The word paracord is a nickname or shortened version of parachute cord. It was the suspension lines of parachutes in World War II. The military designation for this cord is Type III MIL-C-5040H. It was designed for parachutes. The many uses for this type of cord today came as an afterthought. This parachute cord is made very specifically. It had to be 100% nylon. The outer sheath is 32 woven strands with a 3 ply cabled 7 strand core and a marker strand. 550 lbs. minimum tensile or break strength was required and a minimum of 30% elongation.
Paracord has grown in popularity ever since World War II. It is soft, pliable, durable and has an extremely strong weight to strength ratio. It has become a standard in cordage. 550 cord (another nickname that came from its break strength) really bloomed when it hit the survival, emergency preparedness (prepper) and everyday carry (EDC) communities. It was not only a great cord, but it could be disassembled and used as individual pieces for all kinds of things.
What is cheap paracord? Many will tell you if it's not genuine mil spec paracord it's no good. That is simply not true. The name paracord has become loosely used and applied to many cords that do not have the characteristics of real mil spec paracord. However, the same manufactures of genuine mil spec paracord also make what is called Type III 550 paracord which is the commercial version of the military specification Type III MI5040H parachute cord. Manufactures not contracting with the military also make Type III 550 Paracord. This cord has the characteristics of mil spec parachute cord. It is made with either a nylon or polyester 32 strand outer sheath and a 7 strand 2 ply cabled nylon core. The core can be disassembled, and the inner strands used separately while the break strength is also 550 lbs. The elongation is less if the outer sheath is polyester but that has little meaning to most people and can be an advantage according to the use. Nylon and polyester both have pros and cons for the outer sheath. I think they come out about equal. Almost all of the cord used by the emergency, prepper and survivalist communities is this commercial version. The type III 550 commercial paracord that I have told you about is not a cheap paracord knockoff. It's just as good.
True mil spec 550 cord is available in 11 or 12 colors. The real boom in the popularity of paracord started with the survival bracelet. Soon they were being made by crafters and hobbyists who also found other uses for paracord. The commercial type III 550 paracord has hundreds and hundreds of colors and patterns to choose from. The variety of colors came from the demand of crafters and a large cottage industry using paracord. Today everything and anything is being made with paracord.
So, what is cheap paracord? Cheap paracord or knockoff paracord is cord going by or using the name paracord without its original characteristics. These would include lower quality materials, less break strength, stiffer and less pliable or a core with bulk filler. Much of this cheap cord costs as much as the commercial type III 550 paracord. (Manufactures charge more for mil spec paracord because its certified, has smaller 3 ply strands, the paper work involved in the certification process and because they can). Is cheap paracord about the price? We sell the genuine mil spec paracord for $9.99 per 100-foot hank (Manufactures charge more for mil spec paracord because its certified, has smaller 3 ply strands, the paper work involved in the certification process and because they can). The USA made commercial type III 550 paracord sells for $4.99 to $6.49 per 100-foot hank in most cases.
Cheap paracord is cord labeled as paracord but without its characteristics and lesser quality. Or, it could be inexpensively priced quality paracord. I think it's both.
M. Shane Sullivan, Owner/Manager of Paracordgalaxy.com
(Prices as of 06-15-2018)