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James Norrington -4.JPG
"You look bloody awful! What are you doing here?"
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James Norrington, Will Turner and Jack Sparrow in a sword duel

"This is a beautiful sword. I would expect the man who made it to show the same level of care and devotion in every aspect of his life."
James Norrington to Will Turner[src]

A sword was a weapon that was comprised of a piece of metal pressed into a long, thin, shape with a pointed tip. It had a guard to protect the wielder's hands. In many battles and duels, these were often preferred to pistols, as unmodified pistols only carried one shot before needing to be reloaded.

A person using a sword was called a swordsman.

A sword fundamentally consists of a blade, with one or two edges for striking and cutting, a point for thrusting, and a hilt for gripping. The basic intent and physics of swordsmanship remained fairly constant down the centuries, but the actual techniques varied among cultures and periods as a result of the differences in blade design and purpose. The names given to many swords in mythology, literature, and history reflect the high prestige of the weapon. A single–edged sword had a sharp front edge for attacks and a strong edge for parrying. [1]

Swords could be used both for fighting and as ceremonial weapons.

Normally, a sword had a scabbard: a protective cover often provided for the sword blade. Over a millennia, scabbards were made of many materials, which included leather, wood, and metals such as brass or steel.

Notable sword types


A broadsword (Scottish basked-hilted Claymore).

The Broadsword was used in Europe from the 17th through the 19th centuries.

This sword type included the Italian schiavona as well as the Scottish basket-hilted claymore. It was a double-handed, straight-bladed, double-edged, basket-hilted sword with an overall length of around 105 cm and a mass of about one kilogram. The blade was around 90 cm long and had a base width of 3.5 cm. These swords were known for their slashing and crushing ability as well as their easiness to make them. Today, the term broadsword is often incorrectly used to describe all types of slashing swords in distinction to the slimmer-bladed fencing swords like the rapier or the smallword.

Davy Jones originally used a broadsword which was some kind of mixture between the two types of Claymore swords having the short blade of a basket-hilted Claymore and the guard of a Highland Claymore with straight, down-sloping arms. Captain Hector Barbossa used a sword that was similar to a broadsword. Blackbeard used a broadsword which was made in Atlantis.


"The favourite weapon of all seafarers and certainly of all pirates was the cutlass."
―David Cordingly in the Below Deck/Weapons DVD/BD featurette.[src]

A French naval cutlass.

The Cutlass or short sword is a slashing backsword or sabre that is short, thick, and slightly curved. It was often used at sea by sailors and pirates and the standard weapon of British Royal Navy enlisted personal and Royal Marines. A person armed with it can be called a coutillier.

A cutlass blade was usually 70 to 80 centimetres in length and ca. 5 centimetres in width.

Reports indicate that the weapon was used as early as 1667 by French Pirate François l'Ollonais[citation needed]but there is no evidence that it was invented by the pirates. Cutlasses were favoured by sailors due to their small size and ease of use; The weapon was commonly used for cutting ropes, canvas and wood, and in battle for close quarter combat and boarding actions. Another advantage to the cutlass was its simplicity of use: It required less training than the rapier or small sword, and was more effective as a combat weapon than the full-sized sword. The cutlass was used primarily for hacking and slashing [1] but an experienced swordsman could also use it for stabbing [2] (Matelot was stabbed with a cutlass during the battle aboard the Interceptor). Normally a fighter used only one cutlass and kept the other hand (if he had one) free or held a pistol in it, but it was also possible to fight with two cutlasses as Elizabeth Swann did during the Battle of the Isla Cruces. Some pirates used hangers or sabres instead of cutlasses, Chinese pirates used the Dao.

Cutlasses were reportedly still in use by the Royal Navy as late as 1941, and in Korea by a US Marine. It is still used in some navies as a ceremonial side weapon. The cutlass was (and is still) used as an agricultural implement and tool, commonly in rain forest and sugar cane areas. Jack Sparrow's sword was first turned bronze, then silver, but only the tip turned gold.


The dao (Chinese: 刀, "knife" is a single-edge Chinese ceremonial sword with a curved blade, often referred to as a broadsword in English. The dao, as one of the four primary Chinese weapons, is known as "The Marshal of All Weapons".

A Dao.

While dao have varied greatly over the centuries, most single-handed dao of the Ming period and later, and the modern swords that are based (sometimes loosely) on them share a number of characteristics: Dao blades are moderately curved and single-edged, though often with few inches of the back edge sharpened as well; the moderate curve allows them to be reasonably effective in the thrust. Hilts are canted, curving in the opposite direction as the blade which improves handling in some forms of cuts and thrusts. Cord is usually wrapped over the wood of the handle. Hilts may also be pierced like those of jian for the addition of lanyards, though modern swords for performances will often have tassels or scarves instead. Guards are typically disc-shaped often with a cupped shape to prevent rainwater from getting into the sheath, and to prevent blood from dripping down to the handle, making it more difficult to grip. Sometimes guards are thinner pieces of metal with an s-curve, the lower limb of the curve protecting the user's knuckles; very rarely they may have guards like those of the jian.

The dao was widely used by Chinese soldiers, criminals and pirates for fighting as well as for executions. Captain Sao Feng was proficient in the use of a dao.


A modern épée.

The épée or the dueling sword is a civilian and dueling weapon. It was developed in the late 17th century.

The blade of an épée is normally 90 centimetres long and weights 350 to 770 grams. The épée was, in fact, very similar to the small sword, but had no sharpened thrusting point and no cutting edges, which made it less dangerous, so that it was the perfect weapon for non-deadly "first blood" duels. However, this caused it to be almost completely useless in a real battle, since wounding or killing an opponent with an épée was much more difficult then with a sharp-edged small sword, which remained the standard weapon of naval officers. However, the épée was widely used in fencing schools as a training weapon.[3]


"Do you think this wise, boy? Crossing blades with a pirate?"
Jack Sparrow to Will Turner[src]

A Hanger.

A hanger is a type of cutlass.

It has a slightly longer blade than a standard cutlass, and has a generally straight or slightly curved edge. The guard is generally curved around the hilt. Soldiers and woodsmen preferred the Hanger. Hangers had light blades and were primarily used for self-defense. Often they had a shell guard to protect the hand. They were less rugged that an cutlass and often carried as a status symbol by gentleman and officers.

Captain Jack Sparrow favored a hanger in combat, preferring a slightly longer blade than ordinary cutlasses for additional reach.[4]


"...That's why I brought this!"
Elizabeth Swann to Davy Jones[src]

Elizabeth Swann's jian.

Jian (Chinese: 劍) is a Chinese fighting sword with a flat, wide blade and a tapered end. It is known as "The Gentleman of All Weapons".

One-handed versions have blades varying from 45 to 80 centimetres (17.7 to 31.5 inches) in length. The weight of an average sword of 70-centimeter (28-inch) blade-length would be in a range of approximately 700 to 900 grams (1.5 to 2 pounds). There are also larger two-handed versions. Famous jian often had proper names.

Elizabeth Swann used a jian during the Battle of the Maelstrom.


"Who makes all these?"
Jack Sparrow to Will Turner[src]

A longsword.

The longsword used by sailors had a handle that allowed to hold it with both hands, though some may be used single-handed. Longswords are used for striking, cutting, and thrusting.

Longswords have lengthy cruciform hilts with grips over some 15 cm (6 in) in length (providing room for two hands), straight double-edged blades often over 90 cm (35 in) in length, and typically weigh between 1.2 and 1.4 kg (2½ to 3 lb), with light specimens just below 1 kg (2.2 lb), and heavy specimens just above 2 kg (4½ lb).[5] Longswords were widely used between 1350 to 1550 but were outdated as of the mid-18th century.

Many old swords including St. Piran's Blade and the Sword of Cortés were longswords.


A rapier.

"Oh, Fitzy, I would love to. But, as it happens, I have yet to acquire the sword I really want. No sword, no duel. No boarding the ship for you. So sorry."
"Oh, that's not a problem. When I was cleaning out the boat I found a half a dozen rapiers stored in a chest...
Jack Sparrow and Arabella Smith[src]

A rapier is a sword with a long, thin blade used for thrusting. It often had an extremely ornate hilt. Rapiers were used in the 16th and 17th centuries, primarily for civilian combat and duels.

Rapier generally refers to a relatively long-bladed sword characterized by a complex hilt which is constructed to provide protection for the hand wielding it. While the blade might be broad enough to cut to some degree (but nowhere near that of the thicker, heavier swords in use around the Middle Ages), the strength of the rapier is its ability as a thrusting weapon. The blade might be sharpened along its entire length, sharpened only from the centre to the tip (as described by Capoferro), or completely without a cutting edge as called "estoc" by Pallavicini, a rapier master who, in 1670, strongly advocated using a weapon with two cutting edges. A typical example would have a relatively long and slender blade of 2.5 centimetres or less in width, 1 meter or more in length and ending in a sharply pointed tip. Rapier fighters often had a dagger in the other hand to parry their enemy’s rapier. Pirates rarely used rapiers; however some Maltese knights carried rapiers and used them in battles against Barbary Corsairs.[2]By the year 1715, the rapier had been largely replaced by the lighter smallsword throughout most of Europe, although the former continued to be used.

Fitzwilliam P. Dalton III used this weapon when fighting Jack on the beach. Jean Magliore also used rapiers. Captain Hector Barbossa used a sword that was similar to a rapier. Christophe-Julien de Rapièr also used a fancy rapier. Armando Salazar and The Spaniard were also known to use rapiers.


"...I practice with them three hours a day!"
William Turner II to Jack Sparrow[src]

A sabre is a special type of Backsword with a long, flat and usually (but not always) slightly curved blade. Sabres were used primarily for slashing, chopping and cutting enemies.

A sabre.

In the Golden Age of Piracy the sabre was not so important for warfare as in the 19th century, when it replaced the small sword and became the main Mêlée weapon, but was already often used, especially by pirates and privateers operating in the Indian ocean and the Mediterranean Sea, like the Barbary Corsairs. Their leader, the Pirate Lord Ammand was known to use a sabre.[6] Some European and American pirates also used the sabre and Chinese pirates used the Dao, which is a Chinese type of sabre.

Small sword

A smallsword.

The small sword (or smallsword, also court sword or dress sword) was a light, one-handed weapon commonly carried by officers and civilians. It was used often used as a duelling weapon. The hilt was usually of the shell type, and was often decorated.

It was principally a thrusting weapon and often (especially when the sword was worn for fashion) the edge was not sharpened. It had a triangular cross-section, and the blade was roughly 60 to 90 centimetres long.

James Norrington's small sword.

Smallswords were the standard side weapon of British Royal Navy officers who used this weapon in battles against pirates. Some pirates also carried smallswords, but normally, pirates preferred cutlasses as they were heavier and it was possible to break a smallsword’s blade with a cutlass as Blackbeard did during his fight against lieutenant Maynard. In addition, pirates who were not very skilled with the sword had a fighting technique based on slashing and hacking, while the smallsword was designed for thrusting.

The sword forged by Will Turner for James Norrington was a small sword. The favorite weapon of the infamous rogue pirate Christophe-Julien de Rapièr was the Colichemarde, a type of a small sword.

Thrusting Dagger

A thrusting dagger.

This small dagger is a European invention with a wide blade, connected to two pieces of metal by a grip between them.

Notable swords

Jack Sparrow's sword

Main article: Jack Sparrow's sword

Jack Sparrow used many swords in his life. He got his first sword when he was a teenager, and got his second sword during his adult years. His second sword was most known throughout his later pirate career.

Hector Barbossa's swords

Hector Barbossa used many swords in his life. Some he used during his pirate career, while he used at least one sword when he served as a privateer.

James Norrington's sword

This sword had many owners, but was mainly used by James Norrington. It was made by Will Turner and was used by James Norrington as well as Cutler Beckett and Davy Jones.

Will Turner's sword

The sword used by Will Turner. It was a simple weapon with an cast-iron grip and a "half-basket" hilt protects his hand. Using methods from Spanish swordsmiths, Will made the blade immensely strong, yet light and flexible.[7]

Davy Jones' sword

Main article: Davy Jones' sword

Davy Jones used two swords over his life. One he would mostly carry around on his belt, and one he would use during the War Against Piracy.

Angelica's sword

Main article: Angelica's sword

The sword owned by Angelica.

Scrum's sword

Main article: Scrum's sword

The sword owned by Scrum.

Sword of Triton

Main article: Sword of Triton

This sword was originally forged in the city of Atlantis, and had many owners. It had the power to bring dead matter, such as the rigging of sailing vessels, to life.[8]

Sword of Cortés

Main article: Sword of Cortés

The Sword was used by Hernán Cortés. This mythical, cursed weapon was used during Cortés' conquest of the Aztec empire. Its power was derived from its combination with a scabbard, made from the innards of Aztec sacrifices.

Silver Tongue

Main article: Silver Tongue

This cursed sword used by Rachel Darling. The sword absorbed the souls of those who were killed by it and granted it's wielder power. However, it also corrupted it's user, giving them dark thoughts and dreams.

St. Piran's Blade

Main article: St. Piran's Blade

This magical sword has no known owner. Outwardly, it appeared to be a normal sword, though it blazed with fire in the hands of someone with a pure heart. The sword was stored in a case full of gold and jewels.

Bone Sword

Main article: Bone Sword

The Sword was the most used sword of the undead in Davy Jones' Locker.

Behind the scenes

  • In Pirates of the Caribbean Online, the swords used are cutlasses, sabres and broadswords.
  • Unlike many other pirate movies in which all naval and pirate officers dueled with rapiers and used thrusting strikes only, [2]the Pirates of the Caribbean movies gives a realistic depiction of pirate weapons and fighting techniques.
  • Peter Twist gave the historical advise on weapons for Pirates of the Caribbean and Bob Anderson trained the actors in sword-fighting. [1]

Notes and references

External links