The Most Common Pirate Weapons, Including the Stink Pot

A pirate ship walking in the middle of the water in the dusk of the night with the bright moonlight

The Most Common Pirate Weapons, Including the Stink Pot

What are the most common pirate weapons in history? The weapons utilized by pirates are interesting, thanks in part to the sheer practicality of what they were using. Pirates were oddly practical, and somewhat crafty, as you’ll see with weapons like the stink pot.


Cannons were the dominant weapon for naval ships for centuries after their introduction.

It is impossible to mention the most common pirate weapons without talking about cannons. Larger guns were the order of the day when it came to naval warfare, and it led to the usage of multiple different missiles when engaging ships. Standard balls, grape shots, chain shots, and even stink pots were in wide use by pirates.


common pirate weapons
Muskets or carbines would’ve been ideal for laying down longer-range fire.

While cannons were a dominant force when looking at the ships and sloops employed by pirates, portable firearms were highly prized. Rifles weren’t seen as often as other common weapons employed by pirates but were still in regular use. The longer dimensions of rifles made for cumbersome use when fighting in close quarters.


common pirate weapons
Blackbeard notably kept six pistols stashed on a rig covering his chest.

Pistols were a potent handheld firearm for most pirates. As such, it isn’t much of a surprise that handguns were among the most common pirate weapons used. Some pirates would carry multiple pistols on a belt or a bandolier, as this enabled the pirate to fire multiple shots.


common pirate weapons
Cutlasses didn’t require as much training as a rapier or other fencing swords to be effective.

A cutlass is more akin to a cavalry saber than any other type of sword. At its core, a cutlass has a point, a single edge, and a heavier blade than something like a rapier. This came in handy for pirates, as it meant you didn’t need finesse to cause some damage. As such, cutlasses became one of the most common pirate weapons to see use.


common pirate weapons
Grenades could be clay or ceramic, and would be filled with gunpowder and a fuse to explode.

Thrown explosives like grenades have a history dating back to the invention of gunpowder. A portable explosive device can be an effective force multiplier, especially for a group of brigands operating as outlaws in international waters. Grenades were one of the most common pirate weapons to see use.

Stink Pots

stink pot
Stink pots are an early form of chemical warfare.

It is thought that stink pots originated in use by Chinese pirates of the 18th and 19th centuries. However, they did see widespread use by pirates of European descent. This was one of the most common pirate weapons in use and was highly effective. A stink pot relies on a mixture of gunpowder, sulfur, nails, and other projectiles. When deployed it can suffocate, start fires, and cause collateral damage thanks to the projectiles.


Clubs are timeless for a good reason.

You can point to an era of history and find clubs in use. As such, it isn’t much of a surprise to see clubs in use by pirates. As previously mentioned, they were practical and somewhat impoverished when it came to their choice of arms. Clubs would’ve been among the most common pirate weapons no matter the era.


A good knife is easier to use in close quarters than a sword or pike.

Knives are one of the oldest weapons in use by humanity, so it only makes sense for it to be one of the most common pirate weapons. It makes quite a bit of sense to use one in closer quarters, as you’ve got less length and weight to be concerned with when boarding a ship.


If pirates were engaging real militaries, pikes or other polearms would’ve been the most effective way of fighting.

Pikes and other polearms were the order of the day for most militaries well into the 19th century. As such, these would’ve been common pirate weapons when engaging with military ships. Pikes, halberds, and other polearms are easy to use while also giving the wielder extra length to keep an enemy away.

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