Pirates' Weapon Of Choice: The Cutlass

Why This Sword for a Pirate?Preference For The Cutlass

Pirates are famous for using many weapons, but chief amongst them is: the cutlass.

Pirate Cutlass

The Pirate Cutlass
Image Credit: Rama

A short, broad sword with a slight curve in the blade, cutlasses descended from medieval influence of earlier short swords. Being short and easy to carry, they were ideal for carrying in close-quarters such as on ships, and easy (in relative terms) to wield in close combat.

Given pirates' constant motion, the cutlass was also useful because it was easy to manoeuvre when un-sheathed, and relatively streamlined when not in use. In other words - it didn't get 'in the way' as much as other longer, more cumbersome swords, and hence was favoured by sea-going pirates.

Several variations of the cutlass exist, depending on the region, local preferences and intended use.  Generally they ranged from 28-32 inches in length. 

Use On Board

In addition to being easy to carry and move around, the cutlass was also sturdy and broad, making it ideal for chopping through wooden materials, ropes and rigging (such as on enemy ships or when doing maintenance on one's own ship); as well as being good for close combat.

The cutlass became a useful tool as well as a weapon.

Cutlass Sword - American BladesPro

Less Training - Easier Use

In addition to its utility as a tool and battle weapon at close range, it was simple to use - requiring far less skill and preparation than a small sword or a more curved blade. Given it was mainly used at close quarters on ships (and perhaps short landings), this trade-off was an effective one for teams of pirates

Rise And Fall Of The Cutlass

In addition to having been used informally by pirates for decades, the cutlass was also used at various times by more formal organisations such as the British Navy and other countries' Navy operations. It's believed that the last 'official' use of cutlasses is likely to have occurred in the early to mid 1900s, where it was decommissioned in favour of other more modern weapons.