‘Red Dead Redemption 2’ Guns: Attributes, Upgrades, and Degradation

Jeremy Ray
Games Xbox
Games Xbox PlayStation

Red Dead Redemption 2 hosts a massive open world in which the expansive canyons you’ll ride through will feel small when you see them as a tiny section of the overall map. To compliment that scale of trail, there’s a suitably astronomical array of pistols, rifles, and shotguns for Arthur Morgan to master.

Hand-to-hand combat has been given an overhaul too, with grappling, reversals, and blocks, but it’s always going to be about the guns. Nothing says “Western” like rapid-firing a six-shooter from the hip, with all the glorious ricochet sounds of Spaghetti Westerns.

Arthur Morgan shoots a man in the head at close range in Red Dead Redemption 2.
It's possible to break from hand-to-hand combat and shoot them quickly.

Guns in Red Dead Redemption 2

We were happy to see that guns felt like they had appropriate kick in this game — especially after the comparatively weak recoil in Shadow of the Tomb Raider‘s gunplay. Red Dead Redemption 2 guns feel like they have impact.

Autoaim was a little strong for our liking, but it’s not forced on you. The default autoaim setting allowed us to aim and shoot without even seeing our target or confirming a hit first. Even with shrubs or branches blocking our vision, a quick press of L2 and then R2 would score a hit. Hunting was the same — that shot cursor would follow a leaping deer all the way up a hillside. You can either turn this off, or press the aim trigger down halfway for less handholding.

Taking control of a minigun in Red Dead Redemption 2.
The West is being tamed, which means more industry -- and bigger guns.

Guns are also very loud in Red Dead Redemption 2 — moreso than in other games.

For stealthy situations, you’ll want to use throwing knives or a bow & arrows. But it’s important to remember that even people out of sight will hear your gunfire. After shooting two rival gang members (in self defence, of course) several hundred metres outside a town, when we rode into town from the same direction, the townsfolk were able to put two and two together. They were appropriately wary.

Those who’ve played Max Payne 3 will rejoice that the cinematic killcam is back, though this time it’s inserted dynamically into firefights. Every now and then, one of your kills will be stylised with a close-up camera shot, slow motion, and some black & white, as your victim tumbles over clutching their bullet wound. We can’t wait to shoot someone on a balcony and have the killcam stylise them tumbling over the railing. A 200-hour playthrough would be worth it for that alone.

Walking into a saloon with a gun drawn and bandana mask in Red Dead Redemption 2.
Wearing your bandana is crucial for witnesses not identifying you.

Gun Attributes and Maintenance in RDR2

You’ll see guns rated on a scale of 0 to 4 on the following attributes:

  • Damage
  • Range
  • Fire rate
  • Reload
  • Accuracy
  • Condition

Most of those are self explanatory, and it looks like Red Dead Redemption 2 will let you do the heavy lifting in calculating things like damage per second (DPS), or time to kill (TTK). But it’s worth narrowing in on that last attribute: condition.

Your gun condition affects all its other attributes. If it gets dirty, rusty, or bent out of shape, you’ll notice it shooting slower, doing less damage, reloading slower, and not hitting its target. When you try to upgrade it, the shopkeep will likely say something like “hoo boy, this one needs a clean and some repairs!”

These repairs can be done at any gunsmith, but you can also make your own life easier by carrying around some gun oil. Apply it every once in a while to keep your shooter well maintained.

There are ways to go beyond the ceiling of your gun’s abilities, too. That’s when we get into the upgrades…

A metal pistol with golden engravings in Red Dead Redemption 2.
Metals, colours, engravings, and pieces of your gun are cosmetically customisable.

Gun Upgrades in RDR2

While visiting one gunsmith, we saw options to upgrade just about every part of our gun, as well as an extensive selection of rifles, pistols, and shotguns to choose from.

Many of these were cosmetic. You can zoom right in on different parts of the gun, such as the hammer, bolt, metal engravings, and far more. These can be fitted with different textures to suit your liking, and you can further select which colour you’d like. Feel like a metal plating with engravings for your rifle, and want it coloured silver? Easily done. Rather have a more antique look, or even intentionally rag-tag and busted? Also easy.

Arthur Morgan and gang mate in a firefight in Red Dead Redemption 2.
Gang mates are reliable, but will come and go according to events and decisions in your playthrough.

Then you have your upgrades that actually mean something. Anyone who’s played shooting games will be familiar with how these go — grips to help with recoil, scopes to help with accuracy, other bits and pieces to assist your reload speed and fire rate. We did notice that while these upgrades were expensive, the effects were very small. Your mileage may vary, and perhaps it’s different from gun to gun, but our Carbine Repeater enjoyed minuscule benefits from the attached scope.

We also saw the following gear upgrades available that applied to multiple guns:

  • Bandolier: Ammo capacity for longarm weapons is increased by 50%
  • Gunbolt: Base ammo for sidearms is increased by 50%
  • Holster: Slow degradation of all weapons by 20%

Cover and Firefights

While hopping from cover to cover wasn’t as smooth or fluid as, say, Gears of War, we didn’t have any major problems with it. Expect to exit cover, then sprint to your next cover, and enter. It’s a three-step process that could contextually be a one-step process, but our enemies were forgiving enough to not bullseye us while fumbling to stick our backs to a tree.

Speaking of trees, it’s kind of easy to take cover on the wrong side of one while you’re sprinting in from the side. To help you out, Arthur Morgan has a handy dive roll you can use to escape imminent danger (such as someone throwing TNT). It looks fantastic, and we’ll probably be using it at times when it’s not exactly necessary.

You’ll be able to rely on your gang buddies in these fights, too. If you’re sneaking around and there’s more than one enemy to take out, they’ll know what to do.

We didn’t get time to check out nearly enough of the rifles and other guns on offer, sadly. We spent most of our playthrough with the Carbine Repeater and using most of our money on upgrades. But there were quite a few in the first shop we browsed, and we’re expecting to find the odd special pistol or shotgun through questing and exploration. It’s all good signs so far and gunplay looks tight. We’ll be looking at the other aspects of the game, such as hunting and the Van der Linde Gang, in the coming days.

Jeremy Ray
Managing Editor at FANDOM. Decade-long games critic and esports aficionado. Started in competitive Counter-Strike, then moved into broadcast, online, print and interpretative pantomime. You merely adopted the lag. I was born in it.
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