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  The most common use Barbed and Razor Wire in the USA is area security.

Barbed Wire and Its Uses.

Barbed wire is a type of fencing wire that is constructed with sharp edges or points arranged at intervals along the strand(s). It is used to construct inexpensive fences, or added to the top of an existing fence, as an added measure of security. 

A person or animal trying to pass through a barbed-wire fence  will suffer discomfort and possibly injury. Barbed-wire fencing requires only fence posts, wire and fixing devices such as staples. It is simple to construct and quick to erect by a skilled fence crew. One of the biggest commercial uses for Barbed Wire is for enclosed cattle fencestar picket in most regions of the US. The wire is aligned under tension between braced heavy fence posts.  It is held at the correct height by being attached to wooden posts and battens, or steel star posts.  The length of the gaps between star posts can vary depending on terrain.  On short fences, in hilly country, they can be placed as closely as every 8 feet.  However, over flat land the posts can be spaced much further apart. 

Most barbed-wire fences, while sufficient to discourage cattle, are easily passable by humans. They can simply climb over, or go through the fence by stretching the gaps between the wires, and using non-barbed sections of the wire as handholds. To prevent humans crossing, installers will construct fences with barbed wire added to the top. This method is sufficient to thoroughly impede egress or injure anyone who attempts to climb over it.

Razor Wire and Its Uses.

Razor wire is a mesh of metal strips with sharp edges, which helps to prevent passage by human beings.  The shape of the barbs also characterizes razor wire. 

Generally accepted barb definition:

  • short barb razor wire has barbs from 10 mm to 15 mm long
  • medium barb razor wire has barbs 20 mm to 25 mm long
  • long barb razor wire has barbs from 60 to 66 mm long.

Although there is little research to indicate whether longer barbs are actually more effective in resisting penetration, they certainly provide a stronger psycholigical deterent.

Razor wire barbs are sharper than the barbs of barbed wire. The razorbarb razor barbterm "razor wire" is a slang term derived from a manufacturer's brand name. It is not actually razor sharp, but the sharp edges of the wire can cause serious cuts in any person attempting to pass through quickly.

In high security applications, razor wire can be used to supplement barbed wire, which could be circumvented relatively quickly by humans without tools. Getting past razor wire without tools is considerably slower, giving security forces much more time in which to respond.

Starting in the late 1960's, razor wire was typically found in prisons and long-term  mental hospital, where the increased breaching time for a poorly equipped potential escapee was a definite advantage. Until the development of reinforced razor wire in the early 1980's, it was rarely used for military purposes or genuine high security facilities because it was actually easier to breach with the correct tools. Since then, however, some military forces have also replaced barbed wire with razor wire for many applications, mainly because it is slightly lighter for the same effective coverage.

Both items are almost always used in a commercial environment, as residential usage of both barbed and many have criticized razor wire. The aggressive appearance of the barbs is thought to detract from the appearance, and land value, of a neighborhood.


Article contributed by fence professional Chuck Billmyer

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