GMRS Radio – Time to Get Talking

Hello Everybody, Frank here.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We’ll talk more later,  Frank


Originally published October 11, 2014
 

Radio – GMRS, FRS & MURS

Hi Everybody, Frank here.

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks again for your efforts.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Frank

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Frank

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

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

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

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

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

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

73s, Frank

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

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

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

Take care and keep me up to date.

73s, Frank

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

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Originally published July 5, 2013
 
Hello, Frank here.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We’ll talk more later. 73, Frank


Radio Rules & Regulations

Hello Everybody, Frank here.

Before we get into how radios operate, or sometimes don’t operate, we need to understand where our government stands on rules and regulations. At this point right here, right now, it doesn’t make any difference what you think or feel about the government. I wrote a piece recently about the government is the enemy, and I still feel that way, but they are the government, they have the big stick and we are slaves to their dictates. So let’s try not to upset them any more than necessary.

Here are the basic rules governing the type of radio communication that we are interested in participating in. To be fair, there are reasons we have rules. They are not just there to punish us and limit our activities and freedom, and they’re not always the product of some tyrannical government. Many rules involve safety. You don’t want to fry your little girl’s brain by being stupid. You don’t want to burn your house down. You don’t want to interfere with other frequencies and maybe cause a plane to fall from the sky, or a pipeline valve to open at the wrong time. So, there are rules and they do have a reason for being there. 

DON’T BE STUPID. Don’t try to prove to your buddies that you are the most stupid in the group. Radio can be fun, entertaining, it is a tool, you can use it for business, emergencies, it’s a great hobby. You will hear me say frequently, DON’T BE STUPID. If you are offended by that, get over it. We all do stupid things.

If some of the information I put out is wrong, please let me know. That is not my intent. Let’s get started.

Below is a link to Title 47, Chapter 1, Subchapter D. This link will take you to the rules that you and I need to follow. Open up this link and we’re going to take a look at it.

Ok. Follow me here. Look down the list and you will see Part 90 and Part 95 and Part 97. This is where we will spend our time. You will notice Part 96 says Citizens Broadband Radio Service – this is a different frequency range than CB radios. The CB radios that we will be talking about are under Part 95.

A brief overview to start with. Part 90, or sometimes called commercial radio. That little Baofeng that you have in your hand? Take out the battery, look inside the radio, and it will probably say Part 90 certified. This applies to police departments, fire departments, ambulances, a lot of public service activities and private business. Can you listen to these frequencies? Absolutely. Can you transmit on these frequencies? Sometimes. If you are with, or affiliated with, an agency that gives you the authority to transmit on these bands or frequencies, then yes, you can transmit. 

Example. You are with a volunteer fire department. Your Baofeng radio, if programmed correctly, will transmit on these frequencies. If the authorizing entity gives you permission to use this radio on a specific frequency, then yes, you can use it to transmit. 

Can you use it to transmit on unauthorized frequencies? Absolutely. This is a case in point where you are trying to prove how STUPID you are. Do not mess with an ambulance call, running hot, to a crash scene just to cause confusion. Let me reiterate here. THIS IS STUPID.

By the way, if you are authorized to use your handheld on any of the above mentioned bands, and your kid gets a hold of it and decides to go play with it, remember, you are the adult, they are the kid.

Moving on. Part 95. This is the general concern for the vast majority of people. So click on that 95 from the link you opened above. You will see Subpart A, which is General Rules for Personal Radio Service. Scroll down a little farther, Subpart B, Family Radio Service, FRS. 

Skip Subpart C, unless you’re into remote control, which a lot of guys are. 

Subpart D, CB Radio Service. You will notice it is called CBRS.

Subpart E, General Mobile Radio Service, GMRS.

GMRS and FRS are the frequencies preprogrammed into the handheld radios that you buy across the counter at sporting goods stores. 

Skip Subparts F, G, H, I.

Subpart J, Multi Use Radio Service, MURS. MURS is a group of frequencies that you might want to consider along with GMRS, FRS and CB.  Your Baofeng will transmit and receive on all of these frequencies except CB. To transmit on the CB frequencies, you will need a CB radio. Later on, we will cover stuff like VHF, UHF, HF, 2 meter, 11 meter, AM, FM, and SSB which are things you will eventually learn, but right now we’re talking about rules. 

Ok. Scroll back up to Subpart E, General Mobile Radio Service, GMRS. Look down the list just a couple of items and the third category down is licenses. Go down a little bit farther at 95.1761 and you will see GMRS transmitter certification. Your Baofeng radio is NOT certified to transmit on GMRS frequencies. Will it? Yes. Is it illegal? Listen very carefully here. Is it illegal? YES. Make no bones about it, you are using an unauthorized radio to transmit on an unauthorized frequency. 

Ok. A parable here. Can you buy a car that will go 100MPH? Yes, you can. If the speed limit is 35MPH, and you are driving 36MPH, are you breaking the law? Yes. If you drive 96MPH in that same 35MPH speed zone, are you breaking the law? Yes. Which one will get you the most attention? 36 or 96? If you choose to use your commercial radio, your Baofeng, which is Part 90 certified, on the GMRS frequencies then you are violating the law. Do people do it everyday? Absolutely. Is it illegal? Yes. It is illegal to drive 36MPH in a 35MPH speed zone. It is also illegal to drive 96MPH in a 35MPH zone. Can you buy that car that will do 100MPH? Sure you can. Can you buy that radio that will transmit where you shouldn’t be? Yes, you can.

Another example. If the power limit is 4 watts and you are using 5 watts, that is illegal. If the power limit is 4 watts and you are using 100 watts, that is also illegal. Which one will get you the most attention? Do people use these little radios everyday for unauthorized transmissions? Yes. Is it illegal? Yes. So is driving 36MPH in a 35MPH. CB radios are a perfect example. There are people that run power everyday on CB radios. I think the power limit for a CB is 4 watts AM. But some guys run 1000 watts and it’s not uncommon at all for people to run 50 watts. Illegal? Yes. Common? Yes.

If your transmission interferes with someone else’s activity. Example. Their television signal, telephone service, an intercom system between a baby’s crib and a parent’s room. Legal or illegal, you need to stop transmitting and make appropriate adjustments. Here is a case where using too much power, and this is not a joke, you can fry your little girl’s brain. No joke.

Another topic. Amateur radio. On that same list you have there, it’s Part 97. Amateur radio is a different ballgame. I will call it ham radio. If you get your ham radio license, this does not give you the authority or permission to transmit on any band or frequency that is not ham radio. Some ham radio operators are sadly delusional and believe that they can operate on unauthorized frequencies. This is not the case. As your learning curve increases, you will learn that CB frequencies come between two common ham frequencies. Can you use a ham radio to transmit on a CB frequency? Yes, you can. Is it illegal? Yes. Do not kid yourself that you get special privileges with a ham radio license.

One other sensitive topic. If you do choose to get your ham radio license, and you violate any of the above mentioned rules and regulations, you can lose your ham radio license FOREVER. Something to consider. Can you have a ham radio and a CB radio sitting right beside each other? Yes. Can they use the same power supply, coax and antenna? Yes.

Okay. For the brand new guys, a lot of information here today. I use my handheld, my mobile radios and my ham radios everyday. We use them on our little farm here and I use them to communicate 40-50 miles via use of a repeater. Everything that I do is legal. I have my ham radio license and I follow the rules. By the way, that little Baofeng radio is 100% legal on ham frequencies. That’s what I use everyday.

Understand the rules. If you choose to go outside of the rules, that is your choice. If you go a little bit, or a whole lot, that’s your choice. Let me finish on a negative note here. If you mess around on frequencies where you shouldn’t be, let’s say aircraft frequencies, and you think that your government is incompetent and stupid, then you will very quickly find out who is REALLY STUPID. These guys will track you down and shut you down, and rightly so. This is the same government that can send a missile thousands of miles and pinpoint a target to precise accuracy, whether it’s launched from submarine, aircraft or ground based, monitored via satellite by a person sitting at a console in an air conditioned office. Never underestimate the power of the government. They are very good at what they do, and you do not want them breathing down your neck. DON’T BE STUPID.

Next time things will be on a more positive note, so let’s start having fun.

We’ll talk more later.  73,  Frank
 

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

Radios – CB Export/10 Meter – A Re-Post

Hi Everybody, Frank here.

Summertime has certainly come to this part of Oklahoma. It’s hot, it’s humid, and it’s time to be outside. I wanted to share this re-post with you, as it’s one of the most popular articles under Frank’s Radio Communications. It’s a good reminder of the different uses of CB type radios. If you’re not paying attention to what’s going on in the world, then you seriously need to start looking. Now is the time to upgrade your communication gear. Please go back and read some of the other radio posts. If you’ve got food stored, and you’ve got your beans, bandaids and bullets, then it’s seriously time to think about some form of communication. If you would, read this re-post, and you need to get your act together. Take care.

We’ll talk more later, Frank

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Originally published June 27, 2013
 

Hello, Frank here.

I would like to tell you about a CB radio that is not really a CB, but it can be. I don’t understand exactly why these are made or sold, but I would assume it has to do with profit. There is going to be some new jargon on this post, so like always, if you don’t understand everything, wait a little while and it will soak in. 

Export radios, to the best of my knowledge, are what they say they are. These radios are meant to be sold outside of this country – exports. Other countries use different bands and frequencies for their radio communications. Therefore, these radios are easy to modify and can be used for the frequencies and bands in this country as well. Some export radios are programmable via computer which makes it easy to add the CB frequencies. Another option is power capabilities up to 100 watts, 200 watts and more. These radios also tend to be more expensive. Are they legal to use on the CB frequencies? The answer is no. Do people use them on the CB frequencies? The answer is yes. Some of the previous sites I have posted sell export radios. If this is what you are looking for you will probably never have any problems with the FCC unless you are interfering with other forms of transmission. 

10 meter radios are similar in nature to export radios. Almost everything I said above applies to 10 meter radios. Let me explain the difference. A 10 meter radio operates on the amateur radio frequencies or ham radio. You have to have an amateur radio license to use the radio on 10 meters. I will talk more about amateur radio licensing and frequencies in a future post. Okay. Follow me here now. Some of the ham bands are 10 meter, 12 meter, 15 meter and so forth. The CB radio frequencies fall between the 10 and 12 meter ham bands. CB is often called 11 meters. Meters have to do with the length of the frequency signal. But at this time, that is not important. It will be discussed more later.

So. You can buy a 10 meter radio with a small modification or you can program in the CB frequencies with the computer program option if it is available. Let’s clarify something here. A ham radio license does not allow the ham radio operator to operate on 11 meters because CB radios are approved by the FCC to operate on CB frequencies only. Is it legal to operate a 10 meter radio on CB frequencies? The answer is no. Do people use 10 meter radios for CB purposes? The answer is yes. These same dealers mentioned above also carry some of the 10 meter radios. It’s a matter of driving 56 MPH in a 55 MPH zone and driving 95 MPH in a 55 MPH zone. Both are illegal, one will attract a whole lot more attention than the other. 

Can you mount these radios in your car or truck? Sure, you can. If the radio runs higher power, it will come with the appropriate size

power cable. If you need to extend this cable to your battery, use the same size cable or larger. In most cases, you can use the same antenna as any CB radio, unless you are running an exorbitant amount of power. In that case you need to make sure your antenna will handle the power. If you need to tune these, you can do it yourself or you can take it to your local CB shop and they can tune your rig for you.

If you are giving thought to purchasing one of these types of radios, please get one with SSB. Remember, some, but not all of these radios can be used for 10 meter ham radio operation.

If you choose to use this type of radio for a base station, your one amp power supply will not work. A quick review here: P = E x I. P = power or watts, E = voltage, and I = current or amps. Let’s say you are running 200 watts of power. That is your P. Your voltage will be 13.8, that is E. That is 200 divided by 13.8, equals 14.5 amps or I. Don’t forget the rule of 80. This means you will need at least 18 amps just to run this radio. That’s why on the last post it was recommended that you purchase a 30 amp power supply for your home. 

There is something I failed to mention on the last CB post. You cannot take your base station and outside antenna to a CB shop and have it tuned so you will need to do it yourself, or have a competent friend help you. This will involve an SWR meter, and a three foot jumper, which is a short piece of coax with a 259 connector on each end which allows you to put the meter in line between the radio and the antenna. This will allow you to tune your SWR down. Read the FAQ at this site. It will answer most of your questions about SWR. Again, make sure your base station antenna can handle the power you are using. Don’t push any antenna to the maximum, use the rule of 80.

If you can, ground your radio. The radio may or may not have a ground plug on the back, most CB’s don’t. If it doesn’t, slide in a piece of flexible, coated, copper wire about size 12-14, where you attach the screws to mount the radio. This will give you a good, solid ground. In your car, find a screw somewhere connected to metal. In your house, run the ground wire back the same way you brought in your antenna wire and attach it to the three foot copper rod that you placed in the earth. Do you have to ground your radio? No. Will it help clean up some sound issues? Yes. When we talk about ham radios, grounding will be covered in greater detail.

By the way, if you choose to get your ham radio license, you can use these radios to operate on 10 or 12 meter frequencies. Just a little bonus there if you decide to make that switch. 

I know all of this information about the CB radios, export radios and 10 meter radios is a general and broad view. I would encourage you to read some of the earlier posts about laws, regulations, safety, and some of the websites that have FAQ sections about radios and antennas. There is a lot of information about CB radios that is not included here. In future posts we’ll be talking in more detail about power supplies, antennas, coaxial cables, connectors, ham radios, GMRS, FRS and commercial radios.

What I have to say now is a personal observation. The reason I got into radio communications is because someday there may not be the regular types of communications that we have now. When I say regular, I am talking about cell phones, hard-line phones, internet, television, AM/FM radio, etc. A lot of people currently have CB

radios. Some folks approve of the type of traffic on them and some don’t. But if there is a nationwide emergency, CB radios and GMRS will be excellent forms of communication. Most people don’t realize that the two-way communication radios that they have right now are of an excellent quality and can be used during an emergency. Of course, I hope this day never comes. But I believe that the wolf is at the door. I would recommend all families have some type of communications, whether it is two-way or listening only. We will talk more about receive only radios – how to power them with things such as rechargeable batteries, small solar panels or car batteries. This is all part of communications. 

This finishes up my posts on CB’s for now, more will come later. Next I am going to talk about GMRS, FRS, and MURS. 

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

$40.00 Radio

Hello, Frank here.

Hope everybody is well. In my last radio post, when I gave you the new Romanchik Technician manual, I told you that you could get into ham radio for around $40.00. The radio I’m going to talk about is the Baofeng UV-5R Plus. But I’ve also seen that the company is changing it’s name, it is now called Pofung UV-5R Plus. It is the same radio.

This radio is an HT or handy talky. It operates on UHF and VHF. It puts out about 5 watts on VHF and 4 watts on UHF. It comes with a charging cradle, a battery, antenna, manual and occasionally they will have packages that include other assorted gizmos. At the site that is provided, this radio retails for about one penny short of $39.00. 

This radio comes blank, no frequencies programmed into it at all. This radio is not a ham radio, per se. It is a commercial radio. This means the frequencies on UHF and VHF are much wider than your traditional ham radio. Okay, you can program this radio to operate on all of the ham VHF/UHF frequencies. It will transmit simplex, which is radio to radio, or duplex, which is radio to repeater, back to another radio. It will do offset, PL tones, CTCSS and everything that your basic ham radio will do.

Okay. Follow me now. Being a commercial radio, you can also program other frequencies, which include police department, fire department, Wal-Mart, and many other frequencies that you should not transmit on. But, if you do search and rescue and you have the authority and permission to operate on, let’s say, the fire department, then these little radios will perform that function also. They will function on MURS, GMRS/FRS. So, as you can see, they can be handy little radios. They also have a scan feature. But, remember, this is a transceiver that will scan. It is a slow scan. It’s not like some scanners that will do 300 channels per second.

You will need to program this radio yourself. You can do it by hand manually, or you can buy the programming cable for a few dollars more and use the provided downloadable program on your computer. There is also a computer program called Chirp, which is free. There is also a programming system called RT Systems. It is not free, and for about $45.00 to $50.00, you get the programming disc and their programming cable.

There are some things this little radio will not do. It will not cross band repeat, but then most HTs don’t, but some do. You cannot listen on one frequency and transmit on another at the same time, and it does not have the greatest transmit and receive qualities. But it is more than adequate. This is a $40.00 radio, not a $150.00 radio, or $300.00 radio. If you are wanting to get your Technician license and transmit and receive on VHF and UHF, this radio will do the job.

Now, things to consider. If it is pouring down rain outside, then you may not be able to reach that repeater that you can on a nice pretty, sunshiny day. But this is true of all handhelds. If you are inside of a metal building, or inside your car, then you might have trouble reaching that same repeater. But these are standard characteristics of any handy talky. There are things you can do to increase your transmitting range, and I covered these in detail in other posts, but I will mention them briefly here.

If you want to put a mag-mount antenna on your car, with the appropriate adapter you can connect your radio to this antenna. You can attach a handheld microphone, and for power, you can use a battery eliminator. All this does is replace the normal battery in the radio, and it plugs into your 12 volt outlet. So, what you have now is an external antenna, your power is now supplied by your vehicle, and you can use your microphone instead of having to hold the radio up to your face. This will extend your range dramatically. There are many people that use this type of setup. 

But, this article is about a $40.00 radio. The basic radio comes with a battery, an antenna and a way to charge that battery. This is all you need. $15.00 to take your Technician’s test. So, for right around $55.00, you can play with ham radio. Or, you can help search and

rescue. Or, if you really want to show your friends and neighbors how really stupid you are, you can transmit on the police and fire frequencies. Don’t do that. They can find you, and they will. Because if you get on your radio and you interfere with fire department transmissions, and a fireman dies because you were trying to prove how stupid you are, then you might go to jail. Do not do it. Now, if you are a volunteer fireman in little town America, and you have permission to transmit on these frequencies, then good for you. If you don’t, then don’t. You can program the radio to receive only on the frequencies that you shouldn’t be on. 

By the way, this little radio will transmit and receive on the marine band frequencies. You can also receive weather transmissions from the National Weather Service. These are handy, handy radios. They are not illegal, they are 100% legal on the ham frequencies, and they are legal to transmit on any frequency that you have permission. Remember, it is legal to listen to any radio transmission, so you don’t have to worry about getting into trouble listening. 

Go back and read the posts about GMRS and MURS under Frank’s Radio Communications. Pay attention to safety. Safety is always first. These radios don’t put out enough power to do damage. If you want to put one in your car with an added mag-mount, great. If you want to get your

Technician license, all of the information is provided under Frank’s Radio Communications. You’re going to hear people in the ham world criticize these little $40.00 radios. But I know lots and lots of ham radio operators that have these little radios, especially if they’re going to be out doing a dirty job. $40.00, and they work. Some small town fire departments use them, because sometimes fire fighting can be a nasty job. You’d rather lose a $40.00 radio than a $400.00 radio. These little radios are changing the ways people see the world. If you’re interested give one of them a try. The site I provided here shows all of the options sold with these little radios, just scroll down. They also come in pretty colors, too. 

Here’s an example. You know those little GMRS and FRS radios you use during hunting season? These radios will do the same thing. Make sure you read up on the rules and regulations, and of course I’ve got to put this in here, do not transmit on frequencies that you are not licensed to transmit on. Take care.

We’ll talk more later. 73, Frank

Radio Communications Review, Part 1

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