At its core, Fallout: New Vegas is a post-apocalypse cowboy game, which means that trying out a cowboy build is one of the best of experiencing the game. In this build guide, I’ll go over all of the perks, skills, traits, and equipment you’ll need to experience the game as a wasteland cowboy.
Quick tips before I get into the build guide:
- Works with and without DLC. Thanks to the abundance of cowboy-related weaponry, this build works without the need for any DLC.
- Works with a variety of playstyles. Cowboy builds have access to a wide range of weapons, from revolvers and dynamite to scoped lever-action rifles. Depending on your weapons of choice, you can adapt this build to suit the way you play the game.
- Great for Hardcore runs. If you are planning on playing through the game in Hardcore mode for the first time, this build is a perfect choice thanks to its highly ammo-efficient weaponry, high survival, and abundance of cowboy ammunition.
Thanks to the relatively low Strength requirements of cowboy weapons, a Strength of 6 is all this build needs to work. Instead of investing points there, I focused more on Endurance.
With an Endurance of 9, you are able to get every implant in the game (although none are explicitly required to make this build work).
An above-average Luck score will allow you to score critical hits more often, which is always a great bonus, even if your build isn’t entirely focused on them like this one.
My recommended starting S.P.E.C.I.A.L. stats are as follows:
For your tagged skills, I recommend that you go with the following:
- Survival – To make this build easier to use while playing on Hardcore mode, I recommend that you tag Survival. Survival is extremely useful due to it decreasing the rate at which your Hunger and Thirst increase, as well as due to being a skill used for crafting many different types of food/water. It’s also used to make the Gecko-backed armors from the Honest Hearts DLC, which fit really well with this build.
- Guns – Guns are going to be your primary source of damage while playing with a cowboy build, so leveling up your Guns skill as soon as possible is a great idea.
- Repair – Repair serves 2 main functions in this build – Fixing weapons and crafting better ammunition. Most cowboy firearms have the ability to use either SWC, JSP, or JFP ammo, which are superior to their base counterparts in nearly every way, other than degrading your weapon much faster.
For traits, there are many great options. There is the customary Good Natured + Skilled combo, which allows you to get a great head start in every skill in the game, however, a combination that I’ve found to work the best is the following:
- Good Natured: +5 bonus to Speech, Medicine, Repair, Science, and Barter. -5 penalty to Energy Weapons, Explosives, Guns, Melee Weapons, and Unarmed.
- Fast Shot: Increases Fire Rate and Weapon Spread by 20%.
These two traits pair incredibly well with this build.
Good Natured gives you a great head start in the game, as most early-game cowboy weapons don’t actually require a high weapons skill, but many of the dialogue checks in the early game are fairly difficult to pass without this trait.
Fast Shot counteracts one of the largest problems of all cowboy weapons: their slow fire rate. Due to the high accuracy of most cowboy weapons and the general gameplay of this game, you are unlikely to ever even notice the 20% increase to weapon spread.
These are all of the necessary perks, listed in the order in which you should acquire them as you level up.
All perks, other than Educated, can be acquired whenever you wish as only the Educated perk has certain advantages when taken earlier. With every level you don’t have Educated, you miss out on 2 skill points. If you can’t take a different perk because you lack the necessary skills, just take it another time.
|Level 2, Agility 5, Guns 30
|+25% Reload Speed.
|Level 4, Intelligence 4
|+2 Skill Points per Level.
|Confirmed Bachelor / Black Widow
|+10% Damage against male human characters. Additional dialogue options with male human characters.
|Lady Killer / Cherchez La Femme
|+10% Damage against female human characters. Additional dialogue options with female human characters.
|+5% Base damage increase.
|Level 8, Guns 45, Melee Weapons 45
|25 % more damage when using any revolver, lever-action firearm, dynamite, knife, or hatchet.
|Level 8, Agility 5
|+50% Weapon Draw Speed.
|Level 6, Repair 70
|Allows the player to craft new, powerful ammo types.
|+15% Damage and +25% V.A.T.S Accuracy against raiders and tribals.
|+20% HP restored from Stimpacks.
|Level 6, Repair 70
|Allows the player to craft new, powerful ammo types.
|Level 14, Repair 90
|Allows the player to repair their items with a wider range of other items.
|-50% Limb Damage taken.
|Level 30, Endurance 8
|Non-addictive Turbo injector. Lasts 2 seconds on rank 1, 3 seconds on rank 2.
|Ain’t Like That Now
|Level 50, Low Karma
|Karma reset to 0. Immunity to Critical Hits, +20% Attack Speed, +25% AP Regeneration Rate.
The number of Cowboy weapons in this game is truly staggering, and limiting yourself to only a couple isn’t necessary. Below is a table of several great choices to get you started, but feel free to experiment with any lever-action rifle or revolver you find throughout the wasteland.
|Name of the weapon
|La Longue Carabine
|-Scoped-Fast Reload-Cheap and plentiful ammo-Fast Fire Rate
|-Very high damage-Above-average fire rate-Great iron sights
|-Affordable ammo-Swift fire rate
|-Absurd damage-Extremely accurate-High durability and low repair cost
|-Inadequate damage for late-game enemies
|-Low fire rate-Expensive ammo-Slow reload
|A great all-purpose weapon that you can acquire early in the game and carry with you for almost the entire playthrough
|An easy-to-use rifle with absurdly high damage and a forgiving fire rate. Hands down the best late-game rifle for this build.
|Thanks to its easy acquisition and cheap ammo, this revolver is a great choice for a secondary weapon that will last you for the entirety of your playthrough.
|The definition of “Hand-cannon”. A true beast of a revolver that can deal with even the most dangerous of enemies while being cheap to repair, meaning that using SWC ammo won’t cost you your entire life savings.
|Links for further information
Unlike cowboy weapons, there are very few pieces of armor that go well with the cowboy playstyle.
If you want to truly embody the cowboys you see in old spaghetti western movies, you can use one of the many Merc outfits or even an NCR Ranger outfit, but my personal favorite combination with this build is the Desert Ranger Combat Armor from the Honest Hearts DLC.
You can use any armor you want to with this build, as it is not reliant on any special stat boosts from armor.
- Match your weapons to your playstyle. The Cowboy perk boosts many different weapons. Use dynamite, revolvers, and the lever-action shotgun if you intend on getting close to your enemies, or use lever-action rifles if you are planning on staying far away and picking your foes off from a distance.
- Don’t be afraid to experiment. This build allows you to experiment with many different weapons. You can even adjust the build to work as a quasi-critical hit build if you pick the right weapons (for a dedicated crit build, check out this guide).
- Carry many weapons and cycle between them. Cowboy weapons all share one major flaw – their magazines are small and their reloads are slow. To get around this, you can carry 3 or more firearms suited for similar purposes and switch between them during a fight.
- If you do this right, you’ll never have to reload your gun during your playthrough, because when you switch from one weapon to another, the previous gun is automatically reloaded.
- Recruit Raul or Cass. Both Raul (Recruiting Guide, Quest Guide) and Cass (Recruiting Guide) make for awesome companions during a cowboy playthrough, as they suit the playstyle incredibly well.