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The Swords of Pirates

A sword is a weapon that is a long thin piece of metal with a pointed tip. It has a guard aka handle to protect the wielder's hands. In many battles and duels, swords were the preferred weapons over pistols because in the old days, pistols only carried one shot aka bullet before needing to be reloaded. The person using a sword is called a Swordsman.

Now, a sword's blade has one or two edges for striking and cutting, a point for thrusting and a hilt for gripping. A single edged sword has a sharp front edge for attacking and a strong edge for parrying. And to protect it from hurting others while not being used, it is usually in a scabbard, a protective cover.


The Broadsword was used in Europe from the 17th through the 19th centuries. This sword type included the Italian schiavona as well as the Scottish basket-hilted claymore. It was a single-handed, double-edged, basket-hilted sword with a overall length of around 105 cm and a mass of about one kilogram. The blade was around 90 cm long and had a base width of 3.5cm. Those swords were known for their slashing and crushing ability as the easiness to make them. Today, the term broadsword is often incorrectly used to describe all types of slashing sword in distinction to the slimmer-bladed fencing swords like the rapier or the smallsword.


During the 1600 and early 1700s, the word Cutlass comes from the French word "cutteaux." The Cutlass or short sword is a slashing backsword or sabre that is short, thick and slightly curved. It was often used at sea by sailors and pirates and the standard weapon of Royal navy and Royal Marines. A person who uses it is called a coutillier. And the cutlass was used mostly for hacking and slashing, although an experienced coutillier could use it as a stabbing weapon. They were ideal for fighting in close quarters or below deck. They also had to be sturdy to be able to cut down doors, cut lines and dividing pieces of eight.

A cutlass blade is usually 70-80cm in length and 5cm in width. This weapon was used as early as 1667 by French pirate Francois l'Ollonais. But there is no evidence that it was invented by the pirates. The Cutlass was favored by the sailors due to their small size and ease of use. The weapon was commonly used to cut ropes, canvas and wood and in battle for close quarter combat and boarding actions. The cutlass also required less training than the rapier or small sword. The cutlass was also more effective than the full-sized sword as a combat weapon. With the cutlass, you could wield it with one hand which left the other hand free to do whatever you wanted. You could even wield two cutlass at once, one in each hand.

Cutlasses were reported to still be in use by the Royal Navy as late as 1941 and in Korea by a US Marine. It was and still is used as an agricultural tool, mainly in rain forest and sugar cane areas. It is also still used as a ceremonial side weapon in some navies.


The Dao is a single edge Chinese ceremonial sword with a curved blade, often referred as a broadsword in English. The Dao is one of the four primary Chinese weapons and is known as "The Marshal of All Weapons." It was widely used by Chinese soldiers, criminals and pirates for fighting as well as for executions.

The Dao has varied greatly over the centuries, but most single-handed dao of the Ming period and later and also the modern swords that are based on them have similar characteristics.

Dao blades are moderately curved and single edged with few inches of the back edge sharpened as well. The moderate curve allows them to be reasonably effective in the thrust. The hilts are canted which is curved in the opposite direction to the blade which improves the handling in some forms of cuts and thrusts. Cord is usually wrapped around the wood of the handle. Hilts might be also be pierced, although modern swords for performances would have have tassels or scarves instead. Guards are typically disc-shaped often with a cupped shape to prevent rainwater from getting into the shelth and to prevent blood from dripping down onto the handle, making it slippery and difficult to grip. Sometimes guards are thinner pieces of metal with a S-curve with the lower limb of the curve protecting the user's knuckles. It's very rare they may have guards.


The Epee or dueling sword is a civilian and dueling weapon which was developed in the late 17th century. The blade of an Epee would be normally 90cm and weights 350-770 grams. It was in fact very similar to the small sword, but with no sharpened thrusting point and no cutting edges which made it less dangerous. So it was the perfect weapon for non-deadly "first blood" duels. However, it made this sword completely useless in a real battle since wounding or killing an opponent would be so difficult. Also the Epee was widely used in fencing schools as a training weapon.


A Hanger is a type of cutlass. It has a slightly larger blade than a standard cutlass and generally has a straight or slightly curved edge. The guard is curved around the hilt. Originally it was used as a supplement to the infantry man's musket for close fighting. Soldiers and woodsmen preferred the hanger since it had light blades and were primarily used for self-defense. Often they had a shell guard to protect the hand and they were less rugged than a cutlass. It was often carried as a status symbol by gentlemen and officers. The general adoption of the bayonet during the 18th century caused a decline in the use and favor of the hanger.


A Hunting sword were short civilian arms orignally intended as a back up weapon while hutning. By the time of the American Revolution, their style became more refined and narrower. Those hunting swords, now called Cuttoes after their French name "Caouteaux de Chasse" were used by gentlemen as informal town swords. The blade was under 26 inches and their lightness made them more of a rank symbol by land and naval officers than an actual combat weapon. By late 17th and early 18th century, hunting hangers had guards/shells that are perpendicular to the blade. In later years, the hunters had guards/shell that laid parallel to the blade of the sword.


The Basket-hilt originated in central Europe. By the middle of the 1660s, it was also known in England and Scotland. Most of the Scotch swords utlized the long straight double-edge blade (broadsword) between 37-40 inches. It is widely believed that Blackbeard received a mortal blow from a Scotsman's Basket-Hilt Sword while fighting Lieutenant Maynard.


Jian is a Chinese fighting sword with a flat, wide blade and a tapered end. It is known as "The Gentlemen of All Weapons." One handed versions had blades varying from 45-80cm or 17.7 to 31.5 inches in lengeth. It would weigh approximately 700 to 800 grams or 1.5 to 2 pounds. There are also larger two-handed versions.


The Longsword had a handle that allowed it to be held with both hands, sometimes some may be used single-handed. The Longsword was used for striking, cutting and thrusting. It had lengthy cruciform hilts with grips over some 15cm or 6 inches in length which provided room for both hands. Straight double-edged blades often measured over 90cm or 35 inches in lgenth and typically weighed between 1.2 and 1.4 kg (2 1/2 to 3 pounds.) The light ones just below 1 kg (2.2 pounds) and the heavy just above 2 kg (4 1/2 pounds.) The Longsword was widely used between 1350 to 1550 but was outdated by the mid-18th century.


The Rapier is a sword with long, thin blade that was used for thrusting. It often had an extremely ornate hilt. It was used in the 16th and 17th centuries, mostly for civilian combat and duels. The Rapier is a long-bladed sword with a complex hilt to protect the hand. Even though the blade might be broad, it was excellent in its ability as a thrusting weapon. The blade could be sharpened along its entire length or without a cutting edge. A typical example of a Rapier would have a long and slender blade of 2.5 cm or less in width, 1 meter or more in length and with a sharply pointed tip. Those who wielded the Rapier often had a dagger in other hand to parry their enemy's rapier. Pirates rarely used rapiers, although some Maltese knights did carry some and used them against the Barbary Corsairs. By 1715, the Rapier was replaced by the lighter smallsword throughout most of Europe, even though the former continued to be used.


A Sabre is a special kind of Broadsword with a long, flat and usually but not always slightly curved blade. Sabres were used mostly for slashing, chopping and cutting enemies. In the Pirate era, the sabre wasn't so important for warfare as in the 19th century when it replaced the small sword and became the main Melee weapon. It was already often used by pirates and privateers in the Indian Ocean and the Mediterraean Sea like the Barbary Consairs. Some European and American pirates also used the sabre. The Dao is a Chinese type of the Sabre.


The Small Sword, also called Court Sword or Dress Sword, was a light, one handed weapon that was commonly carried by officers and civilians. It was often used in duels The hilt was usually made of the shell type and was often decorated. It was a thrusting weapon and often the edge was not sharpened especially if it was worn for fashion. It had a triangular cross-section and the blade was about 60-90cm in length.

Smallswords were the standard side weapon of the British Royal Navy officers who used this weapon in battles against pirates. Some pirates also carried smallswords, but pirates usually preferred cutlasses because they were heavier. And it was possible to use a cutlass to break a smallsword's blade. Also, pirates were not very skilled with the sword who had a fighting technique of slashing and hacking. The smallsword was designed for thrusting.


This small dagger is an European invention with a wide blade, connected to two pieces of a metal with a grip in between. This was used for thrust and puncture, not slash and gash like the cutlass. This dagger was a small multi-purpose knife that was used at supper and slaughter as well. The dagger always had a cross bar or hilt to keep the hand off the blade and swords off the hand. The hilt helped in a cutlass fight because it could "catch" the strike of the blade, be able to deflect the blow, swing the cutlass to the side and attack back.


It was a type of small knife that was used and designed for throwing.
The Swords of Pirates The Swords of Pirates Reviewed by The Fabulous K on Monday, May 28, 2012 Rating: 5

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