The Ultimate Guide to Razor Wire

The Ultimate Guide to Razor Wire

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Razor wire is used in various applications in most parts of the world. However, what many people who are not in the high security fencing business don’t know is that there are many different kinds of razor wire.

From coil and product type to wire and barb specifications, we’ve collected everything you need to know in one razor wire ultimate guide.

Razor Wire Types

The first thing you need to know about razor wire is that there are many different products that are made with razor wire. These include:

  • Unclipped razor wire, which is a single strand of razor wire (similar to barbed wire) that is not “clipped” into coils. It used like an alternative to barbed wire, or to create “hand wound” razor coils.
  • Flat wrap razor coils are two-dimensional razor coils that are flat when unrolled and can be tied onto a fence without protruding. This means they’re only a risk to someone trying to climb the fence. They are often used in lower security applications or combined with other coils for high security applications.
  • BTC coils or Barbed Tape Concertina coils are the most widely recognized coils. These coils are the three-dimensional razor coils most people have seen on high security fences around the world.
  • Electro coils are a type of razor coil that has insulators and electric fence wires inside the coils themselves. This is sometimes used on prisons and other very high security installations.
  • razor mesh, which is not a coil of course, but is a mesh panel with large diamond shapes made out of razor wire. It is another product that is often used in higher security fence applications.

Razor Coil Sizes

This next part is specific to razor coils, and it’s all about the size of the coil.

When you are shopping for razor wire coils, you will probably be given various diameters for those coils. Sometimes, they’re measured in millimeters, such as 500mm, 700mm and 900mm. If you’re in North America and a few other places, you will get those dimensions in inches, such as 18 inches.

The diameter of a razor wire coil is based on the size of the coil at the “maximum stretch” of the coil. So, for instance, the “maximum stretch” might be 15 meters or 50 feet. If you stretch the coil more or less than that, the diameter would be larger or smaller proportionately.

Barb Size

The next thing you need to know about razor wire is that it’s not a one barb fits all product.

There are different barb sizes and types, which are usually called short barb, medium barb, and long barb.

Different barb sizes are better suited to different applications, and if you’re not sure what will work best for your project, it’s a good idea to speak to a specialist razor coil supplier for more information before you order.

Parts of Razor Wire


The next thing you need to know about razor wire is that there are different two different parts: the core wire and the razor ribbon strip.

Unlike barbed wire, where wire is twisted around a central wire core, razor wire has a continuous metal “razor strip” bent around the wire continuously. This makes razor wire a lot more rigid and strong than barbed wire.

This added metal also makes razor wire harder to cut – which also increases security.

Razor Wire Materials

Razor wire is made out of two basic types of metals: galvanized steel and stainless steel. However, there could be several different combinations of those metals.

So, to save costs, you might have a galvanized core wire, with a stainless-steel razor strip. Or you could have a galvanized core with a galvanized strip, or both stainless steel.

This metal combination is usually expressed as “galv/galv” or “galv/stainless” in the material specification.

You can also have different grades of both galvanizing and stainless steel. In some places, this might be called Class A or Class B galvanizing, or it might be called heavy and standard galvanizing. Stainless steel for fencing is most commonly either grade 316 or 304.

How Is Razor Wire Installed?

There are many ways to install razor wire and razor coils on a fence. Some of the more common options in different parts of the world include:

  • Tying flatwrap razor coils directly to another kind of fence, like chain link or welded mesh.
  • Installing flatwrap or BTC razor coils on a straight or overhang extension.
  • Installing BTC coils on a V overhang or double overhang on top of a fence, with 3 strands of barbed wire on each side, allowing the coil to lie inside the “vee”.
  • Tying BTC coils onto the inside of a fence, often used as one of the perimeter fences of prisons and similar.
  • As quick deploy temporary barriers in war zones and similar.
  • Tying razor mesh to a fence, including in some cases bar or palisade fences to add security on the body of the fence.
  • As standalone razor mesh fences.

Of course, razor wire is very dangerous (we’ll get to some safety considerations in a moment) so you should always be aware of that when you are specifying a fence project.

How Are Razor Coils Attached to Fences?

Razor coils are usually tied in place using tie wires and sometimes preformed twist ties.

Some razor coils can be installed using hog rings or pneumatically fastened like Hartco clips.

The installation method you choose should also be specified, and don’t forget to specify how frequently coils need to be tied. You want to be sure they’re properly secured!

Working with Razor Wire

Adding razor coils to your fence doesn’t only increase your material costs, it adds to the labour costs too.

That’s because the only way to work safely with razor coils is slowly and carefully! You need skilled installers to install razor coils, and they need special gloves and other equipment to make sure your people don’t get hurt.

Razor wire also has to be stored very carefully on site. It must be elevated off the ground so it doesn’t rust of course, but it must also be stored where it can’t be accessed accidentally. Even when they are not installed, razor coils can be very dangerous for people and animals!

It’s a good idea to inspect your work areas carefully when you’re finished working with razor coils. Even small pieces of left-over coil could cut a person or animal, so you need to make sure you take it all with you when you go.

Permits and Liability

Razor coils can be very dangerous to people and animals – which is why you need to be very careful when you specify a fence that has this kind of security fence product included in the specification.

The first thing you need to do is determine if you need any special permits to install razor wire. Some parts of the world do not require this, but others do, so you should always check with the city or region you are installing the fence in.

In some places you will need to get special permission to install razor coils, and it’s often not granted for anything less than ultra high security installations like military or prison projects.

The next thing you need to know is that when you install razor coils, you will probably have some liability if it’s easily accessible by the public or by accident.

This is why, even at prisons where razor coils are common, they’re usually installed above 6’ or 1.8m and usually on a second fence. So, anyone who encounters them would need to be climbing or have climbed over another fence. In that case, there’s no way the contact was accidental.

It’s a good idea to find out what the regulations in your area are. Usually, however, it’s a good idea to design fences so that razor coils cannot be accessed accidentally or by a passerby.

Disposing of Old Razor Coils

Razor coils, like every other kind of metal fencing, rust and degrade over time, so there will come a time when you will need to remove and dispose of a fence that has razor coils on it.

Make sure that you have a plan in place to safely dispose of the coils you take down. Talk to the waste disposal authorities in the area to ensure that you are complying with local regulations too. You should also take any razor coils you have taken down off site as soon as possible. Accidental injury by razor wire is always a risk, and when they’re rusted, there are even more risks.

Talk to the Experts

If you’re not used to working with razor wire or specifying it for a fence project, it’s always a good idea to speak directly to a specialist.

Fence companies that do high security fence installation or companies that manufacture razor coils are both a good source of information. They should be able to give you more information about the type of razor wire that’s best for your project, and the rules and regulations for your area.