Ballistic Nylon – The Ultimate Military-Grade Fabric?

ballistic nylon for parachute

In 1927, DuPont Corporation began the research for the production of nylon, a synthetic polymer based on semi-aromatic polyamides which were then processed into fabrics.

This invention provided a convenient alternative to silk materials which were imported from Japan and this provided a respite to wary customers.

In 1938, nylon fabric promising to be as strong as steel and fine as a spider web hit the market as the first man-made organic textile fiber and it was welcomed with widespread enthusiasm especially among middle-class women.

The first public sale of nylon stockings occurred on October 1939 in Delaware where 4000 pairs of stockings were sold within 3 hours and during the Second World War almost all nylon production was diverted to the military for use in parachutes and parachute chords.

Perhaps motivated by the success of this invention and maybe the desire to produce a real steel fabric, DuPont began research into the manufacture of a stronger, tougher and thicker nylon fabric that can provide enhanced protection against bodily harms.

This led to the invention of the ballistic nylon.

So what is ballistic nylon?

Ballistic nylon is a thick and tough material developed from nylon fabric to provide protection from ballistic impacts.

It was originally developed as a base material for flak jackets to be worn by the Second World War airmen as protection from case fragment from high explosive weaponry and bullets.

However, it was not effective against most pistols and rifle bullets though it could deflect minor shrapnel and debris.

So in the late 1970s, the military upgraded to light-weight Kevlar and ceramic plate technology which were more effective in protecting against these weapons.

Despite the shortcomings of ballistic nylon, the material is crazily durable and resistant to harsh conditions and water.

As a result, it has found wide application in luggage and backpacks, shoes, belts and straps, sporting equipment and knife sheaths.

However, the use of ballistic nylon poses some problems ranging from:

  • The material is quite heavy even before it is packed and this might pose serious problems to everyday commuters or outdoor lovers as it can slow down movements.
  • It can wear out lighter clothing that regularly comes in contact with it.
  • It cannot be dyed, so it usually comes in black or dark colors.
  • Unlike other fabrics, it is very difficult to sew.

It might require armor piercing needles and this might be difficult to get especially if you don’t have the right credentials. But you can by-pass this stress by using heavy-duty sewing machines.

Perhaps you might also consider using a home sewing machine. Some people have acknowledged using it to sew together ballistic nylon.

However, if you are considering following this route, then you have to be ready to break a considerable number of needles and you might probably end up with stitches you might be proud of.

So in this article, we have outlined everything we believe you need to know about the deniers of ballistic nylons, the comparison between them and also the comparison between the ballistic nylon and Cordura, another strong and durable fabric.

So let dive in.

Comparing ballistic nylon deniers

But before we dive fully, I am going to explain fully what a denier is. A denier is a unit used to measure the linear mass density of the fiber. This linear mass density in textile technology refers to the amount of mass per unit length of a fiber.

9000 meters in textile technology is used as the standard unit length, so this explains basically what a denier is.

In a nutshell, it is the number of grams in every 9000 meters of the fiber; and it is represented using the abbreviation D.

100D of fabric means that the 9000 meters of the fiber weigh 100 gram while another fabric with 480D tag means that every 9000 meters of its fiber weigh 480 grams.

The denier is based on a natural reference to silk. It was discovered that a 9000-meter long single strand of silk weighs 1 gram, so 9000 meters became adopted as the standard unit length for measurement in the textile industry.

In real life, it is time-consuming and practically unrealistic to measure 9000 meters of fibers. So a sample of 900 meters is weighed and the result multiplied by 10 to arrive at the denier weight.

Denier determines the fiber thickness of individual threads used in the creation of the fabric. Those with high denier count tend to be thicker and more durable than those with lower counts.

Now having established what a denier is, then let compare the various deniers of ballistic nylon.

So let get started.

 

840D

Very similar in properties with the 600D polyester fiber, the material is referred to as the junior ballistic nylon because of its lighter weight to the senior ballistics, 1050D and the 1680 denier ballistic materials.

It is a basket-woven material made from 840 denier nylon fiber with a 2×2 weave. This means that a 9000-meter length of this fiber weighs approximately 840 grams.

The material is waterproof and it can withstand wears and tears. It is perfect for holsters, rifle cases, bags bottoms, and other uses.

 

1050D

This is a multifilament high tenacity and durable 2X2 basket wave nylon fabric made with 1050 denier fiber.

This means that a 9000-meters length of this fiber weighs 1050 grams.

Double wave 1050 denier ballistic nylon has been proven to be the strongest and most durable fabric for its denier weight level.

1050 denier ballistic nylon weighs 15 ounces per yard and it has very good resistance to chemicals.

As a result of its high tensile strength, the 1050d fiber is used in parachutes, tow ropes, conveyor belts, fishing, cordages and many more. It is resistant to water and offers poor comfort.

The material is made from synthetic petrochemicals, so it is not environmentally friendly. It is not biodegradable and the substance releases harmful toxins when disposed of in a landfill.

 

1680D

Just like the 1050 denier ballistic nylon, the 1680 denier material is a multifilament high tenacity and durable 2X2 basket wave nylon fabric. But it is made with 1680 denier fiber.

The material weighs 1680 grams per 9000 meters but it has a lighter weight than the 1050 denier materials despite weighing per denier. The material is heavier is than either the 1260 X 1680 denier or the 840D.

Despite being lighter in weight than the original 1050D, the material is, however, more resistant to abrasion and tears.

It gets fuzzy as it wears.

The material can hold well against extreme temperature and it can protect the skin from the ultraviolet rays from the sun.

It is the standard fabric for office furniture, tool belts, heavy duty protective covers, safety vests and a good number of other custom users.

Like every other nylon fabric, the ballistic version is not environmentally friendly.

 

CORDURA vs. Ballistic Nylon

Before we round-up this conversation, I found it pertinent to draw a little comparison with another fabric that is much talked about in the industry: the Cordura fabrics.

The Cordura fabrics are known for their durability and resistance to abrasions, tears, and scuffs. These characteristics make it quite similar to the ballistic nylon.

But unlike the former, Cordura is actually a brand name not a type of fabric even though in recent times it has grown to be recognized as such.

It was originally developed back in 1929 and registered as a trademark of DuPont, the same company that pioneered ballistic nylons but in 2004, it was acquired by Invista.

DuPont introduced the fabric as rayon, a cellulose-based textile and it was used by the military during the Second World War in tires but Invista re-introduced it as nylon in 1966 when new formulations of nylon proved superior option.

One primary thing that differentiates a Cordura from ballistic nylon is the condition if its fabrics observed at a nearly microscopic level. Unlike the ballistic nylon, it is composed of a series of textured fibers and this gives it a greater abrasion resistance.

However, ballistic nylon has some considerable edge over the Cordura fabrics in certain areas:

  • First, it is stronger than the Cordura and boasts of better tear strength.
  • It has a better aesthetic look because of its shiny surface, unlike the Cordura fabrics that look more like a canvas.
  • It does not attract dust like the Cordura.

However, both materials are so amazing that it will be so difficult to pick a clear-cut winner without bringing personal bias and preferences into play unless you are considering specific situations.

For instance, 1050D nylon has been proven to be the strongest fabric especially in its line of denier weight.

So it might be more suitable than Cordura fabrics in situations that demand a high tensile material.

Wrapping Up

Ballistic nylon is one bad-ass textile fabric and products using this fabric are durable and weather-resistant. Although the technology growth over the past decades was insane, nylon will stand the test of time for many years to come.

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