GTA Online’s Weapon System

Before talking about what weapons to purchase, it might be a good idea to know how weapon selection works in GTA Online, so you can get a motivation for decreasing the number of weapons you should own.

In GTA Online, there are two methods to switch the active weapon:

  • When you are on foot, you use the Weapon Wheel to switch the active weapon.

  • If you are in a vehicle, then for both keyboards and controllers, there is a button to cycle through all weapons you can use; the Weapon Wheel is not shown at all.

Note that weapon selection in GTA Online is the same as in the Story Mode, except how in-game time progresses when the Weapon Wheel is brought up. The Weapon Wheel in GTA Online does not slow down in-game time, whereas the Weapon Wheel in the Story Mode does. If you need to go through a lot of weapons to find the one you want, this can give you a disadvantage in moments when you are supposed to change your weapon quickly, like some difficult Missions or PvP activities.

Weapon Wheel

The Weapon Wheel consists of 8 slots; each slot is for a single category of weapons. Starting from the top slot and going in clockwise direction, the weapons included in each slot are:

  1. Pistols and handguns
  2. Machine guns (MGs) and submachine guns (SMGs)
  3. Assault rifles
  4. Sniper rifles
  5. Fists (unarmed) and melee weapons
  6. Shotguns
  7. Heavy weapons
  8. Throwables and the Jerry Can

For any category, if you have only one weapon that belongs to it, then when you select the category’s slot in the Weapon Wheel, that weapon will be active.

If you have more than one weapon for a category, then when you choose the category’s slot in the Weapon Wheel, you can see an indicator like < 3 / 4 > under the weapon’s name, which means the current weapon is the third weapon in this category, and you own four weapons that fall under this category in total. There are key bindings/buttons for both keyboards and controllers to scroll through weapons in a slot.

A category containing more than one
weapon

Removing a Weapon

Have you wondered how many players would like to have the most basic Pistol, which is given to every new character, removed from their inventory? Unfortunately, this is not possible. Once you own a weapon, there is no way to permanently get rid of it.

You do have the ability to drop some weapons, but if you own them, they will come back to the Weapon Wheel when you switch to another session or log into the game next time.

So far, the best thing you can do to have a weapon removed from the Weapon Wheel is to hide some weapons using gun lockers, but they are only working under certain conditions, as discussed in the linked article.

No Way to Reorganize Weapons

When one of my friends purchased the game and directly jumped into GTA Online, he thought he could choose whichever eight weapons he likes to display in the eight Weapon Wheel slots. No one can do this: as mentioned above, each slot is for a specific category, and this is hard-coded into the game. You can neither let your favorite pistol show up in the assault rifles’ slot nor swap positions of the heavy weapons’ slot and the shotguns’ slot.

In addition, the order of weapons in the same slot is also fixed. For example, the sniper rifles’ slot always has Sniper Rifle for the first weapon, Heavy Sniper for the second one, and Marksman Rifle for the last. There is no way to let Heavy Sniper be the first weapon shown in this category.

In other words, you cannot customize how weapons you own show up in the Weapon Wheel at all.

Order of Weapons in the Same Grid

But how does the game actually sort weapons in the same category? I cannot present an exhaustive list of all weapons because I (obviously) don’t own all of them, but I can still give you some orderings that deserve attention. These orderings are collected from the Weapon Wheel in the Director Mode, which should not differ too much from their counterparts in GTA Online.

  • Pistols and handguns
    1. Pistol
    2. Combat Pistol
    3. Pistol .50
    4. SNS Pistol
    5. Heavy Pistol
    6. Vintage Pistol
    7. Marksman Pistol
    8. AP Pistol
  • MGs and SMGs
    1. Micro SMG
    2. Machine Pistol
    3. SMG
    4. Assault SMG
    5. Combat PDW
    6. MG
    7. Combat MG
    8. Gusenberg Sweeper
  • Assault rifles
    1. Assault Rifle
    2. Carbine Rifle
    3. Advanced Rifle
    4. Special Carbine
    5. Bullpup Rifle

I have made the name of the first weapon in each category bold because they are the default weapon in the category they belong to. Pardon my rudeness, but all of them are garbage.

  • The Pistol is in no way better than the AP Pistol. After all, as an automatic handgun, the AP Pistol delivers a faster fire rate comparable to assault rifles.
  • The Micro SMG is not the best weapon in all possible use cases. You can use it in a vehicle, but why don’t you use the AP Pistol instead, which causes more damage per shot? If you use it on foot, why don’t you use another gun like Special Carbine, Combat MG or Assault Shotgun, all of which have better performance?
  • The Assault Rifle is a total trash because it has the slowest file rate among all weapons of the same category.

This means that the default weapon in each of those categories is never the most optimal choice if you own other weapons that are way more better. Fortunately, you are only forced to own the Pistol. If you don’t buy the Micro SMG and Assault Rifle at all, then you don’t need to bother having garbage weapons as your default choice. So, only buy the weapons you really need.

Picked-up Weapons

You can pick up weapons dropped by NPCs and other players. They will be added to your Weapon Wheel. If you drop those weapons in a timely manner, they will not be added to your permanent weapon inventory. If you have not reached the Rank to unlock it, you cannot keep the weapon at all, and it will disappear once you leave the game.

There are also some locations in the map that spawn weapon. If you have reached the Rank to unlock a weapon and pick it up from one of those spawn points, the weapon is permanently added to your inventory. So, please be extremely careful and do not pick up weapons spawned in the map if you don’t want them. I accidentally picked up a Sniper Rifle in the map and wished to get rid of it because I had already owned the Heavy Sniper Mk II, but even Rockstar Support could not help me remove the weapon.

Parachute

If you have a parachute in your inventory, you can see an icon for it at the bottom-right corner of the Weapon Wheel. If you get two parachutes, there will be a number “2” near the icon.

Weapon Selection in Vehicle

When you switch the active weapon in a vehicle, the Weapon Wheel will not show up; instead, there will just be a bubble showing the active weapon and the amount of ammo. To change weapon, you have to go through all weapons you may use in the current vehicle by tapping the weapon selection button/key in vehicle control, until the one you are looking for is selected.

Weapon selection in
vehicle

On PC, you can set up a key binding for changing to the previous weapon when in vehicle, so you may go back if you have gone pass through the weapon you want; if you use a controller, you can only iterate over the weapons in one way: if you have passed through, you can’t go back and have to do another iteration.

If you are in an aircraft, you can also check any parachute you own from the parachute icon shown below the weapon bubble.