Editor’s note: This article originally appeared in the January 2010 issue of BLADE. However, the information presented is still relevant and useful to anyone interested in paracord-wrapped knife handles.
Advantages of Paracord-Wrapped Knife Handles
- Affordable: Much less expensive than many natural and synthetic handle materials
- Customizable: Available in a variety of colors
- Convenient: Cordage is as near as your knife
- Versatile: Paracord can be used in countless everyday and survival situations
Disadvantages of Paracord-Wrapped Knife Handles
- Fixed blades only: Folders aren’t an option
- Absorbent: Will soak up moisture (water, mud, blood), and may give off unpleasant odor as a result
- Needs replacing: Wear and tear mean the wrap won’t last forever
- Ergonomics: Some say gloved hands often find a better grip than bare hands
The Infinite Uses of Paracord
While for some it may be considered just a quick wraparound, for others it has proven to be a lifesaver. The simple paracord handle does more than meets the eye.
Functioning as a handle material that allows for the best fit for the size of the user’s hand, and one that can be added or removed in a matter of minutes, paracord is durable and relatively inexpensive. It also adds a dimension of survivability for those in the field.
Paracord pulls double duty as a bootlace, securing line, snare or even in a first-aid situation.
What’s the Best Kind of Paracord?
“The best paracord to use is military 550 cord,” explained custom knifemaker Mickey Yurco, who has employed paracord wrap for handles on as much as 40 percent of his knives. “It has seven inner strands of nylon cord, and the outer shell is tightly braided nylon. If you pull out the separate strands in a survival situation, you can make a bowstring, use it to catch a rabbit with a snare, use it for fishing line, and you can break down the inner core into three separate smaller strands for sewing a rip in a tent or as suture if you cut yourself.
“You can use the outer shell to lash branches together to build a lean-to or tie logs together for a raft. You can even use it to keep a fire lit because [paracord] will melt.”
Yurco also points out that when a paracord handle is unwrapped for another use, the gripping end of the knife is still intact. The entire piece is lightweight and, on the sheath or in a belt clip, as much as eight to 12 feet of additional paracord can be tightly wrapped as backup.
Two Schools of Thought
Mike Fuller of TOPS Knives noticed its reputation rising around 2000.
“I first saw it during the Vietnam era, as some guys wrapped paracord around their sheaths just to have some extra cord if needed,” he commented at the time this article was published. “I did see a few homemade jeepspring knives with paracord wrapping.
“There are two schools of thought on the paracord,” Fuller continued. “In an emergency situation, you might have about 10 feet of cord to use for survival applications. In a wet situation, you might have a better grip, and some people feel that it assists when wearing gloves in the field.
“Paracord can in fact tear or become frayed and, if it gets soaking wet in really cold weather, some have said that their handles freeze and coat with ice. Several professional hunters have said that if you are field dressing an animal the blood may get into the cord and it’s difficult to clean and may carry a distinct odor.”
The Secret is the Simplicity
“People like paracord because it is so simple,” said Justin Gingrich, a consultant with Ontario Knife Co. “It allows them to customize a handle and still have a knife they can carry close to the body. You can wrap, rewrap and even change the cord to match the outfit you’re wearing.
“Paracord allows users to tailor the knife to themselves, beefing the handle up or thinning it out, and, if it gets dirty or frayed or messed up in any way, it’s easy to replace. It will absorb water and hold it, so you don’t want it on an unprotected high-carbon steel knife. You could get rusting issues with water or any other fluids. It will absorb blood if you are hunting, but then again, it’s a give and take since you can change it out pretty quickly.”
As with any knife feature, whether to go with a paracord-wrapped knife handle or not is up to the user. However, many knife collectors enjoy the versatility and customization that paracord offers. Far from a trend, paracord is here to stay as a handle option.