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A common trope weapon in science fantasy (such as RWBY or the appropriately named Gun Sword) is the gunsword. As the name implies, a gunsword is a sword that's also a gun, or vice versa. This has always interested me as a concept, kind of an evolution of the bayonet in my mind, but could such a weapon exist, or rather why would a person use such a weapon?

What reasons would a gunsword be preferred over a regular gun or a regular sword? Why would an army use them? Why would a person use one? Is the gunsword a realistic, feasible concept?

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  • $\begingroup$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. $\endgroup$ – Serban Tanasa Sep 1 '16 at 13:27
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    $\begingroup$ In Worm, Chevalier has a sword / cannon. $\endgroup$ – JDługosz Apr 28 '17 at 8:14
  • $\begingroup$ To put it in video gaming context, to get the achievement/trophy/reward. ;-) $\endgroup$ – dcy665 May 27 '17 at 23:08

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Gunswords are a terrible idea. On the other hand, gun axes existed, and were used in combat. The difference is simple - a sword requires a reasonable amount of finesse and dexterity to use, while an axe just needs to be pointy and heavy. The extra weight of the gun part hinders the sword, but works just fine for an axe.

Here is a photo I took in the Vasa museum in Stockholm:

enter image description here

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    $\begingroup$ The "swords are difficult to use, while axes are easy" trope is common but mostly propagated by RPGs and movie depictions of axe-swinging barbarians. $\endgroup$ – fgysin Sep 26 '16 at 12:30
  • $\begingroup$ I guess the people that carried this weapon into battle were just stupid then. $\endgroup$ – SPavel Sep 26 '16 at 13:22
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    $\begingroup$ those were only useful because the gun in question was single shot, having a backup was useful, but it still makes for a more unwieldy weapon in both uses. It's the same principle as a bayonet, a mediocre melee weapon is better than nothing when you only get one shot and the gun is too heavy to fire with one hand. $\endgroup$ – John Aug 3 '17 at 14:46
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    $\begingroup$ Anyone who thinks axes are easy to use has obviously never split a winter's worth of firewood with one. $\endgroup$ – jamesqf Aug 3 '17 at 18:16
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    $\begingroup$ The explanation is wrong, but the result is the same. Both axes and swords benefit from finesse in combat, but can also be used reasonably effectively without it. The reason a gun-axe would work better is balance. The balance for damn-near all swords is much closer to the hilt to allow for better manoeuvrability. Axes are almost all at the tip to allow for a powerful strike. Adding a heavy barrel to an axe just means to need a smaller head for a given weight. Adding a heavy barrel to a sword would require counterweighting the pommel which would make for a heavier weapon for negligible benefit. $\endgroup$ – Ynneadwraith Apr 25 at 9:52
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There are actually historical examples of such weapons. They are called pistol swords.

enter image description here enter image description here

But all of these weapons are unique novelty items usually sold to rich people who were fascinated with weapons but didn't have any actual combat experience, nor the intention to make any.

The problem with these weapons is that they are neither good guns nor good swords. It is practically impossible to design a grip which works both as a pistol handle and as a sword hilt. So the result is that the weapon is extremely awkward to aim as a firearm, not much better to wield as a fencing weapon and very unbalanced in either role.

Any professional fighter would rather carry both a proper sword and a proper pistol separately. Both swords and pistols are used most efficiently with both hands, but in a pinch you only need one hand for each. A properly trained fighter can quickly switch between sword, pistol and dual-wielding both. This gives far more flexibility than one weapon which is both a pistol and a sword but not good in either role.

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    $\begingroup$ Very true. There are historical military units who used both weapons, such as the Reiters, and preferred to carry pistols and swords separately. $\endgroup$ – Kys Aug 29 '16 at 20:57
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    $\begingroup$ @Mołot There is a difference between fencing for sport and fencing for killing. In sport, you only want to hit the enemy very softly, because you get your point just for touching them. Also, there are lots of rules about what actions are allowed and what actions are prohibited, so it makes sense to optimize your weapon for them. But when you fence for life and death, you want to injure the enemy as severely as possible and there are no rules which forbid any maneuvers which achieve that goal. So a design choice feasible for a sport weapon is not necessarily also feasible for a weapon of war. $\endgroup$ – Philipp Aug 29 '16 at 21:26
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    $\begingroup$ @Mołot The grip of military sabres was on occasion also called a "pistol grip", but this is merely a superficial resemblance. It doesn't give enough support to be able to handle recoil well, and actual pistol grips are terrible for sword handling, because the axis of attack would be way off in the wrong direction. $\endgroup$ – Mike L. Aug 29 '16 at 21:59
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    $\begingroup$ @Molot this is a modern sport device. It's the grip of a modern floret rapier. Like Philipp wrote: "There is a difference between fencing for sport and fencing for killing." Lookup how a rapier looks like that was used in actual combat. Modern floret fencing has nothing to do with martial arts, it's a pure sport. I'm practising HEMA and fired pistols and I can confirm you, that you'll get either one of both, gun or sword or a terrible combination of both that is a pretty bad weapon. $\endgroup$ – burzum Aug 29 '16 at 23:18
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    $\begingroup$ @Deo Swords are prefectly suitable for use indoors, or indeed in cramped spaces. Some swords, like cutlasses, were designed with this specific scenario in mind. $\endgroup$ – Mike L. Aug 30 '16 at 16:59
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It might make sense if your people use katars.

enter image description here

The gun-katar, via Google.

While a katar, isn't strictly a sword, they follow similar uses. However, there is one significant difference between the two: swords are generally held perpendicular to the forearm, while katars are held parallel to it. This is a critical difference, since it's unwieldy to either fire a gun with the sword sticking up out of the top of it, or rotate the gun to be in line with the sword.

With a gun-katar, both the shooty part and the stabby part point in the same direction, a far more ergonomic arrangement. Furthermore, unlike swords, which can be drawn fairly quickly, many katars are strapped to the forearm to provide additional support. If the pistol part is considered a medium range weapon, there may not be enough time to drop the pistol and don a katar in the time it takes for an opponent to close from medium range to close range. Having the two weapons integrated could save a soldier from needing to swap weapons, allowing them to use their pistol until the last possible moment, rather than needing to switch weapons with enough time to spare.

A fighting style centered around gun-katars might involve the use of one gun-katar in the primary hand, and either a bucker or a second katar in the off-hand. Since the buckler or second katar can be strapped to the arm, the fighter would have their off-hand relatively free to brace their gun-hand while firing, as well as being able to use that hand to reload their weapon without dropping either their buckler or their off-hand katar.

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    $\begingroup$ or any flavour of punch knife. And you could even do 2 guns so you would need to reload half as often. Or a pepperbox design so you can fire a wall of balls (tm) $\endgroup$ – Journeyman Geek Aug 31 '16 at 0:04
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    $\begingroup$ "swords are generally held perpendicular to the forearm, while katars are held perpendicular to it."? $\endgroup$ – Ludi Aug 31 '16 at 7:50
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    $\begingroup$ Whoops, should've been parallel. Good catch. $\endgroup$ – ckersch Aug 31 '16 at 14:14
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    $\begingroup$ Best design I have seen for a "gun-blade" but I would not put the trigger there I would put it a way you can put your finger under for safety. $\endgroup$ – Rigop Aug 31 '16 at 14:40
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    $\begingroup$ Fans of Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. should remember the Shotgun-Axe. $\endgroup$ – Paul Draper Sep 1 '16 at 2:54
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Modern Era

The western world is moving clearly away from even mounted bayonets, and there's no way we'd do a 180 and then a full sprint to get to a sword gun. So they're not practical. Any soldier would readily take a bolt-action rifle or normal pistol over the unwieldy gunsword.

The balance will be strange, it will be difficult to hold and aim, and the leverage for using it as a blade won't be efficient. It has no place in the modern world as a primarily armament, and is needlessly complex as a secondary sidearm.

Era Past

Gunswords were real!

They actually have tried this a few times, but it never took off. In the pre-WWII era several attempts were made, but each time they gained limited popularity and kept being favored for a sword (such as a cutlass, for the above image) and pistol, separately. So each time they died off after limited use.

In Conclusion...

Although it seems like "Well, they both kill people, why couldn't they be combined?" this would be like combining a strainer and a baking pan... ...and having Gordon Ramsey trying to kill you while you used them. In any case I can think of it'd be better to have the weapons separate.

One exception I can think of is where ammo was limited, and you were limited to a single weapon. Gladiators, anyone? In this case it'd be nice to expend the weapon as a pistol, and be able to fall back on a crude sword/knife for hacking.

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    $\begingroup$ I would still prefer an old style bolt action rifle in your exception case - when you are out of ammo you can use it as a blunt instrument and beat your enemy with it (civil war era, this was common with muskets and rifle equivalents of that time period for example, but could be extended to any actual bolt action rifle with a heavy and or sturdy butt stock and construction) $\endgroup$ – Thomas Ward Aug 30 '16 at 2:10
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    $\begingroup$ Old style bolt action rifles were often equipped with bayonets, so you wouldn't even have to use your boom-spear as a club. $\endgroup$ – Daerdemandt Aug 30 '16 at 18:46
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    $\begingroup$ ...and having Gordon Ramsey trying to kill you while you used them....hahahahahaha! I'd pay to watch that episode. $\endgroup$ – Thucydides Aug 30 '16 at 20:09
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    $\begingroup$ Reloading the gun on the picture must be a pain in the ass... and the fingers.... actually a lot more pain in the fingers... and you wet the powder with your blood, not good... $\endgroup$ – Rigop Aug 31 '16 at 14:32
  • $\begingroup$ Aren't bayonets mounted at the ends of rifles something similar to gunswords? AFAIK they are still in use in Russian ( en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SKS#/media/File:SKS_bayonet.JPG ) and French ( en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:FFLegion.JPEG ) militaries (maybe in other ones as well). $\endgroup$ – DP_ Sep 1 '16 at 5:21
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The point of the gunswod is NOT to provide a solution for both long and short range combat. AFAIK switching modes that way isn't a real problem, and everyone else has demonstrated why it's not a practical idea anyway .

The point of the gun is to provide a fast, strong vibration to aid the sword in cutting, like a vibroblade. This is how the gunsword in Final Fantasy VIII worked.

Would that be feasible in real life? There are problems to overcome, such as timing the shot, finding the ideal frequency of vibration for a given blade design, to list a couple. These seem solvable to me, but the main issue is perhaps is whether a gunpowder explosion is the best way to impart the vibrational energy to the blade. In the past, well, who knows. In modern times, absolutely not. Today we have strong efficient, and cheap electric motors that can be tuned (or tune themselves automatically!) to the ideal frequency.

I have trouble believing no one else has brought this up, but here we are. I created an account to answer this, hope it helps!

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    $\begingroup$ Thanks for creating an account and mentioning FF VIII, wellcome. $\endgroup$ – GameDeveloper Aug 30 '16 at 12:37
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    $\begingroup$ What kind of issues controlling the weapon would a vibrating sword have? $\endgroup$ – jpmc26 Aug 30 '16 at 23:27
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    $\begingroup$ @jpmc26 Physics would cause a problem. Things don't simply "vibrate" by themselves. Cell phones vibrate because there is an off balance weight being spun. You can only make things vibrate (back and forth motion) by using something for it to move relative to. It will be an off-center weight or has to be anchored to something. This creates control issues because the mechanism for vibration itself will be heavy and hard to balance (if it can vibrate so much to be a "vibroblade"), not to mention how to vibrate just the blade and not the handle. $\endgroup$ – Nelson Aug 31 '16 at 1:23
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    $\begingroup$ It don't need to be strong vibration, and anyway it could be a carved blade with a piston applying a force on both sides of the blade, that could increase and decrease blade thickness causing a vibration without intereference with the inerzia of the sword making it much more handy. $\endgroup$ – GameDeveloper Aug 31 '16 at 14:19
  • $\begingroup$ I think the asker refers to the melee/hybrid gunswords so this answer is unrelated. But it is related to my question instead, so can someone elaborare these on that thread? anime.stackexchange.com/questions/40812/… $\endgroup$ – Ray Lionfang Jun 10 '17 at 22:51
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Quite a few of these were built during the black-powder era, when guns were easier for a single craftsman to build from scratch, but they never became popular. The socket bayonet, turning a rifle into a short spear, was the idea that was most practical and lasted: two British soldiers have been decorated for bayonet actions in Afghanistan, in 2009 and 2011.

A sword-rifle has the problem that a rifle barrel is too heavy to make a sword blade out of by adding edges, since you end up with a sword that's too heavy to use effectively. Also, swords tend to bend in use, which is very undesirable for a rifle. At best, it destroys accuracy, and at worst the barrel bursts when fired.

There was a WWII Japanese weapon that used a pistol's grip as the handle of a sword, with the pistol barrel sticking out sideways. There was only one, however, it was not a production item. This wasn't a very good sword grip, and was very heavy as a pistol. Waving two feet or more of sword blade above your eyeline when you aim the pistol also tends to make you conspicuous.

The most nearly practical weapons were muzzle-loading black-powder pistols with a large knife blade attached. These were only heavy, expensive, and put you at risk of cutting yourself when reloading.

Plenty of people have tried this, but nobody has succeeded so far.

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    $\begingroup$ Bayonet combat is still taught in US Military boot camps, and most standard small arms for the US military have a slot for a combat knife to serve as a bayonet. $\endgroup$ – Marshall Tigerus Aug 30 '16 at 17:09
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Everyone talks about the past, and of fantasy where materials and ways of building things have not changed. But what about the future? Imagine transformative technology and how it changes everything.

A generation ago, the suggestion of combining a camera and a two-way radio would seem absurd.

camerawalkie talkie

Sure, the camera part folds up, but every component that makes it be the thing that it is is distinct. So other than sharing a handle and one side of the case, you end up with nothing more than two machines stuck together. This has the disadvantage of having to heft them both when using either, but doesn’t save much over packing two separate things.

Now with digital technology everything changes. The main mechanism of a CPU and display screen and control panel constitutes the bulk of either device, and the specific feature of (lens,sensor) or (final amplifier, antenna) is a tiny add-on. In fact, we’ll add a phonograph, microfiche reader, compass, barometer, calculator, etc. and entire library of media reduced to the size of a dime, and someone from 1950’s would have a hard time imagining how such a device could be practical. Then drop the punchline that it acquires new uses on the fly, and try and convey that this isn’t a final absurdity but the crutial point that makes it all possible.

Well, not everyone didn’t think of that. Larry Niven published The Soft Weapon in 1967. The ability to morph into different forms, including not just static shapes but complex machines, means that you carry one thing whose substance is shared among the different forms it takes.

Go forward 35 years and Wil McCarthey describes programmable matter. Others have speculated on the future of nanotechnology including self-reconfiguring modular robots the size of animal cells.

A lump of general utility Goo could become, on command, any object including complex machines and cybernetics.

A limited version of this is the Swiss Army Mech-All described by Robert L. Forward, which had a tip that could morph into any kind of mechanical tool. Strong enough for a felling axe in the larger model, why not a breach and barrel of a dart gun just as well?

Fully general quickmatter Goo could become any type of blade on demand, and a firearm as well. You might not want to waste quickmatter on expendables, but it doesn’t have to use gunpowder-like reactions: it can hurl a found pebble or scrap material using some means inside the apparatus to propell it with great force. It might be a nano-mechanical catapult or super-spring.

But I may indeed fire a tiny pellet of quickmatter, possibly coating a rock to give it more momentum. It would impact the target and then run its own program to eat through the armor and then continue to attack autonomously, perhaps “assimilating” the target. Lead bullets with the existance of quickmatter technology might be the same kind of goof we discussed the other day.

Sword/gun/camera/databank/gaming-platform/bow… there’s an app for anything. And pat yourself on the acnestis if you figured out that transformative technology was both a reference to my earlier post and a double entendre.

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  • $\begingroup$ Imagine a button, which at the convenience of a tap morphs into your IPhone. Then there's ISword, IGun, IAxe, ISpear applications for your convenient use. And after a long bloody fight, you can use IBath and IComputer at the same time. $\endgroup$ – Skye Aug 31 '16 at 14:00
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    $\begingroup$ @Sky and then in the middle of your fight, jSword starts updating itself to version 2.1 and the cloud service decides to revoke your licence to use jPlasmaPistol $\endgroup$ – Greenstone Walker Sep 1 '16 at 10:03
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First, these are never going to be used by common infantry.

Simply put they are going to be complicated and expensive compared to a simple rifle/pistol.

Additionally there isn't a whole hell of a lot of hand to hand combat on the modern battlefield.

Structurally they can be made but they aren't super practical. The most likely scenario would probably be more of a sword/dagger combo.

Couple reasons for this concept.

The uses:

  • Mainly this could be a special ops/infiltration weapon. If you had a blade on your fire arm you could stab and kill silently (and lightlessly since there is no flash)

That's about it really.

The drawbacks:

  • You hold a sword with a strait grip for strength and a pistol with a pistol grip (der). You aren't going to be able to swing a full sized sword with force using a pistol grip and would very possibly break your wrist trying to do so.
  • Complicated to use. Sure, bullets fly fast, but if you are trying to shoot and swing at the same time you could well hit your own bullet. You would likely use it as one or the other not both at the same time (and is that more efficient than just having a knife on your belt???)
  • Messing up has the potential to ruin both your blade and your fire arm

  • Ammo capacity. Ammo is heavy in significant amounts. Your ability to swing a sword is drastically impacted by weight. This thing is definitely not going to be an automatic weapon.

  • The blade can't be solid all the way down to the handle. At some point there is going to have to be a joint or a weld to hold the two together and joints are always the weak point on weapons.

  • Any blade larger than a small stabbing dagger is going to make it real hard to aim. For accurate aim you want the weight of the gun centered


So in the end, you could certainly create a gun blade. It would break easier than either a sword or gun alone.

It wouldn't support large blades or sweet sword fights while dodging bullets (which would admittedly look awesome).

I guess in short, it can be done but it just isn't practical in any real way.

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  • $\begingroup$ Time to stick to bayonets, or not $\endgroup$ – Skye Aug 31 '16 at 13:57
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Sometimes when you're building something, its better to do one thing well than many things badly. With a black powder type pistol, you want easy access to the muzzle for loading. You want a long enough barrel for accuracy, but short enough for easy stowage. A sword on the other side, needs some legth, and a sharp or pointy bit, preferably far away enough from the shooty bits. The problem with a classic gun sword is you're trying to shoot past the blade.

The design that's usually in use is dumb. however. A nice thing to have in a pistol is a shoulder stock. Improved accuracy.Stick a short sword on one end, have a dual sided handle, gun on the other. The barrel can act as a guard when used as a sword.

enter image description here

Kinda like this but designed by someone with actual skills. Have a dual purpose cutlass style handle with a guard, and a scabbard that doubles as a base. Your sword length is limited by the length of the brace and it would be a short sword with a gun on the end. I'd much rather the rifle and stabby bayonet but it makes more sense than glueing a sword next to a full length sword

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    $\begingroup$ The problem with this is that the part of the stock you actually hold against your shoulder would definitely be in the way of using the Stabby End, which would significantly hurt its use as a sword. The other problem I see is that if you are trying to be accurate you typically press your face up against the stock to get a steady view of the sights, which in this case might be a bad idea. Very interesting and creative idea though! $\endgroup$ – Kevin Wells Aug 30 '16 at 16:51
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    $\begingroup$ Make it a huge balisong with uneven halves of the "handle". When in shooty fold, you have a comfy stock to your shoulder. When in stabby fold, you have your trigger locked and a handy handle that does not restrict wrist movements (wider shoulder-pad serves as a guard). Equip your royal guard with those and intimidate the hell of everyone with sickest moves ever. \\ please draw that it would be awesome $\endgroup$ – Daerdemandt Aug 30 '16 at 19:03
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    $\begingroup$ You remove the stock to shoot. Essentially the stock is the scabbard for the gun. $\endgroup$ – Journeyman Geek Aug 30 '16 at 23:01
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    $\begingroup$ @Daerdemandt actually the balisong sword makes sense. I covers up the hot shooty bit and its harder to lose than a removable shoulder stock. $\endgroup$ – Journeyman Geek Aug 31 '16 at 0:02
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Existence

Depending on how broad your definition is, it might already have existed. Refer to this information from Wikipedia:

Pinfire cartridge gun-swords were produced in Belgium during the mid-19th century, although in limited quantity.[8][9] These custom-made weapons were sometimes used by European officers and featured a loading gate behind the basket hilt.[8] In 1866 T Rauh of Solingen filed a United States patent on the design of a 9mm caliber pistol sword with a 32in blade.

There is also a plethora of information about pistol-daggers:

In 1838, the United States Navy developed the .54 caliber, single-shot smoothbore Elgin pistol, which was equipped with an 11.5-inch Bowie knife blade[4] and was intended for use by boarding parties; it was the first percussion cap gun in naval service,but only 150 were made. enter image description here

Citing from the same article:

Another notable example of a pistol sword was the Swedish 1865 Cutlass Pistol; 500 were ordered by the government and issued to prison guards.

Edged weapons with built-in pistols were common in Eastern Europe. The flintlock axe pistol was a trademark Polish cavalry weapon from the 16th until the 18th century. Similar guns were made in Hungary and a multi-barreled version was invented in Germany.


Usefulness

The real question, which you have already posed, seems to be: "why would anyone build that?" Now, I can only guess and, thought I have fired a gun more than once, I am by no means an expert. I suppose it's terribly impractical to aim with this added knife contraption. But I guess you can add a pistol to a larger knife with a proper (knife) handle, if you don't care for aiming. What would then be the use of this? Refer to the second citation and the mention of boarding parties. I guess it could have some use as a surprise in close quarters.

Ultimately, there is a very good argument against it: it axisted and didn't prevail!

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Shotguns and long weaponry take time to swing and then aim. Having a melee option on the end cuts down on noise (since gunfire can be heard from a distance) and it would most definitely be a mod. We saw more gun swords, gun axes and other crossover firearms that doubled as melee weapons during the era when reloading took so much time that it was needed. There are reasons you might want such a thing in the modern era.

  • Stealth (less noise)
  • Limited ammo in the world
  • Field conditions demand it (it's so difficult to maintain a firearm that a backup is needed)
  • The Rule of Cool/Shock & Awe

The last one, I would say would be applied to specific elite forces. Such a weapon is not all that practical, so it would have to be a well-designed and rare piece. There are issues with making it an efficient weapon--it seems like it would not be good at either job because of the design requirements for each sort of getting in the way of the other. (Others on here have summed it up quite nicely). What this means is that if it's going to be a good weapon, it's still going to be difficult to design. In that case it cannot be standard issue, and something that only certain forces or rank carry--or something rare and custom.

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Here is a conceptual answer:

The gunsword basically addresses the problem of long- and short-range combat.

In earlier times, the latter may have been more frequent. In modern times, the former was. So the gunsword offers the solution of a "dual-use" item. You already mentioned bayonets, which effectively turn rifles into gunswords.

Why prefer a gunsword over a regular gun? If you are constantly shifting between long- and short-range, and switching weapons is difficult or costlier (than using a gunsword).

Why would an army use them? May reduce overall costs, if the gunsword (and associated costs of training, logistics, etc.) is cheaper than two different items.

Is the gunsword a realistic, feasible concept? It is certainly a plausible concept, only bound by physical limitations.

Note the answers above are not all-inclusive. Say, there may be more reasons for an army to want gunswords.

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  • $\begingroup$ The range these guns would operate on, given the short barrel, would be very limited. Not something you could call long range at all. $\endgroup$ – Joeblade Aug 30 '16 at 14:14
  • $\begingroup$ Keep in mind the answer is conceptual. One can easily conceive of a gunsword whose gun is of long range, relatively speaking. Don't get hung up on the history of the weapons. $\endgroup$ – user296844 Aug 30 '16 at 18:24
  • $\begingroup$ True, but I think any long range model will end up being a hollow sword. Not sure I want to fire a weapon that has had it's barrel hammered. It would have to be a pretty undentable alloy if the barrel is the length of the sword. So that would have to be one of the givens for this to work. $\endgroup$ – Joeblade Aug 31 '16 at 8:23
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    $\begingroup$ In this context it's also worth thinking about modern short-range combat - the reason why modern military rifles usually don't attach bayonets like in WW1 is simply because improvements in actual guns; WW1 rifles were rather bad in close combat and a blade would be preferrable, but current rifles with much shorter barrels, full auto capacity and larger magazines mean that you do just fine in CQB and a bayonet, sword or axe isn't an improvement like it was a hundred years ago. $\endgroup$ – Peteris Aug 31 '16 at 9:48
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Speaking with experience of sword fighting (long sword), one potential use of a gun sword would be when sword fighting. In the event that you meet an opponent of equal skill, quite often you end up dualing for a prolonged period of time where you clash repeatedly, often locking blades and manoeuvring around each other to try to get lucky with the end of your blade when you separate (more than once I have actually dropped my sword on purpose here, whipped out a knife and stabbed the other guy while he was debating what to do with my sword).

At this point in time where the blades are locked, essentially neither party has any offensive or defensive ability. If you happened to have a pistol strapped to the side of your sword's hilt, letting off one shot at nearly point blank range would not need much aiming at all. Even if your shot only clipped your opponent's shoulder, that should be sufficient to distract them for long enough for you to extract your sword and run them through with it.

In a worst case scenario where the shot shatters your blade, your opponent will have just been showered with fragments of your blade, distracting them significantly while you still have a rather sharp shard, with a rather nice handle - enter the world of luxury shivs! Once your opponent has been dispatched, you can then continue with their sword and keep your pistol powered shiv for backup.

As most good long swords balance just in front of the crossguard, if the pistol were strapped to the hilt of the sword, possibly running across the crossguard, you could either reduce the size of the pommel or increase the length of the blade to compensate for the added weight of the pistol. As aiming is not really an issue, you just need a trigger you can pull/press with any free digit on your hand, so you only need to design a well made (read balanced) sword rather than a fancy pistol.

For the usage suggested here, the pistol does not actually need to be pointing directly down the blade. It could easily be mounted at any angle between matching the blade and being at a perfect right angle to it. I expect years of experimentation would discover the best angle. However, provided that the sword fighter was able to approximate a straight line from the barrel to the opponent at practically point blank range, this could be a very influential weapon for the first side to implement them. Very demoralising for an enemy to know that even their best sword fighters could suddenly be taken out by a comparative novice by simply blocking and shooting. No matter how hard you train, practising not being stabbed just after being shot is very hard to fit into a practical curriculum.

In the real world, once accuracy increased, dedicated guns took over from swords, making a sharp piece of metal a fall back weapon rather than a primary but in the era before that where guns were hopelessly inaccurate, being able to discharge one at point blank range while sword fighting could well have been a revolutionary tactic.

Unfortunately, by the time guns had been miniaturised sufficiently to be mounted on swords, they were reasonably accurate by themselves and could be used effectively as weapons in their own right or with a sword in one hand and a pistol in the other.

I think this could have been a very effective additional weapon for sword fighters had it been introduced when sword fighting was the primary means of combat. Reloading would probably have been an issue - very hard to put down your primary weapon in the middle of battle, sit down and do some work on it, so the pistol would have to be loaded before battle and used more as a reserve weapon than a main one.

An interesting alternate design could be a snap-on, disposable one shot pistol. That way you carry a pouch of these, whip one out and clip it onto the side of your sword after you expended the last one. If the mounting point is well balanced, the difference in weight between an empty pistol and a loaded pistol should have negligible effect on the sword's performance. This kind of re-loading action could be done with one hand, so given a brief lull in the fighting, you could reload mid-battle without risking sitting around defenceless for five minutes or so.

For a variation on the above, have the snap-on point as a standard fitting and allow other items to be mounted there too e.g. a pre-loaded crossbow, a spring mounted knife blade, a double barrel pistol, a bunch of flowers etc. anything that can distract the opponent long enough for you to let your sword do the dirty business.

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  • $\begingroup$ Interesting idea. I wonder if it would be possible to design such a thing to fire a small, hard, high-velocity projectile parallel to the barrel with the intention of damaging an opponent's blocked sword? $\endgroup$ – supercat Aug 31 '16 at 18:59
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As an author, I feel that one possible interpretation of your question is "Realistically, what kind of technology, social conditions, or philosophy would justify using such a thing?". Is that sense, there are a number of generic directions you could take, and flesh out as your narrative unfolds.

In real life, successful or widely-used weapons aren't developed in a vacuum. Typically, a weapon evolves in response to a particular defence, such as in Dune, for example. In Dune, long range projectile weapons were useless, as combatants could wear a force field to stop the projectile. However, in order to allow the passage of oxygen and objects in the landscape, the field allowed low-velocity hand weapons to pass. Such a situation might favour a combination weapon like the gunsword, as one could expect to slide the weapon inside the shield and fire, doing catastrophic damage to the target, yet leaving one with an acceptable hand weapon for continued use. Other uses might revolve around some sort of large beast, where the bayonet-like blade was required to pierce the thing's hide, but the gun was a necessity for causing enough trauma to kill it. A "dragonkiller", if you will.

Specialized weapons are also developed for particular environments, as well. In WWII, flamethrowers were not terribly successful or useful in open combat, but were very effective (albeit very dangerous to the operator) in tunnel warfare in the Pacific. The sword portion of the gunblade, for instance, might be incidental to combat, but be very useful to clear out the "web" of a creature like that from the Alien series. If such an environment is usual, a fighting force might well continue to use such a weapon, despite that weapon being unwieldy or obsolete in any other context.

Also available is technological stagnation, as in Warhammer 40K. In WH40K, such gothic weapons are justified by having the Human protagonists maintain a religious aversion to "new" technology, requiring them as an article of faith to use millennia-old weapon designs that are not always especially effective. Religious reasons can be very effective storytelling mechanisms, as entrenched dogma is almost always difficult to change, and deaths stemming from the use of sub-standard tech can always be passed of as martyristic or some such. The difficulty from a story perspective is that soldiers tend to be practical people; writing about armies from this perspective is easy, but writing believable characters is hard.

Another approach might be a unique, expert character with a cultural background or personal quirk that incorporates the weapon in question. Indiana Jones is a great example. His bullwhip might not be considered as effective as a knife or even a sword, but his level of expertise negates that downside and he'll use that bullwhip by default in any close combat situation. Importantly, he's not adverse to using any other, more effective, weapon as the situation dictates; he just strongly identifies with the whip when it's appropriate. Justifying a single character spending an exorbitant amount of time training to overcome a gunblade's inherent weaknesses is much easier to do than justifying the same for an entire army.

Also, many current day armed forces still teach combat with a bayonet attached to an assault rifle. While no modern force that I have heard of regards this as a realistic form of field combat, it is a fantastic way to improve all-around strength and endurance (as I can personally attest!). In an emergency, an expert instructor might use their deeply-ingrained techniques with any appropriately-shaped piece of wood or pipe. Their skills are useable outside of the actual weapon in question, and fully justifies their training. A gunblade might be used in this context, where a handful of people are very proficient with them, and use them in a very limited ad hoc way.

Hope this helps, Dusty

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It could be useful a rifle with sharp edges in close combat because you can slip it away from enemies hands if they surprise you from a corner, thus I don't think Marines nor any other army adopted that kind of machinery, what I think it could be useful is in reality a RPG-Hammer. A regular hammer in melee combat but also equipped with a RPG shot able to penetrate thick armors (even ones protected by reactive explosive) thanks to its curved surface. It could also be used to get the hammer unstuck and achieve to quick shots on one enemy that is in front of you and another that is behind you.. But at this point you are guessing already why you have a melee weapon in modern warfare.

Could still be a useful weapon to hit a moving vehicle or wrecking some building entrance.

The hammer just has one curved side that has some explosive inside and some metal that will be projected melted on the hitted surface (and at same time provide a opposite force to project the hammer away) like regular RPGs. It is a 1/2 shots weapon. But could be much cheaper to recharge that than to spend money on multiple RPG rockets.

Like Warren sad in his answer maybe a "Gunblade" has the solely purpose to make a shot stronger thanks to a little explosion (I would discard the vibration stuff simply because each material requires a different frequency and that's impractical). In example if the blade is made by 2 parallel metal pieces and actually the explosion create a small fissure between them it could help a blade to crack an armor with proper timing between the shot and the explosion.

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I read Warren's answer, but I had a different interpretation of the gunblade's use in FFVIII that might have practical application in other built worlds, if not particularly our own. Upon researching, it appears that I am wrong, however I continue to believe my original interpretation holds some value.

I always thought that the point of the gunblade in FFVIII was as a means of piercing armor. That is, you cut through the armor of a beast, and blast their insides with the bullet by timing your shot.

In that world, using something to bypass armor in close quarters combat would make sense with all the large, high-powered, heavily-armored creatures (e.g. dragons, behemoths, Malboros, etc); large, armored, and complicated machines (X-ATM092); and magically protected people (using Shell, etc) you would end up encountering.

In our world, it doesn't. We fight against armies of people, often with (relatively simple) machines, rather than large creatures or combat droids and the like. We don't need the extra armor-piercing capabilities in close-quarters combat, because a shotgun, assault rifle, or bayonet usually suffices against humans. Plus we could just use a high-powered rifle with AP rounds at a distance.

In this case, you don't need much finesse, because you're usually not fighting against nimble creatures. The recoil would probably serve to remove the sword from the hulking monstrosity you now find yourself within arm's reach of - if it gets stuck there, you're probably going to find yourself in a world of hurt before you get a chance to dislodge it. In Dissidia, the recoil is even used to an advantage (although I doubt it would realistically work quite so well, it's worth mentioning).

Clumsy? Yes, probably.

Useful in our world? Nope, not at all. Other answers cover all the reasons why pretty effectively.

But having potential applications to be mindful of when creating alternate worlds? Absolutely.

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You would have to define a combat context where swordplay was actually used. For example, propose a dueling society with high chivalry expectations, or an advanced Samurai culture. As in many past civilizations on Earth, the professional warrior class had better or more specialized armament than the rank and file support soldiers (think of English knights with foot soldiers and archery for bulk troops).

I could conceive of an advanced (technologically, if not culturally to the extent pacifism will be an attribute of an advanced race) civilization where personal man-to-man single combat was possible, even a prestige role. However, what to do about the hordes of rank and file troops who might have little respect for the single combat of the high ranking guys? In the heat of battle the grunts as it were might just push in on a sword fight between ranking knights. Here is where the omni-sword-gun comes into its own:

Just above the hilt on a well-balanced combat designed sabre or the like is a spherical AI (artificial intelligence, i.e., a hardware implementation of particular combat sequences of image pattern recognition and ballistic sighting) device approximately 20 cm/8 inch, hyper strong but light metal with near 360 degree rotational capability in 2 axes. Mounted within is a miniature electric rail gun able to fire supersonic pellets which detonate on impact such that very small pellets are able to remove 2 inch/5 cm chunks of light armor and flesh. Image sensors on the globe detect and analyze human figures in real time and decide whether they are intruders on the single combat to be eliminated or are aspects of the legitimate single foe faced by the dueler to be ignored. The mass of the globe unit would be insignificant relative to the sword mass and would not appreciably affect precision swordplay. Nevertheless, its advanced alloys would permit it to be struck by opponent sword strokes without damage.

You might visualize a scene with with two knights fighting, swords flashing and the clank of parry when several unruly troops race in from the side and front to attack one of the knights. The response is so quick as to be almost invisible as the omni-sword-gun unit rotates and fires in milliseconds, there being nothing but machine whizzing and supersonic cracks in a blurred audio and light stream as flesh and blood and bits of chain mail or the like erupt from the now falling troops who neared the knights. The knights ignore this and continue their honorable test of death.

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When I think about gunsword feasibility I always think of Farscape Ka D'Argo's sword that converts into an energy rifle, that's a weapon that with enough materials technology to prevent undue breakage you could have without too much difficulty. It's feasible at a certain level of technology to build a weapon using that set up even if it's with a more "primitive" (which is to say modern) firearm, the engineer in me says it could be done reasonably well now using a 3D printer and the right alloys. Why the hell does such a weapon exist in the first place though? Honour and pragmatism, melee weapons are the honourable way to fight your battles but because not everyone fights with honour you need something up your sleeve for those times when you're not afforded the option of honourable combat. You can't just carry a gun as well, that's for the dishonourable sods you need versatility to protect yourself from, so you carry a convertible weapon that allows you to fight your battles properly whenever an honourable enemy allows you to but also gives you a level footing against the other guys too. Armies would use them for the same reason individuals use them it's the "right way" to fight, as I recall Ka D'Argo's sword takes a lot of conversion time to turn into a rifle but snaps shut into it's sword format almost instantly which tells you all you really need to know about the attitude towards combat that gave rise to such a tool of war. Gunswords aren't that practical purely as weapons for the sake of having a particular weapon, melee or projectile, but in the right cultural context they could be an almost inescapable conclusion.

As a side note projectile accuracy and power are always going to be something of an issue with a gunsword, not that such a weapon can't fire accurately but that it isn't going to be as accurate, or have as much punch, as a firearm of the same weight and size. That doesn't matter in a cultural context where you only have a ranged weapon because you absolutely have to but you don't really want it bit it makes a hell of a difference if it's reversed and you have a melee weapon because honour demands but battles are fought primarily in "gun mode".

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I tend to favor the concept as it is used in Power Rangers, it's parent show Super Sentai and the sister show Kamen Rider. In the former two, they are typically the weapon of choice for the sixth ranger/guy who joins the team after the core team has been assembled. In the latter, they tend to be the main hero's weapon.

In either case, they are designed as guns that turn into swords and are not functional at as both at the same time. For the show's purposes, it's benefit is the hero can cut through large groups of mooks and then take a shot at the bad guy who is further away (which only works because the nature of the shows are choreographed martial arts fights, so close range weapons are ideal AND they make for cool toys. Kids buy things they can transform and move the parts too). Notable uses (i.e. the ones I can come up with on the top of my head) are Megaranger's MegaSilver/Power Rangers In Space's Silver Ranger and Kamen Rider Wizard. Kamen Rider Ghost has a weapons system that combines his gun sword with other items to make more variety of weapons and the current Super Sentai Season (Kyuranger) the core team has weapons that can be combined in different ways to make various cutting and shooting implements, but they aren't switched around (each ranger has one combo and uses it religiously. Individuality seems to be a big theme of this season.).

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protected by Serban Tanasa Sep 1 '16 at 13:28

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