Escape From Tarkov ammo types: The best ammo in each caliber, and ammo stats explained
How to pick the right ammo for each Tarkov raid
Looking for all the best ammo in Escape From Tarkov? One of the most important lessons new players must learn in Escape From Tarkov is the value of ammo. The rounds you use are even more important than the gun and will have an immense impact on the success of your raids. If you’re planning to take on players or bosses, you will need the right ammunition. This guide will provide a list of the best ammo types of each caliber in Escape From Tarkov. We will also walk you through how ammo stats and ballistics work in Tarkov to help you choose the right round for your raid.
Escape From Tarkov ammo stats explained
Unlike most shooters, damage in Escape From Tarkov is not determined by the gun you are using. Instead, damage is tied to each individual ammo type. There are several types of rounds in each caliber, each with its own stats.
Damage and penetration
The most important ammo stats are damage and penetration, neither of which are affected by your gun. Damage is mostly self-explanatory; this is how much damage a bullet will deal to the body part it hits. Penetration is a bullet’s ability to penetrate body armor and helmets. This is where we have to get into a bit of math.
A higher penetration value means an ammo type can penetrate higher-level armor. Armor in Tarkov is divided into levels 1-6, with level 6 being the toughest to get through. An easy rule of thumb is that an ammo type will be effective against armor of level equal to the bullet’s penetration divided by ten, rounded down. So, a bullet with 50 damage and 35 penetration will do well against level 3 armor, but struggle to penetrate level 5 and 6 armor. Penetration chance also increases as armor durability drops, so that same round will have a better chance against level 5 armor that is at 50% or lower durability.
Penetrating through armor also reduces the damage a bullet does. There is a bit of randomness in how much damage is lost, and the range of outcomes depends on the penetration chance of the hit. So, our 50 damage 35 penetration bullet from the previous example will lose little to no damage when punching through level 1 armor. Against level 3 armor, however, most hits will deal closer to 45 damage.
Each ammo type also has an armor damage percentage value. Essentially, a bullet that pierces armor will deal that percentage of its damage to the armor’s durability. This is also affected by the armor's material. A round that bounces off of an armor piece will deal far less damage. Generally, high-penetration rounds also have better armor damage and will shred durability faster.
Secondary ammo stats
Other ammo stats have some interplay with your gun and its attachments. Muzzle velocity determines the travel speed and arc of your shot. A faster bullet requires less lead against distant, moving targets, and less compensation for bullet drop. Your gun and its attachments may have bullet velocity modifiers that affect this stat. Most barrels and muzzle attachments have an impact on muzzle velocity.
Some ammo also affects the recoil and accuracy of your gun. These stats are set by the weapon itself, but high-powered rounds tend to increase recoil and reduce accuracy. The effect is modest in most cases, but you may still feel the impact.
Ammo types also have modifiers to weapon durability and malfunction chance. These are stats inherent to your gun that can be affected by your ammo choice. Generally, armor-piercing rounds drain your weapon’s durability faster and have a higher chance to cause malfunctions. Guns over 90% durability are extremely unlikely to malfunction, so stay on top of repairs to mitigate this.
Best ammo in Escape From Tarkov
Now we’ll go through the best ammo of every caliber in Escape From Tarkov. There are a whole lot, so strap in. If you’re just looking for some of the best overall ammo types, the best ammo calibers in Escape From Tarkov patch 12.12.30 are 7.62x51, 7.62x39, .45 ACP, 7.62x54R, 5.7x28mm FN, 5.45x39mm, 5.56x45mm and .338 Lapua Magnum. All stats here are sourced from the official Escape From Tarkov Wiki.
- 12x70 8.5mm: 50 damage (8 pellets per shot) 26 penetration
- 12x70 AP-20 slugs: 164 damage 37 penetration
More commonly known as 12 gauge, 12x70mm is used by most shotguns in Tarkov. 12 gauge shotguns aren’t exactly meta, but buckshot to the legs can still be very lethal. Slugs also pack enough punch to one-shot players with a thorax hit, if they can get through the target’s armor.
- 20x70 Devastator slug: 198 damage 5 penetration
20x70 shotgun ammo is currently only used by the TOZ shotgun. Unfortunately, it’s pretty bad and you probably shouldn’t use it outside of Scav raids. If you are goofing off though, you might as well go all-in with the high-damage but wildly inaccurate Devastator slugs. Get close and aim away from armor.
- 23x75mm Zvezda flashbang round: 0 damage 0 penetration (it's just a flashbang)
- 23x75mm Shrap-10 buckshot: 87 damage (8 pellets per shot) 11 penetration
The caliber used by the KS-23 shotgun, which Tarkov veterans may have some strong opinions about. A close-range hit to the lower body with these rounds can one-shot a player, making their armor completely irrelevant. The Zvezda flashbang round can also blind nearby players for a potent (if unnecessary) blind-then-blast combo.
- 9x18 PMM PstM Gzh: 58 damage 24 penetration
A caliber used by various pistols and compact SMGs, 9x18mm rounds have decent damage but poor penetration. That keeps them from being solid options in the PvP meta, but there’s one passable choice for Scav hunting and leg blasting.
- 7.65x25 Pst Gzh: 50 damage 25 penetration
- 7.62x25 LRNPC: 66 damage 7 penetration
The PPSh and TT pistol caliber is another weak one, but the PPSh’s fire rate makes it decent for targeting legs. Just don’t expect to get through any significant armor.
- 9x19 AP 6.3: 52 damage 30 penetration
- 9x19 PBP Gzh: 52 damage 39 penetration
We inch closer to the meta with the standard 9mm NATO SMG caliber. AP 6.3 and PBP rounds have enough penetration to deal with low-level armor and can shred higher-tier protection with enough hits. The fire rate of guns like the Vector (9mm) and MP9 makes that feasible.
- .357 Magnum FMJ: 70 damage 35 penetration
.357 Magnum revolvers aren’t exactly easy to use, but their damage makes them reasonable pistol-only raid choices. They also make a decent sidearm for finishing off targets with dinged-up armor.
- .45 ACP AP: 70 damage 38 penetration
.45 rounds don’t have elite penetration, but their excellent damage makes up for it. A .45 Vector will deal with most players efficiently, and the UMP is a nice budget option.
- 9x21 PS Gzh: 49 damage 35 penetration
- 9x21 BT Gzh: 63 damage 39 penetration
The SR1MP pistol is the sole user of 9x21 ammo and makes an excellent sidearm choice. The high end 9x21 rounds have about as much penetration as you can get in a pistol caliber. BT rounds have an accuracy penalty, but you shouldn’t typically be using a SR1MP at ranges where it matters.
- 5.7x28mm L191: 58 damage 33 penetration
- 5.7x28mm SB193: 54 damage 35 penetration
- 5.7x28mm SS190: 49 damage 37 penetration
The caliber used by the Five-Seven pistol and P90 SMG, 5.7x28 rounds can get enough penetration to one-tap a player through many helmets and most face shields. That makes the Five-Seven the top pistol choice in the current meta, though largely because SS190 rounds are more accessible than 9x21 BT. The P90 can also shred most armor with its high fire rate but struggles against level 6 vests.
- 4.6x30mm FMJ SX: 43 damage 40 penetration
- 4.6x30mm AP SX: 35 damage 53 penetration
A small round used exclusively by the MP7, 4.6x30 ammo has the best armor penetration you can find on an SMG. However, its lackluster damage holds it back somewhat. Still, if you plan to fight fully-kitted players in highly-contested locations like Labs or the Shoreline resort, this is your best SMG option. No other small round can handle a Slick or other level 6 armors as effectively.
- 9x39 SP-6: 58 damage 46 penetration
- 9x39 PAB-9: 62 damage 48 penetration
- 9x39 BP gs: 60 damage 55 penetration
A heavy, subsonic round, 9x39 ammo used to dominate the meta with its lethal damage and heavy penetration. However, heavy recoil penalties on BP and PAB-9 ammo and a general lack of mod options on the weapons that use them have knocked the caliber out of the top tier. Still, in the right hands, a VSS or AS-VAL with BP ammo is incredibly dangerous.
- .366 TKM AP-M: 90 damage 43 penetration
The caliber of choice for Russian civilian rifles, .366 TKM is most commonly used by Scavs. This is an ammo type you will typically avoid, in part because the guns that fire it aren’t very good, and in part because the only round with competitive penetration has enormous accuracy and recoil penalties. If you do land a shot though, .366 AP is devastating.
- 5.45x39mm BT gs: 42 damage 40 penetration
- 5.45x39mm 7N40: 52 damage 44 penetration
- 5.45x39mm BS gs: 40 damage 51 penetration
- 5.45x39mm PPBS gs “Igolnik”: 37 damage 62 penetration
We enter the meta with 5.45x39mm, a low-damage but high-penetration caliber used by all variations of the AK-74 and the RPK. This is a small, fast, rifle round that excels at punching through armor, held back only by the low fire rates of the weapons that use it.
- 5.56x45mm M855A1: 49 damage 44 penetration
- 5.56x45mm M995: 42 damage 53 penetration
- 5.56x45mm SSA AP: 38 damage 57 penetration
The rifle caliber for AR15-style guns including the M4, TX-15, and HK416, 5.56 is another small round with great penetration at the high end. The trouble is, it is difficult to get your hands on the good stuff at low levels, the weapons themselves get exorbitantly expensive to mod, and the high-end ammo has hefty recoil and accuracy penalties. Still, a kitted-out M4 with M995s can handle just about anything.
- .300 Blackout M62 Tracer: 54 damage 36 penetration
- .300 Blackout AP: 51 damage 48 penetration
Another one-off round used only by the MCX rifle, .300 Blackout rounds are sort of stuck in the middle. You won’t quite get the penetration of smaller rifle rounds, nor the damage of larger ones. Even so, an MCX with AP rounds is a perfectly viable option for PvP.
- 7.62x39mm PS Gzh: 57 damage 45 penetration
- 7.62x39mm BP Gzh: 58 damage 47 penetration
- 7.62x39mm MAI AP: 46 damage 58 penetration
7.62 rifles like the Mutant and AKM dominated the last wipe, and remain at the center of the meta post patch 12.12.30. While 7.62 BP ammo doesn’t quite have the penetration of top 5.56 and 5.45 rounds, it hits significantly harder. Only level 6 armor can really stop it, and even that will quickly break down. PS ammo is a great budget option for low-level players, but you should never take less than BP once you can buy it from Prapor.
- 7.62x51mm M62: 79 damage 44 penetration
- 7.62x51mm M61: 70 damage 64 penetration
- 7.62x51mm M993: 67 damage 70 penetration
A longtime meta king, 7.62x51 rounds have the best combined damage and penetration in Escape From Tarkov. The top-end rounds basically ignore armor and will drop a player in two hits to the thorax. The only downside of this caliber is that most of the guns are semi-auto only, and the full-auto SA58 has some extreme recoil.
- 7.62x54R PS Gzh: 84 damage 45 penetration
- 7.62x54R BT Gzh: 78 damage 55 penetration
- 7.62x54R SNB: 75 damage 62 penetration
- 7.62x54R BS Gzh: 72 damage 70 penetration
A heavy rifle round used by various snipers and DMRs, 7.62x54R packs a punch and treats most armor like paper. You won’t quite one-shot the thorax, so bolt actions rely on headshots or well-placed follow-ups. The semi-auto SVD, however, can quickly put two rounds through a level 6 vest.
.338 Lapua Magnum
- .338 Lapua Magnum FMJ: 122 damage 47 penetration
- .338 Lapua Magnum AP: 115 damage 79 penetration
The biggest, baddest bullets in Tarkov, .338 Lapua Magnum rounds do way more than enough damage to one-shot PMCs to the thorax. AP rounds also have way more than enough penetration to obliterate armor. These are expensive, hard-to-find bullets, but worth the investment if you can afford it.
- 12.7x55 PS12B: 102 damage 46 penetration
12.7x55 is another high damage round, but it is too heavy and slow to pierce high-end armor. It hits like a truck and will decimate players and scavs in level 4 vests or below, but will take too many hits to get through level 5 and 6 armor. Once you get through though, your target is toast.
That's all the best ammo in Tarkov and everything you need to know about how it works! The sheer number of options can be overwhelming, so focus on these top-tier rounds when you can. If you want to see what your bullets are up against, check out our guide to the best armor in Tarkov, where we also explain the game's amror mechanics. For more on upcoming content, check out our piece on the recent Arena mode reveal.