These tips are meant primarily for PvP, but can be used for PvE as well.
The key component to mastering gunnery is understanding tracking and range and how they interrelate. This is best expressed by angular velocity. If you don't have angular velocity on your overview, and you're a gunner, then you really should. You can learn how in this guide.
Angular velocity has 3 components:
1) How fast you're going
generally speaking, the faster your velocity, the higher your angular velocity will be. the exception to this is when you're flying directly to or away from your target. see #3
2) Your distance from your target
At a given speed, the closer you are to your target you're orbiting, the higher your angular velocity will be. The closer you are, the smaller the circle of your orbit is, and so your angle to the target is changing more rapidly.
3) Your vector
The more perpendicular your course is to the target's, the higher your angular velocity will be. If you're flying directly at or away from your target, your angular velocity will be near 0.
Generally speaking, shorter range weapons hit harder than their longer range counterparts. Ie, autocannons hit harder than artillery, pulse lasers hit harder than beam lasers. The short range weapons also have better tracking, which means it's easier to hit your opponent when they have a higher angular velocity.
Just because you're closer to someone doesn't mean you're more vulnerable. This is where speed tanking comes in. If you're close to someone and orbitting fast, they won't be able to hit you if their tracking speed is less than your angular velocity. Whereas, at long range, your angular velocity is less, so it's actually EASIER for them to hit you, as long as you're within their optimal range.
To figure your best range, you want to look at the falloff for your weapon. While you're in space with your ship, turn on any modules you have that affect your range that you'll use in combat (such as targeting computers). Load the ammunition you're going to be using. Next, right click on the icon for the gun on your HUD and select "show info". Now look up your falloff. Divide this number by 3, and add that number (1/3 your falloff) to your optimal range. That is the range you want to orbit at. Now, set your orbit by right-clicking on the orbit button on your overview and selecting "set default". You may need to play with this a bit. I tend to set mine a couple hundred meters shy of the actual figure because orbiting isn't exact, and you don't want to overshoot. Pay attention to the distance to your target and adjust as necessary. You can always set this up and practice by orbiting a jetcan or other stationary object. Ultimately, you'll want to know your optimal range for your different ammos or crystals if you're going to be changing ammo during combat (which if you're using lasers, you definitely should be).
You can find the ranges for the different warp scrams and webs by right-clicking on the modules and selecting "show info". If you don't have any to look at, you can always look them up on the market. You may want to stay out of range of warp scrams and disruptors if you want to be able to get away. But then they're out of range of your warp scram or disruptor as well, unless they have a scram and you have a disruptor (disruptors have longer range).
This is a situation where it pays to have more than one type of ammo/crystal. Load different ammos or crystals in a non-combat situation and check your ranges as I explained above. Find one that will put you outside warp disruptor range and carry that as a backup.
Gunnery Skills: (Amarr frigate example)
- Controlled Bursts
- Motion Prediction
- Rapid Firing
- Small Beam Laser Specialization
- Small Energy Turret
- Small Pulse Laser Specialization
- Surgical Strike
- Trajectory Analysis
- Weapon Upgrades
- Long Range Targeting
- Signature Analysis