The definition for the word paracord has become blurred. The word paracord is a shortened version or nickname of parachute cord. Parachute cord for military purposes has a 32-strand woven outer sheath and a 7 strand 3 ply cabled inner core. It was required to have a 550 lb. minimum tensile or break strength and 30% elongation. This cord was 100% nylon. It was used as the suspension lines for parachutes. Type III 550 Paracord is the commercial version of Mil Spec 550 Parachute Cord also known as Mil Spec Paracord or Mil Spec 550 Paracord. This commercial version has the same 550 lb. break strength. It has a 7 strand 2 ply cabled nylon inner core. The best commercial 550 paracord (another nickname that comes from its break strength) comes with either a nylon or polyester 32-strand woven outer sheath. Mil spec and type III cords are about 5/32 inches in diameter.
Paracord today has come to mean cord like parachute cord. Many of the cords that call themselves paracord have strayed greatly from the original parachute cord. The outer sheaths are made of a poorer quality material like polypropylene with an inner core of bulk filler instead of the cabled nylon strands. People in the survivalist, prepper or emergency preparedness groups want either the true mil spec parachute cord or the type III commercial cord. Either of these have the durable high quality outer sheath with braided inner strands that can be removed for use separately and a 550 lb. break strength.
Paracord has also become a family of cords. This family contains larger and smaller versions of the cord. The characteristics of this family of paracord follows the parachute cord pattern for most sizes. A high quality outer sheath with removable cabled inner strands making up the core. There is the exception of nano cord which has no inner core, and micro cord which has a single strand inner core which is hard to remove. These two cords are usually called nano and micro cord without paracord attached to them. The same manufactures that make the type III commercial cord also makes these, so they get lumped in.
Some of the other sizes in the paracord family are also commercial versions of mil spec cord. The military specs out more than just one size. The 550 paracord is by far the most popular.
The good quality type III commercial paracord is no more expensive than what I consider to be cheap paracord or paracord knock offs. Type III paracord comes in hundreds of colors and patterns. The manufactures do charge more for the true mil spec parachute cord, so the retail price will be higher. There's just more time and paper work when making a certified mil spec product. Type III commercial is just as good.
Other names used for 550 paracord include, para cord and paracord 550.
M. Shane Sullivan, Owner/Manager of Paracordgalaxy.com