The Different Types of Side-Release Buckles for Paracord Projects

Updated on February 17, 2018
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Side Release Buckles and Other Fasteners

Whether you make paracord survival bracelets or other projects which require side-release buckles, I'll show you a few cool options and ideas you may not have considered to fasten your bracelets.

Buckles, in one form or another, are the most common way to fasten bracelets and other gear. So many types of buckles are available on the market, and numerous fastening methods also exist.

  • Metal (more expensive)
  • Plastic (less expensive)
  • With/Without Whistles
  • Different Sizes

Some people choose to make plain survival bracelets with nothing more than a knot and loop fastener. For the ultra-crafty people or those wanting to do something different, you can weave beads or other toggles on one end of the bracelet and a simple loop on the other. Here, we're going to take a look at some of the more common fasteners that most people use in their projects. I think you'll find some great ideas here for your next project.

Plastic Side-Release Buckles

Plastic side-release buckles are very popular, and luckily for us, they come in many different sizes and designs. Many people gravitate towards them because they are very affordable. If you're making bracelets and other projects as a hobby, you probably don't want to spend a fortune on buckles. Also, if you're making bracelets for a fundraiser or to sell, you want to maximize your profit. So once again, plastic buckles would be the obvious choice.

The Most Common Buckle Size

The most common buckle size used for paracord bracelets is 16-19 mm (5/8" or 3/4"). This measurement is the width of the hole in the buckle where you thread your strap or paracord. Because these plastic buckles are so affordable, you can get a few different sizes and experiment to find out which size and type of buckle you like best. While everything mentioned in this section is side-release buckles, they don't all have the same look and feel—some release easier than others, some are more robust (higher quality plastic), and some buckles are more rounded (contoured) and have a generally better feel while wearing.

Single- and Double-Adjusting Buckles

You also need to decide between single-adjusting and double-adjusting buckles. Double-adjusting means that there are two slider holes on each end of the buckle. On a backpack, for example, this would allow you to cinch up and tighten a strap from both sides. For a survival bracelet with paracord, you don't need the adjusting capability, so I suggest looking for buckles with only one slider hole on each end if possible for a better look.

Of course, we also need to discuss the purpose that the buckles will serve. If you are planning on using them for a gear strap (say, on a backpack or day bag), then you might want a larger or at least heavier duty buckle. If it is simply for looks and on a paracord bracelet, then the smaller plastic buckles will work.

  • On a dog collar, for example, I would use a larger 1" side-release buckle (unless it's a tiny collar). You can see this in the photo below.
  • If you're planning on making a survival/safety bracelet, it may be a good idea to use buckles with a whistle built in. These whistles work alright, but they won't be the loudest thing you've ever heard. That being said, for a lost hiker or a jogger trying to summon help, they will do the job. They look kind of cool, too.

Metal Side-Release Buckles

The Ultra-Tough Look You Want in a Survival Bracelet

There are many reasons why people choose plastic over metal side-release buckles, and perhaps the two biggest reasons are the following:

  1. The cost increase of using metal buckles is significant if you use a lot of them.
  2. There's added weight and bulk when using metal buckles.

However, there are still applications where metal would be the right choice.

You'll find far fewer style choices when it comes to metal buckles due to their decreased demand and the relatively greater difficulty and cost in manufacturing. In tactical applications, you will almost always see plastic being used whenever possible because:

  • It decreases the magnetic presence of the wearer (think bombs and IED's).
  • There are no spark or rust-related issues to contend with.
  • It relies on the tension created naturally by the displaced connectors when they're snapped into place.

Metal buckles, on the other hand, rely on small internal springs to retain their tension. This means that they can wear out and fail, while the plastic buckles are much more likely to retain their shape and strength over time. There are no bells and whistles (literally) on the metal buckles, and your choices are limited to basically the size you want. However, they are stronger than plastic buckles.

Steel Shackles

Are you looking for some cool buckles to make something really unique, or do you have a project that requires something more robust than plastic buckles? There are tons of things to be made with paracord beyond bracelets and so many ways to make them all. More people are getting creative and making their products their own. Many of them also prefer the rugged look of the metal shackle buckles. I admit it, I like them too!

As you can see, using this type of buckle gives much more strength and reliability than a typical side-release buckle. The cost is higher, but the end product is clearly much more appealing. Again, it will boil down to the project. For fundraisers, you will almost certainly want to stick with the plastic buckles.

If you can find them these anodized D shackles look really cool.
If you can find them these anodized D shackles look really cool.

Reflector Side-Release Buckles

If you have a dog or know someone who does, you can make a really cool personalized gift: a reflective dog collar. Using ultra-cool reflective paracord colors and this large side release buckle have the makings of something special.

No dogs? These make great luggage straps—the kind you wrap around your luggage to ensure that it doesn't pop open when airport security or the guys on the conveyor belts throw it around. There are many ways you can make something really creative with these buckles! Check it out.

What Are Your Thoughts on Buckle Types? Side-Release or Shackles?

Ok, now that you've had a chance to look at some of the different types of buckles, here's a question for you. If you were going to make a paracord bracelet right now and had both types in front of you, which one would you use?

Do you prefer plastic buckles or metal shackles?

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Please Share Your Thoughts or Tips for Using Buckles on Your Paracord Projects

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