6
$\begingroup$

Suppose there are some swords (not man made, but abundant enough to arm an army), that grant their users a magical abilities such as: extremely heightened reaction/increased perception of time and injury regeneration, short range teleportation, high speed, area of attacks, teleportation into a void/dimension where they can control some laws of physics/basic reality to fight an opponent in a 1v1/ 1vX against whatever their opponent may be, basic natural elemental control etc. (They get a single ability, not a combo),

The swords are rooted in some basics of science and isn't just a delete button for their wielder to use against their opponent, and have an incredibly high durability. The swords in nature are alien/not of the earth, so they cannot be manufactured by humans, incredibly improper use can result in their destruction.

There is no other magic in this society/world. I am trying to strike a balance where the swords are powerful enough to deal w/ extremely dangerous threats found on both the earth and beyond, but not strong in that they can just bust a continent or planet open because of magic, or have a group of people armed w/ swords simply control the entire world because of the sword's power. In the same vein, I also cannot have the firearms SO powerful that there is absolutely NO reason to use such magical swords in a near future setting.

Why would a near future society/humanity still use guns mainly in their military against both humans and other entities, when these swords grant users such power?

Edit: Some idea of how these swords work:

The swords need to be held in order to be activated, further more they can't just be used in the real world wherever if that makes sense. What ends up happening is that they essentially create a large barrier/ container in an area where they are able to use magic. In lower level barriers/containers people can exit and enter the barrier/container as they please, higher order containers are a bit more tricky. For visualization purposes imagine that a certain radius around the user is teleported into a different subspace where the laws of physics are slightly altered along w/ some magic to allow the swords to function (the laws of physics cant be manipulated such that it makes chemical reactions inert so that guns dont work, or gravity reversed etc.). The laws are changed in order to allow just the sword to function in its true capacity, everything else is remained unchanged. This means that only the sword users and the sword itself are augmented via magic.

$\endgroup$
13
  • 8
    $\begingroup$ Remember Clonetroopers vs Jedi? $\endgroup$
    – DKNguyen
    Apr 26 at 4:37
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ How rare is a sword that grants the wielder bullet immunity? Furthermore, how rare is a sword that allows the combatant to engage the enemy at rifle ranges (600 meters)? $\endgroup$
    – Dragongeek
    Apr 26 at 7:15
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ The only useful sword is the one with teleportation. And even with that one, you use it to teleport yourself and then you use a handgun to take out the enemies. In any other case you are just shot down from afar before you wield the sword. $\endgroup$
    – Rekesoft
    Apr 26 at 9:16
  • 6
    $\begingroup$ The usefulness of the swords seems to mainly lie outside of their offensive capabilities, could someone use the utility of the sword while carrying a gun? Effectively it becomes a backup weapon that grants you superpowers... $\endgroup$
    – DBS
    Apr 26 at 12:46
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ Maybe these swords would be more popular if they could produce hundreds of tiny metal objects per minute traveling at several hundred meters per second in an operator-chosen direction. $\endgroup$
    – UTF-8
    Apr 26 at 20:07

12 Answers 12

34
$\begingroup$

Training

These swords may be superior as individual weapons, but militaries and police forces prefer guns for the ease of training and standardization. A new recruit can be taught to use a gun in minutes, and trained to a decent level of proficiency in weeks. Learning to use just a regular sword effectively takes years of practice, and these additional abilities increase the amount of training necessary. Worse still, none of that extra training can really be standardized, since each sword grants one of a wide variety of abilities. Even after all that investment, that master swordsman you spent years training could be killed in his sleep with an airstrike, or sniped from miles away. Meanwhile an entire army platoon equipped with rifles could be replaced in a few months.

Cost

For a military or police there's also the matter of cost. Your scenario implies that these are a modest number of these swords in circulation, but that number is not increasing, and may actually decrease over time. In practice, this will make them extremely expensive, which is another liability for police or military forces since not only do they have a lot of people to arm, but most of those people spend most of their time not using their weapons. The expense might be worthwhile for special forces teams, but in most cases a gun would be a more practical option.

Unwanted Attention

If these swords are both extremely valuable and tactically/strategically useful, carrying them may draw the attention of those who want the weapons for themselves/their nation states/money. A sword is generally not a concealable weapon, and walking around with one might attract more trouble than the sword is worth. Worse still, if these swords are sufficiently durable and valuable, an enemy nation state may opt to just shell the general area the sword wielder is in, and sift the sword out of the wreckage. Remember also, that no matter how powerful the sword is, and how skilled the wielder is they're still going to have to sleep, so even a regular (albeit desperate and/or determined) person could potentially be a threat.

Too Good to Use

Deploying these weapons risks not just losing them, but allowing them to fall into enemy hands. Over time they're going to tend to find their way into the hands of those who secure them the best and use them the least. The sorts of scenarios where the sword's power might allow you to tip the scales in your favor are also exactly the sorts of engagements that military planners would probably never allow them to be deployed in. One sniper bullet may change a narrow victory into a crushing defeat that also hands your opponent a powerful weapon. On the other hand if you know you are very likely to win, why risk using the sword at all? Militaries might focus on collecting and securing these swords to prevent their use entirely.

$\endgroup$
4
  • 6
    $\begingroup$ If I hadn't found it, I was going to write up the training issue -- guns won over swords, bows, and crossbows in our world because anyone can learn to operate one in an hour, and be reasonably accurate in 3 or 4. $\endgroup$
    – Zeiss Ikon
    Apr 26 at 12:23
  • $\begingroup$ To bastardize a quote from Brandon Sanderson "sword wielders cannot hold ground" A lone swordsman might be able to attack a location but will be useless for holding it because you can just surround them, or attack multiple locations at once. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Apr 26 at 13:36
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I didn't want to speculate on the specific abilities of these magic swords. It's possible that some of them would grant powers that would allow the wielder to achieve the same ends as guns, albeit through alternate means. My response was mostly weapon agnostic. I would give the same response to the question "why wouldn't a military choose to issue unique, irreplaceable, extremely powerful and extremely expensive weapons to soldiers in the field if it had the means to do so?", except for the part about training. $\endgroup$ Apr 26 at 17:21
  • $\begingroup$ As a regard to "Training": this has 100% historical IRL backing: Firearms were performing far below bows or crossbows for a long time, yet were still used instead of (or besides them). Especially in Japan the reason became clear: peasants could be trained into a somewhat respectable force within a very very short time, as opposed to the years of training, that only nobles could spend the time on required for bows. As long as you can logistically supply the extra people, even subpar weapons are a valid addition or choice $\endgroup$
    – Hobbamok
    Apr 29 at 13:50
16
$\begingroup$

The longest sniper shot on record is currently 3,540 meters. At that distance it took the bullet about 7 seconds to get there. The sound of the shot took 10 seconds. The crack of the bullet itself would arrive at the same instant. The target of the shot literally had no warning he was about to be killed, and anyone around beside or behind him would have seen him hit and then heard the bullet crack, and then heard the shot, assuming they heard it from three and half kilometers away at all.

Now, that is an extreme example, but military snipers can get to a thousand meters pretty routinely. A few hundred meters, trivial. Even at 100 meters for modestly-skilled soldiers with standard assault rifles firing over iron sights. In those cases, again, the bullet arrives before you ever know you're being shot at. Heightened reaction speed is utterly meaningless if a bullet goes through your brain before you know there's something you should be reacting to.

The effects on someone trying to bring a sword to a long-range gunfight seem pretty obvious.

EDIT

As noted, shooting at 100 meters or more by average soldiers using standard weapons is normal. It only takes a few hours to train someone how to hold and aim a rifle properly, and in a stable shooting, hitting a man-sized target at 100 meters is trivial. One hundred meters is a long way to run charging at one or more people firing semiautomatic and automatic weapons and no way to shoot back. It's even longer if you don't even know how many you're facing or where each is.

$\endgroup$
1
  • $\begingroup$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. $\endgroup$
    – L.Dutch
    Apr 26 at 18:54
14
$\begingroup$

First of all, to kill with a sword one needs to be at reach of the target. If you have 4 enemies each at 300 meters from you, one North, one East, one South and one West, killing them with the sword would require you to teleport in each and every location and slash them. With a gun you just need to aim, fire, turn 90 degrees and repeat: way faster.

Then, there is the other issue that the higher in charge want still to have control over the powers granted by the swords. See, in every army ammunition and weapon and never distributed together unless needed. And from the description you make, these swords do not sound like something you want to give to any average Joe fresh out of the drill instructor's hands. Only elite troops will be allowed to use them.

$\endgroup$
1
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ +1. Ranged weapons always trump melee weapons. The magical swords would be relegated to supporting equipment and regalia. $\endgroup$ Apr 26 at 5:35
7
$\begingroup$

The problem with melee weapons is that they require a mixture of skill and physicality. The skills and physical traits valued in sword fighting vary by culture, but by and large any melee combat is largley a contest of physical prowess. A 9 year old with an AK-47 can effortlessly defeat any of the greatest swordsmen in history from 300 yards out. Now, these swords do have magical abilities, that does maybe allow your swordsman to narrow the gap a bit, but not if he is getting shot in the head from 800 yards out by a trained marksman with a scoped rifle. He won't even likley know he is being attacked until the bullet has already impacted, so how is he going to get a chance to use any of his abilities?

Frankly, I think justifying why all the sword users haven't been killed by gunmen is a more relevant question than why guns are still being used.

$\endgroup$
5
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ It is interesting to thing to think about. Firearms have been so effective that European swordsmanship has actually been forgotten except in old manuals and manuscripts. There are plenty of Asian Martial Arts that keep the memory of using a blade in battle alive, but western martial arts sword mastery all but died. $\endgroup$
    – Paul TIKI
    Apr 26 at 16:27
  • $\begingroup$ @TCAT117 You might be better off with a magic sword than a gun against zombie hoards? $\endgroup$
    – DKNguyen
    Apr 27 at 4:54
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @PaulTIKI Ehhh swords are sidearms though like pistols are. Spears are the weapons of war like rifles, and you really, really do not hear about those. Spearmanship is barely a word. $\endgroup$
    – DKNguyen
    Apr 27 at 5:02
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @DKNguyen Spears are the king of weapons. $\endgroup$
    – Paul TIKI
    Apr 27 at 13:39
  • $\begingroup$ @PaulTIKI Maybe swordsmanship is a word because swords suck so much you need skill to be able to do anything with them. Whereas spearmanship is much less of a word because much less skill is required to get the job done. And gunsmanship isn't a word at all because no skill is required to get the job done. $\endgroup$
    – DKNguyen
    Apr 27 at 22:40
5
$\begingroup$

Fire Arms

  • Range and Rate of Fire - so your sword can deflect a bullet at point blank range... how will it fare against 100 rounds per second from a mile away?

  • Ammo Factories - congratulations, you've managed to block 100 rounds per second for ten seconds. Your sword work is truly spectacular! But how long is your stamina going to last against my massive ammunition stockpile?

Magical Swords

  • Injury Regeneration - true warriors don't carry magic swords for their direct combat value as weapons. The swords are too short range to be effective on a modern battle front. But the healing they can grant is an incredible boon in dealing with non-fatal injuries.

  • Elemental Control - control of the weather, especially heavy rains and fog can be very helpful on a battle field, obscuring visibility during both attack and retreat. Alternatively, withholding rainfall and causing drought can tax your enemy's supply lines.

$\endgroup$
3
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ I would add concentration of firepower is a lot easier with ranged weapons. 10 people with ranged weapons can target a single point whereas 10 people with swords just can't fit into the space around the target. $\endgroup$
    – DKNguyen
    Apr 26 at 5:08
  • $\begingroup$ You've got a point on injury regeneration. If the magic sword can heal bullet wounds at least as fast as the rifle squad can deal them out, the sword warrior has a chance to reach sword range and start cutting. $\endgroup$ Apr 26 at 15:40
  • $\begingroup$ RE:Elemental Control - and opposite of drought, a torrential downpour as your opponent is traversing a mountain range, or walking through a valley/ravine could devastate an army as they march to the battle field, ending it before it begins. Assuming the swords power level fits this anyway - complete weather control might be on the "continent breaking OP" side of this one $\endgroup$
    – TCooper
    Apr 27 at 0:38
3
$\begingroup$

One thing often not thought of when making comparisons like this is that it is always safer to incapacitate a target at a distance than it is from right next to them. Even with super speed or amazing durability, it is still safer to fight from a distance.

There are a small handful of exceptions to this, and pretty much all of them are predicated on there being a significant power disparity between the attacker and the target.

Even in antiquity, a squad of very good archers was almost always preferable to a squad of very good swordsmen if you were talking about actual warfare. Ultimately, the reason that melee weapons were more prevalent than ranged weapons historically comes down to two specific factors:

  • Economics: Quite simply, swordsmen and spearmen were more economical than archers. This, in turn, is a result of both the training being more economical (good archery requires a complex set of skills which all need to be good, while good sword-fighting needs just raw physical ability and some basics of close quarters combat that can be applied to almost any weapon) as well as a manufacturing aspect (mass producing acceptable swords is much easier than mass producing acceptable bows or crossbows, largely because bows and crossbows need much better quality control than swords for them to be useful).
  • Asymmetric Protection: Historically, it was much easier to protect against projectiles than against melee weapons. A warhammer would ruin your day no matter what type of armor you were wearing (even if just because the impact will leave you rattling around inside your plate armor), but a lot of armor was reasonably good protection against arrows.

Firearms upended both of those factors, they have much better penetrating power than arrows or bolts and are both cheaper to produce at acceptable quality and less of an issue to train for.

In your case, I see the economic side of things being the primary factor. You have an unknown number of rare, irreplaceable weapons balanced against trivially mass-producible commonplace weapons. Given no other differences, anyone with even the most basic understanding of military strategy is going to favor the cheap commonplace option over the rare irreplaceable one.

This likely will be compounded by differences in required training. Modern militaries can turn out acceptable rank-and-file riflemen in a couple of months, but getting to the point that you can handle a sword properly takes most people at least a year, and that’s ignoring the very likely need to extend that training to cover the special abilities of the sword.

Given all this, I envision that things will develop in a very specific way in this world:

  • In antiquity, the wielders of these swords would have been major historically significant warriors. Not necessarily generals or commanders, but the heroes who lead their sides to victory. The described abilities are, in and of themselves, more than enough to turn the tide of a battle in the classical era, and still possibly enough even up through the late 1800’s if applied correctly.
  • Parallel to this, ‘normal’ military forces would have developed pretty similarly. Possibly some differences to try and protect against the abilities of the wielders o these magic swords, but otherwise things will be pretty similar (the swords are just too rare to make much more of a difference).
  • In modern times, the wielders of these swords would be treated similarly to special forces, but likely kept in reserve much more aggressively than conventional special forces, because the swords are irreplaceable and losing one would be a major blow to the nation. Essentially, when these guys get sent out, you know things are seriously bad and the regular military forces are not capable of dealing with it.
  • In terms of training, even back to antiquity (assuming sensible people are in charge, not stupid aristocrats), I envision prospective wielders being carefully selected for some degree of compatibility with the sword, followed by lengthy training to produce as skilled a wielder as possible. It’s likely that there will be multiple trainees in parallel, and possibly even multiple wielders for any given sword at any given time, with the intent of always being able to deploy a sword when needed.
$\endgroup$
1
$\begingroup$

How many swords are there relative to human standing militaries? Are there enough swords for entire human militaries across the world to replace guns?

I would assume that the likely answer is no.

Why would a near future society/humanity still use guns mainly in their military against both humans and other entities, when these swords grant users such power?

Humans will likely adopt the use of said magical swords, but its limited amount plus difficulty training people in swordsmanship make it not suitable for regulars. Instead, a small group of soldiers will be trained to wield these swords and be embedded to the main army roster in various ways.

  1. Reconnaissance, intelligence, espionage Hyperspeed and/or teleportation, regeneration, heightened reaction/perception? This combo screams "perfect spy/scout".
  2. Assistance in transport or evacuation Again, hyperspeed and/or teleportation? Although sword wielders can only use these capabilities sparingly, at least they can be instructed to do so only for critical situations (e.g. Dunkirk or D-Day).
  3. One-man engineer corps They can make damage comparable to artillery strikes once in a while with their area-of-effect attacks. Having them augmented in a regular infantry corps roster is useful.
  4. One-off recharge-limited supersoldier Occasionally, an infantry team runs into an unexpected encounter with an enemy larger team. Magic swordwielders can Hulk up their power for a short time, banishing and fighting the enemy into the mirror dimension, saving the team from surrender or destruction.

Humans will still use guns as standard-issue soldier kit. Yes, the swords will be used partially, but it won't replace rifles. Why?

  1. Easy training People can be trained well to use firearms faster than swords. Duck-and-cover and return-fire discipline is also (presumably) easier to instill than sword combat disciplinecitation needed. Even with all the skills, it's still a sword to wield.

  2. Easy production Guns can be made in large amount (and so the number of people available to use them). There are just times when quantity with slight quality wins over slight quantity with pure quality.

  3. Previous popularity Guns and the accompanying current 'conventional' toys of war have been used extensively in recent history in comparison to these new swords. It will be easier for militaries to develop ways to either improve, patch, or extend the already existing roster of tools and systems. It takes time to study how to best use these swords, especially now that we have other very powerful weapons that we're already fluently brandishing now and then. No one rushes to mass-adopt them. Likely, adoption will be a very long process given the limited number of items. Some of militaries will just adopt them for the sake of leveling the playing field and not to prioritize its usage.

  4. Near stigma-free Given its popularity and mainstream use, no one will brand a gunman "witch" or "sorcerer". Contrast with this new rising magic. It's very easy for an enemy nation to call a nation with major use of these swords "using an army of entirely 'dark magic'-ians", sort out a PR work to stamp it as 'Axis of Hell', produce both local and global consent to gang up against it, then just wipe it out.

$\endgroup$
1
  • $\begingroup$ I think you answer it right in your first paragraph. There are only so many of these swords versus the obvious proliferation of guns/rifles. And "The swords in nature are alien/not of the earth, so they cannot be manufactured by humans". $\endgroup$
    – Len
    Apr 26 at 16:53
0
$\begingroup$

Guns could be more popular because they are simpler to make (swords could be handmade or something), "more effective" to use (as in kill faster and more accurately than a sword), or there could be some stigma against using swords that kept people away from them in recent times?

$\endgroup$
7
  • $\begingroup$ The general fabrication of a sword ('forge a blade and sharpen it") is simple. Making the components of even the most basic firelock require precision crafting. $\endgroup$ Apr 26 at 15:38
  • $\begingroup$ The swords are not man-made, so problems of supply is already taken care of. Perhaps yeah if humans try to replicate the production, it'll be harder. $\endgroup$ Apr 26 at 15:53
  • $\begingroup$ @Nuclear03020704 OP says humans can't make the swords, so there's a definite supply problem. $\endgroup$
    – Dan W
    Apr 26 at 16:09
  • $\begingroup$ @CodeswithHammer I am learning that "forge a blade and sharpen it" is a whole lot more complex and is a great deal harder than just that. The lower the tech level, the harder it is to achieve a sword instead of a sharp stick likely to break at the worst possible moment. there is artistry in it at a high level $\endgroup$
    – Paul TIKI
    Apr 26 at 16:32
  • $\begingroup$ All the above points are valid, especially @DanW -- the complexity of a firelock is definitely simpler to make than swords specified as not man-made. $\endgroup$ Apr 26 at 16:46
0
$\begingroup$

In a close-range one-on-one situation a person who is reasonably skilled with a swords may have an advantage over someone with a pistol, in much the same way that inside about 6 meters (20 feet) a person with a knife is more likely to succeed against a person with a pistol. A master with the swords may be able to defeat an entire squad of trained soldiers armed with firearms.

The problem is that becoming a master takes a long time and not everyone has the physical or mental potentials to do it. So your number of available effective sword wielding personnel is going to be limited to elites only, all of whom have spent years focusing on their mastery of the sword.

Conversely it takes relatively little time and effort to become marginally competent with a firearm. Right now it takes about 10 weeks for US Army Basic Combat Training to churn out a class of boots, all of whom are released to AIT with a basic knowledge of how to follow orders, operate in a unit and - among other things - how to handle a modern rifle. While they won't be winning any awards as the world's best soldiers straight out of boot, a large group of relatively inexpensive combat-ready troops can be processed very, very quickly.

So for every sword wielder you train there are probably thousands of conventional troops processing through basic. From here it should be obvious that the numbers are firmly on the side of the firearms.

Which is not to say that nobody would go to the expense of training and equipping elite soldiers with these 'magical' weapons. They absolutely would do so. Only the best, most capable and best-suited people would make it into the training, and only a handful of those would graduate... just like the top-tier special forces units of today. And like those special forces units you don't just throw them away sending them against large numbers of regular troops. They'd only get called in when their specific skill set is required. Everyone else will be pounding on each other in the big battles, but your sword wielders probably won't even be in the area when it happens. Instead they'll be dropped somewhere that is a much better fit for their operational abilities. And they'll probably use firearms anyway for most of it.

I guess the question becomes: why would you train troops to use these weapons?

Because swords - especially magic swords - are cool, that's why. Oh, and teleporting up to an a**hole and sticking a couple of feet of magical steel in his guts is a pretty convincing way to finish an argument.

$\endgroup$
0
$\begingroup$

Explosive bullets are a thing. Sure, maybe you can block a bullet with your magic sword, but what good does that do if it explodes?

In real life exploding rifle caliber bullets are rare because the Geneva Convention bans them, and also they're just not necessary. Regular bullets kill regular people just fine. But if there were jedi out there blocking bullets, you can bet that that section of the Geneva Convention would get forgotten pretty quickly.

If rifle caliber explosives aren't big enough, rifle launched grenades exist too. Maybe a 7.62mm explosive bullet isn't big enough, but what about a 40mm HEDP grenade?

$\endgroup$
0
$\begingroup$

All the answers above are technically wrong

Every military in the world would want to use these swords in combat. Why?

Injury regeneration

Not all gun shot wounds are lethal, but medical aid or evacuation is expensive. But with these swords you can take cover, activate it, and heal your wound. No specialized medicine, no surgery, and no training required. This reduces your logistical and monetary cost for all your troops. It increases survival rate and morale. Just make sure you use your gun in combat instead of the sword.

$\endgroup$
7
  • $\begingroup$ not all swords can heal injuries, they also don't last forever. Only a few select can end up healing people, and there is a varying range of how much a sword can heal $\endgroup$
    – FIRES_ICE
    Apr 27 at 9:24
  • $\begingroup$ How many is a select few. Also, does cancer and dementia count as a wound? $\endgroup$ Apr 27 at 9:27
  • $\begingroup$ at most 50 swords that can heal, w/ differing varying levels of healing power. Only a select few can actually heal all battle wounds and even diseases. The majority will only heal some common battlefield injuries, and reduce the trauma of severe injuries $\endgroup$
    – FIRES_ICE
    Apr 27 at 9:36
  • $\begingroup$ How many swords are there total? $\endgroup$ Apr 27 at 9:50
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Which is why if such swords as healing ones existed, the last place anyone would want them is near the frontlines. It would be like placing your best trauma surgeon in the world in a foxhole: great for the few people around them, useless for the majority of injured troops, and you put your irreplaceable surgeon at immediate risk. $\endgroup$ Apr 27 at 19:13
0
$\begingroup$

No defense possible

While swords are fascinating, as most fencers will tell you, guns have a distinct advantage (or disadvantage - this depends on the context) over swords: you can not parry a gun shot.

Guns are singularly offensive weapons without any defensive capabilities whatsoever. In a sword fight, if an opponent attacks you, you can always bring your blade between yourself and the attacking blade, i.e., parry the incoming strike.

In a gunfight, if you're shot at, there is nothing you can do using your gun to defend yourself.

$\endgroup$
2
  • $\begingroup$ Jedi had neither of those disadvantages, wielding a virtually un-parryable lightsaber while being able to parry shots, and they still got whupped by Clone Troopers. pew pew pew $\endgroup$
    – DKNguyen
    Apr 28 at 3:27
  • $\begingroup$ Yeah, the Jedi parrying blaster shots are the exception. If this applies to the OP, depends on how far the OP is willing to take his/her magic. $\endgroup$
    – Dohn Joe
    Apr 28 at 7:51

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.