What Guitar Does Kirk Hammett Use?

What Guitar Does Kirk Hammett Use

Few artists have had the luck to get a brand to dedicate a whole line of guitars to them, and Kirk Hammett of Metallica is one of the lucky few. His guitars are almost as well-known as the guitarist himself. So, what kinds of guitars does Kirk like to play?

Kirk Hammett mostly plays ESP KH-2 guitars. They’re all Superstrats equipped with EMG pickups and Floyd Rose bridges. He also plays “Greeny,” a 1959 Gibson Les Paul Standard whose previous owners were Peter Green and Gary Moore. Kirk sometimes plays ESP Eclipse and Flying V shape guitars as well.

The rest of this article will review some of Kirk Hammett’s most famous guitars he used throughout his career. I’ll also review some important facts about the guitarist and his gear so that you can better emulate his tone.

Kirk Hammett: Some Background Information

Kirk Hammett is the lead guitarist of the thrash metal band Metallica. He was born in San Francisco on November 18, 1962, and joined Metallica in 1983 after Dave Mustaine got kicked out of the band. Before Metallica, Kirk was in a band called Exodus, which is still active.

Kirk has loved horror movies ever since he was a kid. His older brother had horror movie figures that Kirk liked, and his brother got him into rock music. Jimi Hendrix and Led Zeppelin were big in the 70s, and this influence can be seen to this day as he’s often seen performing similar energetic moves to Hendrix on stage. 

Kirk bought his first guitar, a Stratocaster copy, at the age of 15. He later switched to a Gibson Flying V, and you can see Kirk using these two types of guitars to this day.

Aside from James Hetfield and Lars Ulrich, Kirk Hammett has been the longest Metallica band member. Although Kirk hasn’t written nearly as many songs as James and Lars, he writes all of his guitar solos. He has, however, written and co-written some of the most memorable Metallica songs, such as “Creeping Death,” “Enter Sandman,” and “Enter Sandman.” 

List of Guitars that Kirk Hammett Plays

Before we get into the list, I’ll preface this by saying that most of Kirk’s guitars have EMG pickups. Kirk has been using active humbucking EMG pickups for decades, and they’ve become a part of Metallica’s signature tone. The guitars on the list sound more or less the same, so it’s their look and feel that matter.

Kirk has used various EMG pickup models as they came out over the years. Most of his newer guitars use his signature EMG KH-BB set.

As for guitar shapes, Kirk mostly uses the following 3 styles (or similar iterations):

  • Superstrat
  • Les Paul
  • Flying V

1. ESP KH-2 “The Mummy”

The ESP KH-2 “The Mummy” is a superstrat equipped with a Floyd Rose and EMG pickups. It has a yellow and red sunburst finish with graphics from the movie, portraying the actor Boris Karloff. 

He has been using The Mummy extensively since 1992, and it’s been one of his main tour guitars since its inception. And for a good reason — this guitar looks and sounds absolutely phenomenal.

This guitar is one of Kirk’s all-time favorites. We can’t tell for sure how many of them he owns, but there are 2 different versions. One has hieroglyphics for inlays, and the other has the Eye of Horus. Kirk said he rarely plays the one with hieroglyphics live because it’s hard to tell where he is on the neck.

As indicated previously, Kirk loves horror movies, which is why he worked with ESP to create this guitar. He’s been playing it for decades.

Since Kirk owns exclusive rights to the graphics, it’s impossible to buy a brand-new one. The ones you can find listed for sale are copycats.

The Mummy features all-black hardware, a reverse headstock, a Floyd Rose bridge and locking nut, and Gotoh tuners. The guitar’s distinct tone is powered by the EMG 81 bridge pickup and the EMG 60 neck pickup. They’re responsible for Kirk’s bright and loud solos and leads. Kirk mostly uses the EMG 81 pickup on this guitar, which has a distinct active humbucker sound perfect for Metallica’s heavy yet melodic style. It almost has a bluesy sound.

What’s interesting about The Mummy is that the pickup covers have been completely painted over. Because of that, the finish has worn off on some parts.

You can see Kirk using The Mummy in the following YouTube video, which combines footage from their concert in Canada in 2012 and the motion picture Metallica Through The Never: 

It was also one of the main guitars on the albums “Load” and “Reload.” 

PickupsEMG 81 (bridge) & EMG 60 (neck)
BridgeFloyd Rose Original
Scale25.5″ (647 mm)
Known forOne of Kirk’s favorite guitars, live tours from the 90s to today, albums “Load,” “Reload”

2. ESP MM-270 “Zorlac”

Although the Zorlac hasn’t been used nearly as much as The Mummy in live shows, it’s the older of the two. This glossy black custom ESP MM-270 was named after the Pushead Zorlac zombie sticker that Kirk put behind the bridge. Wonder why he did that?

Other than that, the Zorlac features vertical skull & bones inlays that give this otherwise low-key guitar a cool and unique aesthetic.

Kirk started using ESP guitars in 1986, and it’s safe to say that it’s his all-time favorite brand. The Zorlac is one of Kirk’s first ESP guitars, and it’s one of the most historically significant, too. It was used at the “Monsters of Rock” festival. Speaking of ESP guitars, I have ranked it in the top 5 of my 15 favorite guitar brands.

It’s one of the main guitars used on the “…And Justice for All” album, and it was likely used on some “Garage Inc.” cover songs. The Zorlac was one of Kirk’s main touring guitars in the 80s, and early 90s. You can now see Kirk’s Zorlac in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio.

The Zorlac’s neck-thru-body design and skull inlays were the basis for the ESP MM-290 “Caution Hot” (which we will talk about later).

The Zorlac features a Floyd Rose Original and the ESP 81 and ESP 60 pickups, just like The Mummy. Although the two guitars sound very similar, the Zorlac’s neck-thru-body design gives it more sustain and resonance. Since there’s no gap between the neck and body, the whole body vibrates when played. The Zorlac has an audibly fuller, thicker sound compared to bolt-ons. 

You can see the Zorlac in action in the following video:

PickupsEMG 81 (bridge) & EMG 60 (neck)
BridgeFloyd Rose Original
Scale25.5″ (647 mm)
Known forOne of Kirk’s first ESP guitars, used on “…And Justice for All” and live in the late 80s and early 90s

3. Gibson Les Paul Standard 1959 “Greeny”

Greeny is one of the most famous and expensive guitars in the world right now. This Gibson Les Paul Standard has been around since 1959, and before Kirk bought Greeny, it was used by Peter Green and later Gary Moore. 

Greeny was named after Peter Green, who used it in the studio and on tours with Fleetwood Mac and John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers. You can hear Greeny’s bluesy sound on dozens of their songs, such as “Black Magic Woman”:

Gary Moore also used Greeny extensively throughout his whole career, both on solo projects and tours as well as with other bands.

You have likely heard Greeny dozens of times on various songs without even realizing it.

Kirk bought Greeny in 2014 at an auction for less than $2 million. Regardless of the price, he’s not afraid to use Greeny on stage. This is what he had to say about Greeny in an interview with Guitar World:

“She deserves to be played and she has such a beautiful sound and tone that people want to hear her. I’m constantly amazed by the amazing mojo of that guitar.”

As far as specs go, Greeny is quite unique. It has factory PAF pickups, and the neck pickup features a factory error, as the alnico magnets were flipped. Moreover, Green accidentally installed the neck pickup backward, causing it to be out of phase. In layman’s terms, this means that the humbucker pickups are wound in opposite directions and cancel each other out, causing a loss of lower frequencies. It almost has a nasal quality to it.

Many guitarists have since tried to emulate this sound by reversing their pickups.

Another fun fact about Greeny is that the headstock was broken twice. Moore reportedly left it in his car trunk once, causing the headstock to break off. It was then repaired by a professional luthier. Hammett believes it has positively affected Greeny’s tone, saying that Les Pauls sound better after their headstock gets broken.

Because of its unique tone, historical value, and lack of a tremolo system, Kirk only uses it occasionally. It was used on Metallica’s 10th album, “Hardwired… to Self-Destruct.” If you go to a Metallica concert today, there’s a small chance that you’ll get to see and hear Greeny. In the meantime, check out this performance by Mick Fleetwood and Kirk on Greeny:

ShapeLes Paul
PickupsPAF Pickups
Scale24.75″ (628 mm)
Known forUsed by Peter Green and Gary Moore, unique out-of-phase tone, modern Metallica albums and shows

4. ESP MM-290 “Caution Hot”

The ESP MM-290 is the successor to the MM-270. Just like Kirk modified his MM-270 with a Zorlac sticker, the MM-290 has a “Caution Hot” sticker in the bottom left corner. It also has another sticker in the top right that says “Kirk’s Guitar.” Note that the stickers were applied around 1994, and Kirk used this guitar unmodified before that. 

It was acquired around 1991, so it was featured extensively during the age of Metallica’s self-titled “Metallica” album, which fans often refer to as “The Black Album.” You can see Kirk playing the MM-290 (before the stickers) at Milton Keynes in 1993 in the following video:

Here’s another clip in which Kirk uses the MM-290 from the famous Monsters of Rock festival in Moscow, 1991:

The MM-290 Caution Hot is almost identical to the MM-270 Zorlac, the only major difference being that the skull and bones inlays on this guitar are horizontal. It features a neck-thru-body design and has the same EMG pickup configuration and Floyd Rose bridge. It’s the perfect guitar for metal, allowing you to play both heavy riffs or creamy licks with the flick of a switch.

Just like the MM-270 was the basis for Caution Hot, this guitar inspired the modern ESP KH-2 guitar as well as the more budget-friendly ESP LTD KH-602. This means that you can own a faithful recreation of the Caution Hot if you’re ready to shell out a couple of grand. Or spring for the ESP KH-2 Vintage that has been reliced to look exactly like the Caution Hot.

Kirk still plays the Caution Hot guitar today, but not often. Its historical significance is unprecedented, so he usually plays his ESP KH-2 guitars instead, as they look and sound almost identical.

If you want to see the Caution Hot in its full glory, stickers and all, check out the Cunning Stunts concert here:

PickupsEMG 81 (bridge) & EMG 60 (neck)
BridgeFloyd Rose Original
Scale25.5″ (647 mm)
Known forUsed during “The Black Album” era on albums and tours

5. ESP KH-3 Custom Eclipse “Spider 13”

The ESP KH-3 is another ESP guitar that features the Eclipse body style, which is very similar to a Gibson Les Paul. Kirk Hammett’s KH-3 sees the return of Pushead’s art as it features a large spider sticker. The number 13 was later added next to the spider, which is how the guitar got its name. It also has really cool spider inlays.

Kirk started using the Spider 13 all the way back in 1991. He used the guitar extensively in the 90s during the Black Album era, even bringing it to the now-infamous Monsters of Rock concert in Moscow. Attended by about 1.6 million people, this was and still is one of the biggest concerts ever. The following video is one of the most watched live performance videos online (skip to 3:20 for the solo):

What makes the ESP KH-3 Eclipse completely different than a typical Les Paul is that it has a Floyd Rose bridge. This means that Hammett didn’t have to compromise and lose his tremolo, allowing him to reach glass-shattering bends. 

Like all of Kirk’s guitars, it’s equipped with EMG pickups, but this time it has the EMG 81 in both the bridge and neck position.

The KH-3 has remained dormant in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame until recently. ESP and Hammett wanted to revive the KH-3, so they released it under the LTD brand in 2021 for its 30th anniversary. There are some important differences between the ESP and LTD model. Notably, it’s equipped with Kirk’s custom EMG Bone Breaker pickups and has a Floyd Rose 1000 instead of an Original. It’s also missing the sticker 13. 

Sticker 13 or not, the LTD KH-3 Spider is a great guitar for the price.

ShapeEclipse (Les Paul style)
PickupsEMG 81 in both positions
BridgeFloyd Rose 
Scale24.75″ (628 mm)
Known for“The Black Album,” “Load,” “Reload,” live performances

6. Jackson Randy Rhoads RR1T

The 1985 Jackson Randy Rhoads RR1T is one of Kirk’s oldest guitars, but he still loves and uses it to this day. Whenever it’s time to play oldie stuff from “Kill ‘Em All,” he takes out this guitar. Flying V guitars were big among heavy metal guitarists in the 80s, so it’s no wonder that Kirk picked this one up for himself.

The glossy black V-shaped guitar looks impressive on stage, and its Tune-O-Matic bridge with strings that go through the body gives the guitar excellent sustain and a vibrant tone.

It features Kirk’s classic EMG 81 (bridge)/EMG 60 (neck) pickup configuration, making it perfect for those older, chug-heavy Metallica riffs. But because this guitar only has 22 frets and lacks a tremolo, Kirk can’t play some of his more recent solos.

Check out the Randy Rhoads in action during one of the best Seek & Destroy performances:

Also, the Randy Rhoads was featured alongside the ESP KH-3 Spider 13 in the Sad But True music video:

ShapeRandy Rhoads (Flying V style)
PickupsEMG 81 (bridge) & EMG 60 (neck)
BridgeTune-O-Matic with through-body strings
Scale25.5″ (647 mm)
Known forEarly Metallica music, “Kill ‘Em All,” “Sad But True” music video

7. ESP KH-2 “Ouija”

The 1993 KH-2 Ouija was initially meant to be a one-off for Kirk. But due to high demand, ESP started producing Ouija guitars in 2010 after arranging licensing agreements with Hasbro, who owns the Ouija board game and brand. Rumor online has it that there was a limited run of Ouija guitars made in the 90s, too.

The original Ouija guitar from 1993 was auctioned off in 2021. Kirk wrote with a marker what the guitar was used for on the back. Famously, the front features not one but two typos. It says “Fued” instead of “Fuld” and “baard” instead of “board.” 

One of the first shows Kirk used the Ouija on was Woodstock 1994. Check it out here:

ESP now makes the Ouija guitar in quite a few finishes, such as:

  • Sparkling purple
  • Sparkling red
  • White
  • Black
  • Quilted maple

The modern Ouija guitars feature Kirk’s EMG Bone Breaker pickups, but the original has EMG 81s instead. Another important difference is that the original had inverted crescent and star inlays, whereas the modern guitars have the stars oriented toward the headstock.

Although it’s safe to assume that Kirk has dozens of these Ouija guitars lying around, he used the original as recently as the Moth Into Flame music video:

PickupsEMG 81 in both positions
BridgeFloyd Rose Original
Scale25.5″ (647 mm)
Known forThe “Black Album,” “S&M,” “Load,” “Reload,” “Garage,” live shows in the mid and late 90s and 2000s

8. ESP KH-2 “White Zombie”

Similar to “The Mummy,” the “White Zombie” has graphics from the 1932 movie of the same name. It features the actor Bela Lugosi with some accompanying art, and it has spider inlays with a bat on the 12th fret.

The “White Zombie” is a much newer guitar, though, as it was released in 2012. It’s very similar to the ESP LTD KH-WZ, which you can still buy today.

But there are some important differences between the two. The headstock livery is a bit different as the guitar was built by ESP rather than their budget brand LTD, so it has its respective logo. And the pickup covers on Kirk’s guitar have been painted over. LTD has likely saved on some costs by skipping that. 

I couldn’t find what Floyd Rose model Kirk’s guitar has, but it’s likely an Original. The ESP model has a slightly cheaper FR 1000. Both use EMG Bone Breaker pickups that give this guitar the signature Kirk Hammett sound.

You can catch a glimpse of Kirk Hammett using the White Zombie in action during “My Friend of Misery” in Melbourne in 2013:

PickupsEMG Bone Breaker
BridgeFloyd Rose Original
Scale25.5″ (647 mm)
Known forUsed extensively on stage since 2012, part of the horror movie poster collection

9. Gibson Flying V 1974/1975

Let’s briefly shift our focus from Kirk’s ESPs to his first-ever Gibson. After learning how to play on cheap Stratocaster copies, he’d finally saved up enough to buy a Gibson Flying V before joining Exodus and then Metallica. He bought it in 1979 but doesn’t know whether it’s a 74 or 75 model.

It’s a standard Gibson Flying V guitar with a white pickguard. Kirk later swapped the pickups out for EMGs. This guitar was used heavily on the first 4 Metallica albums, which are arguably some of their best.

Kirk still owns this guitar but hardly ever plays it. It’s worn down, and he probably doesn’t want to damage it any further. But it lived a happy, fruitful life!

You can see Kirk using the Gibson Flying V during the Kill ‘Em All Tour from 1983 here:

ShapeFlying V
PickupsEMG H (bridge) & EMG 81 (neck)
Scale24.75″ (629 mm)
Known for“Kill ‘Em All,” “Ride the Lightning,” “Master of Puppets,” “…And Justice for Alll,” early Metallica tours in the 80s


What Guitar Did Kirk Hammett Use on Master of Puppets?

Kirk Hammett used the Jackson Randy Rhoads, the Gibson Flying V, and a modified Fernandez Stratocaster to record the “Master of Puppets” album. The Fernandez Stratocaster was used to record the eponymous “Master of Puppets” track as it had a tremolo needed for the solo.

What Pickup Does Kirk Hammett Use?

Kirk Hammett uses the EMG KH-BB Bone Breaker pickups specifically designed to work well with Hetfield’s EMG Het set and Trujillo’s Rip Tide bass pickups. Before the EMG KH-BB set was released, Hammett used EMG 81 (bridge) and EMG 60 (neck) pickups.

What Guitar Did Kirk Hammett Use on One?

Kirk Hammett used the ESP 400 Series guitar to record the “One” music track and video. The guitar is based on the Fender Stratocaster. It doesn’t have a finish on the wood, and it has a white pickguard and pickups with a black Floyd Rose bridge and black tuners.

What Is Kirk Hammett’s Main Guitar?

Kirk Hammett’s main guitar is the ESP KH-2 model. He owns dozens of ESP KH-2s with different finishes and specifications. Before the KH-2, Kirk sed the ESP MM-290 “Caution Hot” as his main tour guitar.


Kirk used and owned dozens of different guitars throughout his career. His most valuable guitar is the Greeny because it has had 3 incredibly famous owners. But Kirk is best known for playing custom ESP guitars he created with the brand. 

His most comprehensive line is the KH-2 Superstrats which have all kinds of stunning designs ranging from glossy black bodies with skull and bones inlays to shiny Ouijas and vintage horror movie posters.

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