Escape From Tarkov (EFT) is one of our favorite games out there and we recommend most shooter fans to give this a try. But picking up this hardcore shooter is a daunting task for even the most dedicated gamers. But before we start, a small disclaimer: EFT is still in beta so even the most fundamental gameplay mechanics may be subject to change. In this guide series we will take you through your first hours in this game. In this ammo guide, we go into how ammo in Escape From Tarkov works and what the best strategy is when choosing a round.
Also, if you’re in a hurry, scroll all the way down to get a TL;DR summary!
Ammo is everything
Escape From Tarkov is seemingly all about the guns. But contrary to popular belief, winning firefights rarely has something to do with the weapon you chose. Instead, ammo is everything! Before diving deeper into the actual ammo guide for Escape From Tarkov, we have to emphasize something important: Not the gun, but the round makes the kill.
I can’t tell you how often I’ve come out of a firefight, mostly in one piece and slightly confused as to why I’m still alive. Then, as I loot my recently deceased adversary, is becomes clear: ‘If you had only invested in some decent ammo, you would’ve bested me, friend,’ I mumble to myself as I ditch my fallen enemies magazines that might as well have been filled with actual shit. Ammo, my fellow Tarkovians, is everything!
So as a preliminary tip, if you are on a tight budget, invest in the best ammo. Yes, attachments help with the recoil (and make the gun look cool). But a simple optic might cost as much as a stack of solid ammo. So you can choose to aim precisely and hit your enemy 10 times with no effect. Or use your weapon’s irons, knowing you only need one hit to put them down. It’s up to you!
Speaking of one-taps, the ammo you’re using isn’t the only variable in Escape From Tarkov. Your target, or more specifically, their armor, determines how effective a round is at actually killing them. Because nothing in Tarkov is simple, check out our cheat sheet of understanding ballistics below. Use that knowledge in combination with this raw data (by NoFoodAfterMidnight) to determine how ‘good’ a round is.
- Damage – The amount of damage 1 projectile does to an unarmored bodypart. With some types of ammo (for example, shotgun shells) you fire multiple projectiles.
- Penetration – Metric to calculate how likely it is a projectile pierces armor (used alongside armor level and durability)
- Armor damage (percentage) – How much of a projectile’s total damage is absorbed by the armor, if no penetration occurs
Besides those basic systems, every bullet has a fragmentation chance. Upon fragmentation, the projectile does 50% additional damage. So it’s basically a critical hit chance. When a round is absorbed by body armor, a small amount of blunt damage is applied to the hit bodypart. Additionally, some rounds modify weapon performance, for example by adding additional recoil or altering accuracy.
Now that you have a general idea of how ammo works in Escape From Tarkov, it’s time for the actual guide. Using the linked ammo statistics, you can easily spot which round has the highest penetration value. As a rule of thumb, you always want to use the round with the highest pen value.
But just how much extra money you’d want to invest in ammo, depends on the current ‘phase’ of the game. Right after a wipe, mostly nobody wears good armor. So any round will do. Mid wipe – a few weeks after the game was reset – it’s a bit of a gamble to take shitty ammo with you. Some players are already in lvl 4+ armor, which stops most rounds. Then there is late game, when basically everyone wears decent armor. Use the best ammo you can afford.
To chart smarter, check out the awesome visualization below. JigTV made a comprehensible, visual guide to Escape From Tarkov’s ammo. The higher the round is on the chart, the higher it’s pen value. Note that it also shows chest HP (80). Even if, say M995 (the best 5.45 x 45mm round) penetrates armor, it only does a little over 40 damage. You’d still need 2 rounds in the chest for a clean kill.
Updated Ammo Chart (12.4) "Better Visualization" from EscapefromTarkov
Then there another thing to take into account: money! As we’ve said in previous guides, In Tarkov, everything revolves around roubles. And you’ll need quite a bit of cash to fill mags with high-end ammo. This is especially obvious when you haven’t leveled the traders up to carry buy the best ammo. In that case you’d have to visit the Flea Market, where players offer ammo, though usually for a premium price.
That’s why I can recommend every money conscious escaper to pack efficiently. For example, running a modded AK would cost you around 30 to 40 thousand roubles. For comparison, packing just one 30-rounds magazine with 5.45x39mm 7N39 ‘Igolnik’ armor piercing rounds costs as much as the entire gun. And you won’t get very far in a raid with just one mag.
As a pro tip, filling mags with a mix of cheap and high-end ammo can save you a lot of money without impeding too much on your lethality. What ratios to use is up to you. All I can say is I usually put 20 rounds of decent ammo into a 30-round mag, and topping it up with 10 rounds of premium ammo. Because remember, insuring your gear is great, but you’ll never get ammo or meds back.
Dying with 5 magazines worth of 7N39 rounds (200k roubles) sets you back needlessly. Dying with 5 mags, each topped up with 10 rounds of the same ammo type would only cost you 65k.
The last thing we’ll talk about today, has everything to do with ‘leg meta’. Strictly speaking, there is no real meta in Escape From Tarkov, as every situation has hundreds of variables. But generally gamers tend to aim center mass or at the head. But there is an alternative strategy called ‘leg meta’, which refers to the effective, thick boy killing strategy of blasting someone’s legs of, completely negating their armor.
For example, if you look up the 12 Gauge 8.5mm shotgun shells in the chart above, you’ll see they do about 45 damage per projectile. That’s 8 x 45 HP damage if all pellets hit your target. Those pellets wouldn’t even put a dent in higher tier body armor. But because of how health works in Escape From Tarkov, landing two or three shots on someone’s legs with those same shells will usually kill them as damage is distributed after the legs are ‘blacked out’.
This should merely reflect that penetration value isn’t a magical stat. If you go for the legs, aim for the face, or suspect that your enemies won’t wear armor yet, picking a high-damage hollow point could prove more effective than high pen, low damage rounds.
As with all our guides, there’s no clear cut answer to the question ‘what is the best’. So as a TL;DR, you can use the thought process flow chart below. Hope this helps!
- Look up the required caliber in this table (or alternatively this chart)
- Determine the goal of your raid, as killing enemy players requires better ammo than picking off Scavs
- Get a feel of the stage of the game; early wipe = little armor, late wipe = top tier armor guaranteed
- Determine how much money you are comfortable spending on ammo
- (Optional: Pack your mags economically to minimize your expenditure)