Paracord is very often referred to as “550 Paracord,” “Paracord 550,” “550 Cord,” “550 Parachute Cord,” as well as other paracord names that have “550” in them. This nomenclature has evolved from the Mil-Spec C-5040H, which defines very specifically a minimum (not an average) breaking strength of 550 pounds.
Military specification compliant, Type III Paracord must have a minimum breaking strength of at least 550 pounds, and must be documented for audit by the military at any time.
Commercial paracord, also often referred to with the “550” in the name, may or may not actually have a documented breaking strength of a minimum of 550 pounds because it is not manufactured to any one particular manufacturing or quality control standard.
Additionally, by far, the most frequently referred to “type” or “category” of paracord is “Type III” paracord. The nomenclature for this “type” of paracord has also evolved from the Mil-Spec C-5040H, which defines six different “types” or “categories” of paracord. These different “types” include:
Each of these different types of paracord, as defined by the Mil-Spec C-5040H, has a different manufacturing standard. However, “Type III” paracord is clearly the “type” of paracord that most people are referring to when they talk about “Paracord” or “Parachute Cord.”
The break strength for Type III Mil-Spec Paracord is required to be a minimum of 550 pounds. However, again, “commercial” paracord, often referred to as “Type III,” probably has been manufactured consistently with SOME of the requirements of Mil-Spec C-5040H for Type III Paracord. However, because there is no single manufacturing standard for “commercial” paracord, ALL of the requirements for Mil-Spec C-5040H have not been met.
As such, when “commercial” paracord is referred to as: “Type III” and “550,” it is generally an attempt to make the cheaper “commercial” sound like the more expensive and reliable “Mil Spec” Paracord.