Barbed tape or razor wire is a mesh of metal strips with sharp edges whose purpose is to prevent passage by humans. The term "razor wire", through long usage, has generally been used to describe barbed tape products. Razor wire is much sharper than the standard barbed wire; it is named after its appearance, but is not razor sharp. The points are very sharp and made to rip and grab onto clothing and flesh.

The multiple blades of a razor wire fence are designed to inflict serious cuts on anyone attempting to climb through and therefore have a strong psychological deterrent effect. Razor wire is used in many high-security applications because, although it can be circumvented relatively quickly by humans with tools, penetrating a razor wire barrier without tools is very slow and difficult, giving security forces more time to respond.


Short barb razor wire at Tuol Sleng

Starting in the late 1960s, barbed tape was typically found in prisons and secure mental hospitals, where the increased breaching time for a poorly equipped potential escapee was a definite advantage. Until the development of reinforced barbed tape in the early 1980s (and especially after the September 11, 2001 attacks), it was rarely used for military purposes or genuine high security facilities because, with the correct tools, it was easier to breach than barbed wire. Since then some military forces have replaced barbed wire with barbed tape for many applications, mainly because it is slightly lighter for the same effective coverage and it takes up very little space compared to barbed wire or reinforced barbed tape when stored on drums.

More recently barbed tape has been used in more commercial and residential security applications. This is often primarily a visual deterrent since a well-prepared burglar can breach barbed wire and barbed tape barriers in similar amounts of time, using simple techniques such as cutting the wire or throwing a piece of old carpet over its strands.

Due to its dangerous nature, razor wire/barbed tape and similar fencing/barrier materials is prohibited in some locales. Norway prohibits any barbed wire except in combination with other fencing, in order to protect domesticated animals from exposure.[1]


Razor wire has a central strand of high tensile strength wire, and a steel tape punched into a shape with barbs. The steel tape is then cold-crimped tightly to the wire everywhere except for the barbs. Barbed tape is very similar, but has no central reinforcement wire. The process of combining the two is called roll forming.


Like barbed wire, barbed tape is available as either straight wire or spiral concertina wire. Unlike barbed wire, which usually is available only as plain steel or galvanized, barbed tape is also manufactured in stainless steel, to prevent the points from rusting blunt. Typically the core wire is galvanized and the tape is stainless, although fully stainless barbed tape is used for expensive permanent installations or under water.

Barbed tape is also characterized by the shape of the barbs. Although there are no formal definitions, typically short barb barbed tape has barbs from 10 mm to 15 mm long, medium barb tape has barbs 20 mm to 25 mm long, and long barb tape has barbs from 60 to 66 mm long.

According to the structure

  • Helical type. Helical type razor wire is the most simple pattern. There are no concertina attachments and each coil loop is left. It shows a natural spiral freely.
  • Concertina type. It is the most widely used type in the security defense applications. The adjacent loops of helical coils are attached at specified points on the circumference. It shows an accordion-like configuration condition.
  • Blade type. The razor wire are produced in straight lines and cut into certain length to be welded onto the galvanized or powder coated frame. It can be used individually as security barrier.
    • Flat type. A new popular razor wire type with flat and smooth surface. According to different technology, it can be divided into welded type and flattened type.
    • Welded type. The razor wire tape are welded into coils, then the coils are connected by clips or tie wires to form a continuous flat razor wire.
  • Flattened type. It is an transformation of single coil concertina razor wire. Flatten the concertina wire to form the flat type razor wire.

According to the coil type

  • Single coil. Common seen and widely used type, which is available in helical type and concertina type.
  • Double coil. A complex razor wire type to supply higher security grade. A smaller diameter coil is placed inside of the larger diameter coil. It is available in helical type and concertina type.

Common specs of razor wire.

Item Thickness (mm) Wire dia. (mm) Barb length (mm) Barb width (mm) Barb spacing (mm)
BTO-10 0.5±0.05 2.5±0.1 10±1 13±1 26±1
BTO-12 0.5±0.05 2.5±0.1 12±1 15±1 26±1
BTO-18 0.5±0.05 2.5±0.1 18±1 15±1 33±1
BTO-22 0.5±0.05 2.5±0.1 22±1 15±1 34±1
BTO-28 0.5±0.05 2.5 28 15 45±1
BTO-30 0.5±0.05 2.5 30 18 45±1
CBT-60 0.6±0.05 2.5±0.1 60±2 32±1 100±2
CBT-65 0.6±0.05 2.5±0.1 65±2 21±1 100±2
Barbed tape on a fence

See also


  1. ^ § 29 in Lov om dyrevern (Animal welfare law). Accessed August 4, 2008, at http://www.lovdata.no/all/hl-19741220-073.html#29

External links