In the 3D Era games, players must have any sub-machine gun in hand in order to perform drive by shooting. While in a vehicle, the player may look left or right to view the target and take aim, then fire their weapon, discharging bullets to the target.
The aforementioned concept has remained the same between GTA III and Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories, but underwent several changes. From Grand Theft Auto: Vice City onwards, players are also allowed to shoot forward while on a motorbike or bicycle, which is usually far more effective than conventional drive-by shooting in cars due to the player being able to watch the road and shoot at a target at the same time; "drive-by" shooting on boats are made possible. Additionally, in Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories, the protagonist is able to shoot forward while driving the jetski. Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas and GTA Vice City Stories allow for non-player passengers of a car to perform drive-by shooting, shooting with pistols, shotguns, sub-machine guns or assault rifles; however, the effectiveness of this feature is dependent on how close the car is to targets.
The ability for the player to shoot as a passenger was first explored in GTA Vice City, during "Phnom Penh '86" (positioned on the side of a Maverick) and "Supply & Demand" (positioned on the back of a Squalo), when the player is able to free-aim, but use only weapons with first-person view (the M-60 and Ruger). In GTA San Andreas, free-aiming first person view is additionally utilized while the player is seated as a passenger in a motorbike and a car, during "Just Business" and "End of the Line." A few missions reused the method of first-person free-aim drive-by during "Reuniting the Families" and "The Da Nang Thang". In Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas The player as the driver can do full-aim drive-by´s only with cheat devices.
As Grand Theft Auto IV was developed, drive-by shooting mechanics were retooled to allow for more flexible aiming and improved accuracy. The player may aim their weapon freely while driving; the "look left" and "look right" commands were removed in favor of an analog stick-based/mouse-based camera. Also, drive-bys were extended to being possible out of helicopters and on boats with assault rifles, and out of any other vehicle.
While the choices of weapons for use in drive-by shooting is still limited, the player can now either use a sub-machine gun or pistol, and grenades or Molotov Cocktail can actually be dropped from vehicles, useful for blowing up pursuers. The Lost and Damned also introduced the ability to fire a Sawn-Off Shotgun while riding motorcycles. However, even with the ability to use a sawed-off shotgun, drive-bys on motorcycles are highly discouraged, as the player is fully exposed and vulnerable to gunfire.
Overall, the Micro Uzi in GTA IV and TLAD is the best weapon for drive-bys in cars with its incredible rate of fire, while the Gold SMG in The Ballad of Gay Tony is the best weapon available. The M4 carbine is most suited for passengers on aircraft and boats, but the accuracy of gunfire from a helicopter or on a boat is often abysmal due to difficulty in aiming (due to rapid movement of the vehicle) and a limited field of view.
In GTA Chinatown Wars, the player can use either a pistol, SMG, grenade, or a molotov cocktail to do a drive-by in all types of vehicles.
In Grand Theft Auto V, the driver or the passenger can now shoot forward without need of sticking the hand out the window of the car door. The game also zooms in slightly when preparing to shoot as the driver. If the player uses Franklin Clinton's special ability, the player can slow down time for needed precision. For added realism, passengers can occupy the bed of most pickups, and can shoot freely if armed in Grand Theft Auto Online. Unlike GTA IV, there are no weapon restrictions for passengers occupying pickup beds or the back of most vans. Also the ability to do drive-bys on motorcycles using the Sawn-Off Shotgun returns.
- In San Andreas, when you return your girlfriend back to her house after a date. The fist slot will appear in the HUD, temporarily disabling a drive-by at that moment. Simply exit the car, and return to fix this problem.
- In some vehicles without doors, such as the BF Injection, or roofs, such as the convertible Stallion, the player cannot be hit by oncoming bullets or burned by flame-based weapons. This doesn't work in the HD Era games.
- In GTA San Andreas, it's sometimes possible to perform a drive-by with pistols, shotguns, assault rifles, and the minigun. To do so, you will need to make sure you have a Micro-SMG or SMG in your inventory and that you have Katie or Barbara as a girlfriend. Cause CJ to get wasted or busted. After spawning at the hospital or police station, quickly find the nearest vehicle. Before entering it, select the weapon of your choice as long it's a pistol, shotgun, assault rifle or the minigun if it's in your inventory. Avoid selecting the Micro-SMG or SMG, as this may cause the trick not to work. Enter the vehicle and the weapon you had before entering should still be displaying in the HUD. Enter the Manual Drive-By shooting cheat and you will be able to perform a drive-by with your weapon. This will work until you exit the vehicle. This may take a few times to work.
- There is also another way to do this, to perform this, You must have run out ammo for the SMG. Enter the car with the weapon that you want, enable the drive-by cheat and then use level 1, 2 or 3 cheat, it will always work in car and motorcycle.
- If this cheat is enabled with unlimited ammunition cheat, the weapon may have some unique properties and usually the weapon will become more as overpowered weapon; for example the Pump Action Shotgun, if the unlimited ammo cheat is enabled while perform drive by, the Pump Action Shotgun will act more as Combat Shotgun but with higher damage. And with Desert Eagle, the rate of fire will increase, both weapons allow you destroy a car within 5 seconds.
- In The Ballad of Gay Tony, there is a glitch that can let you do a drive-by while using the Assault SMG. This glitch can be performed by having a drive-by usable SMG selected (Like the Uzi), and then using the "Advanced Weapons" cheat (note that when the glitch is performed, the weapon's fire rate will be noticeably slowed and Luis' model will be quite deformed while firing the weapon).
- Drive-bys cannot be done in Bumper view in GTA IV and GTA V; using it before a drive-by will result in the camera staying in a third-person view until the shooting is over.