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Archaic Weapon for an Advanced Age

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"I mean, Jedi—as I've always said before—well, they've chosen a sword in a time of, you know, laser guns, so they'd better be damn good with it."
Nick Gillard, stunt coordinator for the Star Wars prequel trilogy, Attack of the Clones DVD featurette

There's a certain amount of cultural and symbolic weight to most historical weapons, accurate or not. They invoke a feeling of the Good Old Ways, and may be seen as more honorable, elegant, interesting, or simply cool. They're also traditional in many settings, especially for those that have roots in Medieval European Fantasy, such as Role-Playing Games.

However, even in settings where these weapons should be obsolete and out of place, they often show up and are shown to be just as effective, if not more so, than weapons that are modern to the setting.

This occurs with extreme frequency in Eastern RPGs, probably due to the genre's origins in Dungeons & Dragons. Even in Steampunk and Urban Fantasy settings, you will find swords, axes, spears, katanas, and all other manner of (seemingly, at least) anachronistic weaponry. It also appears in settings with Schizo Tech. It's even possible the character uses this because s/he Doesn't Like Guns. Sometimes it will be justified with a Retro Upgrade (said weapon has become useful again because something's changed) and/or by making it an Enhanced Archaic Weapon.


It's also Truth in Television to an extent. While it's true that the modern battlefield is dominated by guns, hand-to-hand and melee weapon combat training will likely always be a part of military curricula: guns can be cumbersome in close combat and melee weapons are much quieter, so the humble dagger and its modern derivatives will never go out of style. It's also true that swords, spears, bows and arrows, etc. coexisted with guns on the battlefield for centuries before the gun was developed enough to became the dominant weapon it is now. And even when they were completely overshadowed by guns, it took even longer (as in, the 2nd half of the 20th century) before all major powers stopped issuing swords to officers.

They are often employed by heroes because Heroes Prefer Swords. Often a result of using the old technology in ways that were Not the Intended Use.


Super-Trope to The Straight and Arrow Path. Compare Break Out the Museum Piece, Older Is Better, Rock Beats Laser, and some forms of Improperly Placed Firearms. See also Elegant Weapon for a More Civilized Age.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • In Gintama, aliens have conquered samurai-age Japan and brought over many of their technological advancement. Most of the main cast sticks with katanas.
  • Justified with the Gunmen in Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann. In the second half of the story Gunmen were being decommissioned in favor of the Grapearls. When the Anti-Spirals attacked however, the Gunmen fared far better, because while the Grapearls were the more advanced and were based in Gurren Lagann's specs, they were unable to use Spiral Energy, while the Gunmen had been designed specifically to fight that particular enemy. It was particularly demonstrated when a Mugann attacked Kamina City for the first time. The machine destroyed several Grapearls, while they were unable to harm it in the slightest, but when Simon and Gurren Lagann arrived, they managed to destroy it with some difficulty.
  • In Sword Art Online, there is a game (Gun Gale Online) where guns are the primary weapon. There is a sword called the Kagemitsu available, but it is largely regarded as an Awesome, but Impractical Joke Weapon given the fact people have to get up close and personal to hit a target that's probably shooting dozens of bullets straight at them. Kirito, being The Hero and a Master Swordsman, picks it and manages to slice bullets in half thanks to all of his prior experience. Afterwards, the Kagemitsu explodes in popularity as other players try (with limited success) to replicate his feats.
  • A Certain Magical Index: Justified considering the usage of history as artifacts. We have Curtana, Durandal, and Hrunting. Whether Saint Peter's Cross counts as a weapon In-Universe is up for debate.
  • Lupin III: Goemon has an obsession with the past, and believes that the Katana is the ultimate weapon. Guns are a poor argument, because he can slice the bullets out of the air, making them fall to the ground.
  • Black Lagoon is a series where nearly everyone is either a gunslinger or a noncombatant. Even so, two characters use edged weapons to lethal effect.
    • Shenhua, a Chinese assassin in the employ of the Kan Yi Fan Triad, favors a pair of kukris with the handles tied together with a length of rope. In her first appearance she beheads a pair of Abu Sayyaf mooks from a moving car by by throwing one of them like a boomerang.
    • Ginji Matsuzaki of the Washimine-gumi yakuza carries a shirasaya, or a katana, in a simple wooden scabbard. He's incredibly lethal with it, including the ability to slice bullets out of midair, and in the final chapter of that story arc proves an (almost) even match for Revy. At a critical moment, Genji loses focus for a split second and Revy doesn't. She blocks a sword thrust, with her leg thus trapping the blade for long enough to get one of her pistols under his chin and shoot him through the throat. Her own explanation for winning is chilling - Genji wanted to live, she didn't care whether she lived or died and that meant she kept focus.
  • In K, justified because of their powers - they put their auras onto their swords, and even without swords, color users can take out guns easily.
  • Downplayed in Toriko, since the show focuses on other tropes, but in spite of the fact that it's an overall modern setting with plenty of high tech guns and explosives, there are still plenty of secondary characters employing archaic melee weapons, such as the countless extras in the Ice Hell arc with a Weapons Kitchen Sink, Zongeh (carries an axe), Aimaru (Horse Archer) and Match (Iaijutsu Practitioner). Justified with Chefs, who often employ kitchen knives in combat.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! VRAINS: In an era where battle traps are rendered useless due to how often cards come with effects that either negate said traps or outright destroy them preemptively, it comes as a shock to everyone that Revolver's ace in the hole is the one and only Mirror Forcenote . He later adds Magic Cylinder to his arsenal. Revolver just really loves these types of traps now adding in Imperial Order and Mind Crush to deal with Link Spells or at the very least, oppressive spells in general.

    Comic Books 
  • In the Bronze Age, the alien Hawkman fought crime with actual ancient weapons from the museum where he worked. For some reason. It looked awesome, though.
    • This was Hawkman's gimmick since the Golden Age; Hawkman is often referred to as "The man who fights the Evils of the Present with the Weapons of the Past."
    • During the last leg of his run on Swamp Thing, Alan Moore established that all Thanagarian infantry prefer fighting like this, so their many enemies would forget just how advanced Thanagar's technology actually was.
    • Hawkworld attempts to explain the alien Hawkman's reason by revealing that Thanagarians originally used their own weapons that are archaic in design before adapting to more advanced weaponry provided by one of many planets they've conquered. Katar Hol is the only Thanagarian who prefers his people's own weaponry, which makes him stand out.
  • The space civilization in Snarfquest has starships, fully artificially-intelligent robots, and hand-held laser weapons — and they're terrified of Snarf's bad old 20th century pistol. Justified because lasers just cause burns that can be treated, but an old-fashioned chemical propellant pistol can kill in a single shot.
  • Despite Marvel's universe being populated with a number of extremely advanced alien empires, swords are still a weapon of choice, something explained by the Corsair to his sone, Cyclops - most space suits can resist blaster fire easily enough, but are susceptible to being stabbed.
  • Both Marvel and DC have heroes who fight primarily with bows.
  • Star Trek: Early Voyages: In "Cloak and Dagger, Part Two", when the Enterprise is boarded by Commander Tagok's followers, Moves-With-Burning-Grace uses a traditional Masai battle lance to fight them instead of a phaser.

    Fan Works 
  • X-COM: Resurrection takes a The Musketeer approach to this, arming most of X-COM's warriors with swords and axes in addition to advanced weaponry. They seem to have replaced pistols with them.
  • Bait and Switch (STO):
    "Doesn’t matter if you’re a Dakhuri warlord trying to keep his territory from being overrun by Bajora, an American general battling the Russians in World War II, or a Starfleet officer trying to block the Klingons’ ethnic cleansing in the Hromi Cluster, there’s one single constant: If you want it back in anything resembling the state it started, you need boots on the ground. You can bomb it, you can strafe it, you can cover it with poison, you can turn it into glass, but you don’t own it unless your army’s on it and the other guy’s isn’t."
  • In The Mysterious Case of Neelix's Lungs, Alina t'Aimne replicates a Romulan honor blade (similar to a cavalry saber according to the author's notes) when the Vetar is boarded by the Kazon-Nistrim, and uses it to great effect while defending the bridge. In the next chapter she explains to the other crew members that the Romulan Military Academy mostly teaches classical swordplay to build aggression.
    "You’re not actually expected to kill with the sword in the field but there’s this old Rihan saying: ‘Aihnir ih'sanhaein khhya emael; rhadai ih'sanhaein khhya dvaer.’ Loose translation, ‘There are no dangerous weapons, only dangerous people.’"
  • In The Dilgar War, Earthforce repurposes nuclear weapons left over from the Cold War 150 years earlier as weapons against the Dilgar.
  • The War of the Masters:
    • The Klingons favor their traditional swords when fighting the Borg, who can adapt their shields to counter disruptor fire but can do nothing about ordinary physical weapons.
    • The Moabites still use firearms a lot, partly due to preferring Boring, but Practical tech and doctrine. In one case an Orion pirate's transporter disables captives' energy weapons in transport, but one character carries a concealed revolver for self-defense and is able to mount a jailbreak.

      The Moabites also like firearms with Abnormal Ammo: radioactive "Black Omega" rounds for fighting Undine (who are little-affected by phasers or disruptors and can shapeshift to get rid of ordinary injuries), lye-filled bullets to fight Fek'Ihri, who have highly acidic blood.
  • With This Ring both deconstructs and reconstructs this:
    • The protagonist is unimpressed by Green Lanterns like Hal Jordan using giant boxing glove constructs. It actually does make some sense for Green Lanterns, though, since they need to be able to focus on every part of the construct, so simple can be best. Paul still considers it to be a sign of a rookie (or, in Alan Scott's case, damaged equipment).
    • Orange Lanterns don't have the same complexity limitations, so long as they really want the result, so Paul is much less understanding of Lantern Ragnar creating a construct sword.
      Paul: Use a gun you prat!
    • Green Arrow explains to Paul that a bow is easier to purchase, carry, conceal, and explain away than a gun. Paul still thinks that Artemis could do better, and demonstrates it by challenging her to break his shields while he stands there and No Sells her entire arsenal; she's unable to make any impression. He eventually does settle for upgrading her capabilities in other ways, though.
    • Melee weapons do make some sense for Nth metal, which has a variety of exotic effects but is quite hard to obtain. The Nth metal cutlasses that Paul loots from some of his enemies are just the ticket for piercing certain types of high-technology force fields.
    • Melee weapons are also easier to enchant than bullets, and enchanting a plasma or particle beam is not really possible. Paul makes extensive use of "mage slayer" ammunition himself, but frequently finds that enchanted knives, swords, spears or claws are able to easily penetrate his construct-armour.

  • Justified and enforced in Alita: Battle Angel; firearms of any sort are forbidden in Iron City by its corrupt rulers, so everybody who isn't in their pocket has to make due with stuff like swords or hammers despite the setting being a futuristic Earth That Was where advanced cybernetics are commonplace. The only person we ever see use a projectile weapon is a minor criminal with a bounty on his head.
  • The high-tech setting of Elysium has a couple of weapons that have survived in 2154.
    • Max gets his hands on a Kalashnikov modified to fire explosive bullets.
    • Kruger scavenged a katana at some point, and runs Julio through during a skirmish.
  • Most of the immortals of The Old Guard use bladed weapons from their past as well as modern firearms.
    • Andy uses a labrys, a double-headed axe from at least the time of Ancient Greece (and possibly earlier). She uses what looks to be a 18th century cavalry saber at one point as well.
    • Joe, being an 11th-century Muslim warrior, uses a scimitar.
    • Nicky, being an 11th-century Crusader, uses a European longsword.
  • Star Wars has always had the lightsaber as the primary weapon of the Jedi and Sith in an era where Slow Lasers normally rule the day, and they get away with it because the wielder has limited precognition and the blade reflects blaster fire and goes through nearly anything without slowing down. However, almost nobody else uses them, and for good reason, as it really does require superhuman reflexes to even just avoid cutting oneself into pieces, never mind blocking blaster fire (a trick that requires Jedi to start blocking before the shot is actually fired). Melee weapons are more commonly vibroweapons and may even be alloyed with cortosis to fight lightsaber-wielding Force users. And while it is possible for normal people to use lightsabers (in the old Star Wars Legends continuity, one person even managed to deflect a blaster bolt), it's still more advantageous to be force-sensitive.
  • Serenity has a lot of this, with the Operative's katana, Inara's bow and the Reavers' various bladed handweapons. The Operative is just that good and also uses period-appropriate weaponry, the RPG explains that Inara's bow has been updated with modern technology to where its arrows strike with nearly the force of a bullet, and the Reavers plain don't care.
  • Starship Troopers has Ace complain about having to train to use a combat knife, citing the Never Bring A Knife To A Gunfight trope: what good is a knife going to do you against a guy with an H-bomb? Drill Sergeant Nasty Zim promptly skewers the guy's hand with a thrown knife. In very sharp contrast with the detailed lecture on the concept of controlled force that he gave in the book (see below).
    Zim: (to the other recruits) The enemy cannot push a button, if you disable his hand.
  • Wonder Woman (2017): Wonder Woman fights with a sword, shield and lasso against WWI Germans using contemporary weapons and tanks. She's shown using her shield to protect herself from machine gun fire and even deflect mortar shells. Justified in that she is using magical weaponry and not an ordinary sword, shield, or lasso.

  • In Animorphs, Ax notes at one point that human firearms are no match for the energy weapons of the Yeerk and Andalites, but still do a good job of blowing large, messy holes in you. Visser One observed the same thing when justifying her decision to take Earth by infiltration, rather than by force as Visser Three had been pushing to do.
  • In Dune personal shields block projectile weapons and lasers trigger nuclear explosions when they hit them, but a slow-moving blade can slip through.
    • Though since shields attract Sandworms they're not used on Arrakis. So the Fremen have spring-loaded poison dart guns and the Baron Harkonnen revived artillery for his coup.
    • The Legends of Dune prequels also have this, even before the invention of the shields. For some reason, in the middle of the Robot War, thousands of troops still rush into battle wielding clubs and swords. And so do the machine troops, for some reason.
  • In The Forever War the first stasis fields slow down anything faster than 16.3 m/s, forcing people fighting within them to use melee weapons or bows and arrows.
  • Both justified and subverted in the Vorkosigan Saga. The Barrayarans began the Cetagandan war with primitive weapons. However they switched to modern weapons as soon as they could get them and learn how to use them.
    • Miles' seal dagger is also treated this way, being a pre-industrial relic that has to be wiped down after each use, but is very sharp. It comes in handy during an exercise when Miles needs to cut a rubber hose and can't use his plasma arc because the cabin is filled with an inflammable gas.
  • Justified in Lamb Among the Stars, by Chris Walley. Krallen armor is a ceramic that absorbs and dissipates energy weapons, and shaped so that projectiles deflect off except when hitting at the perfect angle. The Assembly uses its superior materials science to molecularly optimize a blade for cutting through it, which proves to be a key advantage in the series.
  • The Lensman series explains the ongoing use of the "space axe" by stating that modern armour is better at coping with energy beams than with physical force. Especially when the axe is wielded by a Valerian who can swing it like a baton.
  • Lampshaded in In The Courts of the Crimson Kings. It opens with a group of science fiction writers watching the first images sent from Mars, which shows the natives are carrying swords along with rifles. One man speculates there's some kind of honor code involved, only for it to be pointed out that this gives the cheaters too much of an advantage. Turn out Martian projectile weapons are Organic Technology which take a while to reload, so edged weapons are still needed to defend yourself in the interval.
  • In Sergey Lukyanenko's A Lord from Planet Earth trilogy, advanced weapons are all over the place (outside of Earth, that is), from simple blasters to planet-destroying quark bombs. And yet, there also exist "neutralizing fields" that can be used to shield an area from any destructive energy and explosions of any kind (e.g. chemical, nuclear, Anti Matter). Thus, within these fields, which are used all over the place, only bladed weapons can be used. Now, they're not your typical swords, though. These are monoatomic (or planar) swords produced exclusively on planet Tar. These Absurdly Sharp Blades can cut through any known material with ease, even each other (i.e. no Blade Lock possible). Given this fact, swordfights look very different from what one expects, as each opponent tries to hit the other's sword at just the right angle to make sure that it's the other sword that gets cut. Being a Combat Pragmatist from Earth, the main character immediately devises other weapons and techniques that completely disgust and baffle the Honor Before Reason soldiers (at least, until they start using those same weapons and techniques themselves).
  • In Andrey Livadny's The History of the Galaxy series, everybody uses Gauss weapons firing tiny metallic spheres as everyday weapons. However, these small arms are woefully ineffective against armored targets. Not so with "ancient" automatic rifles firing chemically-propelled bullets (which somehow work despite centuries of not being used). Then again, this trope is much less prevalent, and advanced technology usually wins the day.
  • Lampshaded in Cryptonomicon about Japanese in a WWII battle (paraphrased):
    "Shoot the one with the sword first."
    "Because he's the officer?"
    "No, because he's a madman running at you with a sword!"
  • Played with in Honor Harrington. Honor's chemical-propelled "hand cannon" pistol sneaks through a weapons scan designed to detect the much more powerful grav-powered pulsers, and 10-mm chemical pistols are still the standard weapons for a duel. On the other hand, pistols are preferred to pulsers for dueling because they're actually less powerful: A pulser hit is much more likely to be lethal, and most duels are fought to first blood.
  • A variation in Dances on the Snow, the Phages on planet Avalon are Jedi-like genetically-engineered special operatives (although they hate the term "Jedi" as trivializing) whose main weapons are semi-sentient plasma whips that can incapacitate a person or change shape. A Phage admits that a plasma whip is Awesome, but Impractical as a weapon compared to a more trusty blaster but it has an enormous psychological effect on bad guys and is a signature weapon of the Phages.
  • Played with in Deathstalker: despite having really impressively effective disruptors, most fights are settled at sword point, as unless you have a starship's power supply to hook them up to, a disruptor takes 2 minutes to recharge. Chemically-propelled kinetic weapons (ie- bullet shooting guns) do exist in the setting, and are far more efficient, but are mostly forgotten about thanks to a concerted effort in the setting's past to ban them.
  • In The Memory Wars, although most characters are proficient with firearms, fights often come down to swords, knives, and plain old fists. Justified in that Nathan and his Conclave try to avoid mundane interference (since they break the law on a regular basis, and to prevent attracting innocent bystanders who might get hurt), and guns make a LOT of noise. Also, most of their opponents are creatures who are so old they're more used to ancient weapons, or demons that come from realms where firearms don't exist.
  • Discussed in Starship Troopers. When Johnny Rico is in boot camp another recruit complains about having to learn the antiquated skill of knife-throwing in an era where a man in Powered Armor is what a main battle tank was centuries earlier and where starships can glass planets from orbit. Sergeant Zim points out that, unlike a gun, knives, or for that matter Good Old Fisticuffs, don't run out of ammunition or make noise, and that some missions require precision kills instead of carpet-bombing.
    Zim: There are no dangerous weapons, only dangerous men.
  • In Destroyermen: Into the Storm, Commander Reddy has his ceremonial Academy sword sharpened in Walker's machine shop so he can use it as a weapon against the Grik.
  • In Robert A. Heinlein's "Beyond This Horizon", where lethal duels with rayguns are commonplace, the hero makes a replica of an obsolete weapon, the '.45'. When his friend informs him that chemical reactions are too slow, the hero replies that it's human reflexes that make the difference.
  • Justified in Alexis Carew, where crude boarding cutlasses and chemical firearms are still the weapons of choice for combat. Cutlasses can readily depressurize spacesuits and thereby take crew members out of action, and both types of weapons will remain functional in darkspace whereas any electrically operated weapon will be inoperable due to exposure to dark energy without expensive gallenium to shield it.
  • Justified in Lucifer's Star where personal shields are a common tool by people but mostly effective against attacks which occur in a second. Melee weapons, by being a single attack that lasts longer than a second, can be modified to disrupt shields. There's also a strong dueling culture in the Feudal Future Archduchy of Crius.
  • in Gordon R. Dickson's Childe Cycle of books, armies uses very simple weapons because lasers and so on are easy to nullify with the right equipment.
  • In Doc Sidhe, Noriko carries a katana as he primary weapon while her teammates are armed with modern firearms and explosives. Somewhat justified as it has a pure steel blade with is very effective against anyone with fae blood, but she still receives a lot of ribbing for it from the rest of team; especially her boyfriend Jean-Pierre.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Subverted in the second season of Fargo, when one of the Kansas gangsters coming to attack the Gerhardts fetches a longbow out of the trunk of his car (bragging "Anyone can fire a gun - the longbow is an art.") only to be the first on the receiving end of a headshot (with a gun).
  • Inconsistent in Star Trek.
    • The Klingons love their Cool Swords like the bat'leth, and Deep Space Nine makes a point of mentioning that while they use ranged weapons like disrupters, when they get angry enough or close to short range with their enemies, they will inevitably reach for their bladed weapon to attack their foe hand to hand. Klingons are tough and fierce enough to make this strategy work pretty well. A Star Trek: Voyager episode even shows a group of holographic Klingons armed with bat'leths handily defeating a group of (also holographic) Germans armed with submachine-guns. Granted, anyone would panic at the sight of angry Klingons charging at you, but still.
    • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine:
      • Worf favors a smaller weapon called a mek'leth that proves more practical in close quarters, and at one point he snaps Jadzia's bat'leth clean in half with it.
      • The Jem'Hadar are perfectly happy to use the Slow Laser equivalent of an assault rifle most of the time, but at melee range, they switch to a short, bladed polearm called a kar'takin.
      • In "Field of Fire", it's mentioned that Starfleet had experimented with chemical-propelled firearms for use in environments that render phasers useless. However, they eventually just put out a new, more resilient model of phaser. The villain of the episode is using a specially modified version that integrates their super advanced transporter and scanning technologies to create a sniper rifle that can look through walls (no way to hide) and teleport the bullet it fires directly to the target (no way to take cover), turning the archaic weapon into an almost perfect tool of assassination
    • Star Trek: Picard:
      • Elnor carries a tan qalanq, a Romulan sword, instead of any kind of energy weapon, thanks to his training by the Qowat Milat warrior nuns. "Absolute Candor" proves that he's lethal with it, and although another Romulan claims that a tan qalanq is no match for a disruptor, Elnor effortlessly slays several disruptor-carrying Romulan guards in "The Impossible Box" and "Nepenthe" with just his sword. He's not above using Ray Guns, however, as "Stardust City Rag" shows him relieving Bjayzl's personal bodyguards of their phaser pistols and then turning the same firearms on them Guns Akimbo.
      • There are several Romulans at North Station on Vashti who are equipped with a sword.
  • Stargate SG-1 plays a little with this with Goa'uld personal deflector shields. Energy weapons and bullets have no effect on them but they can be penetrated by slower-moving objects, a fact exploited by SG-1 on two occasions (for instance, Jack O'Neill throwing a rifle bayonet through Heru'ur's shield and through his hand in "Secrets"). In most other cases though, guns, regardless of form, rule the day.
    • In one episode the Jaffa scoff at Earth weapons since they still use mere bullets instead of energy blasts. After Major Carter promptly demonstrates the P90's superior accuracy and firing speed, Colonel O'Neill explains that the Jaffa staff weapon is a weapon of terror, designed to intimidate the enemy, while the P90 is a weapon of war, designed to kill the enemy.
  • In the Buffyverse, vampires and demons prefer to use either their teeth and claws or edged weapons rather than firearms, as do Vampire Slayers and other demon fighters. There are notable exceptions, more so in the Angel spin-off which is set in Los Angeles with vampires etc acting as part of (and therefore influenced by) the criminal subculture. The trope is lampshaded in "Bad Girls" when the modern-thinking vampire Mr. Trick remonstrates an opponent who comes at him with a sword.
    "Why do they always gotta be using swords? It's called an Uzi, ya chump! Could have saved your ass right about now."
    • For the slayers there is a justification: guns don't kill vampires (or demons) and the gunshot can attract innocent bystanders. Darla however makes a point of shooting Angel because although it won't kill him getting shot will still put him out the fight, which makes one wonder why demons hunters don't shoot vampires and stake them while they're down. Fortunately explosives can still bring down even the biggest monster and The Scoobies use this fact from time to time.
    • The reverse is also true; when a human villain shoots Buffy, he boasts about it in a demon bar afterward. The demons just laugh at him, pointing out that Slayers are notoriously difficult to kill, heal very fast, and get really pissed when they get better.
  • Firefly: Despite space travel taking place most people use lever action rifles or revolvers. The resultant Cowboys in Space setting is partly justified in that the planets are in the process of being colonized and they only have what they need (the Alliance gear is much shinier and spacey). Jayne also mentions once that Vera needs oxygen around her to fire, which, assuming it wasn't just Artistic License – Chemistry, suggests that a different type of propellant is in common use.
  • The Walking Dead takes place in the modern American South, where there's no shortage of guns, but the extensive use of crude impact weapons is justified by the fact that most of the ammo was used up in the early weeks of the zombie outbreak. (This justification is also often subverted when our heroes spray-and-pray their allegedly-scarce ammo in the best action-movie tradition.)
    • Gunshots (or any noise) draws in nearby walkers, one of the reason Daryl's crossbow is so important, and what causes the issues time and time again. Guns tend to be a last resort for this reason, though when other humans are around (who don't have to be next to you to kill you and are able to think and plan) it almost always turns into a firefight.
    • Many times simple pits and traps are shown to be a great defense because the walkers can't think and walk into the trap. The season shows many times the use of simple solutions to problems.
  • In The Outer Limits (1995) episode "Rule of Law", the protagonist wields a firearm while everybody else wields laser guns. When he confronts a lynch mob, they mock his weapon for being inferior, but he defeats them with ease.
  • Babylon 5:
    • Despite the general dominance of Slow Lasers of various stripes in the setting, the Rangers (a paramilitary group of Minbari origin, originally for monitoring the Shadows, but whom Sheridan turns into international peacekeepers) favor collapsible quarterstaffs ("Minbari fighting pikes") and martial arts. On the other hand, the Rangers' Space Navy is famously equipped with the Pint-Sized Powerhouse White Stars.
    • Played with in the episode "Grey 17 Is Missing". An early scene has Garibaldi playing with one of his ancestors' police revolvers, and he explains that Earthforce favors PPGs over firearms mainly because they're less likely to cause a hull breach when fired aboard a starship or space station (firearms are supposedly much more common planetside). Garibaldi later uses the bullets to kill a man-eating alien.
  • Farscape:
  • The Power Rangers and the like use chop-socky and melee weapons over the blasters that are usually part of their arsenals as well (and if blasters aren't part of their arsenal, it's a bigger example of this trope - you'd think the would be, and they exist in a world where such things can be made easily enough!) pretty much just because it's how the franchise rolls and what part of the attraction is - you wouldn't want them to trade kung fu for "we stand over there and shoot you stand over here and shoot" any more than you'd want Jackie Chan or Jet Li films to do the same. Against Mooks who do have firearms, the Rangers are able to dodge even in their civilian forms and then take them out with one punch or kick apiece because they're just that good. Your average Ranger's morphed arsenal consists of each ranger having a unique melee weapon and a sidearm (that sometimes shifts into a blade or baton that will be heavily favored over gun mode.)
  • In Doc Sidhe, Noriko carries a katana as he primary weapon while her teammates are armed with modern firearms and explosives. Somewhat justified as it has a pure steel blade with is very effective against anyone with fae blood, but she still receives a lot of ribbing for it from the rest of team; especially her boyfriend Jean-Pierre.
  • Wonder Woman: Whether it's during World War II or The '70s, Wonder Woman faces off against gun toting bad guys armed with a boomerang tiara and a lasso.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Space 1889 European officers have access to machine guns and rapid-firing artillery, but still carry swords as part of their uniform.
  • In the MechWarrior RPG, swords are described as still being a preferred weapon aboard starships because combat will invariably be close quarters and the blade won't rupture the ship's hull as opposed to firearms. In the base BattleTech game, some BattleMechs carry hatchets, or (more rarely) swords alongside their lightning guns and railguns. Hatchets are basically lumps of endosteel or ferro-fibrous armor which is gripped by the mech (or built into its arm). Hatchets have the advantage of dealing tremendous damage for relatively little weight, generate no heat, and have no ammo. Swords deal less damage but are more accurate due to them being better balanced. Other more advanced weapons exist for both infantry and battlemechs, such as Vibroblades. In the Solaris Arena gladiatorial arenas, more oddball weapons such as flails, maces, and pile drivers are used in battlemech and Powered Armor combat, though more for their wow-factor than for their actual effectiveness.
  • Warhammer 40,000:
    • The Imperium is prone to using mixed technology levels since the common technology is an odd blending of industrial and space age technology, and holding access to some highly advanced technology that isn't widely dispersed. Some of this is because it's a surviving artifact from humanity's first, mind-bendingly advanced space empire and nobody knows how it works or how to replicate the piece; or how to make the technology in question is a jealously guarded secret. A typical squad of Imperial soldiers will be armed with weapons that are cheap and weak, but easy to make and maintain, such as laser rifles or sometimes even assault rifles, but the sergeant will be also be armed with a sword that isn't just for ceremonial purposes. It's not uncommon to see conventional tanks on the ground with dueling starships in orbit. Of course, the old-school weapons are almost invariably updated with current technology, such as chainswords or power swords. These are indeed much better at killing, and sometimes necessary for killing things that won't flinch at conventional weapons.
    • This is even worse with the Orks, whose technology is either stolen and retrofitted pieces from other races, or more commonly bits of scrap welded together into a roughly functional form, whether it be gun or bludgeoning weapon or vehicle or starship.
  • The Imperial Marines of Traveller have a thing for cutlasses, as they don't ricochet in cramped spaceship corridors and hit sensitive equipment like bullets. Though they're mostly ceremonial.
  • Fading Suns also has melee weapons frequently used in boarding actions because they don't ricochet, and spaceships are Lost Technology and thus extremely valuable so the attackers generally don't want to wreck anything. And there aren't too many manufacturers of guns or higher tech weapons left in operation.
  • Common in The World of Darkness games such as Vampire: The Masquerade and Werewolf: The Apocalypse. Hand weapons can be much more effective than firearms in the hands of supernatural creatures, to say nothing of their natural claws and fangs.
    • In Vampire, both vampires and vampire hunters have a strong motivation towards archaic weapons: Heavy trauma is practically the only way to take down undead aside from their vulnerabilities, so bullets that can only open bleeding wounds or puncture organs in a creature without blood circulation or an anatomy that works by anything more than magic are less effective than bladed weapons that can open up large wounds or lop off limbs. Plus, crossbows can be used to shoot wooden stakes.
    • In Werewolf, on the other claw side, the preference is limited to the titular creatures due to their 10-feet-warforms usually possessing enough strength to flip cars. Additionally, their magical items are usually of a low-tech basis since any high-tech items automatically have an affinity to the Weaver, a cosmic entity most werewolves are not willing to deal with. Plus, their traditional ceremonial weapons are silver daggers/swords. Werewolf hunters, on the other hand side, usually go for guns, preferably of a high calibre and with silver ammo.
    • The preference is also sometimes motivated by the sheer number of magical things which can interfere with clockwork and gunpowder in the setting. With a tension weapon like a bow, or a simple lever like a club or blade, you'll at least know your weapon has been sabotaged by a mage spell or werewolf gift before you rely on it to fire in a dangerous situation. Many even prefer bare fists when they don't have claws, simply because hexing someone's actual body is very difficult.
  • Melee weapons are common in the cyberpunk-verse of Shadowrun, ranging from period-proper combat knives to katanas, battle axes and swords. Certain tradition-fond megas, like Aztechnology and Renraku, make a point of equipping their Elite Mooks with melee weapons to reinforce their image.
  • A massive variety of melee weapons appear in Rifts, including Vibroweapons ranging from standard knives and axes to esoteric weapons like scythes and kusari-gamas (strangely they do not vibrate, despite the name). Interestingly enough, it is noted in the game books that the setting's Humongous Mecha typically do not use equally humongous swords, preferring instead modern weapons.
    • Most Giant Robots, instead of using a handheld weapon, mount a Blade Below the Shoulder in a retractable housing. German mechs are starting to carry vibro-axes, electrified maces, kinetic hammers, and plasma whips into battle however; along with shields that can mount missile launchers.

    Video Games 
  • In 16 Ways to Kill a Vampire at McDonalds Luke wields his grandfather's holy musket. He tries to get it blessed by every preacher they come across, regardless of faith.
  • The Final Fantasy series since the turn towards Urban Fantasy and Science Fiction style settings starting with VII, with guns often being weaker than melee weapons like swords and spears. In several games, melee weapons' damage is based on a calculation involving the characters' strength or attack stat — which raises with levels and other buffs like materia, while guns don't, instead being based entirely on the gun's stats. Some games, like Final Fantasy XII, make up for this by having guns ignore an enemy's defense stat.
  • In Makai Kingdom, there are loads and loads of weapon types. There are modern weapons like rifles, bazookas, or flamethrowers available, but also classical weapons like swords and spears. Or silly weapons like UFOs, Pies, Syringes, or Paper Fans. Heck, there are even giant mechs available to ride. Being one of the creations of Nippon Ichi somewhat justifies it; they love their Widget Series.
  • Metal Gear:
    • Throughout the series, particularly Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, most of the elite cyborgs favour swords and other melee weapons over guns (in Rising, Mooks use guns, but the Elite Mooks use giant hammers and most of the UGs have some form of melee weapon or other). It's justified by explaining that bullets don't have the energy to get through cyborg armour, while HF Blades and other advanced weapons do.
    • Taken to the Logical Extreme in Rising, where the final boss is too technologically advanced and too strong to use any weapon but their fists.
      • This also comes into play with the difference between Raiden's and Sam's swords. Raiden's HF blade was specifically made for him after losing the one he had in the prologue chapter, and so is not the greatest weapon around. Sam's, however, was created from an original 16th-century katana, and so is among the greatest HF blades currently in existence.note 
    • Fridge Brilliance with Gray Fox: he's an assassin using a stealth suit and firearms, even silenced ones, would give away his postion. Using a katana he can get close enough to use it for assassination without being detected.
  • The Persona series frequently displays this trope, having gun-wielding characters fighting alongside those with swords, spears, boxing gloves, fans, and folding chairs.
    • Lampshaded in Persona 3, where Personae are summoned by shooting yourself in the head with a very realistic (but thankfully not real or loaded) pistol. Yukari asks Detective Kurosawa why he procures you more fantasy weapons like swords, bows and knives when better weapons exist. Kurosawa explains that is would not be hard to confuse a pistol-like object with an actual pistol. Let's just say, it's a mistake you'd only make once. Incidentally, Aigis can use guns, and very effectively at that, but she is a gynoid/weapons platform and doesn't need an Evoker.
  • Fable III: Despite fire arms becoming common enough to be used by the military, being flintlock pistols and muskets they are slow to reload and as seen Mourning Wood monsters tend to charge with vast numbers which means infantry men, with simple swords, still play a vital role in combat.
  • The Star Ocean series really likes this trope:
    • In the first and second games, this is justified by the protagonists being on planets protected by an Alien Non-Interference Clause. The first game's end boss is further mentioned as being immune to modern weapons, so the melee weapons and Symbology of the 'primitive' planet are the only things that can hurt him.
    • The third game has the same justification, but halfway through the game you return to "civilized" space, and yet many of the protagonists continue to use anachronistic weapons.
    • The fourth game involves alien monsters that somehow have kinetic barriers. This doesn't hold very far, as one of your characters has specially-designed anti-barrier plasma cannons.
  • In Team Fortress 2, one of the Sniper's primary weapons, alongside a host of various rifles, is a bow-and-arrow set called "The Huntsman". It can be just as effective as the rifles, and is particularly effective in close(r) ranged combat. Also, most of the melee weapons are either this or an Improvised Weapon. Special mention goes to Demoman's wide variety swords and shields that make him deadly at melee range, which is usually his weakness due to damaging himself with his own Splash Damage.
  • In World of Warcraft, Hunters and Warriors can choose among rifles or bows. The competence and damage difference is negligible. That's of course, when they aren't using axes, swords or hammers...
  • Command & Conquer: Red Alert 3 had the Beam Katanas, a special ability for the basic infantry for the Empire of the Rising Sun that changed their rifles into beam katanas. The Red Alert series runs almost entirely on Rule of Cool, and in the scenario the sword is an old idea but still scores one hit kills (assuming they get near enough for it and clear garrisoned buildings to boot).
  • Fallout is an interesting case, mostly because of the nuclear war ending society. Energy weapons are highly accurate but are either weaker than conventional fire arms (laser), or strong but slow moving (plasma) and always a pain to find until mid-late game. Small guns are diverse but can break, jam or just plain miss a lot more and ammo is always scarce for big guns (which have the same issue as small guns, though pack a larger punch). Melee weapons are durable and can be strong (sometimes augmented with technology), always silent and with the correct armor you can close the distance with ease, and can be found on pretty much any raider, giving you a constant supply of spare parts, and while using unarmed is challenging at first it has some of the best perks for combat and several gloves with devastating effects. As such using any of them is viable and has its own strengths and weaknesses.
    • Caesar's Legion uses relatively few guns, partly because of their technophobic views on pre-war technology, but also because they lack the logistics and manufacturing to support their widespread use. They still manage to fight the New California Republic to a stalemate, despite the latter being able to equip almost every single one of their troops with firearms and armour.
    • In the same vein, the Brotherhood of Steel was beaten back by the NCR after their disagreements, though this was more because NCR troops outnumbered the Brotherhood over 25 to 1 in New Vegas, alone.
    • Fallout 4 brings the Laser Musket as its Iconic Item. It's single-shot just like an actual musket, and definately looks the part, but with a little tinkering, it can be modified to blast apart apart a Deathclaw in two shots. Archaic but awesome, indeed.
  • Mass Effect:
    • Lampshaded in Mass Effect 2 with the M-96 Mattock semiautomatic rifle, which has the highest base damage of any assault rifle in the game despite being relatively outdated in-universe. The "Firepower Pack" DLC that adds it to your inventory in 2 comes with an e-mail from the Illusive Man saying that EDI had told him "we may be overlooking older, proven technologies in an effort to provide you with the state of art."
      • A simple grenade launcher is the first heavy weapon you get and is vital against the Ymir on Freedom's Progress
    • A couple types of Cerberus mooks in Mass Effect 3 are armed with melee weapons, as is the Illusive Man's Dragon, katana-wielding Kai Leng. This is lampshaded in the "Citadel" DLC in an overheard conversation between a couple of Alliance soldiers:
      Veteran Engineer: It's 2186. Who uses a whip?
    • Happens on the protagonists' side, too. Several multiplayer classes have swords for their melee weaponry: the N7 Shadow and N7 Slayer use swords, and the Krogan Warlord carries an immense hammer. You can attach metal bayonets to the front of various shotguns, and omniblade bayonets to assault rifles. Omniblades are also becoming widespread at the time of the game as an emergency melee blade was well, simply because everyone is facing the prospect of close quarters melee combat while fighting the Reapers' ground troops.
  • Star Trek Online:
    • The game continues the Klingon trend of charging right in with a bat'leth instead of staying back and shooting, and adds a couple lesser-known types of edged weapons (Vulcan lirpa and Tsunkatse falchions). Given a justification this time: basically everyone has a personal deflector shield that works fine against ranged weapons, but 80% of melee damage, whether from a sword, Pistol-Whipping, or Kirk-fu, goes straight through to the target's HP. This is especially useful against the Borg, who will adapt over time to energy weapons and force you to re-frequence, but against certain types of drones also leaves you open to a One-Hit Kill by assimilation.
    • Despite having originally been built 130-odd years ago by the time of the game, the Excelsior-class is considered one of the top four DPS cruisers on the Starfleet side. (At the bottom of the top four, granted, but it still beats out the too-much-tank-not-enough-DPS Galaxy-class.)
    • In the shuttle PVP added in the Season 8.5 update, the Star Trek: The Original Series-era Type F shuttle is considered one of the top competitors, regularly beating players flying Peregrine-class attack fighters or runabouts from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. This is roughly the equivalent of a World War I biplane shooting down an F-22.
    • Justified with the Xindi lockbox ships added in Season 9.5. Though they look physically identical to the ships from Star Trek: Enterprise 250 years earlier, Cryptic's blog says that the Xindi continually updated them to keep up with newer classes.
  • Crysis 3 has the Predator bow, a bow-and-arrow in an era of railguns and strange alien weaponry. Its biggest advantage is that it is a completely silent weapon, but it also has other features. Its draw strength is something like 500 pounds, perfect for the nanosuit's Maximum Strength. The arrows all have beacons that only the nanosuit can see (and you can tag those arrows with your GPS binoculars if you so choose, implying recon possibilities beyond the scope of the actual missions), and the special explosive arrows can airburst in proximity to a binocular-tagged enemy.
  • The crossbow in RAGE. It's quieter than the various firearms and robotic gadgets that make up the rest of your arsenal and is accurate enough to outperform your Sniper Rifle at all but the longest ranges. You also get a couple types of Trick Arrow for it that come in handy in various situations.
  • Far Cry 3 Has you fight pirates and privateers with everything from pistols and rifles to flamethrowers and grenades but one of the best weapons in game is a recurve hunting bow, despite the fact that it can be hard to aim it. Justified because it is completely silent, you can recover the ammo from enemies and it is designed to bring down tigers and other large predators. For similar reasons stealthily killing your enemies with your machete is often much better than picking them off with silenced firearms: you don't have to worry about people realizing they're being shot at, it doesn't use ammo, take downs are an insta-kill and there are a variety of upgrades allowing takedown to be used in a variety of situations (such as jumping on enemies, booby-trapping them, killing heavies etc.)
  • Despite E.Y.E.: Divine Cybermancy taking place in the far future with extensive cybernetics readily available, psychic powers allowing users to bend reality, and handheld anti-tank revolvers being common, melee weapons such as warhammers and katanas remain popular for members of the Secreta. The Facere Mortis katana, for example, is a standard katana which has been imbued with psychic energy and possibly its own personality. However, the other old tech has been augmented with modern technology; the Damocles BFS releases burst of energy to set things on fire via a series of distortion capacitors, and the Arrancadora De Tripas warp hammer creates a localized warp in reality upon contact with flesh.
  • Space pirates in Metroid Prime have an arm cannon on one arm and a large hand scythe on the other one. Shadow pirates, who have the ability to turn invisible, only use the hand scythe.
  • The first four Mega Man X games all have Sigma use an energy saber, Wolverine-like claws, a shield, and a scythe respectively for the first segment of his battles. He finally ditched them in favor of more modern projectile-based attacks for the fifth installment on. Zero on the other hand initially used a buster but received an energy saber after being remodeled by the X-Hunters which he's relied on as a primary weapon ever since.
  • Tin Star (Choice of Games) is set in The Wild West, but you can choose to specialize in melee weapons such as swords, maces, or an Indian battle axe, instead of pistol and rifle.
  • The Tenno weaponry in Warframe is deliberately low-tech, because their original enemies, the Sentients, were able to easily subvert high-tech weaponry. The Tenno continue to use a huge range of low-tech melee and projectile weapons to the present day, partially because of tradition and partially because the weapons are still deadly-effective in the hands of creatures as badass as Tenno. The Grineer Empire also relies on low-tech weaponry, but only because they lack the technology and know-how to create more advanced weapons; while Tenno designs are sleek and elegant, Grineer equipment looks like it's been cobbled together out of scraps (which likely isn't all that far off from the truth).
  • In XCOM 2, it's the year 2035, you're fighting to free Earth from alien occupation using stolen and reverse-engineered alien weapons, and yet there are several examples of this.
    • Your Ranger-class soldiers go into battle with a machete. Rangers are stealth and close-combat specialists (their other weapon being a Short-Range Shotgun), so they are bound to be at close range in any case and blades are relatively silent. Slash, the Squaddie-rank ability, also deals
    • In the War of the Chosen DLC, the Assassin, a genetically-engineered alien soldier, uses a "katana" that ignores armour and never misses. The head of your science department can't even identify what it's made of.
    • The Alien Hunters DLC goes even further. In the first mission, you get an axe, a crossbow and a flintlock pistol. They're all better than the equivalent regular weapons of the same tech level, and can be upgraded to magnetic and plasma beam technology.
  • In the Infinity Blade franchise, most Titans don't bother with ranged weaponry, even the ones with Giant Mecha and Mach 10 space-jets. Partly justified by the advanced armor technology in all Titans that makes what should be fatal shots a mere trifle while swords and magic put the hurt on them. Doesn't stop Isa from cheap-shooting them with her crossbow, though.
  • Valhalla in Nexus Clash is always a modern city, but the Clash is fought just as much with swords and bows as guns and grenades. The archaic weapons are just as effective, though due to the Schizo Tech of the series it's not entirely clear that they're truly less advanced.
  • Starbound takes place in a future where there's faster than light space travel and high technology. However, during one mission (The Baron's Keep), you're tasked with protecting a Glitch (race of robots in Medieval Stasis) from the Occasus Mooks. Said mooks, while previously shown to use high tech swords and guns, inexplicably attack the player and the keep with low-tech swords, crossbows and ballistae, and it gets ridiculous when their Airborne Mook is a guy riding an aerial screw that probably wouldn't even be able to fly.
  • Destiny takes place several hundred years in the future. While most of the guns look appropriately slick and futuristic, there are a handful of out-of-date looking weapons that are, unsurprisingly, among the most damaging in the game:
    • The first weapon the player picks up is a Khvostov 7G-02, a battered assault rifle with cracked holographic sights. Much, much later, it can be scrapped and upgraded to the Khvostov 7G-0X, which cleans up the damaged components (but still keeps the cracked sight). Both versions look like modern, real world assault rifles.
    • Revolvers known as "hand cannons" serve as one of the primary weapon types, competing right alongside full-sized assault rifles. While most hand cannons do look appropriately futuristic, the Last Word, a special "exotic"-rarity weapon, is apparently single-action, and fan-fired from the hip. In terms of pure bullet damage, it's one of the hardest-hitting weapons in the game.
    • The exotic sniper rifle No Land Beyond is old and bolt-action, with a wooden stock. It fires extremely slowly, but hits hard.
    • Destiny 2 has "the Old Fashioned", a legendary-rarity hand cannon that looks like a a single-action museum piece.
    • The Drifter in Destiny 2 offers a wide variety of guns as rewards for playing Gambit, all of which are made from black metal and dark wood like World War II era weapons. The Gambit guns are just as strong as modern firearms, with a few examples being considered top tier in their weapon type.
  • In Halo, many high-ranking Sangheili/Elites favor energy swords, while the standard armament of a Jiralhanae/Brute Chieftain is a gravity hammer, despite both species having plenty of access to advanced energy firearms. The justification is that both species also wear heavy armor that can resist small arms fire long enough enough to get into range with their one-hit-kill melee weapons (as both the sword and hammer have enough power lore-wise to smash through spaceship-quality plating).
  • The flavor text for Imperial Swordsmen in Baten Kaitos implies that imperial soldiers are free to choose a gun or sword as their weapon of choice, and makes it clear that while the gun is more powerful and effective, the sword is a status symbol and considered an Elegant Weapon for a More Civilized Age among imperials:
    A soldier specialized in close-range sword combat. Some prefer the ephemerality of swordplay to the ease and power of a bayonet and rifle. As such, the sword is a status symbol within the military, though any who choose it rashly will regret it.
  • In Rimworld, you can find advanced sci-fi technology like Killer Robots and Energy Weapons but simple longswords and spears can remain competitive in the right circumstances. In the same manner as Dune, your colonists can wear (and face opponents wearing) personal energy shields which render gunfire harmless but offer no protection against these primitive melee weapons. Even without a shield belt, a colonist can cover the gap with judicious use of cover and movement and then lock a gun-wielding enemy into melee where they are forced to defend themselves and at a grave disadvantage. A competent melee fighter colonist equipped with a shield belt or power armour and a plasteel longsword can be pretty deadly.
  • In SYNTHETIK, you are an android that fights their way to prevent the rogue AIs from wiping out humanity. You can find many advanced guns or high-tech items in this game. But you can also find low-tech items like tomahawk, or kunai. They are effective as much as other items.
  • Alongside blasters, grenades and the iconic Star Wars weapon, lightsabers, Knights of the Old Republic and its sequel feature swords. No, not vibroblades, though the games have these too. Just ordinary metal swords. Which can parry lightsabers somehow. Then again, the games use d20 mechanics heavily based on Dungeons & Dragons.
    • That happens because swords are made with help of cortosis, metal that can short out lightsaber.
  • In Red Dead Redemption II, set in 1899-1907, the Pirate Sword, Volcanic Pistol, various Hatchets, and even the Bow are surprisingly effective weapons, even against other armed enemies. With self-crated arrows, the Bow becomes the most versatile and efficient weapon for hunting.
  • Ninja Gaiden: Ryu Hayabusa can defeat enemies who use rocket launchers, machine guns, tanks and helicopters with weaponry like swords, kunai, spears and arrows.
  • Ratchet & Clank has several of these, thanks to each game throwing everything and the kitchen sink into your inventory in a world not too dissimilar from Star Wars. Examples include the Walloper, the Plasma Whip, the Leviathan Flail, the Razor Claws, and of course Ratchet's Omniwrench. How effective these are can vary, but all of them are viable options despite nearly every enemy in the game using a gun of some sort.

  • In Terra, set in the 24th century, Catella Myrha dual wields a pair of scimitars against people armed with assault rifles. It helps that her armor contains a deflector shield generator that No Sells small arms fire. Melee attacks can penetrate it but she's good enough that this usually isn't an issue. Operative word being "usually". Agrippa Varus, who himself prefers a combat knife to a gun, disarms and immobilizes her with almost contemptuous ease.
  • Terminal Lance: "Pirate Sword."
    Grunt: Wait, you really brought your NCO Sword on deployment?
    NCO: I spent $600 on this stupid thing. I'm not going home 'till I stab a motherfucker.

    Western Animation 
  • The police in Futurama use lightsaber-like batons with laser blades that can be turned on and off, but (judging from the sound they make) they simply act as simple blunt police batons to beat someone into submission with.
  • Star Trek: Lower Decks: Although a spacefaring civilization, the Gelrakians haven't developed any Ray Guns and still rely on crystal spears when attacking enemies. Crystal battle blades and crystal-embedded clubs are traditional for a Trial by Combat.

    Real Life 
  • At first glance the use of biplanes in World War II. However, it should be remembered that most of these would only have been out of date by a few years; for instance it was only in 1937 that the German Luftwaffe started to replace its biplane fighters (Heinkel He 51 and Arado Ar 68) with Messerschmitt Bf 109 monoplanes. And in the combat environments of the first years of the war, many biplanes could still find an "ecological niche", for instance by flying at night, especially before aircraft-mounted radar became available in sufficient numbers. Some specific examples:
    • Owing to short-sighted defense cuts between the wars, the Royal Navy entered WWII with biplane fighters and bombers to equip its aircraft carriers. Yet the Fairey Swordfish managed to catch most of the Italian Navy in its home port of Taranto, causing widespread destruction in a night attack the Japanese studied and emulated at Pearl Harbor. A year or so later, it was a carrier-launched Fairey Swordfish biplane which fired the torpedo that crippled the Bismarck, leaving Germany's most modern battleship wide open for the surface fleet to catch up with her. The fact that the German Navy did not finish building any aircraft carriers, thereby allowing British aircraft to operate in the North Atlantic with impunity, obviously was a major factor that enabled the Swordfish to continue to be used in frontline combat missions as long as it did. The last one was built in August 1944! The Swordfish also proved ideal for anti-submarine warfare, as its slow speed gave it good endurance and allowed it to land on the decks of even the smallest escort carriers, something that many of the larger and more advanced bombers could not do.
    • For similar reasons, units like the 588th Night Bomber Regiment (Night Witches) in the Soviet Union could use interwar-era Polikarpov Po-2 biplanes. Though hopelessly obsolete compared to Messerschmitts or even the aforementioned Swordfish, these planes proved to be tremendously maneuverable and capable of extended unpowered gliding, permitting them to approach German positions without any noise beyond the wind in the wings; their low top speed, below the stall speed of German fighters, made them exceptionally difficult to intercept in the air; and their simple but sturdy construction made them exceptionally durable and resilient under enemy fire. Their nightly harassment thus caused the German invaders no end of grief, and led to a psychological and morale impact on the Wehrmacht far out of proportion to the actual material losses inflicted. They proved their effectiveness as night bombers again in the Korean War, where the wooden airframe of the "Bedcheck Charlie" gave the venerable biplane another significant advantage in modern warfare - a negligible radar cross-section that made detection no easier than it had been for the Germans, in spite of now-ubiquitous radar systems.
    • Enjoying near-complete daylight air superiority during the first campaigns of the war, the Luftwaffe was able to continue using Henschel Hs 123 biplane divebombers as ground-attack aircraft. This type had gone out of production in 1937, but on the Eastern front continued to see active service until 1944.
    • Even the Americans didn't avoid this trope entirely. Front-line US Navy units used biplanes such as the Grumman F3F and the Curtiss SBC Helldiver as late as 1941. Meanwhile, in the Philippine Islands, some of the American and Filipino defenders flew Boeing P-26 Peashooters, with their wire wing braces, fixed landing gear, and open cockpits, against the attacking Japanese forces. Despite their obsolescence, they achieved several victories against Japanese bombers and fighters in the first few weeks of the war.
    • The Royal Italian Air Force's main fighter at the start of the war was another biplane, the Fiat CR.42 Falco (Hawk). This time it was not due to cost considerations (and in fact it started production in 1939!), but because the brass considered the maneuverability inherent to biplanes a better advantage than the speed and heavier armament of the monoplanes being introduced by the air forces of France, Britain and Germany at the time. It enjoyed some successes against RAF Hurricanes and Spitfires whenever these were stupid enough to enter into a maneuvered combat, but they truly shone in the hands of the Royal Hungarian Air Force, that deployed them against the Soviets in general and the aforementioned Po-2 in particular, where the Falco's high maneuverability and low low speed allowed it to intercept the Po-2 where more modern designs failed miserably.
    • Being up mainly against the CR.42 and various other maneuverable but slow and undergunned Italian fighters, the British Royal Air Force and Fleet Air Arm could continue to use the Gloster Gladiator biplane fighter in North Africa and the defense of Malta until 1941.
    • When the Second Sino-Japanese War broke out in 1937, the Chinese air force was made up of various biplanes, most prominently the Curtiss Model 68 Hawk III. Although it was outclassed by Japan's Mitsubishi A5M carrier fighter, it was fast and well-armed enough to deal heavy damage to ground and naval targets. Even when China received stronger and faster Polikarpov I-16s from the Soviet Union, nine survived to be used as night fighters in 1940 to defend the wartime capital of Chongqing from Japanese bombers.
  • Examples from other fields in World War II:
    • Both Great Britain and the Soviet Union had obsolete heavy machine guns left over from World War I. The Russian Maxim and the British Vickers were effectively the same weapon, but one which required two or three men to transport, emplace and fire. It was also water-cooled, so if no water was available the weapon would overheat and become unworkable.note  The German MG42 was air-cooled, had a faster rate of fire, could be emplaced in seconds as opposed to fifteen minutes, and used by one man. Both Britain and Russia eventually hit on massing these weapons together to minimize these weaknesses and to provide saturation firepower, effectively using them almost as emplaced artillery and not as tactical infantry MG. British machine-gun battalions proved destructively efficient in Italy, where multiples of 64 Vickers MGs fired together at one section of German front to soften it up for an attack, allowing the attacking infantry to get as close as they could whilst returning fire was suppressed.
    • Close combat in the Burmese jungle often pitted Japanese officers and noncoms armed with swords against machete-armed British soldiers. Or kukri-armed Gurkhas. Or Sikhs with the traditional tulwar sword. Or African troops with native swords from Nigeria, Kenya, etc. Bladed weapons could be silent, deadly and ultra-effective in close quarters jungle fighting and ambushes, and sword fighting in combat happened even in 1942-45. Also, tribal units and natives fighting alongside British Fourteenth Army and on Borneo used native weapons, such as blowpipes and bows and arrow, to deadly effect in close-quarters jungle fighting.
    • And narrowly averted with Croft's Pikes. Due to a bit of Winston Churchill's hyperbole being taken at face value, the War Office ordered the production of 250,000 steel pikes for the Home Guard. This understandably caused quite a fuss (and did no small degree of harm to the morale of the Home Guard troops), and the weapons were never issued as a result. The whole thing is named for Under-secretary of State for War Henry Page Croft, who tried to defend the decision due to the pike being "a most effective and silent weapon".
    • The Junkers Ju 86 slow medium bomber had been phased out by the Luftwaffe before the war even began, but it then was possible to use it in a reconnaissance role by adding a pressure cabin. These planes then operated at heights that could not be reached by anti-aircraft guns and British fighters. The RAF in North Africa eventually tackled the problem by adapting some Spitfires for high-altitude work, among other things by reducing the armament from eight machine-guns to two, and taking the fight directly to the Junkers pilots.
    • Often overlooked is the role actual horse mounted cavalry played in the war. While dominated by mechanized units, cavalry was still widely used, mostly in the Polish, Balkan and Soviet campaigns (contrary to popular myth, the Poles did not charge tanks on horseback). Horses had the advantage of being able to navigate terrain that bogged down tanks and were not dependent on fuel. Or rather, the fuel they depended on was of the type that grows out of the ground everywhere in Europe. One of the last battles of the European war was comprised of a successful cavalry charge against an enemy that failed to acount for them.
    • Chinese warlords often had to carry a sword and obsolete firearms as modern weapons weren't readily available for them.
    • British Army officer Jack Churchill (of no known relation to Winston Spencer Churchill) famously fought with an English longbow and a claymore. His motto made this even more clear:
    "Any officer who goes into action without his sword is improperly dressed."
  • Much fighting in World War 1 took the form of "trench raids", where soldiers would scramble out of a trench, sprint across the open ground, and drop into an enemy trench. Rifles were cumbersome in the narrow, zig-zagging trenches, and combat was typically at very close quarters. Pistols had limited stopping power and attracted reinforcements by their noise, and any mechanical device was subject to malfunction in the ever-present dirt and muck. Soldiers rapidly discovered that knives, clubs, and other simple melee weapons were frequently the best choices. The classic 1918 trench knife, with its brass-knuckles handle, was born in this environment, and the humble shovel (which everyone had with him anyway) rapidly became a favorite as an improvised axe. To this day entrenching tools are often specifically designed to have one edge sharpened for use as a weapon.
  • Many people live in places where guns are banned, culturally frowned-upon, or hard to obtain without dealing with the very same dangerous characters one is hoping to avoid. In such places, archaic or improvised weapons often become the best option for those seeking to avoid both victimization and prison. Some examples include sturdy flashlights, pens, canes, socks full of coins, small utility knives, and many others - including the inevitable Torches and Pitchforks.
  • Modern armies still train in the use of hand-to-hand combat, including bayonet usage. Being able to fight effectively in situations where your primary weapon is inoperable or impractical is a useful ability, though the training is usually considered more for building confidence, aggression, and physical conditioning. That said, they have proven decisive in a few battles as recently as The War on Terror: in 2004 elements of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders launched a bayonet charge against Mahdi Army insurgents in Amarah, Iraq, killing 28, and in 2011 the Prince of Wales Royal Regiment's LCPL. Sean Jones earned the Military Cross for leading his bayonet-wielding squad into Taliban machine-gun fire in Helmand Province, Afghanistan.
    • Firearms author Ian V. Hogg noted that despite all the bravado about going in with the bayonet, soldiers would often prefer to throw rocks at each other, something he witnessed personally during the Korean War. A literal Stone Age weapon!
  • Pikes came briefly back into use before and during the American Civil War. John Brown's raid on Harpers' Ferry on October 16-18, 1859 had some of his supporters armed with pikes. In 1862, governor Joe Brown of Georgia ordered 10,000 pikes from the state's mechanics, recognizing that there were not enough guns and ammunition to arm the populace: "The short range pike and terrible knife, when brought within their proper range, (as they can be almost in a moment) and wielded by a stalwart patriot’s arm, never fail to fire and never waste a single load.” Admittedly their actual distribution and effectiveness was very limited, but it just goes to show that desperation causes people to fall back on old technologies.
  • The sword still saw plenty of use, at least for cavalry and officers, well into the 19th century. When most firearms were single shot, mechanically unreliable, and/or difficult to reload, it was helpful to have a weapon that didn't jam or run out of bullets. Horse cavalry with swords and lances were obsolescent in WWI (although the Battle of Armageddon in 1918 was decided by an improvised Canadian cavalry charge), and swords saw little use in WWII — although the Poles in the early war, and the Germans and Russians down to the end, used rifle-armed cavalry to very good effect. And there was also that one guy with a longbow and a basket-hilted broadsword.
  • Tomahawks have been used intermittently by American troops since the Revolutionary War. This makes a lot of sense, as a good hatchet has plenty of uses as a utility tool as well as a weapon. They took on particular significance in the urban counterinsurgency operations of The War on Terror, with close-quarters fighting that also involves a lot of breaking of windows and breaching of doors.
  • A lot of riot control tactics and equipment are essentially non lethal versions of medieval European warfare. For starters their basic equipment is armor and a shield.
  • Many American states have separate hunting seasons for "primitive weapons" such as black-powder firearms, keeping rifled muskets popular with hunters who wish to extend their season. Gun manufacturers have even produced modern high-performance hunting rifles that are loaded from the front in order to allow them to be used in "primitive" weapon hunting seasons.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Modern Age Old Weapon, Potent Antique Weapon


Sci-Fi swords

JP mentions how swords can appear in sci-fi settings.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (8 votes)

Example of:

Main / ArchaicWeaponForAnAdvancedAge

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