In Call of Duty, the meta decides the weapons you use.

But the way weapon unlocks work has changed in Modern Warfare 2. Some weapons only unlock when you’re mid-way through the military ranks, while others require you to first level other guns in the same weapons platform.

This means that not all weapons are accessible to new players just starting the game. Fortunately, several excellent meta guns do become available pretty early on.

Here’s a look at the best guns to use if you’re just starting out.

The best guns to level first in Modern Warfare 2

M4 Assault Rifle

Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2 M4 best guns
Screenshot by Koh Wanzi/ONE Esports

The M4 assault rifle has been a staple in Call of Duty games. In Modern Warfare 2, it remains a solid all-rounder that can be effective at both close-quarters combat and longer ranges.

Compared to other assault rifles like the STB 556 or TAQ 56, the M4 sits squarely in the middle of the pack in terms of time-to-kill across all ranges. While it doesn’t particularly excel in any one department, its solid performance across the board, even at longer distances where rifles like the M16 start to struggle with damage falloff, means that it is incredibly versatile and reliable.

It becomes available at Rank 4, as soon as you unlock access to custom loadouts.

With a quick fire rate and very forgiving recoil, the M4 is easy to pick up and master. It almost certainly should be the first gun you level up.

VEL 46 Submachine Gun

Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2 VEL 46
Screenshot by Koh Wanzi/ONE Esports

The VEL 46 is a strong early-game SMG that is available once you reach Rank 4, just like the M4.

The svelte weapon can absolutely shred. And like the M4, it maintains solid versatility across most ranges, even edging out the powerful Lachmann Sub at distances over 35 meters.

While other SMGs inch ahead at close range, the VEL 46 still remains very competitive, especially considering that you can use it right off the bat.

PDSW 528 Submachine Gun

Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2 PDSW 528 best guns
Screenshot by Koh Wanzi/ONE Esports

The PDSW 528 is Modern Warfare 2’s version of the P90. It unlocks at Rank 5, which means you should have it available to use in no time at all.

This is a top-tier SMG that remains viable even in the late game. It is devastating in close quarters, boasting a rapid fire rate that will obliterate enemies the second you see them. With its solid handling and mobility, you’ll be sprinting across the map and hunting enemies down with ease.

We recommend pairing it with the Scavenger perk or Munitions Box when you can. After all, this gun consumes ammunition like the ravenous monster it is.

FSS Hurricane Submachine Gun

Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2 FSS Hurricane
Screenshot by Koh Wanzi/ONE Esports

The FSS Hurricane may be an SMG, but it can be kitted out with solid range as well. What’s more, its generous starting magazine size of 50 rounds will let you string together multi-kills with ease before your clip runs empty.

It is available to use right away if you own the Vault Edition of the game. If not, you’ll need to get the FTAC Recon Battle Rifle to level 16, which in turn requires a Level 13 M4.

SP-R 208 Marksman Rifle

Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2 SP-R 208
Screenshot by Koh Wanzi/ONE Esports

One shot, one kill. The SP-R 208 marksman rifle is so powerful it feels like it should be a late-game weapon, but it unlocks at just Rank 7.

The SP-R 208 kills with a single shot to the chest, so you’ll need to aim higher to secure those quick kills. If you’re able to land your shots, this is one of the most powerful and satisfying weapons to use in the game.

Its slow, bolt-action rechambering takes some getting used to, but the weapon remains a force to be reckoned with once you learn how to play around its fire rate.

The marksman rifle is also part of the Bryson Long Rifle platform. You’ll need to level it up to unlock the SA-B 50, which is basically a faster-firing version of the SP-R 208. At the end of the platform progression tree is also the SP-X 80 sniper rifle, currently one of the best in the game, so you’ll definitely want to get started on the SP-R 208 as soon as you can.

READ MORE: Modern Warfare II Gunsmith explained: Platforms, receivers, attachments