Uses of Razor Wire

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    • Razor wire in concertina formation.razor wire #1 image by Aaron Kohr from

      While razor wire is not technically as sharp as a razor, it can cut severely. What most people refer to as razor wire is a variation of the traditional barbed wire, commonly used to fence livestock. While barbed wire can be somewhat more easily navigated by a person intent on entry, razor wire can cause serious, or even life-threatening, blood loss, which insures a higher level of security. Historically, the most obvious use for razor wire was security, but now it is used in a variety of situations.

    Prisons and Mental Hospitals

    • The 1960s saw an increased use of razor wire—sometimes called barbed tape—to slow the escape of prisoners or mental patients. It was deployed to keep people inside a facility rather than prevent entry from the outside. Razor wire was commonly installed at the top of chain link fences or concrete walls and unfurled like large, dangerous slinkies to entangle potential escapees long enough for staff to reach them. This early form of razor wire was not adopted by the military since it wasn't deemed formidable enough to use at high-security facilities. The problem with razor wire was that, with the correct tools, it was actually easier to cross or cut through than regular barbed wire. Still, most inmates and patients didn't have these tools and, against bare hands and feet, it was almost impenetrable.


    • During the 1980s, razor wire took a giant leap forward in strength when it began to be made with a steel core center. This attracted the attention of the military, which previously thought it was too easy to cut through. Not any longer. Since then, razor wire has become a government staple at high-security installations in the U.S. and around the world. When deployed in the coiled (concertina) configuration atop a curved wall, razor wire acts as a serious barrier to the unprotected, unprepared individual. Razor wire is also used by the military in training applications, to teach soldiers how to crawl through it.


    • Though it would normally be thought of as overkill, razor wire is sometimes used by farmers and ranchers to contain stubborn livestock. While a 2,000-pound bull might walk right through a barbed wire fence if he wanted to, razor wire provides a much higher level of resistance. The accompanying painful cuts tend to get the animal's attention.

    Final Thoughts

    • While razor wire is not foolproof–for example, a length of carpet thrown over the top virtually nullifies its danger–it has been adopted by civilians and governments for a range of uses, primarily related to security and controlling access to facilities.

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