Pirates were fierce and often desperate sailors. They utilized a wide variety of weapons to overcome their adversaries, when forced to fight. Pirates preferred an easier fight, as opposed to a bloody battle, so for this reason they developed scare tactics to intimidate opponents into surrendering. When forced to fight, pirates were usually more prepared, with more weapons and often had a larger crew with them than their adversaries did.
While the sword and cannon are most commonly thought to be a pirate’s choice, many sort of guns were used by pirates. The musket, the flinklock pistol and blunderbusses were the most common weapons chosen for battles.
The musket had long-range accuracy, but didn’t pack as much of a punch as the blunderbuss did. This was more of a sniper shot, as opposed to being used when boarding enemy ships. Muskets were long firearms, usually measuring around five feet long, that were fired with a flintlock or wheel-lock mechanism. Differing from modern rifles, muskets were loaded through the muzzle, with a charge of gunpowder and round bullet. Also used by pirates were musketoons. Musketoons are shorter versions of the musket, and they weren’t as popular with the pirates.
The flintlock pistol was primarily favored for personal defense, as well as boarding opponent’s ships. Reasons for this was because of its’ light weight and small size. A drawback to this was it was a single shot, with a lengthy reload process. To rectify this problems, pirates would carry several pistols with them. Another downfall of this specific pistol was the pistol wouldn’t fire correctly if the gunpowder got wet. On a ship, it was quite a difficult chore in ensuring the gunpowder stayed dry. Among the listed problems, this pistol was still a favorite, quite popular among pirates.
Blunderbusses were also muzzle-loading firearms, consisting of short, large caliber barrels. The barrels were flared at the muzzle as well throughout the bore. This specific gun is sometimes considered to be an early form of the shotgun. Blunderbusses were favored for close contact battles, as they were lacking in accuracy or long range. Described as a blunt weapon used for fighting in close quarters, the blunderbuss was a fast and loose weapon.
East Asian pirates might utilize the razor-sharp dao sword, knives, spears, and blowpipes, in lieu of European weapons, in addition to whatever firearms and cannon they could acquire. Early pirates, and smaller pirate localities, would also use whatever local weapons were available to them.
Boarding axes, pikes and halberds were also utilized by pirates.
In addition to the firearms, pirates used early grenades, known then as grenadoes, that were filled with blackpowder. Like today’s grenades, they were used to cause confusion and chaos on small ships’ decks. Similar to grenadoes, stinkpots housed noxious chemicals that, once lit on fire and thrown, would produce odorous clouds, and would also create confusion among defenders, causing them to sidetrack the enemy.
With all the weapons accessible to pirates, and the large number of them, it is no wonder why most pirate victims surrendered, rather than to try and fight against them.
Adam works for the Gun Safe Store AND teaches firearm safety. The gun safe store has a wide variety of gun safes and pistol safes.