Swords vs. Guns | The Literary Differences Between Them

Don’t bring a knife to a gun fight. Don’t bring a gun to a sword fight!

Some things are just better to read about. The topic of weapons, guns and swords in particular is a less-covered subject. But what is better? A gun or a sword?

Before you rush to your conclusion, think for a second. What if the gun couldn’t fire but one round at a time, thus reducing it’s killing capacity. On the other hand, imagine a sword that could only be used as decoration, because of it’s inefficient killing power.

Lets break this down even more.

Differences Between The Sword and The Gun

The Sword is a long, pointy object with many relative designs. It can be slender or wide, flexible or brittle, heavy or light. However, it’s main functions will be carried out within a short range of fighting; the killing blow is directly connected to the thrust or chop of a person’s movement.

When the military performs routines, traditionally is the sword or gun more common? The Sword. The sword is a symbol of honor and nobility. This perception is rooted in our understanding that those who are in sword fight are at a close range not able to turn and run, thus diminishing cowardice and sneakiness.

The Gun is a blunt mechanical device with many different types. Some are made for rapid-fire, unprejudiced killing, while some are made strictly for a one-shot, long-distance, anonymous kill. The main function of a gun is never directly caused by the wielders kinetic energy, but by the mechanics warranted by the wielder.

Perception of the gun is more dynamic. One can say that using a gun is cowardly and ruthless, but can also claim it takes accuracy and skill to make use of it. The gun generally causes death over a distance in a single instance. However, a duel, for instance features a standoff between two equally-at-risk patrons.


Where the gun risks losing the reader with it’s lack of intrigue, the sword finds an extra set of character development by being a symbol of nobility and honor. The gun itself does require exceptional training to kill it’s opponent. At the same time, the sword tends to make it’s setting seem older.

The difference is in the process. It only takes one shot to kill a man, but it takes an exhausting fight, potential wounding and a coup de grâce.

I am a writer who loves a good story and likes to discuss my artistic vision with other creative people out there.


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7 Responses to Swords vs. Guns | The Literary Differences Between Them

  1. This is something I have been thinking about as well. I am liking how your mind works. Anyway, seeming as over half the people here know The Hero of Time/The Legend of Zelda, we can see the point you are making. First, try and imagine The Legend of Zelda with guns, (also considered a Steam-punk Zelda.) Though you will probably think that it is “Cool” it takes away the glory of the series. Instead of the Master Sword, will you get the Master Gun? It just doesn’t sound right. But, when it comes to reading, it really depends on how you describe the actions. I have been writing Screenplays, Games and Stories for ages now and trying to describe someone using a gun as their weapon is hard. All I can say is “He quickly turns and fires yet another bullet at the guards. He continues to shoot. Once his bullets have been depleted, he turns around and begins to run.” It doesn’t sound as good. The only good thing I can think of with guns is the Matrix. Plus, what people do not realize is that guns have ammo. When it comes to writing, people forget that and make the weapon have unlimited ammo. Swords on the other hand, there is a huge range of techniques you can use to describe what is happening. “He quickly turns around and notices the guards running towards him. He quickly jumps to the side and rolls. He jumps up swinging his sword. The impact from the sword causes the Guard to bleed. Blood is dripping from the blade of the sword.” That sounds a lot better doesn’t it.

  2. Landosan says:

    What about a bow and arrow?

    • Emil Lowell says:

      From the novels I have read, the two common weapons are Swords and Guns. but, you do bring up a good point. A bow and arrow uses both the techniques you would with a Sword and a Gun. Similar to a gun, what people forget about it ammo/arrows. In most novels with Bows and Arrows as a weapon, the character has an unlimited supply. Lord of the Rings is a good example if I remember. Much like a sword, most the time the weapon will wound the enemy after one strike. Where as with a gun it is mostly an instant kill. Here is an example you would use with Bows. “He raises his bow to chest height. He pulls a single arrow from his quiver on his back. He attaches it to his bow. Carefully aiming at one of the unsuspecting guards, he pulls back on the bow and releases. The arrow flies through the air and hits the guard in the arm.”

  3. thestoryofmichael says:

    Thanks for taking the time to read and discuss!

    @Emil – You make some great points, I tend to agree with you.

    @Landosan – I probably would want to touch on bow and arrow if I had thought about including them into my story. I think the bow and arrow from a \’western\’ perspective is seen as primitive while in the east is regarded as an elegant weapon of precision. What do you think?

    It\’s an interesting concept to include weapons in literature at all. Why do we feel the need to discuss what the weapon is doing at all? Has our obsession with action in film starting to translate into action on paper? or has it always been this way? hmmm

  4. Emil Lowell says:

    Well, I have read a few novels with weapons in. Try to imagine Lord of the Rings without weapons… it wouldn’t be a novel would it… you would lose about 50% of anything that happens. But, with weapons, it all depends on the type of novel and the mind of the writer. 20% of romance novels have a weapon aspect to the novel, Action novels are ALWAYS going to have weapons in.

    Books have been around way longer than TV (obviously) and, books then also had a form of weapon. Agitha Christie’s murder mystery’s, is one form of novel (though it doesn’t contain a lot of weapons but it still has weapons.) But, with the modern day resources, I agree that some of us get our imagination from Films, TV and Games (not counting books).

  5. Brock says:

    I don’t mean to be rude, but before you start properly writing you’re going to need to understand the difference between “its” and “it’s”, because you got it wrong five times in just a short passage of text.

    Now, here’s to hoping that you read this before other people, edit this post, and delete this comment. And don’t make the same mistake again.

    But otherwise, cool stuff m/

  6. Pingback: OT: President Obama's press conference and executive decision on gun laws - Page 10 - Christian Forums

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