Melee Versus Ranged - Which One is Best?

Personal Satisfaction
In situations where there’s some kind of vendetta, revenge or grudge match, nothing beats being up close to your opponent. Whether it’s a knife fight, a martial arts duel, or a fight to the death using Venusian laughing worms, you want to see the look on your opponent’s face when you administer the final coup-de-grace, or coup-de-worm.
R combat, even with futuristic optics and slo-mo playback in full super-duper HD just isn’t the same. Even if the quality is so good the human eye can’t actually see the difference, there’s still a degree of separation introduced by the tech. And with no tech it’s even worse. Release the arrow/bolt/sling bullet and it might as well be someone else making the strike.
First blood goes to M.

Personal Safety
A pretty easy one here. There’s not a lot of personal safety in M combat. Even if you’re clad in full plate armour/a kevlar-teflon body suit/ Predator-style personal cloaking device there’s still a risk to your personals. If someone lets loose with a fireball/molotov cocktail/chaingun there’s not a lot you can do about it.
With R combat there’s a potentially huge separation between yourself and the target who’s going to be upset with you. Of course, if the distance is large enough, they won’t even know who you are, giving you the extra protection of anonymity. Personal safety can also be enhanced by shooting across a river or ravine, down from a tower or cliff, or from inside a fortress type construction. Shooting from space would be even better, although accuracy might be a problem.
Second point to R, I think.

Skill Factor
M combat is a decidedly skill-based pastime, particularly if you want to win. It takes a lot of practice, time and personal effort to get good at M fighting. There’ll be accidents, cuts and bruises, even broken bones before you’re ready, although if you’re lucky you’ll get a montage and your own theme music. Of course, you can enhance your performance with magic/battle drugs/alien technology but in the end it’s you face to face with your selected opponent.
R combat also has some skill involved. Longbow users practiced for years to get the range and accuracy required, snipers train for similar lengths of time. Some things can reduce this need, including a closer range and crossbows/machine guns etc, allowing those of minimal skill and strength to take out even the most skilled of opponents.
If we take the lowest skill factor as the winner, then R takes the point.

Monetary Consideration
M Combat can incur quite large bills to start with, including tutors, training dummies, wooden swords, padded armour, sand and buckets of water. Throw in a montage and theme tune and we’re talking serious money here. But once you’ve paid out all the startup costs you can kill a lot of people with a single sword/fist/Venusian laughing worm. (Although you’ll have to factor in the special stabling costs of the worms, which have floating bodily waste.) You might even be able to turn a profit as a sword/fist/worm for hire, in the arena or as a secret government assassin.
R combat might require a small amount of training, but the more you practice, the more it costs. Arrows/bolts/powerpacks aren’t cheap, and you can’t usually use them more than once. Of course, you can also sign up for the secret assassin thing, but unless you’re in a Robin Hood type scenario, it’s difficult to make money in tournaments.
On balance, I’m giving this point to M.

Cool Factor
It would seem this point is in the bag for the M team, but this isn’t necessarily the case. Yes, two finely matched opponents, experts in their own right, trading blows, small cuts and blistering ripostes, (ripostes are always blistering, I’m not sure why) while dressed in polished plates of metal/carbon fibre/hard light look great at the beginning of the fight. But when they’re covered in sweat/blood/worm poo, their armour dented and they’re so tired they can hardly lift their egos, coolness goes out of the window.
R combat is inherently uncool. Shooting someone in the back from across a canyon while hiding behind an elephant is seen as unfair, even if you’re a hero and your target is an evil, murdering, cat-hating politician who banned xmas. The only way R can regain some cool goes like this:
The target, the aforementioned cat hater, is surrounded by bodyguards and just about to escape justice. The combatant, we’ll call her ‘R’, lines up the shot, makes some tiny adjustment to her weapon of choice, aims, holds her breath, goes into slow motion mode and releases the projectile. She then packs away her weapon, pulls up her hood and slips quietly away, leaving behind a small flower/personalised business card with nothing but ‘R’ on it/a model of the London Eye made from matchsticks. Meanwhile, the projectile hits the target perfectly, there’s a moment of pain and surprise on his face, and justice is served. Cool!
I’d say this one goes to M, by a whisker.

Impressive Weapons
Ok, name me a famous sword. Excalibur, Anduril, Gram, The Sword of Shannara, The Sword of Gryffindor, The Swords of Night and Day...ok that’s enough. Now name me a famous bow. No? Crossbow? Sniper rifle? Throwing dagger, sling, shuriken? Nope. There are some of course, as your quick search of the internet has just revealed. But they aren’t anywhere near as memorable or impressive as swords, spears, axes and hammers. That’s because M weapons are wielded by mighty heroes, who face their foes and win, despite the odds. R weapons are just a means to an end, usually a secondary weapon for those same heroes. And often it’s the projectile that has the power, not the bow, and who thinks a stick with some feathers on it is cool?
M wins the point.

Skill Crossover
M weapons are used in different ways and therefore require different skills. If you were good with a long sword and you picked up a short sword for the first time, you’d probably hurt yourself. Same goes for axes, hammers, staves, polearms and exotic weapons of various kinds. Generally, you would need to learn how to use each individual weapon or small group separately.
R weapons have less variety, so you’d be able to use any bow with some degree of confidence. Same with crossbows and guns, which could easily be used by a child. (Please don’t a give a loaded weapon of any kind to a child. If you don’t already know this perhaps you shouldn’t have a loaded weapon either.)
Throwing weapons are possibly even easier to use, with the exception of knives, each of which is physically different. But darts, throwing stars and rocks can all be thrown by the most novice of combatants. If you can throw at all, you can throw the above. (No offence intended to those groups who are often erroneously accused of being unable to throw.)
I think the point should go to R, in this case.

In conclusion, a tight contest, ultimately taken by M. Of course, for most people, each has it’s place, and often both are used in conjunction to provide a tactical advantage. M weapons are heroic and noble. R weapons are great levellers.

If you wish to contribute to this argument, find out where to buy Venusian laughing worms, or generally make comments about this or any related topic, please contact me.