Military Specification compliant Paracord, sometimes referred to as “Mil-Spec” Paracord, is manufactured in strict accordance with the nineteen-page, very tightly-defined, Military Specification C-5040. Mil-Spec C-5040 defines very specifically how Mil-Spec Paracord is to be manufactured and tested prior to being acceptably purchased by the United States Military.
The latest update for Mil-Spec C-5040 is revision “H,” which was enacted on 17 March, 1994. As such, this particular Military Specification is most commonly referred to and abbreviated as: Mil-Spec C-5040H.
On 1 October, 1997, MIL-C-5040H was determined by the United States Military to be“inactive for new design and is no longer used except for replacement purposes.” They disseminated this information in a document called a “Notice of Inactivation for New Design,” and directed that “This notice should be filed in front of MIL-C-5040H dated 17-Mar-94.”
However, the manufacturing requirements for Mil-Spec C-5040H continue to be used today for the manufacture of “real” mil-spec paracord for purchase and use by the United States Military, as well as other agencies, personnel and “lay people.”
In addition to the Mil-Spec C-5040H, the Parachute Industry Agency, or PIA, adopted their own Paracord manufacturing standard. Their standard was initially developed from the Mil-Spec C-5040H, has been updated from the Military Specification, and continues to be in use today. The PIA manufacturing specification for Paracord is referred to as: PIA-C-5040, and is presently in Revision E, which became effective on 28 February 2010.
So the complete nomenclature for the PIA Manufacturing Standard is: PIA-C-5040E. The PIA does not make their Paracord manufacturing standard available for free, however, you can purchase a copy of this standard directly from the PIA from their website.
Since the PIA developed their INITIAL Paracord manufacturing specification from the Mil-Spec C-5040, the specification is sometimes seen written as: PIA / Mil-Spec C-5040 or PIA / Mil-Spec C-5040H.
However, this particular nomenclature is technically incorrect as the PIA has updated their specification since March of 1994 when the United States Military determined that their Specification would be: “no longer used except for replacement purposes.” Although these two documents initially came from the Military Specification, MIL-C-5040H and PIA-C-5040E have evolved into slightly different documents.
Even a lay person can easily determine the difference between Mil-Spec and Commercial Paracord.