Never Bring a Knife to a Gun Fight YKTTW Discussion

Never Bring a Knife to a Gun Fight
(permanent link) added: 2011-02-03 11:45:49 sponsor: TooBah (last reply: 2011-02-07 10:24:52)

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I've looked all over for this... there's even a subversion, Never Bring a Knife to a Fist Fight, which is about people losing despite the fact they have a better weapon.

Some of these examples show up in Combat Pragmatist, but I see this as a subtrope, as well as a stock phrase.

"Isn't that just like a wop? Brings a knife to a gun fight." -Malone (Sean Connery), The Untouchables

Both a Stock Phrase and a staple of the Action genre. A character comes into the scene armed with what he thinks is sufficient, only to find out he is severely outclassed weapon-wise, because he brought the entirely wrong type of weapon (usually the superior weapon is revealed after the first person has committed to a fight). Could lead to a Curb-Stomp Battle (which would make it a Pre-Mortem One-Liner, or maybe a Bond One-Liner if uttered after), or the character running for his life.

A popular subversion is Never Bring a Knife to a Fist Fight. Subtrope to Combat Pragmatist.

Elmer Keith is the Trope Namer... he was a gunwriter and Idaho cowpuncher, and the phrase is sometimes called "Keith's First Law".


Fan Fic

  • Forged In Fire has Brutus Bones say this exactly, after shooting a knife-wielding antagonist.


  • The Untouchables, as noted in the page quote. Partly a subversion, since the knife guy had backup, with bigger guns.
    • Earlier in The Untouchables, Jimmy Malone tells Eliot Ness: "If he pulls a knife, you pull a gun."
  • Happens in Barb Wire when a thug tries to attack Barb with a knife only to be shot by her pistol.
  • Almost verbatim in The Punisher movie. Quoth Harry Heck, "You are one dumb son of a bitch. Bringing a knife to a gunfight."
  • In Hoffa Danny DeVito pulls out a knife he uses for defense. Hoffa's goons pull out guns. After he joins with Hoffa's crew, one of Hoffa's cronies tells him, "Give me the knife. You wanna go around, go like a white man. Get a gun."
  • Indiana Jones does this several times. For example...
    • In Raiders of the Lost Ark, the famous scene where Indy shoots the swordsman.
    • In Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, Indy warns Mutt about the dangers of bringing a knife to a gunfight.
  • Nearly subverted in one of the final fights in Wanted: Wesley is in a gun fight with a Knife Nut. Notably, the Knife Nut was more experienced, got to choose the battlefield (enclosed area with lots of visual obstructions), and very nearly killed him.
    • The Knife Nut earlier explained the various advantages knives have over guns, justifying his weapons preference. Mostly it came down to them being easier to aquire, requiring little maintenance, and never running out of bullets.


  • From The Iron Sunrise by Charles Stross we have, "Never bring a tazer to an artillery duel"
  • Subverted in Nation: (paraphrased) "His gun will run out of bullets before my knife runs out of sharp."

Live-Action TV

  • In an episode of Chuck, Chuck and Sarah are attacked by 3 henchmen. One of them pulls out a knife, but they are saved by Chuck's mom who shoots them dead

Web Comics

  • Girl Genius, here, with extra Steam Punk goodness:
    Zola: "Bringing a knife to a gun fight doesn't seem very smart, now does it?""
    Agatha: "Well, I suppose it isn't that much worse than bringing a gun to a clank fight."
  • A mugger finds himself on the wrong end of this trope in this Wapsi Square strip.
  • Schlock Mercenary once had a mobster who realized that he had brought a prybar to a gunfight.

Video Games

  • In one possible ending of Yo-Jin-Bo, the main characters - who are mostly samurai and armed with swords - are attacked by ninja with guns. The heroes die very quickly.
  • In Team Fortress 2, you get an achievement for the Spy by knifing to death another Spy who has his gun out.

Got a good amount of examples--anyone else?

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