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Kinda like this, but less physical... normally

"There's nothing more reliable than a Japanese sword, is there?"
Saito Hajime, Rurouni Kenshin
"Those who live by the sword get shot by those who don't."

Ah, 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:



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! The fact that one side has more examples means nothing related to the neutrality of this trope, so don't attack the messenger!

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's coolness is more than the sum of it's parts. If this trope is used, it may also be used alongside a Magic Versus Science argument, though not always.

Examples of Guns vs. Swords include:

Anime and Manga

  • 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.
  • Similar to the above example, Black Cat has the protagonist using a gun while his archenemy uses a sword. They are pretty evenly matched regardless. Sephira, however, is actually the best swordsman in the series.
  • Gun X Sword fits in with the above examples. Van uses a sword, Ray uses a gun.
  • Episode 12 of Black Lagoon had a scene where Revy and Knife Nut mercenary Shenhua argued about whether guns or knives were better, and then decided to demonstrate their points by slaughtering a small army pursuing them.
  • 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 protagonist in practically every continuity of Zoids ends up using a blade-wielding mecha against plenty of guns.
  • 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.
  • The ultimate confrontation of Afro Samurai involves this.


  • Elsa Bloodstone in Nextwave was a combat specialist, and mostly stuck to using guns, but upon facing a bunch of samurai robots, she declares "Samurai Robots beat guns. Every time." So she drops her guns, pulls out her own sword, and proceeds to face them that way.
    • And by sword we mean Shovel.
  • Miho does it all the time in Sin City and wins.


  • In a famous scene from Raiders of the Lost Ark, Indiana Jones is confronted by a formidable sword wielder. He just shoots him.
    • Many of the cast and crew were affected by problems such as dysentery during part of the film. Though the initial shots of the planned fight scene were recorded, Harrison Ford was amongst those not feeling well that day and suggested to Steven Spielberg, "Let's just shoot the sucker." Comedy and pragmatism took the day.
  • The Last Samurai portrays this quite well.
  • Yojimbo pits a gangster with a revolver against a shitstirrer with a katana, both of whom say their respective weapons are best.
  • There's always Obi-Wan's line from Star Wars about light sabers: "Not so clumsy or random as a blaster".
    • On the opposite side, 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 does use Luke's lightsaber briefly (the only non-Jedi to do so in the film series up until Star Wars: The Force Awakens) to cut open Luke's mount.
      • Helping Han's case: Obi-Wan couldn't beat Grievous with his lightsaber, but did with a well-placed blaster shot. In line with his comment above, he chastised himself for being "So uncivilized."
  • 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
  • Don't forget 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.

Live Action TV

  • As Myth Busters has pointed out, katanas cannot cut through gun barrels, because the barrels are quite strong indeed.

Tabletop Games

  • Warhammer 40000 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.
  • New Horizon has rules for melee and ranged combat. Melee usually does more damage, but ranged weapons can be used from atop fortress walls.

Video Games

  • In Soul Calibur, 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.
  • Played straight in Gunz. Your character is equipped with guns and swords. Swords do more damage and can deflect bullets. Guns are guns.
  • 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.
  • 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 Onimusha 2, 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.
  • In 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.
  • In 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Starcraft has a surprisingly high amount of bladed weapons for a sci-fi game. Protoss Zealots for example can easily cut down most of the conventionally armed Terran Infantry, and the sequel even gives them a charge ability to quickly close the distance.


Western Animation

  • There's a wonderful example of this in one of the short episodes of Aeon Flux animation. 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...

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 English and Scots engaged in a series of bloody experiments to see whether a volley of musketry can do enough damage to disrupt a highland charge.