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What Is Paracord or "550 Cord"?

paracord-rolled-up.jpg The term paracord comes from the cord used on the soldiers parachutes in WWII. The term 550 simply means that it has a breaking strength of 550 pounds, giving it the name of 550 paracord, or 550 cord. When soldiers landed in the battle fields, they would cut the paracord off their parachutes and pack it up for later use. This particular cord would come in handy for the soldiers during battle. Whether it was used to strap gear to humvees, build shelters, or sewing string, the cord could be used in endless ways. 

     Ever since paracord started becoming popular amongst civilians, there has been plenty of knock off types of paracord made. Although this particular type of paracord can be called mil-spec paracord or mil-spec 550 cord, it is not the genuine 550 cord which was used by the Military. It may look like the real deal on the outside, but it sure doesn't on the inside. It is also larger in diameter, and has a rougher texture as well.

Mil-Spec vs. Commercial 550 Paracord

  • Quite frankly in my opinion, the difference between the genuine mil-spec cord and the commercial cord is pretty slim. You can find commercial grade cord that has the same breaking strength, and is really close in size and material, but genuine mil-spec cord is always 1/8" thick, and nylon. The US military has a number of parameters and specifications, which thMIL-C-5040 Type III paracord must pass before it's ready for use. The commercial 550 cord doesn't have to pass these same parameters. They may have certain parameters as well, but if you are looking for genuine, original 550 cord, you want Mil-C-5040h Type III paracord.
  • One really good way to tell the two types of 550 cord apart is by cutting into it and looking at the inside strands. The guts of the paracord are different in commercial paracord than they are in the genuine Type III cord. Most commercial paracord will have 7 or 8 inner strands each consisting of 2 inner strands of themselves. While the genuine military issued cord has always paracord-spool.jpgbeen made with 7 inner strands, each consisting of 3 inner strands of themselves. In addition to this, one of the 7 strands is color coded, normally yellow and black, and all the other strands are white. 
  • Genuine Mil-Spec paracord will most likely only comes in select colors, while with commercial paracord, the color options are endless. Genuine cord comes in black, coyote brown, white, tan, foliage green, od green, and orange.
  • I found that Commercial 550 was normally more stiff, and rough in texture, while the genuine stuff was always smoother, flowed better, and a bit thinner in diameter.
  • Ever wonder...How thick is 550 paracord??? Well the answer is: 1/8"


550 Paracord Specs:

  • 550 paracord Diameter: 1/8"
  • 550 paracord Strength:  550 lb
  • Inner strands: 7 Inner strands with 3 inner strands of their own.
  • Colors: Black, OD Green, Foliage Green, White, Coyote Brown, Tan, Orange.
  • 550 Paracord Material: Nylon


Color Chart:



Where to Buy?

When buying paracord, be sure to watch out for what you are buying. If you want the genuine cord, make sure it follows all the parameters listed in the article above. If you're interested, you can browse our selection of genuine 550 cord made here in the USA by a military contractor.