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How to justify melee weapons?

  1. May 31, 2013 #1
    In a universe with endgame technology, why would anyone use melee weapons like lightsabers? Every time I try to imagine a character using such a weapon, the thought always occurs "why not fire this from a gun?" Especially when characters can be modified to have flawless accuracy.

    And how would a human or alien even stand a chance against machines with more intelligence and designed specifically for killing?

    Or do you just have to ignore these things and pretend purity of heart is the real key to victory?
  2. jcsd
  3. May 31, 2013 #2
    It's just movie .
  4. May 31, 2013 #3
    When I was younger, I never understood why the Jedi, who were superior fighters both mentally and physically, used laser sticks rather than laser guns. Now, as a young adult, I still don't understand.

    And I get that they would deflect the shots, but in the chance that two shots would potentially make contact with a Jedi simultaneously, there is no physical way that they could deflect both shots at the same time, especially if one comes from in front, and the other from behind.

    But yeah, sci-fi rarely makes sense. It's something you have to deal with.
  5. May 31, 2013 #4


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    Armor. Power armor. If your ranged weapons can't penetrate the armor, (Or if they can't hit the guy because he moves too quickly for your bigger guns) you may need to resort to fitting your own armor with a melee weapon and crush some cans!

    As for Jedi, that's why they call lightsabers elegant weapons, unlike blasters which are 'brutal'. It's just a choice really. The rules of their order make it that way. But I will say lightsabers seem to have a great many more uses than blasters. Burning through bulkheads, deflecting things, chopping lumber, etc.
  6. Jun 1, 2013 #5


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    There are situations where melee weapons are more practical - close combat, or if you want to use it as a tool to heat/chop/whatever something. It might be reasonable to carry one around. On the other hand, there are combats where a ranged weapon is clearly better - unless you propose some weird ultra-high-tech armor which is immune to all ranged weapons. But then, both sides should fight melee only.
  7. Jun 1, 2013 #6


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    There are several instances in the films of Jedi being overwhelmed by multiple blaster shots - Jango Fett even pulls the trick off on his own at point blank range. The Jedi use lightsabers because Lucas was a fan of Samurai movies, and because swords are Just Cooler. Glowing energy swords even more so.

    Dune had personal shield technology, with a wrinkle that they only stopped high-velocity impacts. A relatively low-speed sword thrust would penetrate, and there were some ultra-low-velocity pistols (maula pistols, I think) that could penetrate but didn't do much damage, so you had to be a very good shot for them to be worth carrying. The other fun bit of shields was that if hit with a lazgun, they went up in a fusion explosion, and so did the shooter. Put together, that made for an environment where up-close-and-personal was the only way to go. Herbert also managed to outlaw AIs and anything that might even begin to look a little bit like a thinking machine. So, while there were super-soldier types (the Fremen, the Sardaukar, Duncan and Gurney), they were never up against never-miss automata.

    Peter F. Hamilton's Commonwealth has space-borne weaponry of almost unimaginable power (nova bombs are old news), so ground combat tends not to be army-versus-army but more agent-versus-agent. The agents are usually seriously upgraded, including built-in weapons, shields, computers and jacked-up reflexes, but are very hard to spot. They would generally prefer to get the job done without a fight, so when fights happen it tends to be because they tripped over each other - so all fights are never-miss automata close-in one-on-one. Sometimes a punch is the best way to go, especially if you've got a shield-penetrating energy-dump weapon on the end of your fist.

    I think that's all the excuses for melee I can think of...
  8. Jun 1, 2013 #7


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    In Joe Haldemann's "Forever War" the invention of a "stasis field" - a generated bubble inside of which nothing can move faster than a few metres per second - prompted the reintroduction of melee weapons.
    A similar concept to Herbert's personal shields.
  9. Jun 1, 2013 #8

    Here's the best response I've ever seen to that question:

    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 25, 2014
  10. Jun 4, 2013 #9
    If the weapons are powerful enough that you want to limit their range - if you're in a spacecraft, or a colony, or simply don't want to have a line of destruction from the end of your weapon to the edge of the universe - then melee weapons are practical.

    Take the lightsaber, as your original example. Assume you have a wavehandium power source that can provide as much power as needed - if fired as a beam weapon, it puts a burned hole about an inch in diameter in everything that gets in its way. If you're in a space ship, game over - you've killed the bad guy, but you've also vented the atmosphere, so it's a guaranteed Pyrrhic victory. Any part of the ship that wasn't in line with your weapon may be able to seal in their air and survive - but you're toast.

    In practical terms, melee weapons are better for the amount of control they offer - miss with a knife or sword and it's not going to impale somebody who's fifty meters further away, but almost in line with your target.
  11. Jun 4, 2013 #10


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    In the "Dune" series, they have "personal force fields" which will block anything over a certain speed. So you had to use things like a knife or sword, that did not move as fast as a bullet.
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