Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Paracord As A Tool

I love paracord. I use it for many, many things. If you’re interested, the internet has lists of uses for paracord. Suffice it to say, there are thousands of uses.
I met a command sergeant major in the 80’s who worked at Fort Benning. He had been involved with the jump school there since he was a private. He seemed to take a shine to me, I think he liked that I was older than the average recruit and had a family. Anyway, he spent more time with me than he probably should have while I was in jump school. We got to know each other fairly well and he gave me my first paracord bracelet. He used paracord for a lot of things. He started my interest and love for everything paracord.
Nowadays paracord is a popular craft item and there are many kinds and colors out there. I use paracord as a preparedness tool. Whenever I add paracord to something it immediately becomes “tactical”.
There is a difference between military specification (mil-spec) or commercial paracord.
“550” – refers to the minimum weight of the cord’s rated breaking strength, measured in pounds (lbs.)
TYPE III – originally one of the six types of paracord to the mil-spec standard. Designates a 7-strand inner core for commercial paracord and a 7 to 9 strand inner core for mil-spec paracord
MIL-C-5040H – the complete specification for military-use paracord
Sheath – the outer jacket of the paracord; can be nylon or polyester
Inner Core (or kern) – collectively refers to the individual twisted yarn strands within the center of the sheath
At a glance, the difference between the genuine mil-spec cord and the commercial cord is marginal. The minimum breaking strength of both types of paracord is rated at 550 lbs.
Genuine mil-spec paracord only comes in select natural colors while the color options are endless with commercial paracord. Genuine paracord comes in black, coyote brown, white, tan, foliage (or camo) green, OD green, and orange
Genuine mil-spec paracord is 100% nylon, both the sheath and the inner core, because nylon is rot and mildew resistant which makes it a great all-weather material. Commercial grade paracord can also come in 100% nylon, or with a polyester sheath and nylon core. The polyester sheath doesn’t have as smooth a texture as a nylon sheath nor does it stretch as much as nylon. It does however have good rot/mildew resistance, is very close to nylon in strength when a steady force is applied, and is generally less expensive.
An easy way to tell the two types of 550 cord apart is by cutting into it and looking at the inner core, also known as the kern. In commercial Type III paracord, there are generally 7 individual strands and each strand may have a 2-ply or 3-ply braid, or twist. In mil-spec paracord, you will always find a 3-ply twist on the individual strands, of which there may be 7 to 9 of the strands, depending on the manufacturer.
In mil-spec paracord, you’ll find that one of the strands is color-coded whereas the others are all white. This is done by the manufacturers to meet the MIL-C-5040H standard by identifying the manufacturer, so the colors you see here will vary by manufacturer
Genuine mil-spec paracord will often be slightly thicker than commercial paracord because of its 3-ply twists on the inner strands, compared to commerical paracord’s 2-ply twists, as well as the fact that the mil-spec paracord can have up to 9 inner strands. The mil-spec cord measures closure to 4 mm (5/32 inch) while commercial cord is often closer to 3mm.
Hopefully the above information can help you spot false advertisers and make informed choices. Some people like to make the analogy of comparing brand name cereal to the store brand cereal…do you want Honey Nut Cheerios or Toasted O’s of Honey? At the end of the day, only you know what you want in terms of color variety, price, the intended use of the paracord, and whether it’s important to you or your organization that it meets the mil-spec standard.
Either way, has you covered, from the government agency or military organization looking for genuine MIL-C-5040H TYPE III Paracord down to the crafter or outdoor enthusiast needing some quality Commercial Paracord!
7-strand 550 Type III paracord was the original paracord used by the US Military and it continues to be popular. It has a diameter of about 4.5 mm (3/16"). Most 550 paracord is made in the USA but there are some from overseas manufacturers.
7-strand 550 paracord comes in two basic styles:
1. Nylon sheath and nylon cord
2. Polyester sheath and nylon cord
In both cases the 7 core strands are nylon and they provide the cord's strength. The two varieties have a little different feel and they respond differently when being joined or otherwise manipulated. Both types have a 550 lb breaking strength rating.
650 Coreless
There is also a type of cord that does not have the 7 internal strands that provide the core strength. 650 coreless cord is flat, hollow, having a sheath but no internal strands. Therefore it is not as strong as regular paracord. The sheath is made of nylon and many people have found applications where is it useful. The 650 refers to the size of the cord - it is not the breaking strength.
425 Tactical Paracord
Cord that is smaller than regular 550 is often referred to as "tactical." Since it is smaller, it is easier to carry, include in survival kits and/or to conceal.
425 Tactical Paracord has a diameter of approximately 3mm or 1/8" and a test strength of 425 lbs. The 3 inner strands and the outer sheath are 100% nylon giving it excellent strength as well as UV, mold and mildew resistance.
275 Tactical Paracord
275 tactical paracord has a diameter of about 2.5mm. It has a strength rating of 275 pounds. This cord is considerably smaller than 550 paracord and is usuful when making smaller items or items where not as much strength is needed.
Type 1 Paracord
This cord has a larger diameter than Micro Cord but smaller than 275 Tactical Paracord. It is approximately 1.85 mm or 1/14 inch.
Micro and Nano Cord
Micro cord is 1.18 mm and nano cord is 0.75 mm.
Here is the tensile strength of 550 Paracord:
Outside Sheath - 305 lbs
Inner Strand - 35 lbs each x 7 strands
Total Strength - 550 lbs
It's important to understand the limitations of 550 paracord. An unexperienced individual may, at first glance, see that it can support 550 lbs. and think it would be good for climbing or rapelling. I confess, it has crossed my mind before.

I want to make one thing clear: 550 Paracord IS NOT climbing rope!
Paracord is amazing cordage with limitations but if you know those limitations you can use it to it’s full potential.
Semper Paratus
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