In the hands of a good master, a brig is a handy little ship, and can almost turn in its own length. The square-rigged sails allow precise control. A good helmsman can swiftly bob in and out of range of larger, deadlier ships whose cannons could demolish the brig’s weak hull. This manoeuvrability makes up for the light armament, which consists of only 6-pounder cannons, which have little real firepower in naval terms.
Historically, the United States Navy favoured brigs, particularly on the Great Lakes. Brigs, like the USS Argus, also gave a brave account of themselves against the Barbary Pirates along the North African coast. United States traders had suffered at the hands of the pirates after the Revolution; the Barbary Pirates had an agreement to leave British and British colonial ships alone, but after the successful rebellion, they considered the newly-flagged American ships to be fair game. Today, a brig is more commonly understood to be a ship’s prison cells, a usage that is probably due to the US Navy’s use of brigs as prison hulks.