I still think the rifter is missing something. Back in the day it was pretty spectacular at crushing the competition before the other frigates got brought up to snuff, so while you could say that it’s “balanced” now compared to the others, it feels anything but.
I honestly think it would do well as a dedicated ‘bruiser’ frigate. The Merlin, Incursus, and Punisher all fit extremely well into that category and perform well because their advantages and disadvantages don’t step on each others toes; they’re just different enough to not outperform each other. Having a double damage bonus Rifter would be a solid pick since it would have strong dps, but better range control and damage selection than a blaster boat. Damage and the ability to choose engagements or adapt to them is what made the original Rifter great, so giving it a powerful damage increase would offset the loss in range, since it’s easy enough to scramkite with barrage ammo as it is.
I mean, look at the Rupture and Hurricane. They’ve more or less been really solid ships in their respective weight classes for most of their history because their huge damage modifiers and the natural flexibility of projectiles lets them get the most out of the weapon system. It wouldn’t have quite the dps of a merlin, but high enough with the damage selection to make it a serious threat if the pilot’s smart enough to pick the right ammo at the outset, and with the low sig and speed, a strong contender against anything you prepare for, which is what i think is at the core of competent PvP in this game.
TLDR; the same things that make the Rupture and Hurricane good in their weight class should make the Rifter stand out.