Ever since Overkill rebalanced the weapons in Payday 2, secondaries have overtaken the metagame as the primary weapons of choice. Pistols are ludicrously powerful and accurate, and most SMGs are just souped-up versions of the assault rifles rather than the other way around. This means that I often can’t find a real rationale to bring a traditional primary weapon when I can easily play the entire heist relying wholly on my Bronco revolver to kill anything that gets in my way. So my primary slot has almost always been filled with a utility weapon, and the weapon I’ve found that brings the most utility is the Plainsrider Bow with explosive arrows.
Explosives are very powerful in Payday 2. Stunning bulldozers, blasting Shields, disrupting tasers…they bring a reliable crowd-control effect whose worth cannot be overstated. To balance this, they come with a host of unique downsides; it’s rare that an explosive weapon can be resupplied with traditional ammo pickups, and many of them are capable of being blasted out of the sky by enemy gunfire.
But not the Plainsrider. Its arrow projectile is still treated like an arrow, meaning you can fire it directly down the barrel of a SWAT turret and it won’t prematurely detonate in your face. The timing and arc are something to get the hang of, but once you master it you can hit targets from short, medium, or long range with ease. Unlike most explosives, the Plainsrider also comes with plenty of reserve ammunition, and if it’s still not enough you can replenish your supply by spamming uncharged shots while under the effects of Swan Song aced.
But why is this loadout called Low Bow? Because it also makes use of the critical hit skill from the Fugitive tree. Low Blow grants a percentage chance to deal bonus damage every shot, and said chance increases the lower your concealment is. Which means it synergizes quite well with the max-concealment Plainsrider. There’s nothing quite like evaporating a tight bunch of cops with a single critical arrow.
My preferred build uses every possible Dodge skill to take advantage of the low concealment, every possible pistol skill except Pistol Messiah to give me the best secondary weapon possible, and Grinder for the health regen, making the most use of the area-of-effect abilities of the explosive bow. Here’s a sample build, though note that this requires at least Infamy II, with the Infamy point in Mastermind and Fugitive.
What secondary do I recommend? I usually stick to pistols, since I’m a career Mastermind who never wades into battle without fully-upgraded doctor bags and Inspire aced. The aforementioned Bronco is a horrifying beast of a hand cannon, but a spammier pistol like the Crosskill can roll for critical hits extremely frequently. The STRYK is usually my go-to as it’s the only pistol in the game that can toggle between semi- and fully-automatic fire.
One thing I must note is that the Plainsrider cannot be used during bleedout, so don’t waste skill points on Die Hard. This also causes a problem if you were hoping to grab Pistol Messiah but want a way to deal bleedout damage without triggering it. In that case I’d recommend the Light Crossbow from the Chivalry pack, but in return you have lowered concealment and can no longer regain ammo with the Swan Song trick. So it’s a tradeoff. But all in all I find this loadout really does its job covering all the avenues you might encounter in any given heist.