Army Ranger Beads

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Introduction: Army Ranger Beads

Hey there! These (hopefully) will show you how to make your very own Ranger beads, used by the US Army. They cost a pretty penny at stores (The one on the left cost me $12! *sigh*), but you can make them for much, much less obviously.

Also called "Pace Counter beads", they're used to keep track of how far you've gone while doing land navigation. Great for Scouts, back-packers, people who like dangling bits of string with beads on it...

Step 1: What You Need

You don't need too much to make Ranger beads. Really, only three things...

550 Cord: A staple of any soldier. I've heard it called "Parachute Cord" too. You can find a 50ft roll of it at any military surplus store for two or three dollars. You should be able to find it at a regular box store too.

Beads: Just about any type will do. I have yet to find the "official" shell-type beads anywhere, but it's not important; as long as they fit through the rope (some guys in my squad have cool-looking skull beads on theirs).

Matches: A lighter will work too. Anything that produces a small, fairly controlled flame. :)



Okay, now that you have that, let's get started!

Step 2: Preparation

First, cut off a length of cord. How much depends on how many beads you want on the top part. I used four, and I cut off 22 - 23 inches (55 - 60 centimeters). You can experiment.

Pull out the core. That's the white strings on the inside. This lets you compress the cord, which will be important when you're putting the beads on.

Make a loop in the middle. First, even up the loose ends. Refer to the second picture for how to make a loop knot. Make a small loop if you're going to put this around a shirt button; make a bigger one if you're going to loop it through your LCE/LBE.

Fuse the ends. Using a match or your lighter, wave the cord ends back and forth through the flame until they start turning black. Then quickly mash each end together (not with each other) so it's closed off.

Step 3: Adding Beads (Top Rung)

I'm not going to lie, this part is a pain.
There are several ways to do this; here's my method...

First, put the bead through one end of the cord. Pull it an inch or two up the cord.
***(If you can't get it in, use scissors to cut the black melted part until you can. I suggest a slanted cut to make it easer)***

Get the second end stuck inside the bead. Unless you're really really lucky, you won't be able to just push it through. Soooo...

Use the match to push the second end the rest of the way. A tooth pick or needle will work too. Try to have the point hit the black melted part so you can push off it. You may have to cut the second end as well.



How many beads you put on this first part depends on how far you're planning on walking. In the Army, each of the top beads represent 1000 meters. You may use yards, feet, miles, gigawatts, or any other unit.

Step 4: Adding Beads (Second Rung)

First, tie a knot in the cord. It should be an inch or two below the last bead; enough so you can slide them up and down.

Next, add NINE beads. This is assuming you're using a system based on ten. When we're doing land nav, we pull one bead down for every 100 meters we walk, until we hit 1000. If you're using this for counting something in base 12, 16, or whatever, you would use a different "count-up-to" number.

Finally, tie another knot in the cord. Leave an inch or two, same as before.

Congratulations! If you've been following along, you've just made your first set of Ranger beads. Now, how do you use them?

Step 5: Using Ranger Beads

Ranger beads work the same as an abacus. It's really not that hard to use...

First, find your pace count. For most people it's between 60 and 70 left steps for 100 meters. You can find out what yours is by measuring off the distance, then walk normally and count every time your left foot hits the ground (or right foot. It doesn't matter, just use the same foot each time).

Now, every time you walk that many steps, pull down one of the lower beads. Each one stands for 100 meters you've walked.

When you've pulled all of those down, pull down one of the top ones AND push all the lower ones back up. This represents 1000 meters.

Repeat the process for however far you're going.



There you have it. Trust me, it'll make your life easier in the field, especially if you're sorta absent-minded like myself. Hope this was helpful!

7 People Made This Project!

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46 Discussions

Something I found that made ot easier was to put the beads on from the other end i.e. over the loop. I put a headphone jack into the elbow, then used that to push the cord through the beads. Some needed a little extra coaxing, but it was significatly easier - I made mine on the train during my commute

Something I found that made it easier was to put on the beads from the top, at the loop. You slide on the 100m ones first - I just put a headphone jack in the elbow of the loop

It works well if you don't tie any knots till the end. Pull the beads on the loop end with small cord or wire. After all the beads are on, tie the top knot to make the top loop.
Then tie the knots separating the beads, and the bottom knot. Cut the ends to length. Done, and all adjustable to make it come out right, and it's easier.

It works well if you don't tie any knots till the end. Pull the beads on the loop end with small cord or wire. After all the beads are on, tie the top knot to make the top loop.
Then tie the knots separating the beads, and the bottom knot. Cut the ends to length. Done, and all adjustable to make it come out right, and it's easier.

It works well if you don't tie any knots till the end. Pull the beads on the loop end with small cord or wire. After all the beads are on, tie the top knot to make the top loop.
Then tie the knots separating the beads, and the bottom knot. Cut the ends to length. Done, and all adjustable to make it come out right, and it's easier.

It works well if you don't tie any knots till the end. Pull the beads on the loop end with small cord or wire. After all the beads are on, tie the top knot to make the top loop.
Then tie the knots separating the beads, and the bottom knot. Cut the ends to length. Done, and all adjustable to make it come out right, and it's easier.

It works well if you don't tie any knots till the end. Pull the beads on the loop end with small cord or wire. After all the beads are on, tie the top knot to make the top loop.
Then tie the knots separating the beads, and the bottom knot. Cut the ends to length. Done, and all adjustable to make it come out right, and it's easier.

It works well if you don't tie any knots till the end. Pull the beads on the loop end with small cord or wire. After all the beads are on, tie the top knot to make the top loop.
Then tie the knots separating the beads, and the bottom knot. Cut the ends to length. Done, and all adjustable to make it come out right, and it's easier.

It works well if you don't tie any knots till the end. Pull the beads on the loop end with small cord or wire. After all the beads are on, tie the top knot to make the top loop.
Then tie the knots separating the beads, and the bottom knot. Cut the ends to length. Done, and all adjustable to make it come out right, and it's easier.

i'm going on my first survival training course this month. i doubt i'll need these but i'm making one and taking it anyway. you think they guys will think i'm a nerd if i make it pink? ;-)

1 reply

Nah, might be easier to see in less light. But there's glow in the dark, too... :)

Very useful instruct able. I've been making some wooden and leather sets for Live Action Roleplayers. (They're using them to count off enemy numbers as well as distance counting between objectives for the main group.)

i made some with my girl scouts using pink and white para cord, beads were slip knots burnt at the end. Just like I was taught. who needs a pedometer when you have these!

If you take one strand of the discarded middle, and tie it to the center of the paracord, you can thread the beads on quickly and painlessly by threading them onto the white string, then pulling the beads onto the paracord. It is easier then using a match stick.

1 reply

Thank you for this well-put-together, easy-to-follow 'ible. It's valuable and fun information. Great photos, too!

I teach art and usually have this as a fall or spring project. We use a double thickness of bright neon plumb cord. I cut it into 30" or so lengths, slide a tapestry or plastic canvas needle on it so that it's in the middle of the cord, and the plastic pony beads slide right on to it. I let administration and school security know that we will be appropriately (quietly, etc.) measuring pace counts in the hallway, then outdoors, to gain a realistic perspective of how our perception of distance and size changes according to the environment.

I write down everyone's pace count, then we repeat this outdoors on a pre-measured course. I have the kids guess 100' first. They are always surprised by how close or far off their guesses are (grades 5-12).

I incorporate a lot of math into the art assignments. I also wrote a whole curriculum for Tracking Sticks (which you can Google).

Plastic pony beads and plumb cord are very affordable. We also use them for geocache swag. Cache on! Go Ranger beads!

Thanks again - great job!

Well Done! I'm a volunteer hike leader for my local parks and recreation department. I am going to recommend this for one of our crafts.

A suggestion I gave my Scouts.

Get a 1 X1 X 1/4 piece of wood, drill holes in the top and bottom for the rope or cord. It should look like rope-loop - wood - pace counter.

Then have the scout write his pace on the wood as a reminder, both walking and a simple jog over 100 yards. W-102, J-95.