Buckles vs. Shackles

Posted by Luke Quanbeck on Nov 7th 2019

buckle versus shackle title

The biggest debate among our customers is whether or not to buy mil-spec paracord.

Probably the second biggest debate is whether to use a plastic buckle or a metal shackle on paracord bracelets. Let's talk about that.

Why the Debate?

Here's how the argument usually goes: "Oh, you use a plastic buckle? I hate those. I always use a metal shackle, because they're stronger."

What our hypothetical shackle enthusiast said is true. A metal shackle is going to hold more weight than a 3/8" plastic buckle. So, is that the end of the debate? Did the shackle win? Well, let's take a look at some of the pros and cons of each. We'll leave the decision up to you.

No really, vote in the comments! We want to hear which one you think is better—buckle or shackle.


Shackles consist of a metal loop and threaded pin. They also may include a second half that allows the user to resize their bracelet larger or smaller.


Strong: Depending on the grade of steel used, small industrial shackles may hold upwards of a couple hundred pounds.

Versatile: There's no argument that carrying a closed metal loop may prove useful while jerry-rigging gear or constructing other emergency solutions.

shackle types

CAN Be Adjustable: Certain kinds of shackles include an adjustable half. This makes bracelet sizing easier.


Difficult to Use: Shackles are extremely difficult to put on with one hand. Unless you wear your bracelet 27/7, this is a significant drawback to some people. This issue could also potentially limit a paracord bracelet's usefulness in the field when speediness is essential.

Small Parts: The shackle screw is a very small piece of hardware to grab onto with gloves or cold fingers. It's also incredibly easy to lose. We've often been asked for replacement screws to our shackle closures.


Buckles are usually made of plastic, though metal buckles do exist. Most buckles were designed for use with flat webbing, such as that used to make backpack straps.


Easy to Use: Most plastic buckles are pretty easy to attach and release with one hand.

Streamlined: Buckles are generally pretty smooth. They don't have any sharp or protruding parts to get caught on clothing or gear.


Strength: A 3/8" buckle will detach or break if moderate force is applied. However, a 5/8" or 3/4" buckle is usually pretty strong. Still, this lesser durability is something to keep in mind.

buckle sizes

Pinching: There's no doubt about it—buckles can pinch. Especially on hairy arms, buckles have elicited a few choice words now and again. For some, this is definitely reason enough to say "no" to a buckle.

Asthetics: Buckles have often been called cheap because they are very obviously plastic. For others, this is not much a hang up.

The Winner?

I told you, We're not making the decision on this one. If you have an argument as to why shackles or buckles are better, duke it out in the comments!

Can you think of any pros or cons I missed? Is there perhaps a better third option for bracelet closures than the ones listed above? Let us know what YOU think.

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