Pirate Weapons - Different Types of Weapons Used by Pirates

Picture Of Musketoon

Pirates of the 16th and 17th century relied on several things to ensure their naval raids were successful, and their plunder and captives are more quickly secured. Since they did not have any type of more advanced weaponry than any other naval travelers of their time, they enhanced their success rate by focusing on tactics that would overwhelm often badly defended merchant ships. Pirates most commonly used smaller and faster ships that could easily hunt prey and more easily evade governmental pursuit, and their combat effectiveness was high because the pirate crew was often made from sailors who had some military training. The weapons that pirates used were mostly very offensive-oriented and lightweight, with the majority of them being stolen from their raids.

Personal weapons ranged from many types of knives and swords to pistols and two-handed guns.

Pirate Knives – The most portable of all weapons, almost every pirate carried into combat a knife that could be used for both melee combat. Dirks, daggers that were specifically optimized to be thrown were also in use. Since naval ships deck and holds had little space for maneuvering, many pirates preferred the use of short swords.

Pirate Close Ranged Weapons – In addition to more familiar forms of weapons (such as swords and guns), other more exotic weapons had their use during a boarding action. These arms were Boarding Pike that used for throwing at short distances or for fending off swordsmen, single-handed Boarding Axe that was useful not only for melee fighting but also for climbing on the side of the ship and cutting rigging/doors/hatches,

Pirate Two Handed Guns – Gunpowder weapons changed the face of modern warfare, including naval battles. Most popular larger gunpowder weapons were Musket rifles (most basic rifle design), Musketoons (smaller and less accurate rifle useful in fighting in corridors) and Blunderbuss (variation of Musketon, the precursor of modern shotgun).

Pirate Pistols – Gunpowder weapons in the Pirate Age came in many forms, and light weapons were some of the most popular. They were Flintlock pistol (most common mobile gun of the pirate age), Multi-Barreled pistol (useful because higher firing rate) and Volley pistols (it fired all of its barrels at the same time).

Pirate Swords – Pirate swords were crucial weapons in the pirate age because they allowed their wearers best chance to fight against any other type of melee weapon. Most famous sword on the seas was Cutlass, which is together remembered in pirate lore as the necessary gear for every pirate. Other popular swords used on pirate ships were rapier (much narrower blade than with Cutlass), Calvary sabers (single edged) and Broadswords (longer and double bladed).

Pirate Cannons – Cannons were viewed as useful combat tools, but few pirate ships hosted any larger cannons. They were heavy (the cannon that shot the 8-pound ball was over 700kg heavy), difficult to effectively use and demanded several crew members to operate. Smaller smaller cannons were more common and used in ship-to-ship combat while larger cannons were used against shore fortifications.

Cannon Ammunition Types

Round Shot – Basic iron cannonball that was used in shooting in medium to long distances. Since they were hard to aim, they were mostly used against land fortifications.

Chain and Bar Shot – Two halves of a ball that were connected one to another with bar or chain. They were popular in naval combat because they effectively damaged opponent rigging, ripping sails or even totally destroying masts.

Bundle Shot - Pieces of metal that were connected with a rope. When fired rope and metal would spread, but if something was hit with the metal, the rope would twist around the target and create a devastating effect of destruction.

Grape and Canister Shot – Small iron balls that created incredible destruction if the target was near. Cannon equivalent of the shotgun. Canister shot was safer to use because iron balls were housed in an iron box that exploded upon exiting the cannon.

Sangrenel – Devastating anti-personnel ammunition. It consisted of cloth bag that held various metal shavings, balls, and scrap iron.

Explosive Shells & Hot Iron Shot – Explosive shell was a hollow cannon ball that housed gunpowder and small fuse. Cannon operators had to set carefully the length of the fuse so that it would explode at the right moment. Hot iron shot (red hot iron bar) was used when pirates wanted to put the enemy ship to fire.