The Gauss rifle is a coilgun, a type of projectile accelerator, which uses electromagnetic coils configured as a linear motor to accelerate ferromagnetic or conductive projectiles to extreme velocities. Though these weapons were historically suffering from a number of difficulties, focused on discharging the coils in sequence or providing enough power for the coils, these design issues were overcome by German scientists in the 21st century and entered limited service. This class of weapons is named in honor of the German mathematician Carl Friedrich Gauss, responsible for formulating the math underlying the magnetic acceleration principle of coilguns.
The YCS/186 is a unique variant of the Gauss rifle. It looks like a standard Gauss rifle, but with a sandy or rusted texture along the barrel and main body, and it sports black stripes on the wooden stock. It has four more coils around the barrel, possibly explaining the greater weight and damage, while remaining the same length. The lens of the scope is tinted with an unusual shade of red.
The YCS/186 uses four microfusion cells per shot, instead of the normal five of a standard Gauss rifle. It is slightly more accurate and has 20 more item HP than the standard variety. Its only drawback over the base model is a slightly increased weight, at 8 pounds instead of 7.
The YCS/186 can fire a total of about 495 times using standard cells from full condition before breaking.
Like the standard Gauss rifle, it boasts several advantages over the anti-materiel rifle. In addition to its increased damage output, it tends to cripple limbs on a direct hit, providing it does not kill the enemy immediately. When using max charge microfusion cells, this weapon can deal a devastating 210 base damage. With all related perks, this can be increased to 247.8 per shot.
Like the Gauss rifle, the magnification is 3.5x for the scope of this weapon.
Companions may pick up this weapon without the player character noticing. Check companion inventories if the weapon cannot be found after assaulting the mercenary camp.
The mercenaries may not be hostile when one approaches them. Killing them to loot the YCS/186 results in no gain or loss of Karma.
A single shot in Hardcore mode will use 0.4 pounds of ammunition, costing at a combined value of 12 caps per shot.
Even though the YCS/186 uses 4 microfusion cells per blast, it's only possible to get one drained microfusion cell from firing it (because of the fact that only one shot is fired, the same with all energy weapons that use more than 1 cell per shot).
It has the highest base damage of any non-explosive weapon in the game.
Behind the scenes
The YCS/186 is a reference to the now-defunct "Your Console Sucks" section of the The Something Awful Forums. Additionally, 186 was the forum ID number of YCS.
The Pip-Boy's displayed damage per second (DPS) for the gun doesn't account for the need to reload every shot, unlike other single shot weapons such as the missile launcher. This is due to the game mechanics not taking into consideration the weapon's use of more than 1 microfusion cell per shot. [verified]
Extremely rarely a projectile is fired, but no hit is detected although the projectile can clearly be seen to travel through the target. On the Xbox 360, this occurs primarily at long-range and most frequently against deathclaws.[verified]
In very rare circumstances the projectile will not fire at all, but still depletes the loaded ammunition. Possibly similar to the aforementioned bug. [verified]
An incorrect normal map texture is specified for this weapon when it is equipped by the player, resulting in highly irregular shading across the weapon. Additionally, the weapon uses lower-resolution textures than most other weapons found in the game. [verified]
The impact power of the gun is very high, resulting in the enemies being knocked through solid objects and into the terrain or through the game world (falling beneath it) making retrieval of their bodies and any goods impossible. Surprisingly, Meltdown does not exacerbate this problem, but somewhat remedies it by changing the trajectory of the corpse or causing the impact force of the shot to dissipate when the energy explosion occurs. [verified]
Sometimes if given to a companion (i.e. Arcade Gannon) it may disappear from their inventory and they will not have it equipped either. [verified]
The weapon may become stuck at maximum condition. Even using max charge ammunition won't reduce the weapon's condition. [verified]
The weapon may stay scoped in the center of the screen after scoping. [verified]
The Gauss rifle in Fallout: New Vegas is almost identical to the one found in Fallout 3, and thus suffers from similar bugs, including the one that affects its damage output when fired via V.A.T.S. When used in V.A.T.S., any hit will do exactly 95.244% of the maximum damage, regardless of enemy damage threshold, critical hits, or Sneak Attack Criticals. This means, that with an Energy Weaponsskill of 100, the Gauss rifle shot will do 114.29 points of damage with every V.A.T.S. shot. This is still lower than free aiming, and no bonuses are applied to head shots. The damage bug is related to the Gauss rifle projectile's "explosive" effect: the projectile is the only hitscan projectile that is also marked as explosive, which affects its V.A.T.S. damage calculations. [verified]
The displacer glove, which applies a similar visual effect on impact, is not affected by this bug, as it is not marked as explosive.
YCS/186 in the third person
Side by side comparison of YCS/186 and the standard Gauss rifle