"Isn't that just like a wop? Brings a knife to a gun fight."Both a Stock Phrase and a staple of the action genre. A character comes into the scene armed with what he thinks is sufficient, only to find out he is severely outclassed weapon-wise, because he brought the entirely wrong type of weapon (usually the superior weapon is revealed after the first person has committed to a fight). Could lead to a Curb-Stomp Battle (which would make it a Pre-Mortem One-Liner, or maybe a Bond One-Liner if uttered after), or the character running for his life. Literally taken, this phrase is also a popular way to point out that in the Future where ranged weapons are ubiquitous, people still prefer to do old-fashioned Sword Fights (e.g. lightsabers). Elmer Keith is the Trope Namer... he was a gunwriter and Idaho cowpuncher, and the phrase is sometimes called "Keith's First Law". Sub-Trope to Combat Pragmatist. Subversions and aversions are a different trope: Never Bring a Knife to a Fist Fight, Never Bring a Gun to a Knife Fight.
— Malone, The Untouchables
open/close all folders
- Parodied in a Geico ad series which compares switching to Geico to various stock phrases asked as rhetorical questions. In this particular sketch, "Is the pen mightier than the sword?", a ninja brandishes his sword. The camera changes to a guy signing for a package with a pen. He opens the package and removes a taser, which takes the ninja out instantly.
- One character in the Call of Duty: Black Ops II "Surprise!" ad fires off some missiles from his fighter plane, then quips: "Guess who brought a jet to a gunfight?" Bonus points: that's Robert Downey, Jr..
Anime and Manga
- In Black Lagoon, Hansel comes after Balalaika alone in a wide-open plaza, armed only with a pair of axes. Balalaika is likely carrying a concealed pistol, but deals with the crazy kid to lethal effect by means of the sniper team she's set up some distance away.
- During the "Fifth Moon" episode of the Trigun anime, Rai-Dei the Blade pits his katana against Vash the Stampede's guns. He turns the tables by first launching the blade off its hilt, then by fitting the hilt back onto the empty scabbard and using the whole thing as a rifle.
- In Mobile Fighter G Gundam, Gentle Chapman, the pilot of the John Bull Gundam, ended up winning three Gundam Fights with his British Gundam, because he ended up shooting Gundams in the head, putting them out of the Gundam Fight. If it wasn't for Master Asia kicking his ass in the 12th Gundam Fight, things would have turned nasty.
- Occurs in Baccano! when, through sheer coincidence, several men in black, a guy in a white tuxedo, and Nick all try to hold up the same train car at the exact same time. The men in black have machine guns. The guy wearing white is Dual Wielding pistols. Nick has a knife.
Nick: ... Uh, sorry for the confusion.
- Happens several times in Noir:
- First, the Belladonna Lily Woman is performing a "Mission: Impossible" Cable Drop to take Mireille by surprise armed with a knife. She actually gets close enough to be almost within striking distance, but then a stray bit of light from a nearby gunfight reflects off the blade and alerts Mireille to her presence, giving her the chance to shoot the woman dead first.
- During the final episode the showdown between Chloe and Mireille, with the former having the latter dead to rights, ends when Kirika shoots the knife away before it can make lethal contact. Bonus points for it being a much smaller knife than the first time she pulled this stunt in a previous episode.
- In Bayonetta: Bloody Fate the titular witch attempts to fight off her rival's, Jeanne's, fours guns on her hands and feet with her demonic katana, and gets her ass handed to her. It's not until Rodin shows up with her own freshly-repaired and upgraded set of four guns that Bayonetta is able to turn the tables.
- In the The Big O episode "The Greatest Villain", Beck has built a Combining Mecha megadeus and challenges Roger Smith's Big O. He starts the fight by showing off some fancy maneuvers with a giant boomerang-like weapon. Roger has the Big O shoot him with its Arm Cannon, instantly winning the fight.
- In One Piece during the Skypiea arc, Zoro found himself fighting a Shandian warrior named Braham who specializes in using flash guns in battle. Zoro had a tough time fighting Braham due to the latter keeping his distance while Zoro was strictly a close-combat fighter due to being a swordsman. However, Zoro managed to use flying slashes for the first time allowing him to strike down Braham from a distance and defeat him.
- Blackhawk does this in a tub, in homage to the The Untouchables line.
- Almost a running gag in "Marvel What-The...", when they pair Wolverine (his claws should count equal to a knife) and Punisher for a fight again.
Wolveream: It's no fair, he's got a gun!
Wolveream: Just my luck, he has a Blooey Knife!
- In the second round, The Pulverizer has only a knife too...BLOOEY BLOOEY BLOOEY!
- The Punisher: Despite using the line frequently, Frank does always have a knife on him. It's usually spring-loaded, taking care of the range problem.
- In the end of Society of Super-Heroes: Conquerors of the Counter-World #1, Lady Shiva is facing off against the Blackhawk Squadron, with them having pistols, and her having a Sinister Scimitar. They shoot her dead in a hail of gunfire while she is gloating about how she is going to kill them all.
- Forged In Fire has Brutus Bones say this exactly, after shooting a knife-wielding antagonist.
- Higher Learning: Invoked in the prologue to chapter 48:
Lesson 48: [Bring a bat to a fist fight. Bring a knife to a bat fight. Bring a gun to a knife fight. Run the hell away from a gun fight.]
- Occurs in The Shocker Legit:
I draw out my father's blue switchblade, and flick it open.
She pulls out her katana.
I feel a little stupid.
- This is a theme repeated in a number of variations throughout the works of Eyrie Productions Unlimited.
- It initially appears as "Overstreet's First Law of Tactics", from contributor Kris "Redneck" Overstreet's story The Quagmire Project:
Take a stick to a fistfight.
Take a knife to a stickfight.
Take a gun to a knifefight.
Stay out of a gunfight.
- Again, in Symphony of the Sword:
Percy "Techie" Mui: (to his son) To paraphrase Admiral Overstreet, bring a knife to a fistfight, a gun to a knife fight, grenades to a gunfight — oh, hell, if you know where it's going to be beforehand, mine the area. If all else fails, there's your friend, the air strike.
- Then, "Gryphon's Expansion of Overstreet's Law of Tactics":
Take a stick to a fistfight.
Take a knife to a stickfight.
Take a gun to a knifefight.
Take a 'Mech to a gunfight.
Bring a lance to a 'Mech fight.
- Followed by "Matrix Dragon's Expansion of Gryphon's Expansion":
If all else fails, bomb the planet.
- And finally, "Julzz' Commentary":
And if all else fails, bring your friendly neighbourhood God.
- Followed by "Matrix Dragon's Expansion of Gryphon's Expansion":
- It initially appears as "Overstreet's First Law of Tactics", from contributor Kris "Redneck" Overstreet's story The Quagmire Project:
- Inverted, yes inverted in White Devil of the Moon. Hayate's forte is leveling city districts. Not so handy in one-on-one in close quarters combat. That was why Beryl quickly subdued her and stole the Jewel Seeds to revive Metallia. This is actually canon, as Hayate points out that Caro, a C-rank mage who's the weakest of the forwards in close combat, could potentially defeat her in single combat.
- In The Prayer Warriors, Annabeth and her opponent in the coliseum fight with clubs until the opponent kills her with a knife. Suddenly, the main character's wife, Mary, shows up and shoots the opponent dead with a gun before proceeding to do the same with John Lennon.
- In Housemates, during Brother's Keeper, a guard tells this to Loki—right before being stabbed in the neck.
- Guard: You know what they say about bringing a knife to a gunfight—Loki: (Yanking the knife out of his neck No, I don't. You'll have to tell me sometime.
- In Project Delta when, during the battle for Mindoir, Jane encounters a foe with implants close to her level, she puts her sword away and blasts him into goo with her guns.
- Once Upon a Time in China has this with kung-fu and rifles. Master 'Iron Robe' Yim is gunned down by American troops during his pursue of Wong Fey Hung. His last words are to Wong, who rushes to his aid: "Kung fu cannot beat bullets."
- El Dorado. A young James Caan plays a character named Mississippi who, in search of vengeance for his old mentor, has killed two men by throwing a knife before they can draw their guns and succeeds in killing the last man involved by doing the same before cutting out his heart. Of course John had to save his life an instant later when the trope is played straight as the friend of the murderer is now aware of the knife and preemptively draws his gun.
- Referenced in-universe in The Untouchables, as noted in the page quote above. Also a likely reference to one of Malone's earlier comments to Ness in the film ("if he pulls a knife, you pull a gun") - and partly a subversion, since the man with the knife is actually there to lure the shotgun-carrying Malone out of his house and into Frank Nitti's fatal tommy-gun ambush.
- In the Disney adaptation of Three Musketeers, the musketeers are charging a ship of sailors. When one of the sailors demonstrates his martial arts abilities to Oliver Platt, Platt mimics him briefly before simply shooting him in the chest.
- In the The Three Musketeers (2011), D'Artagnan learns this early in the movie, courtesy of Rochefort. Although in this case, he brought a sword and lots of attitude to a gunfight.
- Happens in Barb Wire when a thug tries to attack Barb with a knife, but she shoots him with her pistol.
- In Hoffa, Danny DeVito pulls out a knife he uses for defense. Hoffa's goons pull out guns. After he joins with Hoffa's crew, one of Hoffa's cronies tells him, "Give me the knife. You wanna go around, go like a white man. Get a gun."
- Indiana Jones does this several times. For example...
- In Raiders of the Lost Ark, the famous scene where Indy shoots the swordsman. As the story goes, there was to be an extended sword fight, but Harrison Ford (playing Indy) was sick with dysentery, and suggested that he just shoot the swordsman. They decided to go with it.
- In Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, Indy warns Mutt about the dangers of bringing a knife to a gunfight (as he takes out his knife, but the Russians have pistols).
"Nice try, kid, but I think you just brought a knife... to a gunfight."
- Near the end of Thai martial arts movie Chocolate, a group of high ranking thugs grab katanas and rush at the Yakuza father of the protagonist. He promptly shoots the first one down, though the rest close in and it turns into a sword fight.
- As much as it is a love letter to the katana, Kill Bill follows this rule. Nearly any time the Bride's Katana is pitted against a gun, the gun wins, such as when the Bride charges into Budd's trailer, he is able to subdue her with a shotgun. And when she invades Bill's home, she's got a pistol out as her primary weapon rather than the sword slung on her back.
- Parodied in 30 Minutes or Less with "You just brought a gun to a bomb fight, officer!"
- Played with in the climax of The Warriors, as Swan, switchblade in hand, has a duel with crazy-eyed, trigger-happy enemy gang leader Luther. Luther shoots, but Swan dodges the bullet and throws the knife into Luther's wrist, disarming him.
- War Horse has a scene in World War I where the British cavalry appears to have caught the German encampment flatfooted, only to find that the Germans were prepared with a hidden defensive line of machine guns to mow them down. As a German officer says afterward, "Did you think we'd have a camp on open ground without it being defended?"
- In the BBC adaptation of The History of Tom Jones, A Foundling (simply titled Tom Jones), when Lord Fellamar's attempted rape of Sophia is interrupted by her father, he turns his sword on the older man, assuring him that his class and education have well prepared him for anything the squire can dish out. Squire Western pulls out a pistol and promptly shoots out one of Fellamar's knees.
- In Bodyguards and Assassins, the final assassin, a deadly Hero Killer martial artist, is killed by the Non-Action Guy with a pistol.
- In Super, Rainn Wilson plays a rather deluded Non-Powered Costumed Hero whose Weapon of Choice is a wrench. At one point he sneaks into the Big Bad's compound, only to discover that the drug dealer's henchmen are all armed with handguns — and they recognise him immediately, mask or no mask.
- In We Were Soldiers a young North Vietnamese soldier charges from behind Colonel Hal Moore intending to kill him with a bayonet. At the last moment Moore turns around and shoots the North Vietnamese soldier with a pistol, who lands dead at his feet.
- Subverted in the finale of Who's That Girl where the embezzling father of the protagonist's fiancée is actually able to disarm two cops using a fencing foil. (Yeah, it makes very little sense, but neither does most of the rest of the movie.)
- In The Punisher (2004), the titular character's car is rammed at a railway crossing by an assassin sent by the Big Bad. He crawls out of it and brandishes a knife, only for the assassin to quote this trope and pull a gun. In a subversion, it turns out to be a ballistic knife, and the spring-launched blade hits the assassin in the throat. To be fair, though, he had no reason to expect such a weapon, as they're illegal in the US.
- Best Seller. A hitman stabs a witness in the middle of the sweatshop gunfight, so he doesn't have his pistol in his hand (it's still tucked in his belt) when he runs into Cleve.
- Used for Reality Ensues in Jack Reacher. Before the final battle with the villains, Reacher calls for help from 'Gunny' Cash, the Cool Old Guy he met earlier who runs a gun range. Gunny turns up with a Sniper Rifle, only to hand Reacher a K-Bar knife, explaining that he's not going to entrust a rifle he owns to a stranger to help him kill a bunch of other strangers. As this means Reacher has to wait till the villains (one of whom is a master sniper) shoot at him first (to prove self defense), he's not happy. Then during the subsequent shootout, Reacher drops the knife and has to resort to using a rock against a man shooting at him with an assault rifle.
- In The Night of the Hunter, Powell spends most of the movie as an almost inhumanly menacing force, with the threat of the switchblade in his pocket always present. In the film's climax, though, he has to face an old lady who happens to own a shotgun, and is twice sent running.
- In Seven (a 1979 action film, not the similarly named 1995 serial killer movie), one of the Magnificent Seven Samurai emerges from a mobster's office where he has just killed the mobster in a prolonged martial arts battle. The mobster's katana-wielding bodyguard draws his sword and goes to attack, only to be shot by the hero with a gun he had been carrying all through the early fight.
- Inverted in Utu. Te Wheke tosses the preacher a loaded gun, knowing full well that his victim would hesitate to use it. This gives Te Wheke enough time to decapitate the minister with an axe.
"Would I give you a loaded gun? Of course I would!"
- The Running Jumping & Standing Still Film: Parodied in one of the Surreal Humor gags that make up this odd short film. Two men are facing off in a duel. One has a rifle, and the judge gives the other a knife. They march off, turn at the signal in dueling style, and fire—shooting the judge. And the second man's knife somehow goes off like a gun. He stares at his smoking knife in astonishment.
- John Wick: Chapter 2. Subverted in a scene where Cassian tries to stab John Wick in a close struggle while Wick tries to shoot him with a pistol, but both Professional Killers are too skilled to allow their opponent to land a fatal blow. The fight ends when both crash through a window into a Truce Zone and have to stop fighting.
- In Forced Vengeance one goon shows himself cleverer than most. He goes charging up making Kung-Foley sounds, only for Chuck Norris' character to produce a .45 from behind his cowboy hat — goon quietly slinks off. Others play the trope straight.
- In The War Wagon, Wes is so enraged at being robbed by the Indians, he pulls a knife and tries to attack the Indian who is holding a rifle on him. He gets shot.
- In Germany, the topmost quote is told (of course only by people who love racist jokes) as punchline involving Turks and Russians, but of course, YMMV (your minority may vary).
- The Starship Troopers example above was also in the book... albeit very different. In boot camp, a raw recruit is complaining about learning how to use knives when the Mobile Infantry have awesome weapons and the Navy has nuclear weapons. The sergeant then... carefully and thoroughly explains the purpose. The Navy is a hammer, the MI are a scalpel, intended to be walking death with anything and everything, but very, very precise.
- From The Iron Sunrise by Charles Stross we have, "Never bring a tazer to an artillery duel"
- Played straight several times over the course of The Dresden Files, mostly by supernatural forces. Most non-humans, and even some magical humans, eschew guns in favor of claws, swords, or other melee weaponry, or specifically think to counter someone's magic ability when they do consider long-range combat, neglecting to consider firearms. At least one very powerful practitioner thought she had Harry dead to rights after disarming him of his staff and blasting rod, only to learn a little too late that they should have taken his gun too.
- Also, Kincaid remarked to Harry that, if he wanted to kill Harry, he would use a high powered sniper rifle from a long distance away, neatly avoiding any Death Curse.
- In David Weber's Out of the Dark, the Shongairi come off as Insufficiently Advanced Aliens because their entire war doctrine revolves around conquering pre-industrial races. Guess what happens when troops trained and equipped to curb-stomp natives with pointy sticks comes up against modern military hardware?
- Hiro Protagonist's weapon-of-choice in Snow Crash is a katana. At one point, Hiro's use of the katana actually leads to a standoff when he's able to find cover that the gun-wielding mooks he's fighting with can't shoot through, but they're all too far away for him to attack. He actually taunts his adversaries that they can take as long as they like because "Katanas don't run out of bullets."
- In Michael Flynn's The January Dancer, the owners of the ammunition factory try to avert this by burning it down and then parting for opposite sides of the civil war. This means that when an outside force intervenes, bringing a gun to the knife fight, she tramples all resistance.
- Neal Stephenson’s Cryptonomicon: Some soldier interviews Bobby Shaftoe:
Reagan: What advice do you have for any young Marines on their way to Guadalcanal?The memories are still as fresh as last night’s eleventh nightmare: ten plucky Nips in suicide charge!Shaftoe: Just kill the one with the sword first.Reagan: Ahh. Smarrrt—you target them because they are the officers, right?Shaftoe: No, fuckhead! You kill ’em because they’ve got fucking swords! You ever had anyone running at you waving a fucking sword?
- The Reynard Cycle: In this case, never bring massed cavalry to an artillery fight. (It happens twice in the series.)
- A Song of Ice and Fire kindly reminds you not to bring an army (or three) to a dragon-fight. Nor should you build the continent's most impressive, land-assault-proof castle and hole up in it when facing flame-throwing, aerial attacks. Trying to bring nothing but a whip to train a dragon with is also... unwise — and, no: having Targaryen blood won't necessarily get you around the fire-breath, as several princelings have found out down the years. Conversely, it's recommended that you don't bring a dragon to the environmental dream of guerilla warriors everywhere consisting of expansive deserts and mountains. Also, don't expect a normal fight when facing armies of the self-recruiting undead. You are also further advised to keep General Winter in mind when holding a war in The North, as forgetting to pack decent cloaks, coats, snowshoes and/or a trusty mule-train able to use and/or carry them all, rather than warhorses which can't, might prove somewhat embarrassing. Also, "don't bring a combustible navy to a wildfire fight". These are just some of the big ones: many a handy tip for smaller encounters can also be found. Like "don't wear heavy armour in your enemy's running fight", "bring a real sword and wear proper armour when facing one of the Kingsguard: leather and wood won't work", "don't bring bling you don't really know how to wear or use against a professional killer and their practiced lance, longsword/greatsword and horse", "don't start a Battle of Wits when you're not one youself" and other such gems.
- Skulduggery Pleasant features a hefty Lampshade Hanging in the second book, in which the Big Bad thinks he's about to sword fight the titular skeleton, only for Skulduggery to pull out a gun.
Big Bad: Only a heathen brings a gun to a sword fight.Skuldugger: Only a moron brings a sword to a gunfight.
- In The Prince Of Thorns Jorg challenges someone to a duel, runs away, snatches a guard's crossbow, and shoots him with it.
- In King of Thorns he spends every day for years practicing his swordplay, because he intends to challenge a renowned swordsman to a duel, and given his reputation he needs the guy to think he means it or he'd never accept the challenge. Then he invokes I Am Not Left-Handed and switches his sword to the other hand, which is another misdirect; he needs his right hand for the scavenged gun.
- The Black Ice: Corvo the DEA guy tells Bosch a story in which Corvo was jumped by a Mexican Mook who slashed Corvo across the face with a knife before Corvo shot him to death. Bosch is not impressed.
"Corvo had found a way to make killing a man who brought a knife to a gunfight sound heroic."
- Martín Fierro: This Narrative Poem talks about the war between the Argentinian Indians and the Gauchos trying to Settling the Frontier. This trope is deliberately averted by the Argentinian Army. The Gauchos have guns and the Indians have only polearms. But the Army wants the Gauchos to be Cannon Fodder, so they invoke Guns Are Useless by selling the bullets to The Pioneer.
- In an episode of Chuck, Chuck and Sarah are attacked by three henchmen. One of them pulls out a knife, but they are saved by Chuck's mom, who shoots them dead.
- Game of Thrones:
- Harren the Black (the founder of Harrenhal) should have known better than to spend decades building the world's largest castle when his neighbors had dragons. In his defense, the Valyrian Dragon Riders had showed absolutely no interest in his continent until around the time he finished it.
- Pyat Pree thought he could keep Daenerys and her dragons chained up for eternity. Bad idea.
- In an adaptation of Macbeth starring Patrick Stewart and set in the 1930s, Young Siward charges Macbeth with a knife, only for Macbeth to draw a pistol and shoot him.
- In an episode of JAG an ambitious lieutenant sneaks aboard an enemy ship. His request for a firearm was denied, so he only has a pipe on hand. He meets Col. Mackenzie who asks him, "Who brings a pipe to a gunfight?"
- In the pilot episode, the squadron commander uses the knife and gun as a metaphor for the weapons systems on his F-18 versus the one on the bad guy's plane; the bad guys using a knife (gun cannon) to his gun (sidewinder missile).
- In Red Dwarf Lister and a simulant go to "parley". The simulant pulls out a knife. Lister pulls out a pipe. The simulant pulls out a gun.
Lister: I didn't think of that.
- In the Law & Order: Special Victims Unit episode "Burned," a man accused of setting his wife on fire pulls out a butcher knife during a standoff with several cops. When he starts to lunge toward them, Benson shoots him in the chest - using plastic bullets to bring him down without killing him.
- McKay in Stargate Atlantis is cornered by the Genii into finding the location of all the pieces of a device to reveal a Zero-Point Module. Upon finding it on a wall-sized map, he asks for a knife, which the Genii are reluctant to give.
McKay: You all have guns. Someone give me a knife.
- Stargate SG-1 played this straight in an early episode where Carter gets roped into what she thinks is a ritualistic hand-to-hand fight, until her opponent pulls out a huge sword. She equips her combat knife and manages to kick the guy's butt anyway.
- Examined on MythBusters (Ep. 188, aired June 10 2012) in two ways, one with a guy throwing a knife, and one with a guy charging with the knife. They found that while a moderately-trained knife thrower could throw one before getting hit by the shooter, the shot is quicker and the shooter can dodge the knife; on the other hand, they found that charging from a distance of 16 feet, you could stab someone shooting at you without getting hit. Long story short: Busted. But just barely.
- Stated on Teen Wolf by Chris Argent as "Never bring claws to a gunfight." The fight ends with Boyd getting shot.
- Parodied in a sketch from In Living Color! where the street gang from the musical West Side Story runs into a modern urban street gang. The leader of the West Side Story gang pulls a switchblade, and the leader of the modern urban street gang responds by pulling a handgun and shooting a member of the West Side Story gang. Naturally, this causes the West Side Story gang to beat a hasty retreat.
- Person of Interest
- In "Allegiance", Reese's opponent realizes that he can't beat him hand-to-hand, so he pulls out a knife. Reese promptly draws his gun and kneecaps him.
- Lampshaded in "A More Perfect Union". Reese says they're going to have to start kicking serious ass whereupon Root (who's disguised as a caterer), produces a kitchen knife and says, "Silly me. I brought a knife to a gunfight." Being Root, it suffices.
- Parodied on Psych where the "weapons" are just what the two men are holding before they start their Wimp Fight.
Shawn:: That's your problem, Gus. You brought a funeral program to a knife fight.
- In Arrowverse
- One episode of Arrow: has the League of Assassins sends a group to attack the Arrow, Canary, and Quentin Lance. One of the assassins mocks Quentin for using a gun, calling them a coward's weapon, since the League uses more traditional weaponry like bladed weapons and bows. Little does he know that Quentin was packing a spare gun and shoots the Elite Mook point blank just as he was about to get killed.
- In the season 4 Flash-Arrow crossover, "Legends of Today", Oliver shoots an arrow on the ground, to which Damien Darkh mocks Team Arrow for bringing "arrows to a gun fight", only for Oliver to ask "what guns?". The arrow he shot then magnetically pulls all of the guns the mooks are holding, leaving them unarmed.
- Two skinwalkers are facing off in "All Dogs Go To Heaven". One shapeshifts into his canine form, but the other just draws a revolver with silver bullets and shoots him. "Did you think this was going to be a dog fight?"
- In "Hunteri Heroici", the Villain of the Week has used a Reality Warper to create Toon Physics. When Dean tries to shoot the man, his .45 pistol turns into a "Bang!" Flag Gun. The villain then mocks him for "bringing a gun to a gag fight".
- In It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia episode "Gun Fever Too: Still Hot'', Mac tries to demonstrate how to kill a school shooter with a katana by awkwardly moving leaning sideways as he runs forward. Charlie proceeds to repeatedly demonstrate with an unloaded revolver that all the shooter has to do is to aim slightly to the side, citing Indiana Jones as an example.
- In a sketch on A Bit of Fry and Laurie, two men about to have a Duel to the Death are asked by a referee to choose their weapons: sword or pistol. Laurie's character selects the sword, which the referee hands him— then hands Fry's character the pistol. Laurie's character protests that this was not what he meant, and silliness ensues as they try to figure out a way to make the fight fair since those are the only weapons they have.
"Well it's just that when you said sword or pistol, I sort of assumed that we would both have the same one, if you know what I mean..."
- Lucifer. The trope is lampshaded right before Maze uses her throwing knife to take out a hitwoman with a submachine gun while hiding behind a table.
- It doesn't get much blunter than "Gunfight" by Sick Puppies:
Don't bring a knife to a gunfight - you'll lose!
- In Act III of Tchaikovsky's 1884 opera, Mazeppa (or Mazepa), a very dark opera, anti-hero Mazeppa has managed to accidentally destroy everything Andrei cares about, including driving the woman he loves to insanity, killing her father, and destroying the thriving manor house we saw in Act I. Andrei challenges Mazeppa to a duel, and, when he tries to refuse, runs at him with a sabre. Mazeppa shoots him. That makes this one Older Than Radio.
- In one production of Don Giovanni, at the end of the first act Don Giovanni, confronted by his pursuers, draws his sword — only to find that Don Ottavio brought a pistol. Giovanni decides it's a good time to be elsewhere.
- In Alpha Protocol, one of the possible bosses is "Championchik", a Dumb Muscle Olympic boxing champion turned bratva who only uses his fists. Gunning him down is the easy way to win, and Mike will say a variation of the line if you go this route.
- Assassin's Creed series:
- Assassin's Creed I: you're likely to get your arse kicked trying to punch out armed enemies unless it's one-on-one as Altair can't disarm them.
- Ezio's hidden gun lets him shoot up melee-armed mooks with ease.
- Assassin's Creed III: The sword-wielding Officers and Jagers will cut Connor up if he tries to punch them while they're still armed. It's an automatic counter too. Fortunately, it works to your benefit too; Jagers and Grenadiers/Highlanders that would easily counter Connor to death if going weapon-to-weapon are much easier targets once Connor's the only one with a weapon.
- During Cross's final confrontation with Desmond, despite just going through dozens of Abstergo Mooks armed with batons and guns with nothing but hidden blades (although Desmond can pick up guns and use them), the cutscene has Desmond dive for cover as soon as Cross shows up and starts firing his gun. Cross then walks slowly to Desmond's cover while mocking the Assassins' tendency to stick to their traditional weapons instead of "upgrading". In fact, Desmond would most likely be dead had Cross not suddenly had a bad case of the "bleeding effect" and started spouting in Russian of his long-dead ancestor.
- Guns have much greater range than melee or fist weapons, and often less damaging as well. In theory, this is balanced by guns having finite ammo. In practice, while you might run out for a particular gun, you almost always accumulate ammo faster than you spend it (often without even going to merchants). Often the player character can only manage with melee weapons thanks to very powerful armor and/or spamming Stimpaks. The Power Fist was actually added to the original Fallout late in development when playtesting showed completing the game with an Unarmed build was nearly impossible.
- Fallout 4's Survival mode, enemies and the player alike are extremely frail, making the use of melee/unarmed weapon nigh-impossible in this mode without heavy use of stealth. Even animals, which are normally limited to melee combat, still discourage the player from fighting up-close and personal because their attacks transmit debilitating diseases.
- In the TurboGraphix-16 game Bloody Wolf, there's a sub-boss on the fifth level who uses a knife, who you have to fight with your own knife despite carrying a machine gun. You encounter him again in level eight, when you can simply shoot him, causing him to go down in one hit.
- In Civilization, civs with military technology an entire era behind yours will sometimes declare war on you and be easily destroyed. Of course, there are also aversions where Spearman Beats Tank.
- In Destroy All Humans!, a cop will randomly say, in thought, "What would Eliot Ness do? Never carry a knife to a gunfight? No, that's not it..."
- Gilgamesh plays with this in Final Fantasy XIII-2. He enters the fight with an arsenal of rocket launchers and handguns to fight the main heroes, who use a sword and a bow-sword. However, as a Spirited Competitor he finds that using the guns isn't giving him a satisfying battle, so he tosses them away during the fight and grabs an arsenal of various swords instead.
- Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. No matter how many guns the player has when invading Madd Dogg's mansion for the first time, he ends up with just a knife. The player is not even allowed to pick up dropped weapons until half way through. A much later mission ends with a helicopter crash leaving the water-treading protagonist outside of the ship he has to infiltrate. All his weapons (sob) are at the bottom of the drink except his knife. However, here, a quick swim to shore and knowledge of respawning weapon locations makes the ship much easier to overcome.
- Mass Effect 3: Garrus mentions this trope by name when fighting Cerberus Phantoms, finding the whole concept silly. As Garrus is a sniper, the amusement is justifiable. But God help you if they get into melee range...(then DLC gave us sword-wielding characters to use in multiplayer).
- Referenced by Ash Williams in Poker Night 2:
"Never bring a knife to a chainsaw fight, kids!"
- Portrayed rather realistically in Spec Ops: The Line with the bayonet specialists. The player can gun them down easily enough (although they're fast and move/roll around erratically), but if they do manage to get within arm's reach, they'll probably win, particularly on higher difficulties.
- In Team Fortress 2, you get an achievement for the Spy by fatally knifing another Spy who has his gun out.
- The Scout plays this straight with his domination line "Don't bring a wrench to a gun fight."
- Everywhere in Time Commando. Any weapon, even a dinky dagger, is almost always preferable to unarmed combat. Certainly, your enemies will not hold back.
- In one possible ending of Yo-Jin-Bo, the main characters — who are mostly samurai and armed with swords — are attacked by ninja with guns. The heroes die very quickly.
- asdfmovie4: "Banana fight!" "NO!" Boom, Headshot!
- This .gif animation called "Martial Arts vs. Modern Arts". The martial artist uses an Intimidation Demonstration to try to intimidate the other guy... who promptly takes out a gun and shoots him in the head.
- Girl Genius, here, with extra Steam Punk goodness:
Zola: "Bringing a knife to a gun fight doesn't seem very smart, now does it?""Agatha: "Well, I suppose it isn't that much worse than bringing a gun to a clank fight."
- A mugger finds himself on the wrong end of this trope in this Wapsi Square strip.
- Schlock Mercenary had it given as a tip and once had a mobster who realized that he had brought a prybar to a gunfight.
- Sluggy Freelance: In "Dangerous Days Ahead", Torg tries to justify his taking his Cool Sword (before he learnt to use it properly, mind you) to a gunfight by applying Obi-Wan Kenobi's comment about lightsabers being more elegant than firearms to swords. He shortly runs back out for a gun.
- Bug Martini plays with it here, bringing "stupid to a knife fight".
- Marble Hornets. In Entry #50, we see that Jay starts to carry a pocket-knife with him whenever he goes somewhere with Alex in case he tries to pull anything. In Entry #52, we discover that it doesn't actually help as Alex had a gun the whole time and attempted to kill Jay with it.
- Discussed by Movie Bob with regards to the Oldboy remake. A criminal gang in South Korea should carry assorted improvised hand weapons. Guns are hard to get for street criminals there. Anyone trying to take on an American gang with a hammer should have run into this trope headlong, especially in the Southern USA, where guns are plentiful, legal, and cheap. The fact that Spike Jonze decided to just recreate the hammer scene and thus ruin suspension of disbelief showed Jonze was failing to make the material his own rather and was instead just making a beat-for-beat dull remake. Averting this trope meant the movie was being lazy.
- Crossover Battles. "That's what happens when you bring a sword, sais, nunchucks, and a big stick to a gun fight!" You can already guess who got stomped by Rocket Raccoon...
- Played With in Takotsubo: The story of a superhero. In the prologue, Cord Cai and his fiance Roland Fujii are getting carjacked by Harry Lamont... but Cord and Roland are former gangsters. Roland laughs in Lamont's face, refuses to give up his car, and basically taunts Lamont into shooting. After he does get shot, he cuts Lamont and scares him into running away. Lamont might have killed Roland, but he was clearly outclassed and he failed his actual goal of taking their car. Later on, the devastated Cord tracks Lamont down and shoots him execution-style. As noted below, having a gun doesn't mean anything if you're not prepared to actually shoot someone.
- Played with a twist in Shock Troopers: never bring a knife to a defibrillator fight. At least two enemy soldiers attempt to take out the protagonists with knives, but neither succeed.
- Parodied in The Simpsons in "The Seemingly Never-Ending Story", when Moe arrives at the Mexican standoff over the gold.
Moe: [emerges from the shadows carrying a baseball bat] You'll take the gold... and then you'll give it to me if you know what's good for ya![Mr. Burns, Rich Texan, and Snake all turn and aim their guns at Moe]Moe: You guys have guns? Well, uhh... so do I! [retreats into the shadows and unconvincingly mimes pumping a shotgun] Eh? Eh?
- Bruce Lee said this about martial arts against guns, but the idea is still the same.
- Averted by Jack Churchill , who wielded a claymore into combat... in WWII. Granted he also did bring a gun... and a bow.
- This may be inverted in Real Life if the knife-user is skilled and/or the gun-user isn't. Opinions differ on the details, but at very close ranges the one with the knife has a lot of advantages, which is compounded by the fact that outside of the police/military, people often massively overestimate their own ability to use a gun effectively.
- All things being equal, guns are better at distance of 10 m or more. At 3 m or less, the knifeman really may win. Between 3 and 10 m, everything depends on the gunman's skills (or rather lack of them). Most people are able to shoot only one shot at the time a running man can cover that distance, and if it misses, the knifeman has the edge. People not trained on handguns are likely to miss against a moving target, even at short distances. This is consistent with the results of the MythBusters experiment above, where a gun-wielding Adam Savage had the advantage over a knife-wielding Jamie Hyneman at 20 feet (~6 meters), but not at 16 feet (~5 meters).
- What many people, including above, miss about the Tueller Drill was used to quantify when trained police with a gun should use a firearm against a person with a knife. The drill assumes that a physically fit person with a knife suddenly charges a trained shooter with a holstered handgun. It established an average distance of 21 feet for where the knife-user got to the gun user before being cut down. Somewhat later on, people added the notion of the knife "winning," which is wrong. A shooter is a lethal threat from maximum range down to 0.0m. The gunman can shoot an assailant at any range, including point-blank, with closer shots being more debilitating due to the greater bullet penetration and better shot placement. The "21-foot rule" is about disabling the assailant without getting injured. It is very unlikely that a stab wound, even one that causes an injury that later proves fatal, will incapacitate a shooter and stop them from emptying the magazine into their attacker. The conclusion is that at about 21', with a lot of variability, a typical trained individual with a handgun in a hip holster who is suddenly charged by a physically fit knife-wielding assailant across open ground is at serious risk of being wounded before they can use their handgun to take out the attacker. Change any of the above - the gun, the terrain, the distance, the fitness level, the training level of those involved, how the gun is carried, anything - and the outcomes change, though insights gleaned from the drill still hold.
- For example, the Tueller Drill assumes a holstered handgun worn at the hip. It takes longer to draw from a concealed holster, extending the distance the knife-wielder closes before being shot. A drawn firearm considerably shortens the time the knife-wielder has to move, and a weapon at a ready position (such as those taken by trained soldiers and law enforcement) can be brought to fire in a fraction of a second.
- Again, a point about the Tueller Drill: the shooter at point blank is still likely to kill the knife-wielder after being stabbed. Being gunned down to wound someone or inflict a Mutual Kill is not synonymous with "winning" or "having an advantage."
- One has somewhat better odds with slightly larger melee weapons; being hacked with a sword or axe or smashed with a club does tend to interfere with return fire, though certainly not enough to make it a sure thing or even a particularly good idea.
- The Tueller drill also assumes the knife wielder has their knife ready already, and the gunman is unaware of the attack until the charge begins. If the knife must be drawn, the gun's advantages improve.
- The Tueller drill also assumes the gunman is just shooting and not using any close combat gun techniques, such as drawing with one hand while using the other hand to parry, or falling on their butt, using their legs to keep the attacker at bay, and shooting up at near point blank range. Notice Jamie and Adam never experimented with the gunman doing anything other than shooting. They replicated the Tueller Drill - not the real world.
- Finally, remember that someone suffering You Are Already Dead due to a gunshot is not necessarily out of the fight. They may be mortally wounded, but have a short period of time before unconsciousness, disability, or death. It is entirely possible for the knife-wielder to die from their gunshot wounds after they have stabbed the shooter.
- Also, close combat weapons have situational advantages, such taking out an unaware sentry silently. These situational advantages, their role as tools, and occasional desperation when a gun goes down or ammo is spent are the reasons why modern soldiers bring weapons like knives, entrenching tools, and hatchets, but make no mistake, the firearm is the primary weapon. See Tueller Drill, above.
- It can also depend on the firearm. Urban combat specialists use extremely short barreled weapons for this reason. Trying to maneuver around with a full-size rifle inside of a building full of obstacles can be very difficult.
- Similarly, more primitive firearms (of the kind that existed a few hundred years ago) tended to be very inaccurate and took a long time to reload, making them much less effective in close quarters than modern firearms; if your first shot missed, you probably wouldn't be able to get a second one.
- Also, not counting pro-gun places like USA getting a gun is difficult and expensive (including the constant need of bullets) . On the other hand, a knife can legally be bought without any kind of monitoring. Thus making a knife a more reliable weapon and justifying the invention of waraxes as the farmers already had those.
- Most places but a limit to the blade length of a legal knife (8-10cm) you can have. Exception is made to hunters and kitchen workers (chefs and cooks) but only if on job location, coming to job location or going home.
- After speaking to several WWII vets, the phrase they were always terrified to hear was "fix bayonets"
- Incredibly subverted in the Battle of Isbuscenskij, a minor skirmish during World War II: an Italian cavalry regiment with a small artillery support (about 700 men, including officers) found itself surrounded by 2,500 Russians with dozens of machine guns and mortars, charged, and routed the surprised enemy, killing 150, wounding 300 and capturing 600 of them.
- Near the end of WWI the American army entered the western European combat theatre, and with them they brought the Winchester M1897 shotgun. Featuring no trigger disconnect and 6 rounds, two shotgunners working in tandem could clear an entire trench in minutes what would take hours for rifleman. The shotgun, now nicknamed the "Trench Sweeper", was so effective that on September 19th 1918 the German government protested its use and called for its outlawing with those in possession of the shotgun (or even its ammunition) executed.note
- Averted if your name is Jim Bowie. Bowie was present at a duel on a Louisiana sandbar in 1827 which devolved into a bloody skirmish. Bowie killed one man and wounded another with a large knife which became famous for this incident. Depending on the account, he did this despite being shot twice or three times, as well as being impaled on a Sword Cane.
- Commonwealth forces in WW2 were trained to use their Lee-Enfield rifles in three ways - Shooting, Bayonet and Buttplate. The first two are obvious but the third involves holding the rifle firmly, pulling the barrel/left hand away from the opponent, pushing the trigger/right hand towards them and then watching what happens when several pounds of brass buttplate meet human flesh and bone. Even if the attacker manages to put up an arm to defend themselves, they're still going to have a bad day. It relies heavily on the rifleman not panicking though. I'm not sure if it works with the modern, lighter rifles though.
- It is done, and with the metal sling mount of some rifles can deliver dangerous amounts of force. However, even if it doesn't or if the weapon has no such feature, the force of the blow still leaves the target in a very bad position to receive a follow-up attack - including point-blank shots. To reiterate a point, a gun is even more lethal at very short ranges than it is at long range.
- During The American Revolution at the Battle of Moore’s Creek Bridge, a Loyalist militia unit mostly composed of settlers recruited from the Scottish Highlands found themselves across the aforementioned creek from a Patriot unit they had been chasing through the North Carolina swamps. Assuming their enemies were fleeing because of the abandoned camp they had found on the west bank of the creek, at daybreak a group of 500 Loyalists armed with broadswords and dirks attempted to storm the other side. They quickly found out that the only bridge had its planks removed and its railings greased, and the well-entrenched Patriot forces had targeted the east bank with muskets and two artillery pieces. As another Patriot commander said while explaining to a newspaper why his forces were late to the fight, “The battle lasted three minutes.”