RDR2's story mode, as well as Red Dead Online, both feature a variety of weapons divided into six different categories - melee, pistols and revolvers, repeaters, shotguns, rifles, and throwables.
Being so different from one another, all of the weapons in the game have their uses in specific situations, so there isn't one specific weapon type that's better than all the others. Within each category, however, there are some weapons that are markedly better than all of the others, so these are the weapons to acquire if you want to use only the absolute best.
Given the different nature of offline and online play and the different unlocking methods, the best revolver in the story mode is not necessarily the best possible in Red Dead Online, for example. As such, we will be covering the best offline and online weapons separately.
Red Dead Redemption 2 Story Mode Best Weapons
Interestingly enough, most of the best weapons to use in the Red Dead Redemption 2 story mode can be acquired fairly early on in the game, with the exception of the best melee weapon, which is only available from Chapter 5, and the best shotgun, which can only be purchased once a specific Chapter 4 mission has been completed.
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Melee weapons are among the least used weapons in Red Dead Redemption 2 as a whole, as they have terrible range for obvious reasons, and the game doesn't provide many situations where they are a better option than any other firearm or throwable weapon.
The best melee weapon in the story mode is the hatchet, which sports the highest damage of all melee weapons, 2.3 out of 4. Range is as bad as all the others, 1 out of 4, so the weapon can be used only in specific situations, and definitely not in big gunfights.
There are a few different cosmetic variations of the hatchet, but they all come with the same stats of the regular weapons, so use whichever you like best.
Revolvers and Pistols
Despite their average firepower, revolvers and pistols are among the most useful weapons in the story mode thanks to good fire rate and above average accuracy and reload time stats. Their low firepower becomes less of an issue once it becomes possible to dual-wield sidearms.
The best revolver in all of the story mode is, without a doubt, the Schofield Revolver. This weapon's damage is on the low side, only 1.8 of 4, but that still the best among revolvers. The weapon also boasts decent range, 2 out of 4, extremely high fire rate, 3.8 of 4, and decent accuracy, 2.8 out of 5, making it a versatile weapon that can be used in a lot of situations. Reload is the slowest among revolvers, only 2.6 out of 4, so keep an eye on your remaining rounds.
The Schofield Revolver is available early in the game. It can be purchased from any gunsmith after completing the "Blessed are the Meek?" mission in Chapter 2. It can also be obtained for free by robbing the doctor in Valentine.
The best pistol in Red Dead Redemption 2 is the Volcanic Pistol, mostly thanks to its high damage stat, which is the best among pistols, 2.2 of 4, and its ammo capacity of 8 bullets. The other stats are on the low side, 2 of 4 in range, 2 of 4 in fire rate, 2.4 of 4 in reload and 2.8 in accuracy, so the weapon is best used while dual wielding.
The Volcanic Pistol can be purchased from Chapter 2 onwards from the gunsmith in Valentine.
All repeaters are among the best weapons in Red Dead Redemption 2 story mode, as they come with good damage, range, and accuracy. The differences between them are minimal, but one of them manages to be the most versatile of them all.
The best repeater obtainable in the story mode is the Lancaster Repeater. The weapon is the lowest damaging repeater available, 2.2 of 4, but it boasts a very good fire rate, 2.4 of 4, range, 2.6 of 4, and accuracy, 3 of 4. Special ammo types, however, can increase its damage considerably, which helps in making it the best overall repeater.
The Lancaster Repeater can be purchased from any gunsmith after completing the "An American Pastoral" mission in Chapter 2.
Shotguns, alongside rifles, are the most damaging weapons around, but also the slowest when it comes to reloading times and fire rate. If you're fighting from mid-range, however, there's no better choice than a shotgun, as their huge spread and power can kill an enemy with a single shot.
The Semi-Auto Shotgun is the best shotgun available in story mode thanks to its range, which is, despite its 1.4 of 4 stat, the best out of all shotguns, and accuracy, 1.6 of 4. Damage, 2.2 of 4, is low compared to other shotguns, but the weapon fires quickly enough to compensate.
The Semi-Auto Shotgun is available from any gunsmith after completing the "A Fine Night of Debauchery" mission in Chapter 4.
Rifles are the best weapons to use when fighting from long-range, even more if they are equipped with a scope. Their bad fire-rate, however, makes them a poor choice in short-range confrontations.
There are two rifles that are the absolute best in Red Dead Redemption 2 story mode. The first one is the Bolt-Action Rifle, which comes not only with great damage, 2.8 of 4 with regular ammo, but also very high ammo capacity for the weapon category, 5 bullets. Reload is also high, 2.2 of 4, and so is fire rate, 1.6 of 4, compared to other rifles, making the weapon perfect when fighting multiple enemies.
The Bolt-Action Rifle is obtained after completing the "Preaching Forgiveness as He Went" mission in Chapter 3.
The other best rifle is the Rolling Block Rifle, which is one of the most damaging weapons of all the story mode - 3.4 of 4 with regular ammo. Range and accuracy are extremely high but with low fire rate, 1.2 of 4, and reload, 1.4 of 4, this rifle is best used against single enemies.
The Rolling Block Rifle can be purchased from any gunsmith after completing the "Pouring Forth Oil" mission in Chapter 2.
Throwable weapons in Red Dead Redemption 2 are extremely varied, but only two of them are the absolute best to use.
The first one is Dynamite, which can be planted on the ground or used as a thrown weapon. This weapon is extremely useful against groups of enemies, as it's not only damaging at 2.8 of 4, but it also has a wide area of effect.
Dynamite is available for purchase from any fence after completing the "Who the Hell is Leviticus Cornwall" mission in Chapter 1.
Tomahawks are slightly more versatile than Dynamite, as they can also be used at short range without any repercussions. The regular version is not bad at all, but the Improved Tomahawk is considerably better thanks to its high damage, 2.8 of 4, which is as high as the Dynamite damage. Unfortunately, tomahawks have a weird throwing arc, so you may need some practice before being able to use them perfectly in the heat of a fight.
Improved Tomahawks can only be obtained through crafting. You need a regular tomahawk as well as an eagle or hawk feather.
If you'd prefer to trade damage for accuracy, the Homing Tomahawk then becomes the best tomahawk available in story mode. The throwing arc of this weapon is slightly better than the regular tomahawk, so it's much easier to hit enemies with it.
Homing Tomahawks can only be obtained through crafting. You need a regular tomahawk as well as an owl feather.
Red Dead Online Best Weapons
The weapons in Red Dead Online don't have any major differences with respect to stats when compared to their offline counterparts. Due to how the game is played, however, the best weapons in the story mode are not the best weapons that you should use in the online mode.
There are also two additional instances where weapons that don't see much use in the story mode are actually the best to be used online, in specific situations.
Melee weapons in Red Dead Online have the same identical stats to their story mode counterparts, but see even less use, as real players behave nothing like AI controlled enemies, making it impossible to get close enough to them to be able to use them.
If you really want to use one, however, the Hatchet is still the best melee weapon. It's unlocked relatively late in the game, as you need to reach rank 36 to be able to purchase it in stores.
Revolvers and Pistols
Revolvers and pistols are just as useful in Red Dead Online as they are in the story mode, as they are quite versatile and can hold their own in any situation.
Like in the single-player mode, the Schofield Revolver is the best revolver for Red Dead Online, if your aiming skill is good enough to get headshots consistently without the help of Dead Eye's slowdown effect, which is not available in Red Dead Online. If you're not feeling confident in your skills, however, you may want to look at the best pistol below, which is somewhat more reliable even without good shooting skills.
The Schofield Revolver is unlocked at rank 9.
The best pistol in Red Dead Online is the Semi-Automatic Pistol, mostly thanks to its extremely high fire rate, which lets players get a lot of shots in a single Dead Eye use, compensating for its low damage. Unfortunately, it's not easy to unlock and obtain this gun, so the Schofield Revolver is a slightly better choice unless you are absolutely terrible at shooting.
The Semi-Automatic Pistol is unlocked at rank 22.
The High Roller Double Action Revolver is also a very good choice of revolver, not only for its stats, which are more than decent, but also thanks to the fact that it's available for free from any fence. Its fire rate is also the best among revolvers, so you can choose to use this weapon instead of the Semi-Automatic Pistol, which requires a lot of money to purchase.
Repeaters are solid weapons in Red Dead Online, but the very best weapon, and possibly the only repeater you want to buy online, is the Litchfield Repeater.
This weapon comes with excellent damage as well as very high fire rate, which makes it the best choice when dealing with groups of enemies. Being one of the best weapons to use in the Showdown Series, when available, you'd better get some practice handling it in Free Roam mode before taking on other players in the competitive multiplayer modes.
The Litchfield Repeater is unlocked at rank 18.
Shotguns are generally more useful in Red Dead Online than the single player mode due to how often enemies and other human opponents are in your face, which plays right into the category's best trait: high damage.
The absolute best shotgun in Red Dead Online is the Repeating Shotgun. This weapon not only packs major firepower but also decent accuracy and an acceptable fire-rate for a shotgun, which also makes this category of weapons the absolute best of all the Red Dead Online weapons. Unfortunately, it's also one of the most expensive weapons to get, so don't expect to get your hands on it soon after starting the game.
The Repeating Shotgun is unlocked at rank 11.
Rifles in Red Dead Online are as good as they are in the story mode, but only one of them is truly worthy of your money.
The Springfield Rifle is the best rifle in Red Dead Online thanks to its extremely high fire-power which allows players to kill AI enemies and human controlled characters in a single shot. It's also extremely accurate, so you don't need to be all that good at shooting. Making things even better is the weapon's price, which is quite low compared to all of the other rifles.
The Springfield Rifle is unlocked at rank 38.
Throwable weapons are very situational in Red Dead Online, but they can still be useful. Like for RDR2's offline story-mode, Dynamite and Tomahawks are the best among them. They are unlocked at rank 16 and rank 36 respectively.
Incredibly enough, there are two weapons which see very limited use in the story mode outside of hunting, but that are extremely useful in Red Dead Online: the bow and the Varmint Rifle.
The bow is an excellent weapon to use in a variety of situations thanks to its high damage and good accuracy. As it is among the very few weapons available in the "Make it Count" Showdown series mode, you may want to get some practice in while playing in Free Roam.
The bow is unlocked by reaching rank 10.
The Varmint Rifle has some poor stats, so it doesn't feel like a very good choice. Its accuracy, however, is the best among all other Red Dead Redemption 2 weapons, with the exception of scoped rifles, so the weapon is actually an extremely good choice if you're looking to get headshots. Coupled with Dead Eye, the Varmint Rifle can be a deadly weapon in the right hands.
The Varmint Rifle is available at the beginning of the game.