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Red Dead Redemption 2 guide: Weapons, gunsmiths and ammunition

What you need to know about dealing with weapons in Red Dead Redemption 2

Red Dead Redemption 2 - dual-wielding revolvers Rockstar Games

Red Dead Redemption 2 has a lot of different weapons (over 50), with multiple types of ammunition for each one. Arthur can only carry a few guns at a time and store a bunch more on in his mobile horse arsenal.

With so many guns, ammo options and customization, it’s hard to know if what you’re using is right. Spoiler: There’s no right answer — you just have to find what works for you. But with so many options, figuring that out takes some work. Here’s what you need to know about dealing with weapons in Red Dead Redemption 2.

Getting to know your weapons

Broadly speaking (very broadly), there are two types of weapons in Red Dead Redemption 2: sidearms and longarms (we’re skipping your knife and your throwable weapons). Things like revolvers are sidearms, while rifles such as carbine repeaters are longarms — you can think of them as one-handed versus two-handed weapons. Every weapon you have will fall into these two categories — even a bow, which is a longarm.

You can carry one sidearm and two longarms when you select your loadout from your saddlebags. (Eventually, you’ll pick up a second holster that allows you to equip a second sidearm, but you start with only one, and it doesn’t really change your approach to putting bullets into people.)

Red Dead Redemption 2 - cattleman revolver in weapon wheel
Your starting revolver’s stats.
Rockstar Games via Polygon

When you look at a weapon in your L1/LB wheel (or in a gunsmith’s catalog), you’ll be able to see that weapon’s stats. The six stats you see here are pretty much what you’d expect. Damage is how much it hurts someone when you shoot them; range is how far away someone can get before you can’t shoot them anymore; fire rate is how often you can shoot someone; reload is how long you have to wait between shooting someones; and accuracy is how often you hit the someone you’re aiming at. The last stat, condition, is a little more complicated, so it gets its own section.

Maintaining your weapons

As you use your guns, they’ll start to wear down and get dirty. It takes a little while — you’re probably not going to notice it every day — but when this happens, the weapon’s stats will start to drop. You’ll be able to see this by checking the condition stat — it’ll drop dramatically — and looking for red caps on the ends of the other stats.

Red Dead Redemption 2 - carbine repeater needs cleaning
Dirty weapons affect all stats.
Rockstar Games via Polygon

If the weapon is dirty, click on the right thumbstick while you’ve got the weapon highlighted in your L1/LB wheel. This will take you to a closer examination and cleaning screen. You’ll have several options to ogle your weapon from various angles, but the one you’ll be most concerned with is the clean option. You’ll need gun oil to do this, which you can find by looting everything or buying it in shops.

Favorite weapons

As you use a weapon more, its favorite weapon ranking will increase. You can track this by going into your menu and choosing Progress > Compendium > Weapons, then selecting the weapon. There are no stats for you to check here, but weapons that you use a lot — your favorites, you might say — will eventually give you a buff to accuracy, range or damage.

Gunsmiths

Red Dead Redemption 2 - the gunsmith in Valentine
I’d like to buy your deadliest gun, please.
Rockstar Games via Polygon

Several towns will have a gunsmith you can visit. They offer pretty much what you expect — guns and ammo to buy, along with upgrades for your current guns.

Browse catalog

The catalog in a gun shop works like the catalog in a general store. You can browse through it to pick out what you want. Along the bottoms of the pages, you can see the guns’ stats. You have choices in the catalog from every category of firearm, plus ammo and gun-related accessories, like belts and gun oil.

Customize

Red Dead Redemption 2 - changing components for the cattleman revolver
Sadly, loudener is not an option.
Rockstar Games via Polygon

Customizing lets you make each weapon your own. You can swap out parts of your gun for better (or just prettier) versions. Some of the customizations are purely cosmetic (like engravings), while others (like rifled barrels) will affect the weapon’s stats. You can see the changes you’re making reflected in the stats at the bottom left.

Picking up weapons (and re-equipping your old ones)

During firefights (or anytime you’re wandering past fresh corpses), you might notice a prompt to press L1/LB to swap out a weapon. This drops one of the weapons you have equipped in exchange for the weapon on the ground. This is especially useful if you didn’t choose the right loadout when you got off your horse.

After the fighting’s over, though, you’re probably going to want your stuff back. Happily, your horse’s saddlebags will have all of the weapons you own, at all times — even if you dropped something recently.

Different types of ammo

Each of your weapons has multiple kinds of ammo you can load into it. You can see this in your weapon wheel below the weapon you have selected — that line of icons represents the other ammo types you have available. You cycle through them by pressing left and right on the D-pad (which leads to a bit of controller Twister with L1/LB held down, moving the right thumbstick and pressing D-pad buttons).

You can make your own special ammo at a campfire if you know the recipe, or you can buy it at a gunsmith shop. Just make sure you’re making or buying the ammo for the type of gun you have — revolvers don’t take the same ammo as pistols, etc.

Red Dead Redemption 2 - crafting small game arrows Rockstar Games via Polygon

The various kinds of ammo each have their own uses — split point ammo drains dead eye more slowly, while varmint cartridges and small game arrows don’t damage pelts. You won’t know the recipes to make every kind of ammo for a while, so periodically look through catalogues and your crafting menu to see what you have to work with. Match the ammo to what you’re doing, and your life will get a lot easier. Use a lot of dead eye? Load up on split ammo. Going hunting? Craft a few small game arrows.

Dead eye lets you ignore almost all of this

The bullet-time-like dead eye ability can drastically alter the way you play — if you use it. If you like all the aiming and shooting and moving between cover and reloading, all the details above will help you pick out the right guns for you. If you (like us) love the superhuman marksmanship and flashiness of dead eye and use it constantly, a lot of the above just won’t be an issue. If you’re taking the time to carefully place half a dozen headshots on a gang of enemies, your reload time and damage aren’t really going to come up.

That’s not to say you should use dead eye constantly, or that there’s a right way to use your guns. We just mean that, like in so much of this game, you have options — a lot of options — and the game is there to support your choice if you know where to look.