Age of Pirates

Pirate Encyclopedia: Swords Used by Pirates

When we think of pirates, we usually think of swaggering men wearing an eye patch and carrying a sword. Three hundred years ago a pirate's mission was to gain the contents of enemy ships without harming people aboard if possible. This is why pirates carried swords in case of attacks instead of arming themselves with muskets. Destroying the opposing ship was not their objective. Sometimes only the show of swords would get the other ship to surrender their goods. Battles were a pirate's last resort.

Curved swords were thought to first have appeared in Egypt. Westerners began calling these swords Scimitars, which is believed to come from the word Shamshir.

The shamshir can be found in Persia in the 1500's and was a thin curved sword. Curved swords were found to be useful when charging horsemen would battle. The curved sword would slide off the opponent instead of

using a straight blade, which would often remain in the opponent's body. Pirates found these swords useful because of their size and ability to swing them without losing them.

The most popular weapon associated with pirates was the Cutlass sword. A cutlass was shorter than other swords and sabres. They were made with a sturdy broad and curved blade. This shorter blade was thought to be better to fight with in confined places, such as below deck where there wasn't much room to swing a longer sword. Many pirates carried this sword even when pistols and muskets became more popular. It was the one weapon that would still work even after running out of bullets. Pirates felt that a sword was much easier to use than taking the time to reload a pistol.

While the cutlass was used to slash at enemies, the dagger was another type of knife used to thrust or puncture their enemy. These daggers always had a cross bar or hilt to help keep the pirates hand from sliding onto the blade. A dirk is another type of knife used by pirates, usually smaller than a dagger; it was thrown at the enemy. Still swords remained the most popular fighting tool among pirates and can be seen in many museums today.


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