- New - A guide to making a Pistol/Gunslinger Build
- New - A guide to making a Melee Build
- New - Scav Magazine - All locations and details
- For New Players - Read the walkthrough.
- New - Open Season
- New - Power Play Quest
- New - Raider Outposts
- New - Nuka World Endings Guide - Options and Benefits
- The Grand Tour
- Faction Perks and New SPECIAL Ranks in Nuka World
- Gage (Companion)
Fallout 4 Sniper Build
Great Perks and Tips for Playing a Sniper
This Guide is intended to give you some direction but you shouldn't let anything dictate what you do in Fallout 4. Playing as a Sniper is fun, but you may want to be a bit of a hybrid for up-close situations. I'm listing the Perks you'll need to accomplish the following and roughly outlining the priority you should place on each of them.
So we want to be sneaky (Agility) and be able to shoot from afar to remain unseen (Perception). Everything else is optional and a bonus to your character in order to suit your playstyle. We can grow a character so sneaky that even indoors we can become a menace with a silenced weapon, and that is necessary because we'll want to enter Fallout 4's many buildings.
Sniping: Manual or VATS?
I'm only writing this part to instruct new players on how important or unimportant stats are depending upon whether you want to play Fallout 4 like a shooter or tactical RPG. If you want to do your sniping manually, you don't need Perception much at all to play a Sniper. A little will help in order to unlock Perks, but it's not required if you're going to do all the shooting yourself - even the Sniper perk itself is possible to overlook (Perception 8) as it gives a knockdown chance and better breath-holding that you may not need, depending on your own ability to aim. Perception only gives you an accuracy boost inside VATS.
For that matter, without VATS Luck becomes less important as Critical Hits are only used in VATS aside from one chem (Overdrive), and Overdrive gives you a 25% crit chance inside or outside VATS. Playing manually, the role of Agility will diminish as well, because AP would not be necessary. Nonetheless, your Agility score will be highly important to remaining hidden and thus should probably be picked more often than other stats. All that said, I will probably write this more for a heavy VATS user, but this does not render the guide useless to someone playing as a sniper with little to no VATS usage.
SPECIAL Stat Priority Order
Like the rest of this guide, this is meant to give you ideas, do what you will with it. Some Perks you find super-desirable will only be available once every 8-12 levels, so you have room to tweak your SPECIAL and raise it to unlock Perks and get the boosts that come with them. Rifleman is available from PER 2 Level 1, Level 9, 18, 31, and 46. There are huge gaps that allow you to pick other Perks and raise SPECIAL in between.
- Agility - More than any other, because it will help you to remain hidden while supplying Action Points for firing your rifle in VATS. Anything you do to increase your stealth capabilities, from armor mods to the Sneak Perk itself is going to play off your Agility score and be amplified. As stated above even an entirely manual sniper would want a high agility score to sneak like a pro.
- Perception - Each point gives a roughly 4% increase over base accuracy when in VATS. A mere 5 points would take a 75% hit rate and turn it into a 90% chance to hit, and that's average Perception. Whether you need that or not is dependent on the above bit about manual vs VATS sniper play.
- Luck - Scoring a massive sneak attack critical hit against a Supermutant Behemoth and watching its health plummet is incredibly satisfying. On my Critical Hit Guide you can see how many shots it will take you to fill the crit meter. If you use a smaller sidearm for close encounters as I recommend, you can pop a few off on a close opponent then have a crit ready for a ranged opponent. Using Luck and Idiot Savant, you can get by with very little Intelligence, which lets you boost AGI/PER even further.
- Charisma - Dependent upon how much you'll use Fallout 4's Settlements system, and whether you want a companion. Local Leader is a highlight here as well as Inspirational if you choose to have a companion despite my warning on them blowing cover. Inspirational can offset a low strength score by letting you use your companion as a pack mule, but so too can Lone Wanderer.
- Endurance - At some point, you may want a few points here. It may be more important to you than Luck/Charisma at some point. You gain more and more health from it as you gain levels, and it's retroactive so there is no need to worry about it early in the game. You can take a point in this to make yourself more survivable when you feel you need it.
- Intelligence - Eventually, you'll want some of this though with Idiot Savant from Luck you could do fairly well without much Intelligence. It all depends if you will want the Science! Perk or not in order to upgrade gear - particularly power armor and energy weapons. Most of the upper Intelligence Perks are just not worth it. Idiot Savant is why I place this so low in priority. You can get by on 3 for Gun Nut, and you may not even require that...
- Strength - Probably equal with Endurance, take it as you need it for carry weight alone. You only need a few points for Armorer, which you are likely to want unless you want to survive with only what the game gives you. Lone Wanderer, your companion, and selective looting can help you to survive without much carry weight.
Most Important Perks for a Sniper
Please keep in mind that these are in no particular order, and you should take what feels needed at the moment when you level up. You know your character better than anyone, as well as the resources available to you. If you're already one-shotting things (and you likely will be if playing on lower difficulties - raise it for more Legendary encounters), you might want something from the optional category to help you in the future!
Rifleman Perk (PER 2)
Rifleman is the single most important Perk to the build, because without it your damage will dwindle. Twenty percent per level is nothing to scoff at, but moreover it will also give you some armor penetration that makes it give the best damage boosts of all weapon types. Dealing high damage saves you ammunition and silences your target - one shot, one kill. It is almost as if Bethesda realized some players might want to play a sniper in Fallout 4 without VATS, given its incredibly low Perception requirement yet being something you'd expect to require a good eye. This affects any type of rifle, so long as it's not automatic - this includes shotguns and energy weapons (you can certainly have a laser rifle tricked out as a sniper rifle).
Sneak Perk (AGI 3)
The next obvious choice. You're shooting from afar, why would you not take advantage of sneak attacks? Even if it's only on your first shot you will benefit from this huge boost to damage, especially with a head shot. While it has a low Agility requirement, you will not be an effective Sneak without investing into Agility to raise the effectiveness of that 20% boost. The first point here is actually the biggest gain, but in order to hide from high-Perception opponents you will likely want even more investment into this and Agility either from gear or from SPECIAL investment with your Perk points.
Ninja Perk (AGI 7)
If we're going to invest heavily in Agility to be a better sneaky sniper, why not improve the damage of sneak attacks. Each point takes you from the base of 2x damage to 2.5, 3.0, and 3.5 - a 25% increase each time. It's a substantial damage increase, and great if you can make shots at such a range (or silenced) such that NPCs will have a difficult time detecting where you are. Repositioning, slowly, is key, as are head shots.
Penetrator Perk (PER 9)
Your bullets have such impact they can pass through light cover and go right through enemies. This is an exceptional perk that was somewhat misunderstood at first by early adopters of Fallout 4, because it's a bit imperfect and doesn't always work depending upon what the enemy is standing behind (a simple fence and one layer of cover, or an object that is more solid). But it's worth it even if only for the ability to target the hand an enemy is holding a weapon in through his body or a deathclaw's belly to maximize damage with your sneak attack and fell the beast with haste. It's now widely known you can even shoot through Power Armor and hit the core from the front.
All that said, this is one damned good perk and you'd be missing out to pass it up. Take it a little later in your adventure, but definitely take it if you're playing a sniper. It will make life easier. Simple things like fences will not entirely block your shot in VATS. Plus, if they're behind something their line of sight is not on you, is it? One last thing - critical hits are never stopped by even impenetrable cover so long as you can get that 1% chance to hit.
Sniper Perk (PER 8)
If you were playing without much VATS usage, I'd recommend you consider this despite it needing Perception that is borderline-useless to you. The first 2 ranks are helpful for really long-distance shots where your chance to hit is low but you can make the shot manually by breath-holding and lining up the shot. So this is a good perk for either playstyle, as you will find yourself using it occasionally. But that third point...
Rank 3 of Sniper offers +25% Accuracy to Head Shots in VATS. Does it take 60% and make it 75%? A 25% increase? No. It flatly adds 25% to whatever you had. Your 60% becomes 85, and that's a big difference especially with a great scope and a highly-accurate rifle. You're playing a sneaky build and you'll be able to pull off insta-kill head-shots from a much longer range, meaning the enemy will lose track of you much faster. This also helps to overcome some of the loss of accuracy from using a suppressor.
Concentrated Fire Perk (PER 10)
Concentrated Fire is an outstanding Perk when you have a fast-firing but long-range weapon and a powerful opponent to bring down. After the initial sneak attack, you can unload on weak points (like heads) and deliver shots at 95% accuracy. It's all about how fast you can ramp up. Indoors with a pistol, it will help given silenced weapons' reduced range. The third rank of this powerful Perk (which you will get at 50) increases damage by 20% when firing at the same body part more than once. It couldn't be left off a list of great perks for Snipers, although the rifles themselves generally have high costs. You could use a smaller scope and short stock to reduce the cost and get to 95% chance to hit rather quickly.
Mister Sandman Perk (AGI 4)
While you'll never catch NPCs sleeping often enough to make this Perk worth it, that's a side benefit. The increased sneak attack damage from suppressed weapons is the main draw. The sneak attack damage stacks additively with that of Ninja. With this maxed, you will do 2.5x sneak attack without Ninja, and with Ninja at max your sneak attacks with suppressed weapons will deal a whopping 4x damage. This helps immensely when indoors and may even help you navigate raider-infested buildings (given the silencer) while performing many sneak attacks and not requiring an extra perk like Gunslinger. You can then turn to a shotgun or fast non-automatic combat rifle to deal with enemies when detected and unable to slip away with the Sneak rank 5 perk. With the companion Deacon's Cloak and Dagger Perk, you'll get another 20% on top. Getting Deacon's Perk last will provide the largest damage boost at the moment, adding 20% on top of 4.0 with Mister Sandman and Ninja to result in 4.8x damage. It is presumably a bug, given patch 1.4 nerfed how Mister Sandman works, and Deacon's Perk acts the way MS did pre-patch.
Gun Nut Perk (INT 3)
Taking only 3 Intelligence, this is far more important than Science! Even if you're going to focus on Energy Damage, you will need this as a requirement for the best mods. Gun Nut alone can make an incredible sniper rifle, assuming you can get the crafting materials and have enough Adhesive. You CAN skip this Perk and take mods off other weapons, replacing the newly-found weapon's awesome mod with a standard variant and placing this on your preferred weapon, but that's relying heavily on the game giving you those mods, and some of the best weapon modifications probably won't appear until later as the game's enemies level up with you (and so too their weapons).
Lone Wanderer (CHA 3)
I consider this essential to a sniper build because of companion AI. If you're sneaking around with a companion (assuming you've chosen one who's sneaky) they are far, far more likely to draw fire than you. Now, this doesn't make you detected, but it makes getting [Hidden] again more difficult and brings the enemy's line of sight your direction. You will get 30% damage reduction (from all types of damage), 100 carry weight, and a whopping 25% damage increase from sinking 3 points into this Perk. The DR is helpful given all these other Perks you need to invest in and that you will not likely have high Endurance until much later in your game.
Idiot Savant (LCK 5)
I'm placing this last on my 'required' list as it's somewhat optional. Whether you take the Intelligence to get Science or not, Idiot Savant is guaranteed extra XP. Even with 10 INT it helps, so don't let the description fool you. It won't trigger as often, but when it does you'll get even more XP. It's last on this list as you probably shouldn't level too fast, but it helps substantially with the grind to make a perfect character and can be taken when nothing else is available or your character's performance is solid. With the 5 luck you require for this Perk, you will go from 14 (luck 1) to 8 shots required to fill the Critical Meter (details on hits to fill meter).
Other Perks to Round Out the Build
Armorer (STR 3)
This is at the top of the 'Optional' list, because it can further enhance your ability to sneak. You can use ultra-light builds to increase AP while also reducing noise from movement when repositioning after an attack. That, and of course you're making your character more sturdy for indoor encounters.
Critical Banker (LCK 7)
Critical Banker is one of those Perks that will probably end up in nearly every build guide. I don't list many Luck Perks here, but there's a massive synergy between Critical Banker, Better Criticals, and Four Leaf Clover. You're able to save up to 4 total Critical Hits for when you need them, and if you have Luck 7 you will get a Crit every 6.5 hits. The .5 matters when the meter can fill over. Four Leaf Clover gives you an extra crit - a full meter's worth that also spills over - entirely at random and with a decent chance. This is something to work into the build as your level gets higher. It will let you push the difficulty and handle Legendary Enemies on Very Hard and Survival Difficulty.
Local Leader (CHA 6)
Local Leader will let you establish Supply Lines, which lets you share the items found by Scavenging Stations and can make your life easier when it comes to crafting. You can have 50 scavengers working for you one day. I just wanted to point that out, along with how much better your bartering will go with your own shops in Sanctuary or another well-established Settlement, and your buy/sell prices being better no matter where you shop. Playing a sniper, you may only use a couple types of ammo and have so many more that you can sell. Ammo becomes caps, becomes the ammo type that you need. You can live without this, but scavenging stations are wonderful and I wanted to make new players aware of this sharing mechanic.
Gunslinger (AGI 1)
This is up to you. Sniper rifles are unwieldy up close and have a slow fire rate. You have VATS to help with that, but a silenced pistol can help when a target is very close. Additionally, when you swap weapons they come out reloaded and pistols are fast to pull. Now why it's not necessary but only for consideration: You can tinker a hunting/combat rifle to be much faster firing and still benefit from your Rifleman Perk (See an example on a Sniper Rifle vs a fast-firing rifle - 2 very different guns with the same base weapon type.) Shotguns are also benefiting from Rifleman and work up close, but make a ton of noise. Do what works for you, and if you have the Perk point, take it. You may even want to take the Commando Perk for tight situations, but building a custom rifle for close encounters is more conservative usage of perk points.
Final Thoughts & Tips
These are the perks that make my Sniper build. Later in your play, go with Gun-Fu, as with high agility you can hit multiple targets even with a sniper rifle and deal additional damage to the 2nd and third. Lifegiver gives 20 levels worth of Endurance for a single point and can greatly enhance your survivability in combination with Lone Wanderer's damage resistance and the extra DR you'll get from having points in Armorer and tweaking your gear. I don't list Action Boy, it's a decent Perk, but it is also not as useful unless indoors (because of repositioning recovery of AP) and this guide is primarily about sniping. It can be super-helpful in a pinch if ghouls are chasing you!
You'll note that I didn't mention Hacking/Lockpicking anywhere. They should probably fit into the build in order to help you secure loot and get more materials, but they aren't particular to playing a Sniper but rather a well-rounded character. Don't take Perks in my build list every time, do what suits you. You may even hold onto a point for when you may stumble upon an Advanced lock if you've just leveled up in a building. I did what felt right at the time, and you should too. Fallout 4 is a vast game that presents us many choices, and that's something that cannot be taken from us.
Another thing I leave out is Power Armor. What you use in the armor department is up to you - you can absolutely sneak around in Power Armor, but normal gear is a bit more effective until you get A). Fusion Cores and B). plenty of points in Armorer and Science so that you can put the really cool modifications on the armor, like the ability to turn invisible when crouched.
Tips for Playing the Build
You'll want to start from a distance (obviously), Snipe an opponent and wait for enemies to calm down in dangerous situations. Once your Sneak and Agility are high, it'll be very hard for them to find you at long range. The AI is dumb. Always carry a second - and possibly third - weapon. Some enemies are resistant to energy weapons if you go that route, and you'll need something ballistic. A weapon that costs less AP to fire is also recommended, compromise range a bit to be able to pop hordes of ghouls. Your Sniping will be great but there are good chances you can be overwhelmed if the pack is large enough. Thankfully, stupid ghouls have low Perception, but that doesn't help you much indoors.
Try to stay crouched and know when to run. Sprinting and running are not the same thing. Sprinting is when you dash and use AP, running is pretty much your normal movement. Being crouched and pressing the key to slow movement (Caps Lock on PC) will produce less noise. Learn to use light levels to your advantage. Working at night has its perks, but shadows also help you. Spotlights suck, but you should have the range to take out those around it without much trouble.
Energy and Silenced weapons are good for indoor use. Energy weapons are by nature quieter than a normal firearm and good for humanoids. You will alert half the building if you fire a shotgun or a non-silenced rifle indoors.
I've written a lot on Fallout 4 on this point, and some of the following tie into this and will afford you some tips. Some of these are linked in the article but I'm putting them here for convenience. Many things need editing as I learn something new every day, but with your valuable feedback I can make this guide even better:
- Sneaking - Learn to be stealthy
- Critical Hits - Shots to Crit and Crit damage mechanics
- Gauss Rifles - one of the highest damage weapons in Fallout 4, and perfect for a sniper build particularly if you can find a Legendary variant.
- SPECIAL Stats - Effects of the SPECIAL Stats and their Bobbleheads
- Bobblehead Locations - SPECIAL and all other Bobblehead maps
- Action Points - AP and all the things that affect it.
- Sniper Rifle Heavy hitter and fast-firing Comparison
More Fallout 4 Guides
Share Tips and Strategies Below
- Raider Outposts in Nuka World
- Nuka World - Play as a Raider in this DLC
- Far Harbor - Learn about the DLC, its secrets, and read walkthroughs
- Automatron - Guides to building bots and quest walkthroughs
- Settlements - An in-depth guide to Settlements and managing them
- Melee Build - the best perks for a melee character
- Sneaking - Learn to be stealthy
- Critical Hits - Shots to Crit and Crit damage mechanics
- Tips for Making a Build - General advice for creating your own build
- Action Points - AP and all the things that affect it
- VATS - all about the V.A.T.S. and AP usage on weapons
- Gameplay Tips - pointers that will help new players
- Making a Sniper Rifle Weapon mod examples. Heavy hitter and fast-firing Comparison - two guns from the same base.