D&D 5e: Roll Out The Heavy Artillery With The Gunner Feat

A female human gunslinger readying her pistol.

D&D 5e: Roll Out The Heavy Artillery With The Gunner Feat

SOURCE: Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything

Rating the Benefits of the Gunner Feat

Benefit #1 – 

Add +1 to your Dexterity Score, to a maximum of 20

Half an ASI, on the ability score that dictates every variant of firearm’s hit chance and damage bonus. This also means the remainder of the benefits are considered half a feat, which, considering how much is on offer, is genuinely surprising

Benefit #2 – 

Gain proficiency with Firearms. 

If you plan on using guns, proficiency is essential. This is proficiency in firearms as a group, meaning it’s complete and total. No matter the weapon, or if further books bring out new types of guns, you know how to use them

Benefit #3 – 

Ignore the Loading property of firearms 

The Loading property limits a character to a single shot per action. Once hitting level 5, this cuts effective damage in half, making ignoring this trait essential for DPS to scale properly

Benefit #4 – 

Attacking within 5ft of an enemy using a firearm doesn’t incur disadvantage on the attack roll

Most ranged characters don’t plan on getting close to the enemy until they’ve stopped moving, but it happens. Certain characters might even do this on purpose, mixing melee and ranged attacks. Either way, this benefit lets you fire at full effectiveness, even when enemies are breathing down your neck

A warforged gunslinger fighter sits on a mountain with his rifle.

Mechanics and Requirements

Understanding How The Gunner Feat Functions

Proficiency With Firearms

When attacking with a weapon, a character adds their proficiency bonus to their attack roll, if they’re proficient with that weapon. 

This is a bonus of +2 to +6, depending on your level. It’s also completely essential for ensuring that your attack bonus is scaled to the appropriate level for your character and the CR of the creatures you’re fighting. 

So, it stands to reason that a character wanting to be effective with weapons needs proficiency with them. 

Importantly, the Gunner feat offers proficiency in firearms. As in, the firearms weapon group, meaning that a character with this feat is proficient with all of them

This also means that new content isn’t an issue, as new firearms should be added to the weapon group, meaning that the proficiency granted by this feat still applies. 

Ignoring the Loading property

The Loading property limits the amount of attacks a character can make as an action. 

Essentially, a weapon with Loading can only make 1 attack per action, no matter how many attacks a character could normally make with that action. 

This is important post level 5, where almost every character who uses weapons gains the Extra Attack feature, which allows two attacks when taking the attack action. 

That means it’s important when using firearms to be able to ignore the Loading feature, otherwise your round-by-round DPS is essentially cut in half. 

The Gunner feat ignores the Loading properties on all firearms, fixing that problem completely. 

Importantly, the Gunner feat only ignores the Loading property with firearms, meaning other weapons with the Loading property (generally crossbows,) do not qualify if that ever becomes important. 

Attacking in Melee

In 5e, being within 5ft of a hostile creature means ranged attacks are made with disadvantage. 

On top of the other bonuses provided by this feat, Gunner also ignores that problem completely, meaning a character can stand toe to toe with a frothing Barbarian, and somehow still accurately make ranged attacks at that enemy, or even at other enemies within range, entirely without issue.  

This is excellent. Characters using long arms can stand and blast away without fear, and the swashbucklers among us using a sword and pistol can fight at whichever range is most relevant at the time. 

Key Stats

The Gunner feat offers a +1 in Dexterity. 

This is good because the Dexterity stat dictates both the attack bonus and damage bonus for every single published firearm in 5e. A character looking to use these weapon types should be looking to max out their Dex as quickly as possible. 

Ideal Characters for Gunner

Top Classes

Fighter – Of course, the Fighter is great with guns. Fighters are amazing with every weapon. It’s … kind of in the job description. Still, Fighters attack more and can take a double attack action once per rest, letting them take advantage of the large damage die of these weapons to pour on the hurt. 

One of the better subclasses for guns is the Samurai. Now, I hear what you’re thinking. Samurai should be using swords! No, actually. Entire wars were fought in Japan, with samurai on both sides, all of them using guns. Ignoring the historical asides, switching on advantage for a turn as a bonus action, while at the same time gaining a temporary HP shield to shrug off retaliation, is everything a gun-wielding character could ask for.  

Ranger – The Archery fighting style to increase hit chance. Appropriate spellcasting to boost damage and add conditions to attacks. A big hit die and solid armor. Appropriate skills to find enemies, then skirmish and fight on the run. All good, clean fun. 

The Swarmkeeper is a surprisingly effective gun user. Great, thematic bonus spells. A fly speed for mobility once you hit mid-levels. Plus a list of useful effects that can be triggered on-demand after landing an attack, whether that’s blasting an enemy a large distance backward, or the simple utility of dealing a chunk more damage. 

Artificer – Spellcasting. Magical items. Alchemy and Mechanisms. A subclass literally called the “Artillerist.” What more could one ask for when building a character around firearms? The Artificer, with their spell list and tool proficiencies, is probably also the character best suited to maintaining the thrice-damned things in downtime, especially if your GM likes jams and hostile weather. 

Ironically, the Artillerist isn’t the best subclass for this build. That honor goes to the Battle Smith, who builds themselves a mechanical companion called a Steel Defender that acts like a Ranger’s pet but can also act as a mount. The image of a gnomish inventor riding into battle on a clanking robotic horse, guns blazing like a steampunk cowboy, is literally so perfect it’s going to be my next character.  

Monk – Yes. We know. But the Kensei subclass can choose a ranged weapon to treat as a Monk weapon, as long as it doesn’t have the Heavy or Special qualities. Firearms qualify. 

The build is a surprisingly flexible warrior. It can buff its own damage, gaining +1d4 extra damage per shot as a bonus action, every single turn, without expending any resources, so its guns are already stronger than many other gunner classes. Alternatively, the Gunner feat freely allows ranged attacks within 5ft, and as your guns are now Monk weapons, you get to spin and kick someone as a bonus action attack, immediately after shooting them in the face. 

Race or Subrace Choices

Variant Human – King of guns. Variant Human gives access to firearm proficiency at level 1. Now you just have to sweet talk your GM into giving you one as part of your starting gear. 

Owlin – Become a flying nightmare, soaring through the skies and raining gunfire down on the targets of your choice. Light armor is the sole restriction.

Harengon – A bonus to initiative plus Perception skill are excellent for any ranged character, and slot neatly into Wisdom-based characters like the Ranger. The Rabbit Hop ability lets this build bound out of melee combat multiple times per day as a bonus action, which is excellent before grabbing the Gunner feat and still remains useful after. 

Combos, Tactics, and Synergies

Complementary Feats

Sharpshooter – You’re using ranged weapons. You like dealing damage. Sharpshooter is a feat that every ranged damage dealer should be using. Find our full guide on the subject here

Piercer – Another +1 Dex evens out the half-ASI granted by this feat. Rerolling a damage dice is good if you only have a single large die, which firearms do. Bonus damage on every crit is just gravy. 

Telekinetic – +1 to a mental stat isn’t perfect, but many characters can make great use of it. However, gunners, like many ranged attackers, tend to lack things to do with their bonus action, and a free shove that can relocate both friends or enemies is an excellent utility to line up shots. 

Spells that Synergize

Summoning Spells – Keep enemies at range and deal some damage by summoning magical monsters to keep them occupied. Many classes have great summoning options, so they’re easy to find. 

Conjure Barrage – A 60ft cone of decent damage, at the cost of a single bullet. Great for dealing with hordes of weak opponents. 

Hail of Thorns – Exploding bullets! A small burst of damage in an AOE as a level 1 spell is worth spending the slot on. 

Strategies for Maximizing Gunner Effectiveness

Distance, Cover, and Terrain

There’s a reason most modern firearm tactics revolve around positioning and maneuvering. 

Many combat encounters in 5e quickly devolve into a damage race, where the melee characters wildly swing at each other, while the mages blast out spells to try and land a disabling save. 

But it doesn’t have to be this way. 

You’ve chosen to use guns. You have good range, great damage, plus a party who is (presumably) willing to work with you. Nothing is stopping you from working with your party to set up situations to maximize your effectiveness. 

Consider spells that set up areas of difficult terrain, that you bait enemies into with ranged attacks. Or an ambush, where the main party draws an enemy into a position where you can lay down fire from an elevated sightline, or an enfilade. 

Then, once you pick up Sharpshooter, make full use of your range. Firearms tend to have less range than other weapon options, so finding situations where using your long-range bracket is much more likely. Follow authentic tactics, like fire and maneuver, constantly keeping enemies at a distance where they can’t get to you, and making attacks in a single round, so you remain safe while picking off vulnerable targets.   

The Gunless Gunner

So, let’s say you’re a character who switches freely between bow and sword. Or perhaps you have a GM that likes to repeatedly rush your ranged character, so you’re constantly under threat and can’t make effective ranged attacks, as you’re always in melee and rolling with disadvantage. 

“Hm,” you think to yourself. “I should grab a feat to stop this situation from occurring so often.”

So you take a look at the feat list, and realize there are two options that let you attack using a ranged weapon within 5ft without incurring the disadvantage on attack rolls; Crossbow Expert, and Gunner. 

Which one do you choose?

Oddly, if you’re using a bow and don’t want any of the specifically crossbow-related benefits of Crossbow Expert, Gunner is by far the better option of the two, for one main reason. 

Because it also gives you +1 to Dexterity.   

So, strange as it is to imagine, one of the best ways to build a Legolas or a Robin Hood in 5e; a character who fights with their bow in melee as well as at range, is to give them a feat for a weapon they’ve never seen, and which might not even exist in their world. 

The world of tabletop gaming is a wild place. 

Final Thoughts on the Gunner Feat

If you’re using firearms, the Gunner feat is essential to your build. The benefits list is large, and everything on offer is incredibly useful. Principle among the benefits, though, is proficiency in all guns, which is obviously step 1 in actually being able to use guns

Sharpshooter is still the stronger feat and should be picked up alongside Gunner as soon as you can fit it into your build. But this is an essential start for anyone wanting to use guns in their campaign, to the point it basically has to be taken to create an effective build. 

It’s simple. If you use guns, you want the Gunner feat. As soon as possible.

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