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Returnal How To Upgrade Weapons (Easy Guide)

Returnal How To Upgrade Weapons (Easy Guide)

Returnal has a very cryptic approach to game mechanics. For the uninitiated, it can get quite frustrating to fully grasp what needs to be done, especially when upgrading. In this article, we will try to cover everything that goes into upgrading weapons in Returnal. These range from permanent to temporary upgrades, so there is more than what meets the eye.

There are two types of weapon upgrades in Returnal; Traits (permanent) and Proficiency (temporary). As you defeat more enemies using a particular weapon, their Traits will increase in level and stay unlocked for all future similar weapons you find.


Proficiency is like XP, increasing as you defeat enemies and use the Calibrators. Higher Proficiency = Higher level weapons found in the cycle. You will lose proficiency when you die or start a new run. Let’s take a look at some ways to upgrade your weapons in Returnal.

Weapon Upgrading

Returnal Upgrade Weapons

It is best advised that once you find your favorite weapons, stick to them. Not being able to choose your weapon and only holding one weapon at a time leaves you up to the RNG gods.

We all have our own preferred way to play shooters, so find a weapon you prefer. When you find the right weapon, try to pick it up as often as possible. The more you use it, the more Weapon Traits for that weapon will unlock, making it even more powerful. These Traits are permanent unlocks that stay active even when you die.

Weapon Proficiency, on the other hand, determines the level of weapons you will come across along your run. As Proficiency increases, you will be getting higher-tier weapons from the random loot. However, you will lose Proficiency levels once you die and will have to start from scratch in the next cycle.

Weapon Traits

Weapon Traits

When picking up a weapon, it is randomly assigned a series of Traits.

Weapon Traits are attributes that alter the way weapons operate in Returnal. These attributes have the capability to boost a weapon’s potency or entirely transform its functionality. Most traits are unique to a particular weapon, with more of them unlocking over time.

The traits are permanently unlocked by killing enemies with the weapon. Each weapon has unique traits that can be leveled up multiple times. Once unlocked and/or leveled up, subsequent weapon drops containing the same trait will be automatically unlocked, and the trait will be applied to the weapon.

Also note that some traits are better than others, like the Voidbeam for the Hollowseeker. You’ll have to decide whether to prioritize unlocking more traits for future runs or pick weapons with fully unlocked traits. Until reaching the max proficiency of a given act, you’ll likely be switching weapons somewhat frequently.


Due to the time-consuming nature of this process, it is generally wise to only unlock traits for weapons you enjoy.

To know more about each weapon trait, check out the Returnal Weapon Wiki.

Weapon Proficiency

Weapon Proficiency

Weapon Proficiency determines the quality of guns, alt-fire, and traits Selene will find throughout her run. It increases as you defeat enemies and find Calibrator (item) around the game world.

This level allows you to find better and better weapons; without it, you’ll be stuck with very low-tier ones that don’t do much damage and have fewer passive effects.

Weapons will either match your current proficiency level or can spawn up to three levels higher. Higher-level weapons have additional stat points, damage, and other class-specific auxiliary stats.

Whenever you die, this resets to zero, so you’ll need to farm it up again; you’ll have trouble defeating enemies.

Weapon Proficiency only reaches a certain cap in the two Acts of the game:

  • ACT 1 (Overgrown Ruins, Crimson Wastes, and Derelict Citadel): Weapon proficiency Cap = 15.
  • ACT 2 (Echoing Ruins, Fractured Wastes, and Abyssal Scar): Weapon Proficiency Cap = 15 to 30.



Calibrators are found throughout your journey. They give a boost in Weapon Proficiency.

These items add a certain amount of weapon proficiency depending on the type you pick up. You always want to grab these since weapon proficiency is one of the most important stats you have.

These Calibrators come in 4 types:

  • Broken Calibrator – Small amount of proficiency
  • Pristine Calibrator – Large amount of proficiency
  • Enhanced Calibrator – Huge amount of proficiency
  • Modular Calibrator – Varying amount of proficiency

Weapon upgrading is seamlessly integrated into the whole game loop. You don’t have to go out of your way to upgrade each weapon other than just using them to defeat enemies. Now that you know how upgrading works, hopefully, you will focus on the weapons that you actually like using and make them even more devastating.