Let's face it, paracord is a numbers game. Like other games, be it numbers or otherwise, you have to pay attention if you're going to come out on top. Different tensile strength paracord is becoming more common and some of it looks just like the 550 cord we know and love. So similar are they at times that if you are not paying close attention to the packaging, you might not even notice until you put your faith in something to perform to a certain standard and it lets you down.
MIL-C-5040H Type III vs. Commercial 550 Cord
MIL-C-5040H is billed as legitimate, authentic, no-holds-barred parachute cord. Since this particular cord is used by the government, the standards of production it must meet as well as its capacity to function is higher than the commercial versions of 550 paracord on the market these days. Commercial 550 paracord is not tested as rigorously thereby giving it license to be a slightly lesser version. However, do not write off the commercial cord; while there may be a difference between the two, it is very small and not significant enough reason to discount commercial grade if that is all that is available to you. How small is it that difference, you ask? Well, suffice to say that while both of these have 7 inner strands , the MIL-C-5040H has seven inner strands each composed of three strands wound together while the commercial 550 has seven inner strands each composed of two strands wound together. The overall widths of both types are approximately 3mm-4mm wide depending on manufacturer.
As its name suggests, this variety of cord has a tensile strength of 425lbs. This, of course, means that it the max weight this cord can support before exhausting its capabilities and breaking. Instead of the seven strands of interior twine mentioned above, this variety of cord only has three inner strands. Its size is also approximately 3mm.
The name of a particular type of paracord will tell you a lot about it, and once you have figured this out, certain things start to come to you without much explanation. Just for fun, however, suffice to say that 275 Paracord has a 275lb tensile strength. It also has four inner strands and is approximately 2.38 mm wide.
Micro paracord in similar in appearance to its big brother, the 550 paracord, but falls short of its sibling in a strength comparison due to its much smaller size (1.18mm). It has the same exterior as bigger, stronger cord but has no interior strands. Thus, this cord is something you should reserve for smaller projects rather than truly relying on it in a situation where you could possibly need it to save your hide.
Coming in at .75mm, Nano Paracord is definitely the baby of the paracord bunch. It is better suited for small job such as crafting projects or fishing net due to being of a nature similar to thread. Do not count this smaller cord out, however, because you never know when you might need something small yet sturdy to fit in places where a bigger cord cannot!
No matter the task you have at hand, there is a paracord for the job! Choose yours wisely!