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Weapons Locker – Classic Doom video games

Knee-Deep in the Dead

This article covers the weaponry used in classic video games DooM and DooM ][ from the first half of the 1990s. These landmark games founded the first-person shooter genre. See our Doom marine profile for more.

Neither the Doom 3 game nor the Doom film are covered, though there are references to material from those.

This paper doesn’t just describe the weapons in the game. It includes hypotheses as to why they’re here, what they do and how they look.

Much of this weaponry doesn’t seem suitable for engaging military targets. The marines in the games are seen wearing hard suits of some sort, but most of the weapons fire light projectiles that are unlikely to penetrate military body armour.

This suggests that the marines are stationed on Mars to shoot soft targets, and since the presence of animals is unlikely this presumably means lethal suppression of civilians.


A semi-automatic pistol in a medium calibre. Perhaps 9mm or a near-future high performance calibre, such as the 5mm Seburo round in Ghost in the Shell.

The manual mentions that the marine enters the situation with just a pistol since the assault team took all the heavier weapons. If we assume a reasonable magazine capacity, he has an extra clip plus some loose rounds in his pockets.

The Pistol is often considered a weak weapon since it does but a bit more damage than the fists. This is a misconception – it’s not the Pistol that’s weak, it’s the marine who hits like a mule. This is well-represented by his strength score in both DCH and DCA.

DCH Pistol [BODY 03, Projectile weapon: 04, Ammo: 20, R#2].

M&M Pistol [Ranged Ballistic Damage 3].

The carbines carried by the weakest zombies fire the same round as the marine’s pistol. This evokes the real-world Beretta CX4 Storm carbine, built to shoot the same ammunition as the user’s handgun. The Pistol in Doom even looks a bit like the Beretta PX4 Storm handgun, as far as we can tell from the sprite. Here’s a PX4 :

Storm pistol

Being able to shoot a standardised bullet type from either a pistol or a carbine is attractive for some law enforcement agencies. This is because it keeps logistics simple yet allows officers to have a shoulder-fired weapon, which are much better at hitting things in the field than handguns. This arrangement is surprising in a military force, though.

The Pistol is never seen as a pickable item on the floor, but in the marine’s hands it looks like this :

Doom pistol


The chainsaw in DooM is modelled after a normal tree-cutting instrument – it’s not built to be a weapon. One assumes that the presence of a chainsaw as a close combat weapon was inspired by the Evil Dead II – Dead by dawn 1987 movie, where the everyman hero prominently uses one to fight undead monstrosities.

The Chainsaw doesn’t use ammunition. At the highest difficulty levels, where ammo is scarce, it is worthwhile to engage minor melee opponents using the Chainsaw rather than burn rounds.

DCH Chainsaw [BODY 03, Claws: 07, Force shield: 03, R#2, Limitations: Force shield only against melee attacks from the front].

M&M Chainsaw [Damage 6 (Shredding), Enhanced Parry 4 (Limited 1 – only against the opponent being attacked with the chainsaw)].

The DooM chainsaw has the curious property of keeping the less powerful opponents at bay when used against them. For instance, if the marine runs head-on into a demon and strikes first, the infernal creature is unlikely to ever reach and damage the marine as it is being chainsawed. This is modelled as a force shield (DCH) or enhanced parry (DCA).

Our No-Prize Hypothesis that the DooM Chainsaw sports a clear plastic shield to protect the operator from flying fragments. The real-world Eager Beaver chainsaw used as a model for the game (illustrated below) does have a plastic shield that was removed from the DooM model. Perhaps the Chainsaw in Doom has a large, robust shield that is completely transparent.

Eager Beaver chainsaw as in Doom

Since there are presumably no trees on Mars, DooM players have long wondered what the Chainsaw was for. Doom 3 mentions that what had actually been ordered was a container of jackhammers, and that the chainsaws were shipped to Mars by mistake.

Screenshots :
Doom chainsaw


This workhorse weapon fires powerful rounds, and one can generally scrounge ammunition to replace what has been spent.

This weapon appears to be a pump-action, 12-gauge shotgun firing 00 magnum buckshot. The game engine has the Shotgun fire seven pellets, each having the same strength as a Pistol bullet.

These pellets spread in a somewhat random fashion, and disperse over a much wider area than real-life shotgun rounds do. This is the default behaviour in video game shotguns. This means that long-distance shots are unlikely to be effective, but it also makes it possible to hit several opponents at once if they are clustered together.

DCH Shotgun [BODY 04, Shotgun blast (Range 03): 06, Ammo: 10, R#02, Recommended STR: 02, Misc. Drawback: cannot perform Flailing Attacks or Multi-Attacks].

M&M Shotgun [Shotgun Blast 5].

The Shotgun has a slow firing rate. A new shell must be pumped into the chamber before each shot. This reliance on the pump action is curious – semi-automatic shotguns have been standard since forever.

Our No-Prize Hypothesis is that the marine is relying on on-site procurement of random shotgun shells of unknown condition. Thus, there’s a chance that any one such shell might lack the power to cycle the action.

The wary marine prefers to rely on the pump action in order to avoid any chance of a feeding failure. A dud can just be pumped out by chambering the next shell and hoping that this one works.

Screenshots :
Doom shotgun

The DC Heroes stats assume that the Shotgun is clip-fed, since reloading is never an issue in DooM as long as ammunition is available. An amusing hypothesis to explain the huge ammunition capacity of the Shotgun in the actual game (100 shells with the backpack) is that it’s actually a belt-fed shotgun.

Perhaps it’s a weapon using an AK-type action (like the Saiga 12) with a RPK-74 belt-feed device and a back-up pump action to cycle low-charge riot control rounds.

Of course, *why* such a weapon would be around is a mystery. Maybe a special-purpose conversion to eliminate a population of dangerous mutant rats in cramped quarters ? Or is the law enforcement situation bad enough that these are issued for riot control ? Or perhaps it’s what works best for close-quarter battles where overpenetration would be catastrophic and visibility is always poor.

Here is a photo of a heavily modified Saiga-12 using a bullpup conversion kit and a drum magazine, to give a visual of what a high-capacity military shotgun might look like. Add a backup pump in the front and you have something that can fire 12 gauge for a typical entire DooM firefight.

Tricked-out Saiga shotgun

Photo credit: Smilingbob from the saiga-12.com forum 


The Super-shotgun appears in DooM ][, and uses the same ammunition as the basic Shotgun. It looks like a typical double-barrelled side-by-side 12-gauge break-open sawn-off shotgun. Given the speed of reloads in DooM it presumably includes spent shell ejectors, flinging the empties away when opened.

The Super-shotgun always discharges both barrels at once. Though one might assume that this means twice the firepower of the pump-action shotgun, the Super-shotgun lives up to its name by putting 3 times more pellets in the air.

It also has a very broad spread. A well-aimed shot at clustered targets will likely hit everyone with multiple pellets. There’s apparently some force dispersing the pellets, since the cone of fire is wider than a typical video game shotgun – and way wider than any real-world shotgun, even without a choke.

Screenshots :
Doom super-shotgun

The marine uses a double-reloading technique, taking two shells between the fingers of his reloading hand and inserting them in their respective barrels in one gesture. Which is easier said than done – never mind doing it with perfect reliability during a prolonged firefight while moving.

DCH Super-Shotgun [BODY 04, Projectile weapons: 08 (Diminishing, Area of Effect 0 APs), Range: 03, Ammo: 1, R#02, Recommended STR: 03, Limitation: Projectile weapons has No Range – use the Range given next instead, Misc.: cannot perform Flailing Attacks or Multi-Attacks].

M&M Super-Shotgun [Shotgun Blast 7 Wide Choke, Diminished Range 1, Quirk (requires a STR of 1 or higher)].

Why is the DooM ][ Super-shotgun so powerful ? Why does it has such a spectacular spread ? Why do extra pellets appear out of thin air despite using regular shells ? Our No-Prize Hypothesis  is that it is a magic weapon from Hell, since having a double-barrelled sawn-off in a military arsenal would be extraordinary.

This No-Prize-winning weapon sports a *third* barrel under the two that are visible on the screen. This barrel cannot be opened or loaded, nor does it need to. When two shells are discharged at once in the upper barrels, the enchantment of the weapon leeches a bit of energy to simultaneously fire the third barrel, summoning in infernal buckshot.

This buckshot is made of a magical metal – three red and three white pellets. The reds repulse the white and vice-versa – resulting a broader dispersion cone with the red pellets on the right and the whites on the left.

This unique weapon may have belonged to a rare infernal creature recently killed by other marines. Or maybe some infernal power wanted the marine to find it – could there be some sort of power struggle in Hell ?

Such an infernal triple-barrelled shotgun might look like this :

Magical triple-barrelled shotgun


The Chaingun  fires the same round as the Pistol does – but it fires full auto. It is a useful weapon that can chew away at opponents (the hail of bullets preventing most from shooting back) or sweep through several targets. Its main drawback is that it eats through ammo at a depressing pace.

The name is misleading. A chaingun is a vehicle-mounted rapid-fire cannon with a single barrel. A weapon firing small-arms rounds and having multiple, rotating bullets is more often called a minigun. DooM has made this erroneous nomenclature common in games, though.

One pull of the Chaingun’s trigger fires two bullets accurately. Continuing to press the trigger follows with autofire, though with a lower cyclic rate. Some real-world weapons work this way – for instance the AN-94 Abakan assault rifle fires a two-rounds burst at 1,800 rpm then follows with 600 rpm automatic fire.

The higher initial firing rate means that the second bullet has left the gun before recoil can affect the shooter. It will thus hit very close to the first. This makes the Chaingun an efficient weapon for long distance shooting, as long as the trigger is not held down.

DCH Chaingun [BODY 04, Projectile weapons: 05, Ammo: 200, R#02 with an alternative full auto mode increasing damage by 2 and giving the Autofire Advantage, but eating through four Ammunition instead of one].

M&M Chaingun [Array with the first application being Line-Area 4 Ballistic Damage 5, the second Cone-Area 2 Ballistic Damage 4, and the last Ranged Ballistic Damage 4 with Feature 1 (saves ammunition)].

Screenshots :
Doom chaingun

The concept art for the Doom movie featured this minigun, which is a possible alternative visual for the in-game weapon :

Concept art for a Doom chaingun

This weapon is difficult to explain. Why have a large weapon with rotating barrels fire handgun rounds ? A submachinegun would do the same job just fine.

Our No-Prize Hypothesis is that the Chaingun is normally mounted on light aerial patrol drones. These would be small flying vehicles that may need to open fire on persons, but can’t carry a heavy gun and need to deliver a lot of bullets to compensate for their own speed, the small target and any concealment such as foliage.

Since such light ammunition would not kill people in body armour, this again points at the possibility of military forces opening fire on civilians with live ammunition.

In this hypothesis the Chaingun is easy to dismount from a drone and modify for infantry use, and this conversion is not rare. It might be an answer to a specific tactical problem – for instance killing rioters in a space base, where a light ammunition shot from an intimidating weapon with a large ammunition capacity would be a good tool.

Based on history, a simpler explanation presents itself. Our No-Prize Hypothesis is that the standard-issue light machinegun for the marines is awful and jams constantly, and salvaging a drone’s weapon then declaring the drone to have accidentally crashed is a good workaround.

Alternatively one might ignore the visual and assume that the weapon is actually a high-capacity submachinegun or personal defense weapon – since this is exactly what it does. This approach has some support, in that the DooM gun in this slot was originally an assault rifle.

Since the hypothesis for the pistol was that it was some sort of pistol-and-carbine system à la Beretta Storm, the hypothetical SMG could look like a CX4 Storm with an extended magazine. If we assume a near-future round like the 5mm Seburo, a magazine capacity of 50 is credible.

Storm carbine with imaginary extended mag

If we go down the “the Chaingun is really a submachinegun” path, an economical hypothesis is that it’s the same weapon as the carbines used by the zombies. The one used by the marine has been field-converted for automatic fire. This is not an unheard-of modification for soldiers issued a semi-automatic carbine and wanting more firepower.

Some zombies have similarly modified carbines, but they lack the coordination or intelligence to switch the retrofitted fire selector.

One last possibility is that the Chaingun might resemble the guns used in the live-action version of Æon Flux. The shock troopers there use a prop rifle whose rotating barrels are very similar to the DooM ones. It could certainly correspond to the first-person view of the Chaingun. Perhaps it is a specialised assault weapon to fight inside spaceships.

Aeon Flux gatling rifle

Rocket Launcher

The ammunition of the Rocket Launcher is what seems to be an impossibly slow, HEDP (High Explosive Dual Purpose) rocket – perhaps 5 mm in calibre. This projectiles hits with about the same force as a close-range blast from the Super-shotgun. It also treats whatever is near the impact to explosive damage.

The Rocket Launcher fires in what seems to be semi-automatic mode, carries an impossible amount of rockets, and is good at a range. Howbeit, hitting a moving target that is more than 20 metres or so away is going to be difficult due to the low velocity of the round.

DCH Rocket Launcher [BODY 03, Projectile weapons: 07 Combined with Bomb: 06, Ammo: 15, R#02, Note : Bomb can ride the Range of the Projectile weapons].

M&M Rocket Launcher [Ranged Explosive Damage 6 (4 of which has Burst Area)].

Much of DooM taking place indoors, one risks getting accidentally caught in the blast of one’s own rockets. On the other hand, the Rocket Launcher doesn’t have any form of backblast – it is possible to fire one while your back is pressed against a wall without any difficulty.

Getting caught in the impact of a rocket can, if one survives, be useful to rocket-jump – back then a novel tactic. This tactic, however, is almost never useful in DooM (except for one map in the third act of Ultimate DooM having a secret exit that can only be reached that way), and is thus not included in the stats of the Rocket Launcher.

Screenshots :
Doom rocket launcher

Our No-Prize Hypothesis that this weapon is actually a *grenade* launcher shooting 25mm low-pressure rounds. This would explain the damage (lower than what a rocket should deliver), the blast area (a rocket usually doesn’t have a wide, anti-personnel splash radius), the semi-automatic action, and the low speed of the projectile.

Most weapons so far seem intended to be used against civilians rather than to fight wars. Thus this low-powered, fast, high-capacity grenade launcher may actually be a riot control weapon intended to shoot gas grenades. In this hypothesis, a High Explosive or thermobaric round is available to turn a riot control weapon into an anti-infantry weapon.

A possible design for such a weapon — with a huge magazine — is presented below. Note the large muzzle – this being a riot control weapon, it is intended to look particularly intimidating. The tank-like compensator is not necessary, but it impresses potential targets and produces a scary muzzle flash.

And if you squint hard enough, it means that the shooter’s point of view might resemble the Rocket Launcher first-person sprite in the game.

Imaginary 25mm grenade launcher

Plasma Rifle

A rapid-fire energy rifle shooting destructive plasma globules. With good trigger control this futuristic weapon is probably the best one available to the marine. Alas, the energy cells to power it are usually in poor supply.

Still, even short, controlled bursts can inflict significant damage. One plasma globule does about 3 times the damage of a Chaingun bullet.

The plasma bursts travel rapidly, there is no recoil, and the impacts are tightly grouped. Burning a fierce blue-white, they can also be used as flares of a sort.

DCH Plasma Rifle [BODY 02, Energy blast: 09, Ammo: 20, R#02, Advantage: Autofire, Dart Bonus].

M&M Plasma Rifle [Ranged Multiattack Energy Damage 7].

Screenshots :
Doom plasma rifle

Here’s a HD rework of the Doom plasma rifle by DoomHD  :
Doom Plasma Rifle by DoomHD

Larger version

Here’s an alternate design we made up for the DooM Plasma Rifle, free of the constraints of the in-game sprite.

Plasma rifle

One of the mocked-up rifles used for the Doom movie – the one used by The Rock – would make a good prop for the plasma rifle. The handguard is reminiscent of the Plasma Rifle’s barrel.

Assault rifle in the Doom movie

The Plasma Rifle is incomparably more advanced than the previous weapons. A likely explanation is that plasma weaponry is at the prototype stage, and was part of the cutting-edge technologies being developed by the Union Aerospace Corporation.

Plasma technology, and in particular the BFG, are presented as the cutting edge of the military arsenal in the game’s documentation.


Officially, “BFG” stands for something like “Bio-Force Gun” or “Blast Field Generator”, but the abbreviation is universally understood to mean “Big Fucking Gun”.

0.9 seconds after the trigger is pressed, a huge plasma ball erupts from the BFG, inflicting considerable damage to the first solid thing it hits. After the explosion the core of the plasma ball contracts then emits a conical shockwave. Anything caught in this shockwave receives about the same damage as from being hit by a 3-rounds burst from a Plasma Rifle.

In the game, the shockwave emanates from the shooter rather than the impact point, and is invisible. From what we understand this was done for processing power reasons, as the full effect would have slowed DooM to a crawl. Without these constraints, the shockwave would presumably have looked like a volley of 40 plasma bursts flying down a cone-shaped blast zone.

This odd, staggered firing pattern reinforces the impression that plasma weaponry is at the prototype stage. It doesn’t look like something designed for military purposes. The BFG just a big, barely controlled energy dump that is thankfully directed away from the weapon.

DCH BFG-9000 [BODY 01, Energy blast (Area of effect 0 APs): 12 Combined With Energy Blast: 08 (in a conic area 4 APs long in front of the explosion), Ammo: 05, R#03, Rec. STR 02, Drawbacks – MPR (heavy and cumbersome (cutting movement speed by 1) unless your STR is 2 APs above the Rec. STR), Limitations: the second, weaker Energy Blast takes place when the Phase ends, not when the main Energy Blast does ; the primary, stronger Energy has its AV penalised by 1 CS against targets more than 20 metres away and moving faster than a walk].

M&M BFG-9000 [Ranged Burst-Area Energy Damage 12 w/Secondary Effect (Cone-Area 4 Energy Damage 7), Quirk 1 (the main attack (not the Secondary Effect) is Inaccurate 2 against targets more than 20 metres away and moving faster than a walk, Quirk 1 (heavy and cumbersome (cutting movement speed by 1) unless your STR is 2+)].

The BFG-9000 eats through the same energy cells as a a plasma rifle – at about 8 times the rate (one shot costs 40 energy and we’ve assume 5-rounds bursts from the plasma rifle). Since there’s never enough cells to freely shoot the plasma weaponry, the BFG-9000 is best conserved to overcome exceptionally difficult situations.

The delay between the trigger pull and the full effect being almost 2 seconds, it’s also best used on unsuspecting opponents.

Screenshots :
Doom BFG9000


How can the marine pack so many weapons ? Why do the weapons have so much ammunition ? How can he reload so fast, or pick weapons just by running over them ? These have since become video game shooter tropes, but back then this was still puzzling. Here’s our No-Prize Hypothesis.

The setting has experimental teleportation technology. It also has some basic cybernetic interfaces since the marine can see a real-time crosshair and ammo count for any of his weapons. The character might thus be using a short-range, cybernetic teleportation supply system.

This prototype system may not work reliably under most conditions, but the infernal invasion may have made it fully reliable – since the teleportation technology and the hell dimension are linked.

In this hypothesis, the marine has small electronic tags he can put on equipment, such as guns, magazines, boxes of ammo, etc. Tagged items can be teleported back and forth from an assigned armoury space.

One setting for a tag is to automatically teleport back the item .5 seconds after the marine stops touching it. It is thus possible to just drop a held item, it’ll vanish as it starts falling and safely end up in the armoury.

With such a technology, there is no need to hypothesise weapons with vast ammunition capacities. The shotgun could be a 6-shot tube-fed affair, the pistol have 15 9x19mm bullets, etc. What the marine actually does is a variant of the so-called “New York reload” – he ditches the empty weapon and teleport a loaded one in his hands.

Likewise, he can quickly appropriate enemy weapons, boxes of ammunitions found in lockers, etc. by slapping a tagger on them and sending them on their way.

In the teleportation hypothesis, when an area is secure, the marine has to spend a good while checking his ordnance. He needs to find a large table, teleport in all the weapons and ammunition he has and check the condition of everything, reload his numerous guns, set the tags (for instance to determine in which order the weapons come), etc.

In this hypothesis, having 100 shotgun shots might actually represent having a dozen loaded pump guns in the armoury, all checked and loaded, plus a box of shells to reload between engagement. In a sustained fight the marine might go through 5 or 6 different shotguns, emptying them and sending them back in rapid succession.

Said shotguns are just disparate weapons he found on the corpses of dead opponents – if they work fine, they get tagged and end up in the armoury.

In this context, finding the Backpack item in the game means more taggers and access rights for a larger armoury space. In this hypothesis these are password-protected and have a user authorisation system – this part works fine even if the teleportation technology normally doesn’t.

As to the experimental teleportation-based supply system individual armoury, odds are it’s a corporate-style cubicle with old cushions maculated with gun oil and a standard box of gun maintenance tools and consumables.

By Sébastien Andrivet.

Helper(s): Roy Cowan, Darci. The Doom Wiki  provided useful numbers and data ; the Internet Movies Firearms Database  provided the photos of real-world weapons and the movie props. Many of the illustrations are done using the sprites from the first DooM, designed by IDSoftware and extracted/re-rendered by Elite Sniper 177 (which must have been a lot of work).

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