"Those who live by the sword get shot by those who don't."The timeless Internet argument. On many forums, the debate over whether guns or swords are better rages on. Common (but not necessarily true) statements from either side include: Guns
- Guns have longer range!
- Guns are easier to use!
- Guns are more common!
- Honor doesn't matter in a real fight!
- Guns are just cooler!
- Revolvers and shotguns are badass!
- Pulling the trigger is quicker and easier than swinging a sword!
- Guns are still the weapon of choice for nearly all military and law enforcement agencies around the world.
- Swords don't jam, misfire or need reloading!
- Swords do more damage to people!
- Swords are more honorable!
- Katanas can deflect and cut (certain) bullets in half!
- Swords are just cooler!
- Sword fights are more intense!
- Sword slashes covers more range and are more practical in close quarters!
- Depending where you live, legally obtaining a firearm may be impossible. Most countries today do not restrict swordsmanship or fencing (although openly carrying around a big sword might still get you on trouble).
- OFF RECORD NOTE: Imagine different situations. Trying to hunt down a guy in a swamp, fumble the gun into water, gunpowder wet, WHOOPS. But if you're facing another guy with a guy who's 3 ft away IRL...Better to have that gun. It all depends on where you are.
open/close all folders
Anime and Manga
- In Cowboy Bebop, Spike uses a gun, and his rival, Vicious, uses a katana. They're shown to be equal fighters, at least partially because Vicious recognizes the limits of his weapon and uses stealth to get up close.
- Similar to the above example, Black Cat has the protagonist using a gun while his archenemy uses a sword. They are pretty evenly matched regardless. Sephira, however, is actually the best swordsman in the series.
- GUN◊SWORD fits in with the above examples. Van uses a sword, Ray uses a gun.
- Episode 12 of Black Lagoon had a scene where Revy and Knife Nut mercenary Shenhua argued about whether guns or knives were better, and then decided to demonstrate their points by slaughtering a small army pursuing them.
- In the really terrible anime Musashi Gundoh, everyone dual-wields a gun and a sword, except for the main character, who just uses guns.
- The protagonist in practically every continuity of Zoids ends up using a blade-wielding mecha against plenty of guns.
- In Mobile Suit Gundam 00 Season 2, in his last battle Ali Al-Saachez claims that close range combat is the best. He's then defeated by Lockon Stratos and his Gundam's beam pistols.
- The ultimate confrontation of Afro Samurai involves this. Afro, as per the title, uses a sword, while his nemesis, Justice, uses guns.
- Bleach has Dual Wielding for both Captain Shunsui Kyoraku (Swordsman) and his opponent, Espada Coyote Starrk (Gunslinger). On top of that, both are Combat Pragmatist that pull every dirty trick in the book to win. Kyoraku wins. It's apparently a running gag for Kyoraku, who later ends up facing two more gun wielders during the Vandenreich invasion. Kyoraku loses against the first one, then requires Nanao's help against the second.
- The extra "After Days" chapter of the Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha Striker S manga featured Nanoha vs Signum in an exhibition match, complete with combat commentary that contrasted the fighting techniques of the two combatants. Nanoha is The Ace with her Beam Spam-dispensing Boom Stick. Signum is a Master Swordsman from Ancient Belka. Who will win? It ends in a tie.
- In Digimon Frontier, EmperorGreymon and MagnaGarurumon are all over this. The first does battle with a BFS and dragons made of fire, while the second is carrying maybe a half-ton of weaponry in lasers, bullets, and rocket launchers.
- JoJo's Bizarre Adventure has Jean-Pierre Polnareff (sword) and Hol Horse (gun) holding a silly, shonen-esque debate on whose weapon is better. Judging from the final outcome, Polnareff wins. He successfully kills Hol Horse's accomplice, while Hol Horse not only runs away, but his apparent headshot on Avdol also misses at the last second.
- In Fairy Tail, Erza (swordswoman) and Bisca (gunslinger) use the same kind of magic and the latter admires the former.
- Sword Art Online presents this quite literally in its third season, where Kirito enters the world of Gun Gale Online. Despite having poor accuracy and fighting many opponents with guns, Kirito is able to defeat them all by equipping a photon sword and using his reflexes to deflect bullets, something no other user has ever even attempted.
- We get this late into Attack on Titan once the Military Police's Central 1st Brigade gets introduced and they clash with the Survey Corps.
- In a team up event, Blade and The Punisher meet on a rooftop. Punisher has a gun to Blade's head and Blade has his sword to Punisher's neck.
- Elsa Bloodstone in Nextwave was a combat specialist, and mostly stuck to using guns, but upon facing a bunch of samurai robots, she declares "Samurai Robots beat guns. Every time." So she drops her guns, pulls out her own sword, and proceeds to face them that way.
- And by sword we mean Shovel.
- Miho wields her katanas against guns all the time in Sin City and wins.
- In a famous scene from Raiders of the Lost Ark, Indiana Jones is confronted by a formidable sword wielder. So Indy just shoots him.
- The Last Samurai portrays this quite well.
- Yojimbo pits a gangster with a revolver against a shitstirrer with a katana, both of whom say their respective weapons are best.
- Star Wars
- Swords. There's always Obi-Wan's line from about light sabers being an "elegant weapon" and going on to say that they're "Not so clumsy or random as a blaster". When circumstances lead to him using a blaster, he chastises himself for being "So uncivilized."
- Guns. There's Han Solo's declaration that "Hokey religions and ancient weapons are no match for a good blaster at your side, kid." In The Empire Strikes Back, Darth Vader proves him wrong. On Hoth in the same film, Han uses Luke's lightsaber briefly (the only non-jedi to do so in the film series) to cut open Luke's mount.
- Two factors make guns preferred for most people. First is the power beind the "hokey religion" is actually real and observable. Second, only a select few can actually tap the power and it still takes training to use the power to effectively use the sword.
- Featured prominently in Sukiyaki Western Django, all manner of weapon was used, culminating in a dual between the Hero and the Big Bad in the final scene, with the Hero using a pistol against the Big Bad's Katana. He even parries a strike from the Katana, locking it against the finger guard. As shown in this picture◊
- Don't forget the ending sequence for the V for Vendetta movie - the bad guys shoot up V with submachine guns. But, thanks to his superhuman strength (and metal chest plate) recovers enough strength to kill them all with his many knives before they can reload.
- Although it's not strictly guns versus swords, in The Expendables Barney Ross and Lee Christmas are in constant disagreement over which weapon is better: guns or knives. Barney favors guns, Lee favors knives.
- The Lords of Creation. Lampshaded in the prologue of In the Courts of the Crimson Kings. The first pictures from Mars show the inhabitants are armed with firearms and swords. Some speculate that it's due to a code of honor, but it's pointed out that it would give the cheaters too much of an advantage. It turns out Martians use biotechnology guns that are slow to reload, so they need to have a weapon handy in the interim.
Live Action TV
- In The Walking Dead, the question is posed as to which is more efficient after the zombie holocaust after Michonne joins the cast. Michonne's sword proves invaluable, as it can be used to kill endless waves of zombies without running out of ammo, though its obviously much less effective when fighting human enemies. One of the best things about her sword is that it enables the crew to safely kill zombie hoardes while saving their firearms ammo for more formidable threats like armed hostile humans.
- As Mythbusters has pointed out, katanas cannot cut through gun barrels, because the barrels are quite strong indeed.
- "A lot of you will be wondering, why there are so many wonderful treasures on display here, at the British Museum. Now, it is quite simple, really: Gun beats spear!"
- The hero and villain of The Following exemplify this trope- gun toting FBI agent Ryan Hardy and Knife Nut Serial Killer Joe Carroll.
- Deadliest Warrior has many warriors fight each other, though most have weapons from a similar era. This is the exception for Knight vs Pirate. Knight can be considered one of the most powerful ancient warriors due to its armor and metallurgy of weapons while Pirates are one of the oldest gunfighters and had no long ranged rifles or muskets in the match. While the Pirate did have a sword he obviously prefered gunpowder weapons as well. While the Knight has more skill, better melee weapons, more money and armor these factors were pointless in the face of the Pirate's weapons. The Grenado exploited the small gaps within the Knight's armor and could still harm a Knight to some degree if it was stopped by the armor, but the Blunderbuss especially dominated the fight with its ability to pierce through the Knight's armor with ease and could aim accurately before the Knight could even get in close.
- Warhammer 40,000 is all about charging the enemy before he can gun you down, or shooting him before he can reach you.
- New Horizon has rules for melee and ranged combat. Melee usually does more damage, but ranged weapons can be used from atop fortress walls. Also, the melee weapons are better able to price though though hides and armor, so they tend to be more useful to fight the local wildlife and heavy infantry. Guns are good for softening up targets from a distance and taking care of squishy unarmored humans. Otherwise, the advantage of Melee weapons is that they do more damage by increasing strength and close combat, where with ranged combat only the chance to hit is increased.
- In SoulCalibur, Mitsurugi's bio mentions that he lost a duel against a rifleman, and wants to find the Soul Edge because it's superior to any other weapon, including guns (he also spent a good part of his time devising techniques against firearms).
- Expanding on above example: Mitsurugi's ending in Soul Blade gives you a special, first-person-perspective fight against a soldier wielding an old, front-loaded rifle, dubbed 'Tanegashima' after the old Japanese word for firearms. If you don't do EXACTLY the right thing the moment the battle starts, you'll get shot, and get the 'bad ending' (which is also the canonical one, as stated above). However, if you step to the side the moment the battle starts, you can dodge the bullet, then quickly close the distance before the rifleman can reload, and cut him down - giving you a Good Ending where Mitsurugi declares that he has no need for the Soul Edge, since his own badass sword-skills are enough to take on even firearms.
- Mitsurugi eventually abandons his pursuit of Soul Edge when he becomes strong enough to defeat riflemen on his own.
- Played straight in Gunz. Your character is equipped with guns and swords. Swords do more damage, can deflect bullets, and glitch up the game in advantageous ways. Guns are guns.
- In the later Final Fantasy games, the two exist side by side, mostly due to Charles Atlas Superpowers as well as Magic being prominent. Some examples:
- Final Fantasy VII: Barrett's weapons range from big metal balls to Gatling guns, all of which attach to his right arm. Vincent uses a rather large pistol, while Cloud uses a BFS. Regular soldiers are seen wielding assault rifles, and heaver mechanized weapons do exist.
- Final Fantasy VIII: Irvine uses a rifle while Zell beats on things with his fists. Laguna uses an assault rifle and grenades, but his parter Kiros uses Katals. Squall's gunblade is just a sword that can detonate on impact for extra damage.
- Final Fantasy XII is where things get a little interesting. The airships are armed with heavy machine guns, but for ground combat, swords and armor is the preferred method of fighting. The man-portable guns that do exist are of the Blunderbuss variety.
- Final Fantasy XIII takes it one step further. Assault rifles are now the default weapons for armies, along with grenade launchers and the occasional baton. Lightning uses a weapon that converts between a gun and a sword, Snow punches things, and Sazh uses dual pistols that combine into a rifle.
- Fable II allows the protagonist to use both guns and swords and faces enemies that use both. Both have advantages and disadvantages, but a character can theoretically use either exclusively.
- In Onimusha 2, you can have a competition with the gunfighter to see which is better: Your katana or his rifle, seeing who can kill the most enemies in a fixed period of time. Of course, this is a katana against a 16th century matchlock. In real life, the gunman would have only been able to shoot a handful of times in the timeframe involved.
- In ResidentEvil4, Leon and Ada have a flashy knife-to-gun fight. In the end, Leon gets the upper hand, disarms Ada and holds his knife to her throat. He lets up, though.
- In Modern Warfare 2 a ludicrously effective strategy is using Marathon (for unlimited sprinting), Lightweight (to move faster), and Commando (which lets you stab enemies from a longer distance away) - and use a pistol with a tactical knife attachment (to stab faster). Essentially, this lets you dash everywhere and stab everyone for a one-hit kill. Granted, if someone sees you coming, they can gun you down from a distance pretty easily, but ninja-ing your way through the maps is still quite effective.
- Marathon and Lightweight mean a player sprints all the time and so fast one can easily run straight at claymores—their explosion is delayed by a fraction of a second, enough for a runner to be in the safe zone when it blows up. Even more ludicrous when said runner uses Commando to stab an enemy hiding behind the claymore...
- In Jade Empire, one of the characters you encounter is Sir Roderick Ponce von Fontlebottom the Magnificent Bastard (voiced by John Cleese) who keeps dueling people with his arquebus called Mirabelle and, of course, winning, since the people of the Jade Empire have never seen a firearm (they assume it simply makes fireworks). The player can challenge Sir Roderick and get his weapon after beating him. One of the styles available to the player is sword-fighting.
- While guns in Deus Ex are good weapons, halfway through the game you get a sword that OHKOs most enemies you meet and allows you to take on bots in close combat.
- StarCraft has a surprisingly high amount of bladed weapons for a sci-fi game. Protoss Zealots for example can easily cut down most of the conventionally armed Terran Infantry, and the sequel even gives them a charge ability to quickly close the distance.
- In the Mega Man series, swords tend to do more damage per ammo cost than most ranged attacks to compensate for lack of range. Examples are Slash Claw from Mega Man 7 and Flame Sword from Mega Man 8.
- Mega Man X: Ever Since Zero became fully playable since X4, this trope becomes the player's decision- X's Arm Cannon or Zero's Laser Blade. Also, X v.s. Zero in X5. Whichever weapon comes out on top is decided by the player.
- Also referred to in Mega Man Battle Network. Title Character MegaMan uses an Arm Cannon as his signature weapon, while The Rival ProtoMan makes use of a Blade Below the Shoulder.
- The iOS game Ravenmark Scourge Of Estellion takes place in a Standard Fantasy Setting with the titular Empire of Estellion (the strongest nation in this world) has a typical Medieval army (albeit with some Wind and Blood Magic used here and there). However, the neighboring Commonwealth of Esotre has made great strides in technology and alchemy, as their land is much harsher, and survival there requires innovation. Thus, their front-line troops are Fusilier Linesmen armed with single-shot muskets. According to the in-game Codex, Fusiliers usually only get one shot per battle before they close with the enemy and fight hand-to-hand. Thus, their muskets have two bayonets attached to them. In the gameplay, however, they can fire every turn. Fusilier Militia are mostly melee troops, although they can use their Volley ability to fire their muskets every 3 turns. For the most part, Imperial troops do just as well with your typical Medieval weapons like swords, spears, and bows. However, elite Sotran marksmen called Greyjacket Riflemen lower the defense rating of any enemy on a successful hit.
- A futuristic take on the trope from Strider: Hiryu is the unmatched expert of the Cypher, a Laser Blade which generates an edge of white-hot plasma. His first rival, the Bounty Hunter Solo, instead relies entirely on firearms to fight, using a giant plasma gun/cannon, a handgun and other weapons like mines and missiles.
- In Medabots this is on display with the Japanese Beetle Brothers Metabee and Rokusho. Metabee specializes in long-range weaponry including a rifle, sub machine-gun, and missile launcher, while Rokusho's signature weapon is a pair of scissors fashioned into a Blade Below the Shoulder.
- Can be seen as a theme within Total War: Shogun 2, especially if you move from the main game to the last expansion.
- The classic campaign takes place during Japan's Sengoku period, which saw firearms introduced to the country by Western traders. Arquebuses are inaccurate and slow to fire, but dangerous in salvos and good at breaking Ashigaru units. But since getting gunpowder weapons in great numbers involves either going deep into the tech tree or dishonoring yourself by dealing with foreigners (or worse, converting to Christianity!), for most daimyo it's much more practical to focus on katana-toting samurai, which are extremely effective in close combat.
- But then comes the Fall of the Samurai campaign, set during the Boshin War. Not only are handheld firearms much more dangerous and widespread, you can also field powerful artillery pieces like Gatling guns. It's possible to refuse to modernize and win the game with a "traditional" army, but in most cases bringing a bunch of swords to the battlefields in this era is just asking for a massacre.
- Zigzagged in Way Of The Samurai 4. Gameplay seems to favor the sword a lot more, as swords are more durable and have more devastating techniques, while guns do minimal damage and break after a few uses. But in cutscenes, whenever someone wields a gun, expect another character to be heavily injured or even killed.
- All of the Halo games feature plasma-sword wielding Elites, alien commanders who charge into battle against gun-toting humans. Multiplayer and campaign missions often see the gun vs sword debate play out literally, when the covenant plasma sword faces a human 8 gauge shotgun. There is even a multiplayer mode called infection dedicated to scatterguns or pistols vs swords.
- Team Fortress 2 deliberately omits effective close combat firearms and has melee weapons buffed in its mechanics to make them practical. This culminates in Demoknight loadup which only uses melee weapons but is still pretty competitive.
- Part way through episode "War" of ∆on Flux Aeon is already dead by this point (not a spoiler, she always dies), and the guy who killed her is making is way through armies of mooks. He is brought up short by a guy doing fancy twirly moves with a sword. He watches for a moment, and sardonically looks at his gun. After a moment, he simply shoots the guy... who then deflects the bullet with his blade and impales our hero in a single swift move. And onwards...
- Samurai Jack tends to lean both ways with this. Guns in the hands of Mooks are typically pretty useless against the sword-swinging samurai, but any gun user with training and experience, like the Clench Family and The Scotsman, are able to use them with great effect. The Clenches actually were losing against Jack until they brandished their guns, which quickly turned the battle in their favor.
- It's a notable historical fact that when guns were first introduced, they were so unreliable that many still preferred swords. Essentially, when pitting a sword against a gun, the gunman had one shot. If he missed (and he usually did), the swordsman had plenty of time to close and cut down the defenseless opponent while he was frantically reloading. Of course this flaw was later corrected, and swords eventually fell out of favor, as guns grew more reliable.
- This is why The Three Musketeers are primarily remembered for the scenes in which they fight with swords even though their name clearly states that they were the king's elite musket users.
- Even after guns became more reliable the Hanoverians and Jacobites engaged in a series of bloody experiments to see whether a volley of musketry can do enough damage to disrupt a highland charge. Until ring-mounted bayonets were developed, the charge was fairly effective despite the losses. Afterward, the charge's effectiveness relied heavily on whether or not a large number of screaming men with large swords was enough to demoralize the Crown soldiers.
- And up until the development of more modern cartridge-based firearms, the biggest great equalizer when you've only got time for one shot was the use of bayonets, though that essentially settled the debate in favor of melee. Granted, the initial volley(s) remained every bit as essential to winning the battle as other ranged weapons were in earlier times, the addition of bayonets meant you could give every soldier in your army a gun and a bayonet instead of splitting melee and firearm roles between different formations, and the development of rifled firearms offered another essential use for guns, creating the prototypical Cold Sniper. Though when guns were still muzzle-loading, that rifling did hinder one's ability to shove the bullet and wadding fully down the barrel.
- This trope is the reason Samurai are so strongly associated with swords; initially they were associated with bows and carried swords as sidearms (they fought on horseback, much like the mongols). When firearms were developed and bows became obsolete, the role of katanas was played up (while samurai adopted firearms, so did the peasantry, so they didn't pick up the same association as bows, which require a lot of training to use).
- Some early battles of WW1 played out like this. In the opening months of the war, the Germans had settled down into the trenches and had adopted the attrition tactics that WW1 is remembered for; however, what most people forget is that WW1 was an entirely new kind of war, and introduced tactics like tanks, artillery barrages and air support that had simply not existed beforehand. Therefore, the British and French kept trying to use the tactics they had been using in the colonial wars for decades- which were based pretty heavily on cavalry charges to break the lines. The British cavalry relied on their sabres much more than their pistols (because it's hard to aim a gun whilst riding a galloping horse), and some French cavalry regiments did not even carry guns because it was ungentlemanly; meanwhile, the Germans were tooled up with machine guns. For an example of how well swords versus guns worked in this situation, watch the first hour of War Horse. They eventually learned better, and WW1 changed the face of warfare forever.
- That said, sword-armed cavalry still had one last victory against guns at Izbushensky during World War II, when the Italian cavalry regiment, the Savoia Cavalleria, discovered that almost four times their numbers in infantry with artillery support had surrounded them during the previous night and so charged and routed the enemy. That said, everyone involved quickly understood the charge succeeded partly because the Soviets weren't expecting the Italians to be that crazy and partly because the cavalry was armed not just with sabers but also with carbines (indeed, the squadrons who still had to charge supported the charging ones with their guns), pistols, grenades, and, much to the Soviets' surprise, light artillery (every Italian cavalry regiment was supported by horse artillery).
- And then there's "Mad Jack" Churchill, who fought with a claymore (and not the 'mine' kind) in WW2.
- While not quite swords, melee weapons as a whole have seen use throughout the Vietnam War and are still in deployment today in some countries; Knives, Machetes, Axes, Spears, and even Clubs have seen their fair share of usage as weapons throughout contemporary history alongside modern firearms. Modern military forces are even required minor training for defense against melee weapons, and some in the usage of them.