> TEOTWAWKI Blog: Tip of the Week: Mil-Spec Paracord



Tip of the Week: Mil-Spec Paracord

This tip of the week comes courtesy of TEOTWAWKI Blog sponsor and purveyor of cool stuff, Vigilant Gear.

Did you know that not all paracord is created equal?

There are two main grades of paracord--mil-spec and commercial. Commercial cordage is quite a bit cheaper--often half the price--but it is not made to the same level of quality, control or testing standards as Type III paracord made to military specifications.

The military has established fairly comprehensive specifications for cordage that they purchase, documented in a nearly 20 page document - the MIL-C-5040H specification. This outlines the standards that contractors must meet when making paracord to sell to the military. It's really exacting, going over the minute details about construction of the cordage, components that go into it, manufacturing techniques and the level of performance it must meet.

Here are a few key points from the specification:
  • Cordage must be have a melt point of at least 244 degrees Celsius
  • Tensile strength must exceed 550 pounds - 550 is the minimum - and you can be sure they test that regularly
  • Length per pound - 225 feet of cordage to 1 pound
  • 7 inner strands, and they must be 3-ply; 2-ply is usually seen in commercial stuff
  • Strict color standards - only military colors, none of that electric pink stuff
  • Colors must meet retention criteria through a different tests - exposure to sunlight, laundering and dry cleaning
  • Specific criteria and testing for resistance to light/UVs and heat - for example, they bake it at 350 degrees for an hour, and after that, it must retain 85% of its original tensile strength
  • Made in the USA by Americans, not in a Cambodian sweat shop
That level of quality/control is going to cost a premium over stuff that doesn't have to meet those criteria, so you're going to see a premium for real mil-spec paracord. I'm uncertain (and doubtful) if companies do any kind of this testing & quality control with commercial paracord--there's nothing to say that it will even meet the specified 550-lb minimum strength.

For some applications - making paracord bracelets for friends - the difference is probably not going to matter. But in other cases, it may certainly be worth it to spend the few extra bucks to ensure you're getting the real-deal, best quality paracord.

Vigilant Gear has certified mil-spec paracord up for grabs on their website - and they were one of the main sponsors for our recent contest - so check it out.