I've been replaying Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag recently and I noticed part of the game's progression involves carrying more and more pistols on your character. At the game's highest tier, having eight flintlock pistols in my inventory. I thought this impractical at first, until realizing the utility of not needing to reload nearly as frequently.

I can find a few references saying the famous pirate Blackbeard carried six pistols but it is unclear if using this many guns was the exception or the rule. While the Blackbeard's armaments were quite well documented elsewhere, the answers regarding cavalry in the same time period don't have any references.

During the late 1600's was it common for people to carry more than one pistol when expecting to battle?

  • 1
    When you ask about how common it was are you referring to pirates specifically or to any military/naval personnel?
    – Steve Bird
    Jun 20 at 19:23
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    That's a good question. I've updated the post to remove tags about Pirates. I'm interested in any any military personnel from the 17th century.
    – PausePause
    Jun 20 at 19:44
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    @PausePause: Again, what is your definition of "common"? "People" did not carry firearms. Regular soldiers would be carrying a musket and no pistol at all. Officers would be carrying a pistol, So what is the group of people we are looking at to determine common / not common? Pirates? Firearms on ships were under lock, and passed out when battle was imminent. You might want to grab an armful of pistols, but I doubt the next crewman would be impressed when he only got a cutlass. So... pirate captains / officers? Those were hardly "common". What is the question?
    – DevSolar
    Jun 21 at 17:36
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    I don't know, man. There are 700+ other questions on this site which contain the word "Common". I didn't think I needed to define that word. Honestly, I feel like half of these comments would suffice as a standalone answer, especially the one regarding the Caracole
    – PausePause
    Jun 21 at 18:19
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    @ItalianPhilosophers4Monica: Duelling pistols were actually common.
    – DevSolar
    Jun 22 at 10:33

1 Answer 1


No. It wasn't common to carry multiple flintlock pistols.

A flintlock pistol is heavy, single shot, highly inaccurate and expensive.

Heavy: this varied of course, but you can assume anything from 1 to 3 kg. If you carry two or more pistols, you'd be carrying a lot of useless weight. Blackbeard carried so many weapons not for self-defence, but simply to impress his victims.

A Colt M1911 weighs 1100 grams. An average flintlock pistol from the 1800s weights about the same. That's two centuries of modifications and improvements later, or 400 years in case of the 1911.

Highly inaccurate: what do you miss on almost all flintlock weapons? Sights. A musket is already inaccurate as it lacks rifling, but it can (very limited) make up for it by having a longer barrel. A pistol lacks even that. No rifling, a round ball that comes out of a very short barrel, compared with a musket. You'd be lucky to hit a barn. Even if you stand inside one.

Expensive: Before the industrial revolution, firearms were handmade and consequently expensive. Guns were more commonly produced and less expensive. Pistols were far less in demand, and therefore more expensive.

@Pieter Geerkens is correct, some cavalry units used pistols as their primary weapon. However, they carried those heavy weapons in holsters on the saddle. Rarely on their person.

Those pistol armed cavalry units weren't that great. On the Battle of the Mookerheyde a German unit armed with pistols was defeated with ease by Spanish lancers when those Germans were reloading. (Later in history, exactly the reverse happened.)

In most cases, it was far more practical to carry something else than a pistol, let alone multiple pistols.

  • Interesting and logical answer, but it could use a little more references, e.g. for the 3 main claims.
    – Evargalo
    Jun 22 at 6:34
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    You mention a "very short barrel" for the pistol but this is only in comparison with the muskets of the time (which had barrels 3-4ft long). A flintlock pistol barrel could be 10-12inches long, giving a weapon length of around 15-18 inches. So, not only heavy but cumbersome too. Jun 22 at 7:45

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