The Pirate’s Arsenal

Pirates preferred their prey to surrender without a shot, so that no person or any valuable goods were damaged. But most were ready to fight to the death rather than be captured and hanged. Guns, swords, and other armaments were the tools of their trade.


Pirate ships were heavily armed to intimidate other vessels into surrendering, or to subdue them. Cannon were prized booty, for they represented the deadly power that pirates had over their quarry. Queen Anne’s Revenge was believed to have carried 44 cannon.

This 6-lb. ball is from a small cannon. Pirates used guns of this size to clear the decks of an enemy ship or to fire a shot across its bow—a message that meant “prepare for boarding.”

Shot in three sizes

For captured guns to be effective, a wide range of shot sizes was needed for ammunition. These three sizes of shot would have been used for anything from clearing the decks of enemy ships to hunting birds along the shallow coastal waters of North and South Carolina.

Langrage spike

Langrage was any kind of scrap iron, like nails, bolts, or spikes, that would fit into the muzzle of a cannon. It was shot at the sails and rigging of an enemy ship to disable it. It could also be fired at the deck to wipe out the crew.

...let’s jump on Board and cut them to Pieces.
—Blackbeard to his crew, before boarding an enemy vessel.
From Capt. Charles Johnson, A general history of the pyrates . . . 1724