Heavy Laser vs Heavy Cannon

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The (plain vanilla) Heavy Laser is most often compared against the Heavy Plasma because of its position in the weapon hierarchy. Refer to the Heavy Laser vs Heavy Plasma section for a comparison.

For those unfamiliar with the term "plain vanilla", that just means it is plain, boring, dull and similar terms. This article refers to an unmodified Heavy Laser and not the "enhanced" Heavy Laser introduced by XComutil's 'enhanced laser' option.

The Heavy Laser is a decent weapon is frequently discarded or ignored because it doesn't share the same level of performance as the Heavy Plasma. Despite this, there is a devoted following players that are very loyal to the heavy laser, for any number of reasons.

After careful consideration, it was determined by this author that comparing the Heavy Laser against the Heavy Plasma is perhaps not the right way to gauge the Heavy Laser's effectiveness. They are completely different classes of weapons. Instead, the more logical comparison to the Heavy Plasma belongs to the Heavy Cannon, which is also a very decent weapon in its own right.

Weapon Statistic Comparison

Stats Heavy Cannon Heavy Laser
Damage Type

56 AP
52 HE
60 Incendiary

85 Laser

Ammo weight 6 (all) n/a
Weight 18 18
Loaded Weight 24 18
Dimensions 2 × 3 2 × 3
Firing Accuracy
Aimed 90% 84%
Auto n/a n/a
Snap 60% 50%
Firing Cost
Aimed 80% 75%
Auto n/a n/a
Snap 33% 33%
Price $6,400 $32,000
Sell Price $4,800 $61,000
Ammo Purchase Price

AP: $300
HE: $500
IN: $400

Ammo Sell Price

AP: $225
HE: $275
In: $300

Research Hours n/a 450 hours (of 910)
Manufacturing Hours n/a 700 hours
Delivery Time 24 hours variable

Note: For the Heavy Laser's research hours, the number in parenthesis shows the total amount of research hours for all the of the prerequisite technologies required before you can research the Heavy Laser, and not just for the Heavy Laser.


Because there's no easy way to declare either one of these two weapons as the best of the two, at least without raising the ire of their fans, small scenarios or aspects of concern will be used to compare the weapons.

For General Assault

Snap shots are perhaps the most important and time efficient shot modes available in the game for general attacks. It also influences reaction fire.

Notice how the snapshot costs for both weapons are identical: 33%. Where the weapons differ is in their accuracy and shot damage.

The Heavy Cannon is the clear winner in accuracy, being 10% more accurate. The Heavy Cannon also has the added advantage of area-effect rounds, which increases the odds of hitting the target on a near-miss.

The Heavy Laser on the other hand has the greatest stopping power per attack.

In a sense, this puts them on fairly equal footing against standard enemies. You could even say that they would compliment each other very well by using the Heavy Laser to replace HC-AP rounds, allowing for better finesse and less collateral damage, while using the Heavy Cannon strictly for HE and Incendiary attacks. If accuracy is the issue, switch to the Heavy Cannon.

Against the tougher enemies like Mutons and Sectopods, the greater damage offered by the Heavy Laser makes it more preferable.

For Sniping

This section focuses on the aimed mode of the weapons.

Though neither weapon make for the best sniping weapons, many commanders swear by both the Heavy Laser and Heavy Cannon and can be very effective with them when employed correctly.

Referring to the stat comparison, the Heavy Cannon is much more accurate but considerably more time consuming in its follow through. The Heavy Laser is less accurate, but less time consuming. As both costs only allow one attack per turn, and because snipers rarely ever have a need to move from their positions, the speed/accuracy trade off is not very meaningful. This makes the Heavy Cannon the better sniping weapon.

When single-shot power and ammo restrictions are considered, the Heavy Laser is better.

Therefore, if ammo and damage is not a concern, the Heavy Cannon is the better sniper's weapon. If ammo and damage is a concern, then the Heavy Laser is the better choice.


How soon is the weapon needed?

Of the two weapons, the Heavy Cannon is available the moment you begin the campaign while the Heavy Laser is held back by its research and production time.

Because of the delay to get the Heavy Laser, commanders will often have access to the generally more desirable Heavy Plasma by the time the Heavy Laser is available for research.

If you give yourself a short time frame, the Heavy Cannon is the best choice of the two, and many of the enemies encountered early in the game are easily bested by the Heavy Cannon.

Given a scenario where the Heavy Laser has been researched but neither weapon are is in stock, then how soon you get and outfit a given number of soldiers with either weapon will depend on how many engineers you have.

The Heavy Cannon and its ammo will have a set period of time for their delivery. 24 hours for a Heavy Cannon shipment alone. This shipment can be purchased in bulk and all the guns will arrive at the same time.

The speed that you can outfit the same team with Heavy Lasers is reliant on how many you need and how many engineers are available to build them.


Cost is often only an issue in the early stages of the game where funds are scarce and you do not have a reliable source of income.

Given a tight budget, the Heavy Cannon is the cheapest of the two weapons to maintain, even though you do have to keep buying more ammunition. This is the quantity over quality approach.

To take the quality over quantity approach, the Heavy Laser is an expensive investment but is made up for with free ammunition and the resale value of the Heavy Laser allows you to easily recover and profit from the Heavy Laser.

See Also

Weapon Analysis