"The hell of it was that a nineteenth-century bullet or even a Stone Age spear could still kill a twenty-third-century marine. It shouldn't. It should not be allowed. And that was it — it was your sense of superiority that killed you."A technologically advanced empire has come to conquer a poor, defenseless, primitive planet where the most advanced piece of technology is a horse. Unfortunately for the empire, Our Heroes happen to be living on the planet and helping the natives at this time, and they are anything but Medieval Morons. As it turns out, centuries of starship-to-starship combat with particle beams and shields have rendered The Empire ignorant of the simpler ways of getting killed. Wooden crossbow bolts don't show up on radar, and go straight through magnetic barriers. Humongous Mecha fall into hidden pits and get stuck. Swinging tree trunks smash straight through Powered Armor and send the enemy soldiers flying through the air into a conveniently placed abyss. A little pluck, some old-fashioned ingenuity, and a really big rock will beat a laser every time. Don't think too hard on this one. Suffice it to say these rocks tend to de-emphasize the eliteness of the supposed crack troops in a Redshirt Army. In short, The Empire's Achilles' Heel is anything Traveling at the Speed of Plot. Historically, every industrialized nation on Earth with imperialist goals regularly steamrolled over the armies of soon-to-be-conquered or otherwise humiliated natives. Occasionally, natives won battles; this had more to do with the colonial forces being commanded by arrogant aristocrats who completely underestimated the capabilities of the primitive natives and knew more about "matters vegetable, animal, and mineral" than actually leading an army. In the rare cases where the natives managed to keep Europeans from completely taking over, they generally received a crash course in development and won with modern weapons, rather than Bamboo Technology.note However, it took a while before these conquered lands readjusted their mindset, using their occupiers' knowledge against them. In certain Speculative Fiction circles, especially those revolving around The Singularity, this is called the Plucky Baseline. Compare Archaic Weapon for an Advanced Age, Cool, but Inefficient, Good Old Fisticuffs, Kinetic Weapons Are Just Better, Guns Are Worthless, Break Out the Museum Piece, Muggles Do It Better and Older Is Better. One of the things to watch for in How to Invade an Alien Planet. Contrast Low Culture, High Tech, where a low tech culture uses superior high tech devices. See also Superweapon Surprise when natives have something up their sleeves that could reasonably be expected to beat the invaders, or Insufficiently Advanced Alien when the invaders themselves really don't have anything that could reasonably be expected to beat the natives. See Schizo Tech for low tech and high tech used together. Can be justified if the primitives have a huge numerical superiority. Incidentally, it is worth noting that, in Real Life, rock is one of the better materials to have between yourself and a laser, given its typically high melting point and lack of flammability. Especially if you manage to drop it from high enough.
open/close all folders
Anime & Manga
- Taken literally in episode 18 of Eto Rangers, where Bakumaru, wielding a Laser Sword, is effortlessly driven back by a caveman with a stone tomahawk. He also couldn't even scratch the Jyarei Monster that mission because of its stone body.
- New Mazinger. The trope is definitely subverted in this Mazinger Z spin-off. At the beginning, Mazinger easily defeats with a sword a bunch of mechas armed with laser blades, ray guns and missile launchers... However Mazinger later faced an army not even used firearms. Mazinger was loaded with clusters of missiles. He easily annihilated them.
- Tower of God. Rak and his spear easily took out Levin and his Sniper Rifle. Literally, the thing fell to pieces
- In Transformers: Robots in Disguise, the Predacons attempt to steal an antique steam train which is being guarded by Team Bullet Train. Gas Skunk fires an EMP pulse which disables Rail Spike and Rapid Run, but has no effect on the steam train due it its lack of electronic components. Also, Sky Bite, Dark Scream, and Slapper are all disabled by smoke from its chimney.
- As a result of the predominant Steam Punk Schizo Tech universe of Samurai 7, the only available weapon against a giant floating battlecruiser is... a massive sharpened pike the size of a building, hurled across miles by a giant ballista. And it WORKS.
- Largely averted in Turn A Gundam. Although the Earth Militia forces know their environment well enough to stage ambushes against the technologically superior Moonrace invaders (not to mention that solid munitions can pass through their advanced shielding), it doesn't change the fact that it's a lopsided contest. Especially given that Earth-bound humanity is using what amounts to World War I technology at best against enemies that can wipe out entire regiments with beam weapons. It's only after they uncover caches of mobile suits and with the Turn-A's help that they actually put up a decent fight.
- Space Battleship Yamato 2199 provides a few examples, thanks to the UN propensity for using firearms:
- Small arms are firearms, and they're just as capable as the Gamilas' energy weapon equivalents;
- Fighters too are equipped with firearms as their guns, and not only the smallers guns (apparently similar to current revolver cannons) are equivalent to the Gamilas fighters energy weapons, but the larger guns are more powerful;
- The Yamato's main guns are capable of operating both as the devastating shock cannons and as normal naval guns firing 'Type 3 shells'. The shells are something incredible: while short-ranged, they are just as devastating as the shock cannons, can fire indirectly, and, differently from energy weapons, can operate just fine inside portals, wrecking Deslar's flagship when he ambushes them inside one.
- Played with in Panzer World Galient. When the forces of Marder -which included infantry and cavalry equipped with beam weapons and giant war mechas- invaded the capital of the Kingdom of Arst, they easily won because the Arstians were armed with nothing but swords and spears. Later on, though, a rebel army equipped with bladed weapons and reinforced by Galient managed to beat Marder's war mechas.
- In X-Statix/Avengers, Mr. Sensitive fights Iron Man armed only with an anvil, of all things, as depicted above. Well, on the cover, at least. Mr. Sensitive did win the fight depicted in the issue itself, though.note
- Daredevil, having failed to defeat Ultron by crashing a truck into him, knocks the robot's head off with a stick. And not one of those he always uses. An ordinary wooden stick.
- Then again you need to consider that the only reason he could do that was because Ultron 13 was an amalgamation of contradicting personalities and conveniently/literally tore himself apart...
- Slightly justified in JLA: Year One with The Flash. Snapper Carr complains that the League having a library in their base is pointless, since they also have a computer and can use it to do research much faster. But no Internet connection in the world can move faster than Flash, who has a book open to the appropriate page before Snapper even finishes typing. And could probably even run to any library in the world and back in the time it takes Google to load. This was based on Real Life accounts of the series' writer answering comic trivia faster than the Internet.
- It's a fairly common tactic for the Hulk to use a blunt object against technologically advanced foes. This is presuming that he can't simply tear them metal limb from metal limb with his bare hands (which he usually can). Granted, the Hulk pretty much applies this tactic to any foe, regardless of the level of technology at their disposal. This is quite in line with real world physics; you can destroy anything in the universe, ANYTHING at all... if you hit it hard enough. And who could possibly hit harder than an enraged Hulk? Hulk is also Nuclear powered. Being hit by the Hulk is like having a nuclear bomb go off in your face.
- An interesting example involving laser swords is found in the Star Wars mini-series Jango Fett: Open Seasons, wherein the eponymous Mandalorian badass kills nearly a dozen Jedi Knights in close combat with his fists, armoured boots, garrote wire, his helmet (he kills his last opponent by throwing snow in his eyes and head-butting him in the face) and yes, a rock, before finally collapsing and being taken prisoner, an incident which many years later inspires Count Dooku (who was present at the time) to select Jango as the template for the Jedi-killing Clone Army.
- In an Adventures of the Galaxy Rangers comic, a gang of crooks turns up wearing laser-reflective armour that renders the Rangers' weapons ineffective. A Jerk Ass Bounty Hunter puts them down with regular bullets from a primitive firearm. Amusingly, the Rangers then arrest him for the use of illegal weaponry.
- In Wonder Woman: Amazons Attack, the Amazons repeatedly take down tanks and jet fighters using bows and arrows.note
- In a Thunderbirds story in TV Century 21, a Jovian alien arrives on Earth in an African village, growing gigantic and turning people to stone. It's seemingly unstoppable, not even the most powerful atomic weapons can subdue it, but a single native kills it merely with a poison dart to the eye.
- From a Blue Beetle comic, in a showdown with a highly advanced alien race:
Negotiator: Reyes! You could not possibly have co-ordinated with this "Bat-Man"! We monitored every electronic frequency, every bandwidth you could use to reach him!Blue Beetle: I know. Scarab told me. That's why I sent a letter.
- In a miniseries Image comic called Area 52, which is a giant warehouse full of supernatural stuff, the true enemy is revealed as a robotic head from outer space that can take over anything electronic, making it virtually unstoppable. It came to Earth in the 1940s, before computers were invented, so it didn't have anything to take over, and was promptly defeated and sealed in a crate.
- In IDW's reboot of G.I. Joe, one of the remote-controlled units that Destro had snuck into the Joes' Pit meets this fate after it and its brethren wreck havoc on the Joes plus surviving all sorts of ammo.
James McMullen XXIV/Destro: A three-million-dollar unit...
Rory: ...done in by a bloody rock.
(one of the Joes): Itsy-bitsy spider signing off! (rock smash)
- In Metroid's manga, the cutting-edge new Power Beam can't pierce Mother Brain's Zebetites shield, but Grey Voice's century-old weapon can.
- The Polish comic book Kajtek i Koko w kosmosie has out heroes captured and taken before the alien Big Bad in his planetary base. The Big Bad's robots assure him that the heroes have no weapons of any sort with them. But then Koko simply punches out a robot with his fists, and the other robots meekly admit that they haven't taken such a primitive weapon into account.
- Two issues of Hawkeye revolved around Clint trying to recapture a videotape of him murdering someone. Captain America notes that criminal organisations are using more and more analogue technology since digital information is much more easily traceable.
- In Fantastic Four: The End the solar system is surrounded by a high-tech energy barrier meant to prevent any communication or travel between the solar system and the rest of the universe while it's completing its trial period before joining the Galactic community. The Mad Thinker, part of a group of super-villains seeking to work with outside agents to bring the barrier down, outwits the barrier by the simple method of using Morse Code and what amounts to a flash light since the barrier didn't block normal light from passing through.
- When The Losers need to steal some data from a Mega Corp., they send Jensen to get the data. When the network proves too well-protected, he resorts to "analog hacking": Grabbing a fire axe and hacking his way into their server room to physically steal a hard drive.
- When Cindy and Biscuit were abducted by an alien scientist, it ended with Biscuit sending his spaceship haywire by urinating on an important control panel, and Cindy beating him with an iron bar until he agreed to take her home.
- The first arc of The X Wing Series has a TIE fighter, a small spacecraft not known for sturdiness, dramatically destroyed when a Wookie hits its wing with a stick. The same Wookie in a flashback destroyed a larger shuttle by hucking a rock at it. They're sturdier in the rest of the series.
- In Gold Digger, Madrid finds herself in a fight against herself from six years in the future (to protect herself from sixteen years in the future), but any weapon she pulls out or cobbles together gets just as hastily disassembled by "Plus Six's" Hard Light tools. Present Madrid puts together one last weapon, which turns out to be a spring-loaded rock with enough components to give off a high-energy signature to get Plus Six to take it apart, which launches the rock right into her face.
- A literal example in Enemy of My Enemy, where Zerat kills the enemy sniper Yik by sneaking up behind him and crushing him with a huge rock.
- An even more literal example is in Fallout: Equestria - Pink Eyes, where the lead character Puppysmiles's only weapon is a rock. So far, her rock has claimed the life of anyone caught on the wrong end, even killer robots and manticores.
- Averted in Finishing the Fight which has Master Chief and the UNSC crushing their medieval-level enemies with great ease. Even their armor is far superior. Also rather amusingly inverted on one occasion, where Briza Do'urden is barely halfway through gloating about her newly summoned Earth Elemental before it gets annihilated by a Spartan Laser.
- Mass Foundations: Redemption in the Stars sees Courier Ethan Sunderland kill a heavily shielded Blue Suns Centurion by stabbing him in the throat with his Bowie knife (which is a regular bladed knife, albeit quite fancy). Justified in-universe as kinetic shielding is only meant to work against high-speed objects, either being very ineffective or completely useless against melee attacks.
- Subverted in Mass Effect Human Revolution, where Hein only gets away with bringing Automatic Crossbows to a gunfight because the bolts release Snowblind particles to confound kinetic barrier sensors.
- Averted in a fanmade Death Battle pitting Black Panther against Conner Kenway which instead applies Reality Ensues. Conner enters the battle armed with 18th-century weapons and armor, whereas Black Panther has weapons composed of Vibranium, which are more advanced and effective than anything existing in the present day. The Black Panther's greater strength and fighting skills are enough that the writer found the battle so much a mismatch in Black Panther's favor that the set-up for the fight made his victory a Foregone Conclusion.
- Batman vs. Ezio. Much like the above example, Batman's more advanced equipment and gadgets are part of the reason for his victory, along with him being a much better fighter than Ezio.
- In Worldwar: War of Equals the newly improved Killercrafts of the Race got their asses handed to them by Italy's Cold War-era fighters, more specifically F-104S already phased out but reactivated to face them.
- Played with in Shielded Under the Raptor's Wings: the author seems to be of the opinion that more advanced isn't always better, so, depending on the situation, it can be played straight or subverted:
- Early during the Earth-Minbari War, the more advanced Minbari ships usually had the advantage on their EarthForce counterparts, as the more advanced technology make them faster, better armed, and hellishly difficult to hit. Once the Alpha Quadrant forces enter the scene and provide Earth Alliance with sensors that break through Minbari stealth, however, EarthForce ships have the advantage due their crews' superior skill and ability to get the drop on them, especially when railgun-equipped cruisers (nicknamed killcruisers by the Minbari before the new sensors appeared) are involved;
- Subverted between Alpha Quadrant ships and what the Babylon 5 factions have, as a number of various technical advances give the Alpha Quadrant ships firepower comparable or superior to the Minbari ones and shields strong enough to resist it while much smaller;
- Zig-zagged with the old fusion-powered Romulan ships still in service and the rest of the Alpha Quadrant ships (including the newer Romulan ships), all powered by antimatter: the antimatter-powered ships are slightly more powerful and the fusion reactors of the older Romulan ships are much larger and with smaller fuel reserves to compete, but the fusion-powered ships don't suffer of the antimatter shortage.
- Played straight when the EarthForce army fights the Minbari one. Human weapons are mostly BiL-Pro (that is, improved firearms) or missiles, with the only advanced weapons being vehicle-mounted energy machine guns, laser cannons for use against enemy aircrafts and artillery shells, and newly-introduced tank railguns, and their ground vehicles move on tracks. Minbari weapons are mostly energy except for their artillery, that fires Antimatter-loaded shells by gravity manipulation, and their vehicles move the same way. On the other hand, the former designed their equipment basing themselves on battlefield experience and are quite good at using it, while the Minbari, in their arrogance, took a long series of stupid decisions (their main tank is criticized for having its main gun fixed forward, an heat signature that makes it impossible to hide to anyone with even the most primitive heat-seeking missile, the gravity-manipulating equipment put in an unarmoured fin, and the armour plating being mechanically fragile and vulnerable to kinetic energy weapons that on the ground are used by pretty much everyone, while the antimatter-firing artillery is called out on the impracticality of only using antimatter as the shell filling) and didn't train their soldiers adequately, who had to learn how to fight effectively on the field. This results in EarthForce resisting the Minbari invasion of Cyrus for years in spite of the latter having orbital superiority and limited starship support, and once the starship support is eliminated the Minbari get annihilated.
- Partially subverted by the Windsword assault tank, that is explicitly better armed and armoured than anything in the EarthForce arsenal in spite of being just a Flawed Prototype rushed into production (the final product would be much superior). This comes from another instance of the trope being played straight: over two centuries earlier, Minbari analysts warned that their ground equipment was outmatched by what the Centauri and Orieni had for the same reasons it's outmatched by EarthForce equipment but were ignored until the Windsword clan, to shut them up, decided to verify and saw they were right, at which point they started a development program for a new tank with improved protection and a better and turreted main gun, with the assault tank having been literally cobbled together from the still incomplete new technologies at the start of the war to have something not completely outmatched by EarthForce vehicles;
- Subverted by the Alpha Quadrant ground forces: they're not seen in action, but the narration points out their equipment was designed well with superior technology than either the Minbari or Earth Alliance, with their artillery having various kinds of cheap but extremely effective munitions, Klingon tanks having coil guns and being Hover Tanks, and Federation hover tanks having phaser cannons and Deflector Shields. Also partially played straight, as the kinds of munitions available to Alpha Quadrant artillery include "the primitive but capable high explosive-fragmentation shells" (first fielded in 1887 in Real Life).
- In the Warhammer 40,000 Dark Fic The Age of Dusk, the Tau Empire assume that their war against the Chaos Daemons of the Terran Hells will be a cakewalk, as they have drones, plasma guns and hover tanks up against the Daemons with bows, axes and other iron-age weapons. The war was a bloody stalemate where thousands of Tau and allied human lives were lost only to empower the Daemons. Apparently intended as a Take That! to The Salvation War: you know, that story where the modern militaries of Earth invade Hell, annihilate huge armies of sword-wielding demons and kill Satan with an anti-ship missile.
- Cruelly averted in Bad Future Crusaders where in the backstory a Diesel Punk country inhabited by zebras went to war with a Medieval Stasis country inhabited by ponies. While the ponies were limited to bows and arrows and the inherent abilities of their three species, the zebras had World War I era weaponry including firearms, telegraph lines, tanks, and early fighter aircraft. Even though the ponies vastly outnumbered the zebras, the ponies were defeated so soundly that Apple Bloom, a veteran of the war, describes it as a "massacre".
- Played with in the background setting of Sonic X: Dark Chaos. The Demons initially thought that the Angel rebellion would be easy to defeat - the Demon Empire had technology that could destroy galaxies at the push of a button and control time versus simple projectile weapons and nuclear missiles. Turned out that the Jews, Muslims, and Angels had much more than that, and used their more... advanced technology to fight the Demons into a bloody, eternal stalemate. It helps that the Jews of the Tribal Republic are the masters of stealth and guerrilla warfare, and the Muslims are suicidally courageous and fanatical in battle.
- And then the Shroud appeared, playing this trope straight. The Shroud have no technology at all, being a parasitic Horde of Alien Locusts, and yet there are so many of them and they are so strong that they can easily fight both Demons and Angels at the same time.
- Discussed in Lessons With Hagrid where Hagrid tells Harry that he should always keep a brick in his pocket since there quite a few magic-resistant creatures in the world. At the end, Harry manages to sneak up on a dazed Voldemort and knock him out by hitting him over the head with a brick.
Films — Animation
- Tarzan brings down a helicopter with a single well-aimed rock in the 2013 Tarzan 3D movie.
Films — Live-Action
- Star Wars:
- The Ewoks in Return of the Jedi overpower an "entire legion of [the Emperor's] best troops" with only spears and rocks.
- Apparently not that uncommon in the universe, as it also happened with the Noghri years earlier. Although they were a race of ninja-warrior-hunters living on a planet just a few steps up from a Death World, and consequently so badass Darth Vader decided to make them into his own personal death commandos, so it's not quite so unbelievable. Later in The Thrawn Trilogy, when the Noghri "adopt" Han Solo (for being "Lady Vader's consort"), he muses that while he'd previously been adopted by the Ewoks, who managed to bring down an Imperial legion thanks to camouflage, home field advantage, and weight of numbers, since he knows exactly what the Noghri are capable of, this time it doesn't feel quite as silly.
- Lampshaded in the EU:
"AT-STs will no longer be deployed on planets with an abundance of trees or other known obstacles such as rock-wielding primitives."
- Death Star gives us an example which even describes a knife as a "whittled rock", and has an expert Imperial pistolier taken down when his blaster malfunctions, permitting a knife-toting enemy to shank him.
- Regarding the other film, The Phantom Menace, that dealt with a technologically superior army dealing with an inferior group, it's notably averted: although the Gungans did manage to do in some numbers of the Droid Army in the climactic battlenote , they overall lost badly. In fact, literally the only reason they managed to live to tell the day was through sheer dumb luck from Anakin managing to blow up the Droid Control Ship, causing the droid units to shut down.
- Independence Day. No, seriously, the aliens come down to Earth, they glass a portion of the planet, they blow up some of the most advanced fighter planes in the world (and their elite pilots) and even nukes can't stop them... but a combination of Morse Code and a computer virus can?! It was even worse in the original cut of the movie. Russell is denied permission to fly one of the remaining F-18's, so he shows up to the final battle and destroys the enemy ship with his crop-dusting biplane with a Sidewinder missile taped to its side.
- Battleship: The USS Missouri, a retired battleship, is able to take out a highly advanced alien vessel.
- Dutch used this trope in the climax of the first movie making traps out of sticks and stones and covering himself in mud to mask his heat signature. But it doesn't actually work. Despite exploiting the predator's heat vision to his advantage, Arnold's low-tech approach fails to beat the alien. It's only when the latter decides to "even things out" by removing its multipurpose helmet and shoulder gun that Arnold manages to beat it. And even then it's more due to dumb luck more than anything. In the expanded Predator material, the Predators are shown to particularly enjoy hunting humans because of our ability to make rocks beat lasers. Being intelligent, wily, and resourceful makes us the second-ultimate prey. The expanded universe goes on to reveal that Predators themselves gain more honor from hunting things using only low-tech weapons: any hunter can laser someone with a rock from a kilometre away, but using a rock to beat someone with a laser takes true skill. In the 2010 Alien vs. Predator game, you gain bonus points for completing a level using only your wrist blades.
- Predator 2 shows us a Predator trophy room which contains, among other things (like the skull of an alien from the Alien franchise) a flintlock pistol... implying that not only did a human attempt to challenge a Predator with this weapon, this individual put up enough of a fight to be considered a worthy opponent!
- In Star Trek: First Contact, Picard pumps some Borg drones full of Holodeck-simulated lead from Tommy guns (with the safeties off), because Borg shields are calibrated to stop phasers, not old-fashioned bullets. The debate on whether holodeck-generated bullets are more phaser than bullet is something that fans debate to this day (plus, the number of Borg drones defeated by the holographic Tommy Gun is roughly equivalent to the number of drones defeated by phasers before they adapt... two). Later on in the film, Worf kills another Borg with a sword. He's a dangerous man-allegedly. Indeed, people tend to fare better against the Borg in close combat in general, until assimilation occurs. But that only really comes into play when dealing with inhumanly strong people like Worf or Data. Early on, a Red Shirt tries to rifle butt a Borg drone after his phaser is adapted to. The Borg shrugs off the hit and promptly hands the man his ass. Some of the expanded universe material does take the "kinetic strikes are effective against the Borg" approach.
- Star Trek: Voyager: Janeway, not an exceptionally strong woman, managed to kill a Borg drone with a bat'leth at least once... after the drone had knocked down the bat'leth's owner-a large Klingon male. Though this was in a simulated world.
- Though not quite as far apart technologically, in The Last Samurai the Samurai army universally favors "honorable" weapons like katanas, spears, and bows instead of the firearms of the regular Imperial Army of Japan. They win their initial battles against poorly-trained soldiers armed with rifles, and only lose their climactic final battle after killing over two-thirds of the second, better-trained and armed army, who outnumbered them six to one. This is somewhat of a subversion. In the end the Samurai win a moral battle by showing the newer army that traditional values, especially courage against overwhelming odds, should be respected. This may have been their goal all along.
- In Flight of the Intruder, the eponymous plane is flown through a hail of anti-aircraft fire twice in an attack on Hanoi, but on the first mission of the film earlier, a weapons officer is killed by a farmer with an old rifle on the return flight. Actually justified, as the Vietnamese were trained to fire their guns in the air when they heard jet fighters, on the chance that one of them would get lucky. A single bullet hitting a vital part through sheer luck is known in the military as the "golden bb". It happens.
- The Dudley Do-Right movie: "That's unfair, they've got rocks! And all we have is machine-guns!" To be fair, said rocks are giant boulders coming down on them when besides some riot gear and said guns, they have no other defenses.
- Used in Avatar. On the one hand, when the Na'vi fire up at human vehicles, their arrows do little more than scratch the windows. On the other hand, arrows fired at a right angle from power-diving ikrans can punch through aircraft canopies (which is Truth in Television). But on the other other hand, the Na'vi still get their blue butts kicked by machine guns and missiles, at least until the planet itself sends its wildlife in as reserve. Turns out rocks can't beat mecha — but a stampede of armored rhinos that shrug off gunfire like a gentle shower can.
- The War of the Worlds: The alien race dominates earth, but succumbs en masse to common bacterias as soon as they exit their machines.
- In Hostel, a pair of gun-toting professional killers are taken out by a gang of prepubescent boys armed with nothing but rocks and crowbars.
- About half of First Blood was made of this trope, when Rambo hadn't yet gotten ahold of a gun and had to use Nam-style mantraps against his pursuers.
- Quite literally in Yor: The Hunter from the Future, the main character, a caveman is confronting a robot with a laser arm, and Yor bashes its head off with a rock.
- And in another way too literal approach, Short Circuit's Number Five successfully blocks another S.A.I.N.T. robot's tank-busting pulse laser with a big rock.note
- Subverted in Cowboys and Aliens, in that the only reason the cowboys win against the bigger and Sufficiently Advanced Aliens is by using stolen technology and help from another Sufficiently Advanced Alien fighting against the first.
- In Down Periscope it's revealed by Vice Admiral Winslow to Dodge, that an old diesel submarine could be a threat to US harbors - if it was crewed and commanded by people willing to play outside the rule books of more conventional submarine forces in an underwater version of guerrilla warfare. Given technical issues too complex to be addressed here, the scenario is one that makes Real Life military planners less than happy. Partially subverted by the fact that in conventional warfare a diesel is no match for a nuclear sub, see the Real Life section below.
- In Skyfall, the villain is a ruthless cyberterrorist who can hack any defense system. James Bond defeats him with shells in the floorboards, shrapnel in the light fixtures, and a hunting knife.
- Jurassic World:
- The I. rex is an animal that manages to outwit some of the most advanced tracking and takedown methods available to the staff at the park using its natural abilities. It helps that it was engineered for precisely this purpose.
- The Pterosaurs take down a helicopter with a mounted machine gun by flying into it, killing the gunner and co-pilot and sending the copter out of control.
- The velociraptors (temporarily under I. rex's control) easily shred the well-trained, heavily armed InGen team using nothing but tooth, claw, and pack hunting tactics.
- In Wonder Woman (2017), the Amazons successfully dispose a German battalion armed with rifles using only ancient times weaponry and lifelong martial training, as well as being super-human warriors. With that said, they suffer a couple of losses in the battle and even Antiope, their general and most skilled warrior is killed by a well-placed bullet.
- Although isn't from the Sci-Fi genre, in El Conquistador the Aztec warriors easily overpower the Spanish men, althogh they were one of the most sophisticated, clever and succesfull armies over all Europe at that time. This is because the Aztecs use their obsidian "Macanas" note and high-training at the calmécac to cut over the spanish steel swords and armors.
- Genre SF's Trope Codifier: The High Crusade by Poul Anderson (1960). Many later instances contain Shout Outs to this one.
- A Medieval English army, fully prepped on the eve of leaving to join King Edward's crusade, crushes a small alien invasion force, by dint of cunning, superior numbers, and having no EMP-susceptible equipment or depletable bullets/explosives/laser charges - but plenty of reusable arrows, swords, sheer brute strength and a sense of righteous Christian indignation. Then, using the captured spaceship and the grudging assistance of a surviving alien interpreter (taught Latin by the army's cleric), they launch a counter-invasion of the evil intergalactic empire, whom they view as the more prolific, Heaven-soiling brethren of the heretics overrunning Israel. Because the invaders to our world have been dominant for so long over such a wide area, nobody up in the stars has any damn idea what politics are any more. The human leader manages to convince every single alien he meets, through bravado, underhandedness, trickery, and good old-fashioned lying, to assail their opponents. When "future" Earth finally reaches the stars, they are met by the emissary of the trans-galactic feudal Christian empire, run by Human descendants of the would-have-been Crusaders. And it is beyond awesome. Especially when the Space duke asks the Earth captain if the Holy Land is free of the Pagans. "Um, yes" says the Captain who is a loyal servant of the Israeli Empire.
- The English have an additional advantage over the aliens: the aliens' weapons have become so advanced that they no longer have any knowledge whatsoever of hand-to-hand combat. Once the English are able to get in close quarters, the aliens don't stand a chance. It takes the English army exactly one battle to figure this out.
- The Uplift series has this as a running theme. As newcomers to a galaxy filled with Sufficiently Advanced Aliens with eons-old technology, humanity and its clients must rely on their wits and the technology that they've learned to understand in a few short centuries. In The Uplift War, humans and chimps with jungle camouflage and crossbows manage to slaughter the technologically reliant Gubru — after realizing that their initial severe losses were due to the Gubru having rigged the humans' technology so they could track it. Later in the war, they also manage to capture some Gubru weapons.
- Harry Turtledove's Worldwar series
- Alternates between playing this straight and subverting it. The premise is an alien invasion at the height of WW2, and the trope is played straight when humanity's primitive weapons prove to be immune to technologically advanced countermeasures. EMPs don't work on vacuum tubes and analog computers, and anti-missile systems designed to defeat lightweight thin-skinned rockets can't turn back massive artillery shells. Not to mention that radar is nearly useless when trying to detect a low-flying plane built from canvas and wood.
- Also, the aliens' cultural ignorance of the strategic thinking and tactics (as they have not fought a war against an opponent with industrial technology in thousands of years, and their previous two conquests were tanks vs. spearmen slaughters) puts them at a disadvantage in skill and planning against even the most unimaginatively led human units.
- Some technology was simply unfathomable to the aliens, even though they're from outer space and have fusion at their finger tips. They never had someone twisted enough to employ gas during warfare, and hence are completely unprepared when the British decide to employ it when the Lizards invade.
- The last novel subverts this. While humanity's first starship is, essentially, a knock-off of what find out about the ships of the Race and can't even move as fast, the Race is shocked when, several weeks after its arrival to their homeworld, humanity's first FTL ship arrives, having made the trip in under a month. The Race hadn't even considered the possibility of Faster-Than-Light Travel.
- Interestingly, the Race then threatens humans with a more primitive technology when the arrogant new arrivals try to dictate terms. They threaten to turn their STL starships into kinetic kill vehicles by accelerating them to 50% of the speed of light and slamming them into Earth, causing extinction-level events. Sure, it'll take decades, but the humans (who have stopped developing fast STL ships in favor of FTL, won't be able to stop them.
- From John Ringo's Legacy of the Aldenata:
- Guided weapons (or just about anything with active electronics) are easily detected and intercepted by incredibly accurate Posleen anti-aircraft fire, after which the alien hostiles return fire with generally fatal results, but unguided artillery shells are incapable of being engaged by the Posleen's weaponry, as are MLRS rockets if fired so the boost phase is out of the line of sight of the enemy aliens.
- There is another, more amusing example in book from the same series Yellow Eyes where a group of Posleen are walking through the Mojinga Jungle in Panama and are being hunted by a lone native, who repeatedly uses stone age traps and a bow with steel-tipped arrows to kill them. This works mostly because the arrows don't have enough metal to be detected by the Posleen's sensors and are traveling too slow to be considered a threat. It's so bad the Posleen sensors can't even see the arrows embedded in the dead Posleen bodies.
- Discussed in the 1959 novel Starship Troopers, in the chapter that discusses powered suits. The suits are designed to be as invisible to their users as possible, for admirably common-sense reasons: "If you load a mudfoot down with a lot of gadgets that he has to watch, somebody a lot more simply equipped - say with a stone ax - will sneak up on him and bash his head in while he's trying to read a vernier." The Mobile Infantry also train with more primitive weapons, from unarmed hand-to-hand combat on up to 20th-century weaponry, partly to prepare them for using the powered battlesuits and also to prepare them for situations in which the battlesuits would be impractical.
- The film version also touches on this, albeit in a much nastier way. A recruit questions the need to learn hand-to-hand combat when they can just kill their enemies by "pushing a button". His drill instructor responds by stabbing him through his hand, pinning him to a wall, and asking how he intends to push said button now.
- Brutally shown in the novel Sten, by Allan Cole and Chris Bunch.
- Seems that the designers overengineered their powered suits to such an extent that each one could withstand nuclear blasts, any conceivable biological or chemical agent, and could fight off any conceivable opponent — except primitive ones. When first deployed, the men in suits run rampant — until the primitives notice that they aren't very maneuverable. So, the natives start making pit traps with nets, and once the suit is ensnared in the net the natives come out and poke long spears into the suit's waste vents, skewering the troopers inside and simultaneously poisoning them with their own wastes... To their credit, Chris Bunch in Real Life is an ex-Army Ranger, where Allan Cole has diplomatic experience.
- There's an incident with a less extreme tech difference later in the series. Sten takes charge of an old but heavily-armed strongpoint. When enemy tacships try strafing and bombing his position, he activates the air-defence system, not expecting much from the archaic guns. They rip the tacships out of the sky, because the guns are targeting and the proximity fuses detonating with radar frequencies so out-of-date that no one remembered to jam them anymore.
- One of the short stories in the collection The Human Edge has the main character bash out the brains of an Alien who six months previously took away his language and ability to think rationally. He gets the chance to do this when he sneaks into the alien ship and the alien is so surprised that he is still alive, and considers him such a non-threat, that it turns its back to him.
- The War of the Worlds, be it the book, radio broadcast, or film:
- A Culture in Iain M. Banks's series of novel has spent more than 10,000 years using her Special Circumstance elite agency to learn to beat lasers with rocks, rocks with lasers and Scary Dogmatic Aliens with apparently unarmed and captured spies, making them Crazy-Prepared masters of Bamboo Technology while still being able to throw blackholes when needed.
- The Fremen. Desert-dwelling nomads with handmade gear, beat The Empire's most badass, ruthless, and well-armed soldiers, the Saudarkar, with knives, Sandworms, and, er, one teensy little atomic bomb (but this was used only to remove a geographic obstacle to worm-travel, not on the enemy). This deserves some clarification, because while it is an example, it's not as bad as it looks outside of context. Melee combat with bladed weapons in the Dune universe is actually the norm, because of shielding technology that renders ranged weapons nearly useless. Although the Fremen lack such shielding technology, so it still counts. David Lynch movie kind of ruins this by actually giving the Fremen more advanced weapons than the Saudarkar, in the form of voice-amplifying sonic guns.
- The writers of the Sci-Fi Channel miniseries go a long way towards putting things right, exercising far less creative license than Lynch and, subsequently, remaining much closer to Frank Herbert's original novel.
- Baron Harkonnen uses ancient projectile artillery when he reconquers Arrakis, because even though the explosives can't penetrate shields, when the Atreides troops hide in caves, the artillery collapses the roof and seals them in. He does think artillery is barbaric and has the weapons dismantled immediately after, despite his rabid nephew Rabban's wishes to keep them.
- This was used in all of Larry Niven's Known Space stories set during the period of the Man-Kzin war. The Kzinti, who possessed the technology to generate and control gravity (among other tech advantages) were consistently beat by the Humans, who used inferior technology but did it better.
- At one point in Alan Dean Foster's novel A Call to Arms, a company-sized unit of alien tanks is immobilized, then defeated by a band of Seminole Indians wielding mud, bows and arrows, and paint-ball guns. Of course, by that time in the story, it's been revealed that human beings are the most bad-ass fighters in the known galaxy.
- In Anathem, although they have femtotechnology they find that defeating the interuniversal menace it is much more awesome when done with space blankets, protractors, and mixed martial arts.
- In G. K. Chesterton's The Return of Don Quixote, medieval recreationists go out to arrest some people, with halberds rather than guns, and are scorned as foolish. They succeed.
The man says he won't go on wearing a sword because it is no longer any good against a gun. Then he throws away all the guns as relics of barbarism; and then he is surprised when a barbarian sticks him through with a sword. You say that pikes and halberds are not weapons against modern conditions. I say pikes are excellent weapons against no pikes.
- Robert A. Heinlein:
- In Tunnel in the Sky, many colonists on their way to new worlds take horses with them instead of motor vehicles, since horses have any number of advantages in a rural setting: they run on a renewable fuel which can be found all over the place, vs. fuel that needs to be refined and transported; they have a moderate ability to repair themselves; and if one gets too severely damaged, well, it's pretty easy to make more horses. Plus, if you start running out of food, they're edible. If they do require maintenance, then you don't need an extra specialist, just a doctor with an extra medicine cabinet and a textbook.
- Heinlein also makes the point that tactics and initiative can be as important as technology. To paraphrase: two men face off. One has a musket, the other an assault rifle. If the man with the musket fires first (and accurately), or is a smarter fighter and uses cover well, then the assault rifle's technological advantage is rendered moot.
- Discussed in Starship Troopers, explaining that the Powered Armor used by the Mobile Infantry was designed with a relatively easy to use interface to prevent an opponent with a rock from beating in the head of a person trying to read a vernier.
- David Weber's The Excalibur Alternative has an odd take on this trope. Essentially aliens hijack an English war party during the Hundred Years War. At first the captors' Deflector Shields and energy weapons serve to create an illusion of invincibility. Eventually due to the ignorance at the arrogance of their captors and help from within, the English trick their captors into leaving their forcefields and getting filled full of arrows, since the aliens' protective gear withstands "modern" energy weapons but arrows are considered too primitive to be worth guarding against. Then later subverted when said party joins with the defectors and reverse-engineers the alien tech to an even higher level, enabling them to become Curb Stomping Big Damn Heroes.
- In The Bartimaeus Trilogy, the mercenary is invulnerable to ridiculous amounts of magic, but gets knocked out when Faquarl treats him to a good ol' knuckle sandwich, because his invulnerability and physical toughness depend on absorbing magic used against him.
- The Battle of Yonkers in World War Z could be considers an extreme example of this trope, in that living soldiers armed with every state-of-the-art weapon their publicity-minded superiors can load them down with get their asses kicked by zombies armed with ... teeth and jagged nails. Indeed, the advanced-against-humans nature of their weapons makes the soldiers' attacks far less effective than simple bolt-action rifles would've been, as they fire in shaky bursts aiming for the head, and their sophisticated communication links only serve to spread panic, as they can see and hear their comrades being eaten. Eventually, someone realises the problem and "invents" the Lobotomiser—more or less a modified shovel. Its simplicity and effectiveness restored troop confidence in a big way. Yonkers was explicitly a tactical failure rather than a technology failure. Later on they start forming phalanxes of soldiers armed with single-shot semiautomatic rifles with WW2-style furniture, and no accessories other than 3 barrels and an 8-inch bayonet. It works.
- In a Rock Beats Wand variant, a crooked casino dealer fools a roomful of gamblers in the Myth Adventures novel Little Myth Marker, by disdaining magical methods of cheating in favor of a marked deck. Naturally, the suspicious gamblers are too busy checking for covert magic-use to notice.
- In Arthur C. Clarke's short story "Superiority", one side of the war decides to go on an R&D binge to win a telling advantage over the enemy. Meanwhile, the enemy keeps plugging away with what they already have. In the end, the technologically superior sides face supply problems since the constant adjustment of logistics to cope with new weapons systems slows it down to a trickle. The other side, however, ends up with a massive number of slightly obsolete, but easily built and supplied equipment to Zerg Rush their opponents with.
We were defeated by one thing only — by the inferior science of our enemies. I repeat — by the inferior science of our enemies.
- The short story was intended as an allegory for World War II, with the "advanced" side being Nazi Germany and the well-supplied side being a stand-in for the Allies.
- There's a short story called Hawk Among the Sparrows about an advanced jet fighter accidentally sent back in time to the First World War. The American pilot thinks he can win the air war single-handed. However, his radar cannot pick up the mostly canvas-and-wood biplanes of the era, his guided missiles are useless as they are designed to lock onto jet exhausts not piston engines, his engines are fueled by what is used mainly as lamp oil and field-heater fuel, so he cannot get a sufficient regular supply, and even then needs to filter it, and his plane flies faster than bullets, so a gun cannot be fitted. Eventually he works out that the supersonic wash from his plane is enough to rip apart the German planes he is up against.
- As the protagonist of a Christopher Stasheff SF novel points out, anyone who denigrates the abilities of primitives armed with "sticks and stones" has never experienced a volley of stone-tipped arrows fired from ambush.
- In the first story arc of the Deathstalker series, slow-charging energy weapons and highly-effective energy shields have rendered the advanced weapons ineffective in ground battles. After an opening volley of disruptor fire, most soldiers charge into melee with swords. This tactic allows for a brutal example of this trope later. The protagonist's party locates a cache of "ancient" kinetic projectile weapons, including very effective machine guns. When they face an army using the standard disruptor-melee combination, they slaughter their enemy with machine gun fire when they drop their shields. The advances in technology had forced them to use primitive weaponry, which were useless against the antiquated/more advanced weapons.
- Not exactly. Force shields will indeed block bullets just fine, but most people are used to the energy guns, which take two minutes to recharge between shots. So after an opening exchange of disrupter fire (which the force shields deflect), standard practice is to shut down the force shields to save power. One the shields are off, the rebels pop up with machine guns and mow down the advancing Imperial troops. While the "official" reason for retiring projectile weapons was that they were outperformed by energy guns and force shields, the real reason was that energy guns and force shields were more expensive, so only the nobles or Imperial military could afford them, making rebellions much more difficult. Even so, the deciding factor in most battles was the main characters insane Madness Maze powers.
- J. R. R. Tolkien once gave a lecture to children about dragons where he claimed (in his view) that modern weapons such as machine guns would be ineffective against them, whereas the old heroic techniques such as the arrow in the voonerables would still work. He could very well be right-a Black arrow brought Smaug crashing to the ground, while a lot of bullets would be needed to chip off the scales.
- Probably more true than one would imagine—overlapping sets of hardened scales would me more effective against bullets than they would be against a cutting attack. In fact a lot of modern body armor takes this approach, some of which is even called "Dragonskin."
- Prince Roger:
- The titular Prince, at risk of capture, points out that his royal cybernetic enhancements are among the best in the galaxy, and will resist any attempt by the bad guys to hack into them for brainwashing. Pahner replies that there's still good ol' fashioned psychotropic drugs.
- The Marine guard have super-advanced mini-railgun weapons, plasma guns, and reactive-armor suits... but the weapons keep running out of ammo and aren't even as effective against the semi-armored local wildlife as Roger's "smoke pole", the plasma guns can't handle the dampness and keep exploding violently, and the suits, while effective against the local weaponry, can't be moved without a power source. Eventually, the marines start introducing the locals to Roman-style phalanx combat and breech-loading cartridge rifles, which works much better. While the modern weapons really do a number on the Kranolta, that first battle pretty much wipes out their supplies.
- First Flight, a Dinotopia illustrated novel packaged with a board game: At the climax Our Heroes, the human who has turned away from technology and his various animal buddies destroy a ridiculously huge flying scorpion mecha by scrambling around on top of it biting tubes, flinging berries, cutting wires, and finally removing the completely exposed, fist-sized, externally mounted power source. While the thing was created to be used against intelligent animals such as these, it was evidently very poorly designed for this task.
- Battlefield Earth is filled with moments like these...especially near the beginning when the main character is able to momentarily incapacitate an armored alien vehicle (capable of leveling entire buildings with a single shot) by dislocating one of its viewports with a club, allowing Earth's toxic atmosphere into the crew compartment. Although the gaskets holding the viewport were very old, and the only reason he even got to try was because the driver did not consider such an attack a threat
- Older Than Feudalism: In The Iliad, the bronze weapons and armor are described in the same sort of loving detail found for high-tech arms in modern techno-thrillers or SF. Despite this, on several occasions heroes who can't be defeated with bronze weapons are killed or wounded by someone grabbing a large rock and hitting them. E.g., Diomedes was wounded this way, Diorus was killed, and Ajax almost kills Hector with a rock - twice.
- Subverted by David Weber's Out of the Dark. Aliens with advanced technology and plenty of experience crushing primitive species invade Earth. However, humanity is the only species ever encountered that still fights wars with itself at a modern-day tech level. While we aren't as high-tech, we use what we have better. (e.g. Stealth fighter jets.) This doesn't erase their immense advantage over us, but it makes the invasion far, far more costly than they were expecting.
- In The Bible:
- Samson slaying 1000 soldiers with the jawbone of an ass.
- Then there's Shamgar in Judges 3:31: "After Ehud came Shamgar son of Anath, who struck down six hundred Philistines with an ox-goad."
- In Stone King, this is how Saionji comes to be known as Ishio, the Stone King of Ibaraki.
- Done literally in Sargasso of Space (from Solar Queen series) by Andre Norton. Traders ambush pirates' crawlers and beat pirates with thrown stones. They did have rayguns too, but they didn't want to attract attention.
- Artemis Fowl zig-zags with this pretty often. In general, the boy genius hero often gets the upper hand on the fairies despite their vastly superior technology; but he often does it by stealing and hacking into their technology, and there's less of this trope once he teams up with them.
- Butler often conveniently gets to use his martial arts skills to save the day: in the first book, he completely fails to harm a giant troll with a gun, so (after nearly dying and getting the Healing Hands treatment) he puts on a suit of armor and beats it into submission with a mace.
- Mulch the dwarf also does this a lot with his Bizarre Alien Biology; he disables a high-tech security camera by farting at it with enough force to make it rotate away from the area he needed to infiltrate.
- Poul Anderson
- In "Time Lag" Vaynamo isn't even that primitive, though it lacks industry. The heavily overpopulated Chertkoi assumes it will be easy because it is still heavily rural.
- In Sargasso of Lost Starships, the aliens have superhuman Psychic Powers. They can turn back guns. Donovan alerts the soldiers that spears are more dangerous, and they ready them.
- In Andre Norton's The Zero Stone, the Guild fears the natives, though they have lasers and the natives spears. Eet points out that they would attack at night, too, making visibility difficult.
- In Margaret Ball's Disappearing Act, Maris uses a rock to deal with an attacker — a devotion to the rules about technology that raises the first suspicions about her.
- There is a reason spacemen in the Lensman universe carry space axes. Personal energy shields worked better the faster the incoming threat, so near-lightspeed threats like beams were shrugged off. The needle-sharp hardened tip of a space ax, even when swung by a well-trained spaceman, was still too slow for an energy shield to really affect it.
- In Poul Anderson and Gordon R. Dickson's Hoka stories, one of the technologies introduced is superior navigational tools and practices. Captains leap to use it — but the crews ignore it, sticking to the old ways, presumably landmarks, prevailing winds, and currents. Given some of the results the captains can do, perhaps unsurprising, but the reason these techniques were developed was the horrific problems that ensued from the methods before them.
- In The Lost Regiment, the planet Valennia has long been stuck in a Medieval Stasis, with the 9-foot-tall Humanoid Aliens who rule the planet and constantly migrate in massive Hordes keeping their "cattle" (their word for humans) at primitive levels and periodically culling the population to keep the Hordes fed. Then one of the Tunnels of Light (the remains of a Portal Network built millennia ago by the ancestors of the aliens) brings to Valennia a group of American Civil War soldiers with their weapons and industrial experience. However, this trope is only partly played straight, as muskets and cannons can, at best, even the odds against the experienced mounted warriors of the Hordes, whose skills with bows and swords are unparalleled. Not to mention the sheer numbers of the Horde compared to the humans (the Hordes normally count their warriors in "umens"; each umen is 10,000 warriors), most of whom are untrained, illiterate peasants.
- Ends up being subverted in later novels, when the Hordes begin to advance to keep up with the Yankees and, in fact, some of their tech ends up being better, like their nuclear-powered airships.
- Played straighter in the distant past with a race of Starfish Aliens who brought Frickin' Laser Beams to Valennia. The Hordes managed to overpower them and then chose to dispose of the advanced weapons.
- In Year of the Ransom, when Exaltationists from the 31st century take prisoner a Time Patrolman and a conquistador, it's the conquistador who overpowers and kills them, with his nice sharp sword and their overconfidence.
- In Christopher G. Nuttal's Ark Royal the titular starship is decades obsolete with its mass drivers instead of Energy Weapons and armor so heavy it can barely move. But then humanity gets into a war with aliens whose weapons cut unarmored modern ships to pieces and the Admiralty brings the Ark Royal back into service believing that its armor will allow it to withstand alien attacks and its rock-chuckers can take out the enemy's ships with ease.
- Demonstrated in Sourcery when Rincewind beat a sourcerer while wielding nothing more than a half-brick in a sock. Played with, as the sourcerer saw him as such a non-threat that he refused to fight him at all and underwent a Heel–Face Turn. The half-brick in a sock did prove useful when the sourcerer's staff tried to stop him, since it let Rincewind knock it out of his hand without touching it.
- In the Cassandra Kresnov novels, when faced with an enemy who has such insane hacking abilities that they can redirect missiles back at their launchers in less time than it takes to say it, take total control of the entire wireless network of a major city, and even actively hack the cybernetic implants of people in real-time to trap them in virtual reality constructs, the best defenses against them turn out to be low-tech assault rifles and hand grenades since there's nothing to hack on either of them.
- Averted in Blindsight and Echopraxia. Baseline mankind has little hope against the myriad transhuman subspecies running around.
- In Danial da Cruz's Texas novel The Ayes of Texas, an invading Soviet armored division is defeated by one man on a horse armed with a Flare Gun... and several acres of diesel-soaked ground.
- Honor Harrington:
- When dealing with Andre Warnecke in Honor Among Enemies, Honor and her armsmen need to board a shuttle with the madman in question and several of his goons without any weapons, which is confirmed with a scanner that detects power sources. However, the M1911 pistol, newly built but to the exact specifications of modern day Real Life Earth, that she sneaks aboard doesn't use a power source (unlike pulsers in the current setting), so it goes undetected in its hiding place until she brings it out and blasts Warnecke's henchmen.
- Unable to overcome Manticoran technical advantages in LAC combat, in War of Honor the Republicans develop the "triple ripple" tactic, which uses loads of the dirtiest thermonuclear warhead missiles (considered to be just about obsolete in modern space combat) they have to overload Mantie sensors with humongous EMP bursts, blinding them so that Republican LACs can get in licks while their opponents aren't able to target anything.
It isn't pretty, and it isn't elegant, but it is something more important than either of those things — it works. —V. Adm. Shannon Foraker
- Averted on the Harry Turtledove short story Vilcabamba: there is absolutely nothing humans can do technology-wise that can slow down (let alone stop) the initial alien invasion, and a second uprising many years later is curb-stomped just as quickly.
- In Victoria older tech is always better, because Retroculture. Spar torpedoes can easily sink modern warships, old WWII short-wave radar is fantastic at spotting high-tech stealth bombers. T-34s are more reliable and easily repaired than modern tanks, though at least there it's acknowledged they'll want to avoid any pitched battles with newer armor. The only computers in Victoria are those their EW specialists use to hack and confound the enemy, so their electronic security is absolute.
- Stargate SG-1:
- Human-made bullets are more useful than Asgardian high-tech weapons against Replicators: they absorb the energy of energy blasts, but bullets blow them apart. Also, it was shown that while Goa'uld personal shields can easily deflect fast moving bullets, they're powerless to stop a relatively slow-moving arrows or thrown knives. The implication throughout the series is that Applied Phlebotinum is often Awesome, but Impractical.
- It was lampshaded in one episode, when the team mentioned that the Goa'uld staff weapons are not meant to be effective so much as flashy and impressive, the better to intimidate conquered populations. The "sidearm" zat'nik'tel pistols are the weapon of choice for savvy Jaffa.
Colonel O'Neill: This [a staff weapon] is a weapon of terror: it's made to intimidate the enemy. This [an FNP90] is a weapon of war: it's made to kill the enemy.
- Later subverted when human-form replicators were created, who are immune to bullets, forcing the Asgard and Humans to create a brand new hi-tech weapon to fight them.
- US soldiers defend a gate and actually shoot down Goa'uld Death Glider fighters with Stinger portable AA missiles. Boom!◊
- On every alien planet or Alternate Earth where the Goa'uld came in ships, there was a Curb-Stomp Battle. Goa'uld technology is much better than Earth technology at ship-to-ship or ship-to-ground combat until the end of the series. However, five thousand years of A God Am I left them unprepared for guerilla warfare.
- When SG-1 gets captured by a Bounty Hunter named Aris Boch, O'Neill tries to throw a knife at him through the shield. The knife hits the shield and drops to the ground. Boch reveals that he has improved on the Goa'uld design so that slow objects no longer pass through the shield. It should be noted that if a thrown knife worked SG-1 could've walked out of the shield. As Boch himself put it, that kind of shield doesn't work very well as a trap.
- From Doctor Who:
Donna: Sonic it; use the thingy! [meaning the sonic screwdriver]
Doctor: I can't; it's wood!
Donna: What, it doesn't do wood?
- Subverted in "Death to the Daleks". A human spaceship, a Dalek spaceship and the TARDIS are immobilised on a planet. The Daleks try to exterminate the Doctor only to find their weapons don't work, one Dalek is taken out by the locals with rocks and spears, and some of the rest are captured and led off to be sacrificed. The remaining Daleks promptly replace their energy weapons with slug-throwing guns (meaning bullets, not gastropods), which still work just fine, and wreak brutal revenge.
- In the old series episode "The Pirate Planet" (that's the Fourth Doctor), when faced with a locked door, the Doctor tries the Sonic Screwdriver, which fails. So he pulls out a bobby-pin, which succeeds. Quoth the Doctor: "The more sophisticated a technology, the more vulnerable it is to primitive attack."
- Shows up in the revival with the Sontarans. For all their advanced technology they're caught by surprise and slaughtered by U.N.I.T. (the resident Red Shirts). The Sontarans have technology that expands copper casings of bullets, making guns unable to fire... so U.N.I.T. switches to non-copper casings. Hilarity ensues.
- Well, U.N.I.T. does also use a huge Airborne Aircraft Carrier firing an alien-technology-based laser cannon, so it's not as if they're that far behind technologically.
- In "Planet of the Daleks", Thals drop rocks on a Dalek rising through a long shaft on antigravity. The rocks, after all, have gravity on their side.
- In the Second Doctor episode "The Dominators", Jamie and Cully defeat deadly robots (which are wielding some kind of powerful beam weapons) using rocks large and small.
- In "The Day of the Doctor", The Doctor (all three) can't use the sonic screwdriver to escape a cell because the door is too primitive.
Eleventh Doctor: Shall we ask for a better quality of door so we can escape?
- In an episode of Andromeda, when Captain Hunt tries to arm a peaceful settlement so they can defend themselves from space pirates, be brings along a load of force lances. But, what do you know, a religious extremist who'd rather see the people enslaved than lose their innocence explodes the box of force lances. So, Hunt has the natives sharpen sticks and throw them from the walls at the well-armed pirates, and they end up driving them back. The being said, Hunt is a relic of a bygone age when the Systems Commonwealth crews were some of the most badass men and women alive.
- Also, Captain Hunt was a member of the Argosy Special Operations Service, one of the most badass of the badasses. He was also batshit insane (as the events on Acheron proved...)
- From the "Die Hard" on an X episode "I Shrink Therefore I Am":
Big, Armored Alien: Pulse-chamber overload. [snort] Not very creative.
Crichton: Bear trap. Ugly, but creative.
- Similarly, in "Lava's A Many Splendored Thing," the bad guys' personal shields protect them from pulse pistol blasts... but not from a conk on the head with a rock. Preceded by a wonderful explanation of why fire and rock beat laser.
D'Argo: That is your plan?...To hit him with a rock when they have these, like, shield things?
Crichton: The shields work against pulse energy. They don't work against other things. We saw the guy get burned.
D'Argo: Yeah, but not by a rock!
Crichton: Alright, let me lay this out for you. Fire is thermal energy. Thermal energy is like, kinetic energy. A rock has kinetic energy, ergo, a rock will work!
- From the "Die Hard" on an X episode "I Shrink Therefore I Am":
- Referenced, if not quite employed, in the Angel episode "A Hole in the World." At the beginning of the show, Angel and Spike argue—for half an hour!—about who would win in a fight: an astronaut or a caveman (i.e., technological savvy or primitive savagery). Later, when Fred lies dying from the essence of an ancient demon, she whispers, "The caveman wins. The caveman always wins."
- On Mystery Science Theater 3000, Tom Servo accidentally shoots down a tiny satellite with an arrow. The mother satellite is not happy about that.
- The episode "The Tribe" of Criminal Minds features an Apache cop that Doesn't Like Guns and is instead armed with a knife. In his own words, he'll kill or disarm any gunman that is less than 6 meters away from him while he is still (re)loading or aiming; if he's more than 6 meters away, he runs.
- In the Hogan's Heroes episode "Drums Along the Dusseldorf," Carter and Newkirk take out a truck of experimental fuel with a flaming arrow.
- The Firefly 'verse in general prefers projectile weapons to lasers. Specifically, in "Heart of Gold", the Big Bad brandishes a laser, which does do quite a bit of damage...until it runs out of power, very quickly, thus illustrating why projectile weapons are preferred. On the other hand, guns can run out of ammo too. Presumably, the Alliance troops who use lasers carry spare power packs, just like modern-day soldiers carry spare magazines. Supplemental material revealed that while laser weapons were effective, they were also bulky, heavy, and delicate compared to guns. This was not a huge liability on Core planets where Alliance troops would have ready access to spare parts, but out in the planets the show was mostly set in, using a laser meant that you'd have a powerful weapon that ran out of ammo quicker, you couldn't carry as much ammo (due to the bulk and weight of the power packs), and when (not if) it broke on you it would be harder and more expensive to repair it.
- In one episode of MythBusters, the team is trying to find ways to fool advanced security systems. Though most of them don't work, they do find out that it is possible to fool a state-of-the-art infrared motion detector by holding a large white sheet in front of yourself.
- In an episode of The Muppet Show where Mark Hamill guest-stars as Luke Skywalker, he is about to vaporize Dearth Nadir only to find that Nadir disabled his blaster with a technobabble plot device. Thankfully, since "Dearth Nadir" is really just Gonzo the Great in a silly mask, Chewbacca proves more than capable of giving him a beatdown. Unfortunately, even Chewbacca is useless against the awesome might of Angus McGonoggle, the Argyle Gargoyle gargling Gershwin.
- Battlestar Galactica (2003) downplays and justifies this. The Galactica avoids infection from Cylon viruses by using dumb computers, manually controlled starfighters and weaponry, and hardwired communications.
- During her time on Star Trek: The Next Generation, Dr. Katherine Pulaski shows herself to be a believer in a peaceful variety of this trope — using low-tech medical technologies such as splints and chicken soup in place of the usual hyper-advanced Star Trek medical technology when necessary.
- In one Expanded Universe novel, the villain's headquarters was shielded against every type of technology-based weaponry imaginable, but not physical objects. So Worf replicated himself a catapult and spent the afternoon smashing a hole in the wall.
- This occasionally happens on Leverage against high-tech security systems. In "The Last Dam Job" this happens twice. As their antagonist has recognized them and knows them enough to predict what they will, do they are forced to be somewhat creative. Hardison and Eliot use Mussels (an invasive species) to shut down a dam instead of a more complicated computer intrusion. Later, Hardison and Chaos plan to give Archie and Parker a bunch of high-tech doodads to break into a vault. Archie thanks them, but notes that all they need is flour, milk, eggs, and sugar. With the only advanced tech involved being Archie's tazer cane and a bomb, it works perfectly.
- Said but not shown on Babylon 5: the reason energy weapons are used on the station and on starships is that the BiLPro weapons (Binary Liquid Propellant, firearms with extremely powerful liquid propellant that is partly stored in the round and partly in the gun in the form of two inert liquids) issued to EarthForce infantry for planetside combat are too powerful and have an unfortunate tendency to rupture the weaker sections of the hull and cause collateral damage with the ricochet from hitting the stronger parts of the hull (the ricochet will always happen with more conventional and less powerful firearms), whereas handheld energy weapons don't do either. The Expanded Universe explains that EarthForce is still using BiLPro as small arms for planetside combat as well as for artillery and tank guns, even if gauss cannons are starting to take over as tank guns.
- It's also shown that, in a literal example of this trope, attacking a planet with lasers and particle weapons is acceptable, but throwing rocks at it is a war crime due the greater devastation and the long-term effects.
- The game Babylon 5 Wars has the Attarn, a race whose hat is exactly this: they originally armed their starships with large-scale BiLPro weapons because, being almost identical to normal firearms, they were faster and cheaper to develop than lasers and plasma weapons, but kept and continued developing them after their first interstellar war proved their superiority over the (admittedly primitive) laser, plasma and particle weapons of the Skand. Their largest ships are a tough foe even for EarthForce and Narn ships of similar size, and in their war with the Gromenote they quickly overwhelmed them before the intervention of the Hurrnote managed to fight them to a standstill.
- Also Subverted: BiLPro weapons aside, the Attarn are a technologically advanced race, whose ships are equipped with indigenously-developed Artificial Gravity (something Earth and Narn got only at the end of the Earth Civil War, and even then with technological help from the Interstellar Alliance and, for Earth, decades of study of alien technologies), armour comparable to the ludicrously-armoured EarthForce ships and sensors extremely superior to what the Grome and Hurr had, meaning their ships could survive more punishment than their opponents, hit them at longer ranges and sneak over six hundred fighters and attack bombers in the middle of the Grome fleet assembled over their homeworld (the opening strike of the war).
- Zig-Zagging Trope in Deadliest Warrior. The general rule is, the warrior with the clear technology advantage is usually the one who wins in the end (as is the case with Pirate vs. Knight, French Musketeers vs Ming Warriors, Vlad the Impaler vs. Sun Tzu and Joan of Arc vs. William the Conqueror). but occasionally an older weapon manages to outperform a more advanced counterpart in simulation, such as Theodore Roosevelt's Gatling Gun actually managing to work better than Lawrence of Arabia's WW1-era Vickers. Sometimes, however, a warrior with more primitive weaponry manages to beat the odds and overcome their more advanced opponents (the Spartan, who manages to defeat both the Ninja and the Samurai, armed with steel weapons and armour, using only bronze-age gear, and the Jesse James gang, who go up against Al Capone's gang, who have Tommy guns, armed with Civil War-era rifles and revolvers, and win).
- The Outer Limits (1995) episode "Rule Of Law" has a scene where the judge protagonist, armed with a handgun, confronts a lynch mob armed with laser guns. The crooks mock his inferior weapon, but are defeated with ease, owing largely to the judge's superior marksmanship and training.
- Leslie Fish
- The Aesop of the Car Wars inspired song "The Discards":
No radar for your jamming, no lasers to deflect, just armor made for ramming and bullets worth respect…
- Also the point of Leslie Fish's song Serious Steel, in which members of the Society for Creative Anachronism, using steel armor and recreated medieval weapons, fight various bandits and dictators after the World War III.
Our armor proved half-bullet proof, our weapons worked as well.
The townsfolk afterwards thanked us all for freeing them from Hell.
- The Aesop of the Car Wars inspired song "The Discards":
- Space 1889 averts this trope or possibly even inverts it because in fictional Mars, the Europeans superior technology is even more effective than in historical colonial areas. Europeans use their superior technology just as effectively against Martians as against, say black Africans. Martian terrain does not lend itself to effective guerilla warfare nor do the Europeans have much trouble with Martian diseases the way they are subject to tropical diseases on Earth. It is the cost of transport to Mars and the lack of resources needed for European-style warfare (particularly coal or some other burnable fuel for the steam engines and metal for casings) that is slowing European conquest and colonization.
- Warhammer 40,000, due to the ridiculously Schizo Tech of the setting. On one side you could have the Eldar casually using fusion guns and black hole projectors, or the Tau whose basic infantry weapon is a plasma-launching coilgun assisted by sophisticated electronic targeting systems. But due to the game rules, if those warriors are unfortunate enough to get locked in close combat with a bunch of howling Orks waving around stone clubs, their advanced sci-fi ranged weaponry is exactly as effective as a stick with a nail in it.
- The Imperium of Man still makes use of firearms. While small arm-sized auto and stub weapons (pistol and rifle equivalents using caseless ammo) are often lackluster, larger guns are just as powerful as their energy equivalents, the bolters remain fast-firing rocket-propelled AP/HE/incendiary grenades, and their artillery (using the powder bag system dating to 1917) is one of the most devastating weapons of the game.
- And compared to the above, Chaos weaponry is downright archiac. The Imperium gets plasma-sheathed swords and fusion guns, while Chaos gets swords forged in hellfire and scythes with blades dipped in the cauldron of Nurgle. Doesn't make them any less lethal, in fact often they are moreso.
- The later model for kobolds in Dungeons & Dragons was posited in a Dragon Magazine in the '80s, Tucker's Kobolds, as a way to turn single-HD runts into holy terrors for 20th level parties armed to the teeth with Infinity Plus One artifacts and insane eldritch arsenals. They became more formidable when they weren't dominated by evil wizards or warlords of more powerful races, as they would avoid battle-by-attrition in favor of ingenious traps and ambush-and-retreat positions.
- In the Mystara D&D setting's Hollow World, many members of lower-technology cultures get Immortal-granted bonuses in combat, as the Powers That Be don't want any one culture to overwhelm the others and are skewing the game-rules to ensure that Rock Holds Its Own Against Laser.
- Due to a variety of factors, usually happens at least once in a blue moon during a corp run in Shadowrun. As in sci-fi examples stated further above, megacorps do not bother with failsafes and countermeasures against primitive measures, as they just won't be utilized enough to make the cost worth it. Corps that fear such things may be used to infiltrate them tend to hire mage/tracker(usually a bandersnatch or hellhound) teams to roam their halls and spot anything out of the ordinary. From the sample NPC quotes for a Native American chief:
"I have a fine horse, so why would I need a car? A horse is a renewable resource. Have you had any success breeding your car lately?"
- In yet another Star Wars-related example, the Star Wars: Saga Edition RPG has it in the rules that while energy shields will stop any energy weapon, up to and including the ubiquitous lightsaber, a simple slugthrower or sling can penetrate it. And using that ruleset (namely the Scum and Villainy sourcebook) it was possible to develop weapons that could be used to take down shielded enemies in an area larger than a major city, so long as it was clear line of sight to them.
- There is a Chinese board game that has these aspects with 8 units, the elephant all the way down to the mouse. Simply put, it is a game of 1-8, where the higher number eats any number directly below it. However, the mouse which is the number 1 is the only piece that can eat the number 8 which means that it is the weakest that defeats the strongest. Stratego has the same mechanic, where the Spy can defeat the Marshal if it attacks first.
- Some of the more powerful units in Heroscape are Medieval units or colonial-times soldiers who are able to destroy the Soulborgs.
- Magic: The Gathering has a variety of formats, some with over ten thousand cards available, some with less than two thousand. While Legacy (which contains every card ever printed) is typically considered more powerful than smaller ones they are also specifically designed to beat the metagame they exist in. The result is that decks made for Standard (which has only the most recent cards) can sometimes create present Legacy decks with cards they're incapable of dealing with because the card is unplayable within the Legacy metagame.
- This happens very occasionally in Rocket Age. In close quarters jungle fighting a Venusian fighting with a club could easily outmatch an Earthling with a gun, especially considering how wet it is on Venus and the sheer size of the Venusian. Also sometimes something that appears low tech, like a Venusian wooden axe, has unusual properties that give it a huge edge against modern technology.
- In many video games (Quake II and Unreal games come to mind), the player's initial weapon is a futuristic blaster—a pea-shooter compared with less sophisticated weapons such as a shotgun (single- or double-barrelled), which can deal out much more damage. Even bullet-using rifles/SMGs and miniguns/chainguns are more effective. (There's usually a powered-up version of the pea-shooting blaster available, though, such as Quake II's Hyperblaster and BFG, or the various upgrades to the dispersion pistol in Unreal.) The futuristic but ineffective blaster does have two advantages, since it's intended as an Emergency Weapon—it doesn't break and never runs out of ammunition.
- Even more jarring, in many fps games, e.g., GoldenEye on Wii, meleeing someone with the butt of an assault rifle is more deadly than shooting someone with a bullet from said rifle. It will take just one or two melee hits, but many AK 47 shots to kill someonenote . This is mostly just to get the player out of tight spots, as actively trying to rush and melee will get you killed pretty quickly.
- Chrono Trigger takes this to a literal extreme, where Lucca's prehistoric rock-slinger is more powerful than a laser pistol from the future. When Ayla reaches maximum level, her fist can hit for more damage than any other weapon in the game, including swords, guns, bows, etc.
- The Battle Walkers of Battlefield 2142 are supposed to be the pinnacle of Infantry Fighting Vehicles. Should an infantryman wander between its legs, however, he can whittle down the hulking machine with little more than a pistol pointed at its Achilles' Heel (though you'd still need a hundred rounds or so to do so). The Walker pilot can further uphold the trope, though, by simply crouching down, beating the infantryman's pistol with a very heavy chunk of metal.
- Similarly, the "Active Defense" shielding employed by most of the vehicle lines do not fully repel gunfire. Air vehicles (especially the heavily armed Gunship) are especially prone to AA fire.
- Ditto on both of these for the Battlezone RTS/FPS genre crossover remake and its sequel, except for the crouching part. However, being filled to the brim with hover tech, ANYTHING can fly given the proper incline to start up its ascent. Unfortunately they can't aim very far downwards, making this more of a sped-up transportation method (skipping slopes and pits in the terrain) than battle tactic.
- In Mass Effect, this is actually justified- while laser weapons do exist, kinetic energy weapons are more effective shot-for-shot. Thus even in the future, we're still using guns that fire bullets- although now that gun has nearly limitless ammo and is capable of freezing you, setting you on fire, punching through your armor, destroying your shields, increase their mass... That said, in close-range ship-to-ship combat, lasers will literally melt enemy warships, since point-defence lasers ignore kinetic barriers. The series zigzags it—the most technologically advanced weapons are not lasers, but streams of molten metal fired like one. It is absolutely played straight in the third game, however; the protagonists release a giant Sand Worm to distract the resident technological Eldritch Abomination, and the creature does them one better and manages to kill it. Without assistance. After being hit with one of its weapons nearly point-blank.
- Worms: A Space Oddity takes this to great levels of awesome for the final mini-game, which is also the final level of the single-player campaign. Realising that their high-tech weaponry ain't doing smeg against the invaders, the worms decide to arm the "trusty shotgun"... Which can take down UFOs. In a single shot. Much ass-kicking ensues.
- The Civilization series is notorious for this. Put a tank (attack 8) against a spearman (defense 3) that happened to be left lying around from the early game, make the spearman a fortified (+ 50%) veteran (+ 50%) defending a mountain (+ 200%) and presto. Or a missile cruiser against a galleon, or a helicopter against a maceman... games after the first one added multiple combat rounds to help modern units out, which made instances of this trope rare enough to stand out better.
- Worse yet, in the original Civilization, a battleship could attack a city guarded with just an ancient phalanx, only to have the phalanx win. Radar doesn't detect wooden rowboats indeed.
- Archer stack on defense.
- The developers have actively been trying to fix this problem in the later games, with mixed results.
- Rise of Nations is almost as bad. Thanks to the Tactical Rock-Paper-Scissors mechanic, if the tech levels are different enough, you can see not just spearmen killing tanks, but archers killing missile-armed anti-tank infantry, cavalry cutting down machine guns (the reverse of which happened in real life), sloops sinking submarines, and lookout towers shooting down fighter planes. Perhaps the worse example is the transition from the enlightenment era to a late industrial navy. Dreadnoughts have a relatively minor stat increase compared to the Men o' War/Ships of the Line they replace, and are liable to be sunk when engaging more then one, when logically the latter shouldn't be able to scratch the former.
- Realistically averted in Medieval 2 Total War, but played straight in the Low Fantasy total conversion mod Thera. If you're playing as the Aztec-themed Paynal Empire or the Warriors of Kukulcan, you can expect to go up against the advanced armies of the Faustian Reich, the Ducado and the Privateers, as these factions all start on a western continent analogous to the Americas. The latter three have late-renaissance armies of musketeers, cannons and cavalry in steel plate armour, while the former two haven't yet invented metalworking or the wheel. It's also very possible for the former two to win.
- Done literally in sub-par platform game Xargon, where the laser is the protagonist's initial weapon, and the thrown rock is considered an upgrade (and, ironically, a worse weapon; it deals the same amount of damage, but flies in an upwards arc that makes it impractical to hit enemies in front of you). See also: Ghouls n' Ghosts. THAT FUCKING TORCH
- Sonic the Hedgehog does this. The titular character defeats an entire army of robots, guns, traps, and the Big Bad himself... by running fast and jumping into them.
- This is Silver The Hedgeog's bread and butter. While he can and will send a robot's missiles and bullets right back at them and employ Grievous Harm with a Body when in close quarters, he's usually able to get by perfectly fine by simply scooping up the debris and scenery around him and chucking it at his enemies.
- In the Xbox remake of Ninja Gaiden, Ryu defeats the slightly-beyond-modern technology-boasting forces of Vigoor, users of electrified batons, unlimited ammo firearms and cyborgs with energy weapons, using swords, nunchaku, and a variety of other old-timey weapons. Especially so if he uses the Wooden Sword (absolutely useless in most situations, unless the player upgrades it to level seven... where it becomes one of the most powerful weapons in the game. But still wooden.)
- StarCraft: a Protoss Dragoon is a massive Spider Tank with an antimatter cannon. A Zergling is a lizard with teeth and claws. Dragoons can quite easily be ripped to small pieces by a standard-issue Zerg Rush. The sequel is taking this to an even higher level by giving the Dragoons' successor, the Immortal, shields that can stop a nuke...but which offer no protection against light attacks, like those of said Zerglings and Marines. This is actually somewhat more of an aversion, as Zerg are more an example of Organic Technology that's been constantly improving for ages. A zergling is an animal, yes, but its charging with mono-molecular blades, fitness and reflexes boosted thanks to thousands of years of directed evolution, and cannot feel any pain or fear. It's the weakest Zerg strain, others getting even nastier.
- Firstly, the Stalker is the Dragoon's role-successor, secondly, The Immortals' shields offer protection against everything, but they're not much stronger than the Dragoons' against attacks that don't trigger hardened shields. (despite their being twice as expensive).
- Also, in the campaign for the second game, you can use classic units from the first game, which in-universe are considered outdated and obsolete. However, there are times where players would gladly take a Science Vessel or Goliath over their more "advanced" counterparts.
- MOTHER 3 is big on this, what with the whole plot being nature vs. technology. It's especially apparent in the later battles where Lucas is still using a stick and able to take down mechanical monstrosities as well as guys equipped with armor and lasers. In fact the only thing that Lucas and the gang can't beat by punching and kicking and sticks is something that NOTHING can defeat.
- Shows up occasionally in World of Warcraft, particularly against gnomes and goblins. A giant mecha equipped with missile launchers and laser guns can be taken out with crossbows, maces, and animal claws.
- Shows up of all places Modern Warfare. Where with the right built the best weapons is a knife and shield combo. Also until being patched the model 1887 had the best range in game, almost that of real life.
- In City of Heroes, your character may have powered armour, a Healing Factor, or control over gravity itself, but nothing will save you from the Knives of Artemis, whose main weapons are crossbows and caltrops. Then again, your Badass Normal hero can take out killer robots, alien warriors, super soldiers, evil wizards, rogue superheroes, cybernetic street gangs…
- Galaxy Man, a UFO-like robot who creates black holes in Mega Man 9, is taken down easily by wet concrete. It does work both ways though, given Concrete Man's weakness is laser-powered.
- Mega Man X2: Magna Centipede, who's a tech-skilled ninja hacker centipede that teleports and throws homing mine-shurikens, is weak to scrap metal.
- You get Blasters near the end of Might and Magic VII (and some other games of the series). Besides incredible accuracy, they are inferior in raw damage to high-end bows and swords - but they do Energy damage instead of Physical, and the enemies in the area they're supplied for use in have more Physical resistance than they do Energy resistance. Kreegans (known as "devils" among natives) are Sufficiently Advanced Aliens that use Organic Technology' and are quite good at terramorphing. When they tried to conquer Enroth with brute force, they had a hard time dealing with 500 armed men and were completely stopped by dragons and titans that happened to live in neighborhood; after that, they resorted to infiltrating local society and building their own cult. Those that landed on Antagarich did a lot better due to being more numerous and willing to ally with some natives; nonetheless, they went from posing a major threat to desperately struggling for power to losing any importance and becoming simple mercenaries in less than a decade.
- The terrorist faction in Command & Conquer: Generals repeatedly routs the United States and China in a 21-century war using Cold War-era technology, with supersonic planes being shot down by machine guns and Molotov-wielding mobs of rioters blowing up scores of tanks with lasers.
- A huge balance issue in the F2P MMO Black Prophecy. Bullet weapons completely overpower energy weapons because they ignore shields. Energy weapons have to deal with a fighter's shields first- and then they do less damage to the actual hull of the shield in average than projectiles. The only "drawback" projectile weapons have is that bullets supposedly slow down when approaching an enemy with shields (with no damage penalties). This doesn't actually happen ingame, and even if it did, chances of hitting the target would still be high, considering you are using either a fast-firing chaingun or a hitscan sniper rifle.
- In Metal Gear Solid 4, in a world where anybody with nanomachines can be manipulated and incapacitated, Johnny gets his moments to shine when he reveals that he never had nanomachines implanted into his body, rendering him immune to the high tech methods to disable nanomachine-enhanced soldiers.
- In the reboot of Syndicate, the LAW-92 is a relatively low-tech unguided missile popular with terrorists because Agents cannot disable them via Breaching.
- Justified in Star Ocean. Despite having access to laser pistols, Ronyx and Ilia were chosen to go after the Jie Revorse with Millie, Roddick, and their four friends from the past wielding their bare hands, swords, knives, staves (or spears) bows, and symbology because Revorse was genetically modified to the point where he was immune to energy-based weaponry. Presumably, they don't have much Ballistics in the present time. Actually, it could be a safety measure - maybe the energy weaponry is a bit safe so that it only works on organic targets (or robots), or at least can't break spaceship walls like Ballistics could. Even if this is futuristic, early adapters could probably have banned ballistic weaponry.
- Inverted in Star Ruler. With a large enough gap in tech level, the more advanced faction will absolutely Curb Stomp the less advanced one. Furthermore, because production rate is also improved by research, the lesser faction can't count on numbers either.
- The Combat Shotgun in Fallout 3 is more powerful than any energy weapon you'll get until the end of the game.
- In the Mothership Zeta DLC, one of the allies you encounter on the alien ship is a feudal-era Japanese Samurai. A Samurai on a spaceship full of aliens with ray-guns. Curb-Stomp Battle waiting to happen, right? You can have an encounter where he is standing in a room, katana drawn, surrounded by dismembered alien corpses. Yep. Curb-Stomp Battle all right.
- The sequel, Fallout 4 features the Minutemen's defeat of the Brotherhood of Steel. The Brotherhood's Cool Airship, the Prydwen, and all its Powered Armor soldiers laid low by a band of wasteland militiamen and their primitive WW1-era artillery guns.
- There's also the first Railroad quest after you join, which has you taking up the Railway Rifle (a steam powered hand cannon that fires massive iron spikes) and using it against a squad of Brotherhood of Steel Paladins clad in advanced Powered Armor. Granted, the weapon is specifically designed to shred armor like tissue paper, allowing the supposedly wimpy Railroad to level and possibly tip the playing field in their favor.
- One of the best weapons to defeat Coursers, Assaultrons, and other high-tech cloaking enemies is the humble Molotov Cocktail. If they cloak, toss one in their general direction and they'll catch on fire so you can see where they are and keep blasting them.
- Fallout: New Vegas also had the Brotherhood get defeated before the events of the game by the less technologically advanced NCR, though it was mostly due to the NCR overwhelming them with sheer numbers. Similarly, Caesar's Legion and the NCR are caught in an everlasting stalemate, where the basic Legion mook is armed with a Machete and some Throwing Spears, while the basic NCR mook has a Service Rifle. Again, the Legion has the advantage in numbers.
- Some entries on the Shield Tech Tree in Spaceward Ho!, by ascending effectiveness:
Quark ShellDelta WaveRefractor FieldGluon ArmorHide behind a big rock
- In Enemy Infestation, due to the aliens' Adaptive Ability, the effects of weapons on them are largely unpredictable every mission. There are two exceptions: a rocket launcher (primitive compared to the abundant rayguns), and a cook's cleaver.
- In Plants vs. Zombies, the Zombies try to invade your house using tools, vehicles, and a Humongous Mecha (and futuristic Mini Mechas in the sequel). They all get taken down by plants.
- In Dark Souls II, the "Strike" type weapons tend to be relatively crude compared to the other weapons in the game. The Great Club in particular is just a branch taken from a huge tree. Strike damage in this game is arguably the most useful type of damage in the game since many enemies take less damage from any physical damage except Strike damage, especially armored opponents. Quite a few enemies will go down faster when hit by a big rock on a stick or the aforementioned tree branch than by a fancy enchanted sword. Or hey, why go through the trouble of lugging around a giant log all day when you could just strap some studded pieces of leather to your fists and punch everything to death?
- Armored Core V and its sequel Verdict Day play with this trope. At certain points in the games, jury-rigged one-shot weapons known as Ultimate Weapons become available and can be loaded onto the player's AC. The weapon that embodies this trope, known as the Mass Blade, is a concrete pillar, outfitted with rocket boosters and used as a giant bludgeon. Said weapon can demolish a supertech, laser-armed Humongous Mecha in a single strike.
- A fully automated, aim-assisted Sentry Gun built by a man with 11 PhDs that usually takes an invulnerability shield and lots of firepower to destroy can be destroyed in two swings by a incomprehensible nut in an asbestos suit with a sledgehammer. Welcome to Team Fortress 2. On a related note, the miraculous glowing shield that provides total invulnerability to harm from bullets, explosions, fire, and even One Hit Kills? Its greatest nemesis is compressed air, also provided the aforementioned nut in a rubber suit.
- Unintentionally played straight by the flash game Age of War. The best strategy to beat the otherwise really hard Impossible difficulty is to stay at the lowest age and just keep spamming Cavemen endlessly.
- In Evolve you have a four-man team armed with advanced weaponry and gadgets facing off against what is essentially a large and fairly intelligent animal. It is completely possible for the monster to tear the hunters apart, regardless of the technological differences. A literal example can occur if the Goliath uses rock throw against a hunter with a laser weapon.
- In Pulp Adventures, Tarzan and his bow aren't less useful against gun-toting Nazis than other heroes with more modern weaponry.
- The Elder Scrolls:
- The Bosmer (Wood Elves) of Valenwood are bound by the Green Pact, a deal they made with the patron deity of their forest homeland ages ago in which they are not allowed to harm Valenwood's plant life. Due to the Green Pact, forges are extremely uncommon in Valenwood. As a result, metal weapons and armor have never gained popularity amongst the Bosmer. Their weaponry tends to be made of natural ingredients, such as bone for clubs and obsidian blades. They are known to make composite horn bows which are said to be some of the best in Tamriel. For armor, they either forgo it completely or use light natural materials such as leather and hide.
- The Reachmen, tribal natives of the Reach region along the border of High Rock and Skyrim, eschew metal in their weapons and armor, favoring wood, stone, fur, hide, feathers, bone, and antler. Despite this, they are able fight evenly against better equipped adversaries through use of guerilla tactics and their druidic "hedge magic." In Skyrim, this can be seen in the weapons and armor of the Forsworn, a terrorist/freedom fighter group of Reachmen.
- Spoofed in Anti Hero For Hire. Canada managed to conquer the northern half of the United States using Dinosaurs. Yes, Dinosaurs. The American hi-tech missile shields, prepared to stop WMDs, were never programmed with anti-Dinosaur measures. It was called "The Unexpected War".
- Likewise, Axe Cop brings a "Dinosaur Horn" with him when he goes to Invisible King Bad Guy Planet Number Two, saying that he doesn't know what he'll find up there, but that it probably can't beat Dinosaurs. And indeed, Dinosaurs seem to be the only thing Invisible King Bad Guy's scientists can't make.
- In Freefall, Ecosystems Unlimited attempts to control the information leaving the company by dosing recycled parts with EMP before releasing them to destroy any clandestine listening/recording devices that someone may try to sneak out that way, which has absolutely no effect on hand-written notes.
- In a Story Arc of Sluggy Freelance, it looks like some Hereti-Corp agents are royally screwed when they're faced with an army of robots that are Immune to Bullets. Then it turns out that, while the robots' builders thought to make them bulletproof, they didn't do anything about flammability. Cue the flamethrower.
- Prequel treats its readers to a flash minigame where they control Katia as she chases a skilled mage throughout the city of Kvatch — his ability as a wizard gives him a great advantage in agility as he escapes from the normally clumsy Katia. The chase ends with Katia performing a combat roll, simultaneously grabbing a stone, chucking it at the back of his head and scoring a direct hit. "Situation: controlled!"
- Darths & Droids justifies this trope by virtue of a Stone Age weapons table and no damage scaling.
Stick, two-handed, hardwood: 1d12Blaster, second-hand, dodgily repaired: 1d10-1
Sally (reading off the Stone Age weapons table)Bows. 2d8 is enough to penetrate trooper armour. (Ewoks archers fire)...lassos and ropes can totally stop any moving creature. (an AT-ST tumbles)Rocks, of course. (stones are dropped on several troopers)Clashing logs. 20d6 damage. (another AT-ST gets crushed between two massive trees)And a logfall trap. (logs are dropped on a third AT-ST)
- Cue the players blatantly abusing this trope.
- Explicitly argued against in Orion's Arm, where the "Plucky Baseline" is specifically declared impossible. A higher sophont is fundamentally unbeatable by a lower one barring the aid of an equal.
- In Worm, Skitter escapes a cage made of nano robots that cut through anything using a lighter.
- Parodied in Kingdom Paf, where it's briefly mentioned how the Halloweenians managed to defeat a tank using pitchfrocks. The tank's driver was so busy laughing his ass off when he saw them attack him, he didn't notice he was going right in a pit they had just made.
- The Simpsons:
- Parodied in "Treehouse of Horror II", where the primary weapon for the human uprising against their alien overlords is Moe wielding a board with a nail in it. This makes sense considering the aliens invaded when the entire earth was unarmed after Lisa wished for world peace, and had things like slingshots. After being driven off, the aliens muse that one day the humans will "create bigger boards and bigger nails" until one day "they will create a board with a nail so big it will destroy them all!"
Kang: Your superior intellect is no match for our puny weapons!
- Parodied again in "The Lastest Gun in the West" when Buck McCoy stops a robbery by Snake and his gang, armed with assault rifles and riot armor, using only his lasso. Since the robbers bullets just go straight through the lasso when they try and shoot it, the robbers exclaim that it's the ultimate weapon.
- Parodied in "Treehouse of Horror II", where the primary weapon for the human uprising against their alien overlords is Moe wielding a board with a nail in it. This makes sense considering the aliens invaded when the entire earth was unarmed after Lisa wished for world peace, and had things like slingshots. After being driven off, the aliens muse that one day the humans will "create bigger boards and bigger nails" until one day "they will create a board with a nail so big it will destroy them all!"
- The Powerpuff Girls:
- In one episode, the combined energy blasts of Mojo Jojo, Princess, and HIM only manage to hold off the girls... until Fuzzy Lumpkins drops a rock, and defeats them.
- In another episode, when a race of advanced vegetable aliens try to invade the planet, the Powerpuff Girls and the kids of Townsville fend them off by literally eating them.
- Transformers: Beast Wars
- In "Go with the Flow", Oona, the little protohuman girl, successfully took down Waspinator with a stick thanks to Cheetor's advice: "When you're battling 'bots, hack at the hinges." Really, Waspinator may have been the series' Butt Monkey, but he's still an alien war machine.
- Also, in the series finale "Nemesis", the primitive humans held off Inferno, a flamethrower wielding war machine, and Quickstrike, a poison wielding war machine, with, well, sticks. The two did eventually get their act together, though, mostly because they weren't expecting the assault. They were inspired by Dinobot, who took down Megatron with a stone hammer in "Code of Hero". Although, again, Dinobot is an alien war machine. Subverted moments earlier, when Dinobot attacks Megatron with a stick (no rock yet) and is brutally smacked aside and mocked for thinking it would work.
- In "Bad Spark", Rampage's introductory episode, he proved to be unstoppable by conventional weapons. They could only halt his progress by having Silverbolt bury him in a rock slide.
- Parodied in a Scary Door episode (that happens to be a parody of The War of the Worlds) in the third movie.
Narrator: In the end, it wasn't guns or bombs that defeated the aliens, but that humblest of God's creatures: the Tyrannosaurus Rex
- Also the page quote that is from a classic monster horror movie that was aired on a planet inhabited only by robots. It had the robots as heroes (obviously) and a human as the monster that resisted even their most powerful magnetic pulses, but dies by falling into a stick.
- In Fun on a Bun, the army of Neanderthals along with various beasts manage to handle themselves wellnote against the modern humans, led by Zapp Brannigan mind you.
- Parodied in a Scary Door episode (that happens to be a parody of The War of the Worlds) in the third movie.
- See any show having a special episode about guns, where the guns are also used, then the gun user must be defeated with non-lethal methods to show who's 'good' and who's 'bad.' Captain Planet and the Planeteers got a character out of this trope! (Lootan Plunder, prior to any summoning of CP, to the point his frustration rants sometimes make him sound like a Scooby-Doo villain.)
- Occurs often in one episode of Megas XLR, where a fountain drink is teleported into the control room of a doomsday weapon, frying the controls, and destroying the weapon.
- In the Spiral Zone episode "Back to the Stone Age", the evil Black Widows disable the heroic Zone Riders' equipment during a battle in the Australian outback. The Zone Riders respond by enlisting a friendly tribe of aborigines to train them in using ancient weapons, which they use to defeat the Black Widows.
- In the Dexter's Laboratory Dial M For Monkey segment "Huntor", Monkey defeats Huntor by smashing his weapons with rocks and trapping him like a tiger using a hole.
- Parodied in SpongeBob SquarePants B.C. (Before Comedy), in which a caveman's curiosity about a robot activates its defense mechanisms. The caveman later responds by throwing large rocks at it; for the rest of the fight, they seem evenly matched.
- Star Wars: The Clone Wars:
- Episode 15 season 1. Territorial natives of Orto Plutonia attack republic troops that have superior armament.
- Massively and horrifyingly averted later on. When Grievous and his droid army head to Dathomir, the Nightsisters attempt to fight back using spears, bows, and hand-to-hand skills... against enemies who are made out of metal, are physically stronger than organics, and are wielding guns, bombers, and tanks. They proceed to get slaughtered with relative ease, except for Ventress who was smart enough to use her lightsabers and force powers.
- In the episode "The Infinite Vulcan" in Star Trek: The Animated Series, a container of knockout gas proves to be very effective in a room with a phaser-disabling field.
- Zig-Zagging Trope in The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes!.
- When Kang the Conqueror comes back from the future with advanced weapons, Cap and Iron Man have to pull out all the stops just to stay alive. However, when The Hulk arrives, he smashes Kang's shields with nothing but his fists. However, after Kang warps himself and the entire team to a Bad Future, he ups his shield power, meaning brute strength stops working, and Kang laughs at Hulk for thinking that throwing rocks will be enough to break his shield. However, Hulk reveals that even though Rock can't beat Laser, Rock can certainly distract Laser, and Black Panther uses this opening to attack Kang from behind, buying time for Iron Man to hack Kang's hover chair.
- In the same series, Wakandan technology is superior to pretty much everything, thanks to their strongly implied usage of Magitek and the fact that the spears and arrows are outfitted with heads made of Vibranium (the ultimate Unobtainium of the Marvel Universe — to put this into perspective, the Adamantium used on Wolverine is Vibranium's second-rate, inferior copy).
- Zigzagged also in the second Ultimate Avengers movie. Wakanda's weapons technology is surprisingly effective, but this is solely because they are forged of Vibranium and their few gun-based weapons are powered/controlled from a downed Chitauri ship. When the ship is destroyed, and they have to rely on their medieval-grade tech, they really don't do so well, for all that their weapons are capable of piercing Chitauri armor.
- In Avengers Assemble, Hawkeye literally defeats two Doombots with rocks by flipping two pebbles into their knee joints, completely paralyzing them. Why a super genius like Doctor Doom would overlook such an obvious design flaw is anyone's guess.
- Gemma from Dogstar is an expert with thrown rocks (as are most of her race). In "Persuasion", she destroys an entire space station with a single, well-thrown rock.
- Although generally, overwhelmingly averted in native conflicts with European settlers, especially later on, there are a few occasions where the guys with the spears and the rocks come out on top. But first, it must be noted that one of the major common factors in the subjugation of native populations early in the colonization era were European diseases. These diseases, in fact, spread more quickly than the Europeans themselves did, killing large numbers of natives and throwing their societies into chaos before the colonizers were able to bring in proper armies. At least one historian has made the comparison of what Europe might have looked like if the Black Plague of the 14th century was immediately followed by another major Mongol invasion. Simply put, the numbers of people killed by European military technology is a minuscule fraction of the number who died from natural diseases like smallpox.
- In 1879 the British Army suffered its greatest defeat at the hands of a native army at the battle of Isandhlwana. The Zulus, despite being equipped with iron spears and rawhide shields, were known for their tactical cunning, their rigorous training, and their suicidal bravery. The British were armed with the latest breech-loading rifles and even had some machine guns and cannon on hand. Feeling that their technological advantage rendered the result of the upcoming battle a foregone conclusion, they spread their forces thin and severely underestimated the numbers facing them. The Zulus ruthlessly exploited the Brits' complacency, easily out-flanking and annihilating the much better-armed force. One must remember that the reason that the Zulus were such a famous example is that they were an exception in more ways than one. The Zulus were an organized army optimized for pitched battles; while fearsome against other African kingdoms due to their numbers, discipline, and training, they were often soundly defeated and quickly worn down in other battles with the British, whose superior technology inflicted unsustainable casualties on Zulu forces. Natives who used the same tactics they used for tribal warfare and hunting generally lasted longer, even if they aren't remembered as fondly.
- Spear throwers and slings, long forgotten in Europe, proved an effective weapon against Conquistadors. It was said by Cortés that the dents and holes left by these weapons were indistinguishable from those left by muskets. There are also stories of Spaniards replacing their metal breastplates with native cotton armor, as well as guns being outshot by arrows, spears, and slings. On the other hand, the Spaniards' use of cavalry, cannon, steel weapons, and superior military tactics were pretty instrumental in conquering the Aztec Empire. It also helps that the Aztec empire was pretty unpopular among their neighbors.
- During the Philippine-American War, Filipino fighters (largely armed with swords and machetes) resisted gunfire from the newly-introduced .38 Long Colt revolver by wrapping ropes around their bodies, which helped staunch bleeding and may have even deflected bullets. Even after taking direct hits, the natives were still in fine condition to rip apart their colonizers. Many no doubt died of blood loss later, but that didn't do the American soldiers they'd hacked up in the meantime any good. This forced the U.S. to bring the recently retired .45 Long Colt revolvers back into service, as a stop-gap until newer firearms and ammunition could be introduced. This led directly to the M1911 .45 semi-automatic pistol and the .45ACP cartridge, to give both more shots and greater stopping power than the older revolvers.
- Speaking of the Filipinos, this was in force way before the Americans came, during the Battle of Mactan, where the Spaniard expeditionary force under Ferdinand Magellan (who died in the same battle) lost to local natives under King Lapu-Lapu. Although the natives were partly armed with steel weapons, many were armed with nothing more than bamboo lances tipped with poison. This trope was also taken nearly literally in that the Filipinos also took to hurling rocks, coconuts, jackfruit, and allegedly, their own bodily waste at the invaders.
- Australian colonial history is bloodier than some might think, and the Aborigines often had the advantage. Colonists had muzzle-loading muskets; the natives carried four or five spears, and could throw them all in about the time it took the musket to be reloaded, often with the aid of a spear-thrower. Their hunter-gatherer lifestyle also gave them an edge in stealth and tracking; it was fairly common for troopers to spend weeks chasing native sheep-thieves and never even see them.
- A note on military technology: New equipment is often designed to outperform or counter what is currently common, with effectiveness against even older technology being taken for granted as the current standard is always supposed to have superseded everything before it. Even if this assumption is not present, compromises have to be made during the design process and it is simply more logical to balance performance against the threats of today (which an army is almost certain to face on the battlefield) than those of a decade ago (which are likely to have been phased out altogether). As a simple example, medieval plate armour was designed to be effective against swords and spears, where the shape of the metal would cause the sharp edges/points to be deflected to the side rather than penetrate the armour; however, a sufficiently heavy club swung at a helmeted head can knock out or even outright kill its wearer. Similarly, modern bulletproof vests are designed to stop bullets by absorbing and spreading their kinetic energy over a larger area; however, a knife (or pretty much anything with a sharp point/edges) could force its way through by continual application of force. In any case, armed forces tend to hold on to old equipment for a long time due to the sizable investment, so if someone is beating your lasers with rocks, you should still have some rocks of your own to send right back.
- A real-life example took place in the Millennium Challenge, a 2002 wargame carried out by the U.S. military (as mentioned in Blink by Malcolm Gladwell). A test for a new information-gathering system, it was unofficially a resounding failure. The opposing military, whose modern communications had been jammed or would be intercepted, communicated with the front by motorcycle courier and used light signals to launch planes. Most notably, they swarmed a U.S. naval force in the Persian Gulf using speedboats armed with missiles twice their size, with the magic ability to teleport around the game board. Backed up by regenerating shore-based missile batteries, he "sank" a fully-crewed aircraft carrier. The U.S. military reset the game, pointing out that the OPFOR commander's tactics were impossible under the circumstances, and were completely impractical given the operational environment, essentially amounting to an abuse of game mechanics. His supporters however, argued that the OPFOR commander was simply doing his duty to find whatever flaws in US strategy that a potential enemy could exploit, and that the ones in charge of the exercise were simply using it as a propaganda show to validate existing US strategy and placate the traditionalists. Either way, the entire exercise was discredited.
- Inverted during late 19th century by the Qing Dynasty of China when they clashed with the French in 1880s over Vietnam and then the Japanese in 1890s over Korea. China spent enormous sums of money buying up the very best European arms and equipment but did next to nothing to update their military doctrine, training technique, or organization, and were often hindered by internal division and corruption. Consequently, the Chinese were often actually better armed than both the French and the Japanese, but performed poorly against both.
- Canadian and Australian submarines built in the 1960s routinely "sink" modern American carriers in wargames. The standard tactic was to try and get ahead of the carrier battlegroup, and then go absolutely silent and unmoving and let the fleet run over them. Inevitably the subs were "sunk" when they executed an attack on the carrier, but more often than not they'd have gotten their torpedoes off first, trading a few dozen men and a dinky little diesel-electric boat for a multi-billion dollar fleet carrier crewed by thousands and carrying dozens of planes. Mind, awareness of the threat posed by diesel-electric subs is the whole reason they get invited to these wargames.
- The North Vietnamese Army and the Viet Cong during the The Vietnam War provide a textbook case of how a technologically-inferior armed force can prevail against a far better-equipped enemy through a combination of sheer perseverance and ruthless cunning.
- In fact, the Vietnamese employed tactics similar to those used by Le Loi's men in the Vietnamese rebellion against Ming Dynasty China in the 15th century. Politics aside, the main reason why the Vietnamese prevailed was because dense jungle nullified many of the advantages possessed by outside invaders, whether it was in armoured horsemen or main battle tanks. As for the United States, its performance during the war provided a textbook case of how supposedly superior military equipment cannot ensure military superiority in local conditions, even if it worked as intended.
- During the early days of radar-guided and heat-seeking missiles, many US military planners were so confident of their superiority that the F-4 Phantom fighter was initially designed without guns, as they believed that missiles would make Old School Dogfights a thing of the past. This was quickly disproven in the Vietnam War: Vietnamese pilots quickly learned to fight close to the ground, where ground clutter and thermal reflection greatly confused early missile guidance systems to the point of uselessness, and could leverage the superior low-altitude/low-speed characteristics of their older and supposedly more primitive MiG-15 and MiG-17 fighter aircraft. Even if Phantom pilots managed to outmaneuver their adversaries, the lack of guns meant that they couldn't engage at closer distances; often the Phantoms had to resort to their superior speed and climb rate to escape. note
- Earlier in the Vietnam War however, there is an instance where older American A-1 Skyraiders (propeller-driven ground-attack aircraft) managed to outfight more advanced North Vietnamese MiG-17s (jet fighters). Lacking air-to-air missiles, two of the Skyraiders used their 20mm cannons to shoot down one of the Migs in a head-on pass. It was one of the few occasions since WWII that piston-engine aircraft were able to shoot down jet aircraft.
- Improvised man-traps in general can be extremely effective in dense vegetation of all kinds, despite most designs being indistinguishable from what Stone Age hunters would've employed. One of the nastier tricks employed by Vietnamese guerillas involved a literal application of Bamboo Technology: pungi sticks. These were fresh bamboo shoots, cut to a point, hardened by fire, and used in several different types of traps, from swinging logs to pitfalls. If getting impaled didn't kill the victims, it would certainly take them out of action. Most notoriously, they were often covered in feces, which meant that any wound had a greater risk of becoming badly infected. To further add insult to injury, Viet Cong insurgents reportedly neutralized American M18 Claymore mines by urinating on them.
- On the other side of the Vietnam war, the US used older cluster bombs because their submunitions had much greater chances at failing to fire on the initial drop and becoming deadly unexploded ordinance. As it turned out, having a bunch of unexploded bombs on the ground was much more damaging to the Vietnamese than having a whole area blown away in one go. In fact one the United States's most lethal cluster bomb munitions was known as the Lazy Dog, and it was essentially a lump of steel shaped like a blunt-nosed dart. Simply using gravity, these things would build up the inertia of a fifty caliber round during their decent. Each one cost just pennies to make and thousands could be deployed by a single airplane. Additionally, Lazy Dogs could be deployed from any kind of aircraft imaginable, including C-130s, which would fake a mid-flight cargo ejection to lure NVA/Vietcong troops out in the open before spraying the area with them.
- Slightly Inverted when it came to small arms. In the beginning of the Vietnam War, the Viet Cong and NVA were armed with the AK-47 assault rifle (dismissed by the American higher ups as cheap and ineffective), while the Americans were initially armed with the M14 rifle. The M14, while outranging the AK-47, weighed nearly 12 pounds and was 4 feet long. It's Crippling Overspecialization meant that American troops could only carry limited ammo and were left vulnerable against the lighter and more maneuverable AK, which was perfectly suited to the short-range fighting of the Vietnam jungle (negating the one advantage the M14 had). The US would respond by rushing the M16 into combat, only to find the M16 unable to stand up to the humidity of Vietnam and prone to failure, compared to the almost legendary reliability of the AK.
- The woefully underequipped Finnish army destroyed hundreds of Soviet tanks during the Winter War, using such equipment as Molotov cocktails and wooden logs. Hell, the Finns named the Molotov Cocktail after the Soviet foreign minister who claimed that the Red Air Force was dropping breadbaskets, not cluster bombs (thus, the Finns made a cocktail to go with the bread).
- Repeated, to some degree, in Grozny during the First Chechen War, when Chechen fighters occasionally took on modern T-72s and T-80s with Molotov cocktails. More commonly, the Chechen weapons of choice were more modern RPG's and ATGM's, though. Either way, Russians lost hundreds of tanks in a disastrous assault on what was supposed to be a ragtag group of "criminals and outlaws." Worth noting, as the USSR and Russian Federation had universal conscription, many if not most of the Chechen fighters had previously served in the Russian military, hence their familiarity with anti-tank weapons and tactics.
- Arguably more a case of 'Don't let your tanks roll into a city with infantry support along a road with huge blocks on both sides'. If you do expect the enemy to make scrap iron out of your tanks.
- In 1940, the Norwegian garrison at the Oscarborg Fortress guarding the approaches to Oslo sank the Blücher, a modern German heavy cruiser, using guns and torpedoes that were more than 70 years old (originally delivered by Germans, ironically). Not quite "rocks," but certainly quite old and outdated technology.
- Until the advent of the breech-loading rifle, bows were generally superior to guns in terms of lethality at range, rate of fire, and accuracy; they also had the advantage of being able to arc over cover, as Custer found to his dismay. Indian rulers usually retained their archers even after they adopted Western-style firearms, and the Duke of Wellington, who had himself served in India and seen the effectiveness of such weapons, attempted to form a Longbow Corps during the Peninsular War, to act as an elite rapid-response force. However, by Wellington's time, the musket had completely displaced the bow, to the extent that there were neither sufficient skilled archers, nor fletchers to make the arrows.
It is frequently forgotten that the primary reason that muskets took over from bows was not their greater efficacy, but rather the fact that they were much easier to train men how to use properly. Early firearms were inferior to bows in most respects, but training a longbowman was much harder than training someone to use a musket; an expert longbowman had to be trained pretty much from childhood on up (giving rise to the old quote "To train a longbowman, start with his grandfather."), but an expert musketman could be trained and ready for battle in a few weeks to a few months. More importantly, unlike an archer, a man using a musket would not grow nearly as tired from using his weapon, nor would the power of his weapon depend on his strength, and a musket man could carry half a dozen balls and powder for each arrow carried by the archer. Likewise, military crossbows, for all their similarities and comparative advantages, required more skilled labour to manufacture and relied on muscle power, which would grow weaker over the course of a battle.
- Played with in Real Life with concrete bombs. Need a target in an urban area destroyed while minimizing the collateral damage using shrapnel-and-blast-force-inducing high explosives? Just drop a slab of good old-fashioned concrete right on top of your pesky target. Who needs fancy high-explosive mixtures when you have the simple blunt force of a solid chunk of concrete dropped from the sky? Catch is, this straight-forward blunt force weapon is only effective when laser-guided. The "Rods From God" concept takes this a step further, replacing the chunk of concrete with large metal darts launched by satellites in orbit. They don't weigh as much an actual meteorite, but they make up for it with the sheer velocity of what is essentially a solid metal meteorite.
- During the NATO operations in the former Yugoslavia, two F-117 stealth aircraft were lost (one was shot down; one was hit and managed to return to base, but never flew again). This was due to, among other things, old radar sets that operated on a wavelength that the aircraft weren't so stealthy against, combined with prodigious application of anti-aircraft cannons and SAM spam. Notably the same battery scored both. Partly attributed to carelessness on NATO's part, who flew the F-117s on the exact same flight path for every mission. It is worth noting that the conventional F-16s flew over three times as many sorties, with the exact same number of losses. Basically, the loss rate for the F-16 was roughly seven times less than that of the F-117.
- It is nearly legendary that a SEAL team was put up against an "amphib" ship (looks like a small carrier — think "helicopter and Harrier carrier" and you've got it; they are used to deploy marines; an example would be the LHD) and quickly took out all the defenses... except for engineering, which was armed with foot long bits of pipe ("pipe wrenches", used to shut water tight doors) and safety netting, which they deployed at every level of the vertical shafts... basically, there wasn't any way to invade or drop a bomb without either exposing oneself to pipes or getting caught in safety net.
- The US Navy's air division spends incredible amounts of time on "FOD" control — that is, Foreign Object Damage control, making sure there's not so much as a pebble or an earring where it could, possibly, by any chance be thrown into the engine of a jet. It is amazing how a tiny object can utterly destroy a sufficiently advanced bit of equipment. That's why the first thing done at beginning of each day of duty on a carrier is a line of personnel walking together the length of the flight deck in strict formation to remove any piece of debris before any air traffic happens.
- The A-10 Thunderbolt II. Built according to design principles set out by World War II ground-attack aircraft, it was not very aerodynamic, had low-power engines designed for subsonic efficiency rather than performance, and originally had a bare minimum of electronic navigation and targeting equipment required to fly. It is also ridiculously durable, armed with the GAU-8 Avenger, a gatling gun the size of a VW Beetle that can punch through the top of a tank with superb accuracy. As it turned out, the emphasis on subsonic efficiency meant that the "Warthog" could loiter around combat zones for long periods of time and made it a very stable platform for carrying large amounts of ordinance and unleashing it upon its targets. There are few combat aircraft in the world that can claim to withstand more punishment, or to have successfully carried out more ground missions under fire, with significantly higher mission availability and fewer friendly fire incidents to boot.
- The Bismarck was attacked by a small squadron of the obsolete Fairey Swordfish biplane, outdated and primitive even before the war started — though not as is occasionally assumed a World War I design, having been designed in the 1930s (the Swordfish was simply obsolete before it was even designed). The planes crippled the battleship by taking out her rudder with a torpedo hit, leaving her unable to do anything but run in circles until the rest of the Royal Navy caught up. The Bismarck couldn't track and hit the slow-moving, low-flying biplanes since she had been designed with medium-velocity C33 105mm anti-aircraft guns but these had been substituted while under construction for the more modern high-velocity C37 105mm. Nobody told the fire control designers about the change and the fire control system was still optimized for the C33. As a result, the fire control system unerringly pointed the guns at the wrong place and overshot the planes. By some incredible chance five Swordfish were damaged but none shot down. Important to note the hit on the rudder (which was blind luck, ordnance from planes at the time couldn't really be aimed reliably) was the only hit by the planes that actually did any damage to the Bismarck. Outside of that, this trope was not Truth in Television as the planes' out-of-date torpedoes were too weak to inflict damage to anything besides the rudder.
- Shaped charge munitions can be easily made far less effective or nullified completely simply by putting up a relatively solid obstacle in their path to detonate the warhead before it reaches the target. As it turns out, forcing the resulting explosive jet to travel two feet through open space will protect a vehicle far better than 6 inches of steel armour.
- During the 1990s at the National Training Center, the resident OPFOR had no trouble employing simple effective countermeasures against advanced American equipment, including digital C4I systems and Apache Longbows. In one occasion, a group of Longbows launched their entire load of simulated Hellfires on burn barrels that looked like a group of armored vehicles on their sensors, before being shot down by MANPADS teams waiting by their battle positions.
- The US army discovered that insurgents could use cheap, commercially available equipment to intercept and view camera footage being transmitted by American UAVs. However, this is subverted, as the information would not be particularly useful to them and in the case of hunter-killer drones, would only tell them how many more seconds they have to live.
- China has been arming its police officers with crossbows instead of traditional guns. The reason for this is because China has to defend against Islamist rebels crossing the border from Pakistan, and crossbows allegedly have less chance of setting off bombs than a gun. This also makes it less likely for anyone else to get ahold of a gun. This has cultural tradition behind it, as well: crossbows have been used in China for at least 2400 years.
- Similar to the above , during the breakup of Yugoslavia, the crossbow manufacturer Barnett sold crossbows to Serbian paramilitaries due to crossbows not being banned under the UN arms embargo. The Paramilitaries and even some army units used the crossbows as virtually silent sniper weapons. The crossbows also had a terrifying effect on the soldiers who came under attack from them, as the crossbows were so quiet they never knew they were being attacked. During the mentioned breakup of Yugoslavia, one of the main weapons of the rebelling side, with less than half the men, all the siege and air war machines moved to Serbia, were sinks and heating boilers carried and dropped by firefighting aircraft with over 80 year outdated engines.
- Since the Vietnam War, a popular and easy way to mark mines and explosives was to put some shaving cream on them. In the Afghanistan and second Iraq Wars, soldiers use silly string to check for tripwires, since the foam can reveal their positions yet is light enough not to set them off.
- In WWII, most armies were already using metal detectors to find mines. The Germans got around this by making them almost completely out of wood or GLASS. However, the problem then would be that no one could find them after the war was done, and so mines made out of non-metallic materials were subsequently banned by the 1949 Geneva Convention.
- Played with during the US war in Afghanistan. In 2001, US Special Forces that were inserted in the country to assist anti-Taliban tribes were forced to learn how to fight on horseback, as this was the tribesmen's primary method of transportation. While it is true that cavalry charges were on occasion somewhat successful against Taliban mechanized units, what is often not mentioned in the rock beats laser narrative is that smart bombs and other aerial support were called in by the US special forces ahead of the charges and were essential to their success — without air support, the horses would be easily driven off by enemy armor.
- There has been a resurgence of interest in blimps and other lighter-than-air aircraft, which have a number of advantages over fixed wing aircraft such being cheaper to maintain, longer flight time, and greater carrying capacity. The US is already using several blimps as testbeds for carrying radar equipment to bolster air defense systems.
- The Naval Battle of Campeche, fought in 1843, pitted warships of the Republic of Texas and the Republic of Yucatan (both of which had declared independence from Mexico) against warships of the Mexican Navy. It has the distinction of being the only time that sailing ships have defeated steamships in battle.
- The Russian Antonov-2 is a large all metal Bi-plane designed between WWI and WWII as a transport and scout plane. Today, it is still in service because it is very forgiving to fly: it can take off from anywhere, is near impossible to stall, and can actually travel backwards if heading into a strong enough wind. North Korea still employs them for actual military uses, including as a transport plane for special ops teams.
- Its also relatively difficult for fighter aircraft to shoot down as it can move so slowly that fighter launched missiles won't be able to effectively target it.
- The Polikarpov Po-2, a 1928 wooden biplane used mainly for flight training and dusting during peacetime, was successfully fielded by Soviet night bomber units in WWII: they could glide over German army camps with the engines turned off, undetected until they actually started dropping bombs on the barracks. The Po-2's top speed was also lower than the stall speed of German planes (the slowest speed a plane can do without actually losing the ability to stay airborne), which meant that pursuing German fighters would only be able to shoot a short burst of fire at the Po-2 before actually overtaking it.
- Taking the trope literally, lasers in real life do not (yet) make very effective weapons, due to prohibitive power requirements, range limitations due to the "blooming" effect caused by the atmosphere, and various other drawbacks. Basically, any laser weapon that can be built with modern technology will be outperformed by a more conventional weapon. This only applies to lasers intended for causing physical damage to enemy targets, though. They are still quite effective in target guidance systems, gun sights, and for blinding enemies. They are also finding use in missile defense systems.
- After the reuinification of Germany, NATO managed to get their hands on Soviet-made East German weapons systems — which resulted in some shocking instances of this trope. NATO had created advanced flares designed to spoof IR missile guidance systems, and so NATO seekers in Sidewinder missiles had been improved to compensate for such flares. The Soviets, however, continued using cruder dirty-burning flares. In a serious technological oversight the Sidewinder's developers had optimized the missile seeker to discriminate the thermal patterns of NATO flares on the assumption that the Soviets had developed something similar. You know where this is going. This oversight was corrected in later versions of the missile.
- In World War II the American codebreakers were easily able to break Japanese codes, yet the Japanese were never able to do the same, primarily because the Americans employed Navajo speakers who created a code from their native language, and since the Japanese did not have anyone who knew the language, they stood no chance of deciphering the American signals. Army forces in Europe sometimes employed a similar tactic, with other Native Americans using their languages, though they didn't go so far as to create codes from them as the Navajo did. A similar trick was used by the Italians during World War I, as they recruited radio operators from Sardinia and had them speak in their local language, that only other Sardinians could understand.
- At the Second Battle of Bull Run, Confederate troops ran out of ammunition and repulsed several Union attacks with hand-thrown rocks.
- In a rather famous WWII engagement, the USS O'Bannon found itself alongside a Japanese submarine. Because the submarine was too close for their main guns to target, and since the crew had no sidearms, the O'Bannon's crew resorted to pelting the Japanese submarine crew with potatoes. The Japanese, thinking the potatoes were hand grenades, were too distracted trying to dispose of them to man their own deck gun, giving the O'Bannon the time it needed to gain distance and subsequently sink the submarine.
- US nuclear missile silos are controlled by computers that still run on 8-inch floppy disks. The reason is because not only were these silos built decades ago when more advanced computers were unavailable, but also the fact that because practically nobody else uses floppy disks and the computers cannot connect to external networks like the internet, they are essentially impossible to remotely hack.
- As this gif shows, Spear beats Drone.
- The Great Emu War, when the Australian military in 1932, equipped with machine guns, fought the emu population of Australia, as they were ravaging farmland. The emus won.