Boarding Weapons

As part of a 1600s pirate hunting boarding party, what weapon would you carry?

  • LARGE knife with 10-12" blade

    Votes: 19 24.4%
  • 18-20" long hardwood club

    Votes: 11 14.1%
  • Large Axe (fire axe size)

    Votes: 10 12.8%
  • harpoon or spear

    Votes: 20 25.6%
  • other non-gun weapon

    Votes: 18 23.1%

  • Total voters
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May 14, 2003
South East Asia
I watched a documentary on piracy last night and they talked about the 1600s carribean type as well as the latter day RPG-7 carrying type. An interesting fact communicated was that a great many attacks carried out in South East Asia today still involve pirate with matchetes without guns. This got me thinking......if you were part of a pirate hunting crew in the 1600s and the objective was to take the pirate captain (but not the crew and officers) alive, what kind of boarding weapon would you carry?
Boarding weapons...

From reading the Aubrey/Maturin books by Patrick O'Brien--admittedly from a later period than that referred to by the OP--I understand that boarding a ship was a melee kind of fight, and further, that there was little room to swing an axe or club type of weapon. It was thrust, parry, thrust, parry, thrust.

(Captain Aubrey was advised, about boarding, at one point, "Stick 'em, don't hack 'em.")

So it seems that of the choices offered, a harpoon or spear would be best, on the theory that a longer thrust would keep you further away from the enemy and still able to do damage. Probably would want a big knife as a back-up weapon.

I wouldn't want to carry a pistol, worse yet a rifle, of the time period--One shot and you're done. And I wouldn't want to board except after a few shots of canister or grape from my side had raked the opposition severely.
I have a very nice NCO's 1860 USN pattern cutlass that would be my first choice.granted, it's not really ''period'',but there were many similar weapons.I've also got a nice .69 cal flintlock pistol I could load up with a handfull of .36 balls to clear my way.And that thing has a heavy brass shod butt, and an overall length of about sixteen inches,making it a dandy club.That with a good sailor's dirk for back up,and I'd be set.
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Close to above, I'd take an 18-24" heavy and pointy blade with a protected grip worn on the baldrick, a 12"-14." dirk and 2 double barrel snap haunces pistols crossed on my chest. Skip the plumed hat and give me an iron skull cap and leather gloves,britches and waistcoat!
Is there a reason the cutlass didn't make the poll while some really weird choices (a fire axe? :scrutiny:) did?

Cuz that's what I'd take. Make mine 24" or so - plenty of length to stab without being stabbed by a foe (who is hopefully armed with a knife and not a harpoon).
Here's some boarding axes in situ on an 1812 armed ship that sank in the great lakes:

-Also spotted were cutlasses scattered around the gunports.

The most common boarding weapon of the 1600s would likely be a staff or short pike. Axes were standard, as well, and were also used to cut away tangled and fallen top-hamper during battle or heavy weather.
24" cutlass, because that's how TN rolls.
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A large hawk/medium hatchet wouldn't be a bad choice. OR a large knife/short sword.
basically ...

gimme this for my left ...


and this for my right hand


if not available, i´ll guess a cutlass, short saber any kind of "longknife/shortsword"
will do. Machete? Fine.


anything bigger would make it impossible to move,
or quickly draw ... as you "might" need both hands
to board the ship ... im not carryin 2 pounds of steel
between my teeth...
I'd carry a brace or two of wheellock pistols and a cutlass, -although the gentlemen of this period carried rapier-type swords to distinguish themselves from the masses.

Ships in that Age were considered "hi tech" and the weaponry on them tended to be the newest and "bestest", so there may be large proportions of wheellock and firelock weapons available to any crew serving under the flag of a King.

Ships fighting pirates would tend to have professional soldiers & marines aboard so they tended to to carry issued weapons with a large proportion of swords and axes and even shields (bucklers) and armor for HTH fighting.
Objective to take the captain alive? Odd. Objective to take the ship and overwhelm the opposition would make more sense, though if you were fighting on the side of legitimate govt, the pirates would assume they were dead meat in any case, so you'd face stiff opposition from men with noting to lose.

At any rate the cutlass always struck me as the ideal boarding tool, until the suppressed MP5 came along. I understand cutlasses were part of the standard armory of US naval vessels until after WWII.
Aye Matey, I’d be taking this, a Cutlass stripped out of the cold dead hand of the Admiral from whose ship was the last I captured!


It's a pipe back, and it is real.





A cutlass for the strong side, and a main gauche for the other.

A cutlass something like this:

And a main gauche along these lines:



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that´s a beautyful "Boarding-Saber" from the imperial german Navy
probably pre WW1.
that´s a beautyful "Boarding-Saber" from the imperial german Navy
probably pre WW1.

Thanks. It is probably a one of a kind.

The blade dimensions are correct for a 1851 Austrian cutlass, but the ivory grip and brass hilt are not standard issue.

Actually what would be ideal is the head of a halberd on a foot long staff. Pointy bit for stabbing, and, if you've got enough room, a nice head for slashing.
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