This is a post I previously submitted to John Mosby’s Mountain Guerilla Blog.
The bottom line up front; these are short range radios that one would use in a platoon or squad size element. You could also use them around the farm, house or neighborhood. If you want radio comms beyond that, you need to get a ham license and join a local Ham club to get some good training and advice. And if you do get a ham license, in SHTF, the repeaters stand a good chance of going the way of the cell towers. So then think HF (still requires a Ham license). But that’s for a future article.
Again, the radios listed herein fall within the category of radios that do not currently require a license that entails a formal written test, such as a ham license, to operate. Some require no license, some require a fee (tax) to operate. I will first go into all the lame, techno-babble, crapola that only us commo geeks care about.
These are the bands that you have available:
GMRS – General Mobil Radio Service 462 – 467 MHz UHF FM 5 to 50 Watts, requires a license, $85.00, good for 5 years. Fork over your hard earned money here: http://wireless.fcc.gov/uls/index.htm?job=home
FRS – Family Radio Service 462 to 467 MHz UHF FM 0.5 Watts, no license required if you keep transmissions at 0.5 watt or under.
Now here’s where it can get stupid. If you have a hybrid GMRS/FRS radio and can set the GMRS freqs to operate at or under the 0.5 watt limit, no license is required. Most cheap handhelds are hybrid radios and power adjustable.
MURS – Multi-use Radio Service 151-154 MHz VHF FM 2 Watts. No license required.
MARINE – 156-162 MHz VHF FM 1-25 watts. No license required for recreational boaters. It is illegal to use Marine band radios on land. When SHTF, who cares.
Citizen’s Band (CB) – 26-27 Mhz HF AM 4 watts SSB 12 watts No license required.
Here’s how I break out the proper use of these radios.
Building operations i.e., CQB – UHF radios such as FRS/GMRS. The higher freqs tend to work better in and around structures. If using one of the hybrid FRS/GMRS radios indoors, and you accidentally set GMRS on the high power setting, you will notice that performance is greatly increased. Just sayin’…..accidentally. Yeah,…. that’s the ticket.
Field operations/SUT – VHF radios such as MURS and Marine. VHF will give you a little longer range when operating outdoors. If you don’t mind the ungodly long, non-tactical antenna, you could use CB. However, CB can have major interference issues with any noisy power source i.e. high power lines, neon signs, periods of high sunspot activity (like were are experiencing now), etc
The following list is not all inclusive. These are radios I would choose to use based on the various levels of purchasing power that I might have. Some folks will say that there are cheaper radios that you can buy tons of, and throw them away when they quit. My advice to them is; have at it Mr. Rocket Surgeon, but carry plenty of spares you can get at easily. When your shit is in the wind and you need a radio, that is not the time to discover it got wet when it rained and it shit the bed. Or you were doing IMT and you smashed it. You want it to work…now! If you have to rely on any piece of equipment, get the best you can afford, be it firearms, knives, rucks, etc. Same goes for radios. I have had $100.000.00 SATCOMs go down at critical times. Read Bravo Two Zero for an example of what happens to professionals when comms fail.
My basic criteria in order of importance are:
1. Is it rugged?
2. Is it waterproof/water resistant ? http://www.buytwowayradios.com/blog/2012/07/
3. How long will the batteries last and will it accept both rechargeable and AA or AAA batteries?
4. Is it easy to use, and does it have big buttons for gloved hands?
5. Is it light weight, will it fit in a radio pouch and not get in the way?
6. Does it make farting, beeping sounds, or have display lighting, that can inadvertently be activated, thereupon compromising my patrol?
Now to the red meat boys and girls:
1) I’m so broke I can’t afford a boot to piss in or a window to throw it out of:
Motorola Talkabout MT350R FRS/GMRS Weatherproof Two-Way $65.00 a set.
Motorola Ear Bud with Push to talk mic $10.00 ea
Good, solid radio, so-so ear bud/mic. BTW it’s not weatherproof, it’s IP-67 water resistant, submersible.
2) I’m a working class Schmoe with a wife and six kids, but know I need radios:
Cobra Marine MR-HH425LI-VP GMRS/Marine $135.00 ea with the Cobra GA-EB M2 Ear bud and Compact Microphone $15.00 ea.
Stout little radio, and the only one I’ve found that works on GMRS, FRS & Marine freqs. Very flexible, especially if your working boat ops. I’ve noticed hunters are using the marine freqs in my area and the FCC hasn’t swooped down on them yet. Probably too busy monitoring Janet Jackson in case she has another wardrobe failure on national TV. Waterproof to 1 meter for 30 minutes, selectable power levels, a little complicated to operate and the buttons are a little small. The earbud/mic combo is a flimsy but it’s the only one I’ve found that will work with this radio at this time.
3) I’m willing to make a few sacrifices to have good gear:
Icom IC-F3021/4021-41-DTC FRS/GMRS/MURS/AMATEUR BANDS $250.00 ea with Impact Platinum PBM-1 Bone Induction Mic $80.00
Great, indestructible radio (MIL-STD & IP-54), programmable freqs, adjustable power level, encryptable, lots of accessories, program software & cable available.
Motorola DTR 550 Digital Radio $279.00 ea with Impact Platinum PBM-1 Bone Induction Mic $80.00
Rugged (MIL-STD) 900 Mhz (no license) radio, programmable, freq hopping, text messaging. There might be some interference in built up areas. We discussed this one ad nauseam in my earlier article.
4) Money is not the issue, it’s just choosing between the different choices, although I’m certainly not King Midas, either.
Thales AN/PRC-6809 MBITR (Multiband Inter/Intra Team Radio) Clear (Level III DES Encryption) – Commercial Version of the AN/PRC-148 $7500.00 with Thales Tactical Urban Headset $800.00 http://www.bhigear.com/jtrs-enhanced-mbitr-jem.aspx
The Mac Daddy of all Squad Tactical Radios