In the movie Dune, we can see:

  • Paul trains himself fighting with a dagger
  • House of Atredies soldiers fighting with swords during a bombardment from outer-space
  • House of Atredies guards fighting with swords and spears on stairs

Given there are space ships, artillery and etc, why do people in Dune fight with cold weapons only?

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    The effect of the shields (fast things can't penetrate them) is explained in the fight training scene (with Gurney Halleck, IIRC) in the early part of the movie.
    – DarkDust
    Oct 21 '21 at 13:03
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    Long answer short: Technology has rendered ballistic weaponry largely obsolete.
    – Omegacron
    Oct 23 '21 at 2:47
  • @DarkDust I thought what Gurney meant by that was that the old man was able to wear down Paul’s defenses over time.
    – bitmaker
    Oct 27 '21 at 20:10
  • @bitmaker: I just rewatched the scene. After switching on his shield, Paul "hits" his palm with the knife fast, which bounces off the shield. Then he moves it more slowly and it goes through. Gurney then manages to put his knife to Paul's neck and says, "The slow blade penetrates the shield". So it wasn't spelled out as explicitly as I thought it was, but it's there.
    – DarkDust
    Oct 28 '21 at 6:42

This is covered in the novel (where guns DO exist) but I'll let the director explain his decision.

As it ends up, that has a technological explanation, too. “In this universe there’s an invention: The Holtzman Shield,” Villeneuve said. “It’s something that you can wear on your body, and will deflect something fast coming towards you. Only something slow can penetrate that shield. So, it made them use things like bullets less. Humanity went back to close combat, where you fight with knives and blades because it’s the only way you can kill someone through those shields. You can penetrate the shield slowly with the blade.”

That's not to say that guns don't exist in the Dune universe but they are of limited use.

Las­gun: con­tin­u­ous-wave laser pro­jec­tor. Its use as a weapon is lim­ited in a field-gen­er­a­tor-shield cul­ture be­cause of the ex­plo­sive py­rotech­nics (tech­ni­cally, sub­atomic fu­sion) cre­ated when its beam in­ter­sects a shield.

Shield, de­fen­sive: the pro­tec­tive field pro­duced by a Holtz­man gen­er­a­tor. This field de­rives from Phase One of the sus­pen­sor-nul­li­fi­ca­tion ef­fect. A shield will per­mit en­try only to ob­jects mov­ing at slow speeds (de­pend­ing on set­ting, this speed ranges from six to nine cen­time­ters per sec­ond) and can be shorted out only by a shire-sized elec­tric field. (See Las­gun.)

Dune - Frank Herbert

We see a "gun" in one character's hand when they kill some guards (it's hard to see as it's in the shadows). This seems to be more of an air-pistol shooting darts.

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Paul has one when confronted by the Fremen.

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    And if you ask yourself why the shield isn't just completely impenetrable: The in-universe explanation here is that you still need certain things to pass through, like the air to breathe by the wearer. The only distinguishing factor by which a shield can decide which things to deflect and which to let pass is their speed. Oct 21 '21 at 13:26
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    This is one of those things that you shouldn't think about too much. A six-to-nine cm/sec limit still excludes a lot of things that are allowed in the narrative. Just think "it keeps out bullets, and destroys both the shooter and itself when lasers are used," and leave it at that.
    – EvilSnack
    Oct 21 '21 at 13:37
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    In the book there are several references to "slow pellet stunners" which are presumably gun-like devices that fire a projectile from range, slow enough to pass through a shield but with not enough energy to substantially damage the target, hence the need to stun instead. Oct 21 '21 at 13:46
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    Presumably visible light gets a special dispensation not allowed to other EM wavelengths and/or fast things. :-) I don't care though, loved the books and really looking forward to this! Oct 21 '21 at 13:53
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    @GrimmTheOpiner Clearly light is acting like a wave when it crosses the shield and not a particle ; )
    – Logarr
    Oct 21 '21 at 16:23

I've not seen the movie yet, so my reference is entirely from the novels (plus the Sci-Fi miniseries and 1984 Lynch movie).

First off, you need to consider three different technologies: lasguns, shields, and small arms such as maula pistols.

  • Maula pistols do exist in Dune, and fire a small shot - just like a standard pistol today. However...

  • Shields (either personal shields, or those used to protect ships/buildings) are basically forcefields. They will stop anything fast, but are vulnerable to slow objects. Hence, maula pistols are ineffective. In fact, a lot of sword/knife fighting is ineffective, unless the fighters slow their weapons down to penetrate the shield - otherwise it will bounce off.

  • Lasguns also exist. These are essentially big, bulky pew-pew lasers.

However, an interesting phenomenon is the Holtzmann effect. Should a lasgun hit a shield, the result causes an explosion that not only wipes out the shielded target (and the surrounding vicinity), but the feedback along the lasgun beam also wipes out the attacker. The explosion is also identical to those created by atomics - dreaded weapons that most Houses hold in reserve yet never dare to use, and their usage is forbidden under the Great Convention. A party utilising a lasgun/shield interaction risks the might of the Empire coming down on their House, so nobody dares risk it.


I am unsure if it is in the movie, but in the novels, Thufir Hawat sets up a shield and lasgun remotely in order to wipe out Harkonnen pursuers.

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