In our beautiful little world there are guns like pistols and rifles and for simplicity sake let's say they are of the Old West variety. In this world there also exist many beasts different and stronger than ours. The people living there are also much stronger than us, let's say 2 to 3 times stronger than the average human.


Is it realistic for an animal to not be able to be hurt by guns but be vulnerable to weapons like swords and spears and maces supposing that the users are that much stronger than humans like us?


Supposing there is defensive magic in this world and users can apply a forcefield around them that essentially acts as a barrier against physical attacks but with a certain limit. Disregarding any other type or use of magic. Is it possible that swords would have a better chance to breach said barrier than a bullet? (To help, imagine that the barriers act like plate armor just without hindering the movement of the user and is essentially weightless.)

The main difference between the two questions is that in the second, any attack that gets through is enough to remove the combatant from the fight. While in the first, animals can take much more damage before succumbing to their wounds, requiring either precision attacks in vulnerable spots, (either pre-existing due to their anatomy or created by an attack, if said attack cannot be repeated many times, e.g. limited ammo) or by repeatedly creating new wounds, supposing breaching their skin is relatively "easy" with your weapon of choice.


closed as too broad by Mołot, sphennings, L.Dutch, Josh King, Azuaron Jul 31 '17 at 18:58

Please edit the question to limit it to a specific problem with enough detail to identify an adequate answer. Avoid asking multiple distinct questions at once. See the How to Ask page for help clarifying this question. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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    $\begingroup$ You are asking two different questions, "Is it realistic for animals to be immune to guns but still be affected by swords?" and "Can my world have a magic anti bullet shield that swords can pass through?". Please limit yourself to one question per post. $\endgroup$ – sphennings Jul 31 '17 at 13:19
  • $\begingroup$ @sphennings Oh sorry i thought since they are very similar with minor differences it would be alright to put them together should i remove the question and split it? $\endgroup$ – Mikailo Jul 31 '17 at 13:31
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    $\begingroup$ One issue that immediately springs to mind is the question of strength - certainly you could have animals immune to small-arms but vulnerable to a sword wielded by something or someone very strong - but being very strong they would then be able to carry a much bigger gun. A human 3 times as strong as a real person could probably carry a 20mm cannon quite happily, and no non-magical animal is going to be able to withstand that (most armoured vehicles can't). $\endgroup$ – Matt Bowyer Jul 31 '17 at 16:46

On your first point: Most bullet proof armor is definitely not "Stab-Proof". Kevlar is a weave of fabrics that will absorb the impact of a bullet by distributing the impact force over a greater area. However, a knife point is narrow enough that it can cut enough of the fabric threads to create a hole and can lead to further slicing once the initial penetration action. If this were to occur in nature (why not, life is weird) than yes, a sword of some type would be more efficient then a gun. That is not to say, though, that guns don't work. Kevlar does have a limit to its effectiveness and people can get substantial bruising if hit by a bullet, even if the impact is limited to the vest (I've even see denting occur, rendering the entire vest useless and forcing the user to get a new one). I can imagine a scenario where the animal could be shot with enough ammo available, but I think it will either take something more than a Wild West Era gun OR armor piercing rounds (I'm not sure if they existed in the era you're looking at).

As for Armor, it's harder to say. Plate Armor evolved to defend against Claymores and other European style swords that were big, heavy, and relied on being massive and sharp. A rapier (or other narrow stabbing style sword) would be more effective, as there would be gaps that were smaller (chain mail was the block for this). Japanese swords, conversely, were designed to be light slashing weapons and most Katana use wasn't designed to cross blades (I recall. At any rate, there is a reason why we don't send troops into combat in Knight or Samurai armor anymore, so I would say a gun could probably be more effective. (Consider the Back To The Future III showdown, where Marty had a hidden pan to stop the bullet... in both the movie within in the movie that hinted it and the actual movie proper, the pan was there to take one shot, tricking the bad guy into believing the hero was dead, long enough for the hero to get a jump on them. Had the villain shot twice, both uses would have died... and that assumes it didn't find it's way into a mythbuster's episode to begin with).

TL;DR: Swords vs. guns on Beasties, possibly. Swords vs. Guns on magic armor... Um... I'd lean to guns, only because Plate Armor wasn't meant for bullet stopping.

  • $\begingroup$ Plate armour did stop bullets for some time (the term bullet proof refers to plate that had been tested (proofed) by shooting it) and rapiers were not the tools of choice to deal with it; that would have been the pollaxe or estoc. Polearms like the pollaxe delivered enough force to break bones and knock down plate-armoured enemies, while the estoc could be used to thrust into the few weak spots protected only by chain or as a grappling tool to make doing so easier. $\endgroup$ – Elia Jul 31 '17 at 19:17
  • $\begingroup$ @Elia: Thanks for the clarification. I'd still question its effectiveness against guns available in the Wild West (There's a lot of difference in power between a Colt and a musket ball in terms of penetration ability.). Honestly, part two falls more under the OP's rules for how magic works. $\endgroup$ – hszmv Jul 31 '17 at 19:26
  • $\begingroup$ Ref. this Quora answer (quora.com/…) 16th century-style plate was able to stop all modern handgun bullets below the .44 Magnum. Civil War-era rifles and muskets seem to be approximately equal in power but lesser in penetration to the .44 Magnum, and so would have a moderate chance of penetrating. Plate would then presumably stop all period handguns and the majority of repeating rifles. $\endgroup$ – Elia Jul 31 '17 at 19:42

In the Dune series people had personal force fields that produced a force proportional to the speed of the object trying to penetrate it. Lasers and guns were useless outside the field. But in hand to hand fighting a knife could be pushed through the field slowly. (Presumably a gun could as well but the knife made for a better story.)

Secondly, every life form has to have "ports". Places where materials have to enter and exit. And some of the sensors have to be exposed as well, like eyes and ears. The latter typically have bone behind them but it is also typically much thinner. A sword could penetrate this bone and be somewhat self guided by the surrounding bone to the processing center behind it. (Note these nerves are typically short for bandwidth reasons.) During the medieval times, people would knock knights off their horses, roll them onto their back and push sharp objects through the eye holes to kill the knight. Gruesome but effective. A gun would do similar damage as long as the person had the discipline to not use it until stuck into the eye hole. But how many people would have that discipline.

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    $\begingroup$ I mean using guns to shoot someone through his eyes from point blank seems kinda superfluous but i see your points. Thanks for that dune info. JUst asking cause I haven't read it, when you mean slowly , was it done during fighting. Cause I imagine slow mo stabbing someone while fighting and it doesn't work in my head :P $\endgroup$ – Mikailo Jul 31 '17 at 17:08
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    $\begingroup$ @Mikailo that was a point made in the original Dune book when the lead character was in a knife fight with someone who didn't have a personal shield. He was so used to slowing down his attack at the last second to get through the shield, that he would let his opponent get away. $\endgroup$ – raykendo Jul 31 '17 at 17:23
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    $\begingroup$ In Dune, a fighter would initially move quickly, then slow down to penetrate the shield. The speed had to be modulated mid-attack. A bullet would only have a single speed, so an energy shield that blockedl fast-moving objects might be effective at stopping bullets, but would be vulnerable to blade attacks. $\endgroup$ – Leatherwing Jul 31 '17 at 19:27
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    $\begingroup$ I once read a book on writing science fiction, that pointed out that personal forcefields, that would stop bullets and ray guns, but not swords or fists, were a staple of pulp science fiction, before Dune. $\endgroup$ – bgvaughan Jul 31 '17 at 19:57

First question: Yes, swords could be better, if the animal shows different behaviors depending on the distance between it and the human. It could go into an all-defense mode, if said distance is bigger than his own attack range, rendering guns and bullets useless, as they can't get through its scales or whatever. But as soon as you come close enough it will attack you, while it ignores his defense. I imagine swords to be the better weapon for your own defense, before you strike and kill the prey with it.

Second question: Yes, swords can be more effective, if the shield has limited duration on constant attacks. Just say the shield can fully recover in the short amount of time between two bullets, but breaks under constant pressure of a sword.


Is it realistic for an animal to not be able to be hurt by guns but be vulnerable to weapons like swords and spears and maces?

Consider the animal equivalent of a tank. Say, a crab.

Its body would have a thick slanted carapace on which bullets would tend to ricochet if not coming in at the perfect angle. It would have many thin, armored legs which would be rather difficult to aim at with a firearm.

Let's say the armor evolved as a result of a predator having a big, strong jaw. Like a T-Rex...

A big mace would be effective at cracking its armor. Even if it does not crack, the blunt force trauma could be enough to cause internal damage. War hammers follow this principle. When someone wears full plate including helmet, a sword won't puncture or slash it, but hit the guy on the head with a heavy mace, and you don't need to actually go through the armor. Check out this oldskool armor-piercing tool. Both sides look equally brutal.

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Note that the pointy end will tend to hit armor at the optimal angle (ie, perpendicular) to avoid glancing, and it has the weight of the hammer behind it to push it in. Plus, it has a pointy bit on the top, in case you need to impale something by thrusting.

Back to our crab. You could slip the tip of a spear inside the joints. Or a sword, but the spear would have more reach. Reach is always good when facing ravenous beasts.

Now, another wicked creature. Say, a huge worm or snake. It lives in bogs infested with large blood sucking bugs, and instead of scales, its skin excretes a very thick layer of mucus. Bullets would penetrate this, but not very deep enough unless using a high powered rifle (think ballistic gel). However, a blade could.

Next would be swarm creatures. When attacked by a swarm of ten little buggers, a shovel would be a lot more effective than a gun loaded with only six bullets.


So, we can look at some ways to either nerf guns or improve swords in this scenario. Let's start with the guns.

  • Remove rifling - Bullets are more accurate because of the spin imparted to them by the rotating grooves in the barrel. Without this, guns would be less accurate at a distance. Without it, you would effectively have a smoothbore musket. Your weapons would be a little further back than Old West, but it could be done.
  • Weaker gunpowder - A bullet pierces effectively because of the kinetic energy imparted by exploding gunpowder. Have weaker gunpowder, and your bullet will be less effective. Unnatural moisture in the air could play a role with this.
  • More shotgun bullets available than solid/hollowpoints - Shotguns are great for close-up damage, but are much worse at a distance. Also, shotgun blasts would be much better against more fleshy targets than armored ones. If guns were imported from a region where the things that needed killing were not heavily armored, this could be viable.

For your swords to be better, one way I propose that fits with your second question regarding magic shields would introduce an 'anti-shieldium' material. You could say the inside of your swords could be filled with a core of 'anti-shieldium' which helps it to penetrate the magic shield. This 'anti-shieldium' could be expensive (which is why it's not wasted in bullets), or a brittle crystal that wouldn't survive being shot out of a gun. Also, a certain amount might be necessary to deflect the shield enough for an effective hit.


This ought be a comment except I lack the reputation.

Why not simple set the world to a pre-modern tech level where guns have not been invented?


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