The Pirates of the Golden Age carried a large number of assorted weapons. This was just as vital in defending themselves as in gaining their plunder. In order to fight for a prize ship or better yet have the opposing crew surrender in fear without much of a fight, it was essential to be well armed. The types of weapons used by pirates were the same as those in common use among the other seafarers of the times. As pirates were basically sea robbers most of their weapons were stolen from their victims.

      Popular belief is that pirates sailed large warships with dozens of cannon. While some pirates did this most prefered a small fast ship with less cannons. These large cannon with ammunition weighed hundreds of pounds each and it would take several crew members to effectively operate a single gun. Since most of the pirates victims were lightly armed or unarmed merchant ships. It was not as necessary to carry a lot of this type of firepower which would require the use of larger and slower ships making them vunerable to attack from naval warships. Most pirates would rely instead on the speed of their ships and superior numbers of well armed men to capture their booty.





Types of Weapons


SWORD
    Several differant types of swords were used by pirates. They would have mainly used the most common ones found in their part of the world. For Caribbean pirates these were normally the one handed double edged type popular in Europe.


CUTLASS
    The pirate cutlass in swashbuckling lore is perhaps one of their most popular weapons. It is believed to have evolved from the long knives used by the early buccaneers to butcher their meat. It had a blade length of about two feet, and was slightly curved with a single edge. With it's relatively short blade it proved to be a very effective fighting tool in the confined area of a ship. It was so successful in fact that it was copyed by many naval forces around the world.


AXE
    This object was used by the pirates to help climb the sides of a ship and also to cut through the rigging lines. They were handy in opening closed doors and hatches while boarding. The axe could be used as a deadly fighting tool as well.


PIKE
    These were long spears with a wooden handle and metal point. They could be thrown at a target or used held while fighting. Because of there length they would have been most effective against swords and knives in boarding action.


DAGGER
    The Dagger was basically a small knife much the same as it is today. It was carried by most pirates because of it's small size and many uses. Such as in cutting rope and sail. Cutting food to eat and it also served as the last means of defence in a fight.


DIRK
    A Dirk was just a specific type of dagger or small knife.


BOW OR CROSSBOW
    These proven weapons had been used for centuries by many countries. When in range the bow and arrow could be used by the pirates to pick off personal from the decks of the victims ship before boarding.


FLINTLOCK PISTOL
    This pistol because of it's small size and light weight was the ideal weapon for personal defence and in boarding enemy ships. The firing mechanism was exactly like the larger flintlock rifles. It fired a single shot which was loaded through the front of the barrel. As reloading was a lengthy process the pirates would often have carried several pistols. One of the other major problems with these pistols was that if the gunpowder got wet the gun would not fire correctly. And trying to keep them dry on a ship at sea could be very difficult indeed. Still besides there shortcomings they were very popular and a favorite weapon among pirates.


MUSKETOON
    This was a shorter version of the Musket type rifle. It was less accurate than it's longer brother but was easier to use in fighting on board a ship where accuracy was not as important. It used the standard flintlock firing mechanism. of the day. Unlike pistols, pirates probably only carried one of these at a time in battle because of there size.


BLUNDERBUSS
    The Blunderbuss was much like the Musketoon in that it was a close range weapon. Some fired a very large ball while others fired several small ones at once. It made for a deadly mix on the crowded deck of a ship where it could kill and mame several people with a single blast.


MUSKET
    The Musket was one of the first attempts at small arms with some accuracy which eventually became the model for the rifle. Because it didn't pack the punch of a weapon like the blunderbuss, it was used by the pirates more as a long range sniping weapon rather than a boarding one.


POWDERHORN
    Not a weapon but this was used to carry and protect the gunpowder for use in the small firearms. It probably wasn't carried into battle on boardings as those weapons would have been loaded beforehand.


GRENADO
    These were an early form of hand grenade that were in common use by 1700. They were also called powder flasks. The ones used by pirates were small hollow balls that were about two ounces in weight. These were made of iron, glass or wood and filled with gunpowder. They had a fuse that was lit just before being thrown at there intended target. The explosive result might cause great bodily damage and could totally demoralize a merchant ships crew. However they were not totally reliable and could present a serious danger to the user as well.


CANNON
    There were many differant sizes and types of cannon which fired a variety of shot types. Since pirates did not intend to sink their prey, they were usually loaded with a selection of ammunition effective against personal or rigging and sail. These included gravel, nails, and small cannon or musket balls often combined into a single charge for use against personal. Chain shot would have been used for damaging the rigging and sail.


STINKPOT
    These were pots that were filled with chemicals that when set on fire created a cloud of very foul smelling odor. The pots were hurdled at the deck of the victims ship in hopes of causing the opposing crew to cough and gag thus becoming sick and creating confusion.





Windsong

by Frank Halliwell


The rigging sings the north wind's song,
Through all the sheets it's sighing.
The pirate crew atoning now
In time that flight is buying.
The holds are filled with plundered store;
The sheets can not be coaxed for more.
We'll all hang high, the captain swore.
For our sins, we'll be dying.


The frigate flies before the wind,
Her every fibre straining.
The quarry can't escape them now,
In what sea room's remaining.
"Put one round close across her bow!
The boarding party ready now!
She'll strike her colours soon, I vow!
Or blood, her decks be staining!"


To starboard; land, and land ahead.
To port; the frigate, gaining!
They curse the hand of destiny,
And know their fortunes waning.
The waters shift from blue to green
As heaven lights the depths unseen.
The surf roars out its endless paean
To join the north wind's keening.


A shadow sweeps beneath her keel,
The coral pink and bright;
And rips apart her stout oak heart
And chills her crew with fright.
The waves rush in to seal their fate,
The women and the children wait.
The lamps burn and the slow bell tolls,
Long into the night.







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