Am writing a story that takes place in a setting set in space where, in terms of weapons, the people in it have pretty much the same kinds of slug thrower weapons as the present day.

I want to add a character in this setting who almost exclusively uses a sword to fight. Is this plausible? And, what reasons, if any, would this character have to use a sword instead of a gun, and what kind of strategies would one use if they were using a sword against guns. (Is skilled at using a sword)

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Do not give him just a sword, give him artifact. In movie After Earth there is multipurpose tool. What keeps knifes in use - they are multipurpose tools. If it will penetrate their bullet prof wests, or what they are using - why not take robot shield go in to close combat and kill them all. They are not prepared for that tactics, combine it with en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Equilibrium_(film) tactics - and you have it reasons and taktics. It's just first master(previous have fallen) who perfects and develops his technique or something like that. $\endgroup$ – MolbOrg Jul 23 '16 at 5:33
  • $\begingroup$ Just call it a weapon from a more civilized age and everyone will be fine with it. As long as it looks cool. $\endgroup$ – Xandar The Zenon Aug 10 '16 at 14:58
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Larry Niven came up with a interesting solution, the invention of the variable sword, a collapsable monoatomic wire in a stasis field, which can cut through the toughest hull metals like a blowtorch through runny butter. People use it for macheesmo and because a good spacesuit can stop a bullet but not a variable sword. plus as long as you have one there is no such thing as a locked door. $\endgroup$ – John Jul 3 '17 at 4:02

I think this may be likened to the Jedi using light sabers instead of blasters.

  1. I say it is plausible because the writer demands it and there are strange people doing strange things everywhere.

  2. Reasons: These would depend on the environment. You state that the story happens in space. May I assume on a ship? This would provide a good reason or two as the constrained passageways will make a sword nearly as effective as a gun. The sword has the added benefit of being silent (for stealth reasons) and is a precision instrument that may allow you character a great deal of control over what damage (if any) he does with his weapon. You character could also fear using the gun on the ship as it might cause undesirable damage. (Hit a high pressure pipe, or whatever. You might also make ammo a hard to come by commodity (expensive and depleting, due to the long time spans between getting to a factory)

  3. Strategies: Your characters main strategy should be something along the lines of: sneak up on them, then slice through the bunch like butter before they've even unholstered their weapons. Repeat on the next bunch. In close combat, one may assume that a skilled individual with a sword is more effective and efficient than one with a gun. This advantage disappears the moment enemies are out of reach, however...

Is this suitable to your purposes?

  • 3
    $\begingroup$ constrained passageways will make a sword nearly as effective as a gun. - sword? oO. Knife maybe, sword not so much. A good sword for home defense? $\endgroup$ – MolbOrg Jul 23 '16 at 4:53
  • $\begingroup$ @MolbOrg I guess it depends how constrained the passageways are. Are we talking submarine-restricted, or cruiseliner restricted? $\endgroup$ – Ranger Jul 25 '16 at 16:01
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @NexTerren Hard to tell. Depends on sword and technique. Something like 3.5x3m (height, width) will constrain swing techniques maybe in 60-70% cases, and will limit useful locations to one side of passageway and restrict maneuverability of actions. Wider then that, less contains will it be. You do not only swings with sword, but you also have to move, make work with legs. How it can be a problem you might see there with explanation(kinda), gunman do not have such need in the way swordsman have. In microgravity - gun can be made recoilless, sword not. $\endgroup$ – MolbOrg Jul 25 '16 at 20:14
  • $\begingroup$ "the constrained passageways will make a sword nearly as effective as a gun." You might want to watch Kill Bill Part 2. Constrained passages make a sword less effective, not more, but do little to affect handgun utility. $\endgroup$ – WhatRoughBeast Jul 3 '17 at 1:26
  • $\begingroup$ I often see people say that swords are better than guns in cramped spaces or when you're surrounded by sensitive machinery. I have never seen any one of them explain why SWAT teams, naval security crews, and nuclear reactor guards are universally armed with firearms. It is a bogus claim. $\endgroup$ – Catgut Jul 3 '17 at 3:27

This is rather implausible for a number of reasons, especially if it is already established that slug throwers similar to current weapons (pistols, rifles and shotguns, presumably) are already present and accepted.

This automatically rules out the "guns are too dangerous in space" argument, we already know there are firearms, which suggests that space structures are solid enough to withstand at least one impact with a bullet. Even Bigelow type inflated habitats are relatively immune to gunfire, being built out of multiple layers of high strength fibres like Kevlar, and a Spacecoach type spacecraft is a Bigelow construction on steroids, with hundreds or thousands of tons of water in the interspace between layers of fabric (think of nested balloons)

Swords are also difficult to use in confined spaces (consider a castle in the middle ages had tightly corkscrewed stairs in a clockwise direction to make it difficult for a right handed swordsman to advance up the stairs), and most spacecraft designs are fairly confined. If anything, you would either advance with a pistol or sawed off shotgun, or carry a knife rather than a sword.

If there is an issue with gravity or Coriolis force, computerized gunsights can adjust for ballistic drop and "aim off" to compensate, while a swordsman has no such aids. In zero-g, the situation becomes even worse, a swordsman cannot function unless they are braced against something.

If anything, the two best weapons in a space setting would probably be a silenced weapon (purpose built silenced weapons like the Welrod pistol (http://www.militaryfactory.com/smallarms/detail.asp?smallarms_id=423) or the De Lisle Carbine (http://www.militaryfactory.com/smallarms/detail.asp?smallarms_id=686), or a grenade launcher with a revolver cylinder allowing you to quickly access different sorts of rounds for different occasions (flash bangs, chemical irritants, high explosive concussion or conventional HE/shrapnel rounds) like the MILCOR M-32 grenade launcher (http://www.milkorusa.com)

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ You're American, right? To a non-American, it is very plausible that weapons would not be allowed on a spaceship. Of course, the spaceship would still be built to be as bulletproof as possible (since criminals by definition don't follow the law, and controls will never be 100% effective), but assuming the hero is not a criminal, he certainly will want to follow the law unless the law itself is unjust. $\endgroup$ – celtschk Jul 24 '16 at 7:05
  • $\begingroup$ The OP had specified that firearms are used, and his character is supposed to fight with a sword, so the answer is based on the assumption that there is armed conflict in a space setting as the OP implies. $\endgroup$ – Thucydides Jul 24 '16 at 12:50
  • $\begingroup$ Firearms being used by the bad guys is in no way a contradiction to firearms being illegal. I actually already mentioned that in my previous comment. $\endgroup$ – celtschk Jul 24 '16 at 13:12
  • $\begingroup$ Why are you suggesting the Police or Armed Forces are not using firearms? The OP clearly states that firearms are familiar and in use, and the proposed main character is going into a (the) fight armed with a sword. In fact, there is no indication the character is either "good" or "bad"; he may be a mustachio twirling villain as far as we know. $\endgroup$ – Thucydides Jul 24 '16 at 21:32
  • $\begingroup$ I'm arguing against your claim that it is implausible that he would not use a gun. The question neither indicated he's a criminal, nor did it indicate he's part of the police or armed forces, and therefore it is entirely reasonable that he is neither. And in that case it is entirely reasonable that he won't be able to use a gun. All you special cases don't change that. $\endgroup$ – celtschk Jul 25 '16 at 4:56

The 'easiest' answer is to invoke culture. Religions, traditions and historical affectations could all drive an individual to use what might be considered as a sub-standard weapon for the setting. Perhaps the character belongs to an order that forbids kinetic weapons, or that honours an older form of martial combat... with culture, the possibilities are almost endless.

As to practicality, that:s a different question. Some works manage to have good reasons - Dune, for example - but in most places your character is just going to get extremely well ventilated.


Perhaps for stealth reasons. If you're character was some kind of assassin then maybe he would prefer to slit his enemies throat with his short sword then to engage him in a gun fight.

Perhaps for legal reasons. You said you were setting has guns but dose everyone have guns or just a few? Perhaps the regulations on buy selling and ownership of firearms are so restricting so that people just prefer to use sword that aren'the regulated?

Personal reasons. A Sword might be of cultural or religious importance to him.

"Magic Sword". your sword could actually be some form of advanced technology shaped in the form of a sword. Much like how wonder woman has a mother box in the shape of a sword. ( watch Justice League Gods and monsters to see what I'm talking about)


You ask if it's plausible and I say look at the real world and you will find the answer is no, it is not plausible. Ever hear the phrase, "Don't bring a knife to a gun fight?" If swords were still a viable weapon, don't you think the military would still be using them? Guns require less training, are smaller, lighter in weight, have far more range, can be used in tight spaces, guns don't get stuck in objects, guns can be concealed, etc. Guns are just better.

  • $\begingroup$ They use knifes trough. $\endgroup$ – MolbOrg Jul 23 '16 at 4:56
  • $\begingroup$ @MolbOrg knives are for utility. Not for combat. $\endgroup$ – Keltari Jul 23 '16 at 4:57
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Which kind of combat? Sure it's not weapon of first choice in most situations. But it's still viable and primary weapon in special cases. Utility functions yes, sure. Wide spectrum of uses is power of knife. $\endgroup$ – MolbOrg Jul 23 '16 at 5:06
  • $\begingroup$ Sometimes it is... businessinsider.com/… $\endgroup$ – Shautieh Jul 23 '16 at 15:22
  • $\begingroup$ Swords are out, but spears are still relevant (occasionally) in modern combat - virtually all major armies still issue bayonets. $\endgroup$ – Matt Bowyer Sep 26 '16 at 18:44

Beyond sentimental and cultural reasons, of which you can build many and include, here are some practical reasons in a high-science setting.

Peace shields

In the TARDIS on Doctor Who (talking old Who here, think it lost this in New Who), he was able to turn on a peace shield that prevented firearms and laser weapons from working. This did not apply to more primitive weapons that didn't use combustion or high tech stuff. So anyone with a bow and arrow, knife, or sword was still deadly.

Low Tech Zones

Just like peace shields, but this might be naturally occurring, and it would not just apply to weaponry. There may be areas where all tech doesn't work properly. Once you've crossed over into one of these areas, all your tech and your guns just won't go. (I haven't given you a reason why, because there's whole range of imagination you can use for this--to keep certain people corralled and limited if it's not naturally occurring, to disruptive EM waves that render laser weapons inert.)

Tech and Primitive Hybrid

Your primitive weapon may have a hidden talent. It looks like a sword and can be used in places where guns aren't allowed (or there is something like a peace shield), but it can also fire pulses. Maybe it uses the action of the sword as stored energy. The pulses can knock the enemy down, actually harm them or...and this is sneaky, actually disable anything high tech. Also, the sword can have some sort of shield against ranged weapons over a certain velocity. You could even have the weapon be strengthened by the kinetic energy, using some crazy somewhat hand-waving science.


Guns are used, however, there's a sophisticated tracking system in place. All weapons have a specific signature and any weapon fired brings the law rather instantaneously or barriers come down, trapping/containing the person until they can be arrested--and/or some kind of gas is used to knock out everyone in the area. (Maybe they have teleporters for law enforcement). If someone fires a weapon, they are going to make tracks just after. They might have a gun, but they only use it as a last resort because they know they will be caught immediately. Weapons such as swords are not tracked this way, so most criminals end up using bows, arrows and knives.

Swords vs. Guns

A gun is superior to a sword, in that someone with no training and a gun can kill a lot of people. Swords take skill. That you are putting a sword against guns makes the odds against the protagonist more stacked, so he'd going to have to fight smart and stealthy. People with guns don't expect someone to come up to them and disarm them. Your guy will get shot. I'd say armor or some kind of shielding would be a good idea.


Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

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