Never Bring a Gun to a Knife Fight

Mr. Creedy: "You've got nothing. Nothing but your bloody knives and your fancy karate gimmicks. We have guns."
V: "No, what you have are bullets, and the hope that when your guns are empty I'm no longer standing, because if I am you'll all be dead before you've reloaded."

You think that Never Bring a Knife to a Gun Fight always applies, right?

Not necessarily.

At times, either the knife-wielder is just so good, or the gun-wielder is just so bad, that the knife-wielder actually has the upper hand here.

Truth in Television in certain circumstances; as the Real Life section notes.

Subtrope of Implausible Fencing Powers and Heroes Prefer Swords. Contrast Never Bring a Knife to a Gun Fight. Related to Guns Are Worthless.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Fullmetal Alchemist: King Bradley is so skilled with swords that he can actually cut bullets and missiles in half.
  • Happens twice in a row in Noir. Mireille is a skilled assassin with a gun; the Intoccabile only has a dagger. Unfortunately, Mireille is absolutely terrified of her, having been threatened by her with that same dagger when she was just a little girl. So during their fight, as the Intoccabile runs towards her with the dagger, Mireille can only stand paralyzed with fear, uselessly pointing her gun at her but not shooting. Luckily, Kirika shows up just in time to shoot the blade in half, so that when the Intoccabile thinks she's stabbed Mireille, it turns out that the broken edge of her dagger is only pressing into her. With the other end of the dagger flung closer to Mireille, and Mireille's dropped gun lying closer to the Intoccabile, they both go for each other's weapons. Whether due to lack of experience or shaken confidence, the Intoccabile points the gun uncertainly and doesn't shoot; after a moment's hesitation, Mireille finally overcomes her fear and stabs her.
  • In his backstory, Souichi from Snow White and Seven Dwarfs was locked up in a room and forced to kill wave after wave of people who came after him. As Souichi only had a Blade Below the Shoulder, his opponents, who were armed with guns, were confident that they could win. Guess who won in the end?
  • A Story Arc in Sword Art Online takes the The Ace gamer, Kirito, into a virtual MMO first-person-shooter world. Our hero has generally used only swords in prior games. But there is a "lightsaber" in the game, and he decides to make it work to the amazement of all.

  • The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Captain Nemo easily defeats a sizable squadron of mooks armed with machine guns using only his sword and bare hands.
    • Dorian Gray does as well, but he's immortal so it doesn't matter if he gets shot. (Which he eventually does).
  • Resident Evil: Retribution re-enacts the Resident Evil 4 example below, but with Alice in place of Leon.
  • The Magnificent Seven features Britt, a quiet man with a deadly fast, deadly accurate throwing arm. Challenged to a Duel to the Death by a Sore Loser of a speed contest, he effortlessly dispatches the gunslinger with a single lethal throw.
    Britt: You lost.
    • Subverted in the final battle. After running out of bullets Britt draws his knife, and is shot and killed before he can throw it.
  • Yojimbo may be the Trope Codifier. During the big, climactic showdown, Sanjuro manages to overcome the pistol-wielding Unosuke by hurling a throwing knife into his shooting arm, completely destroying his aim.
  • The Warriors has an example extremely similar to Yojimbo during its climax. As Luther takes aim with his handgun, Swan sidesteps and throws his switchblade, getting Luther right in his gun arm, which causes him to drop the gun and fall to his knees in pain.
  • The villain in Surf Ninjas has a gun built into his cybernetic arm. The sword-wielding hero first uses Implausible Fencing Powers to parry the bullets, then cuts the arm off with his sword. At this point, the villain invokes Never Bring a Knife to a Fist Fight by complaining that it's no longer a fair fight because the hero is armed and he isn't. In a moment of either Genre Savvy or Honor Before Reason, the hero actually goes along with this, puts his sword away, and the two of them finish the fight in a manner consistent with the film's PG rating.
  • In the finale of Whos That Girl, the embezzling father of the protagonist's fiancée is actually able to disarm two cops using a fencing foil. (As in, the type of sword that would likely break if used against someone using a sword designed as a serious weapon. Yeah, it makes very little sense, but neither does most of the rest of the movie.)
  • V for Vendetta has V take out numerous gun-wielding mooks along with Mr. Creedy with a pair of knives (he goes through a half-dozen knives in the course of the fight, but only uses two at a time).
    • Potentially subverted in that V is wearing extremely heavy body armor and a hardened mask. And he dies from accumulated trauma shortly afterwards. But a Villain Ball is definitely being carried by Creedy and his minions.
  • A tragic Real Life example is captured in Rolling Stones Rockumentary / Concert Film Gimme Shelter. Concert-goer Meredith Hunter pulls a gun, which is clearly visible in his left hand—it can be seen against the pattern of his girlfriend's dress. But the Hell's Angel motorcyclist knocks the gun aside, pushes Hunter away, and stabs him in the back. (His girlfriend's testimony and the toxicology report showed that Hunter was high on methamphetamine.)

     Live Action TV 

     Video Games 
  • A particularly notable example in Resident Evil 4 during Leon and Ada's brief skirmish in Salazar's castle; when Ada gets her gun knocked out of her hand, she acrobatically scrambles to get it back... but just as she starts to aim it, Leon has closed the distance and is holding his knife to her throat, at which time he provides the page quote. Probably a moot point anyway as the magazine gets dropped at the end of the cutscene, but there is no ammo dropped so the gun was unloaded anyway, since Ada would know Leon is skilled and how easy it is to accidentally shoot a gun in a close combat fight should Ada fail to intimidate the man for whom she has feelings.
  • Metal Gear:
    • Metal Gear Solid: During the Boss Battle with Gray Fox, he will automatically block bullets from every weapon in Snake's arsenal with his sword; Snake has to fight him hand-to-hand to advance the fight. The pre-boss cutscene The Twin Snakes even shows him cutting a bullet fired from Snake in two.
    • Major Ocelot and his Ocelot Unit, armed with automatic pistols and assault rifles, are all thoroughly spanked by the knife-wielding Naked Snake during the Virtuous Mission in Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, and Operation Snake Eater proves that it wasn't just Cutscene Power to the Max: he really is that good with a knife. The basic CQC stance even invokes this, enabling one to switch between a gunfight and a knifefight on the fly.
    • Part of Jetstream Sam's backstory in Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance is that he singlehandedly defeated a squad of ten mobsters armed with machine guns using only his sword, years before cyborg and high-frequency blade technology was publicly available.
  • Devil May Cry 3: Dante's Awakening: During the fights with Vergil, he's able to block Dante's pistol shots by spinning his sword.
  • The Spy in Team Fortress 2 uses a knife as the main weapon, unlike other classes which use multiple forms of guns. His butterfly knife provides an instant kill on any enemy he backstabs. While he has a revolver, it is used more for a surprise attack or a cover during an escape.
  • For game balance reasons, this is the fate of Tau warriors caught in melee in Dawn of War. Their plasma rifles do horrible things to enemy infantry from offscreen, but do pitiful damage when used as blunt objects. Even worse, on the offchance that they do manage to kill an enemy in melee, one animation has them rapid-fire their gun in the target's face, at a rate orks would be proud of.
    • Commissars use a Sword and Gun, but only the former in melee until the defeat animation, where they execute the kneeling target.
  • Justified Trope in Mass Effect 2 with Kasumi Goto's Shadow Strike ability. Turns out, a Tactical camouflage and an Omniblade can kill enemies armed with guns pretty well.
    • Vanguards can join in the fight too. By using their signature ability Biotic Charge, they can cover a distance of 50 meters in a second or two, recharge their shields, hit an enemy in the face and send him flying if his barrier/armor/Deflector Shield is depleted. And even if the enemy isn't send flying, taking advantage of the fact that both Biotic charge and melee attacks stun the enemy can lead to a heavily armed enemy being prey to a Stun Lock and beaten to death.

     Western Animation 
  • Numerous incarnations of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1987, 2003, 2012, etc.) often depict them as easily handling mooks and other villains wielding both conventional and more advanced firearms using their Weapons Of Choice.
  • Ulrich in Code Lyoko, and how! You'd think he was taught swordplay by a Jedi Master the way he can deflect laser blasts from Xana's minions with his katana.

     Real Life 
  • An episode of MythBusters determined that in certain circumstances, even an untrained average person armed with a knife would indeed have an advantage over someone armed with a gun.
  • This trope has been demonstrated numerous times in close quarter combat, especially during World War I. Having advanced to the enemy position, soldiers quickly found that their standard-issue bolt-action rifle was practically useless: too long to be easily wielded in the tight spaces, and too slow to fire to be effective. Even with a bayonet, it was clunky and awkward, and so trench-fighting became dominated with knives, clubs, axes, shovels, and handguns. At the end of the day, nothing was found to be as easy, instinctive, and effective as a simple combat knife.
  • Most nations' Special Forces units spend large amounts of time training with and carry combat knives as well as guns. As previously noted, quite a bit of practical research shows that in the hands of a trained individual, a knife is the superior weapon at ranges less than two body lengths. In trench and urban warfare, knives also have the added benefit of being completely silent and easier to wield in confined spaces. That said, there is also the matter of pragmatism, hence Special Forces typically also carry rifles, handguns, flash grenades, and a number of other options into combat. Thus, this might be less a case of Never Bring A Gun To A Knife Fight, and more an example of Always Bring As Much Useful Dakka And Situation-ally Useful Weaponry As You Can Carry Without Hindering Yourself To Any Fight.
  • One type of handgun training/shooting competition consists of drawing and accurately shooting a target while a dummy representing a person is pulled toward the shooter at running speed, the goal to get a shot or two off accurately before the dummy passes the shooter. At distance closer than 6-7 meters (20-23 feet), the dummy will almost always reach a shooter before a handgun can be pulled from its holster and fired accurately.
    • Police officers are well aware of these data, and will use lethal force to prevent subjects armed with melee weapons from getting within that range. This can appear unjustified to people unaware of the facts, leading to charges of police brutality.
      • This motivates requirements in various places for police to have multiple video cameras on their vehicles / equipment / persons. If an officer shoots someone and says they were in danger from a weapon, the recording allows their statement to be verified: e.g. was the person actually close enough to be a threat?