Combat guide: weapons, stealth, melee, and Dead Eye - Red Dead Redemption 2

Master the basics of Red Dead Redemption 2 with our essential guide to combat, weapons, Dead Eye, and more.

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As may be expected from a Rockstar Games release, Red Dead Redemption 2 gives players the chance to live out their Old West fantasies with a striking degree of realism. Naturally, a big part of that recipe boils down to flat-out violence, for which Rockstar has provided a number of weapons and general combat abilities. Coming to terms with how it all works will take a bit of practice, which is why we've rolled together this guide offering up some of the most fundamental lessons players will need to learn in order to master combat in Red Dead Redemption 2.


Combat, weapons, and more in Red Dead Redemption 2

Dropping into Rockstar's take on the Old West isn't what most would call simple. Red Dead Redemption 2 employs a number of system and mechanics aimed at both realism and general survival, which means players will have to make careful use of their weapons and ammunition, plus maintain and augment their guns in order to have any sort of fighting chance.

Weapons

Players are able to equip weapons, switch ammunition, or view weapon statistics by making use of the Weapon Wheel. Doing so is simple: just hold L1/LB to open the weapon wheel, use the right analog stick to select the desired weapon, then release L1/LB to equip it.

Red Dead Redemption 2 offers plenty of options for weapon customization.
Red Dead Redemption 2 offers plenty of options for weapon customization.

Revolvers

Revolvers in Red Dead Redemption 2 are six-chambered sidearms which offer high amounts of damage and increased accuracy when compared to pistols. The downside, of course, is that revolvers have slower rates of fire and take longer to reload.

Pistols

Referred to as "compact and modern," though that's speaking relatively, pistols are a great choice for players who like to paint rooms with lead. They're are not as powerful as revolvers, but they can hold more ammunition, plus they can be reloaded far more quickly.

Repeaters

Repeaters offer a higher rate of fire and considerably increased ammo capacity when compared to rifles, but the tradeoff is reduced accuracy at longer ranges and reduced damage per shot.

Rifles

An Old West classic weapon, rifles are designed for precise shooting across distances. They have tremendous accuracy, but are often slow and clunky to wield. Coupled with a scope, however, rifles are capable of inflicting incredible damage.

Shotguns

Shotguns are the weapon of choice for taking down groups, particularly when loaded with buckshot ammunition, which makes them fatal at close range and against multiple targets. Players looking to increase their damage against singular foes can always switch to Slug ammunition.

Bow and Arrows

Offering silent operation and considerable accuracy, bows in Red Dead Redemption 2 are the weapon of choice for stealth-oriented players.

Thrown Weapons

Like with the bow and arrow, thrown weapons can be used for stealthy takedowns. However, assuming a stealthy approach isn't desired, players can make a big show by throwing Fire Bottles or Dynamite at their enemies.

Melee weapons like knives are perfect for stealth takedowns.
Melee weapons like knives are perfect for stealth takedowns.

Melee Weapons

Not every situation in Red Dead Redemption 2 calls for the use of firearms. For the times when discretion is the better part of valor — yet mercy is still off the table — players can make use of a number of melee weapons or even old-fashioned fist fighting to get the job done.

Lasso

Not only can the lasso be used to stop animals in their tracks, it can also be used to capture human enemies. It's particularly effective during bounty hunts, especially for bounties like the Benedict Allbright bounty where the target must be returned alive and relatively unspoiled.

To lasso a target, equip the lasso through the weapon wheel, aim at the target with L2/LT and the right analog stick, then press R2/RT to sling the lasso in the enemy's direction.

Once the target has been lassoed, players can make their approach and press Circle/B to hogtie them. A hogtied enemy can then be picked up, carried around, and even placed on the back of the horse. Just be sure to hogtie them first — lassoed targets will attempt to break free if they aren't tied up.

Ammunition

Ammunition for all of the firearms in Red Dead Redemption 2 can be purchased from either Gunsmiths or General Stores. It can also be crafted, looted from dead enemies, or found in various locations throughout the world. Not all ammo is the same, however: certain types of ammunition have special properties that can open up huge combat opportunities.

For firearms, High Velocity cartridges offer an increase in range range and can penetrate through multiple enemies. Split Point cartridges offer enhanced accuracy and reduce the drain rate of Dead Eye. Finally, Express cartridges and specially crafted Explosive ammunition give players the chance to drastically increase a weapon's damage output.

On the flip side, Small Game arrows can be used by hunters to acquire better quality pelts when compared to normal ammunition. Alternatively, players can craft and use Poison Arrows to bring down big game. And, like with firearm ammunition, players can craft Fire or Dynamite arrows to really make a display of power.

Accessories

Upgrades for various pieces of equipment can be purchased from any Gunsmith store, and they allow the player to carry more ammunition and even slow the degradation of their weapons.

There's an option to bolster weapons as well: Reinforced variations of accessories that will unlock further upgrades can be purchased through the Trapper store. Just note that crafting accessories at the Trapper will require both money and crafting materials gathered through activities like hunting.

Condition

A weapon's condition can and will deteriorate based on both usage and environmental factors. Keeping it in tip-top shape involves persistence and constant maintenance. Letting any weapons get dirty or rusty will eventually result in lower damage output, slower cocking times, and lengtheir reloads.

Fortunately, maintenance is easy: select the weapon to be maintained from the Weapon Wheel, then press R3/RS to inspect and clean it. Cleaning guns requires Gun Oil, which can be purchased from any Gunsmith store.

Familiarity

If players use the same weapon for long enough, eventually their skill with it will increase. This weapon Familiarity level is able to influence and improve general weapon handling, reduce weapon recoil, and even speed up actions like reloading.

Checking the Familiarity level with any given weapon is easy: just head over to the Weapons section of the in-game Compendium.

Sometimes it's best to fight with your gang members by your side.
Sometimes it's best to fight with your gang members by your side.

Fighting with Companions

As the old saying goes: there is always strength in numbers. This is most certainly true in Red Dead Redemption 2 — players who are having a hard time with particular missions, or know that a firefight is likely to get out of hand, would be advised to make sure they keep their fellow gang members by their sides.

Of course, one of the greatest companions in Red Dead Redemption 2 is the player's horse. However, the horse isn't necessarily ready for all-out combat: some horses will become agitated, either by the player themselves or by their penchant for employing loud firearms. To keep horses calm, try using silent weapons like the bow. Eventually, the horse will begin to bond with its rider, and its courage will gradually rise, allowing the player to use firearms without causing any undue agitation.

Gunsmiths

Gunsmith stores can be found in all of the major towns in Red Dead Redemption 2, with each store having a unique selection of items available for purchase. Players can browse the store's catalogue in order to buy weapons, ammunition, and accessories, or they can simply have a look at the store's shelves to see what's available for sale.

Players can also customize their weapons at the Gunsmith store. Core components can be upgraded to increase general statistics; new materials can be used to customize weapons, as can engravings and carvings; or, players can use the repair option to quickly bring their weapons back to perfect working condition.

Dead Eye

Dead Eye is a special combat ability that you be deployed by pressing R3/RS while aiming a gun or bow. In Dead Eye mode, time will pass more slowly and the hero will take less damage, giving a huge leg up in the heat of battle.

While Dead Eye is active, players can target multiple enemies in a series by moving the aiming reticle and pressing R1/RB to mark individual targets. Once that's done, simply press R2/RT to fire at all targets in the order in which they were placed.

Players can double check their Dead Eye Core, along with general Health and Stamina, with the HUD display featured near the radar at the bottom left of the screen. Note that Dead Eye capacity will drain while the ability is active, and once deactivated will regenerate over time. In addition, the Dead Eye bar will refill slightly with each enemy killed.

There are a few extra tips for making the most out of Dead Eye: using Chewing Tobacco will make Dead Eye drain slower than usual, which is useful in particularly longer firefights, and players can permanently increase the capacity of the Dead Eye bar by gaining experience through completing actions such as hunting, crafting, and finding collectibles. Finally, exposure to extreme heat or cold will negatively affect the ability to regenerate Dead Eye. As a last resort, players can also restore the Dead Eye meter by using cheat codes.

There are a few offensive options for players not keen on stealth.
There are a few offensive options for players not keen on stealth.

Stealth

Stealth in Red Dead Redemption 2 works as may be expected: players can simply press L3/LS in order to crouch, which allows them to avoid enemies' lines of sights and move more quietly in general. When crouched, players can sneak up on enemies from behind and press Circle/B to knock them out while unarmed, or, if they have a knife equipped, perform a stealth kill.

Cover

The R1/RB button can be used to cling to a nearby wall, building, or other structure for cover. While in cover, use the right analog stick to look around and the left analog stick to break out from behind cover. Square/X can be used to move around corners or to transition to the the next available cover point.

Weapons Expert

Using certain weapons will eventually increase the player's rank in the Weapons Expert Challenge, allowing them to unlock special reinforced combat accessories that can then be purchased. Information regarding general Challenge completion can be found in the Progress - Challenges section of the Pause menu.

Players should also keep their eyes peeled for unique versions of various weapons. These special varieties could be found hidden somewhere in the world, dropped by certain enemies, or even given as a reward for completing certain activities.

Compendium

The Weapons section of the Compendium allows the player to keep track of all weapons they've encountered in the game, plus look over key statistics like kill counts and headshots.


With the information from our general combat guide in tow, Red Dead Redemption 2 players should have no trouble making the most out of their Old West adventure. The fun doesn't stop here, of course: heroes looking to master their craft would be wise to check out the multitude of strategies, tips, and how-to stories featured over on Shacknews' Red Dead Redemption 2 complete walkthrough and guide.

Guides Editor

Kevin Tucker is a core component of Shacknews' powerful guide development team. For questions, concerns, tips, or to share constructive criticism, he can be reached on Twitter @dukeofgnar or through e-mail at kevin.tucker@shacknews.com.