something.
Infos are taken from personal experience as well as monster stats from Kiranico.
Know your weapon
One of the most important thing that makes the Gunning world a completely different thing than your old Blademaster instincts is that your weapon has its own personality, like how Hunting Horns and Gunlances each react in a different way depending on what weapon model you're using. You cannot pick up any Bowgun or Bow and go out shooting at things as if it was a Greatsword or a Charge Blade. This means you have to carefully pay attention to what playstyle fits the weapon you're picking - in other terms, you have to take a deep look at its stats.
*Shot/Arrow Types and Playstyles (LBG, HBG, Bow)
The first thing you might need to know when picking your weapon is what type of shot suits your playstyle. You might prefer sniping the monster from a distance, or on the other hand get closer and ensure you hit the weakpoint with more precision. Each playstyle suits a type of bullet/arrow, where it will dish out the maximum of its damage potential.
You can see that you're doing maximum damage when your screen is shaking upon impact. If the screen doesn't shake, it means you're either too close or too far, but remember this: it is always better to be too close than to be too far. This applies to the 3 Gunner weapons, it is called Critical Distance.
-Normal shots are better fired point-blank. They get weaker as they fly further, but have a quite long flying distance at which they will still be strong. They are good used against small monsters, or monsters with a narrow weakpoint like a small head or a tail tip. Normal 1 are worthless (you better abandon the quest rather than trying to finish it with these), Normal 2 are the most powerful, and Normal 3 are slightly less powerful than 2, but have the ability to ricochet over some parts and hit other parts when aimed right. This is hard to do in 4U though, so it is better to consider Normal 2 as your go-to option.
-Pierce shots are better fired from a safe distance, aproximatively 5-6 rolls away from the monster. When shot at nothing, you will see a small wind circle around the bullet: that's when the bullet begins doing maximum damage. They are good against large monsters, or monsters with massive or long weakpoints such as a tail or a belly. Their power is greater than Normal shots, but divided into several hits as they travel across the monster. Pierce 1 hits 3 times, Pierce 2 4 times and Pierce 3 is the most powerful, hitting 5 times.
-Pellet shots need no precise aiming to hit efficiently as they are fired in a cone of shrapnels and hit randomly targets, however they must be fired at rather close range to ensure that you won't miss any of their random hits. Each hit is rather weak however, and might hit a part other than the one you're hoping to hit. (Like the weakspot). However, they're still good against some nible monsters you might miss often with other types of shot such as Kirin or Dromes, as some weakspots actually "attract" the hits of Pellet shots, ensuring maximum damage.
-Elemental shots possess enormous power when fired constantly at the right part. They require good aiming but need no specific positioning as they do fixed damage (which is based on your attack power). Elem shots need sharp knowledge of your target to be used efficiently: there are monsters against which they aren't really worth using, and there are others which Elem shots utterly destroy. Fire, Water, Thunder and Ice shots can be mass fired with little to no recoil and hit 1 time, but the very limited Dragon S hits multiple times like Pierce shots and have huge recoil - and boast ludicrous power when compared to other Elem shots. Being able to Rapid Fire them (LBG) or Crouch Fire them (HBG) in a quick succession results in high amounts of damage, so think about it before you want to remove the limiter of your weapon.
-Crag shots are time bombs that lodge into the monster part before detonating with great power after a few seconds. You cannot take a great number of these in quests but you can craft some more if you have the materials. If they land on the head of a monster (regardless of whether it is a weakspot or not), they will cause KO damage when exploding, very useful for knocking monsters out. The power is greater with the level of the ammo, and they benefit from the armor skill Artillery and the food skills Felyne Bombardier which both boosts their power. However, it is hard to complete a full hunt only relying on these.
-Cluster shots scatter in small bombs upon impact, that will slowly fall down before exploding. Lv1 lets out 3 bombs, Lv2 4 and Lv3 5. They are surprisingly powerful but require good aiming as the shot is slow, the recoil is huge and the bombs fly up a bit before exploding. It is better to fire them at closed spots like as the junction between the body and the wing, a gaping mouth, the crotch of a monster or its back. You can take a maximum of 3 of each level with you, so consider taking crafting materials as well.
-Status shots induce special statuses, hence the name. They cause very little damage and are better used as a strategic mean of setting up big openings rather than as a main source of damage. If timed right, you can litterally destroy a monster when coupled with damage-dealing shot types, or even barrel bombs. They require very precise timing when playing solo as you have to switch ammo in order for their effect to be useful, but make multiplayer experience a lot easier. They often have quite the recoil, especially Blast S. Use them only when you have a strategy in mind.
-Slicing shots functions in a similar manner to Crag S, except they are meant not for KOing monsters by hitting the head, but for cutting tails. Unlike other Ammo type, they do cutting damage like Blademaster weapons, but the actual loss of HP is rather low. Taking a full stock of these just to cut a tail is kinda detrimental to your DPS, so consider using them if you are really allergic to Blademaster weapons.
-Utility Shots (Demon, Armor, Healing, Tranq and Paint) have a limited use in solo play, so it is overall better to ignore them unless you really want to play supportive in multiplayer, but then again the supporting potential is kinda limited, as the best way of being supportive anyways is dishing out damage. You can ditch these completely. Tranq S take a slot in your Ammo pouch, but if you intend to capture a monster, using Tranq shots or Tranq bombs is up to your preference, as they work the same way: 2 hits and it's done.
-Normal arrows fire a cluster of arrows in a straight line at a single target. As they usually all hit on the same spot, they are really good against monsters with small weakpoints. They do the most damage when used at mid to close range. The power is greater with the level of the shot.
-Pierce arrows fires a single arrow that flies in a straight line and tears across a monster, occasioning several hits, that rise in number with the level of the shot. They are best used at a quite fair distance and on large or long monsters.
-Spread arrows is a very close-quarter arrow type as it fires a fan of arrows that don't fly very far. They are great against long weakspots like tails if each arrow can hit with critical damage. Unlike its Bowgun counterpart, Pellet S, Spread is quite powerful but requires careful positioning.
-Coatings allows you to tweak the elemental properties of your bow, adding for instance Poison, Paralysis, Sleep, Exhaust or Blast effects, which are based on the raw attack of your bow. However, the most important coating type is Power which raises the power of your arrows by half, and you should not be hunting without 50 in your ammo pouch and 20 Nitroshroom in your inventory to make some in-quest. Try using the "Use Power Coat." armor skill if your bow does not support it naturally (hopefully, most do.) The Close Range coating (white) allows you to fire your arrows from a closer distance (not to say, point blank) at max damage without caring about positioning.
*Recoil, Reload Speed, Deviation and Ammo Clip Size (LBG and HBG)
Understanding Recoil is one of the most important part of mastering Bowguns. High recoil means you will not be able to fire your most powerful ammos without a big lag, thus decreasing your DPS as if you were bouncing off monster parts as a blademaster. Nonetheless, DPS with gunner weapons is an even more important part as what will really dish out damage is a near-constant stream of bullets in soft spots, as opposed to landing only a few hits on the weakpoint.
Recoil level goes down from V.High > High > Average > Some > Low > Minimal.
Each Ammo type has a recoil threshold under which it will stop having great lag. If you want to rely on a specific type of shot that fits your playstyle, you will have to consider using a bowgun that have a good Recoil level, or using the Recoil down armor skill.
-Normal can be shot with little to no recoil at almost any level.
-Pierce can be shot efficiently starting at "Some" and lower levels.
-Pellet can be shot efficiently starting at "Some" and lower levels.
-Crag and Clust > not sure yet but recoil is quite high
-Elemental shots have no recoil.
-Status shots > Not sure yet but recoil is consequent
-Utility shots (Cut, Demon, Armor, Healing, Tranq, Paint) > Not sure yet but they have little recoil
Please note that if you're using LBG, using a Silencer will lower your recoil by 1 level for no armor skill points.
As for Reload Speed, it is also a factor to consider in the optimization of your DPS. The faster it is, the least longer you will be exposed to attacks. A slow bowgun will remain stuck in place for a good amount of time, which can be detrimental to both your DPS and your survival. Consider using "Reload Speed" armor skill to fix this if your bowgun has a "Below Average" or "Slow" Reload Speed.
Deviation is less of your concern, as even with high deviation, you must be able to correct yourself by anticipating the curve. Of course, no deviation is the best, but if your Bowgun deviates greatly, it shouldn't be one of your priorities to fix it by spending slots to get "Steadyness"(precision) armor skill. Note that the food skill "Felyne Temper" raises your deviation by 1 stage while also increasing damage for all your shots.
Each Bowgun can fire a different number of shots of 1 type before they need to be reloaded. The more rounds you can fire in one row, the better the damage. Take a look at the clip size of your bowgun and note the highest numbers: these will be the main shots of your bowgun. If it doesn't fire the ammo you want, either choose another bowgun or try using the "Use Any Normal/Pierce/Pellet/Crag/Clust/Blast" armor skill. If your clip size is under 4, this means you will have to reload more often. The Load Up skill will help dealing with this problem, but don't bother using it if you can fire 5-12 bullets before reloading, unless you really want to get 1 extra round.
*Limiter Removal (LBG/HBG)
When using a Rare6+ bowgun, you have the capacity to remove its limiter at the Smithy's. It doesn't have the same effect for the 2 types of bowgun, and also implies a change in playstyle for both of them.
LBG: Taking off the limiter also takes off your ability to use Rapid Fire. However, it will not only increase your clip size for most of your bullets, but also give you the unique ability to load all the bullets in your Ammo pouch in a row (Press X+A to do so.) The animation is ridiculously long even with maximal reload speed, but you can consider firing all your bullets, putting your weapon away, dropping a Small Barrel Bomb or a Felvine Bomb, and immediately draw into a Full reload; the blast will send you away with all your bullets loaded again. For this, the Trapmaster/Explosive Trapper armor skills might be a good idea. Generally speaking, when you aren't interested by the shots your LBG Rapid Fires, but it has a good overall ammo clip size, you might want to consider taking your Limiter off.
HBG: Taking the limiter off will further boost your attack but it also means you're ditching your ability to go into Siege Mode. It also slightly hampers your mobility as it is not possible anymore to evade immediately after firing. Removing or not the limiter is up to your personal taste; bullets and shield are strong when it is off, but being able to fire a full salvo of 20 bullets on a weakpoint is really powerful in terms of DPS.
*Charge Levels and Arc Shot type (Bow)
Look at the Lv3 charge and pick the bow if you're satisfied. It's as simple as that. As Lv3 charge will be your bread and butter, there's little to no reason to care about the others. If your bow has no Lv3 charge, or you want to use its Lv4 charge instead, use the Load Up skill.
Note that a level like "Lv3: Normal 2" doesn't mean it isn't worth it. Think of Arrow type/levels as the type of ammunition your bow fires, and the charge level as of the power at which you're firing them. Lv3 charge is 150% power so you can see why it is your bread and butter.
Now for Arc Shots, it exists 2 types: Arc and Power.
Arc Shots are divided in 3 subcategories: Focus, Wide and Blast. If you press X+A while charging, it will do the Arc shot that your bow supports. Focus and Wide are great if you want to use element against the monster, otherwise Blast has the capacity to do big damage, but note that in any of the 3 cases, Arc shot has the ability to KO monsters.
Power shots work in a different way: pressing XA or A after a shot will fire a +1 charge level shot. You can even fire it at no charge level to instantly fire a Lv2 charge, however the ending lag is quite significative and the stamina consumption is high. This type of bow is considered superior in terms of DPS, but misread your target and you will often miss your second shot when it flinches or moves away, or just find yourself open to attacks.
Knowing the needs of your weapon
Gunner weapons are very skill-dependant as they all get their maximal efficiency when supported by a couple important skills.
All 3 weapons:
- Normal/Pellet/Pierce up: These are a nice alternative to Attack up skills. Normal/Pierce up are x1.1 power for the corresponding shots/arrows, Pellet up is x1.2 for Pellet shot and a whooping x1.3 for Spread arrows (it's like being in perma-adrenaline+2)
- Loading: More ammos or a 170% power Lv4 charge is always good.
- Trajectory: An End-game skill that allows you to forget what you learned throughout the game (lol) about Critical Distance. You can get Crit.Distance from further, but one would not make this skill mandatory if they want to be a "true" gunner.
- Evasion +2: As a gunner, you are quite frail compared to Blademasters, so being able to go through attacks is always good.
- Evade Extender or Fleet Feet: Because your weapon is not very mobile, you might want this extra mobility. Fleet Feet is always a better option. (Who would ditch a 10 armor skill points Attack up Large?)
- Recoil Down: Unlike for LBG, it is vital if you want to fire Pierce S.
- Quick Sheath: If you have trouble with mobility, you can still run.
- Bonus Shot: Adds 1 more shot to your Rapid Fire. 70% more DPS!
- Trapmaster or Explosive Trapper: If you want to use Limiter Off, or you really like Bombs and Traps.
- Focus: Slightly improves your DPS by making you charge your Lv3 quicker. It is not mandatory however if you're using Power type bows as you can instantly fire your upper charge, in this case, using Item Use Up alongside with Dash Juices will help deal with stamina management.
Knowing your Target
Gunning requires sharp knowledge of your prey, as even the slightest error in your strategy will result in a considerable DPS loss. This list is meant to help people turn their hunting times from 30-40 minutes to 10-15 minutes.
*Physically Weak Monsters
These are monsters that are better hunted with raw damage shots because often Elements are less effective on them. They have either one very weak spot, or several weak spots that can easily be hit by shots such as Pierce. Note that even though every monster has a weakspot, i only list those with significant weakspots. That's why early rank monsters such as Velocidrome or Seltas aren't in the physically weak monsters, as they are basically walking weakspots. (Also they are destroyed by Pellet shot). Otherwise the advice will be the same for the rest of the monsters: go for the head!
Note: Normal/Pierce refers to both Normal S/Normal Arrows and Pierce S/Pierce arrows, Spread refers to Spread arrows and Pellet refers to Pellet S.
-Seltas Queen, Desertas Queen (Head + Underbelly) > Pierce
-Nerscylla (Back Spikes > Abdomen tip) > Normal
-Shroudscylla (Head) > Normal
-Iodrome (Body) > Normal/Spread
-Gypceros, Purpleceros (Head, Tail) > Any Type
-Ash Kecha (Tail) > Normal, (Head when uncovered)> Normal/Pierce
-Rajang (Head + Body) > Pierce/Spread
-Najarala (Head, Tail+Rear Legs) > Pierce, Normal
-Tidalrala (Arms, Rear legs) > Normal
-Brachydios (Tail, Head) > Any type
-Deviljho (Head while calm, Belly while enraged) > Pierce
-Savajho (Belly while "Calm", Head in hungry mode) > Pierce
-Basarios, Rubysarios (Broken Belly) > Pierce
-Gravios, Blackvios (Broken Belly, Broken back) > Pierce
-Rath subs (Azure & Pink) (Legs + Belly) > Pierce / Normal
-Diablos, Blackblos (Tail, Wing membrane) > Pierce/Spread
-Monoblos, Whiteblos (Neck, Belly, Tail, Tail Tip) > Pierce
-Seregios (Belly, Legs) > Pierce
-Gore (Legs, Head) > Normal (Front legs makes him trip often.)
-Zinogre, Stynogre (Charged Back, Head) > Pierce, Normal for Head.
-Kirin, Oroshirin (Horn) > Pellet / Normal arrows
-Kushala Daoras (Head) > Pierce shots ignore the wind barrier.
-Teostra (Tail) > Pierce/Spread
-Dalamadur, Shahlamadur (Head, Atrophied Legs, Tail tip) > Pierce
-Molten Tiggy (Head, Front Claws in rage) > Normal
-Gogmazios (Front/back legs when calm, Head, Wings, Tail, Torso when enraged) > Pierce
*Elementally Weak Monsters
These monsters often have one big, very weak spot that takes lots of damage from an element, and dousing it with elemental shots will do a huge amount of damage. These monsters can be hunted with almost nothing but Elem shots if you can shoot them right.
Fire: Khezu (head), Seltas Queen (Head), Zamtrios (Icy Head, Inflated Belly), Tidalrala (Crest, Body), Chameleos (Head, Torso), Gypceroses (Head), D-Herm (Head), Lagombi (Head + Shoulders), Ukanlos (Head).
Water: Rhedzu (Head), Gravios (Belly, Tail), Blackvios (Belly, Tail), Basarios (Belly), Yian Garuga (Back), Tetsucabra (Head, Inflated tail), Silver Los (Head, Neck), Rusted Kusha (Head).
Thunder: Akantor (Head, Tail), D-Herm (Head), Plumiyo Herm (Head), Cabras (Head, Inflated Tail), Gold Ian, Silver Los (Head, Neck), Monoblos/Whiteblos (Tail Tip + tail), Ukanlos (Front legs), Kushala (Head).
Ice: Kut-Kus (Neck), Berzerkabra (Head, Inflated Tail), Plumiyo Herm (Head), Najarala (Crest, Arms), Gendrome (Head), Velocidrome (Head), Tigertrios (Head, Inflated Belly).
Dragon: Gravios (Broken Belly), Blackvios (Broken Belly), Kushala (Head+Neck, Tail), Fatalises (Head), Gogmazios (Head when calm, Tail/Torso when enraged)
Hope this helped!