In this article we take a look at the types of paracord that exist.
There are many types of paracord. We often only refer to type III or paracord 550 as paracord and forget about the other types. It is natural, since 550 paracord is the jack of all trades and therefore the most popular. It is as bulky as we need it to be, is strong enough and costs little.
That does not mean though, that other paracord types are not useful. Not at all! Many types have nice, niche uses. For example, type 450 and smaller can be used to make less bulkier bracelets, while type IV (which is thicker than 550 cord) can make a nice core for various projects.
Let’s see how we can classify paracord using various characteristics!
We know four general types of paracord:
Type I paracord holds 95 lbs and is has 1 core strand.
The Ia variant has no core and holds 100 lbs.
Type I paracord is used for dummy cording (for example adding cords to compasses, knives etc.). It can also be used for lacing and decorating various paracord projects. Because it is very thin (about 1.6 milimeters), it is suitable for stitching paracord bracelets.
Type II paracord holds 400 lbs and has 4-7 core strands.
The IIa variant has no core and holds 225 pounds.
Type II paracord is rarely available and finding it can be quite a task.
Type III cord holds 550 lbs and has 7-9 core strands.
Type III paracord is used for survival situations. It is the best compromise between price and quality.
Type IV paracord holds 750 lbs and has 11 core strands.
Type IV cord is the strongest paracord out there. It has many uses, especially as at base cord you can cover with smaller cords. It is quite expensive though, costing between 50-100% more than 550 cord.
Commercial versus military quality
Quite a few disputes were initiated by customers and paracord enthusiasts due to the confusion between these two types of paracord. Some even refer to regular commercial cord as “fake cord”. That is taking it too far in my opinion, but you should be able to recognize the quality, especially when you are making survival gear.
Commercial paracord CAN be quality cord, if it follows military specifications. You will need to check to see though.
So what is the difference?
Well, the military issue paracord is made from nylon and the inner strands are made out of three nylon yarns.
The commercial paracord version on the other hand, can be made out of polyester and the inner strands can also be made out of two yarns.
How to check if your paracord is military issue?
The biggest tip off for the military grade paracord was that it had a dyed inner strand or markings on the sheath itself where no inner strands were available. This standard has been abandoned and is rarely found. The military grade cord was also in only a select few colors, for example olive drab and a select few military colors. Commercial paracord has a wider selection of colors. If it is pink, it probably is not used by any army, save for any Hello Kitty inspired battalion of a less than sane general.
The best way to discern if the paracord you have purchased is military grade is if it has 3 yarns per inner strand (you can also check if the cord is made from polyester by trying to join it with polyester. Nylon won’t join with polyester!
Due to the fact that there are more yarns in military grade paracord, you will find that it is wider (4 milimeters to the 3 milimeters of the commercial one).
By material it is made of
We mentioned nylon and polyester already. What you need to know is that these cords do not join together well by melting (which is why this method of joining paracord is great).
Other types of cord
Paracord is a name often also put onto other nylon and polyester cord. Often 2mm, 1.4mm and 0.9mm nylon cords are labeled as paracord.
Does it even matter?
I am a fan of paracord. I find uses for it every day.
That being said I must admit that I do not select paracord just because it is military grade, nor because it is cheap. I personally value the following qualities:
Naturally the price comes to mind as well, but in fact, quality cord is worth more.