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
preferred 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
vulnerable 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
Several different 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.
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
copied by many naval forces around the world.
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.
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.
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
defense in a fight.
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.
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.
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.
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
mane several people with a single blast.
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.
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
boarding as those weapons would have been loaded beforehand.
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.
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.
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.