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Cool, but Inefficient
"All right, yeah, it gets six miles to the gallon on the highway, and three miles around town... y'know, the air conditioner doesn't work so well, and it's not very comfortable, um... but I just look so damn good in it, y'know what I mean?"
Clem, Reno 911!

In the future we will have Ray Guns, space-food and all other manner of things replacing current day technologies. Sadly, they will also be far less efficient than what we have today, raising the question of why people invented them in the first place. Sometimes they don't work as well as what we already have, sometimes they work as well or better but require too much additional work, sometimes they're just annoyingly prone to Phlebotinum Breakdown.

Such technology is never useless in the show or movie's universe, and seeing it in action defines this trope. Sometimes its shoddiness serves to add drama to the plot; at other times, the only reason for it being there is to look cool and futuristic.

This is not in the least helped by a tendency not to do the research; futuristic rayguns also tend to lack some of the most common sense niceties of modern firearms. The most frequent mistake is the lack of a trigger guard, which would guarantee that phasers and blasters go off when incorrectly carried or set away. Just as common is a lack of anything vaguely resembling sights, a shoulder stock, or anything else to give you an edge over just firing from the hip. It doesn't help that almost no protagonist has any clue whatsoever about basic firearm safety, frequently keeping their fingers on the triggers, waving loaded guns around like feather dusters, and never, ever applying the safety catch, if there even is one.

Sci-fi spacecraft, in general, tend heavily to fall into this trope. Wings, fins, streamlined designs, and pointless projections stud the outside of spacecraft never intended to enter an atmosphere. Most modern portrayals are savvy enough to at least justify streamlined spacecraft. Star Trek leaves gaping voids in the middle of their spaceships, but in-universe, this is because the warp fields generated by the nacelles necessitate them being kept at some distance to the rest of the ship. Likewise, the Alliance ships in Firefly look nice because of their vertical ship alignment, but the placement of the engines is to keep the ships from ripping themselves apart every time they accelerate. Alternately, one could build along the lines of 2001 A Space Odyssey's Discovery.

Notice that this is Truth in Television, as several armies through history have used awesome but inefficient weapons to lay fear among enemy ranks. See Zack Parsons' book My Tank is Fight! for some examples.

Truth In History, also. For hundreds of years, long bows were significantly more dangerous than GUNS on the field of battle. Back then, guns were horribly inaccurate and had slow reload, while a longbow could be fired more times per minute than a gun by a large margin. A properly fired arrow could even pierce armor that early firearms could not. However, the reason for the switch to firearms was fairly mundane: training someone in the adequate use of early firearms was a simple, quick, and one-dimensional affair—due to the inherent inaccuracy, only reloading was a necessary skill. So despite having much shorter effective range, much lower firing rate, much lower accuracy, and much less versatility, early firearms ultimately won out because they could be fielded in large numbers quickly, cheaply, and flexibly (no need to pick highly-dextrous and physically fit individuals out for training, or select those with previous bow experience). Technological advancements in firearms, combined with deforestation (bows were often reliant on the quality of the wood they were made from, whereas guns were not), eventually led to the adoption of guns by armies. The greatest advantage of guns was always that you could train a man to use one in a span of weeks, where building the muscles and accuracy of a skilled archer took decades (There was a saying, "To train a longbowman, you started by training his grandfather"). Logistics also played a major role: a musketman could carry enough powder and shot on his person for 100 shots; supplying a significant number of archers with 100 arrows each required several wagonloads to be added to the supply train. Maybe those future weapons just haven't evolved enough? But then you'd think a lot of people would still be using boring old bullets... Damn you, Rule of Cool! (Indeed, one of her generals sent Elizabeth I of England a memo urging that the arquebus be abandoned in favour of the longbow on the grounds that the longbow was cheaper, had a much faster rate of fire, was more accurate, was more powerful and had a longer effective range. This request would be repeated during the Napoleonic Wars by no less a general than the Duke of Wellington, as the longbow had several advantages even over the early 19th century muskets...but by then, training a corps of longbowmen was no longer practical.)

See also Awesome, but Impractical (which is where there actually is a genuine advantage to using the stuff, but the added drawbacks are substantial as to limit its usefulness) and Cool but Stupid. Compare Useless Superpowers. Contrast Boring, but Practical.

Examples

    open/close all folders 

    Anime and Manga 
  • The Air Corps and the Aqua Corps from Steamboy qualify, certainly.
  • Tiger & Bunny has Good Luck Mode, a "super mode" that does fuck all when it comes to actually enhancing the title duo's abilities — but doesn't it just look so cool?

    Commercials 

    Comic Books 
  • The Remo The Destroyer comic featured at one point (in the hands of the bad guy) a prototype gun, intended by the manufacturers to be a standardized field weapon, that fired a nuclear explosive. Blast radius? 5000 meters. Range of a shot? 1800 meters... maybe... with the wind in the right direction. Suffice to say, it didn't sell.
  • In Fables, magical artifacts native to the Homelands are capable of powerful and varied effects such as the Vorpal Sword being able to cut through anything or the Mirror on the Wall being the perfect spying device while on the same plane. However they cannot be mass produced and mundane weaponry is a serious threat to the Adversary's regime. The Adversary is well aware that mundane technology is Boring, but Practical by comparison, but eschewed it because allowing the spread of technology that could allow a peasant to kill a mage would have been all but inviting massive rebellion.
  • One of the stormtroopers in Twisted Toyfare Theatre built a three sided lightsaber. He ended up accidentally cutting his own hand.
  • Every Rube Goldberg Device from Rube Goldberg's comic strips. Even moreso because of the need to create the darn things in the first place.

    Film 
  • Sci-fi from Star Trek to Star Wars and everything in between tends to have spiffy, future weapons (phasers, blasters, etc.) if they're so inclined. For all their technology, these guns seem useless when you actually have to kill someone who matters. Guns shown before to vaporize inanimate objects now only leave a nasty burn or push people back a few feet. And that's disregarding all the situations where energy weapons don't work or are defeated by defenses that wouldn't even slow a bullet. Which is somewhat justified (at least for Star Trek) in that phasers have more than one power setting. Still, needing to shoot a man hiding behind a rock should be easy enough for something which should be able to shoot THROUGH it if you don't care what happens to him on the other side.
    • This is lampshaded in Star Trek: First Contact. The Borg bad guys can develop immunity to their energy weapons, but Captain Picard kills two of them with holographic bullets fired from a holographic tommygun from a historic holodeck simulation. Even when they're not real, our guns are still better. Unless the drones simply hadn't adapted yet.
      • It's explicitly stated that the reason it worked is that the Borgs hadn't adapted to it yet; that's why he tosses the gun away immediately afterwards (because he knows it won't be effective a second time).
      • From the same movie Worf kills several with a sword.
  • Star Wars perpetrates the same problems as Trek when it comes to force fields, like with forcefields replacing regular spacedoors. In this case, power failure would lead to explosive decompression of all landing bays. However, as Revenge of the Sith shows, there are typically emergency metal doors that quickly close in the event of such a power failure.
    • Perhaps the most garish example of Cool, but Inefficient technology is the Buzz Droid Missile in Revenge of the Sith. A missile is deployed which tracks its target, flies ahead of the target and then explodes to disperse small droids which then must attempt to tear apart an enemy starfighter from the outside in. Exactly how this is more efficient than simply packing the missile with high explosive and letting it hit the target first is not explained.
      • They don't try to tear it appart, just expose the circuits and shut down the controls. Not a very efficient method for winning a war, compared to ordinary missiles. However, if the pilot must be caught alive and interrogated or used as hostage/leverage, this method is foolproof. After the droids are done, the plane will just float in space; plus, if life support systems start shutting down, chances are the pilot will be unconcious during the arrest. Like fish in a barrel.
    • Also, should mention the AT-AT Walker from The Empire Strikes Back. As a giant Walking Tank with four long legs, they look cool. But as the result of this design they are slow (easily being outrun by tiny snowspeeders) have no maneuverability and are vulnerable to attacks to the legs. There's also the fact that every single weapon on an AT-AT is attached to the head, and none of them are mounted in a way that allows them to hit anything that isn't directly in front of the cockpit.
      • The flaws of the AT-AT are caused by the job it's been designed for: transporting troops in a frontal assault against an heavily defended position. Because of the need for frontal assault, it carries heavy armor to survive (slowing it down) and has heavy weapons on the cockpit to blast its enemies to smitherens. To increase the guns' range and protect its troops from whatever infantry can sneak to it, it has tall legs, legs sufficiently armored to shrug off man-portable weapon fire. Its bulk is so great to terrify most foes that face it, and it's still fast enough to handily outrun infantry (this can be used to identify veteran soldiers: newbies will try and run, veterans will just move on the side and surrender, because they know they can't run nor damage it). And it's not supposed to operate alone but as part of a mixed force including tanks, recon vehicles and, to counter the only thing that did manage to hurt it, air support. The only reason they don't show up in the attack on Hoth is that the shield blocks anything that flies, leaving the AT-AT/s without the support of tanks (placed on repulsors) or aircrafts.
      • The Walkers were designed for use on worlds where conventional speeders or space craft wouldn't be able to function properly. That's why they're called All-terrain armored transports. The rebels had to jury rig their speeders to get them barely functioning on Hoth which is why they weren't able to fly very high and couldn't attack the weak point in the walker's neck area until they had toppled them. And even then the best they could was stop the walkers which each still had a full compliment of troops and smaller vehicles inside for the final assault that they could turn loose.
    • The lightsaber, which, while lethally effective, suffers the same drawback that rendered metallic swords obsolete when firearms came along: its maximum effective range is one yard plus the length of your arm. It is more effective in the hands of the people that favor them, considering their extreme reflexes and their ability to reflect your shots back at you...but only because their enemies are using Frickin' Laser Beams instead of bullets despite knowing they can be reflected.
      • Also, as Darth Vader demonstrated in The Return of the Jedi, a lightsaber in the hands of a Jedi or a Sith can be used as a ranged weapon, and a rather effective one.
      • Explained in Shatterpoint. Blasters are more effective than slug pistols against everything except a lightsaber, and nobody expects a Jedi to show up so they've abandoned conventional guns because of the Antidote Effect.
      • Which brings up the question of why don't more Jedi just use blasters as well? Especially since we know the Force can help them aim.
    • The Doublesided Lightsaber, which despite being more powerful and giving more slaughter-per-swing, is utilised by very few Jedi and Sith due to how insanely difficult it is to master. Without extensive training how to wield it, it's more likely the person using it will accidentally kill themselves rather than their enemies, by either impaling or bisecting themselves.
  • In Demolition Man, the plasma gun used by Simon Phoenix is a subversion. At first it takes minutes to recharge; Simon uses it anyway, because he likes to see things blow up. However, this was because it had been in storage in a museum and had to reachieve fusion first. Once it had recharged itself it was firing plasma bolts as fast as a pump-action shotgun would be firing slugs.
  • The Island featured weapons that fired barbed hooks, like a taser, used to stop escaped clones. Except the hooks were bigger and looked more painful, and the thing didn't give an electric charge to subdue the struggling victim, now in horrible pain from having two huge anchors shot into his skin.
    • This one may be justified. Since the weapon is presumably designed specifically to recapture escaped clones (who were created solely for their organs or child-carrying capabilities), the last thing you would want to do is potentially damage the organs or fetus by hitting it with an electric jolt. True, it is less efficient than a taser, but more practical for that situation, if only marginally so.
    • The hooks were at least strong enough to hold back a crazed football star (alright, technically his clone) so additional force to stop the targets would rarely be needed.
  • Acknowledged in RoboCop (1987), with the ED-209. The OCP Vice President Dick Jones mentions that he doesn't care whether or not ED-209 works, rather that it is marketable enough to be purchased by the military. ED-209, while deadly, is extremely faulty; it is unable to distinguish a surrendering "hostile" (really an OCP employee in a demonstration), thus brutally killing the man, its arm cannons can swivel enough to blast each other off, its large feet render it impossible to maneuver down stairs, it has a big vulnerable air intake at its front, and BOTH OF ITS HANDS ARE GUNS. What else did you expect it to do?
    • Designer Craig Davis claims he intentionally designed ED-209 to make it look like its fictional designers were more concerned about making it look cool than making it work well— "just like an American car".
    • The novelisation makes clear that the guy was set up to be killed in OCP's cut-throat corporate environment.
    • And the 6000-SUX car, it's top of the list when a small time criminal demands a new car which has reclining leather seats, goes really fast and gets really shitty gas mileage. The commercial for the 6000 SUX specifically notes - 8.2 mpg!
  • Galaxy Quest lampshades this. The ship that they use is based off the ship from the Show Within a Show, and it's designed with giant fans, fire pits, and gratuitous explosions. Why? To make it harder to get from point A to point B, for plot purposes.
  • Taken literally with Back to the Future Part III, when Marty helps Doc with a massive steam-powered machine built in the old west - that creates a single dirty ice cube.
  • Repo! The Genetic Opera has translucent sheets of plastic for paper. One wonders how exactly you can read only the top page and not the stuff underneath.
  • In Iron Man, the arc reactor that powers Stark Industries is implied to be this, kept only as a publicity stunt, until Tony Stark is able to build a much more efficient prototype in a cave! WITH A BOX OF SCRAPS!
  • Lampshaded in Without A Paddle when one of the murderous rednecks advises the other against using a meat cleaver to try to kill the main characters. "The cleaver is scary, but inefficient".
  • Jack the Giant Slayer: The castle portcullis consists of two metal gates that slide together — which means it takes longer to close, and is much easier to force open, than a normal portcullis.

    Literature 
  • Halo EU emphasizes this point with the SPARTAN-II program. Of the 75 children conscripted, 30 were killed during the augmentation process and 12 were severely crippled. Factor in training time from age 7 to about age 14 and the costs of building and maintaining the MJOLNIR armor (each suit is said to be on par with the cost of a small starship), plus the very exclusive restrictions placed on candidates, and the Spartans are cool, but extremely inefficient, especially during the Human-Covenant War. Nonetheless, their exceptional effectiveness in ground ops is the only real edge the UNSC has for much of the war, but there are just too few of them to go around.
    • This might be justified by the fact that the SPARTAN-IIs were originally intended to be sent on black-ops missions against comparatively rag-tag human rebels; in this context, they're much better in a straightforward fight than a conventional special operations unit would be, and their successes would have hopefully reduced the need for conventional large-scale occupations/assaults, which have the potential to be incredible costly in lives, money, and political goodwill.
    • The UNSC then rectified this with the SPARTAN-IIIs, who got a much safer augmentation process, a wider candidate pool (and a slightly more ethical recruitment practice), and cheaper (but far less effective) SPI armor. While the S-IIs only numbered around thirty-three at their height, a single S-III company could raise about 300 soldiers at a fraction of the cost, meaning that unlike their predecessors, the latter were actually expendable.
      • By the Halo 4-era, augmentation improvements, heavily reduced candidate restrictions, and the dramatically decreased cost of MJOLNIR armor means that the UNSC can now recruit hundreds of SPARTAN-IVs by just drawing from volunteers from other branches of service (which also reduces the time needed for additional training).
  • In the Potter Verse, the wizards tend to insist on doing everything by old-fashioned means and by magic, even though modern technology would often work better even than the magic.
    • Given the relative ease with which wizardly means of communication (owls, fireplaces) can be tampered with, it's astonishing that they don't just use telephones and email. Eventually the series does attempt to justify this through a combination of claiming that large amounts of magic will interfere with electronics and that enchanting technology that's too modern makes Masquerade breaches far more likely, but still... And owls for communication, how can that be anything but Rule of Cool?
    • Rowling has explicitly stated in an interview that the reason for the Masquerade is more or less that a muggle with a shotgun will beat a wizard with a wand almost every time. Which is also explored in this Sluggy Freelance parody.
    • Most of the magic-using folk are shown to be highly ignorant of the modern world. Magic has allowed their culture to stagnate at a far less-modern level; they haven't modernised because they haven't needed to. A lot of them pity people who don't live as they do — leading to a broad spectrum of opinions ranging from 'ahh, bless!' to 'do what you like with them — they are inferior'. Even Voldemort does not concern himself with 'Muggles' (they even have a derogatory word! How very White Wolf of them), just the domination of the magical community. The overall impression is of a self-important culture that thinks itself in charge; what would happen if the Masquerade were ever broken and the witches and wizards found out what the modern world has achieved in terms of death and destruction?
    • Check the dates given for some major events: the most obvious examples are the birth and death dates on the graves of Harry's parents. Also, Harry's date of birth. In-universe, the events take place in the '90s and early '00s; the clock starts with Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, published in 1997. Back then, phones were the size of tablets, computers couldn't do even one tenth of the things they can do now, there was no Facebook, no Twitter, no Internet... Alright, there was Internet, but you needed a modem to access, so... But the worst part was that computers still used floppy disks. If you don't know what that is, look it up. In that light, the lack of technology is not so surprising.
  • That is specifically and deeply Averted in The Dresden Files — and getting muggles involved is something akin to nuclear strike in the supernatural community, and has been even back when humans waved torches and pitchforks around. Now, with powerful weapons; broad communications and mobilization; and fast, effective, heavy-duty transport humans are a force to be reckoned with. A lot of technology will fail in the presence of powerful magic, but a bullet can kill a wizard or a gibbering monster just as easily as a ball of fire. (In the case of said monsters, sometimes many bullets.)
    • More directly, sparks and other special effects are a sign of inefficiency in handling magic. Harry remarks that, while his damaged-focus-based shield dripping sparks could look a little cool and his staff dripping Hellfire could look pretty impressive, all of the supernatural crowd knows that to be a sign of poor form.
  • Lampshaded in World War Z, where an angry veteran of the zombie war blames the loss of the Battle of Yonkers partly on the flashy, high-tech weapons used: Incendiary weapons and shrapnel were far less useful against zombies who could only be killed if their brain was destroyed. This is then subverted later on, where a number of energy weapons become the subjects of propaganda films which boost the morale of the surviving humans. Though they have no strategic value, they make a huge psychological difference.
    • The most effective weapon in the war turns out to be "The Lobotomizer"—a cross between an entrenching tool and a battleaxe, invented by Marine infantrymen.
    • One chapter mentions a kid on rollerblades, trying to fight zombies with a meat cleaver on a hockey stick. It probably looked very cool in his imagination. The actual fight didn't work out quite as well.
    • The Zombie Survival Guide cautions against many of the more photogenic resorts. Motorcycles, cars and guns are noisy, flamethrowers and machine guns are designed to combat targets that stop moving when their muscles are destroyed, Kevlar vests only cover the torso, and more. It's interesting to read that the person with the greatest chance of surviving is an unarmored man on a bicycle with a crossbow and crowbar.
  • In Arthur C. Clarke's short story "Superiority", one side in an interstellar war comes up with a series of cutting-edge technological breakthroughs. Unfortunately, they are rushed into production before the bugs are worked out, and the resulting fiascoes more than cancel out the military benefits. The last straw comes when a device to stretch space around a ship (putting it far away from the rest of the universe, thus making it invisible and untouchable until the device is switched off) turns out to subtly distort everything on board, to the point where the fleet's parts are no longer interchangeable. The enemy (which has continued producing tried-and-true warship designs) then overruns their logistically crippled fleet.
  • In the Childe Cycle stories by Gordon R. Dickson, this trope is subverted by the standard rifles: They are extremely refined bolt-action rifles, powered by mechanical springs and levers. This is explained as they are the most reliable and tamper-proof weapon imaginable, as anything higher-tech opens the opportunity for higher-tech countermeasures.
  • Poul Anderson's The High Crusade took this subversion even farther: upon voyaging into space, medieval Earth knights find that the best weapon for sniper battles between space-suited infantry is their old reliable bow and arrow. It has no giveaway flash like a laser, it's a lot harder to patch a holed suit when there's an arrow sticking out of it, and the recoil sends the archer moving backwards after a shot, out of line of retaliatory fire.
  • In the Deathstalker series by Simon R. Green, energy handguns take two minutes to recharge after one shot. They're actually used because they're inefficient; the monarchy banned and hid knowledge of bullet weapons, since they were cheap enough to be used in uprisings.
  • This can also be used with the cool technology being 20th century. In Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash, guns have become so dominant that everyone worth killing wears kevlar and uses metal-detectors. Anyone ready to use glass knives and bamboo spears can quickly qualify as the "ultimate badass". In a subversion, it is ultimately shown that these weapons aren't inherently superior and are effective only because no one expects them. Nevertheless, only a handful of characters learn either lesson... but one who does leads to a Double Subversion by breaking the enemy Bad Ass's glass arsenal with a sonic-boom shooting skateboard... then finishes him off with an old-fashioned shaving razor.
  • The Martian Tripod machines from The War of the Worlds. Yeah, they were scary and wreaked havoc on mankind, but their heat rays can only do so much damage at once. Something like an atomic bomb or similar would seem to be a more obvious and efficient answer. You'd think creatures composed entirely of brain would realize that.
    • As H. G. Wells assumed an 'atomic bomb' would involve some sort of continuously-burning explosive rather than a single city-shattering blast you can't blame him (see "The World Set Free").
      • A case of Science Marches On. Anyways the Martians were trying to colonize and terraform earth with the red weed, a-bombs of either kind would kind of make that difficult. Plus human blood is apparently quite nutritious to them.
    • The Martians actually did use a weapon of mass destruction, "black smoke" that poured over an area and killed everything before dissipating.
    • In The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Mr. Hyde helpfully points out Lesson Three to the inhabitant of a Tripod - whilst the whole 'three-legged tripod of death' thing looks awesome, should something happen to one of the legs (like, say, a superpowered psychopath physically wrenching one of them off), then good luck remaining upright with only two.
  • In Dune, the onset of field-generator-shielding makes lasguns so Cool But Inefficient (firing a lasgun at a shield causes a small nuclear explosion) that nobody uses them. The fact that shields effectively stop normal ballistic weaponry as well means that all warfare needs to be conducted with swords. For that matter, even swords will be blocked by the shields if they are swung too fast.
    • It is a little surprising that, given the amount of religious fanaticism present throughout the novels, so few warriors ever sacrifice themselves by firing a lasgun at an enemy squad thus destroying many enemy troops at the cost of one. This is used only once by desperate rebels against Paul's jihad forces (i.e. someone non-religious suicide-bombing a bunch of religious fanatics) in Paul of Dune. For that matter, the palaces of all nobles are protected by massive shields. Why not sacrifice one guy to destroy your enemy in one fell swoop?
      • In the board game, this is quite a common and effective tactic.
    • The same religious fanaticism is why. Killing with nuclear weapons is so forbidden, the whole rest of the galaxy will jump on the offending House and destroy them. The first book notes that the lasgun/shield interaction is indistinguishable from a nuke and would suffer the same penalty.
    • There is an example of this being used, but only as a booby trap. Since the normally solitary Sandworms will swarm-attack any operating shield on Dune, nobody uses them in the desert. This makes it perfectly safe to use lasguns to probe for anyone trying to hide under the sand, right up until somebody just leaves an operating shield generator out on the sand....
  • The whole point of "Tomorrow Town", the short story by Kim Newman — an experimental community based on a 70's sci-fi vision of the future, full of impressive-looking but useless technology: 'nutritious' food pills that leave you hungry, modes of transport that travel at walking speed and often break down, a cleaning robot that's outclassed by any standard vacuum cleaner, and a Master Computer that can solve mathematics and technical problems but not the complexities of humanity and politics.
  • Every raygun, robot servant, health-enhancement device and motive-vehicle in Doctor Grordbort's Contrapulatronic Dingus Directory is made to sound impressive through Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness advertising, but is either completely useless or highly dangerous to the user (sometimes both).
  • In the first Honor Harrington novels a weapon is introduced that can bring down an enemy ships shields, which would be an in universe game-breaker, if its range wasn't so absurdly short that you're considered to be in 'point blank' energy range at roughly four times its firing range. And that doesn't even factor in the missiles which have orders of magnitude more range anyway.
    • She then proceeds to win an impossibly unbalanced fight with it. However, that is less because of the weapon than because it's Honor, who would really have preferred a full missile broadside instead, and she is quite annoyed when the developer attempts to use this event in their favor.
    • It is later revealed that the person who ordered Honor's ship outfitted with these weapons never expected it to be used in an independant deployment, and that the ship was just the testbed for using it as part of combined-arms tactics.
    • In a much later book, the Solarian League's Fleet 2000 program to modernize their fleet does provide some improvements in technology, but many of the changes are merely to make the tactical and astrogation displays more photogenic, which also impairs the actual usefulness to the SLN personnel trying to read them while in battle.
  • Similar to the Dune example, in Sergey Lukyanenko's Lord From Planet Earth trilogy, most weapons are rendered inert by neutralizing fields, resulting in armies armed with Absurdly Sharp Swords. Strange that no one thinks of using chemical or biological warfare, although given that said fields also stop destructive nuclear fission, fusion, and matter/antimatter annihilation, it isn't too farfetched to assume it also blocks these as well. Along comes a typical human male, who spent a few tours of duty in war zones on modern-day Earth, and almost immediately comes up with primitive weapons that still work in the field, such as a Deadly Disc and a gun that shoots small versions of it powered by a mix of compressed air and a magnetic coil. Cue the horrified reactions of Human Aliens used to honorable duels, when one such disc takes a man's head clean off. Definitely a case of Humans Are Warriors.
    • In fact, the first book's Big Bad reveals that one of his scientists designed something similar to the disc, only for the Big Bad to order his execution and the plans destroyed.
    • These small projectiles also have an offset center of gravity and have the same effect as a hollow-point bullet (i.e. they bounce around inside the target's body, shredding organs).
  • A very literal interpretation in the Enchanted Forest Chronicles is the use of magic by wizards. Any lights or smoke that is not being used to produce the intended effect is excess magic that's being wasted. The more amazing and flashy their magic is, the less efficient it is, and thus the weaker their spells are. The deadliest wizards don't whirl away in a twinkling of light; they simply disappear.
    • That said, it takes a lot to get a wizard to resort to their very deadliest spells; they're a very theatrical lot who like their amazing, flashy spells.
  • In Christopher Anvil's short story "Ghost Fleet", the 'disrupter' weapon matched this trope: it required bulky and complex equipment, and could easily be counteracted. It hasn't been used in centuries... which means that modern spaceships no longer carry defences against it.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Star Trek's got examples by the ton:
    • A Deep Space Nine episode centers around a firearm Starfleet was planning to use when their phasers wouldn't work. The weapon was quite versatile: The person using it could not be found by normal means, and it was modified with a microtransporter so that it could shoot through walls. Even though the gun was shown to be incredibly efficient, they found a way around the phaser problem, so all work on it was dropped.
      • The TR-116 Rifle was dandy (the transporter and associated targeting sensor monocle were an add-on to make it the ULTIMATE sniper rifle), but a phaser is far more than just a gun (although they are rarely shown being used for other things). In addition to being used as a gun (with the added benefit that you could reliably disable a foe, instead of only trying to kill them), they can also be used as an emergency energy source for other devices, for heating objects, and for cutting or destroying various materials quickly and reliably. In addition, there's less risk of accidentally puncturing the hull of a ship (or something else you'd rather not puncture, like that big tank of poisonous and corrosive fluid behind the guy you need to kill) with a phaser than a slug-throwing rifle.
    • Another episode included Major Kira explaining why the Bajoran Resistance wasn't interested in Federation-made phaser rifles, instead opting for the Cardasian disruptor rifle. While the phaser rifle has all kinds of cool, neat gadgets and add-on features, in the field (when you don't have proper maintenance facilities and spare parts and the like) that's just more things to go wrong with it. A Cardasian disruptor rifle only has stun and kill settings, but you can lean it against a tree and leave it for ten years and it'll still work without trouble. (Essentially, this is the same argument that goes for the AK-47 versus the M-16 in the Real Life section: If you've got the means to maintain it, one is superior, if not, the other is.)
    • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine introduced a holographic communicator (and extension of holodeck technology) to replace the viewscreen communicators, which sounds cool until you realize it needed a special podium retrofitted to send and receive from and having a person just blink into existence on the bridge or ready room gave everyone including Sisko a serious case of the Uncanny Valley creeps. It was quietly dropped as even the viewer could see that it offered no improvement over the viewscreens already in use.
    • Star Trek has also shown that forcefields are the primary means of keeping prisoners in their cells. There's no indication that a solid door wouldn't work just as well and there's no reason they couldn't use both forcefields and physical doors, like shuttle bays do.
      • Well you at least need a forcefield, so the criminal can't arrange an escape via transporter. But there's no reason they couldn't have doors as well. And of course, most of the time their prisoners escape...
    • None of the hand phasers in The Next Generation had any visible means by which to aim. Admittedly, pointing the weapon at your target was often optional as the special effects department would just put the beam where they needed to regardless where the actor was pointing the prop. Apparently the weapons come with some kind of auto-aim.
    • Star Trek: First Contact also features at least one Forcefield Window, though wisely covered with a shutter when not in use.
  • In Firefly, this is subverted. All kinds of neat technology is available, but a lot of people use horses instead of more modern transportation, and guns instead of lasers, just because the low-tech versions are less costly.
  • In Stargate SG-1, Goa'uld staff weapons are highly inefficient. Eventually, we're explicitly told that they're created for terror, not for efficiency; humans find firearms (or zat guns) more useful. One episode even features a demonstration for the benefit of rebel Jaffa.
    • Though it's worth making the point that both are lethal. In fact, the SG teams routinely got their asses kicked until they started using armor-piercing rounds. It became clear that given both sides knew their weapons inside out, the SG teams' only real advantage was the armor-piercers. Also, the P90 does not make a very good melee weapon, in contrast to the other main use of the staff, which was as a bokking-stick!
      • The only advantage staffs have is power, they're less accurate, lower-ranged and slower-firing. Maybe they could replace combat-shotguns, but they're not going to replace assault rifles.
    • The Staff Weapon was rather good for its' intended purpose, and so is the P90, but those purposes aren't the same. As O'Neill pointed out in one episode, a Staff Weapon is designed to intimidate the enemy as a show of force. The P90 is designed to kill the enemy as a demonstration of force.
      • To see exactly how the staff weapon should have been designed you should look at a very similar weapon carried by members of the Commonwealth in the TV series Andromeda. Like the staff weapon it is a long incredibly powerful energy weapon that can be used in melee combat. Unlike the staff weapon however this version is telescopic allowing it to be also used as a hand-held weapon; effectively removing one of the key disadvantages of the Goa'uld and Ori models.
    • Stargate also has an example of the impractical prison that works by shifting the gravity horizontally and turning a long room into a deep pit. It has no door, fails during a power outage and could be escaped from by having a friend lower you a rope. But, dammit, it looks so cool!
    • The Goa'uld also use force fields instead of glass for windows on their spacecraft, which they attempt to justify as being necessary because glass would not hold up under the strain. Glass would at least try, unlike a force field in a power failure.
      • Do you think they ever tried a big lump of colorless sapphire?
      • Laughable enough is the fact that the Goa'uld were demonstrably wrong. Tau'ri 303 and 304 battle cruisers use glass, Asgard ships use glass, Ancient ships use glass, Asuran ships use glass, Ori ships use glass... realistically unless we are willing to believe that the Goa'uld are idiots (which they actually aren't, massive ego's not withstanding) this is a perfect example of Early-Installment Weirdness.
    • Miraculously averted in Stargate Atlantis — Ancient holding cells have an energy barrier but also, the common sense precaution of real bars... If only they'd been so sensible the rest of the time...
  • A run-down bar in an episode of Firefly has holographic windows that don't even provide any sort of forcefield. This makes for the "window" is used as a parody/homage to the traditional cowboy movie barroom brawl, allowing the protagonist to be thrown through it without resistance. The advantage of making a hologram of something that's supposed to be transparent, though...
    • Apparently it's a very low-strength (electrostatic?) forcefield that stops blown dust and insects but a flying person can pass through without resistance.
      • It also says something about how often people go flying out that window that it's worth sticking a hologram/forcefield there instead of glass.
      • Is it just the glass that's holographic, or are the glazing-bars tricks of the light as well?
    • In a later episode there's a holographic set of pool balls which seem to be slightly less reliable than a real set. Presumably in both cases it was more about setting the scene, particularly in the window example which is at the beginning of the first aired episode which Joss explains in a commentary track was all about frantically trying to explain what was going on.
    • Laser guns apparently. One villain shows up with a fancy laser pistol that he uses to some effect, then it runs out of power partway through a fairly short fight. It's probably worth noting that neither most independent citizens nor Alliance soldiers bother with hand-held laser weapons.
  • Inverted in the reimagining of Battlestar Galactica, which deliberately uses pragmatic old-fashioned technology. The Shiny-Looking Spaceships turned out to be far too vulnerable to hacking and were blown up right at the start. The choice of starship weaponry drew particular attention for its freshness and originality: it uses machine guns.
    • Played straight with the cornerless paper. Sure, it looks cool, but how do you store large quantities? On Earth, we put our cornered paper in rolls, what do they do? Although this might be more Alien but Inefficient. (Ron Moore stated in an interview that after several seasons of having to cut corners off every single sheet of paper shown in the series, which is a lot considering the ship can't use computers, he was ready to murder the art director who came up with the idea for the miniseries.)
    • Averted in the original Battlestar Galactica series, which happily indulged in the use laser technology on a regular basis. Laser pistols were common among both Colonial warriors and Cylon Centurions, and unless they were damaged beyond repair. Could always be counted upon to preform properly.
  • Spoofed in the Mystery Science Theatre 3000 episode "Terror From the Year 5000": The Observers tell Mike that they've evolved beyond food, and get all their nutritional requirements from a tiny pill. It eventually gets revealed that they have to eat ten large bowls of them each day.
  • In Doctor Who, the title Doctor is joined by the ex-time Agent Captain Jack Harkness who proceeds to show off his cool sonic gun which can even blow exactly square-shaped holes into whatever blocks its path, which impresses Rose, much to the Doctor's disdain. Ironically, its many extras make the gun run out of energy in a crucial moment, leaving the Doctor and his sonic screwdriver to save the day.
    • That is not being entirely fair as the only reason Jack's power cell ran out was because the Doctor blew up the factory which built them. In a sense this would be like in the real world destroying the ammo supplies destined to the front line only for the soldiers stationed there to blame their M-16's instead of the enemy.
  • Blake's 7 had a weapon called the IMIPAK (Incipient Molecular Instability Projector And Key), a ray gun which induced incipient instability in the molecular structure of the target, after which you have to whip out and activate the Key to convert it to actual instability and thus destroy the target — except that if the target is a living being and noticed you firing the gun at him, you never get the chance because long before then, he's zapped you with his own less acronymic but far more practical weapon. The IMIPAK might work as a stealth-based threat, but as a practical sniper weapon a simple club is probably better.
  • Some of the myths tested by the MythBusters result in builds which fall into this category (those builds that don't qualify for this trope usually fall under Awesome, but Impractical). One of the best-known examples is the Lead Balloon—sure, you can build a balloon out of lead foil and have it float, but aluminum foil is stronger, lighter, safer to work with, and easier to get a hold of.
  • In Castle, the murder of a lottery winner leads the detectives to have a conversation about what they'd buy if they won the lottery, during which Detective Esposito says he'd buy a Ferrari. Castle, a millionaire mystery writer, points out that he has one, and it's not as great as you'd think. When Esposito insists that they're "hella fast", Castle points out that in rush hour traffic it's just as fast as any other car. Esposito and Ryan — not being millionaires — still frequently badgers and barters with Castle to get a turn driving the car at every possible opportunity.
  • The PPGs (Phased Plasma Guns) of Babylon 5 look cool especially when firing, but lack trigger guards, don't appear particularly accurate, and emit an audible whine when powering up (eliminating any possibility of stealthy approach). Indeed, several characters are alerted to an ambush over the course of the series by hearing the power-up whine. Hand weapons such as the Minbari pike or Good Old Fisticuffs are generally more effective at catching people unawares.
    • It would we amiss however not to point out that they are actually superior to conventional firearms on board a spacecraft due to the fact they have a very high damage output against organic targets but are not strong enough to pierce the hull. That alone justifies their existence it's just that the gun itself is poorly designed.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Likewise, Traveller uses good old-fashioned slug throwers (guns with bullets) even in far future society. There are lasers and plasma rifles, but good old-fashioned guns are as good as the former, and the latter are big and heavy and require battle armor to use.
  • Warhammer 40,000 is in love with this trope, although it has some spectacular cases of boring but practical as well. Huge spaceships made to look like cathedrals? We got them. 300-meters-tall walking robots with castles on their shoulders? Elite close combat troops armed with chainsaw swords and 'shuriken pistols'? Tanks with guns so big they have other, smaller, guns strapped to them? Armies made up of 95% Cannon Fodder and a few good units and vehicles? Hordes of unarmed civilians supported by about 6 daemons? Oh boy, do we ever got them. Some armies even go as far as to make up reasons why these things have to be like this. For instance, the Chaos Marines (badass evil army whose cannon fodder is capable of withstanding a black hole) Codex explains that they only have weird symbols on walls and sharpened teeth because they feel cooler when they do. Also, asking them WHY they are evil is answered with "why not?" The Imperium of Man, meanwhile (they of the giant cathedral spaceships), lost all knowledge of why their technology works so long ago that a religion has built up to fill the void. They go and make everything super-ornate to please the "Machine Spirit" who animates their technology and think that if they lay off the pomp, everything will break.
    • Nearly all cases of this trope are very well justified in-universe.
    • The standard sidearm for military officers of the Imperium is a fully automatic armor-piercing mini-rocket launcher.
    • Larger weapons in 40K tend to take this to ridiculous extremes, as do alien weapons. The assault cannon is more or less an armor-piercing rocket-launching minigun, Necron gauss weapons strip the target's molecules away layer by layer, allowing them to punch through the heaviest armor as well as grant them the name "gauss flayers", chainsaw swords are ubiquitous among Imperium forces from longsword varieties to types longer than their wielder is tall, the larger Imperium vehicles don't so much fire a cannon as they do a broadside, and then there's the Shokk Attack Gun...
    • Well, then there are the guns that shoot plants, clouds of micro filament wire, giant death guitars, laser miniguns, and it just gets better.
    • Better yet, the Eldar and Tau take those insanely huge tanks, and make them ''fly'' (or at least hover).
    • The Space Marines, Super Soldiers taken Up to Eleven are an example of what happens when a faction is this trope. They have bullet-proof chests and corrosive saliva, can live on a healthy diet of concrete and metal, wear Powered Armor better than most tanks, have lifespans in the centuries or even millenia, land on a planet via drop pods jettisoned from an orbiting vessel directly to the surface without slowing, and have weapons including but not limited to aforementioned automatic armor-piercing rocket launchers larger than an average person and hammers capable of killing an Eldritch Abomination.
      • And that isn't even getting into the Chaos Space Marines, whose ranks include such delightful characters as Obliterators, Marines who've spent so much time in the Warp that they've fused to their armor, Plague Marines, Marines "blessed" by Nurgle with every disease in existence to the point where they're in so much pain they can't feel any other pain, and Noise Marines, Marines that make their enemies' heads explode with The Power of Rock.
      • They also have the "inefficient" part covered nicely, since the vast majority of Space Marine recruits die long before they even get to the genetic enhancements, and most of the rest die before they become actual Marines. Combine that with much of their better equipment being ancient and irreplaceable, and there are good reasons most of humanity's fighting is done by the regular humans of the Imperial Guard.
    • Everything in the 40K universe operates by the principles of Rule of Cool and More Dakka (being the Trope Namer for the latter); with realism chucked right out the window at every opportunity.
    • The Tau are actually fairly practical (at least in comparison to the other races), the only real problem being their Crippling Overspecialization in ranged combat.
      • They are aware of this and hire Kroot mercenaries to act as close-combat specialists.
      • Kroot are generally used as pathfinders and scouts than close-combat specialists, though. The tau actually frown upon species/societies that glorify or specialize in close quarters fighting, and the kroot have the additional issue of eating their enemies after killing them. Tau get bonus points, however, because they use their advanced technology to the fullest extent. Their most basic infantry wear armor on par with that of Imperial Guard stormtroopers.
  • In the D20 RPG based on The Wheel of Time series: Shocklances, supposedly the front line infantry weapon from the War of the Shadow, are statted out with huge damage, but only eight shots. They're not reloadable, either. Each shot comes back on its own, after an hour.
    • To be fair they kinda pulled that out of their collective asses. When a shocklance actually does finally show up, or rather its pistol variant (Shocklancette?) it has immense range, no ammo limits and can Stun or Kill without triggering the "i am using magic" alarm that channelers have in the back of their head.
  • The Humongous Mecha from Macho Women With Guns is described as "...dominated the battlefields until people realized what a ridiculous idea they were."
  • In the Iron Kingdoms Colossals were giant mechs that were made into smaller warjacks as they proved inefficient after the repelling of the Orgoth threat.
  • The BattleTech universe has a long and intricate history that attempts to justify why they bother at all with giant robots - in this case it's because of the flexibility of a humanoid form, and the durability of their modular design. They're regularly used in civilian work as well, so there isn't a shortage of competent pilots.
    • The old Star League got past this trope and ended up nuking themselves back to the pre-industrial age, so most 31st century combat is deliberately kept like this to limit collateral damage. The rare incidences where lostech nukes show up demonstrate why this is a good thing.
      • This is a very inaccurate description of what happened, technologically, in the BattleTech Universe. The Star League collapsed about 3 centuries prior to the game's original starting point and the Successor States ended up heavily damaging their own military infrastructure, yes. However, they did not nuke themselves back to pre-industrial levels, in general, they only dropped back to 23rd to 24th Century technology, from the high point in the 28th Century. Nuclear weapons were not one of the technologies that were lost, either, the Inner Sphere was simply so shell-shocked by the devastation that unrestrained WMD usage had caused that they voluntarily stopped using such weaponry, even though they still had easy access to it.
  • Heavy Gear actually lampshades how the titular Gears are unstable, easily damaged, and limited in striking power compared to tanks, but so much of Terra Nova's terrain is high mountains, swamps, and soft, sandy deserts that tanks just don't work in that they're worth the effort.

    Toys 

    Video Games 
  • Half-Life 2 equipped the player with the Gravity Gun, which is used to hurl garbage at people (instead of, we don't know, bullets). This is a lot more fun than it sounds, and you're unlikely to run out of ammo. On the other hand, Alyx makes a point of saying that the Gravity Gun is a tool used for carrying large and hazardous material, and wasn't meant as a weapon.
    • In the Ravenholm level, it can be useful for saving ammo, as the zombies can only melee, and if you get yourself a radiator, a saw, or a razor blade, you can hold your ground against them without firing a shot. Headcrabs too, as they're small enough to be blasted directly with the Gravity Gun, with no need to hurl something at them. Now, against the fast zombies and poison zombies on the other hand...
      • There's even an achievement for going through the whole level using only the Gravity Gun.
    • The ending of the Half-Life 2 and the beginning of Episode 1 has the gun become super charged, and allows it to kill enemies by itself, but it is still limited by range, which can be a hassle when you have soldiers attacking you from a distance. You can't loot their weapons either, as guns in the Citadel vaporize when dropped.
    • In of Episode 2, the Hunter has very tough armor that can soak multiple magazines from any of your conventional weapons, even tanking a hit from the rocket launcher. But, internally, they're apparently very weak, as a strong physical impact will take them down in short order. The Gravity Gun and debris are useful for this, but what's even more useful is the fact that you have a car...
    • Arguably everything but the Shotgun, Magnum and Crossbow/Railgun Sniper are this. Most of the weapons have a horrible spread, for example the Combine Assault rifle which sprays its bullets all over the place if not fired in "semi-auto"*.
  • In Zone of the Enders 2, the Vector Cannon was the coolest weapon in the game. Unfortunately, outside of a few isolated instances (destroying the battleship engines, the shield around Aumaan and as a spectacular ending to the final Anubis fight if your aim was good), the weapon was practically useless due to its long recharge time, the requisite that your mech's legs be touching the ground or another stable surface during the charging, and the inordinate amount of subweapon energy consumed by firing (though the latter was negated if you played as Naked Jehuty, which had infinite subweapon energy).
    • Really, the Vector Cannon was never meant to be used in combat at any point, and existed solely for story purposes. However, a 20 second charge period for a weapon that could destroy anything in its path is pretty nice. In an actual combat situation with backup (Rather than a one mech army) such a weapon would be devastating if protected properly.
      • Inefficient, sure, but fun. If you give the player an instant death weapon that worked every time, you break the game. If you make it only usable some of the time by limited ammo, you create Too Awesome to Use. But if you simply make it hard to use, the moments where the player manages to utterly negate a combat by deploying the stupidly large artillery gun before the enemy can get their act together will stay with them long after they've forgotten everything else in the game.
  • Final Fantasy XII gives you The Treaty-Blade and The Sword of Kings. These swords have the power to cut Nethicite, but, more importantly, have been bequeathed by the Gods themselves. Naturally, these swords'll be amazing, right? Wrong. They each have 30 attack. To give you an idea, the maximum attack a weapon can have is 150 - the kind of weapon your fighters will have at the time will have between 50 and 70. Admittedly, the swords good for dodging, but other than that, it's there to look pretty.
  • Hymir's Finger in Drakengard is a literal BFS in a game which has done a good job of keeping the weapons relatively realistic, or as far as one can in a medieval-fantasy world. It is long enough to qualify as a jousting lance, and it does a lot of damage, enough to mistake it for the Infinity+1 Sword. Cool, but it takes forever to swing. If you time your attacks right, you can wipe out whole squads of enemies, but the sword requires too much work to use properly. And the actual Infinity+1 Sword is so much better.
    • It's mainly meant for the more challenging side missions/weapon unlocking (like the one where you have to kill 150-odd zombies) because once you get a combo started, it's hard for anything to get near you.
  • The Crusader games feature dozens of neat little death effects caused by exotic weapons that use molecular inhibition fields, chemical catalysts, microwaves, and so on... but when you get down to it, you're better off with the automatic shotgun and the rocket launcher, if only because there's a lot more ammo.
    • Also, unlike the exotic weapons, standard ballistic weapons such as the automatic shotgun or submachine gun did not completely destroy an enemy's body, meaning you could search them for items and ammo afterwards.
  • In Civilization 4: Beyond the Sword, the entry in the in-game encyclopedia for the assault mecha in the Next War official mod lampshades this, stating that the widespread use of the inefficient, unstable war machine instead of giant tanks is a result of its cool appearance, since awed politicians would be more likely to grant a budget to impressive-looking projects.
    • However, it does mention that they were used more for subduing rebellions from the fear value- whereas the true best unit is a massive tank.
  • Cool but inefficient describes all the Big Guns in Fallout 3. Though they all have a higher damage rating, they either have a high spread or low rate of fire. The Rock-It Launcher is the coolest of the bunch, and relatively efficient in that it can load any random junk and deal a hefty punch with it.
    • However, the Rock-it Launcher is among the least efficient weapons because its ammo adds to the weight you can carry. All other weapons have weightless ammo.
      • The Rock-It Launcher also suffers in that before a player can build one, they must first buy rather expensive plans. By the time most players have enough caps to make the purchase they have normally killed, looted and leveled enough that they now own more conventential weapons then they know what to do with.
    • The Gatling laser is like a laser minigun and is nearly the highest damage weapon in the game. But it is incredibly inefficient due to rarity of ammo (you can buy ammo for it eventually which costs a lot), near inability to land critical hits (a one-shot critical on a target's head will usually kill it, even from a small weapon; and big guns have a painfully low critical hit chance), and the gun breaks down fairly quickly from extended use: Each shot reduces a weapon's condition which lowers its damage per shot. The Gatling laser has a blindingly fast rate of fire which also makes it deteriorate blindingly fast.
    • The Alien blaster is a unique weapon you can find that has an extremely high base damage and a 100% chance to land a critical hit with every shot. However it has an extremely limited ammo supply that cannot be replenished. Also, every shot will make it deteriorate by a sizable chunk until it becomes useless and the gun can only be repaired by NPCs which is expensive and very few NPCs can repair it up to 100% of its condition.
    • The Experimental MIRV is a missle launcher that fires 8 mini-nukes at once. However, mini-nukes are hard to come by.
  • The Krimzon Guard Hellcat cruisers in Jak II: Renegade easily qualify. On first sight, they're a flying tank, what's not to like? ...They're so large and slow they're nearly impossible to miss, they maneuver like a quadriplegic cow, their gun is no deadlier than that on the far nippier Guard speeder bike, and if you steal one, you'll piss off every Guard in the city. Just as an additional bonus, these annoyed Guard will come after you on speeders, crash into the back of your stolen Hellcat, and thoughtlessly explode, taking you down in an antigrav pileup... and if you're going along the ground, expect to have a dozen of these bikes hanging over your head raining fire while you try and fail to steer it around a corner without scratching the paintwork.
  • The Unreal series has several weapons which are potentially more harmful to you than the enemy (Razorjack/Ripper, Biorifle), and a Gatling gun (Minigun) that depletes your ammo after a few seconds.
  • Metal Gear Solid 2 features the giant battleship Arsenal Gear, which despite being sleek, enormous, nuclear capable and carrying a whole complement of MGs; without full land, sea, and air support, it's little more than "a gigantic coffin", as Solidus says.
    • And in Metal Gear Solid 3, Ocelot carries a revolver with detailed, ornate carvings...which, as Snake is quick to point out, offers him absolutely no tactical advantage unless he wants to sell the gun as a collector's item.
  • Castlevania games preceding Symphony of the Night often have a pocketwatch as one of the subweapons. It stops most non-boss enemies from moving for a few seconds, but almost any time it appears, it eats 5 hearts instead of 1 like the other subweapons do, except in Haunted Castle where it only consumes 2 hearts.
    • And in SOTN itself, it's useless, since all but the weakest mooks are immune to it. When Richter uses it in an Item Crash, it looks pretty badass, though, and is even capable of a (weak) attack in this mode.
      • You can use it to kill the Doppelganger boss though.
      • The above statement is not quite accurate: the pocket watch freezes most low level mooks (including those annoying medusa heads) slows down a large number of higher level mooks, and does work on several boss type enemies, or at least their projectiles. By the time you get halfway through the game, this is the best subweapon to have, since the other weapons, whose sole purpose is to deal damage, will be pitifully ineffective before reaching the inverted castle. The main problem is the 20 heart cost to the item, which is a small price to pay if you need to pass through an area swarming with medusa heads without frustration.
  • The S.T.A.L.K.E.R. series has the Gauss Rifle, an incredibly powerful weapon capable of killing nearly anything in one hit. On the downside of things, it has an incredibly low rate of fire, the ammunition is rarely found, and the few you can acquire are in such poor condition you only have a magazine or two worth of shots before it breaks.
    • Clear Sky dumbs it down even further by turning it into a prototype weapon that can only damage one specific enemy. Using it on the horde of fanatical mooks between you and him only gets you killed, very quickly.
    • Call of Pripyat compensates by making the Rifle a genuine one of a kind weapon which you pry from a miniboss's dead hands. But you need to go through a rather lengthy series of sidequests in order to make it usable, and once you can use it, the repair cost alone is worth a couple high quality artifacts, and you only get 10 shots for the cost of another artifact. Even better, the damage is now low enough that certain mutants will usually survive more then a direct hit, and some special mooks in the end-game level can take a round to the chest. When they attack in packs of 6 or more and you can only fire one round every 3 seconds, the Gauss Rifle starts to become a cool looking liability. Therefore, don't try using it as a close-quarters weapon. It does have the best handling of any sniper rifle, which can be surprisingly useful, and it's by far the best choice for the only sniper mission in the game. It's still inferior to the VSS Vintorez and/or Dragunov SVD in most cases though, in terms of reliability and firing rate. The Gauss Rifle isn't terribly inefficient though: the mechanic at the wrecked ship in Zaton can give you six homemade batteries, at the steep price of 2000 rubles each. This legitimately turns it into an Infinity+1 Sword in the game, so the inefficiency argument is made moot. It actually gets more efficient on higher difficulties, due to the way the game handles difficulty settings. On the max difficulty, you can kill just about anything you want with a shot or two. Unfortunately by the time you get it, you'll probably have more weapons than you can reasonably use anyway.
  • Prototype's Snap-Kick Launcher. Treats anything smaller than a Leader Hunter as a soccer ball. Now if only a single maxed Musclemass boosted Snap Kick would just send that annoying supersoldier to his death rather than having to go after him to repeat the process.
    • In fact, most unlockable attacks qualify, as the majority of them are designed to do massive damage to a single target, when even basic attacks with the protagonist's Blade Below the Shoulder can cleave through a tank without effort. A large number of endgame attacks exist to cause ridiculous overkill in the name of Rule of Fun.
  • Dirge of Cerberus Final Fantasy VII has the last level as Chaos. Chaos himself is very useful. All of his abilities are upgraded, and he uses the only weapon stronger than the Ultima Weapon. The thing is, the enemies are designed specifically to handle that weapon. That means, while your new melee combo is fancy, about twice as many hits in half as much time, and ends with a neat little mini-explosion, you're never going to hit anything with it. Even if you get close enough to try, you'll be pumped full of lasers, and the combo will be interrupted.
  • Max Payne 3: The Laser Sight attached to some of the weapons actually makes your aim actively worse. It may be realistic to have the laser jumping around when shooting, but still.
  • Tibia has a tendency to introduce new gimmicky mechanics and then completely forget about them. A notable example, the enchanting system allows you sacrifice a gem to turn a weapon into a Flaming Sword or a weapon of some other element. Sounds awesome until you learn that the enchantment doesn't actually net you any significant increase of DPS, has unnecessary class/level requirements, and only a very small list of weapons can be enchanted. On top of it, the game discourages you from wielding your new flaming spiky sword by making the enchantment wear off after a certain number of hits. After six years of regular patches, the system still hasn't received any attention from the developers, not even expanding the list of enchantable weapons. Players still only enchant their weapons to create cool decorations for their house.
  • Super Sonic is this in Sonic Generations. Costing 100 Skill Points(Of 100) to equip and burning rings at a significantly higher rate than he does in his other appearances, this golden wonder ends up doing more harm than help. His special ability-an auto-pilot flying boost-ends up screwing you over or not being of much use do to how quickly it eats through even the largest stocks of rings and replacing the basic boost in all but a few areas, which absolutely neuters Super Sonic's speed unless you want to use all of your rings in a matter of seconds. Thankfully, game mods have popped up that alter Super Sonic's ring consumption rates allowing his true potential to shine through, but even so, you're better off just setting up a bread and butter skill set if you want to set any good times.
  • Sabata's dark gun from Boktai looks badass and is the only weapon in the game to offer both S-level attack and stun while being a projectile. Unfortunately since it's dark-based it can't even stun, let alone harm, any dark based enemies, which make up over half of the menagerie out to get you. True it trashes all other kinds of enemies, but that's nothing using their elemental weakness against can't accomplish, and you will have all the other lenses since you need to find them all to beat the game, they carry over, and it takes four playthroughs to earn the dark parts. Finally you can't interchange gun parts or use spare batteries.
  • In Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning, a lot of charged attacks. They leave you wide open while charging, and a single hit cancels them. And getting hit usually leads to an enemy proceeding with their own combo that leaves you stunlocked for a couple seconds (or longer, if another enemy is lining up for their turn too). Plus, while the charged attacks for melee weapons can result in a flurry of blows, they're often much weaker than regular hits, making the entire thing a waste of time. A lot of them look pretty, though.
    • Charged attacks also guarantee an elemental proc and usually include a full blown stagger or knockdown.

    Web Comics 
  • Cited and made symbolic in Narbonic:
    Mell: Catch me if I'm wrong, but this looks like an energy weapon that loads like a flintlock pistol. This crazy moon crystal drops into the chamber, it goes poom, and a mean little laser shoots out. Thing is, it doesn't work as good as a normal gun. What's awesome is this gun is like you! Like you and Helen and probably Dave someday! It's totally mind-blowingly brilliant, but on a common-sense level it's dumb as a box of rocks!"
  • Averted in Schlock Mercenary, in which it is specifically mentioned that conventional firearms are frequently preferred, as they are less likely to cause Explosive Decompression in an on-ship fire fight. Schlock himself uses a massive antique of a plasma gun instead of far more efficient modern handguns, specifically for the glow in the barrel and the ommmmmmmminous hummmmmmmm as it charges.
    • Schlock cannot use a normal handgun to fly.
    • He has also been forced to leave it behind on several missions where he was warned that firing it would probably kill everybody aboard the station they were on.
    • At one point Schlock obtained a pair of impressive BFGs from his enemies, then sawed off half the barrel to make them fit within his mouth and triple wielded them with the plasgun. The result was quite intimidating, especially to anyone who recognized how likely it was to blow up in his face.

    Western Animation 
  • Lampshaded in the Batman Beyond episode "Shriek", where Walter Shreeve, a sound expert, demonstrates his powerful sound weapon to the corporate head, Derek Powers. Shreeve finds he has a tough job selling his technology when Powers notes that for regular tasks like demolition, conventional tools like dynamite are just as effective and cheaper than some exotic new technology.
  • Also subverted in the famous Jonny Quest episode, "The Robot Spy". In that episode, Quest is working on a new weapon called a "Para-Power Raygun", which, he hopes, gives a practical new military option: the ability to paralyse enemy war machines by removing their power from a distance, thus allowing them to be captured intact, or at least neutralize mechanized units efficiently. However, the gun is used to shoot down the robot, and destroys it. Quest is disappointed, considering that, in being that destructive, the gun is merely an exotic artillery piece that's impractical considering the external generator involved.
  • In the Codename: Kids Next Door episode "Operation: T.R.I.C.Y.C.L.E." the KND attack the Tommymobile by using the biggest ketchup bottle ever seen. The kids at the moon base drop ketchup on it using a giant hand to slap the bottom of the bottle. It looks awesome, but does absolutely nothing. It's immediately lampshaded by one of the operatives attacking the bike from a plane.
    • "Who decided ketchup was a good idea?!"
  • The Simpsons has the Canyonero:
    Can you name the car with four-wheel drive,
    Smells like a steak, and seats thirty-five?
    Canyonero! Canyonero!
    Well it goes real slow with the hammer down.
    It's a country-fried truck endorsed by a clown.
    Canyonero! Canyonero! Hey, hey!
    Twelve yards long, two lanes wide,
    ''Sixty-five tons of American pride!
    Canyonero! Canyonero!
    Top of the line for utility sports,
    Unexplained fires are a matter for the courts!
    Canyonero! Canyonero!
    She blinds everybody with her super high-beams.
    She's a squirrel-squashin', deer-smackin' drivin' machine.
    Canyonero! Canyonero! Canyonero!
  • In a Robot Chicken sketch with Richie Rich, we get a tour of his house where he stated he now owns a hybrid. The hybrid of it being a Bentley and a Monster Truck which got 3 feet to a full tank of gas.

    Real Life 
  • Companies have always been sending spam everywhere and to everyone to boost their profit, using the infamous spambots to do so. Recently it turned out a bunch of Chinese people could do it cheaper and more efficiently.
    • Likewise with large expensive robots to automate some of the boring drudgery in molecular biology, protein purification etc. A bunch of Chinese people can do it cheaper. Apparently two European people with a multi-pipetter could also do it cheaper, but it's easier to get a million Euros for a machine than for 15 years employment.
  • The above story Superiority is based on the escapades of Nazi Germany during World War II. Late in the war, the Germans tried to develop "super weapons" to turn the tide of the war.
    • The Vengeance weapons, the V1 cruise missile and the V2 theatre ballistic missile. The V1 was fairly effective for its day, but by the time it was operational the Allies had radar-equipped fighter aircraft and almost complete air superiority, and the majority were shot down long before reaching their targets.
      • The V2 was impossible to counter when it worked, but had an unfortunate habit of blowing up at the least provocation and was quite staggeringly resource-intensive to manufacture besides. Furthermore, even when it worked, it simply couldn't carry a big enough conventional warhead to do that much damage with each missile, especially when the Allies reconquered enough territory to force the launchers to lighten the load to extend the missiles range. Even if the Nazis had managed to develop atomic bombs for the warheads, the aforementioned unreliability of the missiles would made each launch an extremely dangerous gamble of potentially causing an accidental nuclear detonation within the Third Reich itself.
    • The Me-262, the first jet fighter in active duty, which arguably could have affected the course of the war if the Germans had had the fuel to operate them or the time to train the pilots properly, but their engines were horribly maintenance-intensive and they needed a huge runway to take off on. Hitler actually further slowed down the production of these, because he wanted them to be bombers instead of interceptors.
    • The Me-163 Komet. A rocket powered fighter which could fly nearly-supersonic in 1944, but since the fuel it used was both explosively unstable and toxic -the same stuff was used to run the aforementioned V2- it ended up killing more of its own pilots than the enemy.
      • Actually, the fuel for the Me-163 was much worse than that of the V-2. The V-2 ran on A-stoff (liquid oxygen) and B-stoff (hydrazine or an ethanol/water mix). The Me-163 ran on T-stoff (80% hydrogen peroxide, the oxidizer) and either C-stoff (a methanol/hydrazine/water mixture) or Z-stoff (a calcium permanganate/sodium permanganate solution in water) depending on the specific model. The T-stoff could dissolve human flesh, and as both types of of engines used were hypergolic, the two propellants ignited on contact. Since the two were almost impossible to distinguish without chemical testing (apparently, nobody in Nazi Germany had ever heard of using tagants to identify liquids), this led to numerous accidents in fueling. To save weight, the launch wheels were dropped after takeoff, and often bounced back from the rough fields used and hit the aircraft, often causing catastrophic fuel leaks. Landing on the single belly skid could do the same with any residual fuel. Basically, the thing was a flying bomb more likely to kill its own pilot that literally anyone else.
    • The Sanger Silbervogel, an unbuilt orbital bomber which was to bomb the US. It was meant to launch by using a large cluster of V2 engines to hurl it down a track to accelerate to a velocity to get it into orbit. If the g-forces from the initial acceleration didn't kill the pilot, he'd simply burn up on reentry, because the designers severely underestimated the effects of atmospheric shock heating on the airframe.
    • An explosive-driven sonic cannon that would use compressed air blasts to shoot down planes— and had a range of a few dozen meters.
    • The P 1000 Ratte tank. The '1000' was to be the tank's weight, in tons. To compare, the largest tank ever built, the Panzer VIII Maus, another Nazi wonder weapon weighed in at 188 tons. If you want an idea of how the thing would look, just imagine a Baneblade from Warhammer 40,000, and you wouldn't be far off (actually the P 1000 would've even bigger than the Baneblade, which is described weighting around 500-700 tons depending on the source). The tank was to have two 280 mm naval guns for main armament, with one 128 mm anti tank gun, two 15 mm autocannons, and eight flak guns. It was also to be powered by diesel engines which were used in U-Boats. The thing would have been a disaster. As slow as an arthritic turtle, lacking in anti-air defenses — target practice for B-17 bombers. Even if the thing was able to defend itself from such attack, all you'd need to do to stop the tank in its tracks is knock out the enormous convoys of fuel tankers it'd need constantly following it. Albert Speer canceled this and the even larger P 1500 Monster, which would at least have been the largest self propelled artillery in history.
      • Even the Maus was impractical, barely faster than those things from WW1, too heavy for most bridges, and too big for trains.
    • Schwerer Gustav and Dora. Two 80-cm rifled artillery guns, each weighing over 1000 tons and firing 7-ton shells. They required twin sets of parallel train tracks to even move around, which sometimes had to be built in front of them. They were designed to be used against the Maginot Line, so they were rendered irrelevant very early in the war, but they each actually saw action in the Soviet front. However, the enormous cost of building, arming and fueling the guns was way out of proportion to the amount of damage they ever did. Still, the guns were arguably useful as some targets in the Siege of Sevastopol were invulnerable to all other types of artillery besides the enormous 800mm guns, such as the "White Cliff" ammunition magazine located 30 meters under the sea, with at least 10 meters of concrete protection. As such they could be said to have played a crucial part in bringing a siege that was tying up valuable units needed elsewhere to a quicker conclusion.
      • Some German general actually called Dora a useless state of the art.
      • The two guns did not require twin sets of parallel tracks to move; they were transported disassembled on a special train to the location where the gun was to be set up, then several sets of parallel tracks were laid (two for the gun, an additional track on either side of those for the crane used to assemble the gun, another to feed pieces to the crane, plus sidings), and then the gun was put together, aimed by towing it back and forth along an arc of track, and fired. To move the gun to a different location required it to be disassembled and put back on its transport train.
    • Speaking of German railroad artillery, perhaps the Paris Gun of World War I? It was an incredibly advanced piece of technology for its time that was also tremendously expensive. Some German officers of interwar years (among them Heinz Guderian) wondered why the Germans didn't develop and build some more tanks of their own (the A 7 V, the only German tank of World War I, was built in very small numbers very late in war and it was not very good) instead of this.
    • Perhaps the ultimate in ridiculous Nazi superweapons is the Sonnengewehr, or "Sun Gun": A 100-meter wide magnifying lens made of metallic sodium orbiting the Earth that would focus the sun's rays and vaporize entire cities like anthills. A crew of astronauts would operate the whole thing wearing magnetic boots to overcome microgravity, with onboard pumpkin patches providing food and air. It never made it past planning stages.
    • You don't even have to look at their superweapons, but just as their regular tanks. Until Speer took over, every time the engineers came up with a new improvement in a tank design they would change the production line. While in theory this resulted in better tanks, in practice it was a mess because a unit could have tanks that didn't have interchangeable parts, making logistics a nightmare, even though the tanks would supposedly be the same model. Making this even worse was the German tendency to develop machines that were "more efficient, more elegantly designed, and needing five times as many parts". The Allies adopted a more logical approach, allowing proposed changes to accumulate until there was enough to justify a new model, and keeping things as simple as possible.
      • The primary problem Germany had was that much of their industry relied on the 'craftsman' model, where each worker was expected to be able to do all the steps of a production process, where the Allies had transitioned to the assembly-line model, where a worker only had to be able to do one particular step of the process.
      • Armament industry in the US in fact preferred less skilled workers because they didn't spend too much time trying to do things right at their station, as that slowed down the assembly line. Unfortunately, this devotion towards production speed rather than quality came to bite US industries badly in 1980s, especially when the US auto industry that focused on quantity over quality wound up competing with Japanese auto makers whose approach was rooted more in craftsman approach, although with modern refinements.note 
    • The Fliegerfaust was to be used as a personal anti-air rocket launcher that launched nine rockets at a time. It never saw combat use since its spread was too great and it never reached the desired range. Sanya likes it though.
    • The FG-42 early model had most possibly the coolest design of any World War II small arm and it had been designed to combine the machine gun and rifle into one unit small enough to be carried by a paratrooper (it was as short as a modern AK-74, but had a 50cm barrel and fired full-power 7.92x57 ammo). Most of its cool features proved useless: it was too light to keep steady when firing full-automatic (half the weight of a BAR), too awkwardly to aim properly, had too small a magazine, needed expensive alloys to be made and it could not mount a true bayonet, only a metal spike instead of it.
  • The Nazis weren't alone in their crazy plans.
    • The Allies once tried to develop a large aircraft carrier made mostly out of frozen mulch. That's right, a gigantic ship made of icy wood pulp. It was designed to be much more resistant to German torpedoes and other hull breaches, since a block of frozen wood pulp is surprisingly resilient.
      • While they did build a proof of concept scale model, they realized in the process that it would be insanely expensive and time consuming to make, plus the war was ending by the time they could have gone forward with construction. In addition, one of the key reasons the idea behind the project was mooted in the first place, was due to a pressing steel shortage in Britain, with a carrier made of an alternative material seeming to offer a solution to this problem. The catch was, Britain also lacked the sheer number of refrigeration plants to churn out the ice required for construction, so they'd have to build them. Take a guess what strategic material such refrigeration plants would be mostly built with.
    • Another example of bizarre weapons on the Allied side is Walther Christie's ...unconventional... contribution to airborne warfare.
      • Christie, while he had some goofy ideas, also was a genius in armored vehicle design and his Christie suspension was used in some of the most successful tanks of WWII, including the T-34 and the Crusader.
    • British scientists also played around with a grenade design that shot poisonous needles everywhere instead of standard shrapnel. It was scrapped early on due to the incredibly large sadism-to-usefulness ratio, and the fact that its use probably flies in the face of dozens of tenets of The Laws and Customs of War.
    • The Soviets in turn, featured swimming and airborne tanks (which however, due to weight constrains, proved to be too lightly armed and armored to be useful, though in the context of behind-the-lines partisan warfare/recon for which the tank was intended, those factors were not actually that much of a problem) as well as the MiG-3, an interceptor only effective at 3km altitude or higher (useful against high-altitude strategic bombers, but the Germans never managed to make any).
  • It is an old saw that the M-16, for all its precision, is not remotely as reliable as the less-accurate Russian AK-47 (as aficionados will point out, a properly-maintained M-16 works very well, and a AK-47 — not a knock-off — with good-quality ammunition will shoot quite accurately; however, this remains the common perception).
    • Most of the focus in the discussion was the Vietnam war, where most of the problems with the M-16 were because of several issues: First, it was put into production way too early (as such they were using a prototype,) they said the gun was self-cleaning (which it wasn't) and therefore didn't distribute any cleaning kits, and the casings were packed with the wrong kind of propellant. All this combined with the harsh conditions soldiers had to drag them through led to a slew of reliability problems.
      • The gun may well have been self-cleaning...if used with the ammunition the designer intended. The US military switched the propellant used to what was their standard at the time, which was much dirtier than what the designer had specified and the testing had been done with. There was also a problem with the brass getting jammed in the ejection port (due to manufacturing tolerances being slightly worse than the designer expected), but that was corrected by making the port a bit bigger, although other approaches could be used. (Canada, for instance, took the approach of tightening the manufacturing tolerances of the ammunition, which kind of defeats the purpose of switching to a rifle that's supposed to be ammo-compatible with the US rifle, when it actually isn't.)
  • The Persian scythed chariot was an average war chariot with sharp blades mounted on the axles; the crew just had to plow through the crowd and the scythes would cut in half everyone within 1-2 meters. It wasn't very efficient, as casualties could be greatly avoided by letting it pass, and it could only work in open flat country with enough room to maneuver, but damn, there was nothing as awesome as seeing dozens of soldiers sliced by its might!
    • This was demonstrated on the "Persian Immortal vs. Celt Warrior" episode of Deadliest Warrior, where the Celt warfare experts simply said that it's pretty easy to jump over the scythe, which is exactly what the Celt warrior does in the final simulation before using a sling to take out the chariot driver. The Persian still wins, though.
      • Chariots themselves fell out of favour eventually, something about being big, relatively slow (compared to a man on a horse), requiring said flat surface, and not being able to charge head-on at infantry.
    • The scythe chariot lasted through no more than one engagement with Alexander the Great. He invented the Mousehole, a simple modification to the formation of his heavy infantry that allowed them to easily trap one when it was driven at them, then kill the driver. Combine that with the fact that heavy infantry was already pretty resistant to the damn thing and Alexander's armies included enough archers to kill horses and crew well before the impact...
    • It was inefficient off the battlefield, as well. Besides the driver, it needed at least one person to maintain the chariot and someone to look after the horses, making it far more expensive to build and operate.
    • The ultimate humiliation for the scyted chariot (and the war chariot in general) came when it was deployed against the Romans, with Roman generals apparently getting off on inventing worse and worse humiliations every time they faced them. The first time (Magnesia) they limited themselves on hitting the charioteers and the horses with thousands of arrows and javelins, but at Chaeronea Sulla dealt with them by having his soldiers charge at them, stop and redeploy in a shield wall right before impact (the Roman soldiers reached the chariots when they were still slow and accelerating, and thus the result was that the chariots were stopped dead by the shield wall and the Romans asked for more to play), and at Orchomenus he had his soldiers move away and let the horses driving the chariots impale themselves on the posts behind them (that was the plan B. Plan A was to dig a ditch and force the chariots in a swamp, but the enemy general realized what was happening and attacked right as the Romans started digging). All of this happened when the Romans were for some reason without caltrops to throw in their path (they had invented them due the Celts of Northern Italy using a different model of chariot, and were so efficient that by Caesar's time the only Celts who still used it were the more isolated Bretons).
  • The MiG-19 fighter was cutting edge for 1954 due to supersonic speed, multiple heavy cannons, long range and good handling, yet it could not go above Mach 1.5, could overheat its own fuel tanks in the fuselage, was tremendously hard to maintain or repair due to fuselage construction (very closely spaced ribs and small engine bays meant all work had to be done through small hatches above them).
    • Also, the F-104. Could fly at above Mach 2, was cheap, was the closest thing to breaching the sound barrier by strapping a rocket at your back, and crashed down so often to earn such unflattering nicknames as "lawn dart", "flying coffin" and "widow maker". Amazingly enough, Italy managed to create a working and reliable aircraft from this mess...
  • Flaming. Pigs.
  • Chainsaws in general. Yes, they're very awesome and can hack through trees and such, but try swinging around something that's big, loud, heavy and just plain messy and you'll probably severely injure/kill yourself. Should the chain get jammed or caught on anything, it can snap and whip out into your face.
  • If you have a micromanaging boss, they probably obsessively order you to do your job in a Cool, but Inefficient fashion, while bitching about how your productivity sucks.
  • Ladies and gentlemen, we give you the Thunder and Maadi Griff .50 BMG handguns. Yes, handguns.
  • One trick that Chinese archers used was to tie small fireworks to their arrows. This would increase the range and speed of the arrow, but make it unbelievably inaccurate. On the other hand, it added to how terrifying it was, which fit exactly with the way the Chinese used gunpowder in combat: as a means of scaring enemy horses and breaking cavalry charges.
  • The virtues of lasers as a weapon system are heavily debated, with innumerable threads on forums, the old Usenet, etc. filled with heated discussions of their flaws, virtues, and relative expense versus shooting bits of metal at high speed. See Kinetic Weapons Are Just Better.
    • One plausible use for lasers might just be to take advantage of the fact that a laser beam is just coherent, high-intensity light and blind your target(s). As in, quite possibly for good. That'd still be a far cry from having a proper futuristic ray gun. More of a terror weapon, in fact... to the point that the Geneva conventions specifically prohibit the use of lasers in this way.
  • Also consider the Gyrojet. Replacing regular bullets with small rockets meant the projectiles needed to travel something like 60 feet before they actually do any damage. In addition a manufacturing defect made them wildly inaccurate, the four angled jets spin the projectile through the entire flight instead of just in the barrel so early tests were more accurate than rifles but in later runs one of the jets was partially blocked off by accident.
  • Stealth air superiority fighters. Invisible to radar... well, depends on distance, radar's type and wavelength. VHF and HF radars can detect them at tactically useful ranges. IRST can detect them as well, and are passive - so if stealth fighter uses IRST to detect the enemy, it looses any advantage in detection range and if it uses radar, it is detected by enemy radar warners. They are also heavier and typically carry less payload than comparable non-stealth fighters (compare F-22 and F-15, F-35 and F-16, PAK FA and Su-27), as well as very costly and very hard to maintain.
  • There was once a drill bit which drilled square holes (the cross-section was a Reuleaux triangle, a rounded triangle of constant diameter). The trouble with it was, it needed a template to be affixed to the drilling site and a special floating chuck to spin the bit. For most purposes, drilling a circular hole (or set of holes) and sawing/filing out the rest is a lot more practical.
  • "Fisher's Follies", a group of light battlecruisers built on the orders of Lord Fisher during World War I. Combining armor that was light even for battlecruisers of their size with few but very heavy guns, they were intended for operations in the Baltic Sea (which in the event proved unfeasible) and the heavy guns caused structural damage to the ships themselves when fired. HMS Glorious, Courageous and Furious (nicknamed "Uproarious", "Outrageous" and "Curious") were eventually all converted to aircraft carriers, serving as such in World War II.
  • The firearm itself for a long time. It took over a century after their development before they were considered battleworthy and another century-plus after that before they fully replaced the bow and arrow. The cannon earned its keep much quicker.
  • The Spruce Goose, which was the largest heavier-than-air aircraft in the world at the time of production. It was only an 'aircraft' in the technical sense once, and then only for a few hundred yards. Very pretty, though.
    • The reason it flew only a few hundred yards was the guy behind it, Howard Hughs, was trying to prove that it could, in fact, actually fly during Congressional hearings into the money he'd extracted from the US government to build it (and one criticism was that it wasn't able to fly). It wasn't a bad idea, it just turned out to be too late and not needed. During WWII, it was not always clear that it would turn out to be possible to stop U-boat attacks on Allied convoys sufficiently to keep supply shipments to Britain going, so Hughs proposed giant transport aircraft instead. The Spruce Goose was the prototype. As things went, it wasn't ready for testing until years after the war ended and a whole bunch of things made U- boats themselves fall into this category before the end of the war anyway.
  • The legendary Buick Grand National / GNX was the revenge for the Dork Age of automotive design of The Eighties, able to run from zero to 60 in just 4.7 seconds, faster than a Ferrari Testarossa. Which also proved its factory quoted horsepower were bullshit, it's mathematically impossible to run a heavy brick-shaped car so quick with just 276hp, the real figures might have been in the 330-370hp range. However, owners reported it was more like a "one-wheel drive", which would twist and raise rear wheels sideways upon launch, one by one like cartoon cars do.
  • The Beech Duke. Reasonably fast (for a piston twin), pressurized, and damn but it's pretty. It's also horribly unreliable and costs approximately the GNP of a small country to maintain. But you'd look cool in it.
  • Again, that Superiority short story? One university had it as required reading for engineers in training.
  • During World War I Italy produced the Villar-Perosa submachine gun. Designed for infantry use (for the usual logistical issues of Italy at the time, the infantry version was put in service after the modified version for aircrafts), it had two guns firing 1,500 rounds per minute each. Sadly it only had 25 rounds per gun, and its ergonomics were terrible (seriously, just click on that link, look the picture and try to imagine how you can fire it). In a silent acknowledgement of this, most Villar-Perosas were disassembled in their component guns, fitted with rifle stocks and modified to fire slower, obtaining a more usable weapon.
  • Ingram MAC-11 machine pistol. While it admittedly has tremendous rate of fire (up to 1600 rounds per minute), it has only 16 cartridges in its clip. Pressing the trigger will empty the clip in less than one second. Due to its short barrel, it is also horribly inaccurate.
  • Black camouflage; the quintessential staple of Hollywood and video game special forces teams for decades. Unfortunately that's because in fiction their enemies are only as vigilant as the script writer commands them to be. In real life it is quite possibly one of the worst shades you could wear short of something stupid like shocking pink. This is due in large part to the fact that there are very few blacks in either nature or man-made environments meaning that in daylight you stand out just about everywhere and at night colors such as dark blue or green work just as well if not better. Generally speaking the only way to make black genuinely useful is to pair it with something else; for example white and/or grey.
  • This is regarded as one of the main reasons why we don't have even a single piece of corroborated evidence as to the existence of extra-terrestrials. Even to a race immeasurably superior to our own technologically; the problems inherent in funding, building, powering, designing, stocking, defending and accelerating an interstellar (let alone an intergalactic) spacecraft are so hilariously large that any attempt to do so would probably be far more trouble than it is actually worth. One could also levy this exact same reasoning as to why we aren't being constantly bombarded with travellers from the future or from other universes assuming that either of those things are possible/exist obviously.

    Meta 
  • The 11 Most Retarded Fictional Weapons.
  • In the words of Yahtzee:
    Yahtzee: ...the world's largest pie couldn't honestly be called a good pie because it's uneconomical and probably wouldn't fit in an oven.
  • This website, naturally. It may be cool to know everything about every piece of media out there, but good luck being able to concentrate on anything else like homework, work, a social life... YMMV on that one, if one intends to write works of fiction, can get over the fact the most of life does not work this way, will not drive themselves insane from the fact that nothing is new and probably will have it share of people not liking it and discussing why, AND use their knowledge of these tropes to create something amazing, whilst still having a stable life. THEN it might be worth it. Difficult but Awesome

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