During the Golden Age of Piracy, the Seven Years' War and the American Revolutionary War, the gunboat was used as a quick response attack vessel by not only the navies, but civilian operators as well. This was due to its extremely simple design that required very little crew. This lightly armed vessel provided ample speed and a quick rate of fire, with the trade-off being that it bore next-to-no armor whatsoever. Each ship was composed of a single mast and a sleek, low hull, and was capable of fielding just two frontal guns, capable of shooting both the standard round shot and the wide-spray grapeshot.
Due to its sparse protection, when a gunboat was rammed by ships such as frigates, brigs or Men O' War, it would be damaged badly or even sunk immediately. Additionally, a single shot from a swivel gun could often destroy a gunboat. Gunboats used during the Golden Age of Piracy carried no cargo, but often dropped ammunition after being sunk, which could be picked up by the ship that had sunk it.
In the Seven Years' War, some of the gunboats used in battles would be lit on fire. The ship would try to harm it's targed by ramming it. Getting hit by one of these Fireships would cause massive damage.