Ball Chain Carry for Neck Knives?

Mar 15, 1999
I've got a follow-on question to the topic that came up a while back regarding sources for paracord for neck knives. This is probably a stupid question, but could anyone provide any suggestions about possible sources for 1/8" stainless steel ball chain? I'm experimenting with some different carries for my neck knives and remember several postings recommending the inclusion of a least a small length of ball chain in neck rigs to allow for a controlled "break point" if the system is stressed. I see this stuff every day, but I just realized that I don't have a clue as to where to purchase some (hardware store, office supply?). I'd hate to try and to appropriate a length of the chain that my local bank uses to secure its pens

A related question…I know that several postings have suggested using paracord in conjunction with a short length of ball chain to create a silent, but breakable, carry system. I'd assumed that the paracord and chain were attached by inserting a segment of chain into the outer "sleeve" of the paracord and then fusing it by applying a flame. Is this correct? Any tips about how to due this securely without weakening the cord to the point where it will no longer support the stress of drawing the blade? As I mentioned, I'm just guessing about this technique…any inputs would be very much appreciated!

As far as where to get the ball chain goes, you should be able to find it at any good hardware store. Try looking in the electrical section (pull chains for lamps) and if you can't find any there, try the plumbing section (toilet chain).

Hope this helps.
Thanks for the suggestion! Geez...I really feel like an idiot now; I didn't even take the time to try and think of some more common applications for this stuff
! I'll try to engage the brain before I post stupid questions in the future...

I bot mine at Home Depot 60 cents a foot and a package of closures were 99 cents if memory serves.
It's a little more difficult to find stainless ball chain than other types in my experience. As far as the chain and paracord--some people just pull out the center core of the paracord and run the ball chain through the hollow outside cover. this reduces the noise and shine of the chain and still allows it to break.
Stainless steel ball chain is not that easy to find, at least around here. All the hardware stores carry ball chain, but generally it is brass, or chrome plated brass. I do not know what the difference in strength is. Also find that brass is sometimes an irritant, especially in hot humid weather. threading it through paracord sheath solves this problem.

Unless the chain is labeled stainless steel, look at the end where it was cut. If you see brass inside, it ain't stainless. Most hardware clerks won't know the difference.
UglyJim, there's absolutely no reason to feel like an idiot. If anything, I jumped the gun. Upon further inspection, the ball chain that I have from the hardware store is indeed (as MNH suggests) chrome-plated brass NOT stainless. All I can say about it is that it has held up well and seems to be fairly strong. I don't know about its breaking strength compared to actual stainless chain.
I use the brass ball chain all the time without problem as well. Every time someone specifies ball chain however it is always stainless steel, there must be a reason, (?)

As a possibly interesting side note:

I grabbed a 75cm length of real stainless steel ball chain and a 75cm length of the brass hardware store chain to see what the difference in breaking strength is. I went to the basement, put some gloves on, and wrapped each length around a metal support pole in a "garrote" style motion. I then proceeded to pull on the ends of the chains as hard as I could.

I could break neither chain. Both chains are of the same diameter ball (a little less than 1/8").

This suggests one of two things:

a) I am a candy ass who can't even break a little chain with his bare hands.


b) Ball chain isn't as weak as people seem to think it is and will likely choke you before it breaks.

Judging by my physique I'd go with option "a" myself, but you never know.
You're not the only one who's found it difficult to break ball chain -- including GI dogtag chain. The real question is not how weak you might be ... ask yourself, how would you have felt about it if it had been your neck getting garroted instead of that pillar? Would you have said to yourself, somebody is trying to garrote me but he's such a candy-ass wimp I don't even care?

Somehow I doubt it ... speaking for myself, I think I would not like being garroted with a ball chain even by a candy-ass wimp....

The whole question of breakable neck chains or cords is pretty problematic. Many people, including me, are not in the least concerned about an attacker choking us with it; we're worried about falling and getting it hung up on a branch. (Yes, I climb cliffs and even trees. I'm immature at heart.) Or getting it caught in machinery, etc. So I figure the first question is, can it bear my weight? If I hang it on a tree branch and hang from it by my hands will it break?

I'm not sure a breaking strength less than my weight is weak enough to suit me, though. The whole question is problematic.... How much would it annoy me to have, say, a 100 pound (45kg) breaking strength chain broken across my neck? I suspect it wouldn't do my mood any good at all ... I'd like to have it considerably weaker than that if it's going to be broken across my throat ... the weaker the better ... but if it's too weak maybe I'll make a sudden grab for my knife in an emergency and it'll break and I'll find myself holding the knife still in its sheath? Well, that wouldn't be such a disaster -- another second or so to push the sheath off with my thumb....

I dunno. The one thing I'm sure of is I don't want anything around my neck that's strong enough to bear my weight. I'm damn sure of that much. Beyond that, I dunno. I suppose it's not tremendously likely it'll ever happen, and maybe an unlikely possibility of anything short of death or serious injury is acceptable ... maybe more acceptable than a significant probability that it'll break when I don't want it to and I'll lose my knife.

I would ponder the question much harder if I hadn't decided I don't like neck carry anyway. I like neck knives but I carry them other ways. An armpit or semishoulder rig is one of my favorites, by the way -- similar to neck carry, but the knife stays in one place and I know where to reach for it, and coincidentally there doesn't happen to be any danger from the cord.

-Cougar Allen :{)

P.S. I don't think the question is insoluble. I used to wear a pendant around my neck on a silver chain -- a heavier silver chain than is commonly used for pendants -- and several times one of the mentally retarded people I used to work with grabbed it and broke the chain. It broke easily enough that I wasn't hurt at all, and it never broke except when she grabbed it (it was the same girl every time; she had an attraction for that pendant ... fortunately I used to do silverwork and I had the right kind of pliers to repair it with).

Maybe that's the best way to do it -- just go to the jeweler and buy an attractive silver chain ... or gold ... suit yourself.

-Cougar Allen :{)

[This message has been edited by Cougar Allen (edited 25 July 1999).]
The little pressed metal connector used to join the ball chain is the weak part and the part that you want to break. Some people keep it around front for that very reason. You may even try connecting several pieces of short ball chain with a connecter every six inches or so. The problem to with the paracord cover that I mentioned is that it is still strong enough to choke someone with if they get a hold of both ends. I've also heard about people putting small slices in the paracord cover (which is over the ball chain) to weaken it. The whole question points to the main weakness of neck carry. Maybe a length of kite string would work best.
You may want to check out Bladetech for a supply of SS ball chain.