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Jack Sparrow’s Sword and the History of Pirate Weapons

Written By: Allia Luzong
Published On: December 7, 2022
Edited by: Juliana Cummings

Captain Jack Sparrow, a character played by Johnny Depp, is the main character of Walt Disney’s The Pirates of the Caribbean (PotC) franchise, a series of movies about daring (and sometimes magical) adventures on the high seas. Jack runs into every enemy imaginable, ranging from navy officials to the undead, making his signature cutlass the most important part of his adventuring kit.

That said, cutlasses and sabers weren’t the only weapons used by real life pirates during the Golden Age of Piracy. The pirates of the 17th and 18th centuries made use of primitive grenades and firearms, sometimes even blasting opposing ships with heavy artillery.

Pirates of the Caribbean Jack Sparrow’s Weapons

Jack Sparrow began life on the ship of Captain Edward Teague,  a man he’s not sure is his father, but nevertheless was a father figure to him. It was on this ship, together with other pirates that Jack first learned how to use bladed weapons and how to shoot firearms.

At the time, firearms were powerful but unreliable because they required a slow reloading process and were not particularly accurate, lacking the sights and stabilization features of modern firearms.

Jack picks up several weapons throughout his adventures, most of which are swords.

Jack with sword
Jack Sparrow confronting his enemy with a sword – Credits: Pirates of the Caribbean, On Stranger Tides

Rapier

Jack Sparrow’s rapier was a light-weight weapon with a slender blade. Rapiers of the time had a heavier build than they do now as they still bore heavy similarities to the cutlass, but they still would have been easier for a young Jack Sparrow to use compared to the standard pirate cutlass. The sword makes an appearance in tales of Jack’s youth such as The Coming Storm but is described in recent events as having rusted over.

Bowen’s Sword

As you can guess from the name, this sword didn’t originally belong to Jack Sparrow but to Bowen, one of the pirates serving on the Wicked Wench which happens to be one of the first ships Jack gains command of after Captain Morgan delegates his duties to Jack. Bowen gave the young Jack his cutlass as tribute, showing him respect as a captain despite his youth. 

Cutlass Sword

This unnamed pirate sword is the first one adult Jack truly owns from the get-go. He uses it sometime during his service on the Wicked Wench. Not much is known about it other than its appearances in fights during the events of Dead Man’s Chest, On Stranger Tides, and Dead Men Tell No Tales.

Hanger Sword

Before you imagine a plastic sword made of a clothes hanger, the Hanger sword isn’t a joke, but is a real weapon derived from the standard cutlass. These were slimmer blades than the standard cutlass but allowed for more force than the slender rapier since it could still be hacked and slashed with. They were primarily used as self-defense weapons which is why pirates rarely used them on the high seas, but navy officers would carry them on a regular basis.

Sword of Cortes 

The sword of Cortes is said to be a cursed sabre owned by the conquistador Hernan Cortes, renowned in real life for his colonization of the Aztecs. Jack Sparrow seeks it out together with the Barnacle’s crew for its ability to transfigure objects. 

Other Weapons Used By Pirates During the Golden Age of Piracy

Swords weren’t the only weapons used by pirates from the 17th to 18th centuries as pirates also relied on weapons that could compensate for distances between ships. They were also used to assist them in raiding enemy ships. 

Jack with pistol
Jack with a pistol – Credits: Pirates of the Caribbean, The Curse of the Black Pearl
  • Muskets and Pistols

Muskets and pistols already existed during the Age of Discovery, but they were mostly second option weapons because of their unreliable shot accuracy and maintenance demands. Muskets were shoulder firearms that resemble the rifles of today, only less powerful. They had to be loaded from the front of the barrel, making them slow. 

On the other hand, pistols were also muzzle-loaded so while they served as personal protection weapons, you really only had one shot ready to go at a given time.

  • Boarding ax

The boarding ax was a tool designed for cutting through boarders, an anti-boarder measure on enemy ships. They were also efficient for cutting nets and rigging rope, allowing assailants to effectively disable and get aboard another ship.

  • Canons

Canons were used in both naval and terrestrial warfare. Like smaller firearms, these heavy artillery weapons could only shoot one projectile at the time but they could be more effective at scale because they were used to shoot at large targets, making the slow reload worth it and compensating for inaccuracy with target size.

  • Primitive grenades

The concept of the hand grenade has been around for centuries, originating from tales of Greek Fire. Centuries later, during the era of pirates, they evolved into explosives contained in glass bottles or pottery. By the 18th century, the Napoleonic hand grenade came to be made of metal and shaped into spheres with a fuse that was meant to be lit.

Conclusion

Tales of adventure and wealth beyond imagination have made pirates staples of our pop culture and media, making appearances in Disney films and Halloween cosplay costumes alike. Jack Sparrow’s swords give us a glimpse into the past and let us have fun all in one well-made sword replica.

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