Red Death Exotic Review v.2

Vanguard policy urges Guardians to destroy this weapon on sight.

Red Death is am Exotic primary pulse rifle.

This weapon can be acquired as a random reward from the Crucible or PvE content, or from Xûr for 23 Strange Coins.


The good: High Impact, quick reload speed, large magazine size.

The bad: Lowest stability.

Conclusion: Fun to use, HP regen is great for Crota’s Presence.

Read the full review here

This is an Exotic Weapon
Pulse Rifle (Primary Weapon)
Kinetic Base Damage/Upgraded302/331
Quality Lvl70
Rate of Fire
Magazine Size

Aim Assist
Equip Speed
Recoil Direction

Talent Upgrades Tree

Kinetic Damage

This weapon causes Kinetic damage.

Accurized Ballistics

More range and Impact. Increased recoil.

+5% Damage
+10 Range
-10 Stability


It’s easier to aim under fire using this weapon.

33% reduction on incoming flinch damage

Upgrade Damage 1

Increases Attack Power, resulting in more Damage.


Aiming this weapon is incredibly fast.

+30% ADS speed

Red Death

Each kill heals you and speeds up reloads.

Upgrade Damage 2

Increases Attack Power, resulting in more Damage.

Upgrade Damage 3

Increases Attack Power, resulting in more Damage.

Field Choke

More range and Impact. Increased recoil.

+5% Damage
+12 Range
-15 Stability

High Caliber Rounds

Oversize rounds built to stagger targets and leave them reeling. Their mass makes a weapon harder to handle.

Upgrade Damage 4

Increases Attack Power, resulting in more Damage.

Aggressive Ballistics

More predictable recoil. Enhanced Impact. Shorter range and more recoil.

+10% Damage
-5 Range
-5 Stability

Single Point Sling

Switch weapons faster. Move quicker while aiming.

+50% Ready
+10% movement speed

Upgrade Damage 5

Increases Attack Power, resulting in more Damage.

Video Review

*This video was published before the buff to pulse rifles.

Weapon Review

Red Death is one of two Exotic pulse rifles, the other being Bad Juju. It’s a high impact, low rate of fire pulse rifle.

Those lucky enough to own this gun will find that it’s an extremely formidable pulse rifle that’s at the top of its class, though pulse rifles in general aren’t that strong, so keep that in mind.

Recommended Perks

Aggressive Ballistics
+10% Damage
-5 Range
-5 Stability

Single Point Sling (PvP)

High Caliber Rounds (PvE)

The Good

The most recent patch that addressed Exotics brought a controversial change to Red Death. It used to have a lower rate of fire, which has been increased slightly, though the Impact has been reduced to compensate. The impact of 26 is still the second-highest among pulse rifles (Three Little Words holds the Impact crown).

In PvP the high impact leads to each bullet doing 21 on the body, and 32 to the head, really rewarding accuracy. A full burst to the body will do 63 damage, while a full burst to the head will deal 96 damage. It’ll only take 2 full critical bursts to take a Guardian down.

It occupies that perfect balance between auto rifle and scout rifle. Red Death excels at churning out critical hits in mid-range engagements. The heal you get when you land a kill is great for keeping yourself up in those hectic moments as well.
destiny red death review
The Red Death perk is what really makes this weapon a threat. After every kill you will immediately begin regenerating health, and you will also reload quicker (about 1.15 seconds which is 1 second quicker than normal).

The heal from this perk will also negate the Presence of Crota effect in the raid, so it’s perfect to use for Crota’s End. If for whatever reason you can’t kill an enemy, just shoot your Tripmine grenade and that will count as a kill.

The Unflinching perk meshes well with this since you are more than likely going to be taking fire from other enemies in pretty much any engagement. This makes landing those crucial precision shots that much easier since your sights won’t be bouncing around everywhere.

Besides the quick reload speed (2.15 seconds), all of the stats are average.

If you’re a Gunslinger, Gunslinger’s Trance & Chains of Woe can really bring out the best in this weapon.

The Bad

Red Death is unfortunately the least stable pulse rifle, making it difficult to make a full burst land on a precision shot in PvP outside of the most ideal circumstances.

The low range of 33 (tied with Bad Juju) hurts the weapon even more, as it really pushes it further into the medium-range category of weapons.

The perks on Red Death are a bit underwhelming as well. While the perks are somewhat useful, they don’t have a huge impact on the weapon overall.

Snapshot barely makes a noticeable difference. High Caliber Rounds works well for PvE, but isn’t as helpful in PvP. Single Point Sling is probably the most useful perk for PvP since it’ll increase your movement speed and since you will be switching to your secondary a lot to cover longer distances.


The weapon’s look really shows its history. There are warning signs for Guardians all over it, from a skull and crossbones as you look down sights, to little tick marks noting how many owners have perished using this weapon.

For whatever reason Bungie actually removed the “It is a Guardian killer” that used to be a part of its description.
red death guardian killer
It also has a pretty intoxicating noise when firing it; hearing a deep “crack” emanate from each burst is very satisfying.

The sights are very open and bright, and lend themselves well to the pulse rifle archetype.


Red Death can be used to great success in both PvP and PvE, and landing your precision shots will reward you with a quick 2-burst kill.

It exists solely to dominate mid-range engagements where you can reliably land precision shots without the recoil and range affecting you. If you can consistently get precision shots with this weapon, you’re going to love it, because hits hard.

It is a very fun weapon to bring out when you get getting bored of the normal routine, and is extremely beneficial in certain circumstances (see: Crota’s Presence).

Edit: Since the pulse rifle buff, it’s much better!

For PvP this weapon earns a 9/10 and for PvE a 8.7/10.

Patrick Casey

Howdy! I am a contributing writer. If you think I overlooked something about a weapon, feel free to comment below and let me know. I’ll see you in the Crucible.


  • Christian Aderhold

    Definitely something I want to pick up when I can.

  • Adamms

    This was my first Exotic ever, and while I wasn’t a huge fan of it when I got it, I wish I kept it so I could try it out again.

    • Ryan

      Yeah this was my first exotic ever as well I got it while opening the first Gorgon chest in the Vault of Glass normal mode raid and I actually really liked the gun a lot until I later found more and better exotics.Suros Regime much later on became my main exotic.

  • Beastineden

    As stated in the review, If you’re a gunslinger with the trance, and chain of woe, and are halfway decent at acquiring the head, this gun stands with the best exotics. Period

  • MasterCJ117

    The low fire-rate makes up for the low stability even then it is very stable and the fire-rate is just fast enough not to be painful, also the sound it makes is sooo amazing.

  • BAMozzy69 .

    I think this is quite ‘average’ and like all Pulse Rifles outclassed by other types of weapon. Whilst the Perks – particularly Red Death make it unique (in a similar way to Bad Juju’s String of Curses) and ultimately make these better options than the Legendary alternatives, there is still little reason to equip this compared to quite a few other Exotics.
    I have never found the Health Regen particularly useful or needed – even in the last phase of Crotas End.
    Its a good weapon but not great like some of the other exotics (like Icebreaker, Gjallahorn etc) so it tends to stay in my vault – even Bad Juju gets more use – particularly with my Warlock and Obsidian Mind combination

  • Jason Peterson

    The low stability is a non-issue with the gun. On paper or looks bad but it’s as stable as can be when you start using it.

    But yeah I agree with this review, while its fun to use, has good aesthetics, and is a good primary, it just doesn’t have anything that really sets it apart from legendary weapons.

    Needs a range & maybe stability increase. Needs faster ADS & general handling, a 30-36 round magazine, and armor-piercing & high Caliber rounds built in.

    Then this gun would actually be a competing gun.

  • Murat Ozcan

    The change was a pvp nerf. The damage used to be 37 head 29 body; allowing you to 2 shot even when 1-3 rounds miss a head shot from the 6 bullets. ( 37+37+29 ) x 2 =206 , so you could even miss a total of 3 head shots from the 6 bullets.

    It would have been at a decent place in crucible if the damage was kept the same while the firerate was increased, I’d be happy with that, but some stability boost would make it a A tier. An A tier pulse rifle would be very nice and make the gun type at least playable.

    • ProfessionalCitizen

      I get all of that, but it makes since to change it this way. It was arguably better than pre-patch suros if you had the skill, now it is more reasonable. If they had kept the damage the same but also boosted the fire rate, as you suggest, it would be absolutely, ridiculously powerful, especially if they added some stability boost too. Basically it would become the best weapon in the game by a long shot.

    • NOVACAiNE9393

      I’ve had the red death for as long as I can remember and it was always a 3 round burst to the head so this statement is invalid the thread is correct in how it is now 2 rounds. But saying it isn’t good as other exotics is rubbish. This gun will run pvp for forever. The suros doesn’t touch it. You can never and will never be able to drop someone quicker with straight head shots from a suros. I have both and used them seperately and religiously. As a head shot expert the suros can’t touch the pvp damage

      • Murat Ozcan

        If you state that a statement is invalid you need to provide data for proof. Numbers. Here are some changes in the upcoming patch with the 9.7% dmg buff to pulse rifles.

        For Red Death

        21 x 1.097 = 23.037 rounded down to 23. This will be the new body shot damage. This was 25 originally.

        23 x 9 = 207 , so yes, it will still kill anything if all 9 of your bullets from the 3 shots land. When the bullet damage was 25, you could afford to miss 1 bullet out of the 9 (200 damage), now you cannot.


        Currently it is 21 x 9 = 189damage, which is why the change was a huge nerf.

        Headshot multiplier is 1.5x, so current damage is 21 to body and 31.5 rounded up to 32 at the moment. Which makes 192 for 6 bullets: 2 headshots which will not kill almost anyone.


        Post the upcoming patch the headshot damage will be 35. This was 37 originally. 35×6=210. At 210 dmg you will be able to 2 shot anything with headshots. You could miss one of the bullets to the head and instead hit the body and still kill (198 dmg) .


        Now, for the comparison of damage with 3 little words with headseeker perk from the vendor. Currently 3 L W is 23 body, 34 head. It can kill in 2 full headshots (204). If you miss a headshot, the next 1 or 2 headshots hit for 37. So you could miss 1 bullet to the head and it will do 196 to 199 damage. Btw, there is no noticable dmg increase or maybe +1 from Glass half full perk – I know this from a randomly dropped 3 L W. I just see too many 34s… These are the only damage increasing perks besides agressive ballistics, which can only happen for Red Death.

        Post patch the numbers will be 25 and 37; same rof same impact as the original Red Death. You will see 40s after a body shot. With headseeker +3 dmg factored in, you could miss a total of 3 headshots (2 in one burst 1 in the other burst) and may still 2shot kill at 195 damage. 25+25+40 + 25+40+40 .

        With the original Red Death, you could miss 2 shots to the head; 4 heads 2 body shots and at 198 you could still 2 shot someone.


        In summary:

        – post the upcoming patch 3 L W will damage similar to the original Red Death with that same RoF, but will be able to miss 1 more shot to the head (3 body 3 head) and still 2 shot a target in pvp.

        – Red Death will regain 3 shot all shots to the body, or 2 head shot kill capability : but this time you can only miss 1 bullet to the head instead of 2, the rest will have to be headshots. Higher fire rate is there to compensate; imo OP trade.

  • Shadowreeper1337

    I simply cannot agree with this review so are you sure it really can’t compete with the above listed weapons this thing dominates and reigns supreme I have to disagree this thing is a beast and it’s THE best all around pulse rifle period and it’s comparable to even the Suros I’m sorry but I think you dropped the ball on this review then again that only my opinion

  • Hondaxtc

    Now with yesterday’s patch to pulse rifles it’s time to break them out again…9% more damage to make up for nobody using them…currently I’m using my bad juju

  • Sam

    Part of this is not true, it IS worth fully upgrading, the stability is not the worst, I know it can use some improvement, but all guns are not perfect, and the stability DOES NOT have to be perfect, this Gun deserves a 9.2/10 for both. It’s very good with its main perk and the perks do help depending on what perk you use.

  • Dizz

    WIth the recent buffs I think its a great weapon for classes with low recovery (read:titan) when you are trying to go tank. It keeps you in the fight along with your bubbles and what not.

  • Justin

    Just a question for the author. You say at the end that red death can’t compete with bad juju among others. But red death received a higher rating than bad juju in both PvP and PvE.

    • The rating was changed, forgot to edit that out

  • Tobias W.

    I don’t understand why some reviews recommend not to upgrade exotics with a shard. Shards can be acquired on a weekly basis for a single play of a heroic strike. Why wouldn’t you upgrade all exotics on principle? Most people end up with three characters, one of each class, so they can easily make 27 coins per week. That leaves more than enough to pay for shards.

  • Günther

    I have to say that this gun is absolutely redundant for Crotas present. Not only does it take up your exotic slot, but who the hell needs health regen during Crota? If you do not step into any gooftraps and walk the right paths (which is stupidly easy), you will loose little to no health during the process. All it needs is a little practice. I give it a 5/10 for PvE. If you rely on that gun, then u need a little more practice.

    ALSO I am strongly feeling that the whole lot of guns reviewed here are all getting ridiculously high ratings. It is as almost as if you should get the feeling to be in need to aquire and uprade THEM ALL!, Look at those legendary reviews: 8,9,8,8,7,9,9,8.. Please fix this.

    • FriedCats

      Sir, sir. Please calm down. With the Red Death, it ALLOWS you to play more aggressively than hiding behind a corner like a wuss. Also, you don’t need to get up close for a Hungering Blade or Storm Fist kill to proc regeneration. I think you’re biased.

      Judging by the kind of person you are, you are a SUROS Regime fan. I see. Fear not, the 200 year old SUROS will die down while Red Death takes over. 🙂


      • Günther

        “With the Red Death, it ALLOWS you to play more aggressively than hiding behind a corner like a wuss. Also, you don’t need to get up close for a Hungering Blade or Storm Fist kill to proc regeneration. I think you’re biased.” – Interesting point. I am only playing as a Titan defender, so didnt think of that.
        Im still convinced tho, that the rating for that gun and a bunch of others is put way to high. I do not own a Suros.

        • Günther

          How could I ever change my mind. Even if u play another subclass or even as a Defender u are able to play aggressively without loosing any health if u are practiced. Obsolete and overrated as usual.

  • FriedCats

    Red Death’s stats really make it an oddity within the Pulse Rifle class. For example, there are four main Rof/Impact balances. 77/4, 73/7, 66/14, and 59/30. Red Death however, with 66 Rof, deals nearly twice the impact at 26.

    Therefore, since Red Death is a 2-Burst Headshot kill, same as the 51/30s, has a substantially higher kill time. In my opinion, this means that PvP, this should be everyone’s go-to Pulse Rifle.