Sharpshooter is a feat that experienced D&D players will be very aware of. Whether you played a ranger who specialized in those long distance shots or you found yourself the victim of a DM using it against your party, this is a feat that has a huge impact on any given game.
Sharpshooter is not only one of the strongest feats in 5E D&D, but it is considered mandatory for any build focusing on ranged attacks. This is a top priority feat for most rangers, as well as ranged College of Valor bards, Battle Smith artificers, and fighters.
Although this is a niche feat for ranged attacks, players who keep every single part of this feat in mind are going to have no problem striking terror into enemies from a distance.
Breaking Down the Sharpshooter 5E Feat
The Sharpshooter feat is what takes someone trying to be an archer and makes them a long distance martial legend in the D&D world. If you are playing a class that relies on distance attacks, taking the Sharpshooter feat is MANDATORY.
Directly from the Player’s Handbook:
You have mastered ranged weapons and can make shots that others find impossible. You gain the following benefits:
- Attacking at long range doesn’t impose disadvantage on your ranged weapon attack rolls.
- Your ranged weapon attacks ignore half cover and three-quarters cover.
- Before you make an attack with a ranged weapon that you are proficient with, you can choose to take a -5 penalty to the attack roll. If the attack hits, you add +10 to the attack’s damage.
Player’s Handbook, p. 170
If your first thought was that this feat sounds mandatory for the most common build of the ranger class (archer) and all other distance martial fighters then congratulations, your ability to see the obvious is still completely intact 🙂 .
Benefit #1: Long range attacks no longer create disadvantage.
Ranged weapons have two numbers: the range at which they can be used, and the “long” range where they can still reach but you’re rolling at disadvantage. Because of disadvantage’s extremely negative impact on attack rolls, you very rarely see players take that very long distance shot – and it’s even rarer that they make it.
Since sharpshooters are no longer at disadvantage, for all intents and purposes their effective range as much as quadruples, which is a powerful feature outdoors and on other large battlefields.
Benefit #2: Ranged attacks ignore 1/2 cover and 3/4 cover.
Cover is great for PCs or enemies who want to hide from incoming death and destruction. When trying to hit a target with a +2 AC bonus (half cover) or a +5 AC bonus (three-quarters cover), it can be a tremendous pain for the attacker on the other side of the battle.
Sharpshooter just ignores all of it. If you see a piece of a hiding wizard, even if it’s through a space as small as an arrow slit, you’re not dealing with an 18+ AC in three-quarters cover. You just need to hit that base 13 AC (give or take depending on Mage Armor and their Dexterity modifier), which is an outstanding perk.
Benefit #3: If you’re proficient with your ranged weapon, you can take a -5 penalty to hit to add +10 damage to a successful attack.
+10 damage is considerable at any point. While the -5 penalty means this isn’t always a great option at early levels, for a player who has a high hit rate late game or has advantage, it’s worth the risk. Toss in Hunter’s Mark and Colossus Slayer and suddenly you’re adding all kinds of damage to a single arrow shot, even assuming it doesn’t crit.
Which Weapons Work With Sharpshooter?
Ranged and thrown weapons as defined in the PHB for 5th edition include:
- Hand Crossbow
- Heavy Crossbow
- Light Crossbow
- Light Hammer*
*Thrown weapons are able to receive the two passive benefits of Sharpshooter when thrown, but you may not take the -5 attack penalty when throwing them to add +10 damage to a successful hit. While there is room for interpretation in the Player’s Handbook, and your DM might let you do it anyway, rules guru Jeremy Crawford has clarified this to be the case as well.
When Should You Attack Using Sharpshooter in 5E?
Knowing when it’s worth taking on the attack roll penalty to deal extra damage separates good sharpshooters from great ones. It’s going to take a bit of math, but we’re here to make it as easy as possible for you. Let’s begin with a quick cheatsheet you can reference at a glance.
The following table is the % chance of successfully hitting based on your die roll, meaning if you only need a 1 to hit, your chances of hitting are 100%, while if you need a 20 to hit, your chances of hitting are only 5% (1 in 20) before adjustment.
The Probability of a Successful Attack (Based On the Lowest Possible d20 Roll Needed to Hit)
Now that we’ve put that math our teachers swore we’d use as adults to work, let’s use our newly minted cheatsheet to aid our character in 5E D&D combat!
I’m playing Traejan, an 8th level half-elf ranger with a +3 proficiency bonus, a Dexterity score of 20 (+5 modifier), and wielding a +1 longbow. We’re entering round 3 of combat, and through some trial and error, our party has figured out that the AC of the young white dragon we’re fighting is 17.
So what is the minimum I need to roll on a d20 to hit it?
17 (Monster’s AC) – 9 (Traejan’s Attack Roll modifier) = 8
Referencing the probability chart, I have a 65% chance of hitting the young white dragon without applying Sharpshooter’s attack roll penalty.
But let’s say our party has taken on the dragon’s Cold Breath attack, and I want to try for that extra +10 damage to end this fight as quickly as possible. Sharpshooter will impose a -5 penalty on my attack roll, meaning I now need at least a 13 to hit instead of an 8.
This drops our odds to 40%, meaning we’re now more likely to miss than hit. This isn’t a good trade-off in the short term, so Traejan is better off attacking normally to maximize the odds of doing some damage on his turn.
Fortunately, our human wizard, Lemadrin, is casting Improved Invisibility on Traejan, giving him advantage on his next attacks. Without using Sharpshooter’s power attack, our odds of scoring a hit soar to 87.75%, but if we do elect to power attack and take the attack roll penalty, we now have a 64% chance of hitting instead of 40%.
This makes our odds of a successful Sharpshooter attack almost as likely as a regular attack before we were made invisible (as long as we stay more than 30 feet away from the dragon and its blindsight), and since they’re still above 50%, it’s probably safe to go for the extra damage here.
That said, If the dragon is described by the DM as being on death’s doorstep, the extra damage probably isn’t worth it, so it’s probably best for the party if we skip the showboating and simply take the option that is most likely to do the last few points of necessary damage.
This transitions us to the other important information you’ll need when deciding whether to use Sharpshooter in 5e – your average damage per attack. Higher average damage without Sharpshooter’s bonus results in a diminished return from power attacking, so knowing when Sharpshooter will help you consistently do more damage is key.
For the math, we’ll be turning to Desamir, from the Giant in the Playground forums.
Attack Bonus – (average damage/2) + 16 = Maximum AC
So let’s go back to Traejan, our trusty 8th level half-elf ranger. A longbow’s average damage is 4.5, + 5 from Traejan’s Dexterity modifier, + 1 from his +1 weapon, totaling 10.5. His attack roll modifier is still +9. Now let’s plug some numbers into the equation:
9 – (10.5/2) + 16 = 19.75
Traejan’s arrows will deal more damage over time against any enemy with an AC of 19 or lower, so he’s actually good to go for power attacking the white dragon if the fight’s going to last a while, despite his odds of hitting being only 40%.
Remember that this equation’s math shows that you’ll be doing higher average damage over time even without advantage, but you’ll still want to exercise your best judgment when taking the probability of hitting into consideration.
Variance is still very present when rolling a d20, and not all fights will last long enough for the higher averages to show up. This sometimes means that doing less, but more consistent damage can be better – especially since some damage is better than none at all during a battle where time is a factor.
Additionally, this equation doesn’t actually take advantage or disadvantage into consideration – you’ll want to review the resources supplied by Desamir if you’re really motivated to dig into the nitty gritty math.
Finally, here are some good rules of thumb to follow if you aren’t sure of whether it’s safe to go for Sharpshooter’s extra damage:
- Don’t take on the risk of Sharpshooter’s -5 attack roll penalty if you are attacking with disadvantage
- You don’t need to know a target’s exact AC – knowing the lowest attack roll that has successfully hit an enemy is sufficient
- Try to keep your odds of a successful attack roll above 50% when power attacking with Sharpshooter
5E Classes That Should Take the Sharpshooter Feat
Class-wise, considering 95%+ of all ranger builds are for archers (we’ll call that the Robin Hood/Legolas Effect), they’re an obvious one for this feat. If you start as a variant human ranger, this should be the feat you take. If you’re playing a different race, Sharpshooter should often be taken in lieu of DEX during the first ability score improvement.
While rangers are the classic distance martial class, Sharpshooter’s effectiveness for any class comes down to what your main focus will be. If your character is focused on distance fighting, whether with darts, a longbow, nets, or poisonous blowguns, this feat is going to be integral to your success due to its ability to torpedo cover and efficiently fight at longer ranges.
Even crossbow expert builds grab Sharpshooter as part of the total package for creating a powerful ranged combatant who can strike fear into enemies from insane distances with a heavy crossbow’s d10 damage.
You can also get in close for massive damage with a hand crossbow capable of power attacking if you want the best of both melee and ranged fighting. Or you can really crank things up by multiclassing your fighter or ranger with rogue to create a long range sneak attack your enemies are not likely to forget.
When it comes to picking a feat Sharpshooter is always the first one that Rangers should add!
5th Ed Classes that should always take the Sharpshooter Feat:
- Any other class build focusing on ranged weapon attacks, especially with martial ranged weapons
5E Classes That Should Consider Taking the Sharpshooter Feat
There are a few niche builds that should also look at the Sharpshooter feat. Again, if the builds of these classes are specifically made for them to be ranged weapon specialists. then kick your build up to the first section that makes this a mandatory must have feat.
So what classes most commonly fall into this group outside of ranger?
Fighter is the first one. Archery based fighters can be terrifying, especially at high levels with the ability to attack four times in a single turn at level 20. Or EIGHT times in one turn if they Action Surge. That’s a lot of arrows from potentially 600 feet away.
Bard (College of Valor) offers another interesting build that can be made into a pretty capable archer. Not to the same level as the ranger or fighter, IMO, but it was a creative build that came out and does have some merit to it…though I prefer my bards casting spells to control the battlefield.
Rogues can use this feat, especially if they are used to using the ranged attacks of crossbows as opposed to getting up close and personal with their daggers. This isn’t nearly as common, but rogues do get an extra ability score improvement, so if you wanted to increase options for effective assassination, this could certainly help with that.
Especially for rogues who are proficient with dangerous poisons at high levels. Or those who want the option of getting a lot of sneak attack damage in with the distant attacks of a light crossbow.
Battle Smith artificers, martial clerics, or rogues who are Crossbow Experts. A Crossbow Expert with a high Dexterity score and light armor can easily fight with a hand crossbow without losing much AC, get multiple attacks in during a round of combat, and always have a use for their bonus action.
The Battle Smith artificer can take this idea a step further, utilizing their Repeating Shot infusion to become a two-weapon combatant without enduring the hassles of being limited to a light weapon in their primary hand or losing their ability modifier’s damage during their off-hand attack.
Or really any one-handed weapon, since Battle Ready lets you use your Intelligence modifier in place of Strength or Dexterity for attack and damage rolls with magic weapons.
This is possible because Repeating Shot’s ability to magically produce ammunition within an empty crossbow when firing is the only way to ignore the Ammunition property of bows, an inconvenient bit of rules text that forces you to keep a hand free for reloading.
Fortunately, this affords a Battle Smith focused on two-weapon fighting access to an excellent damage boost through their bonus action when pairing a hand crossbow with a rapier while in melee, or a whip if you need some extra melee reach.
Add in some Help actions from their buddy the Steel Defender or the aid of a spell like Faerie Fire to gain advantage on attacks, and you’ll get a lot of opportunities to abuse Sharpshooter’s power attack feature for massive damage.
Just remember that attacking with an off-hand weapon and using Crossbow Expert’s extra attack both take a bonus action, so you can only do one of these actions each turn.
Note: There is a bit of debate surrounding the ambiguity of the Ammunition property’s need for a free hand in relation to Repeating Shot as described in the Player’s Handbook, but Jeremy Crawford’s view is that the Repeating Shot infusion works as I’ve described above, per his response during a Q&A session. This is as close to a canon ruling as is currently available.
An artificer can also set a bard, cleric, fighter, rogue, or even paladin in the party up with this build if they’re comfortable spending the infusion on a bit of teamwork! Frankly, a fighter or paladin with access to this amount of damage AND Sharpshooter while tanking is a terrifying prospect for a DM to stare down!
Battle Smiths can also simply use a second hand crossbow when two-weapon fighting (or outfitting a party member to do so) for a flexible ranged and close-quarters attack setup, but this would require the use of two infusions and attunements, which is a tremendous ask simply to abuse Sharpshooter’s extra damage.
While very strong in the right scenarios, with all the other available infusion options, I generally can’t recommend going this route – it’s just too narrow and costly in a lot of scenarios.
Besides, you’ll already have the additional benefit of being a competent light crossbow/heavy crossbow fighter when long range combat is your only option, which is a dangerous combination of power and flexibility to work with as a Sharpshooter, regardless of your class or the type(s) of crossbow you’re proficient with.
Artificers and clerics can take advantage of this to move around the battlefield as needed without forcing them to burn through a lot of spells right away, and rogues can do the same to hide, set up sneak attacks, and minimize damage from enemies. Very handy for campaigns that see multiple fights during a day while letting you contribute respectable damage!
All it’ll cost is access to your shield if you’re an artificer or cleric, but if you were looking for an alternative to Great Weapon Master with more flexible restrictions for power attacking, picking up Sharpshooter alongside Crossbow Expert and War Caster probably won’t faze you in the least.
5th Ed Classes that should consider taking the Sharpshooter Feat:
- Artificer (Battle Smith)
- Bard (College of Valor, and only if you’re intentionally building a “Bard Archer”)
- Cleric (Death, Tempest, Twilight, and War domains, as they receive martial weapon proficiency)
- Rogue (Hand or light crossbow commonly, unless multiclassing)
5E Classes That Should NEVER Take the Sharpshooter Feat
Any other class. This is a niche feat. It’s not there for the rogue who might occasionally take a long distance shot or the low-level wizard out of spells. They have other feats and ability score improvements that are far more important for optimizing these classes.
If you’re not building a ranged fighting character then you can (and probably should) ignore the Sharpshooter feat.
5th Ed classes that should never take the Sharpshooter Feat:
- Artificer (except for Battle Smith)
- Barbarian (though I suppose you could build a ranged barbarian but…why?)
- Bard (except for College of Valor)
- Cleric (melee, spellcasting, or tank-focused builds)
Final Feat Grade for 5E Sharpshooter
Sharpshooter Feat Grade: A
Is the 5E Sharpshooter Feat Worth It?
Sharpshooter is one of the strongest feats in all of 5E and is absolutely mandatory for any build that focuses on a longbow, shortbow, crossbow, firearms, or any other ranged attack. While most narrowly focused feats don’t get this high a grade, Sharpshooter is so freaking powerful that it would be foolish to grade it any lower.
The difference between a ranged combatant’s ability and effectiveness pre-Sharpshooter and post-Sharpshooter is such a night and day difference, not taking it simply makes your character worse.
You need the Sharpshooter feat. Period.
That said, if you’re not playing a ranged combat character, you shouldn’t worry about it. This feat is not for you, and there are plenty of others that will be far more effective and useful in 5E DnD.
Sharpshooter 5E (It’s Great Weapon Master for Archers) Feat FAQ
What book is the DnD Sharpshooter 5E feat in?
The Sharpshooter feat for 5E is located in the original Player’s Handbook, on page 170.
Is the Sharpshooter feat OP?
In general, the consensus among DMs and players is that the 5E Sharpshooter feat is very powerful, but not OP. While it can situationally give a player a huge advantage, it’s a necessity for ranged combat classes. There are also ways clever DMs can mitigate some of the benefits when needed, preventing it from being fully overpowered.
Does Sharpshooter double on a crit?
A critical hit doubles the damage dice you roll. Since Sharpshooter 5E only adds a fixed amount of damage (10) when power attacking, it is unaffected by critical hits, and it does not affect critical hits in any way either.
Does Sharpshooter apply to Extra Attack?
Absolutely. Any attack made using a class’s Extra Attack feature will receive Sharpshooter’s passive benefits and can take on the -5 attack roll penalty to add +10 damage to a successful hit.
Should you always use Sharpshooter for extra damage?
No. While you can almost always use it against opponents with low AC, you’ll miss often enough against opponents with high AC that it isn’t always worth the risk. You can check the math and see whether you should power attack earlier in this article.
Other DnD Articles You Might Enjoy
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- DnD Mage Armor 5E Spell Guide
- DnD Great Weapon Master 5E Feat Guide
- Lucky 5E
- Most OP Feats in 5E D&D
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Proud to embrace the locally created moniker of “Corrupt Overlord” from one of the all time great Lords of Waterdeep runs, Shane is one member of the Assorted Meeples crew and will be hard at work creating awesome content for the website. He is a long-time player of board games, one time semi-professional poker player, and tends to run to the quirky or RPG side of things when it comes to playing video games. He loves tabletop roleplaying systems like Dungeons & Dragons, Pathfinder, Werewolf, Fate, and others, and not only has been a player but has run games as DM for years. You can find his other work in publications like Level Skip or Hobby Lark.