Since privateering is first and foremost an act of war, it requires the right equipment. Without a well-armed ship, there could be no privateering.

The crew, for its part, had to handle various types of weapons. In addition to bladed weapons, such as cutlasses, daggers and boarding axes, privateers also used pistols, blunderbusses, muskets and sometimes musketoons.

Usually not soldiers by profession, the members of the privateer crew often provided their own weapons. As a result, the weapons used were very diverse, unlike the Royal Navy who benefited from regulation equipment, which was more homogenous.

The Ship's Weapons

The privateer's greatest challenge was to chase down enemies of the State. Thus, most privateer ships had only 10 to 20 guns and were rather small.

Given the choice, privateers preferred short guns over long ones. There were also a lot of swivel guns, which are small mobile gun mounted on pivots. It generally took an average of five men to man the guns.

Various projectiles were used. The traditional round balls were used most often, but they were not the only ones. To damage the masts and the rigging, seamen used staked shots that spiralled through the air. When these balls are wrapped in a cloth soaked in oil, they are called firebombs. There were also star projectiles that spun rapidly and tore the sails. Lastly, there was canister and grape shot, consisting of projectiles that blew apart into a dozen or so tiny pieces.

Personal Weapons

Cutlasses and swords
Swords and cutlasses served many purposes, the first of which was clearly to wound or kill an enemy during combat. Swords and sabres were also used by seamen during boarding attempts to cut and break the rigging that was in their way.

Boarding axes
Amongst other bladed weapons, there was the boarding axe, which in addition to being an offensive weapon, could also be used to damage the hull of an enemy ship and to cut the rigging.

Boarding pike
One of the most popular and efficient weapons was the boarding pike. It was used during privateer attacks to wound the enemy while maintaining one's distance. As a defensive weapon, it could prevent the enemy from boarding the ship.

Used specifically for boarding, the grapnel is thrown so that its barbs hook onto the enemy ship. It is used to pull the ship being boarded closer and maintain it along the flank of the invading ship, so that privateers can board.

Very useful during boarding and on land raids, firearms were used specifically to wound or kill an adversary. Pistols, often worn at the belt, were held on with hooks. Privateers also used muskets, musketoons and blunderbusses.
Musée maritime du Québec and Naval Museum of Québec

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