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Guns vs. Swords
Kinda like this, but less physical... normally
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:
It's obvious that neither side will give in any time soon. So here are some examples of this playing out in fiction, and notable Real Life
examples. Please remember that this is NOT about which is better!
Related to Katanas Are Just Better
, Shotguns Are Just Better
and Revolvers Are Just Better
. See Sword and Gun
and The Musketeer
for when someone decides to pack both
. See Mix-and-Match Weapon
for when swords and guns, along with other weapons, are fused together into a weapon that will be cooler than both but may or may not work
. If this trope is used, it may also be used alongside a Magic Versus Science
argument, though not always. It can also be justified with a Retro Upgrade
for melee weapons. Authors sometimes use Fantasy Gun Control
to enforce their preference for swords
Also take note that both sides have more in common than you might think
, at least thematically
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.
- Having said that, both times they fight, Spike has already taken at least one gunshot wound. But since it's a Heroic Bloodshed show, it can be questioned whether they slow him down.
- 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.
- 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 another gun wielder during the Vandenreich invasion. Kyoraku loses.
- 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 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. He just shoots him.
- Allegedly a hasty rewrite. An epic Sword Fight was planned but Harrison Ford had a minor back injury when it was due to be filmed. Comedy and pragmatism took the day.
- Another version has Ford suffering from diarrhea that day.
- 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.
- There's always Obi-Wan's line from Star Wars about light sabers: "Not so clumsy or random as a blaster".
- On the opposite side, 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 does use Luke's lightsaber briefly (the only non-jedi to do so in the film series) to cut open Luke's mount.
- Helping Han's case: Obi-Wan couldn't beat Grievous with his lightsaber, but did with a well-placed blaster shot. In line with his comment above, he chastised himself for being "So uncivilized."
- 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
- Warhammer 40,000 is all about charging the enemy before he can gun you down, or shooting him before he can reach you.
- Though many units designed for close-combat use Sword and Gun as the rules make having a pistol and melee weapon the same as having two melee weapons for lots of melee weapon types except you can shoot with the pistol, combining two great tastes in one.
- 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 Soul Calibur, 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.
- 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.
- There's a wonderful example of this in one of the short episodes of ∆on Flux animation. 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, 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.
- And then there's "Mad Jack" Churchill, who fought with a claymore (and not the 'mine' kind) in WW2.