I knew you were all waiting for me to speak on this subject, and as a pirate it is near and dear to my heart: The Cutlass.
Now I am going to try and remain calm. I am going to try and not become over-zealous in my love for the cutlass but if that part of the brain kicks in, please forgive me.
The origins of the cutlass are relatively straight forward. In its earliest form the cutlass was an agricultural tool. Think of it as the machete of 16th and 17th century Central Asia. This bladed tool was designed to hack apart the jungle and clear land for agricultural purposes. Over time the armies in that part of the world found that this simple weapon was light, portable, durable and easy to train people on. Both cavalry and infantry in the Ottoman Empire used this curved blade for its slashing efficiency. That being said, at some point in some European voyage to that area of the globe, a sailor saw the cutlass and thought: “Wow! That would work great on board a ship.” Thus the life of the naval cutlass was born.
The cutlass as a sword is short, slightly curved and heavy for its size. One cutting edge puts it in the sabre category and the thickness of the blade at the un-honed edge makes it very strong. Unlike most swords (ie – the long sword, the rapier, etc), the cutlass does not need a lot of training to make you good at using it. The sharp side cuts and the tip is pointy. It does not require much finesse. This made it great as a weapon for boarding parties. Sailors are not warriors, necessarily. Giving them a land weapon that they needed to train on is a bad idea. The other advantage of the cutlass as an onboard weapon is the size.
Real estate on board a ship has a very high demand and very short supply. When you add a boarding party of Spanish sailors, that real estate is in contention. Having a long sword that is too big to swing on deck doesn’t do anybody any good. Giving an untrained sailor a rapier to fight with doesn’t do anybody any good. Give that sailor something small and strong to swing at the other sailor and you have something. You have an effective warrior with a weapon that will not get hung up in the rigging of the ship during a boarding action. And a weapon that works like an ax as much as it works like a sword.
-Bobaganush the Pirate
“Being a pirate, the cutlass is your best friend. Short, thick and deadly, the cutlass strikes fear in the hearts of all who see it. Many a sailor has been laid low by the sharp end of a cutlass. Place the cutlass in the hand of the most green sailor and their courage is infinitely bolstered. Yell at the sailors to board the ship and they know, exactly what to do with their weapon. Take the same crew on land and they realize immediately that the cutlass can also be used to make a path through the jungles of the Americas. Place that sword in the hands of the quartermaster of the ship and the enemy should be put on notice. Heads will roll and the day will be won. The cutlass in the hands of the expert is as deadly as any other weapon you could choose. And the best part is that you get to get up close and see into their eyes as you close to engage them. – Bobaganush”
“A cutlass…hmm kinda sounds like desert. Now I’m sure this weapon has many fine qualities…any female or small child would love to have this weapon at thier side. The nice wide blade is good at yard work too… Where can I get some, the serfs at the monastery could use them to help with keeping the grounds up? No but really it looks pretty, is surprisingly agile and stout. the fact that it is a slashing, thrusting weapon that you can also use to bash with thanks to the basket hilt makes a very nice dependable weapon. But, if given the choice between the cutlass or a bastard sword I’ll take the dirty bastard any day. - SirWiz the Pally”