Friday, February 21, 2014

Types of Paracord

A lot of the current interest in Knots has been driven by Paracord and Paracord creations. Most recreational knots being tied today are being tied in Paracord. What is Paracord? Paracord comes in many different forms. 

The original paracord was used in the suspension lines of U.S. military parachutes in World War II. I believe those cords were made with silk. Synthetic fibers were not real common until the end of WWII. Today's Paracord is manufactured with Nylon. The official Paracord is Department of Defense Military Specification "MIL-C-5040H CORD, FIBROUS, NYLON" This specification was adopted in 1987. The last revision to this specification was in 1994 It covers several different diameters and strengths of cord. The most common is Type III. This cord has a minimum braking strength of 550 pounds. Hence the nickname "550 paracord" The other types of cords range in strength from 95 pounds for Type I to 750 pounds for Type IV. The specification also requires that the cord be natural color (undyed fiber) or Camouflage Green 483 (a standard US Army camo color aka Olive Drab) The cord shall also have 7 to 9 inner strands. Each manufacturer also must put in three colored inner strands that are unique to them for identification proposes. 

BUT, that specification was replaced in 1997 by a civilian standard. "PIA-C-5040E CORD, FIBROUS, NYLON". This standard was developed by the Parachute Industry Association and adopted by the Department of Defense. That standard is physically the same but the testing standards are much more rigorous. The cord must be resistant to light and and be ph neutral. There is also a requirement for a fluorocarbon (Teflon) treatment. Also there are no color restrictions. So today's paracord has much better wear and tear features than old school paracord. It can probably last a long time.

Genuine Type III Mil-Spec Paracord should have a label as such; M5040-5x. X being the color. If it doesn't have this label, it's probably not genuine paracord. In fact, if your Paracord is not Black, Foliage Green, Coyote Brown 498, Khaki, Desert Tan 499, Camo Green 483, Natural (White), Olive Drab 107, Foliage Green 504, Red, Maroon, Sea Blue or Orange, it's definitely NOT Mil-Spec Paracord! Those are the only colors produced by manufacturers for the Department of Defense and the U.S. Military.

I seriously doubt any manufacturer is going to go through the process of; wet shrinking the yarns in 200° F water for thirty to sixty minutes, meet six ASTM (American Society for Testing and Materials) standards, six AATCC (American Association of Textile Chemists) standards, four PIA (Parachute Industry Association) standards, component testing of; Denier, Tenacity, Melting Point, Twist Single Yarns, Twist Plied Yarns and Plying of Core Yarns, and testing EIGHTEEN end items. Not to mention a "Sunshine Carbon Arc Test" and a "Xenon Arc Test"!!!

That being said, there is a LOT of paracord on the market. Some cord says it is made by a certified U.S. Government Contractor. That doesn't mean that the cord is Mil-Spec. Some is labeled Commercial Paracord. This is cord that has the same general physical characteristics as Mil-Spec but probably won't meet all of the testing standards or fiber standards. And I seriously doubt that any commercial cord has been treated with Teflon. All of that would make it very expensive for the manufacturers to make Mil-Spec Paracord for the civilian market. I would suggest buying U.S. made Paracord. Chances are it is made by a company that makes Mil-Spec cord for the U.S. Military and would meet many of the physical construction and strength requirements.

A lot of people complain about cord they purchased online not being Mil-Spec cord. Well for the most part you get what you pay for. If you want to be assured of getting Mil-Spec paracord, and you need a lot of cord, it would probably be a good idea to go to one of the manufacturers of genuine DOD Mil-Spec cord. Such as E. L. Wood or Gladding. (By the way, E.L. Wood unique color strands are 2-yellow, 1-black, Gladding is 2-yellow, 1-green.). In the next post I will list some retail vendors that sell genuine Mil-Spec parachute cord. 

But this begs the question; Do you really need genuine Mil-Spec Paracord? Are you planning on rigging some parachutes for you and your friends? The answer is probably No. If you're making bracelets or tying knots, most any paracord will do. If you think you may need to depend on your cord in a survival situation, maybe you shouldn't plan on Paracord saving your ass. A choice of a much more robust rope may be in order. 

Friday, February 14, 2014

More Resources

Project Resources

A previous entry posted a few resources to get started. A number of years ago when I developed an interest in knots, there were few resources of information. But now it seems that interest has exploded in the subject with a subsequent explosion of information. The driving factor in interest in knots and paracord appears to be driven by the paracord survival bracelet. I don't know the origin of the paracord bracelet. Probably a military one, but I can't find any information. With constant war for the last thirteen years, military usage and availability of paracord has coincided with interest in knots and paracord.

There are limitless sites, videos, books, and resources dedicated to tying the paracord bracelet. Also known as a survival strap, it is a handy way to carry around a length of paracord.

My absolute favorite source of knot tying and paracord source of information and projects is Stormdrane. This guy has more information, resources and imaginative projects than almost anybody. His post date back to 2005 and is probably single-handedly responsible for the concurrent rise in interest in knotting and paracord. He also has a You Tube channel with many instructional videos. He also has a number of guides on Instructables. This is where I first learned to tie a paracord bracelet. He also invented the Rapid Deployment Spool as seen on Instructables and CountyComm.