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Guns vs. Swords

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Kinda like this, but less physical... And less sexy.

"Those who live by the sword get shot by those who don't."

The timeless Internet argument. On many forums, the debate over whether guns or swords are better rages on. Common (but not necessarily true) statements from either side include:


  • Guns have longer range!
  • Guns are easier to use!
  • Guns are more common!
  • Honor doesn't matter in a real fight!
  • Guns are just cooler!
  • Revolvers and shotguns are badass!
  • Pulling the trigger is quicker and easier than swinging a sword!
  • And thus, a quick bullet is more humane than being gutted by a sword!
  • Guns can still be used as a melee weapon, even if you run out of ammo.
  • Guns are still the weapon of choice for nearly all military and law enforcement agencies around the world.


It's obvious that neither side will give in any time soon. So here are some examples of this playing out in fiction, and notable Real Life examples. Please remember that this is NOT about which is better!

Related to Katanas Are Just Better, Shotguns Are Just Better and Revolvers Are Just Better. See Sword and Gun and The Musketeer for when someone decides to pack both. See Mix-and-Match Weapon for when swords and guns, along with other weapons, are fused together into a weapon that will be cooler than both but may or may not work. If this trope is used, it may also be used alongside a Magic Versus Science argument, though not always. It can also be justified with a Retro Upgrade for melee weapons. Authors sometimes use Fantasy Gun Control to enforce their preference for swords.

Also, take note that both sides have more in common than you might think, at least thematically


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    Anime & Manga 
  • The ultimate confrontation of Afro Samurai involves this. Afro, as per the title, uses a sword, while his nemesis, Justice, uses guns.
  • We get this late into Attack on Titan once the Military Police's Central 1st Brigade gets introduced and they clash with the Survey Corps.
  • In Bakumatsu Kikansetsu Irohanihoheto, Akizuki Yojiro uses a katana, Getsuruito(Moon Tear Sword), while Kanna Sakyonosuke uses a dual pistols, Remington Model 1858.
  • Black Cat has the protagonist Train using a gun while his archenemy Creed uses a sword that is converted into a Laser Blade. They are pretty evenly matched regardless. Sephira, however, is actually the best swordsman in the series.
  • Black Lagoon:
    • Episode 12 had a scene where Revy and Blade Enthusiast mercenary Shenhua argued about whether guns or knives were better, and then decided to demonstrate their points by slaughtering a small army pursuing them.
    • Also, Revy vs. Ginji, who does in fact wield a katana and can cut bullets in half with it. After much bullet-slicing and Gun Kata, Revy wins.
  • Bleach has Dual Wielding for both Captain Shunsui Kyoraku (Swordsman) and his opponent, Espada Coyote Starrk (Gunslinger). On top of that, both are Combat Pragmatist that pull every dirty trick in the book to win. Kyoraku wins. It's apparently a running gag for Kyoraku, who later ends up facing two more gun wielders during the Vandenreich invasion. Kyoraku loses against the first one, then requires Nanao's help against the second.
  • In Cowboy Bebop, Spike uses a gun, and his rival, Vicious, uses a katana. They're shown to be equal fighters, at least partially because Vicious recognizes the limits of his weapon and uses stealth to get up close. Having said that, both times they fight, Spike has already taken at least one gunshot wound. But since it's a Heroic Bloodshed show, it can be questioned whether they slow him down.
  • In Digimon Frontier, EmperorGreymon and MagnaGarurumon are all over this. The first does battle with a BFS and dragons made of fire, while the second is carrying maybe a half-ton of weaponry in lasers, bullets, and rocket launchers.
  • In Fairy Tail, Erza (swordswoman) and Bisca (gunslinger) use the same kind of magic and the latter admires the former.
  • Final Fantasy: Unlimited: Part of the premise of the story is that it pits Kaze (gun) against Makenshi (sword).
  • GUN◊SWORD fits in with the above examples. Van uses a sword, Ray uses a gun.
  • JoJo's Bizarre Adventure has Jean-Pierre Polnareff (sword) and Hol Horse (gun) holding a silly, shonen-esque debate on whose weapon is better. Judging from the final outcome, Polnareff wins. He successfully kills Hol Horse's accomplice, while Hol Horse not only runs away, but his apparent headshot on Avdol also misses at the last second.
  • The extra "After Days" chapter of the Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha StrikerS manga featured Nanoha vs Signum in an exhibition match, complete with combat commentary that contrasted the fighting techniques of the two combatants. Nanoha is The Ace with her Beam Spam-dispensing Boom Stick. Signum is a Master Swordsman from Ancient Belka. Who will win? It ends in a tie.
  • In Mobile Suit Gundam 00 Season 2, in his last battle Ali Al-Saachez claims that close range combat is the best. He's then defeated by Lockon Stratos and his Gundam's beam pistols.
  • In the really terrible anime Musashi Gundoh, everyone dual-wields a gun and a sword, except for the main character, who just uses guns.
  • The climax of the fight between Mireille and a brainwashed Kirika in Noir has them having a stand off; Mireille with her gun and Kirika one of Chloe's knives. And then the watch Mireille threw into the air hits and the ground and it's music starts playing.
  • Rebuild World: The protagonist Akira, who is a perpetual Multi-Ranged Master and Walking Armory, gets into arguments with the Ninja Maid duo Shiori and Kanae about which is better. For Akira, close combat is synonymous with injuries sustained while being moved like People Puppets by his Virtual Sidekick Alpha. However, Akira gradually takes a shine to swords, and eventually uses Sword and Gun when needed, while still picking on Kanae for using the Power Fist, which makes her complain about Friendship Favoritism.
  • Sword Art Online presents this quite literally in its third arc, where Kirito enters the world of Gun Gale Online. Despite having poor accuracy and fighting many opponents with guns, Kirito is able to defeat them all by equipping a photon sword and using his reflexes to deflect bullets, something no other user has ever even attempted.
  • An interesting version occurs in YuYu Hakusho, where the protagonist Yusuke's signature technique is the Spirit Gun, while his friend and rival Kuwabara has a Spirit Sword.
  • The protagonist in practically every continuity of Zoids ends up using a blade-wielding mecha against plenty of guns.

    Comic Books 

    Fan Works 
  • Project Tatterdemalion comes down on the Swords side. The monstrous Hollows possess an extremely formidable Healing Factor and decentralized anatomy, meaning that bullets have essentially no chance against them. However, because Psychic Powers in this setting are conducted along metal, the shinigami can charge swords with energies that disrupt Hollow regeneration, allowing them to inflict lethal wounds.

  • The final confrontation between Tom Welles and Machine in 8mm has the former wielding a pistol and the latter a knife. Machine hides the blade until he can throw it at Welles, making him drop the gun, but Welles manages to yank the knife out of himself and fatally stab Machine.
  • Ash clearly demonstrates the superiority of a double-barreled shotgun over a broadsword in Army of Darkness.
  • In Elysium, the Big Bad Kruger is able to take on several gun-wielders with his katana. It helps that he has an energy shield and other pieces of tech to give him an edge.
  • Although it's not strictly guns versus swords, in The Expendables Barney Ross and Lee Christmas are in constant disagreement over which weapon is better: guns or knives. Barney favors guns, Lee favors knives.
  • The Last Samurai portrays this quite well, but it should be noted that the real revolution on which the movie was based featured firearms being used on both sides, rather than samurai refusing to use such weapons.
  • In a famous scene from Raiders of the Lost Ark, Indiana Jones is confronted by a formidable sword wielder. So Indy just shoots him. Allegedly a hasty rewrite. An epic Sword Fight was planned but Harrison Ford had a minor back injury when it was due to be filmed. Comedy and pragmatism took the day. Another version has Ford suffering from diarrhea that day. All the cast and crew got food poisoning at some point during filming in Tunisia, aside from Steven Spielburg who only ate canned food.
  • Seven Samurai pits seven samurai with swords (and a civilian militia with spears) against forty bandits. While the bandits are wiped out, four of the samurai die as well, most of them to the three bandits who had muskets. If the bandits had one or two more guns, the samurai might have lost.
  • Star Wars
    • Swords. There's always Obi-Wan's line from about light sabers being an "elegant weapon" and going on to say that they're "Not so clumsy or random as a blaster". When circumstances lead to him using a blaster, he chastises himself for being "So uncivilized."
    • Guns. There's Han Solo's declaration that "Hokey religions and ancient weapons are no match for a good blaster at your side, kid." In The Empire Strikes Back, Darth Vader proves him wrong. On Hoth in the same film, Han uses Luke's lightsaber briefly (the only non-jedi to do so in the classic trilogy) to cut open Luke's mount.
      • Two factors make guns preferred for most people. First is the power beind the "hokey religion" is actually real and observable. Second, only a select few can actually tap the power and it still takes training to use the power to effectively use the sword.
      • The Empire Strikes Back is the only time Luke has used both weapons during battle. By the next film, he ditched the gun upon becoming a Jedi.
  • Featured prominently in Sukiyaki Western Django, all manner of weapon was used, culminating in a dual between the Hero and the Big Bad in the final scene, with the hero using a pistol against the Big Bad's Katana. He even parries a strike from the Katana, locking it against the finger guard. As shown in this picture
  • The ending sequence for the V for Vendetta movie - the bad guys shoot up V with submachine guns. But, thanks to his superhuman strength (and metal chest plate) recovers enough strength to kill them all with his many knives before they can reload. He still succumbs to the gunshot wounds after all is said and done, however.
  • Yojimbo pits a gangster with a revolver against a shitstirrer with a katana.

  • In Destroyermen, the titular sailor quickly introduce muskets to the Lemurians. However, since the Grik tend to favor hum- err.. Grik wave tactics, most battles devolve into melee anyway, with Grik warriors slashing with their swords, or using their natural weapons (claws and teeth). This doesn't devalue the guns, though, as they still tend to even out the odds (the Grik are far more numerous). Still, guns have to be supported by melee fighters, even after breech-loaders are introduced. Later on, though, the Grik start manufacturing their own firearms, so combat becomes less about melee and more about musket/bullet volleys. Bayonet charges still happen, though. This is also true with the war against the Holy Dominion, as Dom troops also use muskets and bayonets.
  • The Lords of Creation. Lampshaded in the prologue of In the Courts of the Crimson Kings. The first pictures from Mars show the inhabitants are armed with firearms and swords. Some speculate that it's due to a code of honor, but it's pointed out that it would give the cheaters too much of an advantage. It turns out Martians use biotechnology guns that are slow to reload, so they need to have a weapon handy in the interim.
  • Similarly, in The Lost Regiment, when the Americans start arming the local Medieval Russians with guns, they prove to be fairly effective against the sword-and-bow armed Tugars. Despite their size (an average Valennian is around 9 feet tall, and they tend to fight on horseback), a single bullet can kill one as well as a human. In later books, the other hordes start producing guns of their own in order to destroy the growing threat of the Republic, despite their natural aversion to new things.
  • Exaggerated in "Okuyyuki", which goes one better and makes it T-72 tanks vs katana. Reilly takes on four of them with only his sword. He wins, but is mortally wounded in the process.
  • In the Seekers of the Sky duology, iron is extremely rare and valuable. As such, while firearms exist, they are few and far between, with only nobles typically able to afford them. The protagonist Ilmar recalls a battle he participated in, where his unit commander, a nobleman, used a machinegun to fire at the approaching enemy ranks. While some enemies fell, they still managed to get close and turn him into a pincushion with their swords. The State's Praetorian Guard regiments are made up of elite nobleborn soldiers, so each is armed with a gun as well as a sword (maybe even a steel sword, if the soldier is wealthy enough, although probably bronze).

    Live-Action TV 
  • Deadliest Warrior has many warriors fight each other, though most have weapons from a similar era. This is the exception for Knight vs Pirate. Knight can be considered one of the most powerful ancient warriors due to its armor and metallurgy of weapons while Pirates are one of the oldest gunfighters and had no long ranged rifles or muskets in the match. While the Pirate did have a sword he obviously prefered gunpowder weapons as well. While the Knight has more skill, better melee weapons, more money and armor these factors were pointless in the face of the Pirate's weapons. The Grenado exploited the small gaps within the Knight's armor and could still harm a Knight to some degree if it was stopped by the armor, but the Blunderbuss especially dominated the fight with its ability to pierce through the Knight's armor with ease and could aim accurately before the Knight could even get in close.
  • The hero and villain of The Following exemplify this trope- gun toting FBI agent Ryan Hardy and Serial Killer Joe Carroll.
  • It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia episode "Gun Fever Too: Still Hot" has Mac and Charlie get into an argument over this, with Mac supporting swords and Charlie supporting guns. Atypically for Charlie, he ends up dead on the money; no matter how much Mac blusters and tries to change up his "maneuvers", Charlie points out that all he has to do is shift his aim slightly and pull the trigger, and Mac is dead.
  • Mock the Week: "A lot of you will be wondering, why there are so many wonderful treasures on display here, at the British Museum. Now, it is quite simple, really: Gun beats spear!"
  • As Mythbusters has pointed out, katanas cannot cut through gun barrels, because the barrels are quite strong indeed.
  • Star Trek: Picard: A Romulan who threatens Elnor in "Absolute Candor" is confident that a tan qalanq is no match for a disruptor, but Elnor proves him wrong in "The Impossible Box" and "Nepenthe" because a lone Qowat Milat can easily carve up several adversaries equipped with energy weapons with just a sword.
  • In The Walking Dead, the question is posed as to which is more efficient after the zombie holocaust after Michonne joins the cast. Michonne's sword proves invaluable, as it can be used to kill endless waves of zombies without running out of ammo, though its obviously much less effective when fighting human enemies. One of the best things about her sword is that it enables the crew to safely kill zombie hoardes while saving their firearms ammo for more formidable threats like armed hostile humans.

    Tabletop Games 
  • New Horizon has rules for melee and ranged combat. Melee usually does more damage, but ranged weapons can be used from atop fortress walls. Also, the melee weapons are better able to pierce though though hides and armor, so they tend to be more useful to fight the local wildlife and heavy infantry. Guns are good for softening up targets from a distance and taking care of squishy unarmored humans. Otherwise, the advantage of Melee weapons is that they do more damage by increasing strength and close combat, where with ranged combat only the chance to hit is increased.
  • In the New World of Darkness, the advantages of each are highly situational, depending on the material of the weapon and the specific opponent out of the setting's Fantasy Kitchen Sink. A shotgun loaded with silver or Cold Iron can be devastating against a Werewolf or True Fae, but would only annoy a Vampire; on the other hand, a trained spear fighter can tear a vampire a new one. Also, as an Urban Fantasy setting, there's the matter of acquiring, licensing, and transporting your weapons, since Surprisingly Realistic Outcome occurs if you carry a zweihander or uzi down a busy street...
  • Warhammer Fantasy:
    • Bretonnian law forbids the use of guns on their soil, as they are deemed a cowardly weapon no noble would dream of using. This is in large part due to Wood Elves secretly maintaining Bretonnia in Medieval Stasis to protect their forests from industrialization, and in the guise of the Lady, giving their knights magical protection against firearms to prevent the Surprisingly Realistic Outcome of guns vs. cavalry. On the other hand, the Bretonnian navy is the most powerful in the world thanks to their enthusiatic adoption of cannon (since ships don't count as "soil", after all).
    • The forces of Chaos tend to think little of guns and even ranged weapons in general (save for the Chaos Dwarfs, who supply them with Haunted Technology and possessed artillery), since you can't exactly impress the gods with feats of valor, strength and bravery if you aren't going toe-to-toe with other real warriors.
  • Warhammer 40,000 is all about charging the enemy before he can gun you down, or shooting him before he can reach you. Though many units designed for close-combat use Sword and Gun as the rules make having a pistol and melee weapon the same as having two melee weapons for lots of melee weapon types except you can shoot with the pistol, combining two great tastes in one.

    Video Games 
  • In Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, a ludicrously effective strategy is using Marathon (for unlimited sprinting), Lightweight (to move faster), and Commando (which lets you stab enemies from a longer distance away) - and use a pistol with a tactical knife attachment (to stab faster). Essentially, this lets you dash everywhere and stab everyone for a one-hit kill. Granted, if someone sees you coming, they can gun you down from a distance pretty easily, but ninja-ing your way through the maps is still quite effective.
    • Marathon and Lightweight mean a player sprints all the time and so fast one can easily run straight at claymores—their explosion is delayed by a fraction of a second, enough for a runner to be in the safe zone when it blows up. Even more ludicrous when said runner uses Commando to stab an enemy hiding behind the claymore...
  • While guns in Deus Ex are good weapons, halfway through the game you get a sword that OHKOs most enemies you meet and allows you to take on bots in close combat.
  • Devil May Cry: While Dante also uses a sword, he also uses his guns Ebony & Ivory, and accumulates a wide variety of firearms over the course of the series. His Evil Twin Vergil sticks to his sword and only uses a gun in the final battle with Arkham. In fact, outside of Devil May Cry 2, Lady in Devil May Cry 4 and some cases of Awesome, but Impractical, guns in this series consistently do less damage than swords, usually being used for juggling enemies and keeping your style rank from going down.
  • Fable II allows the protagonist to use both guns and swords and faces enemies that use both. Both have advantages and disadvantages, but a character can theoretically use either exclusively.
  • In the later Final Fantasy games, the two exist side by side, mostly due to Charles Atlas Superpowers as well as Magic being prominent. Some examples:
    • Final Fantasy VII: Barrett's weapons range from big metal balls to Gatling guns, all of which attach to his right arm. Vincent uses a rather large pistol, while Cloud uses a BFS. Regular soldiers are seen wielding assault rifles, and heaver mechanized weapons do exist.
    • Final Fantasy VIII: Irvine uses a rifle while Zell beats on things with his fists. Laguna uses an assault rifle and grenades, but his parter Kiros uses Katals. Squall's gunblade is just a sword that can detonate on impact for extra damage.
    • Final Fantasy XII is where things get a little interesting. The airships are armed with heavy machine guns, but for ground combat, swords and armor is the preferred method of fighting. The man-portable guns that do exist are of the Blunderbuss variety.
    • Final Fantasy XIII takes it one step further. Assault rifles are now the default weapons for armies, along with grenade launchers and the occasional baton. Lightning uses a weapon that converts between a gun and a sword, Snow punches things, and Sazh uses dual pistols that combine into a rifle.
    • Final Fantasy XV has this as part of it's modern aesthetic, with the Empire using primarily guns but having some Magitek Troopers that use axes and swords, and the Lucians primarily using swords but Prompto specifically using revolvers. The continued use of melee weapons in the setting is justified by the fact that Nocits and members of the Kingsglaive are prone to Teleport Spam and as such can just warp past bullets, hence why Nifelheim employs melee troops and Daemons to combat them.
  • Played straight in Gunz. Your character is equipped with guns and swords. Swords do more damage, can deflect bullets, and glitch up the game in advantageous ways. Guns are guns.
  • All of the Halo games feature plasma-sword wielding Elites, alien commanders who charge into battle against gun-toting humans. Multiplayer and campaign missions often see the gun vs sword debate play out literally, when the covenant plasma sword faces a human 8 gauge shotgun. There is even a multiplayer mode called infection dedicated to scatterguns or pistols vs swords.
    • Amusingly, both the sword and the shotgun are effectively melee weapons. The shotgun has slightly greater range but the energy sword comes with a lunging attack that outdistances the lethal range of the shotgun. Duels between the two tend to be SingleStrokeBattles where either the shotgun user intercepts the swordsman mid-lunge with a fatal buckshot burst, or gets stabbed after either misjudging his distance or being caught by surprise.
  • In Jade Empire, one of the characters you encounter is Sir Roderick Ponce von Fontlebottom the Magnificent Bastard (voiced by John Cleese) who keeps dueling people with his arquebus called Mirabelle and, of course, winning, since the people of the Jade Empire have never seen a firearm (they assume it simply makes fireworks). The player can challenge Sir Roderick and get his weapon after beating him. One of the styles available to the player is sword-fighting.
  • The Legend of Zelda
  • In Medabots this is on display with the Japanese Beetle Brothers Metabee and Rokusho. Metabee specializes in long-range weaponry including a rifle, sub machine-gun, and missile launcher, while Rokusho's signature weapon is a pair of scissors fashioned into a Blade Below the Shoulder.
  • Mega Man:
  • In Onimusha 2: Samurai's Destiny, you can have a competition with the gunfighter to see which is better: Your katana or his rifle, seeing who can kill the most enemies in a fixed period of time. Of course, this is a katana against a 16th century matchlock. In real life, the gunman would have only been able to shoot a handful of times in the timeframe involved.
  • Persona Q2: New Cinema Labyrinth: The Phantom Thieves' first encounter with the Investigation Team has their leaders get into a brief scuffle, in which Yu wields his sword and Joker parries with his model gun. Joker's reasoning for using his gun instead of his dagger can be either for a bluff, to try and legitimately do damage, or forgetting that the cognitive aspect of the model gun doesn't work in the labyrinth.
  • The iOS game Ravenmark: Scourge of Estellion takes place in a Standard Fantasy Setting with the titular Empire of Estellion (the strongest nation in this world) has a typical Medieval army (albeit with some Wind and Blood Magic used here and there). However, the neighboring Commonwealth of Esotre has made great strides in technology and alchemy, as their land is much harsher, and survival there requires innovation. Thus, their front-line troops are Fusilier Linesmen armed with single-shot muskets. According to the in-game Codex, Fusiliers usually only get one shot per battle before they close with the enemy and fight hand-to-hand. Thus, their muskets have two bayonets attached to them. In the gameplay, however, they can fire every turn. Fusilier Militia are mostly melee troops, although they can use their Volley ability to fire their muskets every 3 turns. For the most part, Imperial troops do just as well with your typical Medieval weapons like swords, spears, and bows. However, elite Sotran marksmen called Greyjacket Riflemen lower the defense rating of any enemy on a successful hit.
  • Resident Evil 4:
    • Leon and Ada have a flashy knife-to-gun fight. In the end, Leon gets the upper hand, disarms Ada and holds his knife to her throat. He lets up, though.
      Leon: Bit of advice — try using knives next time. Works better for close encounters.
    • Any time Krauser shows up, you're far better off using knives than guns. The first "fight" against him, being an onslaught of Press X to Not Die moments in a cutscene, is your clue that knives are your weapon of choice against this guy. In the second (and final) battle against him, your knife does about as much damage to him as the upgraded magnum.
  • In the Soul Series, Mitsurugi's bio mentions that he lost a duel against a rifleman, and wants to find the Soul Edge because it's superior to any other weapon, including guns (he also spent a good part of his time devising techniques against firearms).
    • Expanding on above example: Mitsurugi's ending in Soul Blade gives you a special, first-person-perspective fight against a soldier wielding an old, front-loaded rifle, dubbed 'Tanegashima' after the old Japanese word for firearms. If you don't do EXACTLY the right thing the moment the battle starts, you'll get shot, and get the 'bad ending' (which is also the canonical one, as stated above). However, if you step to the side the moment the battle starts, you can dodge the bullet, then quickly close the distance before the rifleman can reload, and cut him down - giving you a Good Ending where Mitsurugi declares that he has no need for the Soul Edge, since his own badass sword-skills are enough to take on even firearms.
    • Mitsurugi eventually abandons his pursuit of Soul Edge when he becomes strong enough to defeat riflemen on his own.
  • StarCraft has a surprisingly high amount of bladed weapons for a sci-fi series. For example, Protoss Zealots can easily cut down most of the conventionally armed Terran Infantry in the first game, and the sequel even gives them a charge ability to quickly close the distance.
  • A futuristic take on the trope from Strider: Hiryu is the unmatched expert of the Cypher, a Laser Blade which generates an edge of white-hot plasma. His first rival, the Bounty Hunter Solo, instead relies entirely on firearms to fight, using a giant plasma gun/cannon, a handgun and other weapons like mines and missiles.
  • Team Fortress 2 deliberately omits effective close combat firearms and has melee weapons buffed in its mechanics to make them practical. This culminates in Demoknight loadup which only uses melee weapons but is still pretty competitive.
  • Can be seen as a theme within Total War: Shogun 2, especially if you move from the main game to the last expansion.
    • The classic campaign takes place during Japan's Sengoku period, which saw firearms introduced to the country by Western traders. Arquebuses are inaccurate and slow to fire, but dangerous in salvos and good at breaking Ashigaru units. But since getting gunpowder weapons in great numbers involves either going deep into the tech tree or dishonoring yourself by dealing with foreigners (or worse, converting to Christianity!), for most daimyo it's much more practical to focus on katana-toting samurai, which are extremely effective in close combat.
    • But then comes the Fall of the Samurai campaign, set during the Boshin War. Not only are handheld firearms much more dangerous and widespread, you can also field powerful artillery pieces like Gatling guns. It's possible to refuse to modernize and win the game with a "traditional" army, but in most cases bringing a bunch of swords to the battlefields in this era is just asking for a massacre. In addition, naval battles in the previous campaigns were heavily geared towards grapple-and-board tactics, unless you deal with the West and get a few nanban trade ships with cannons. While boarding is still an option in Fall of the Samurai (except for ironclads), it's generally a bad move to try it, as the action leaves your ship vulnerable to a quick death by cannonball (especially if the enemy is using exploding shot).
  • Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines: The Ax-Crazy orderly Cleaver holds the opinion that guns tend to make people sloppy and careless, making it that much easier for him to get up close and personal with his knives.
  • Zigzagged in Way of the Samurai 4. Gameplay seems to favor the sword a lot more, as swords are more durable and have more devastating techniques, while guns do minimal damage and break after a few uses. But in cutscenes, whenever someone wields a gun, expect another character to be heavily injured or even killed.


    Western Animation 
  • Part way through episode "War" of ∆on Flux Aeon is already dead by this point (not a spoiler, she always dies), and the guy who killed her is making is way through armies of mooks. He is brought up short by a guy doing fancy twirly moves with a sword. He watches for a moment, and sardonically looks at his gun. After a moment, he simply shoots the guy... who then deflects the bullet with his blade and impales our hero in a single swift move. And onwards...
  • Samurai Jack tends to lean both ways with this. Guns in the hands of mooks are typically pretty useless against the sword-swinging samurai, but any gun user with training and experience, like the Clench Family and The Scotsman, are able to use them with great effect. The Clenches actually were losing against Jack until they brandished their guns, which quickly turned the battle in their favor, and they only lost because they were forced to switch back to melee (as to not shoot out the train engine) and because Josephine betrays Zeke which gives Jack an opportunity to escape.

    Real Life 
  • It's a notable historical fact that when guns were first introduced, they were so unreliable that many still preferred swords. Essentially, when pitting a sword against a gun, the gunman had one shot. If he missed (and he usually did), the swordsman had plenty of time to close and cut down the defenseless opponent while he was frantically reloading. Of course this flaw was later corrected, and swords eventually fell out of favor, as guns grew more reliable.
    • This is why The Three Musketeers are primarily remembered for the scenes in which they fight with swords even though their name clearly states that they were the king's elite musket users.
    • Even after guns became more reliable the Hanoverians and Jacobites engaged in a series of bloody experiments to see whether a volley of musketry can do enough damage to disrupt a highland charge. Until ring-mounted bayonets were developed, the charge was fairly effective despite the losses. Afterward, the charge's effectiveness relied heavily on whether or not a large number of screaming men with large swords was enough to demoralize the Crown soldiers.
    • And up until the development of more modern cartridge-based firearms, the biggest great equalizer when you've only got time for one shot was the use of bayonets, though that essentially settled the debate in favor of melee. Granted, the initial volley(s) remained every bit as essential to winning the battle as other ranged weapons were in earlier times, the addition of bayonets meant you could give every soldier in your army a gun and a bayonet instead of splitting melee and firearm roles between different formations, and the development of rifled firearms offered another essential use for guns, creating the prototypical Cold Sniper. Though when guns were still muzzle-loading, that rifling did hinder one's ability to shove the bullet and wadding fully down the barrel.
  • This trope is the reason Samurai are so strongly associated with swords; initially they were associated with bows and carried swords as sidearms (they fought on horseback, much like the mongols). When firearms were developed and bows became obsolete, the role of katanas was played up (while samurai adopted firearms, so did the peasantry, so they didn't pick up the same association as bows, which require a lot of training to use).
    • Of course as with most history, nothing is cleanly cut so to speak. During the Warring States period, all sides made extensive use of firearms. Samurai and ronin, even legendary sword users like Miyamoto Musashi, might not have favored firearms but they made effort to show aversion to them and classified them as just as useful a weapon as more traditional weapons like swords, spears, and bows. Additionally, the Satsuma Rebellion saw swordsmen and gunmen clashing, especially at the Battle of Shiroyama, which ended both the rebellion and the Age of the Samurai.
  • While people think that early battles pitted guns against swords in the First world war (see World War I), most of the militaries of western Europe had by the 20th century recognised the ineffectiveness of traditional cavalry tactics in the aftermath of the Franco-Prussian, Boer, and Russo-Japanese wars. Films like War Horse dramatise an cavalry officers charging machine guns, but by 1900, horses were used more to move infantry rapidly than it was for shock. Cavalry, however, was still deployed sometimes only for the purpose of defeating enemy cavalry; in such cases, they were armed with pistol, sword, and lance. Many military men also resisted abolishing the bayonet and the sabre because they felt the weapons improved morale.
    • Sword-armed cavalry still had one last victory against guns at Izbushensky during World War II, when the Italian cavalry regiment, the Savoia Cavalleria, discovered that almost four times their numbers in infantry with artillery support had surrounded them during the previous night and so charged and routed the enemy. That said, everyone involved quickly understood the charge succeeded partly because the Soviets weren't expecting the Italians to be that crazy and partly because the cavalry was armed not just with sabers but also with carbines (indeed, the squadrons who still had to charge supported the charging ones with their guns), pistols, grenades, and, much to the Soviets' surprise, light artillery (every Italian cavalry regiment was supported by horse artillery).
  • And then there's "Mad Jack" Churchill, who fought with a claymore (and not the 'mine' kind) in WW2. He wasn't using the Braveheart kind of claymore, either. The sword Jack Churchill used was a basket-hilted one-handed affair, not a giant stonking BFS. A picture of him, sword in hand (bottom right).
  • While not quite swords, melee weapons as a whole have seen use throughout the Vietnam War and are still in deployment today in some countries; Knives, Machetes, Axes, Spears, and even Clubs have seen their fair share of usage as weapons throughout contemporary history alongside modern firearms. Modern military forces are even required minor training for defense against melee weapons, and some in the usage of them.


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Alternative Title(s): Guns Versus Swords, Swords Vs Guns, Swords Versus Guns


Lupin the 3rd

Jigen and Goemon decide to find out which weapon is more effective: a gun or a sword.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (9 votes)

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Main / GunsVsSwords

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