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.
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
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.
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.
Hello. Great questions, and I can see some thought has gone into the issue.
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.
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.
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.
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- 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.
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
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
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
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.
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.
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!
You're welcome for the review of the grinder, but please do your own research.
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.
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
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.
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 2x4 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.
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.
Originally posted July 5, 2013
Radio - GMRS, FRS & MURS
Hello, Frank here.
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.
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?
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.
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
So much for legal. From here on out, I am just going to refer to these radios as GMRS.
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
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.
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.
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