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Never Bring a Gun to a Knife Fight

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

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

Not necessarily.

At times, either the knife-wielder is just so good, or the gun-wielder is just so bad, that the knife-wielder actually has the upper hand here. This can also be due to Arbitrary Weapon Range — once the knife-wielder gets within the gun-wielder's minimum range, the gun-wielder cannot attack them effectively.

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

Not to be confused with guns in a knife fight being used as a metaphor for Combat Pragmatist.

Subtrope of Implausible Fencing Powers and Heroes Prefer Swords. Contrast Never Bring a Knife to a Gun Fight. Related to Guns Are Worthless. May involve Parrying Bullets on part of the knife-wielder.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Fullmetal Alchemist: King Bradley is so skilled with swords that he can actually cut bullets and missiles in half. Despite going up against numerous gunfighters with only his swords and a grenade once, he was only ever shot twice, once when he was hanging from a ledge and unable to dodge, and once by Riza Hawkeye, who probably wouldn't have even been able to hit him if he wasn't already severely wounded.
  • In Noir, this occurs twice in a row in one episode. Mireille is a skilled assassin with a gun; the Intoccabile only has a dagger. Unfortunately, Mireille is absolutely terrified of her, having been threatened by her with that same dagger when she was just a little girl. So during their fight, as the Intoccabile runs towards her with the dagger, Mireille can only stand paralyzed with fear, uselessly pointing her gun at her but not shooting. Luckily, Kirika shows up just in time to shoot the blade in half, so that when the Intoccabile thinks she's stabbed Mireille, it turns out that the broken edge of her dagger is only pressing into her. With the other end of the dagger flung closer to Mireille, and Mireille's dropped gun lying closer to the Intoccabile, they both go for each other's weapons. Whether due to lack of experience, since it would seem she's never used any weapon other than her dagger, or shaken confidence, the Intoccabile points the gun uncertainly and doesn't shoot; after a moment's hesitation, Mireille finally overcomes her fear and stabs her.
  • In his backstory, Souichi from Snow White and Seven Dwarfs was locked up in a room and forced to kill wave after wave of people who came after him. As Souichi only had a Blade Below the Shoulder, his opponents, who were armed with guns, were confident that they could win. Guess who won in the end?
  • Goemon from Lupin III is a master samurai who is capable of deflecting bullets with his katana, Zantetsuken, even from machineguns. That doesn’t even include his ability to slice through planes and buildings.
  • A Story Arc in Sword Art Online takes the The Ace gamer, Kirito, into a virtual MMO first-person-shooter world. Our hero has generally used only swords in prior games. But there is a "lightsaber" in the game, and he decides to make it work to the amazement of all.
  • In Sword Art Online Alternative: Gun Gale Online, main character LLENN is a Fragile Speedster who normally uses her P-90 and Super-Speed to shred the opposition, but when pressed she's just as capable of using her combat knife in conjecture with that same speed to tear apart her gun-totting opponents before they can react, let alone shoot at her.
  • Downplayed with Shenhua of Black Lagoon, a Blade Enthusiast who is nonetheless a deadly assassin. She's more than capable of engaging gunslingers at any range, but she was caught off-guard and nearly killed by Eda once when she tricked her into leaving cover. She also fought Roberta and managed to dodge bullets at point-blank range, only for Roberta to shatter her kukri with her teeth.

    Comic Books 
  • The Metabarons: Othon leads the Castaka troops into battle using bladed weapons against the Black Endoguard, armed with "post-nuclear" weaponry. Othon announces that the Black Endorguard have forgotten how to fight "man to man" and urges his warriors to rush in and overwhelm the enemy in hand-to-hand combat. They succeed.
  • Sin City:
    • Every story featuring Miho, who brings a katana to a gun fight quite often.
    • Marv also took out a SWAT team that were armed with automatic rifles while all he had was a hatchet.
  • Ultimate Marvel
    • All-New Ultimates: One of the Skulls aimed to Dagger with a gun. She attacked him with a maze.
    • Ultimate X-Men: The Mafia boss threatens Wolverine with a machine gun in gunpoint. Wolverine simply sliced it to pieces with his claws.

    Fan Works 
  • Hermione Granger and the Boy Who Lived: After seeing Madam Huich throw a knife that no one even noticed her carrying, and bury it up to the hilt in the bullseye of the target, Hermione decides that "any gunfighter within thirty feet of Huich would have been quite dead before he got his gun aimed at her."

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In The Big Gundown, this is how Manuel "Cuchillo" Sanchez kills the Big Bad.
  • In Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Sam Wilson, armed with only a small hand knife, successfully ambushes and incapacitates a HYDRA mook wielding a large automatic weapon.
  • A tragic Real Life example is captured in The Rolling Stones Rockumentary / Concert Film Gimme Shelter (1970). Concert-goer Meredith Hunter pulls a gun, which is clearly visible in his left hand against the pattern of his girlfriend's dress. But the Hells Angel member knocks the gun aside, pushes Hunter away, and fatally stabs him in the back.
  • The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen:
    • Captain Nemo easily defeats a sizable squadron of mooks armed with machine guns using only his sword and bare hands.
    Mook: [Brandishing machine gun] Draw your pistol!
    Nemo: I walk a different path.
  • The Magnificent Seven features Britt, a quiet man with a deadly fast, deadly accurate throwing arm. Challenged to a Duel to the Death by a Sore Loser of a speed contest, he effortlessly dispatches the gunslinger with a single lethal throw.
    Britt: You lost.
    • Subverted in the final battle. After running out of bullets Britt draws his knife, and is shot and killed before he can throw it.
    • In The Magnificent Seven (2016), Billy Rocks pulls the stunt that his counterpart Britt pulls in the original movie, only he uses the knife he keeps in his hair, leading to Faraday's "You killed a man with a hairpin" joke. After joining the group, he's shown to dozens of knives on his belt, along with his guns, and proves to be deadly at any range.
  • Resident Evil: Retribution re-enacts the Resident Evil 4 example below, but with Alice in place of Leon.
  • Star Wars:
    • Throughout the saga, and especially in the prequel trilogy, a trained Jedi with a lightsaber can reflect blaster fire back at an attacker. Many droids died to bring us this information. Justified because the Force gives Jedi the ability to react to an incoming shot before it's fired, letting them deflect it (though sufficient Beam Spam will eventually overwhelm them).
    • In Rogue One, Chirrut Imwe takes out a cadre of Stormtroopers with only a staff. Chirrut is not traditionally Force-sensitive, but has learned to hear the Force through meditation.
  • The villain in Surf Ninjas has a gun built into his cybernetic arm. The sword-wielding hero first uses Implausible Fencing Powers to parry the bullets, then cuts the arm off with his sword. At this point, the villain invokes Never Bring a Knife to a Fist Fight by complaining that it's no longer a fair fight because the hero is armed and he isn't. In a moment of Honor Before Reason, the hero actually goes along with this, puts his sword away, and the two of them finish the fight in a manner consistent with the film's PG rating.
  • The final showdown of Terror in a Texas Town pits Hanson's harpoon against Johnny's pistol. Although Hanson takes a bullet, he still manages to fatally impale Johnny.
  • V for Vendetta provides the page quote. Numerous gun-wielding mooks and Mr. Creedy empty their magazines against him. Then he carves them all up with a pair of knives (he goes through a half-dozen knives in the course of the fight, but only uses two at a time). Potentially subverted in that V is wearing heavy body armor and a hardened mask. And he dies from accumulated trauma shortly afterwards. But a Villain Ball is definitely being carried by Creedy and his minions.
    V: Beneath this mask there is more than flesh. Beneath this mask there is an idea, Mr. Creedy. And ideas are bulletproof.
  • The Warriors: As Luther takes aim with his handgun, Swan sidesteps and throws his switchblade, getting Luther right in his gun arm, which causes him to drop the gun and fall to his knees in pain.
  • In the finale of Who's That Girl, the embezzling father of the protagonist's fiancée is actually able to disarm two cops using a fencing foil. (As in, the type of sword that would likely break if used against someone using a sword designed as a serious weapon. Yeah, it makes very little sense, but neither does most of the rest of the movie.)
  • Wonder Woman (2017): Not only does Diana easily beat soldiers with guns while wielding a sword and shield — it helps that she has Super-Reflexes and her shield can block a heavy machine gun — but the Amazons themselves generally fare worse when they use bows against soldiers than when they go in for close range and apply this trope. They may be deadly shots, but firing bows leaves them open to get shot back, and several do.
  • Yojimbo may be the Trope Codifier. During the big, climactic showdown, Sanjuro manages to overcome the pistol-wielding Unosuke by hurling a throwing knife into his shooting arm, completely destroying his aim.
  • The Last Samurai depicts the first battle in the Satsuma Rebellion as being between the modernist Imperial forces with rifles and cannons against traditionalist samurai who fight with blades and bows. The traditionalists win, mostly because the Imperial forces are peasant conscripts who have been too hastily trained. In the end, the Imperial government assembles a more seasoned modern army and annihilates the traditional samurai in a hail of gunfire.

  • In the Jack Reacher novel One Shot, Reacher takes on a group of gun-wielding henchman with a knife, and killed them all. However, Reacher is pissed that his ally at the time wouldn't give him a gun, and only uses the knife due to having no other option.
  • Reign of the Seven Spellblades: The origin of "sword arts" was a Muggle swordsman killing a noted mage in a fair duel, after which the mages realized that from a mutual cold start, a man with a sword can close with and strike a mage twelve feet away in the time it takes for that mage to cast a single spell—the "one step, one spell" distance. As a consequence, mages began training with short one-handed swords themselves, as well as close-range magics that require little concentration.

    Live-Action TV 
  • On The 100, Grounders have a cultural fear of/taboo against using guns, and so take on the gun-wielding Sky People and Mountain Men with swords, spears, and archery. They win many of their battles against these foes due to being highly skilled, having superior knowledge of the terrain, and outnumbering their enemies by about 10-to-1.
  • Angel: In the episode "Quickening," Daniel Holtz makes his big entrance at the Hyperion Hotel by wiping out an entire team of Wolfram & Hart soldiers, all of them armed to the teeth with assault rifles and grenades, with nothing but a sword.
  • The Flash (2014): In the episode "Lose Yourself", Iris finds herself facing off with Marlize/The Mechanic, who's armed with a katana. Iris counters by pulling out a BFG... which Marlize easily blocks blasts from, before knocking it from Iris' hands. After a few moments of evading sword strikes, she gets the gun back, only for Marlize to cut it in half before she can fire again.
  • Justified in a season 1 episode of Flash Point. A woman snaps and holds someone hostage with a kitchen knife in her own home, and the woman's husband is incredulous that the heavily armed SRU team is hesitant to storm in until Ed spells out how dangerous she honestly is.
    Ed Lane: A knife is as bad as a gun. It never sticks, it never jams, never runs out of ammo, and you don't need training to know how to use it.
  • The Punisher (2017). A Discussed Trope in "Cold Steel" when Frank Castle says that at close range he'd prefer a knife, because even if his opponent had a gun loaded and ready to go, Frank would be confident he could kill him before he could fire a shot. This is then played out when Billy Russo kills Homeland Security agent Sam Stein—who's just arrested him at gunpoint—by quickly disarming Sam of his pistol before stabbing him repeatedly with the retractable knife blade he has hidden up his sleeve.
  • Star Trek: Picard:
    • Contrary to the claim of a Romulan thug in "Absolute Candor", Elnor proves in "The Impossible Box" that a tan qalanq is indeed a match for an energy weapon in the hands of a Master Swordsman because he slays three Romulan soldiers armed with disruptors in a few seconds with only his sword. He moves and reacts more swiftly than his foes, so they're dead before they can fire a single shot.
    • In "Nepenthe", Narissa and her mooks try to shoot Elnor with their disruptors, but he's too fast for them, and he succeeds in butchering all of her guards with his sword. He would've killed Narissa — who was just about to fire her disruptor — with her own knife if it weren't for her timely Teleportation Rescue.
  • In the episode of The X-Files where a serial killer is targeting psychics, an FBI agent coming out of the washroom gets attacked by the psychopath. While trying to pull out his gun, he gets knifed through the heart when the murderer charges him.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Very often the case in Warhammer 40,000, edition depending. T'au Fire Warriors are alien soldiers packing really powerful energy rifles that can shoot from beyond the range from most retaliation and punch straight through Powered Armor, but they are at a tremendous disadvantage against anything remotely optimized for close combat. Ork Boyz, Khorne Berserkers, Striking Scorpions, all of them can be expected to quickly turn Fire Warriors into ground beef on contact. Even Imperial Guardsmen, who are ordinary human infantry and largely pathetic in close combat, can still issue the "Fix Bayonets!" Order and come out on top against Fire Warriors most of the time (though committing Guardsmen to melee is really a last resort move, don't rely on it).

    Video Games 
  • Age of Wonders: Planetfall gives most units with melee attacks the ability to make a reaction attack if an adjacent enemy acts. Since most melee attacks cause stagger this makes it very hard for dedicated ranged units to fight back or disengage. A melee-specialized Hero Unit can be even more dangerous at close range with skills that let their melee reaction attacks strike first, never miss, and go off multiple times per turn.
  • For game balance reasons, this is the fate of Tau warriors caught in melee in Dawn of War. Their plasma rifles do horrible things to enemy infantry from offscreen, but do pitiful damage when used as blunt objects. Even worse, on the off chance that they do manage to kill an enemy in melee, one animation has them rapid-fire their gun in the target's face, at a rate orks would be proud of.
    • Commissars use a Sword and Gun, but only the former in melee until the defeat animation, where they execute the kneeling target.
  • Devil May Cry 3: Dante's Awakening: During the fights with Vergil, he's able to block Dante's pistol shots by spinning his sword.
  • DUSK-12 sees you playing as a near-indestructible Super-Soldier with telekinetic abilities, Super-Strength, a Slo-Mo Mode that turns the whole screen into Bullet Time and fists which can One-Hit Kill most enemies. Human mooks regularly attacks him with firearms, and Gorin constantly massacres entire platoons of them without using any guns at all.
  • Iron Marines: Ranged units take extra damage from melee attacks, which is the reason why you must keep your fragile snipers behind your tankier units. The two exceptions are the Rangers, aka the typical space marines with assault rifles, and the hero Trabuco who gains an ability to explicitly defy this trope. This weakness also applies to ranged enemies, which your melee Guardians will make mincemeat out of... if those enemies aren't flying.
  • A somewhat Justified Trope in Mass Effect 2 with Kasumi Goto's Shadow Strike ability. Turns out, a Tactical camouflage and an Omniblade can kill enemies armed with guns pretty well, had it not been for the fact that Kasumi mostly uses it to perform a Tap on the Head. After all, leaving corpses behind isn’t conducive to a career as a Classy Cat-Burglar.
    • Vanguards can join in the fight too. By using their signature ability Biotic Charge, they can cover a distance of 50 meters in a second or two, recharge their shields, hit an enemy in the face and send him flying if his barrier/armor/Deflector Shield is depleted. And even if the enemy isn't send flying, taking advantage of the fact that both Biotic charge and melee attacks stun the enemy can lead to a heavily armed enemy being prey to a Stun Lock and beaten to death.
  • Metal Gear:
    • Metal Gear Solid: During the Boss Battle with Gray Fox, he will automatically block bullets from every weapon in Snake's arsenal with his sword; Snake has to fight him hand-to-hand to advance the fight. The pre-boss cutscene The Twin Snakes even shows him cutting a bullet fired from Snake in two.
    • Major Ocelot and his Ocelot Unit, armed with automatic pistols and assault rifles, are all thoroughly spanked by the knife-wielding Naked Snake during the Virtuous Mission in Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, and Operation Snake Eater proves that it wasn't just Cutscene Power to the Max: he really is that good with a knife. The basic CQC stance even invokes this, enabling one to switch between a gunfight and a knifefight on the fly.
    • Part of Jetstream Sam's backstory in Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance is that he singlehandedly defeated a squad of ten mobsters armed with machine guns using only his sword, years before Cyborg and high-frequency blade technology was publicly available.
  • A particularly notable example in Resident Evil 4 during Leon and Ada's brief skirmish in Salazar's castle; when Ada gets her gun knocked out of her hand, she acrobatically scrambles to get it back... but just as she starts to aim it, Leon has closed the distance and is holding his knife to her throat.
    Leon: Bit of advice: try using knives next time. Works better for close encounters.
  • Only one type of mook, the Bayonet Runner, wields a knife instead of a gun in Spec Ops: The Line, but they are faster than any other unit in the game, surprisingly good at rolling out of the way when you try to shoot them, immune to melee attacks, always charge straight towards you, and always kill you in one hit. As such, they are surprisingly powerful enemies, even appearing late in the game at one point, at the same time as a powerful Heavy Trooper and several other mooks.
  • The Spy in Team Fortress 2 uses a knife as the main weapon, unlike other classes which use multiple forms of guns. His butterfly knife provides an instant kill on any enemy he backstabs. While he has a revolver, it is used more for a surprise attack or a cover during an escape. There's even an achievement for stabbing an enemy spy armed with a revolver to death.
  • In Wasteland 2, your gun-wielding squad members will shoot down most melee enemies in short order, but almost all unwieldy two-handed guns like rifles, sniper rifles and machine-guns take a pretty hefty aim penalty against an enemy standing right next to the user. So, if your sniper or heavy weapons specialist gets bum-rushed by multiple attackers or surprised by a guy with a traffic sign axe, they'll often get hacked to bits before they can bring down their assailant with a well-placed shot. For this reason, it's usually a good idea to make sure everyone in your squad has either a pistol (pistols don't have the modifier and can be fired in melee no problem) or a melee weapon themselves and is at least passably competent at using them. You may even want to have a dedicated close combat specialist yourself to deal with enemies who try to invade your squaddie's personal space.
  • Gun-wielding foes can be dispatched while only melee-armed or even unarmed across the Yakuza games. This is most prominent in Yakuza Kiwami 2, where Majima dodges three pistol shots, two at point blank, in the intro for the Final Boss of his side of the game.

    Web Comics 

    Western Animation 
  • Ulrich in Code Lyoko, and how! You'd think he was taught swordplay by a Jedi Master the way he can deflect laser blasts from Xana's minions with his katana.
  • Star Wars: Clone Wars: When Grievous breaks into Palpatine's office during the battle of Coruscant, several clone troopers open fire on him all at once, but they're all taken out with little effort. Justified in that they were in very close quarters, up against a cyborg with superhuman reflexes, speed and toughness who was armed with Laser Blades that cut right through virtually anything.
  • Numerous incarnations of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1987, 2003, 2012, etc.) often depict them as easily handling mooks and other villains wielding both conventional and more advanced firearms using their preferred weapons.

    Real Life 
  • An episode of MythBusters determined that in certain circumstances, even an untrained average person armed with a knife would be a very credible threat to someone with a gun. This is based on the famous Tueller Drill, which is discussed more thoroughly on Sister Trope page Never Bring a Knife to a Gun Fight. Succinctly, at a certain distance, an individual with a knife can get to a person with a gun before the gun can be brought to bear. The distance required changes based on all sorts of conditions such as fitness, training, and where the gun is holstered (or if it's been drawn). However, wounds from a stabbing do not instantly incapacitate someone in most cases, so the knife-using assailant stands a high chance of being shot at point-blank range even if he gets in there first, resulting in a Mutual Kill. Conversely, even if the gun user manages to shoot the charging knife attacker first, they might still be capable of reaching the shooter and stabbing them before collapsing.
  • This trope has been demonstrated numerous times in close quarters combat, especially during World War I. Having advanced to the enemy position, soldiers quickly found that their standard-issue bolt-action rifle was practically useless: too long to be easily wielded in the tight spaces, and too slow to fire to be effective. Even with a bayonet, it was clunky and awkward, and so trench-fighting became dominated with knives, clubs, axes, shovels, handguns, and shotguns (to the point that the German government wanted them outlawed). At the end of the day, nothing was found to be as easy, instinctive, and effective as a simple combat knife.
  • Most nations' Special Forces units spend large amounts of time training with and carry combat knives as well as guns. As previously noted, quite a bit of practical research shows that in the hands of a trained individual, a knife is the superior weapon at ranges less than two body lengths. In trench and urban warfare, knives also have the added benefit of being completely silent and easier to wield in confined spaces. That said, there is also the matter of pragmatism, hence Special Forces typically also carry rifles, handguns, flash grenades, and a number of other options into combat. Thus, this might be less a case of Never Bring A Gun To A Knife Fight, and more an example of Always Bring As Much Useful Dakka And Situation-ally Useful Weaponry As You Can Carry Without Hindering Yourself To Any Fight.
  • One type of handgun training/shooting competition consists of drawing and accurately shooting a target while a dummy representing a person is pulled toward the shooter at running speed, the goal to get a shot or two off accurately before the dummy passes the shooter. At distance closer than 6-7 meters (20-23 feet), the dummy will almost always reach a shooter before a handgun can be pulled from its holster and fired accurately. It's known as the Tueller Drill.
  • The Highland charge battlefield tactic of the 17th century involved Highlander swordsmen attacking musketeers. Those Highlanders with muskets of their own would fire a last volley and then drop their guns to all draw swords. Using the gunsmoke from their volley as cover, the Highlanders would charge at the line of musketeers, directly into the enemy's fire. The purpose of the charge was to exploit the fact that muskets at the time could not fire with a fixed bayonet, so once the Highlanders reached the enemy line, they would have free reign to hack the enemy apart while they struggled to affix their bayonets.


Video Example(s):


The Castle Encounter

The skirmish between Leon and Ada ends quickly due to Leon drawing his knife instead of his gun, noting they work better for close quarters combat.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (11 votes)

Example of:

Main / NeverBringAGunToAKnifeFight

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