For 20 years and counting, Halo has set the bar for first-person action. With its thrilling campaigns, cerebral multiplayer, and godly one-liners, the series has dominated TV screens around the world. There’s no debate: Master Chief has cemented his place as Xbox royalty.
As with any flagship franchise, Halo has its peaks and its valleys. While fans are quick to debate the merits of each Halo game, there’s one particular aspect all too absent from the conversation.
I’m talking about the pistol.
Halo’s magnum has a legacy as storied as the series itself. For more than two decades, Chief has relied on his sidearm to bust up Grunts, cut through Jackals, and take down even the most menacing adversaries. The trusty assault rifle may be No. 1, but the pistol is a capable 1B.
But which iteration of the pistol reigns supreme? Without further ado, here are all eight Halo pistols ranked by power, utility, flair, and just all-around badassery:
8. Halo 3 – M6G Magnum
Halo 3 is an incredible game. After countless marketing campaigns, three years of build-up, and one hell of a cliffhanger, players were finally able to “Finish the fight,” once and for all.
Too bad the game’s pistol is trash.
Where do we start? Halo 3‘s M6G magnum is as lackluster as video game sidearms get. It looks dull, has a slow fire rate, and sounds like the BB gun your grandpa gave you for Christmas.
Even dual wielding—a fleeting feature in the franchise—couldn’t save Halo 3‘s pistol from itself. A disappointing, soulless weapon in an otherwise sublime game.
7. Halo 3: ODST – M6S Automag
Halo 3: ODST puts players in control of the titular Orbital Drop Shock Trooper, a decidedly weaker protagonist than the superhuman Master Chief. Despite the dip in power level, these troopers have more than enough tools to navigate the city of New Mombasa.
In terms of raw damage, the game’s M6S pistol packs less punch than its predecessor (which, clearly, isn’t saying much). Look a level deeper though, and it’s clear ODST made some welcome improvements.
Most notably, the OG Halo scope is back—and in a big way. The scoped pistol provides ample opportunity to snipe distant grunts and jackals. Throw in a sped-up fire rate and a slick jet-black aesthetic, and ODST‘s pistol was a confident step in the right direction.
6. Halo 2 – M6C Magnum
Halo 2’s M6C pistol is essentially Halo 3’s pistol, except actually functional. It boasts a superior fire rate, allowing skilled players to break enemy shields and rack up headshots. And while ODST wins in the visual department, Halo 2 gets the edge on account of dual-wielding.
It’s not a powerhouse weapon by any means. There’s also no scope, which makes precision shooting difficult. But in capable hands—especially when paired with a plasma pistol—the Halo 2 magnum leaves a mark.
5. Halo 4 – M6H Magnum
When 343 inherited the Halo franchise from Bungie, it had spartan-sized boots to fill. While Halo 4 proved divisive for players, its gorgeous vistas, tender narrative, and stellar voice cast remain highlights of mine to this day.
Another area where Halo 4 shines? Its arsenal. The introduction of Promethean enemies proved controversial among players, but also provided a number of new toys for Chief to play with.
But we don’t care about any of that for this list. How’s the pistol stack up?
Pretty well, in fact. 343 chose not to rewrite the script with the M6H magnum. The result is a weapon that’s surprisingly powerful across both campaign and multiplayer. It’d rank even higher on this list, were it not for some underwhelming sound design.
4. Halo Reach – M6G Magnum
Ah, Halo Reach. In the lead up to launch, Bungie’s final Halo game caused trepidation among series fans. From the introduction of loadouts, to the radical addition of armor abilities, Reach‘s sweeping changes seemed ambitious—even for Bungie.
Thankfully, the studio nailed the landing. Even today, many regard Halo Reach as the pinnacle of the series’ multiplayer. The campaign isn’t half bad either.
A big part of Reach‘s success was due to its balanced weaponry—pistol included. Sure, the real star of the show was the DMR, and its versatile precision firing. But the M6G magnum held its own too, offering power and utility in the hands of skilled players.
While Halo 4‘s pistol arguably has better stats than Reach‘s pistol, the latter wins out on several accounts. Bullets have a satisfying crunch to them. The design is simple yet elegant, harking back to Halo: Combat Evolved. Oh, and perhaps most important: It’s got a badass pistol whip animation.
3. Halo 5: Guardians – M6H2 Magnum
Say what you will about Halo 5: dull storyline; invasive requisition packs; Locke. In spite of its faults, there’s one thing the game gets right, and that’s the pistol.
In truth, the M6H2 magnum in Guardians isn’t all too different from Halo 4‘s M6H. Both allow for DMR-like precision shooting—the M6H via a zoom scope, the M6H2 via Halo 5‘s new “smart scope” (i.e., ADS). But with Guardians‘ focus on twitchy, tight-quarters arena multiplayer (a decision largely heralded by critics and fans), the M6H2 truly shines.
It’s a powerful weapon that has earned its place in competitive circuits, dominating everything from traditional Slayer to the one-life game mode Breakout. Halo 5‘s pistol fulfills the time-old mantra, “Easy to learn, hard to master.”
2. Halo Infinite – MK50 Sidekick
Halo Infinite may be the newest game on this list, but its pistol is already making waves.
As Master Chief takes the fight to Zeta Halo, his pistol is proving an invaluable asset. The MK50 Sidekick combines the powerful punch of Halo 5‘s M6H2 with the slick veneer of ODST‘s M6S. It’s a phenomenal mix of utility and style, balanced to near perfection.
In terms of overall polish, Infinite sets a new bar for Halo sidearms. But even polish isn’t enough to top this list…
1. Halo: Combat Evolved – M6D Magnum
Was there really any doubt?
Halo: Combat Evolved‘s M6D magnum is an absolute juggernaut. Visually, it’s a beast of UNSC machinery, whose sheer silvery brawn practically pops from the television screen. Mechanically, it’s got heft, it’s got horsepower… and it’s pretty much unstoppable.
Unlike recent Halo pistols, which prioritize player balance, Halo: CE‘s prioritizes player power. As Chief, you can shred through a pack of Elites, one-shot enemy Hunters, and still have bullets left over—in the same clip. It’s so busted, even Halo‘s design team admits they done goofed.
In the hands of the average player, Halo: CE‘s magnum is a power trip. In the hands of a Halo veteran, it’s game breaking—but I much prefer the term game defining. Forever GOAT-ed, the M6D has earned its place atop the series throne.
Long may it reign.