Stalk thy prey and let loose thy talons upon the Darkness.
The good: Chance at extra damage!
The bad: Ammo reserves run out quickly.
Conclusion: Not nearly as good as it was in Y1.
Hand Cannon (Primary Weapon)
Talent Upgrades Tree
This weapon causes Solar Damage.
More range and impact. Increased recoil.
LUCK IN THE CHAMBER
One random bullet in the magazine causes considerable bonus damage.
Switch weapons faster. Move quicker while aiming.
Two more random bullets in your magazine deal considerable bonus damage.
More range and impact. Increased recoil.
This weapon can be drawn unbelievably fast.
More predictable recoil. Enhanced impact. Shorter range and more recoil.
Reload this weapon quickly.
If you’ve heard tales of the Y1 version and excitedly pick up Hawkmoon for the first time, you my be in for a rude awakening. The long-range demon has had its wings clipped, and is hardly the dominating force it once was. For that reason, we’re going to give it another long look in our latest updated Exotic review.
Bungie tends to avoid altering the stats of their weapons, with only a few exceptions, so it’s important to note that this latest version is markedly different in one of its defining statistics: Range. It’s fallen to a disappointing 26.
With Hand Cannons in their current state from the latest balance patch, this noticeably lower number is a huge blow. Other than that, it has respectable Stability at 51, and great ammunition efficiency with 11 (13, eventually) in the magazine and a 39 base Reload Speed.
It belongs to the 22/81 RoF/Impact class, which gives it a significant punch and superior DPS to competitors like The First Curse. Finally, the Aim Assist of 50 is unreliable enough that you’re likely to miss shots if your aim isn’t true.
You’ve got three options in ballistics, and they are Accurized and Aggressive Ballistics, and Field Choke. While it may be tempting to add all the Range you can, the tiny amount afforded to you by Accurized or Field Choke is not really worth the tradeoffs in Stability and recoil direction. For this reason, we recommend Aggressive Ballistics. It grants a tiny bit more damage, but more importantly makes your recoil predictable, which is crucial for HCs with their finicky bloom on follow-up shots. We highly recommend checking out our video review to see the difference.
Hawkmoon’s first perk, Luck in the Chamber, remains unchanged. Or, it appears to be unchanged. In reality – and you’ll have noticed this if you carefully read the last patch notes – the bonus damage on Hawkmoon alone has been scaled down to 1.2x from 1.3x. This makes LitC a little less potent in PvE, but more importantly removes the two headshot kill guarantee with a single lucky proc in PvP. It’s still possible, but almost exclusively on targets with zero armor investment or those who have already been weakened. This is a tough hit for a weapon that already is gasping for a little extra Range. Any damage drop-off at all will put your chances of a two hit kill at 0%, lengthening TTK dramatically.
For the middle column, you’re going to want to select Hammer Forged. Quickdraw is wasted on almost all builds, though it can be paired with a Sniper for an interesting combination that emphasizes dispatching weakened Guardians at close range. Speed Reload would be an obvious choice for a gun that has no other reload-focused perks, but the extra Range from Hammer Forged is just too good to pass up. So, get Hammer Forged unlocked pronto, and experience better performance in all aspects of your game: more reliable hitboxes, greater engagement distances, and the feeling that you can trust the weapon in your hands.
Hawkmoon’s Final Perk, Holding Aces, is essentially two more LitC for free. Because of this, there’s no reason to go over what it does. Simply recall that either of the “Aces” can stack with either LitC round, but not with both. This is a rare occurrence, but it will absolutely guarantee a two-headshot kill.
Hawkmoon should be a good weapon in PvE. It’s got a big magazine, serious damage, and perks that increase its power directly. In spite of this, it’s not nearly the powerhouse you might hope it is. Not much of this is the fault of the weapon itself, but the fault of Hand Cannons as a whole. Even though Bungie has recently (and thankfully) patched the maddening initial accuracy issues, the nerfs to Range at large have greatly limited the number of Hand Cannons that are viable in PvE content.
If you want to be flexible with the distances at which you engage your foes, while still relying on the accuracy and power of a Hand Cannon, you need a significant amount of base Range. Weapons like Eyasluna, Ace of Spades, Imago Loop, and The First Curse have plenty to go around – and surprise, surprise, you can count on having some breathing room between you and your enemies. With Hawkmoon’s 26, even with Hammer Forged you’ll be scrambling to get a little closer to really make the weapon work.
And once you get there, your bag of tricks is fairly limited. There’s no Firefly to spread the damage around, or Outlaw, Rescue Mag, Life Support, or any other utility perks. No, all you can do is empty your Magazine, reload at a slow-to-moderate speed, and repeat. Each bullet has to land exactly where you need it to, and there’s no synergistic ability procs that can give you offensive momentum or lend extra support to your fireteam.
With that said, 13 rounds – three of which hit for 20% extra damage – is hardly a poor offering. In challenges in which you’re not besieged by shielded foes or swarms of adds, Hawkmoon can more than pull its weight. Tier 1 and 2 red bar mobs don’t stand a chance, and will go down with satisfying consistency, bonus damage or not. Even Majors have a hard time standing up to a full magazine, especially with a few lucky LitC/Holding Aces procs early on.
Unfortunately, the paltry reserve ammunition of Hand Cannons is going to bite you in the butt sooner or later. Even with 13 rounds in the magazine, the weapon has only a few full magazines in reserve, and you’ll frequently find yourself running low-to-empty on Primary ammunition. Throw in the punishing bloom when firing at a higher RoF, and you’ll find that you’ll be missing more shots, and wishing you had more rounds in reserve to compensate. This is a problem that no one should have to worry about in King’s Fall or Heroic Strikes, but Hand Cannon users know it too well.
Hawkmoon’s real niche was originally thanks to its absurd base Range; you could comfortably unseat Snipers and pick off Scout Rifle users before they even knew what was happening. This was one of the few weapons that could go toe-to-toe with Thorn and win out in the hands of an adept Guardian. Arguably, it needed to be toned down a little, but what we have now is a ghost of its former self.
Gone are the crisp and reliable 2HKs, replaced instead by frustrating and inconsistent TTKs that work against establishing a rhythm. Expect to be shouting “He’s one shot!” to your teammates often, as your quarry will frequently be surviving your shots with a sliver of health. True, you can always finish them off with a single bullet – but Hawkmoon is just a regular Hand Cannon when it requires 3 shots to kill. Not only is it a regular Hand Cannon, but it’s a regular Hand Cannon with only 26 Range. When you don’t get lucky enough, your Exotic essentially becomes a mediocre Legendary. This is the sort of risk that is just unacceptable for competitive multiplayer.
We talked earlier about how hard it is to get ideal kill times with Hand Cannons and their limiting bloom penalty. You’re going to feel motivated to pace your shots to get two precision hits, and when neither are enough to finish the job, you’ll have either A: wasted enough time that you’ve lost your firefight, or B: fired too quickly, and all but removed the chance to hit the kill shot. Both of these scenarios are frequent and annoying, even with Hammer Forged.
Even with all of the above warnings, its unpredictability also works in favor of the user. It’s hard to know when you’re fighting someone with Hawkmoon when you’re about to take more damage than you anticipated. If you’ve been scratched and you get into a firefight, don’t be surprised to be dead before you’ve even had a chance to fire back. Even with its low Range and lightly-nerf’d LitC/Holding Aces, Hawkmoon is a powerful Hand Cannon that shouldn’t be underestimated.
It’s a shame Xbox players will never get to enjoy the experience of using Hawkmoon in its hayday. It’s hard to believe this neutered Hand Cannon once terrorized the PvP scene. Even with its nerfs, Hawkmoon still shows flickers of its old lethality, but there are much more appealing option these days. In PvE, you have a strong weapon that doesn’t cut it at range and struggles with reserve ammunition issues. In PvP, the nerfs to LitC and Holding Aces, combined with the poor base Range, impair an otherwise well-rounded gun enough to tip the scales in favor of its competitors. Pick up Hawkmoon and give it a whirl at any rate; maybe Bungie will see fit to return it to its former glory someday.
For PvP this weapon earns a 7/10 and for PvE a 7/10.