GMRS Radio – Time to Get Talking

Hello Everybody, Frank here.

I thought I would introduce you to another form of communication, but first I’m going to back track a little. A couple of articles back I gave you FCC regulations. It is your responsibility to know them, or at least pretend like you do. There are rules, there are regulations, and there are laws. For this boys and girls, you are responsible. People violate the law everyday, that does not make it RIGHT. I have a tendency to drive a little to fast in my vehicle sometimes. Am I violating the law? Yes. It is my choice.

Moving on. We also talked about CB radios, a great means of communication. Today, we’re going to primarily discuss GMRS. It is a great way to communicate also. It is FM instead of AM, just like your car radio, FM has a clearer signal and less static than AM. There are reasons why, which at this particular time you don’t need to know, but it will be covered later on, just not today. GMRS frequencies will not bounce off of the ionosphere like CB frequencies will on occasion. They are line of sight communication, LOC, similar in nature to CB, with some slightly different properties. The re-posted article below has lots of information talking about GMRS, FRS and MURS. 

They have come out with a new radio since this original article was published. Other companies may manufacture this new radio, but the only one I have seen is made by Midland. Yes, it is legal. It has more power, a detachable antenna and I can see where lots of people would like this particular radio. I have included a picture here and the manufacturers website. Check it out. You can use this radio as either a mobile or a base station. You can put a mag mount antenna on your vehicle, or at your base station you can put an external antenna way up in the air. The higher your antenna, the greater your line of sight communication. 

A controversial statement here. Could you use a commercial radio, either handheld, mobile or base station and communicate with these same GMRS frequencies? Absolutely. Can you use a modified ham radio transmitter? The answer again is yes. The difference is the Midland radio is legal, the modified ham radio and commercial radio are not legal to transmit on the GMRS  frequencies. You will hear this often from me. Is it illegal to drive 36MPH in a 35MPH zone? Yes. Is it illegal to drive 96MPH in a 35MPH zone? Yes it is. Which one will get you the most attention? 36 or 96? The answer is obvious.

You will still need the license to operate the GMRS radio mentioned above. It is not a ham radio license. If you have a ham radio license can you use the illegal radios mentioned above to operate on GMRS? You can, but it’s still illegal. I will talk  more about commercial radios and modifying ham radios in the future, but today, we’re going to talk about GMRS. I would check out that new Midland radio mentioned above.

Now, below is a re-posted article with a handful of comments added to it. If you’re interested in learning more details about GMRS, please continue reading. As usual I would encourage you to get your ham radio license. It is by no means 100% necessary, but it will vastly increase your communication options.

If you have questions, ask. If you have comments, state them. Remember, this is fun. Go in the bathroom and look in the mirror and have a good laugh. Life is too short to be stuffy. There are enough serious things in the world. Have fun and communicate. Communication might save your life.

We’ll talk more later,  Frank


Originally published October 11, 2014
 

Radio – GMRS, FRS & MURS

Hi Everybody, Frank here.

We’re going to do a re-post today about non-ham radios. I know some survivalist say that everybody needs to get their ham radio license, but in the real world, that’s just not going to happen. I received a comment on the blog this last week or so, and I want to share it with you. This man and I have shared a couple of comments back and forth, dealing with the properties of 2-way radio communications. If you want to get your ham radio license, great. But, if you want to communicate with your cousin Billy Bob down the road, then there are other ways besides ham radio. 

The GMRS radios, made by a number of manufacturers, will all communicate with each other. Don’t believe the advertisements about 36 miles or 24 miles. These are line of sight communication radios, but they work great for their intended purpose.

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Frank- first off, thanks so much for the time you and Fern put in to sharing good information and just real life results of learning homesteading skills.

My question is on repeaters. Our home is partially earth sheltered, with most of the main floor cut in to the hillside. And of course, the garden, barn, and workshop where I am most likely to be when my wife and I might want to communicate, is uphill, the barn with metal walls. So, I am thinking I may well need a repeater to make things work, but am very early in my research. If I were to get the Baofeng/Pofung radios in this post, or something similar, what type of repeater would I need, and are they very expensive? I would most likely buy the radios first, to see if I even need the repeater, but would like to know now what the hit might be if one is needed.

Are there different repeaters for different bandwidths, or are there some repeaters with features that might be of benefit if I decide to move on to ham or CB?

Thanks again for your efforts.

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Hello. Great questions, and I can see some thought has gone into the issue.

Number one. I would borrow a couple of GMRS radios and see if they will work from your house to your barn. This would be, beyond a doubt the cheapest way to go. An example. Our barn is metal, our house has a metal roof, the barn is about 500 feet from the house, and from inside the house, to inside the barn, we have absolutely no problems with intelligibility, or volume. There is a small rise between the house and the barn. I can see the upper half of the barn from the house.

Following this same theme, the corner of our property, from corner to corner is about 1500 feet. There is no line of sight, and that is due to a hill in between, not a big hill, but still, no line of sight. With this scenario the transmission has a little bit of noise, but is still intelligible.

Number two. If for some reason, number one does not work for you, an external antenna might be your answer. That means your radio will have to be connected to the antenna, which certainly limits your mobile factor. But, if you do use this type scenario with an external antenna, depending on your setup, you can talk for miles. If I were guessing, I would guess that number one will be your best answer.

Number three. A repeater. A true repeater can get expensive and complicated. It has to have a constant power supply. Now, there are ham radios and commercial radios that function as cross band repeaters. I have never attempted this technique. What cross band means is you have a two band transceiver, one channel is set on VHF, the other channel is set on UHF, and through internal programming, it will broadcast and receive on each of these frequencies. Again, I have never used this technique, but they advertise that it will work. You’re looking at $350.00 for this dedicated radio, a power supply, an antenna, but according to the manual it will work.

I would either borrow or buy two real cheap GMRS radios, everybody has them. They may not know they have them, but the things their kids play with, that’s what they are. An external antenna for your home is easy to make, and will extend your transmit/receive range sharply. In some of the other radio posts I talk about external antennas. Of course, I would like for you to read all of the posts. Try the two handhelds first. If you decide on the $40.00 radios, great. You will need a programming cable, unless you want to do it the old fashioned way by keypad entry, which can be done. I use the RT system and it works for me.

One last thing to consider. No matter what frequency you use, somebody can hear you. Hope this helps. Enjoyed your blog, by the way. Take care.

Frank

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Frank- I went ahead and got the Midland GXT 1050 radios you mention in the post on GMRS/FRS/MURS. Tried it out in the barn, other places, and excellent reception all around. I might even take one up in the tree stand this November and wear the ear piece.

Any comments on maximizing the NiMH battery life? For now, I plan to keep them in the recharge cradles unless we are using them, which may not be a lot till we develop the habit more.

As you and Fern say many times, until you have actually DONE something, you have no idea how it will really go down. In this case, it worked out fine, but we have many other tasks in front of us as we work to improve our self sufficiency. Thanks again for the time you two put in to sharing. After a couple more seasons on our small farm, maybe I will be able to share with the wider world what we have learned as well. 

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Hi. I’m glad that these worked for you. As far as maximizing the battery life. One, I would use the radios everyday, then they become part of your routine. It’s kind of like putting your keys in your pocket, if you get in the habit, you will always take it with you.

Let the batteries drain before recharging. I know that this type of battery advertises it does not develop a memory, but it does. If you keep them fully charged all the time, then you will have much less battery life. If you’re using the internal battery pack that came with the radio, you can remove it and put four AA rechargeable batteries in it that will charge in the cradle, and sharply extend the transmit and receive time. If you’re going to be out all day, like sitting in a tree stand, charge the battery that came with the radio, take it out, put it in your pack and keep it as a back up.

My best advice is to not keep the radio in the charger all the time. For a long time I would always charge the radios on a Friday night. Then I would have well charged batteries that would last me a week.

Make sure you wear the ear piece when you are hunting. Because I, on more than one occasion, have listened to hunters chat between each other whispering. There is always some clown who will make a loud noise in the radio, like a duck or coyote call. Some people think that’s funny.

No joke, though, don’t keep your radio in the charger all the time. It will shorten your battery life tremendously. Hope all this helps, and I’m glad the radios worked out well for you.

Frank

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Next, I want to share with you an interesting and exciting comment I received this week from an individual that has gotten their Technician ham radio license. They purchased one of the $40.00 radios that I wrote about, and seem to be very realistic about their goals for ham radio. You see there is no magic secret to radio. For the most part, you turn the on/off switch to on, you push the little transmit button and speak into the microphone. Whether ham radio or GMRS, you can still communicate when you need to. And while you’re doing your research, don’t forget to check out the CB radio. Because with the right CB radio, not only can you communicate with Billy Bob down the road, but when the ionosphere is in the right position, you can also listen and talk around the globe. Do your research. Enjoy the read from the person that got their Technician license, and if you would like, please read the re-post about GMRS, FRS & MURS.

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Thanks so much for this review [this comment was on the post about manual grain grinders], I really needed an item like this. I also recently got my Technician ticket thanks to all of Frank’s writings. I appreciate your blog!

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You’re welcome for the review of the grinder, but please do your own research.

That being said, Congratulations! on your Technician ticket. I genuinely hope you enjoy the hobby, if you choose to use it as a hobby. As you are aware now, there is a whole world open to ham radio. And you are aware that I use it for survival purposes.

I would highly recommend that you go ahead and pursue your General license. Same number of questions, one more formula, and about the same level of difficulty. The General will open up the rest of ham radio to you. There isn’t anything you can’t do with the General, just a few places you can’t go that the Extra will allow you.

Very few people ever comment on the radio posts, but on occasion I get a comment like yours, stating that an individual had received their Technician and sometimes also their General. Your comment is why I do this. Thank you again. Best of luck.

73s, Frank

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Frank, I do plan on getting my general. I am a mechanical engineer so the formulas and schematics aren’t hard, it is the stuff you just have to memorize that slows me down. I wanted to get my tech before the pool questions changed. I joined the local ham club and the emergency comm group, which is a great way to learn. To me, having a tech is like a learners permit – I can legally practice and learn the culture and then get my general. 73 

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Fern was kind enough to indulge me when I was working to get my Technician and General. She also picked up her Technician and General. We use radios in our life everyday, and not always ham radio. Fern didn’t have the interest in getting her license like I did, so she just memorized all of the answers. We took our Technician’s and she did better on the test than I did. She missed one, I missed three. The funny part is, when we took our General test, I was surprised that the guys doing the testing remembered us. When I went up to get mine scored, the older gentleman said, “You missed one.” Then kind of laughed and said, “And your wife still did better than you did!” I had a buddy that took his Technician and General on the same day, and he just memorized the answers. I, on the other hand, can’t do that. Yes, there are a couple of them that I would never learn. So I found some cute little pattern to try to associate the numbers. But, I have to be able to see how things work in my head. So, that’s our story.

I think you have a real good plan, and I really hope that you enjoy it. If you’re going to do emergency comm work, check out the CA 2×4 SR. This antenna works outside of the ham bands and does a real good job. And if your area is like most, emergency comms fall in the lower 150’s. And there is a ground plane kit for a stationary mount, a Tram 1460.

Take care and keep me up to date.

73s, Frank

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Frank, thanks for the recommendation. I will check them out. I am really excited by this hobby. I can’t wait to get a setup that works for me. I have a baofeng HT and am researching what more I want. I enjoy seeing your shack. 

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Originally published July 5, 2013
 
Hello, Frank here.

Today we’re going to talk about Subpart A, Subpart B and Subpart J. Okay, do you wonder if this guy has been out in the sun too long? Well, no ……… maybe. This is what we’re going to talk about today.

Subpart A is GMRS, General Mobile Radio Service. Subpart B is FRS, Family Radio Service. Subpart J is MURS, Multi-Use Radio Service. All of this comes from CFR, Code of Federal Regulations, Title 47, Telecommunications, Part 95, Personal Radio Services. This is a little review of where Federal Regulations come from. Subpart A & B we are going to talk about together – that’s GMRS and FRS.

These little walkie-talkie type two way radios that guys use during hunting season, and their kids play with out in the yard, are actually GMRS/FRS radios. Okay, what’s the difference?
GMRS has 23 channels that operate between 462 – 467 MHz (megahertz). For future reference, when we get into ham radios this is UHF (ultra high frequency) and the ham people call hand held radios HT’s (handy talky). But for our purposes, we will call them two way radios. 

FRS shares GMRS channels one through seven. Channels eight through fourteen are only FRS. Channels fifteen through twenty-three are only GMRS. FRS has a maximum output of 500 milliwatts, or 1/2 watt. GMRS has an output of up to 5 watts.

Now here is the big difference. To operate on GMRS you are required to have an FCC license. Not a ham license, but an FCC license. For FRS there is no license required. So, channels 8 – 14 do not require a license. Channels 1 – 7 do not require a license if you operate on low power. Do most people have a license that operate on GMRS? Do most people drive 56 MPH in a 55 MPH zone? I have never met a person that actually has a GMRS FCC license. But if you do apply for one and receive it, then legally anyone in your family or circle of friends at your house can use your radios. 

So much for legal. From here on out, I am just going to refer to these radios as GMRS.

Cobra, Midland, Uniden and others all make two-way radios. All make claims of transmitting 10 miles, 20 miles or 36 miles, but remember this is under perfect conditions. An example: mountain top to mountain top, you can do much farther than 36 miles away. So, take 36 miles distance with a grain of salt. These are line of sight communication devices. If they are putting out four or five watts, the one that advertises 10 miles will go as far as the one advertising 36 miles. What’s the difference? Features. Some have duck calls and coyote calls. Some have weather ability. Some have clocks. But if you want a basic radio and you don’t care about duck calls, then just about any of these radios will meet your needs.

Most of these two-way radios have rechargeable batteries that can be recharged from the provided cradle and AC and DC power connections. Surprisingly, not all radios come with a charging system. Some only operate off of AA batteries. I would avoid these. Most of the radios come with a battery packet insert that can be easily removed and replaced with AA or AAA batteries, or rechargeable batteries. Some will recharge rechargeable batteries while they are in the charging cradle, but most won’t. Here’s my point. If you buy a certain type of radio, you can put rechargeable batteries in it, and you can recharge them in the cradle that came with the radio. Rechargeable batteries will last much longer than the battery packet that came with  the radio. Some manufacturers make radios that look almost identical and some will recharge rechargeable batteries in the cradle, but most will not. I learned this from simple trial and error. It’s a lot more handy to come in at the end of the day, take off the radio, put it in the recharging cradle and the next morning you are ready to go. Or you can take off the radio, take the back off of the radio, take the batteries out, recharge the batteries, then put the batteries back in the radio and replace the cover. It’s your choice.

I’m going to make a recommendation here. I use a Midland GXT 1050. The GXT 1000 is the exact same radio, one is black, one is camo and the black one costs about $10 – $20 less. When you buy this package, it comes with two radios,

two battery packets, a charging cradle, AC and DC power supplies, and two earphone/microphone type headsets. I have never used the earphone/microphone accessory. I use a 12 volt system to charge all of my radios, which means that you can charge your radios in your car if you have the charging cradle with you. The reason I recommend this radio is you can remove the battery pack and insert four rechargeable AA batteries and they will charge in the charging cradle. They are advertised up to 36 miles if you live on top of a mountain. Just kidding. I have used this particular radio for a number of years. I have also bought some of the other Midland radios that look identical, but will not charge the rechargeable batteries while inside the radio. Prices vary greatly from dealer to dealer, some folks are a lot more proud of their stuff than others. 

Now I am going to switch over to MURS, Mult-Use Radio Service, for a minute. MURS operates from 151 – 154 MHz, which is in the VHF (very high frequency) range. MURS is also line-of-sight communication. Maximum output power is 2 watts. It does not require a license to operate. There are five channels. In the rural areas few to none use the MURS frequencies. I’m sure over time things will change, but things change slowly in rural areas. I became aware of MURS about five years ago when reading one of James Wesley, Rawles books. He is the author of SurvivalBlog.com. There is not much traffic on channels one through three. Channels 4 and 5 are old business channels, so around some larger cities there are businesses that still use these channels because they have not been phased out yet. 

I do not know of any manufacturers that produce an exclusive MURS radio. Most guys that use the MURS frequencies use a commercial radio. I will give you more information about MURS and how to operate on the five channels in the next post. Most of the people that operate on MURS frequencies use modified ham radios or commercial radios. Both of these techniques are questionable. Remember, driving 56 MPH in a 55 MPH zone is illegal. But if you are not bothering anyone else, then you will not attract attention. As always, it’s your choice.

If you would like to start looking at hand held commercial radios, try this site. Some of their radios are strictly ham radios and some are commercial. It is legal to operate a commercial radio on ham frequencies if you are a licensed ham, but it is not legal to operate a ham radio on anything but ham frequencies. While at this site, check out their power pole connectors. They have tons of information and easy to understand diagrams and pictures. I have bought from these people and in the future I will buy from them again.

Next time I’ll talk more about commercial radios and modified ham radios. This will introduce us into the first part of the ham radio series.  

We’ll talk more later. 73, Frank


6 thoughts on “GMRS Radio – Time to Get Talking

  1. Good morning. Thank you for your comment.I truly do agree with Larry also, to a certain extent. And, you're right, we do have rules for a reason.One time, many years ago, I was practicing with a higher power CB radio and had Fern hold the antenna for me. It literally burnt her hand, you could see the marks. Needless to say, I have not done that again.In many of the radio articles I make reference to frying your little girl's brains. These are quasi jokes, but they're very serious. Understand the rules, understand the safety factors. Don't speed through school zones. Don't point empty guns at people. There are some things you just don't joke around with.Like you said in your comment, now is the time to practice. The stores are open, gasoline is in the tanks, and people are still relatively courteous. Thank you, genuinely, for your comment. Take care.73, FrankP.S. Getting a ham license is easy. You can still do all the other stuff you want to do, it just expands your capabilities and increases your knowledge. You really do not want to fry your little girl's brains. NO JOKE.

  2. I'd agree with Larry too, except that while the rules won't make a difference when SHTF, right now they DO. NOW is when you should be learning procedures and practicing, not when things go sideways.Toy 'bubble pack' radios in the yard are one thing, but using a radio powerful enough to be a real asset during a crisis carries a certain responsibility. Buying a radio and not using it until an emergency is like buying a firearm and never shooting it until you need it to save your life. To develop proficiency and a good understanding of effective operation takes some study and practice, just like practicing with your pistol or defensive carbine.To further the comparison, if you are unfamiliar with your rifle and cannot safely and effectively operate it, you become a liability to those around you. It is much the same with radios and unless you become familiar with procedures and effectively operate, you can cause interference and actually hinder emergency response efforts.My suggestion is that one gets their amateur (ham) license and participate in some of the local commo, and/or at least listen regularly so that protocols are learned and you can join when necessary without disrupting established commo systems.An inexperienced/new operator is unlikely to effectively help himself or anyone around him. Whether he runs around with his finger on the trigger, muzzle sweeping his companions and then misses the critical shot, or he runs around talking over the net controller or someone else on the frequency trying to get emergency aid, he is a liability.My suggestion is to become a licensed operator and become familiar with your equipment, both its limitations and capabilities, before the crunch.

  3. Hi, Nick. Thank you for the comment. I don't post as often as I used to, any excuse will do, just pick one. I hope to publish an article in a couple of days with general information about scanners and shortwave.I look forward to your comments. 73, Frank

  4. Hi Larry. Larry, I agree with you. If and when our country shuts down the radio regulations will be meaningless. I wrote an article not long ago, I believe the title was the Government is the Enemy. But, Larry, I bet that you don't drive your car 150MPH through a school zone very often. We still have rules, whether it's radio, societal, religion, or those nasty government rules. Let me know how that 100MPH through the school zone goes, Larry. They have rules in jail, too, and a different kind of stuff it, I believe.Thanks for the comment, Frank Feral

  5. I get such a kick out of you radio operators and your licensing ideas. \”If\” and when the SHTF in this country, there will be no FCC enforcing radio regulations. And even if the FCC still exists, they are government and it will be government who we are at war with. Stuff the radio rules. Pirates will rule.

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