Radio – Let’s Get Started

Hello Everybody, Frank here.

I recently received this comment under a non-radio article. I’m going to share the comment with you, I’ll answer this man. He had some very good questions, valid points and is seeking information. The comment will be edited, by removing what part of the country he is from, otherwise it is mostly intact. 

Following the answer to his comment, I have included an older article that is a beginning step for understanding radio. Some of the information in here is dated, in other words, out dated. I’ll talk about that before you get to the article.
 
Hi Frank, Thanks for offering additional help! I’m interested, like you, in “survival communications”. Two primary areas of interest. First, I’m reading about two-way radios like the Midland you referenced; also looking at a Baofeng. Trying to decide if I want to get the license, etc. I’d like to be able to communicate with wife, children, and neighbors/church family around me. Neighbors are within a mile. Wife/kids could be 30 [miles] if I’m at work (or on way home) and they are home. Second, I’d like to get a good SW [shortwave] radio with SSB for listening. The new Baofeng I’m looking at has variable power, up to 8 watts. Not sure if one can charge batteries while in the unit like you can with the Midland.  Best Regards, Tim

Tim had some excellent points here. My very quick recommendation. A Baofeng. Why? It will do the same thing that the Midland radio will do, and significantly more. In many cases, for that matter, most cases, it costs less. The Baofeng can be charged in the cradle, it has a plethora of accessories, and you can attach an external antenna. 

One negative for the Baofeng is that it has to be programmed. There are multiple ways to do this. There are YouTube videos, you can attempt to decipher the instructions, there is a free program called Chirp, and the system that I use is called RT Systems. Chirp and RT Systems are via computer. I will include more information in future articles about the Baofeng.

While we’re here, in the article that follows, I recommended a Wouxun radio. It’s a good radio, but the Baofeng is newer and, in my opinion, just as good and costs significantly less. 

Tim’s second question. A good shortwave radio. Few shortwave radios have SSB, single side band. Why is this important? If you want to listen to the ham radio operators, you will need SSB. If you’ve got the jingle, here’s what I would do. Purchase an HF radio, which is a ham radio. You can listen to all the lower ham frequencies, plus all of the SW frequencies. It is a higher quality radio and has listening features that few SW radios have. You can also listen to CB on it, and if you ever get the desire to have your ham radio license, you can transmit on it. Remember, you can listen to any radio signal being transmitted. Transmitting is an entirely different ballgame. 

So, Tim, I would recommend a Baofeng UV-5R+, about $30.00 on Amazon. An RT System for programming, about $45.00. The money you will save on the Baofengs will pay for the programming system. 

For SW, an IC-718 made by ICOM. This radio runs new about $650, used $300 and up. Remember, it will do AM radio, CB, SW, all the lower ham bands which are 160-10M. For this radio you will need a power supply and an antenna which are both an extra expense. When you get your ham radio license, then you can use this radio to transmit on. The legal frequencies, anyway. Getting a ham radio license is very easy.

Ok, Tim, and everybody else. Next is an older, dated article that I think you will enjoy. It’s a start. Every few days I’m going to include an older article about radio in an order that will help folks get started. There have been some changes and I will point these out. Safety has not changed and will never change.

If you have a question, ask. Others have the same questions. Utilize YouTube. Check out ARRL. Check out QRZ.com

We’ll talk a whole lot more about this later. This is not difficult, it’s just new. And there are some new radios out there, too. There’s some new guns out there, too. Some are better, some are not. If you have a question, ask.

By the way, in this following article, there is a new weather radio I would recommend. I’ll get to it later. Enjoy.

We’ll talk more later.  Frank Feral 

Radio Communications Review

Originally published August 12, 2013

I’m going to try to summarize what we have talked about in the last ten posts. The reason being, my next radio post is going to start into ham or amateur radio. So, let’s go back and talk about all of the stuff I have covered so far. We have talked about the rules and regulations, and I will give you my recommendations on certain radios. Okay, let’s go.

CB radio is probably the most popular radio around and more people have them than any other type. There are basically two types of CB radios – non-single side band radios and single side band (SSB) radios. Remember, CB radio is line-of-site

communications, most of the time. CB radio operates at about 27 MHz. It will also bounce off of the ionosphere similar to HF ham radios. In some circles the CB radio is called an 11 meter radio. Any CB radio will skip off of the atmosphere if the conditions are right, but an SSB (single side band) will do a better job of it and give you greater distance. So if you want to talk to your cousin Leroy two blocks down the road, and there is not a hill in the way, any CB radio will do the job. If you want to play and listen to other folks much farther away, then SSB is the preferred method. I recommend the Galaxy line of CB radios with SSB. There are other manufacturers that make a quality radio, I just think the Galaxy is more dependable and is prettier. No one likes looking at an ugly radio.

We’ll talk about antennas, power supplies and coax cable later in this post. Next, let’s talk about GMRS/FRS radios. These radios are also very popular. The vast,

vast majority of them are handheld radios. People use them a great deal for hunting, keeping track of the kids and just play-type radios. These are also line-of-site communication. These will not bounce off of the ionosphere so you are not going to be hearing frequencies from around the world. These radios function at about 465 MHz. Because of the higher frequency they will work better from inside a building than your lower frequency radios. The big difference between these radios, in my opinion, are the batteries or power systems inside the radios. 

While we are writing this, there is a major electrical storm in our area. All of my antennas have been disconnected and our computers are unplugged. If I were a little bit smarter, I would also unplug my power supply.

In a previous post, we talked about the difference between GMRS and FRS, they are basically the same radio. These are excellent, high quality radios with a good clear signal for line-of-site communications. Do not believe the advertisements for 10, 20, 30 miles – this is a sales gimmick. Not all of us live on a flat planet, if we 

did, then the advertisements would be correct. Remember, line-of-site. All GMRS radios will communicate with other GMRS radios regardless of the manufacturer. All the channels are the same frequencies. I recommend the Midland GXT1000VP4 or GXT1050VP4. They are the same radio – one is camo and one is black. The reason for this recommendation is that you can put four AA rechargeable batteries in the radio and the batteries will recharge while in the charging cradle. Some other Midland radios look identical, but they charge slightly different and will not recharge rechargeable batteries while in the charging cradle. I have used this radio for a number of years on our little farm.

Okay. We have reviewed CB and GMRS. There is one other type of radio frequency and it is the MURS frequencies. MURS comes with five frequencies operating at about 151 MHz. It is also line-of-site communications and will work fine inside of most buildings. There is not a major manufacturer that produces a MURS handheld radio, but you can buy a commercial radio, which we will talk about in just a minute, to use on the MURS frequencies. OK, CB, GMRS and MURS are the basic frequencies for non-ham communications. All three have about the same power output. CB and MURS do not require a license, GMRS does.

A slightly different type of radio is a commercial radio. These radios are not set for any particular frequency and they will not operate on the CB frequencies. But they will operate on the GMRS, MURS and the VHF/UHF ham radio frequencies. You have to program these radios yourself. Most of them come with a programming cable and computer disc that you download. My recommendation is the Wouxun handheld commercial radio. Many dealers sell them. I would recommend Universal Radio. It is 100% legal to use these radios on the ham radio frequencies. It is not legal to use these radios on MURS or GMRS. We will discuss legalities and license requirements in just a minute.


Non-transmitting radios. This is a group of radios that you listen to only. We’re going to talk about shortwave receivers, scanners, weather radios and there are a few others, but for the most part this covers them. Let’s start with weather radios. Weather radios connect to a radio frequency provided by the National Weather

Service. Most parts of the country receive good, clear weather radio signals. Very few places don’t. I would highly recommend a weather radio with S.A.M.E.  This feature will narrow down severe weather signals to the county level. If you live in an area that has the potential for tornadoes, I would highly recommend one of these for your home. My recommendation is a Midland WR300. It can be powered from a wall outlet, any 12 volt source and has a built in battery back up for when the power goes off, you can still receive signals. As I mentioned in a previous post, it is a little difficult to program. You can connect an external antenna and a flashing red beacon for those that are hearing impaired.

Scanners are another type of listen only radio. There are handheld, mobile and base scanners. The big question right now is whether it is digital or analog. Some communities are going to a digital signal similar to what TV did nationwide a few

years back. This is not a national movement. This is a local decision as to whether to go digital or stay analog. Many communities are not going digital. You will need to check with your local emergency management office. Some scanners are S.A.M.E. capable for weather alerts. New scanners will not receive telephone communications. Some will not receive the CB frequencies, but all will receive police, weather, fire, GMRS, MURS and the VHF/UHF ham frequencies. Some have external antenna capabilities. In some states it is illegal to have a scanner in your vehicle. This is your responsibility to find out the laws in your state.

I’m not going to talk much about marine band radios. Marine band is a two way radio. If you have a boat, or you live near the coast of the ocean or any large lake, or any navigable river then you can listen to marine band signals which includes
the Coast Guard. There are commercial frequencies on the marine bands. There are about 88 channels on each marine band radio. They operate at approximately 157 MHz. The commercial radio I mentioned earlier will also broadcast on these frequencies. Your scanner will also receive marine band frequencies. A little side note – your scanner will also receive railroad frequencies. If you choose to purchase a marine band radio and you choose to transmit on a marine band radio, then know which frequencies the government is using and do not use those frequencies.

Shortwave receivers receive the lower frequencies. 30 MHz down to about 1.8 MHz. These are receive radios only. Shortwave and ham band frequencies are intertwined everywhere between 30 and 1.8 MHz. Most shortwave broadcast signals are AM (amplitude modulation) radio, as is your CB radio, which falls in these frequencies. All ham radio frequencies are AM/SSB. So if you want to listen to the ham frequencies, you will need a radio that receives SSB. Most shortwave radios (SW) do not receive SSB. Some SW radios are capable of external antennas. If you are considering going into ham radio this would be the place to go ahead and buy an HF ham radio transceiver, which will transmit and receive on the SSB ham frequencies and also receive all of the AM shortwave

transmissions. Shortwave radios can be as inexpensive as $50 – $80 up to $10,000 and up. A beginner’s HF ham radio that will transmit and receive starts at around $700 and goes up. You do not have to have a license to listen to any frequency on any radio. But to transmit on the ham frequencies, you will need a ham radio license. We are going to discuss ham radio in much greater detail starting with the next radio post.

Ok. So much for radios. Power supplies. If you have a handheld radio, it will probably be powered by batteries. Some come with a built-in rechargeable battery. Some operate off of AA or AAA batteries that you can replace with

rechargeable batteries. If they will operate off of rechargeable batteries, I would recommend you go this route. All mobile radios, because of the nature of being mobile, will operate off of 12 VDC, which is actually 13.8 VDC. If you choose to use a mobile radio as a base radio, then you will need a separate power supply. Most receive radios use very, very little power. Just about any power supply will work. If you use a mobile CB as a base station then you will need a power supply that puts out 3 or 4 amps. If you’re going to operate a ham radio or more equipment off of your power supply then I would recommend that you go ahead and pick up a 30 amp power supply. This will provide you with enough power to operate your radios, receivers, battery chargers, charge your cell phones and other similar items. 

Antennas. Some radios will need an external antenna. If you are operating

in a vehicle, the only radio we have discussed that will need an external antenna, is a CB radio. Most people use a magnet mount antenna. If you decide to go into ham radio, then your antennas will become more varied because different frequencies need different antennas. There is no one antenna fits-all frequencies. For your CB base station at home, you will also need an external antenna. Go to the post where we talked about CB base station antennas. Your handheld radios, like GMRS and MURS, will operate for the most part off of their attached antennas. If you choose to attach an external antenna to your scanner or weather radio, I would recommend a basic discone antenna. It is built to receive these VHF frequencies. If you choose to connect an external antenna to your shortwave receiver, then I would recommend a long wire type antenna for this purpose. In the previous post about shortwave receivers, there is information about antennas. There may come a day when you need some coaxial cable. This is what connects your antenna to your radio. You will also need a plug on each end of this cable and in most cases, it will be a PL-259, or a BNC type connector. For overall general purpose use, I would recommend RG-8X cable. It is a good all purpose cable for low power, short distance runs of under 25 feet. It also works well for your receive only radios.

Licensing. There is no license required for any receive radio. If you choose to become a ham radio operator, you will need a license. More on that in the next radio post. CB and MURS do not require a license. GMRS does. As I stated in a previous post, I have never met a person with a GMRS license. Which brings us to legal regulations. If you operate any transmit radio that interferes with any other type of telecommunications signal, then you are required by law to either fix your problem or cease transmitting. This is seldom, seldom a problem with legal power transmitters. If you choose for example to increase your CB power from 4 watts to, let’s say, 400 watts of power, and you cause the lady next door’s TV signal to be distorted, then you are running illegal power. If your 400 watt CB radio does not bother anybody or anything, then your radio is still illegal, but for the most part,

no one will care. If you decide to buy a commercial radio, which you can, and you choose to operate it on a frequency, for example the one the local airport is using, then you will find out very quickly that being stupid does not pay. If you choose to use an unauthorized frequency that interferes with the local fire department, again you will find out that some people might not think this is cute. If you run 5000 watts of power, as an example, and you want to talk to your buddy down the road and you don’t bother grandma’s TV signal and you don’t interfere with the local airport or fire department, then probably no one will care. If you choose to operate or modify your radio, and it is now considered illegal, this is your choice. Something I said earlier, if you are driving 36 in a 35 MPH zone, probably no one will notice or care. But….if you choose to drive 96 in a 35 MPH zone, then someone will notice and care. Again, this is your choice.

Speaking of 5000 watts. 5000 watts may be a tad bit of an exaggeration. But if you choose to pump up whatever radio you are using and you do not know what you are doing, you can fry your brain. No joke. No kidding. If you don’t know what you are doing with radio frequency, then DON’T DO IT. Lot’s of ham radio guys and non-ham radio guys run what is called, extra power. It’s not a question of legal or illegal, it’s a question of, if you don’t know what you are doing, you can cause permanent damage to your cute little girl’s brain. So, one more time, if you don’t know what you are doing, DON’T DO IT. Safety comes first. Always.

Next time, we’re going to get into ham radio. You will find the frequencies very similar to GMRS, FRS, CB and MURS because ham radio is not some miracle, mysterious thing. It’s just a group of frequencies or bands or meters that we all share every day. I hope this has helped somebody, somewhere along the way to understand radio communications just a little bit better. Look through the previous radio posts. They are filled with links, dealers, manufacturers, and regulations. 

We’ll talk more later. 73, Frank

Scanner Inquiries

Hello Everybody, Frank here.
 
Recently, I received a couple of emails and comments requesting information about scanners. The type of scanner we’re talking about here is commonly referred to as your police scanner. Many radios now days will scan, some of them are notoriously slow, reason being their primary function is to transmit and receive. The scanning feature is just an added bonus. So, if you want to scan, then buy a scanner. Don’t buy a $35 VHF radio that has a scan feature and expect it to do the same thing that a $100 – $500 scanner will do. Don’t play head games with yourself.

Back to the issue at hand here. The most common question I get is, “What is the best scanner for me to buy?” This is what we’re going to attempt to address here. Included below is an article I did a while back. It is filled with information about scanners in general. At the end of it I will include updated information about three specific scanners. But now to answer that question, “What scanner is best for me to buy?”

I am not going to address handheld scanners, most of them have the same features as their big brother scanners. What’s left is the base/mobile scanner, in most cases they are the same radio. Prices run from about $100 to $500. Here’s the difference. An analog scanner only receives analog type signals. It is less expensive and older technology. Where I live, this is the only type scanner I need, since there are no other signals other than analog. 

The second type of scanner is called digital. It will receive the newer technology digital type signals, and the older technology of analog signals. The digital scanners cost considerably more. Here is where the problem comes. If you live in an area or city that only uses analog type transmissions, then any decent analog scanner will work fine. If you live in an area that has digital type transmissions, then you will need a digital type scanner, which costs sharply more. 

The next question should be, “How do I know if my area is digital, analog, or a combination of both?” First, contact your county emergency management coordinator. They should be able to give you an answer. Should is the key word here, no guarantees. Next, try your local fire department, police department, or sheriff’s office. Hopefully, somebody will be able to help you. No guarantees here either. Next, contact your local ARRL affiliate. These folks should be able to help you, but again, no guarantees. 

Now, back to the question, “What scanner is best for me?” I can’t answer that question. Now, please read the article below, and at the end of that article I will review three scanners that I have attempted to use and why.

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Originally published August 1, 2013

Hello, Frank here.

Let’s talk about scanners. Back a few years ago, there was only one type of scanner – the type you set on your desk at home. Then with the mobility of man, and wanting to spend time in his car, mobile scanners came along. As technology improved, and electronic parts kept getting smaller and smaller, they developed a scanner you can carry around in your hand – a handheld scanner. 

Scanners are for listening only. So it is okay to listen to aircraft

landing, because you don’t have to worry about sitting on a microphone. These are sometimes called police scanners, but actually that refers to any scanner. You can use these radios to listen to aircraft, police, fire, rescue, VHF/UHF ham frequencies, heaven forbid, I almost forgot NASCAR. You can listen to GMRS, FRS, MURS and of course, the weather frequencies. Some scanners are S.A.M.E. capable. Some scanners will receive local AM/FM commercial radio. Some will cover the CB frequencies, 26-27 MHz. Some will tell you your GPS location.

So, what do you want a scanner for? Most people use a scanner to listen to police and fire calls, monitor a few local VHF ham radio repeaters, that kind of thing. But mostly police, fire and ambulance.

A legal issue here. I have read in some states it is illegal to have a scanner in your vehicle. This is something you need to check out. Here where I live, we don’t have those kind of laws. So if you want to put a scanner in your vehicle, know what you are doing. Ignorance of the law is no excuse.

If you want to put a scanner in your house, most come with a little plug-in antenna that sticks in the back. Most base stations come with a power connection for AC. That’s all you need. If you live a distance away from a city, you might want to put an external antenna up. A basic discone antenna works fine.

Remember, this is receive only. This will also work pretty good for FM radio reception and your weather alert radio. Some discone antennas you can even transmit on, but that is a different story.

Some base station radios are conveniently powered by 12 volts DC. If you have a 12 volt power system, or if you are already operating off of a 30 amp 12 volt power supply, or if you are lucky enough to have a 12 volt solar system, then you have power for your base station scanner and hopefully every radio that you power. Discone, power supply, radio – you can listen to just about anything you want to listen to that is above about 27 MHz. So this antenna does not service shortwave or HF ham frequencies.

 A mobile scanner is made to operate in your vehicle. Again, you will need a power supply. If you install it in your car, you have a 12 volt supply. If you put it in your house then you will need to have a power supply. A magnet mount antenna is what most folks use for a mobile scanner in their vehicle. If you choose to use this radio in your home, then the above mentioned discone antenna will work fine.

Handheld scanners are fairly popular now days. Most of them will scan frequencies from 30 MHz upward, which leaves out the CB frequencies.

A lot of people use these scanners in their automobiles in place of a mobile and they use a device that holds a cell phone so they can see it readily. Some people use these at home also instead of a base radio. A difference here, though, is that few handheld scanners use 12 volt power. Some are 9 volt, some are 6 volt, but most will come with the appropriate adapter that plugs into an AC power supply or regular wall outlet. So, for mobile, home use or handheld use, the handheld radio will do the job for any situation. You can still hook it up to an outside antenna, whether mobile or base. But the power supply for mobile becomes a little more tricky. 

Some but not all handhelds, operate off of AA or AAA batteries. If it does operate off of batteries, then great, you can just change out the batteries when you need fresh power. Some you can recharge rechargeable batteries in from the power supply, so when you disconnect from your AC source, you will always have charged batteries. Newer handhelds are also powered by a USB connection from your computer or a cigar type plug-in that will attach to your automobile power port. Then you can power your radio with the USB connection from your automobile power port. Many newer vehicles have a USB port as part of the power supply. This power coming from your USB is either 5 VDC or 5.5 VDC, either one will work to power these scanners. In some of these scanners you can insert AA or AAA rechargeable batteries and they will recharge via the USB power connection.

A side note here. I have recently added USB connections to my 12 volt power supply. This way I can charge my cell phone, or a cell phone headset and a couple of my new battery operated lanterns. It’s always good to upgrade.

Now, something we have not talked about before. Adapters and connectors. My weather radio and my old scanner both use a RCA type connector for the external antenna. My newer old scanner uses
a BNC connector for the external antenna. Sometimes you are going

to need to connect a PL259 plug to an RCA connector, so the antenna signal will be compatible with your radio connector. I have included a link that has all kinds of adapters and connectors. Don’t be intimidated by it. It’s just adapts a square peg so it will fit into a round hole. This page is a great page. I would bookmark it.

But a little bit of teaching here. An RCA plug is the type of plug that you use to connect your stereo together. Your F adapter is what your cable TV comes in with. Don’t let this get to you. It’s just one more step in the educational process. When you are looking at these scanners and you go to the sites and you’re trying to figure out what you want, read the reviews. If you want a scanner that will monitor CB frequencies then your average scanner will not meet your need. If you want one to carry in your shirt pocket, or in your backpack, then a base station or mobile will not work. There is no perfect scanner. 

Now. One more issue. A few years ago, police and fire departments started changing to a digital frequency. Some departments have changed, some departments have not. You are going to have to

check with your local emergency office to see whether they broadcast on a digital or analog frequency. Where I live, all signals are analog. So, about any scanner would work just fine. Some towns have gone to all digital. An analog scanner will NOT receive digital signals. This is not the same as when TV signals went digital a few years ago. They are not related. Where I live nobody uses digital, but some places do. Also look for this when you are considering a scanner. I’ve included two articles on analog and digital. In most cases an analog scanner will do you fine. But in some cases it won’t.

Some of the digital scanners, and for that matter, analog scanners, are very difficult to program. I have a base station scanner that I thought was difficult to program until I bought a Uniden handheld scanner that I now never use. It’s one of those cases, that if you don’t use it on a regular, regular basis, you will not know how to operate it. And I bought two of those cute little handhelds that I never use, because they are too difficult for me to operate. But for the right person, they would be excellent scanners.

Play around. Look around. You will see that many of the things you have learned before are coming into shape. Antennas, power supplies, connectors, adapters – some are just for fun, some are life saving. This is all part of communication. 

We’ll talk more later. 73, Frank 

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Hi Everybody, Frank here again.

I have two older scanners that I use daily, but they will not accept some of the frequencies that I have tried to enter. So, here is what I did. I decided that I needed a digital scanner. I did a little research and bought a Whistler WS1065. It seemed to be the one made just for me. Why did I need a digital scanner? A little tongue in cheek here, so when FEMA is coming down my road with their buses and trucks using their advanced digital radios, I would know ahead of time and could avoid their intrusion into my harmonious daily life. Remember, don’t get on the bus. One small problem here. Neither Fern nor I could figure out how to program this radio. This is the first piece of electronic equipment that we have ever failed to program. Here is the solution. We bought the after market program that will make one’s life so much easier. Guess what? We still could not figure out how to program this radio. We didn’t quit here, I asked for assistance from my local ham radio group. Silence. Then I asked for assistance from my regional radio group via radio and email. You guessed it, more silence. So if there is anyone out there that knows how to program this scanner, please break the silence. Serious inquiries only.

Moving forward. I bought a Uniden Bearcat BC345CRS. It is an analog only scanner. If analog is all you need, this scanner is easy to program, has an AM/FM radio, alarm clock with a built in battery back up. It is easy to manually program. If this meets your need, do a Google search for various prices. I have one and use it daily.

Next on the list is the Uniden Bearcat BC355N. This is a slightly different style scanner. It can be used as a mobile or base scanner. It will need to be manually programmed. It is a little bit more difficult to program than the radio mentioned above, but once you get the hang of it, it goes very quickly. It is analog only. Also do a search for this radio, and check out Amazon. This is a small radio, but it works quite well.

Now, which scanner is best for you? That is entirely up to you. The closest digital signal to me is about 60 miles away. For me to use an analog only scanner will work just fine. Unless, of course, FEMA is barreling down the highway. Find out from the folks mentioned above what type signals you have in your area, analog or digital. I really wish that I could give you a more direct answer, but I can’t. Good luck.

We’ll talk more later, Frank

A Product Review, Baofeng UV-82HP

Hello Everybody, Frank here.

This is a product review of the red Baofeng UV-82HP. In this article I’m going to tell you about the radio, my likes and dislikes, a little bit of technical stuff from my perspective, and how I got to this point in life. Ready? Good. But first, some legal stuff. To do this review I was sent the UV-82HP and was told that I could keep it, so there was some compensation, a free radio. Let’s understand that upfront. Otherwise I have no affiliation with any product or link mentioned in the post, except that I have bought and used some Baofeng products. 

Now, a friend of mine sent me a link to a radio dealer’s site that I was not familiar with. He mentioned that they were looking for people to review radios in exchange for a free radio. He uses this radio as his primary handheld, so he thought that I might be interested also. By the way, he belongs to a group of people that use radios in their activities, and this is 

the one that he recommends to all of his colleagues. He is highly pleased with the UV-82. His is not an HP, but the only difference between the UV-82 and the UV-82HP is the power output. I emailed the company, they had a certain criteria that needed to be met. We did the paperwork game back and forth. The main stipulation was that I would include a link to their website. Here it is: BaofengTech.com  Again, I have no affiliation with this company at all, except the free radio. Now for the review.  

First the negatives. Let’s understand that this is not a $200 – $300 radio. The HP version sells for about $60 – $70. The regular model, non-HP, sells for $30 – $40. This is a basic, inexpensive, commercial radio. I found nothing negative about the radio at all. Yes, that is nothing. For it’s intended purpose, it does a great job.

Now for the positives. It will do anything that any of the low cost, handheld radios will do. One large positive, the speaker puts out more power, therefore, more volume. This is important if it’s windy or you’re in a noisy environment. This radio puts out more power, therefore, the transmitted signal goes farther. I could not tell a major difference in 4 watts and 7 watts of power. I have two repeaters that are 20 and 25 miles distant from my house. I could hit both repeaters with 1 watt comfortably, with some white noise, but 4 watts was more than adequate to reach both repeaters with zero background noise. I did not use this radio during a torrential downpour, but I’m more than confident the 7 watts would drive better than the lower wattage.

Not mentioned above, but the transmit button has a built in toggle allowing you to transmit on Band A or Band B. No extra buttons to push, nothing to unlock, just push the top of the toggle and you’re on Band A, press the bottom of the toggle and you’re on Band B. For my usage, this feature doesn’t mean much, but for folks that need immediate contact on two different frequencies, this feature could be a life saver. My buddy mentioned up above, he loves being able to switch between Band A and Band B. So, I would seriously look into this feature if you think you might need quick accessibility. 

So, let’s see. Inexpensive, loud speaker, more power, instant access to 2 bands. These are quality features, but there are other features also. Cosmetically, they come in different colors, so if you’re fire department, EMT, or S&R types, different colors can come in real handy. It is a semi duplex radio, which means you can hear on Band A or Band B, but not both at the same time. I’ll be glad when Baofeng comes out with a full duplex radio. This is the one I’m waiting on.

Now, in my humble opinion, besides all the features mentioned above, the best is the location of the transmit button. It is at the top of the left hand side of the radio. Well, most transmit buttons are on the left hand side of the radio, but not at the top. I have a large hand, I use my radio in my left hand, and I use my thumb to push the transmit button, which means I have to hold the radio farther down toward the bottom. With the transmit button at the very top, not on the top, but at the top of the side, I can hold the radio more comfortably, and more securely. To me this is the biggest asset of the radio for my purpose.

When the radio came to my house, I took off the factory antenna and applied a 2 1/2″ stubby, or sometimes called a highly flexible, rubber ducky. Reason being is, we use our radios not just for emergencies, survival or ham radio purposes, we use them for everyday work around the little farm here, which includes birthing animals, moving hay, gardening, chicken house and assorted chores like that. So, I wanted it to function under realistic conditions, which means it got dropped, it got dirty, but it did the job and it worked real well.

It also has a nice little light on top, it will receive FM commercial radio, comes with a belt clip and all the stuff you expect a radio to come with. The manual for the UV82-HP is far superior than the previous Baofeng manuals. That doesn’t necessarily make it any easier to hand program, but it does make it a whole lot easier to figure out how to do it. If you’re going to program with the computer, you will need the programming cable which is a standard type. My buddy mentioned above, uses the Chirp radio programming system, and finds that more than adequate. For my purposes, I use the RT system, which I bought from the RT folks for this purpose. I like the RT system, I use it for all of my radios. This is not an RT review, but if you want a system that is easy to use, works well and has excellent technical support, check out the RT folks. Now, they do charge for their product, that’s the way the free enterprise system works.

Back to the Baofeng UV-82HP. It is a good radio, solid performer, aesthetically pleasing, and well worth the money. I currently use the Baofeng UV5R+, but if I were starting out new, I would seriously consider the UV-82 series. I like the way it fits in my hand. It’s like a lot of things, when you pick it up, you want it to feel right.


So there you go, Ladies and Gentlemen, this is my review of the red Baofeng UV-82HP. I would recommend the radio. By the way, a man down the road from me liked the radio, so I gave it to him, along with the RT system, in exchange for a used stainless steel sink to use in our outdoor kitchen. Great trade! Please look at the UV-82HP if you’re looking for a good radio. Thank you for your time.

We’ll talk more later, Frank

Survival Radio Q & A

Hello Everybody, Frank here.

Over the last week or so, more on the so side that is, I have received some interesting questions via email. Serious questions. I’m going to attempt to give some serious answers, with some embedded humor, of course. Others out there may have the same type ideas, and I hope these folks’ questions will help fence sitters decide which way to go. So, here goes.

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Question #1 

Hello Frank,

First, I want to thank both you and Fern for what you do to help us and others.  I know that just like the rest of us, you are busy doing your best to prepare for whatever is coming our way, yet you take precious  time to extend a helping hand to anyone who will take the time to read your blog.  Please know that you are very much appreciated!

Secondly, I want to apologize for the length of this email and thank you in advance for the time you spend reading and hopefully responding to it.  A man’s time is a precious commodity.

We are attempting to set up an emergency communication system between three family member locations.  I am a total novice at this but I have been reading and researching for 2-3 months and based most of our plan on the information gleaned from your “Frank’s Radio Communications” articles.  I fully realize that I am stretching things to the limit here both technically and legally, and that it may not even be doable, but I have to try.

I’ll describe our situation as best I can, then list my questions.  We want to link the three family member locations, without relying on repeaters.  Since this is for emergency use, we want the system to be free standing.  We are located in hilly Southeastern Ohio, but fortunately all three locations are at or near the hill tops.  No one is down in a valley or a low area.

Location A:  This is my location.  I am not licensed yet, but I am studying for my Technician license and will be taking the exam September 17 (that’s the next exam date here).  I am setting up a “basic” 2 meter base station at this location.  I have a Yaesu FT-1900 (modified) for the base radio and have mast materials to put my antenna up 30-40′ AGL.  My mast will probably be okay close to 40′ with a small antenna, but less with a large antenna.  I’m using the military camouflage net support poles (heaviest aluminum type) and it is at the end of my house, supported firmly at 14′, leaving 26′ unsupported if I go to 40′.  I don’t want to use guy lines unless absolutely necessary, but I can if you think it’s required.  There are no power lines and if it came down it could only hit a metal roof.  At this location I want to be able to use the 2 meter ham band and maintain contact with locations B & C.

Location B:  This is my daughter.  At home, she is about 8 miles from my location with no major obstructions between us.  At work she is also about 8 miles away, but with some small building obstructions. Her plans are to use the system only for emergency contact with me, and it needs to be mobile so that she is covered at her work place.  For convenience, and cost control, we hope to be able to meet her needs with a 5 watt HT and a good quality antenna.

Location C:  This location is about 12 miles from me, with no major obstructions between us.  This is a stay-at-home person, but would also like the ability to go mobile if necessary.  I would still like to use the 5 watt HT if possible, but with a small mast if necessary.  I was hoping that we could use an antenna that would work for both the mast and mobile if needed.  The one I had in mind was the CA-2x4SR with a ground plane for the mast and a mag mount for mobile.

What I hope to do is use my base to access the 2 meter ham band and use the low MURS channels (151) to communicate with B & C.  Certainly, we are testing the limits here, but this seems to me to be the most economical  way for us to set up an emergency communication system.  I realize that we are asking a lot for a 2 meter antenna to also be effective for the MURS channels at 151 MHz, but my hope is to use a wide band antenna that is tunable to be resonate at about 148-149 MHz.  If I am correct, this should give me a usable range including the upper portion of the 2 meter band and the low MURS channels. 

My plan is to finish setting up my base as soon as I make the antenna decisions, then use my 5 watt HT with a mobile mag mount antenna on my vehicle to test the “system” at locations B & C before we buy any more equipment.

First question, in your opinion, is it possible to do this with the HTs and mobile antennas as described above?  If not, what would you suggest as minimum equipment requirements to get the job done?

Second question is which antennas would you recommend?  I have read and researched until my eyes are crossed and I cannot come up with a definitive answer.  For the mobiles, the CA-2x4SR looks good to me but I’m wide open to the voice of experience.  For my base antenna, I’m really undecided.  I currently have three on my “possibles list,”  the Hustler GC 144 (with the MKR-2 ground plane kit), the Hustler G6-144B (pricey & big), and the Diamond X50A.  The X50A is described as “pre-tuned” so I haven’t been able to find out if it is field tunable or not.  But, from the reviews I’ve read it seems to generally be tuned toward the upper end of the 2 meter band, which is just what I need.  One fellows review that I read said his was resonate at 149.5 out of the box.  Again, I am wide open to the voice of experience.

Soooo, there you have our situation.  Don’t worry about hurting my feelings with your comments and suggestions.  I’ve already been told by two Hams that I can’t do this with less than 200 Watts at each location.  I prefer efficiency to brute power, but if I am way off track here don’t hesitate to say so, just please give me some direction as to how to get to where we want to go.

Thank you

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This is the first of two emails. The second email will contain product recommendations and significantly more detail, but I want to assure you that this is doable. This is what I do.

 
Your CA2x4SR is an excellent choice. I use it for mobile and base with a ground plane. I’ll send more detail later, but you don’t need 200 watts. On a clear day 5 watts will get you where you want to go. During a torrential rain storm, more power may be needed, but not 200 watts.

 
I will send you a second email. I talk to friends 30 miles away on MURS 1, 2, & 3 simplex, or line of sight, on a handheld with a 2 inch stubby antenna. Does your tower really need to be 40 feet?

 
We’ll talk more later,

 

Frank
 
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Thank you so very much.  After the response I got from two different Hams (one was at Universal Radio) I was beginning to doubt myself on this project.  As far as the antenna height goes I was just trying to make it as effective as possible.  I would be thrilled if it didn’t have to go that high.

 

Thank you again and Please have a Blessed Day.
 

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Thank you for taking the time to read Frank‘s Radio Communications. To answer your most important question, Yes, it is doable, and your ham buddies are wrong. If you‘ve read Frank‘s Radio Communications then you know that Fern and I did this exact same thing on the MURS frequencies, and later on the ham bands. We would commonly talk on MURS at a distance of 25 miles using standard mag mount antennas, the Comet M24 to be precise, Wouxun HTs, an adapter for the antenna, and a quality microphone, using a battery eliminator. It works, and that’s what you want, you want it to work. This was about four or five years back. But remember, it worked.

Now, today, I use the CA-2×4 SR on all of my vehicles and my base station. The base station uses a ground plane adapter, and all use the UHF type connector. I have done nothing special to these antennas. They are tuneable, but I haven’t needed to do anything.

Your tower height may be a tad bit excessive. I take it 14 feet is close to your ridge. Unless you plan on putting up other antennas, if you don’t need the extra height, then don’t use it.

Your Yaesu is a nice radio and it’s been modified. Consider an Anytone AT-5888 for a base radio. It is UHF and VHF. The HTs are great when there is no weather around. The extra power of the base station will help drive through heavy rain. The reason I recommend the VHF/UHF Anytone is for UHF. Check out the GMRS frequencies, find one that no one uses. It can be your back up or your primary. Food for thought.

If you do use the battery eliminator and the external antenna, always keep the original antenna and battery handy in case you have to leave on foot quickly.

Yes, your idea is doable. The little Baofeng UV5R, is inexpensive and it works. For accessories check out Radioddity.com, because some use an SMA female and others use an SMA male type antenna connector. Buy two of the little handhelds, get your cell phone out and have somebody at

the other locations with their radio in hand and cell phone out. Call each other on the cell phone, pick a frequency or channel that no one is using. Remember you’ll have to program these radios yourself. Call each other on the cell phone, face the direction to which you are talking and see if you can make contact. You’ll have the cell phone as a back up to know. Set your power on your HT to maximum power. If you get a weak or bad signal, remember, be facing each other. Hold the handheld straight up and down. Try VHF which is MURS. Try UHF which is GMRS. If you have the ability, get up on a tall ladder, or up on top of your house. This should tell you what you want to know.

If it will work with two handy talkies, make sure you’re both outside, not inside a structure. If somebody has to be inside a building, have them stand in a window facing the direction they want to talk. Give it a try, see if it will work. What you‘ve invested at this stage is the cost of two handy talkies. On Amazon the UV5R sells for about $25.00 with free shipping. It is critical that you are facing each other just like you are having a conversation. If you get a poor signal, move two or three feet to the right or left and try again. If it works, then put up the outside antennas and you should be good to go. If you want to get a bit more sophisticated, then use a base station with a power supply. Always get a bigger power supply than you think you’ll need.

Now the procedures described above are for emergency communications. You’ve read this before. Doing 36 MPH in a 35 MPH zone is illegal. Doing 96 MPH in a 35 MPH is also illegal. Nobody cares if you do 36 MPH, but they do care if you’re doing 96 MPH. Always run the lowest power you can.

By the way, in reference to the 200 watt VHF radio? Some old time hams do not support any type of radio communication except ham radio. Many of the older hams see it as the ultimate hobby, and that’s great. You probably are going to use radio for a different purpose, and that’s great, too. It’s a big playing field and there is lots of room for everybody. I would like to see a 200 watt VHF that anybody sells.

A different topic. Copper Electronics has an SSB-CB on sale right now for an excellent price. It is a first class CB radio that cannot be modified in any form. If this is what you’re looking for, you won’t find this kind of deal very often. I have one, and it works. I have two more on the way. 

For you and everybody else out there, you might want to consider a scanner. Many ham radios will scan, but as a general rule, they are notoriously slow. Why a scanner? If you know an event is occurring, you can warn your loved ones ahead of time. It’s much better to avoid a problem, than deal with one. A scanner can save your life. You want to know what is out there.

Try to buy products that operate off of 12 volts. That simplifies your charging. If you’re using your car battery or you’re using a home power supply, it just makes life easier. Think about it. 

What we talked about up above with MURS and GMRS, I really hope this helps, but I know it works. I have used this technique, I still use it, and I use it everyday. Take care. Best of luck.      


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Question #2

Hello,

I am acquainted with you both from The Deliberate Agrarian, Herrick Kimball’s blog.

 
I am very intrigued with your communications post. I too believe in the profound importance of readiness and an impending radical change to our civilization.
 

I must confess though, in conjunction with an overwhelming amount of ideas/projects/responsibilities and the thought of adding something that I know is crucial but for which I lack interest/affinity or skill, stops me cold. I haven’t the resources (money, time and interest) to become a ham radio hobbyist but KNOW it is a necessity that should not be ignored because I am in over my head with other projects.

So my query is, how can I set up communications for a minimum investment in time and money? I am not talking about shortcuts but levels. It sounded as if there were some in your class that are at or were at, my level. 
I know you are busy folk so I will be grateful for any information you are able to impart. I will, in the meantime, search your blog and glean what I can. Thank you for sharing with us.

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Start with a Baofeng UV5R+, about $35.oo. Programming cable, about $10.00. Use the Chirp programming system, it is free. Any frequencies you need can be obtained at Radio Reference.com. An inexpensive supplier is Radioddity.com or Amazon. For ham radio assistance or advice contact your local ARRL club. You can find this information at ARRL.com.

Read the section called Frank’s Radio Communications in the right hand column, and this will answer most of your questions. Pam, I do not use ham radio for a hobby, I use ham radio and other forms of radio for survival. An inexpensive analog scanner comes in very handy, if you live in an area that supports analog.

When you get in touch with ARRL, tell them what you just told me, see if there are any classes being offered that are normally free, and ask for an Elmer, which is a teacher. If you don’t click with this one, ask for another one. The shoe doesn’t always fit the first time.

Best of luck.

 
Frank
 
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Thank you Frank, very much, for your time and knowledge.  I am deeply grateful and humble. Please know that I did not mean to be insulting when I used the word “hobbyist”.

I have read some of your articles and most of it goes over my head.  I have a innate ability with mechanics but electrical blows my mind (pun intended!). For instance, I truly cannot comprehend the difference between an ohm, a watt and an amp despite multiple attempts and patient friends and family.  Indeed, I will follow up on your information or try to persuade my husband to become interested.

Today, I wish the collapse would just hurry up and be done.  The waiting is interminable.
 
But I would be forever saddened at losing contact with folks like you and Mr. Kimball.  (I would call you by your surname, but you’ve never shared or I’ve never seen it. I am a firm believer in the use of Mr., Mrs., and Ms.. And “Mr. Frank” sounds like something a toddler uses with a neighbor.)

Again, many thanks for your response.

 

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Thank you for your question. You are correct, there were people in the ham radio class that had no interest at all in getting an amateur radio license. They were interested in survival communications, which was actually part of the title of the class.

Okay, let’s start. The equipment you need will depend on your desires. If you have friends down the road that you want to talk to, then you will need two way communications. If you just want to know what is happening down the street or across the county, then you’ll need listening only equipment. As mentioned in the question above, a respectable scanner will meet most people’s needs. If you live in a large city, you might consider a digital scanner. They’re expensive and difficult to program. If you live in smaller town America, or rural America, then an analog scanner will probably meet your need. You don’t know? Call your local emergency management office. They will know. Tell them what you want to find out, it is public knowledge.

If you need two way communication, first on the list is CB radio. Some people don’t like the trash talk, but it is a good means of communication and lots of people have CB radios.

Next, the GMRS walkie talkies. Hunters use them, little kids use them for play radios, my wife and I have used them for years around our little farm. Don’t believe the ads about 36 miles, that’s under perfect conditions. They will go as far as a CB, and the signal is a whole lot better. The CB and the GMRS are both line-of-sight communications. Back to the GMRS, mountain top to mountain top? As far as you can see. Valley to valley with a hill in the middle? Ain’t gonna happen. 

If you want to talk around the world it gets sharply more complicated, but it can be done. If you want to just listen around the world, a decent shortwave radio with a good antenna will let you listen, plus you can also listen to all of the ham radio frequencies with a good shortwave radio. It’s all in the antenna. Look for SSB when you’re checking out radios. Single side band. Sometimes called upper side band and lower side band.

For more detailed information, read Frank’s Radio Communications. Don’t spend any time on getting a Technician or General license. Read the other articles first about CB, GMRS, scanners and that type of stuff. I hope this information helps. After you do a little bit more research, put some more questions together. It’s really not that difficult. Take care.    

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Question #3

Help, need com & antennas, handhelds, ect… Have read your site. Need to get com going as fast as we can.

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Start with a Baofeng UV5R+. Use the Chirp programming system. Any frequencies you need can be obtained at Radio Reference.com. An inexpensive supplier is Radioddity.com. For ham radio assistance or advice contact your local ARRL club. You can find this information at ARRL.com.

Read the section called Frank’s Radio Communications in the right hand column, and this will answer most of your questions.

Best of luck.

Frank

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Dear Frank, Thank you for your reply. I like yours & Fern’s site. I have been reading your Com page and decided to try the Hand held’s you recommended, Midland GXT 1050s. I would like to extend the range so I was looking @ the exterior antennas . I guess I must have missed the one in the article that you recommended for that set. Thanks again for all you both do.   Good luck & stay vigilant & safe.

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Hello, there. I’m sorry to tell you, but the Midland 1050 is not made to accept an external antenna. It is a good radio for what it is intended for. Fern and I used these radios around our homestead for a long time before we switched to a commercial radio, which is just the same type of radio, except it is programmable. The GXT 1000 is the same as the GXT 1050, except it comes in black instead of camo. Remember, both of these are excellent radios, tough, durable and do a good job. But like anything, they have limitations. I’m glad you enjoy our work. Thank you.

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Ladies and Gentlemen, above I’ve addressed three relevant and pertinent questions. All three of these folks have the same thing in common. They all believe that we’re going to need communication beyond what we currently have available today. For whatever reason, if you are reading this blog, then you know that we have serious difficulties just over the horizon,

and in many places, those serious difficulties are already here. Just look at the immigrant problem right now in Europe. Look at our own southern border. These people are leaving their homes and going to a new place, not only to better their lives, but to escape where they’re coming from. This is just one example of what is happening in our world. I’m sorry, but our financial markets world wide are is disarray, and in the mid stages of collapse. Not the beginning stage, but the middle stages of collapse. If you look around, our churches are under attack, our schools are cesspools, our society, it has denigrated to a pathetic, disgusting level. 

These three questions addressed above are folks that are worried, and you should be too. I know I am. Read the questions above again. Three different perspectives, but all three see an urgent need to be able to communicate beyond normal day to day communications. What are you going to do when things shut down and your kids are miles away? Or your wife is at the dentist? Or your husband is on a trip somewhere? What are you going to do? Dial 911? Those people are going to go home and take care of their families. You should be taking care of your family, too. Look around. I don’t know how else to say it, but it is very, very near.

I hope you enjoy this read. Take care. May God be with you all.

We’ll talk more later, Frank

OPSEC Communications – A Re-Post

Hello Everybody, Frank here.

Hope everyone is doing well. If you peruse through these pages often, then you have heard us refer to those dark clouds on the horizon. No, I’m not referring to the dust bowl, but it could be. I’m referring to that storm that most of us know is coming. We see events happening on a daily basis that tells us that something bad is coming.

I also use this blog to try to help people prepare themselves by using different communication methods. Here about 18 months ago, we published an informative article about different types of radios that can be used for radio communications. I’m not talking about ham radio or amateur radio here. You see, right now we take communication for granted. We have hundreds of TV channels, AM/FM/XM radio, cell phones, internet, and I’m sure I’ve missed a few. But we live in a very fragile system that could very quickly go dark. 

I would encourage you to read the re-post below and give serious thought to how your family is going to be able to communicate when, not if, our complete way of life goes down. Please ponder some of these ideas, it could save you and your families’ life someday. We are used to instant communications and it’s a very sophisticated, complicated network. You need to have a plan B. Take care, I hope you enjoy the article, and when you get finished reading it, please tell me what you think.

We’ll talk more later, Frank

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Originally published January 4, 2014

 
Hello, Frank here.

Nunam Iqua, Alaska

Once upon a time, there were two people that lived in far bush Alaska that could see dark clouds on the horizon. These two people, knowing what dark clouds meant, started to prepare for a serious storm. As the clouds got closer, and the sky darkened, these two adventurous souls packed up all their gear and relocated to a somewhat safer location. Even though these people escaped this particular storm, the storms followed them to their new location. And the storms have continued to grow bigger and bigger and bigger.

Okee-dokee everybody, back to reality. My first experience with radio communication in the modern world we live in now, was with two little walkie-talkie radios. Fern and I were leaving Alaska and we were going to drive to southeast Oklahoma. Through a large portion of this trip there is no cell phone service. Since we were traveling in two separate vehicles, each pulling a U-Haul trailer, I bought a couple of the above mentioned handheld walkie talkies from Cabela’s. And that’s how this radio story started. That was five years ago, and here we are today.

I knew nothing about rechargeable batteries. I didn’t know that you could recharge batteries while you’re driving down the road. So we used eight alkaline batteries a day. You see, Fern and I are an odd couple. We actually like each other and enjoy talking to each other, so the radios came in real handy. So, after our little trip, which took eleven days, I discovered the benefits of rechargeable batteries.

110/12VDC charger

So, when we got here, we put the radios away for a while. I’m not sure exactly when or how or why, but we started using them again around our little farm here. And like many things in life, I had to experience a large learning curve. Well, we started using the little radios again and learned

about rechargeable batteries. I decided I wanted extra radios. I went online, found a couple, and not paying attention, realized they did not use a AA battery. But, instead these new radios used a AAA battery. This was not my plan, but I didn’t have the knowledge to know the difference. So, now I need AA and AAA rechargeable batteries. Well, this system worked out okay. I found a place online to buy batteries that I like. And I still use this same place, by the way. So, now I have a hand full of radios, two different types of batteries and the system is working pretty good. But the three AAA batteries will not stay charged near as long as four AA batteries. 

So, I decided to buy more radios. That’s when I started using the Midland GXT1000 and 1050. They are the same radio, one is black the other is camo. I got lucky when I bought this little radio, because it did something

I didn’t know it would do. It comes with a rechargeable battery pack, which looks just like three AA’s put together. But it says it will take four AA’s, and it will. If you take the cover off and take the battery pack out, you will see that there is an extra slot for a fourth battery. The cool part is, these four AA rechargeable batteries, will also charge in the charging cradle that the radio came with. Here’s where I got lucky. Midland makes a bunch of radios that look just like this, that have the same set up with the same battery pack, but the other ones will not recharge the four rechargeable AA batteries while in the cradle. As the learning curve increased here, it was obvious that not all of these radios charge the same way. So, a bonus feature, because later on I bought some other Midland radios that looked identical, but I could not charge the four AA rechargeable batteries in the cradle. So, much for that issue.

I know these little radios are advertised a certain mileage. But that is under perfect conditions. So, remember, these radios are line of sight, and if you need more information about how the radios operate and their properties, go to Frank’s Radio Communications page. These are good radios, high quality and they work well, and they did the job we needed around the farm.

I’m still, at this time, not into ham radio. I tried to get some of my friends and neighbors to get some of these little radios so we could keep in touch. No one was interested in this form of communication, and years later, they’re still not interested. That pretty much took care of the home issue. Now I wanted to be able to reach my wife by radio 30 miles away. Bigger 

issue. We tried CB radios with SSB and due to the properties of the CB radio, it just would not work. I live in hill country with small mountains. So one day, looking at a retail radio site, I noticed a programmable commercial radio. Did a little bit more research and realized that these radios would broadcast on the same frequency as my little walkie talkies. That is when I started to realize about different frequencies. You see, a CB radio is around 27 MHz. My little

walkie talkies are around 460 MHz. These new little commercial radios are handheld and they would broadcast on the VHF band which includes most local police, fire and ambulance. It was also good on the ham radio frequencies, which at that time, I cared nothing about. All the ones I just mentioned, police, fire and ham, are in the VHF range, that’s around 140-155 MHz. But these little radios would also work for GMRS, which is my little walkie talkie, at around 460 MHz, which is UHF. There is also another free public band called MURS, which is around 150 MHz. So, I tried these little handheld commercial radios and they worked great on this frequency. Some of these activities mentioned here, some folks will tell you that you cannot use a commercial radio for, and they are right. But as long as you are not bothering anybody, most people don’t care. Also, remember that in an emergency, anyone can use any frequency if no other means is available. 
So, I put a couple of these little commercial radios, remember, these are handhelds, in our cars running legal power, and could talk to my wife most of her way to work. I dug out my old Radio Shack power supply, I put up an outside antenna, and used one of these little radios to talk to my wife all the way to work. The antenna outside of my house is what made the difference.

Okay. That’s where we were. So using a handheld radio, with an outside antenna at my house, I can now talk to my wife in her car. Shortly after this stage, I got my ham radio license, and we’ve made other changes since

then. But what I’m getting at here is, if you want to have communications, and you do not have a ham radio license, it is available. A small power supply, just about any transmitting and receiving radio, the proper antenna and you can talk to your buddy a good ways down the road, even with your little walkie talkie that does duck calls. That little gizmo thingy that your kid is out playing in the yard with, is probably a GMRS radio. Now, you cannot take a GMRS radio and attach it to an external antenna, you just can’t do it. But you can, with a handheld commercial radio, and it’s not difficult. Now don’t think you’re going to take one of these little handhelds and increase the power to 500 watts like some CBer’s do. They’re just not intended for that use.

But, that CB radio that you have out in your truck, is good for other purposes. All it is, is just a ham radio around 27 MHz, or in the ham world, called 11 meter, that will transmit line of sight. But it will also, when the atmosphere is right, transmit very long distances by bouncing off of the atmosphere. Read the other posts for more information on that. So, you have a CB radio, you can talk to your buddy down the road. If you have a GMRS radio, you can talk to your buddy down the road. Someday, you’re going to want to talk to your buddy down the road, because your cell phone and your telephone may not work. Some people say, “Hog wash! We’re always going to have electricity and telephones.” Yep, and the Titanic was floating just fine, until it hit that iceberg. 

Okay. Some little tips here. OPSEC. That translates into operational security. Anything you say on a radio can be heard by someone else. Let me say that again. Anything you say on a radio can be heard by somebody else. Any point where you transmit from can be located. Ham radio operators have a game where they try to locate a certain transmitter. The military and other government agencies also have that ability. So don’t think you can’t be found. If you’ve read some of my other posts, I emphasize, don’t be stupid.

Okay. Don’t use people names on the radio, because somebody is listening. Develop real simple little codes about locations and where you are. Teach other family members to do the same thing. Well, you say, “How are they going to know what channel I’m broadcasting on?” Anybody with a scanner that has these programmed will know exactly what frequency you’re broadcasting on. You ask, “How will they know where I’m located?” It’s called electronic triangulation. So, don’t kid yourself, that you’re smarter than the government, because some of those folks are very, very good at what they do.

So, if you’ve got a bunch of guys you go to church with, and you all have those little GMRS radios, one day at church, set up a time and see if everybody can talk to each other. Just practice and see if you can talk.

Also try it with CB radios, too. Then if you can communicate, set up a time to do it in an emergency. You say, “Well you talked about the power being off and I don’t want to use batteries.” Well, then don’t. Get you a couple of rechargeable batteries. And you say, “Well, fool. If the power is off, how am I going to recharge them?” Get you a teeny, weeny solar panel and check out this link. It will give you a lot more detail.

I use my little radios everyday. My wife gets this strange kick out of feeding farm animals. I don’t need to understand why, but she does. And we stay in contact. We make sure we have contact before she walks out the door. We make sure the batteries are charged. Give it some long term thought. Plan ahead, test your equipment. If you choose to advance to the ham radio hobby, then you will understand a whole lot more about what you are doing right now, and a different radio world will open up.

But if you choose not to, you can still communicate. And if you just want to listen, get you a scanner and a shortwave radio, and there are few things that you will not be able to listen to. The scanner is for local and the shortwave is for long distance. Because you might want to know when there is a forest fire coming your direction. It can also tell you from the National Weather Service, when a tornado is coming. And if you listen to the local ham radio weather clubs, using weather spotters, they will also tell you where the tornado is and what direction it’s traveling. Then you may hear when they’re loading up people into buses a mile or two down the road from you. By the way, don’t get on the bus.

When you see those big black clouds come rolling in, then you need to be able to communicate. It will be too late to find your radio and see if you have any batteries. It will be too late to set up a system of communication. It will be too late. Folks those dark clouds are gathering. Pay attention.

We’ll talk more later. 73, Frank

Radio – GMRS, FRS & MURS – A Re-Post

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 posted July 5, 2013

Radio – GMRS, FRS & MURS

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


Radio Communications Review, Part 1 – A Re-Post

Hello, Frank here.

If you are a regular reader, then you know a week or so back we introduced a re-post of an article that was a year or so old. This effort was very well accepted and we genuinely thank you. 

As most of you are aware, when, not if, our society shuts down, or collapses, then it will be too late to start making general preparations. I believe communication is one of the areas grossly overlooked by those that are trying to prepare. Whether you want to transmit on a radio, listen to local events or world events, then there are certain types of equipment that you will need. Most of these items can be dual or triple purpose, and will not break the bank unless you choose to do so. 

The following article is a re-post about basic radio communications. You can find many other articles listed under Frank’s Radio Communications. If this is of interest to you, then please read some of these articles. They are written in easy to understand language with the beginner in mind. Thank you for your considerations, and I hope you enjoy the following re-post. If you have a comment, please share it, because this is one way for all of us to learn. That little radio in your hand may some day save your life. Thank you again.

Originally published August 12, 2013

Hello, Frank here.

I’m going to try to summarize what we have talked about in the last ten posts. The reason being, my next radio post is going to start into ham or amateur radio. So, let’s go back and talk about all of the stuff I have covered so far. We have talked about the rules and regulations, and I will give you my recommendations on certain radios. Okay, let’s go.

CB radio is probably the most popular radio around and more people have them than any other type. There are basically two types of CB radios – non-single side band radios and single side band (SSB) radios.

Remember, CB radio is line-of-site communications, most of the time. CB radio operates at about 27 MHz. It will also bounce off of the ionosphere similar to HF ham radios. In some circles the CB radio is called an 11 meter radio. Any CB radio will skip off of the atmosphere if the conditions are right, but an SSB (single side band) will do a better job of it and give you greater distance. So if you want to talk to your cousin Leroy two blocks down the road, and there is not a hill in the way, any CB radio will do the job. If you want to play and listen to other folks much farther away, then SSB is the preferred method. I recommend the Galaxy line of CB radios with SSB. There are other manufacturers that make a quality radio, I just think the Galaxy is more dependable and is prettier. No one likes looking at an ugly radio.

We’ll talk about antennas, power supplies and coax cable later in this post. Next, let’s talk about GMRS/FRS radios. These radios are also very

popular. The vast, vast majority of them are handheld radios. People use them a great deal for hunting, keeping track of the kids and just play-type radios. These are also line-of-site communication. These will not bounce off of the ionosphere so you are not going to be hearing frequencies from around the world. These radios function at about 465 MHz. Because of the higher frequency they will work better from inside a building than your lower frequency radios. The big difference between these radios, in my opinion, are the batteries or power systems inside the radios. 

While we are writing this, there is a major electrical storm in our area. All of my antennas have been disconnected and our computers are unplugged. If I were a little bit smarter, I would also unplug my power supply.

In a previous post, we talked about the difference between GMRS and FRS, they are basically the same radio. These are excellent, high quality radios with a good clear signal for line-of-site communications. Do not believe the advertisements for 10, 20, 30 miles – this is a sales gimmick. Not all of us live on a flat planet, if we did, then the advertisements

would be correct. Remember, line-of-site. All GMRS radios will communicate with other GMRS radios regardless of the manufacturer. All the channels are the same frequencies. I recommend the Midland GXT1000VP4 or GXT1050VP4. They are the same radio – one is camo and one is black. The reason for this recommendation is that you can put four AA rechargeable batteries in the radio and the batteries will recharge while in the charging cradle. Some other Midland radios look identical, but they charge slightly different and will not recharge rechargeable batteries while in the charging cradle. I have used this radio for a number of years on our little farm.

Okay. We have reviewed CB and GMRS. There is one other type of radio frequency and it is the MURS frequencies. MURS comes with five frequencies operating at about 151 MHz. It is also line-of-site communications and will work fine inside of most buildings. There is not a major manufacturer that produces a MURS handheld radio, but you can buy a commercial radio, which we will talk about in just a minute, to use on the MURS frequencies. OK, CB, GMRS and MURS are the basic frequencies for non-ham communications. All three have about the same power output. CB and MURS do not require a license, GMRS does. 

A slightly different type of radio is a commercial radio. These radios are not set for any particular frequency and they will not operate on the CB

frequencies. But they will operate on the GMRS, MURS and the VHF/UHF ham radio frequencies. You have to program these radios yourself. Most of them come with a programming cable and computer disc that you download. My recommendation is the Wouxun handheld commercial radio. Many dealers sell them. I would recommend Universal Radio. It is 100% legal to use these radios on the ham radio frequencies. It is not legal to use these radios on MURS or GMRS. We will discuss legalities and license requirements in just a minute.

Non-transmitting radios. This is a group of radios that you listen to only. We’re going to talk about shortwave receivers, scanners, weather radios and there are a few others, but for the most part this covers them. Let’s start with weather radios. Weather radios connect to a radio frequency

provided by the National Weather Service. Most parts of the country receive good, clear weather radio signals. Very few places don’t. I would highly recommend a weather radio with S.A.M.E.  This feature will narrow down severe weather signals to the county level. If you live in an area that has the potential for tornadoes, I would highly recommend one of these for your home. My recommendation is a Midland WR300. It can be powered from a wall outlet, any 12 volt source and has a built in battery back up for when the power goes off, you can still receive signals. As I mentioned in a previous post, it is a little difficult to program. You can connect an external antenna and a flashing red beacon for those that are hearing impaired.

Scanners are another type of listen only radio. There are handheld, mobile and base scanners. The big question right now is whether it is digital or analog. Some communities are going to a digital signal similar to what

TV did nationwide a few years back. This is not a national movement. This is a local decision as to whether to go digital or stay analog. Many communities are not going digital. You will need to check with your local emergency management office. Some scanners are S.A.M.E. capable for weather alerts. New scanners will not receive telephone communications. Some will not receive the CB frequencies, but all will receive police, weather, fire, GMRS, MURS and the VHF/UHF ham frequencies. Some have external antenna capabilities. In some states it is illegal to have a scanner in your vehicle. This is your responsibility to find out the laws in your state.

I’m not going to talk much about marine band radios. Marine band is a two way radio. If you have a boat, or you live near the coast of the ocean or any large lake, or any navigable river then you can listen to marine band signals which includes the Coast Guard.

There are commercial frequencies on the marine bands. There are about 88 channels on each marine band radio. They operate at approximately 157 MHz. The commercial radio I mentioned earlier will also broadcast on these frequencies. Your scanner will also receive marine band frequencies. A little side note – your scanner will also receive railroad frequencies. If you choose to purchase a marine band radio and you choose to transmit on a marine band radio, then know which frequencies the government is using and do not use those frequencies.

Shortwave receivers receive the lower frequencies. 30 MHz down to about 1.8 MHz. These are receive radios only. Shortwave and ham band frequencies are intertwined everywhere between 30 and 1.8 MHz. Most shortwave broadcast signals are AM (amplitude modulation) radio, as is your CB radio, which falls in these frequencies. All ham radio frequencies are AM/SSB. So if you want to listen to the ham frequencies, you will need a radio that receives SSB. Most shortwave radios (SW) do not receive SSB. Some SW radios are capable of external antennas. If you are considering going into ham radio this would be the place to go ahead and buy an HF ham radio transceiver, which will transmit and receive on the SSB ham frequencies and also receive all of the AM shortwave transmissions. Shortwave radios can be as

inexpensive as $50 – $80 up to $10,000 and up. A beginner’s HF ham radio that will transmit and receive starts at around $700 and goes up. You do not have to have a license to listen to any frequency on any radio. But to transmit on the ham frequencies, you will need a ham radio license. We are going to discuss ham radio in much greater detail starting with the next radio post.

Ok. So much for radios. Power supplies. If you have a handheld radio, it will probably be powered by batteries. Some come with a built-in rechargeable battery. Some operate off of AA or AAA batteries that you

can replace with rechargeable batteries. If they will operate off of rechargeable batteries, I would recommend you go this route. All mobile radios, because of the nature of being mobile, will operate off of 12 VDC, which is actually 13.8 VDC. If you choose to use a mobile radio as a base radio, then you will need a separate power supply. Most receive radios use very, very little power. Just about any power supply will work. If you use a mobile CB as a base station then you will need a power supply that puts out 3 or 4 amps. If you’re going to operate a ham radio or more equipment off of your power supply then I would recommend that you go ahead and pick up a 30 amp power supply. This will provide you with enough power to operate your radios, receivers, battery chargers, charge your cell phones and other similar items. 

Antennas. Some radios will need an external antenna. If you are

operating in a vehicle, the only radio we have discussed that will need an external antenna, is a CB radio. Most people use a magnet mount antenna. If you decide to go into ham radio, then your antennas will become more varied because different frequencies need different antennas. There is no one antenna fits-all frequencies. For your CB base station at home, you will also need an external antenna. Go to the post where we talked about CB base station antennas. Your handheld radios, like GMRS and MURS, will operate for the most part off of their attached antennas. If you choose to attach an external antenna to your scanner or weather radio, I would recommend a basic discone antenna. It is built to receive these VHF frequencies. If you choose to connect an external antenna to your shortwave receiver, then I would recommend a long wire type antenna for this purpose. In the previous post about shortwave receivers, there is information about antennas. There
may come a day when you need some coaxial cable. This is what  

connects your antenna to your radio. You will also need a plug on each end of this cable and in most cases, it will be a PL-259, or a BNC type connector. For overall general purpose use, I would recommend RG-8X cable. It is a good all purpose cable for low power, short distance runs of under 25 feet. It also works well for your receive only radios.

Licensing. There is no license required for any receive radio. If you choose to become a ham radio operator, you will need a license. More on that in the next radio post. CB and MURS do not require a license. GMRS does. As I stated in a previous post, I have never met a person with a GMRS license. Which brings us to legal regulations. If you operate any transmit radio that interferes with any other type of telecommunications signal, then you are required by law to either fix your problem or cease transmitting. This is seldom, seldom a problem with legal power transmitters. If you choose for example to increase your CB power from 4 watts to, let’s say, 400 watts of power, and you cause the lady next door’s TV signal to be distorted, then you are running illegal power. If your 400 watt CB radio does not bother anybody or anything, then your radio is still illegal, but for

the most part, no one will care. If you decide to buy a commercial radio, which you can, and you choose to operate it on a frequency, for example the one the local airport is using, then you will find out very quickly that being stupid does not pay. If you choose to use an unauthorized frequency that interferes with the local fire department, again you will find out that some people might not think this is cute. If you run 5000 watts of power, as an example, and you want to talk to your buddy down the road and you don’t bother grandma’s TV signal and you don’t interfere with the local airport or fire department, then probably no one will care. If you choose to operate or modify your radio, and it is now considered illegal, this is your choice. Something I said earlier, if you are driving 36 in a 35 MPH zone, probably no one will notice or care. But….if you choose to drive 96 in a 35 MPH zone, then someone will notice and care. Again, this is your choice.

Speaking of 5000 watts. 5000 watts may be a tad bit of an exaggeration. But if you choose to pump up whatever radio you are using and you do not know what you are doing, you can fry your brain. No joke. No kidding. If you don’t know what you are doing with radio frequency, then DON’T DO IT. Lot’s of ham radio guys and non-ham radio guys run what is called, extra power. It’s not a question of legal or illegal, it’s a question of, if you don’t know what you are doing, you can cause permanent damage to your cute little girl’s brain. So, one more time, if you don’t know what you are doing, DON’T DO IT. Safety comes first. Always.

Next time, we’re going to get into ham radio. You will find the frequencies very similar to GMRS, FRS, CB and MURS because ham radio is not some miracle, mysterious thing. It’s just a group of frequencies or bands or meters that we all share every day. I hope this has helped somebody, somewhere along the way to understand radio communications just a little bit better. Look through the previous radio posts. They are filled with links, dealers, manufacturers, and regulations. 

We’ll talk more later. 73, Frank