LOL no, you ninnies, I’m not talking about the car, though I’ll admit to a little tomfoolery with the title, being a little word play on the automobile of the same name. But I am talking about today is a weapon made infamous by pirates, but was also a popular general purpose weapon if the buccaneering age… The Cutlass!!
In Hollywood, while the cutlass is primarily portrayed as the weapon favored by pirates, it was in fact a very common naval weapon, used by pirates, regular sailors and even naval military forces, all for the very same reasons. In a previous wannabe pirate sword post, I explained a bit what the characteristics of the ideal pirate swords were. In this post, we will get to see a much more accurate cutlass design a little closer.
As you can see from the pic above, the cutlass is more or less a single-edged, mid-sized saber. This particular example carries a curved blade, as did many others, though they were not all so. However for the average seafarer the curved blade was very useful, as it allowed longer cutting strokes to be delivered within a much smaller radius, something that would have been much harder to do with a longer curved blade, like a Katana, and even more difficult with a longer straighter sword, like a rapier.
Yet another characteristic of the ideal sailors weapon, be they pirate, merchant or military, was that it be fairly simple to use, as your average sailor received little in the way of training with weapons. It is a little known fact that most pirates, in contrast to how they are portrayed in the movies, were not highly skilled warriors. Many were simple sailors, conscripts from captured vessels, or aimless ragamuffins attracted to piracy by the promise of an equitable share of the loot. Few were the highly trained, swashbuckling sword fighters depicted in the movies.
The cutlass was a fairly simple weapon, fairly heavy, of median length, had no edges facing the wielder, and unlike most other highly specialized land bound dueling weapons, needed no major training to use. This made it ideal for both experts and novices alike. It’s weight made it easy to handle by feel, made it easier to land chopping blows with, and the additional blade material also made it strong enough to be used as a general purpose shipboard chopping and cutting tool for wood, leather, rope, etc. So, while in the hands of an experienced sword fighter it could be a lethal weapon, it was also your basic idiot proof sailors weapon/tool of the day.
Provided, of course, that the idiot in question wasn’t prone to stabbing themselves in the foot. Or even worse, the eye. Hey, things happen. Not all eye patches and wooden legs were come about in a glorious battle… I can guarantee you that much… 😛
Anyway, the version shown above also happens to be one of my favorite saber designs, because in addition to a nice, but not-too-ornate guard, a three quarter length fuller and simple wooden scales, it also incorporates two additional features that are not always seen in your stereotypical cutlass design. Namely, a clip point tip, which would both enhance it’s thrusting ability, and enable the tip to be used for finer cutting work where necessary, and finally, but certainly no less important, a totally sweet jet black finish…
Can’t beat that with a baseball bat… 😀
1917 Cutlass by Cold Steel – [True Swords]