Ok, I am very aware that this question sounds like a near duplicate, but before voting to close it, hear me out.

Why would the military use melee weapons such as swords, spears, axes, and all those kinds of things in a futuristic sci fi setting.

For more context I’m asking for a reason why the military might use these weapons. (I’m making this very obvious becuase in other questions of this type people tend to bring up assassins very frequently.)

The reasons must not be environmental. I know that firing a gun in the hull of a ship isn't a good idea, yes I know misfiring can be lethal to bystanders.

The reason must not involve some sort of magic or cultural significance.

Feel free to reference Dune but don’t make that the premise of your answer.

Humans are the only known intelligent species in my setting.

I’m essentially looking for some invention that would limit the use of guns and increase the use of melee weapon (some handwavium is ok.) Feel free to ask for more context and give feedback.

  • $\begingroup$ Would you accept the fact that in most cases, a knife is far more deadlier than a gun if the knife wielder and gun wielder are separated by a distance of 20 feet or less? $\endgroup$
    – hszmv
    Commented Dec 14, 2022 at 17:22
  • $\begingroup$ VTC:Duplicate. Also note, per the help center, we help build worlds (rules), we don't help write stories. When you say the reason must not be environmental, that is in direct conflict with the rules of this Stack. The only answers we can give are environmental because character choices (e.g., tradition) are off-topic (see help center). $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Commented Dec 14, 2022 at 17:25
  • $\begingroup$ Note in the proposed duplicate there are still answers which tick all the constraints checks : no Dune, no magic/culture, works on humans too, not environment-dependent like cheap hulls and red explosive barrels :). $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 14, 2022 at 17:27
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    $\begingroup$ What kind of fights do these people use their spears and axes for? $\endgroup$
    – Daron
    Commented Dec 14, 2022 at 17:37
  • $\begingroup$ Related: worldbuilding.stackexchange.com/questions/210091/… $\endgroup$
    – Willk
    Commented Dec 14, 2022 at 18:15

3 Answers 3


There's as many possibilities as you want.

Dune uses a technomagical armor to reduce the effect of small-arms. Star Wars uses magical prescience and technomagical weapons to de/reflect small-arms. You will ineviteably use a similar exploit to recreate reasons for melee weapons.

As an example use a technomagical means for extremely rapid healing of any injury. In practice its very hard to kill someone immediately with small-arms, with fast medical aid most wounds are surviveable. If your regeneration is able to restore blood to the brain within 4 minutes then you'll render most small-arm hits as no more but temporary ways to debilitate or slow someone down. Although its not unheard off for adrenalin to keep people with multiple lethal injuries fighting.

The solution? Double-tapping! But thats hard with small-arms as usually you wont be close to the target and if you hit them enough they'll fall over while their buddies still try to hit you. There's only so much ammo to go around so... At some point you are going to have to get in close and finish the job with a melee weapon. A mace to the face, a decapitating strike with a Falchion or whatever you choose.

Depending on how fast the regeneration happens you can make different scenarios. If its relatively slow, say 8 minutes to full recovery while blood is restored to the brain in 4 unless you are nigh on decapitated, you have a small-arms battle first and then a rush with melee weapons as you try to finish the job before enough enemies can get up again. Using whatever ammo remains to keep the enemy down as you close in. If its fast (say 10 seconds to fully healed) then a mixture of melee and fire-arms will be used simultaneously as you can absolutely afford to get hit a couple of times and keep going shortly afterwards. Fights would end up short-ranged and brutal. Some still using small-arms while others go for melee in the hopes they can close the short distance and land a decisive blow before they are turned into a bloody rag and fall over.

Of course psychological warfare would get rather inhumane quickly. Even if the target survives, being set on fire will take a lot of the fight out of a soldier...

  • $\begingroup$ While creative I don't think rapid healing works. The solution would not be resort to melee, it would be resort to bigger guns and more dakka. pull out a freaking grenade launcher if you need to. That's still more practical then having to close into melee range $\endgroup$
    – dsollen
    Commented Dec 14, 2022 at 18:53
  • $\begingroup$ @dsollen not really. Grenades kill with shrapnel first and the blast second, shrapnel is surviveable. The size of the guns would need to be BIG and HEAVY to functionally kill someone with one solid chest-hit. Both solutions severely reduce ammo capacity and increase the likelyhood that a bloke with an axe comes close enough to ask to help grind it. $\endgroup$
    – Demigan
    Commented Dec 14, 2022 at 18:58
  • $\begingroup$ In reality a rapidly firing small arm weapon would make more sense then my facetious grenade launcher, but I stand by the idea that we would just make guns that are more lethal. You say they are heavier and have less ammo, so what? You can't charge an enemy that's charging at you, you only manage to blow away four guys with axes before they cover distance? Still an improvement over charging a machine gun. In reality infantry simply wont exist in the future, it will be wars with armored vehicles and support troops manning artiliary, not a guy with a gun/spear charging another guy. $\endgroup$
    – dsollen
    Commented Dec 14, 2022 at 19:14
  • $\begingroup$ though don't let my criticism come across as hating your idea. The idea of melee in combat is so hard to justify, especially with all the 'standard' options excluded by OP that I still think this is as good idea as is likely to remain and so have upvoted it. I don't think it's realistic, but neither is OP stated desire. Someone might be able to get away with it as a handwave if audience is willing to give some poetic license. But as someone who has trouble ignoring when societies ignore the obvious answer I personally would be stuck wondering why they didn't make a better gun. $\endgroup$
    – dsollen
    Commented Dec 14, 2022 at 19:19
  • $\begingroup$ @dsollen fortunately we are on Worldbuilding, not reality. Also who says the Axe guys ONLY have axes? They would use their own small-arms to reduce the effectiveness of fire against them. Since instant kills and double-taps with small-arms would remain hard to pull off in most instances you would see a combination of weapons designed to debilitate, designed to finish off and melee weapons. $\endgroup$
    – Demigan
    Commented Dec 14, 2022 at 19:22

The current generation of your people cannot make any advanced technology.

Their ancestors could - very much so. Maybe too well. The machines and vehicles these ancients made function excellently to the present day. They do not need repair.

Your current people are provided for by the works of their ancestors, and the knowledge of their ancestors has been lost. Your people do not read and they do not innovate. Your people are like the Eloi in Time Machine. Also I here assert they are very pretty like the Eloi.

But they are not gentle like the Eloi. They are murderous savages, delighting in mayhem. And the technology they have inherited does not include weaponry. So your people improvise: they can make clubs, and they can make sharp sticks. They can attach rocks to sticks to make harder clubs. They can work a piece of metal loose from a machine and sharpen it with a rock to make a sword. That covers it, more or less. When they go to war, these are their weapons. They might actually travel to war in a semiautonomous flying machine, but the soldiers are carrying spiked clubs.

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    $\begingroup$ +1 This is a worldbuilding answer. It describes conditions of the world outside any story the OP may write within the context of the OP's question. It's actually a pretty good idea based on the premise of Clarkean Magic, "any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." If the peoples of the past were advanced enough, then the people of the present due to [storybuilding reason] can't duplicate it. Only use it. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Commented Dec 14, 2022 at 19:38

They Have no Guns

The story is set on a colony on the frontier of habitable space. The colonists came to Epsilon Imthraxis 57-Beta to make new lives for their families. They did not come to Epsilon Imthraxis 57-Beta to shoot each other.

There are no large animals on the planet and no need to bring firearms. They have no way to make guns. They had to prioritise food production, medicine, and sanitation, when deciding what modules to put on their spaceship.

They could request some guns from the mothership. But they will take decades or centuries to arrive. The colonists arrived in cryo-sleep so the trip only took months from their point of view.

Eventually the colony splits over a disagreement over naming a new type of rock. Since they have no guns, they go to war with axes and spears and swords.

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    $\begingroup$ Reminder for downvoters : In order to improve the question people need to know what is the problem at hand :). $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 14, 2022 at 17:55
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    $\begingroup$ I haven't downvoted, but my only viable guess right now is that your answer imply space colonies and such, while the question didn't state it at all. Could very well not be that, though... $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 14, 2022 at 17:56
  • $\begingroup$ I find this disrespectful. $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 14, 2022 at 18:12
  • $\begingroup$ @HomegrownPotatoes Go on. $\endgroup$
    – Daron
    Commented Dec 14, 2022 at 18:25
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    $\begingroup$ @HomegrownPotatoes To get the sort of answers you're looking for it is important that your questions be understood. You will find more success on this site if -- when an answer seems to contradict the intention behind your question -- you reconsider whether the question text matches the idea in your head. We can only see the words you write down. We cannot see inside your head. The edit button is always there if you need to add extra details. $\endgroup$
    – Daron
    Commented Dec 14, 2022 at 20:26

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