Archive for February, 2014

This is in reply to a recent comment by a fellow Paratrooper bud of mine.

Rakkasan, Good job on the ICOM R-6 scanner purchase. Here’s the deal. The scanner will have to be programmed using the supplied book. And what you want to listen to is up to you. We use our R-20 to listen to “Bubba” in our A.O. That means the gmrs/frs/cb/marine/murs radios that “Bubba” can easily get his hands on and use around our retreat. So I would concentrate on programming those frequencies first. They can be found on the internet. The scanner is tiny enough that you can pack it in your gear and monitor while at home, on the move or while laid up in the patrol base (hint, hint). Sort of like having your own SOT-A. Believe me, those scanners will bust right through the so called “privacy settings” on those radios. But they can’t pick up the Motorola DTR.

You can also program it to listen to some local public service (police, rescue, fire, etc). First you have to get their frequencies and the easiest way is to subscribe to Radio Reference online. If your local public service are using the new digital or trunked systems, the R-6 will not receive them. My group uses the Uniden HomePatrol for that because it’s a lot easier to program for that specific use, it constantly updates and will monitor trunked and other new systems. With the HomePatrol you plug in the Zip Code and BAM!, your listening.

If you find hand programming your ICOM scanner a pain in your fourth point-of-contact, then do like I do and buy the BUTEL ARC 6 software for the R-6 or R-20. You will also need a cable to connect your computer to the radio. Either the ICOM OPC-478 cable for a RS-232 port on your computer or the ICOM OPC-478UC cable for the USB port on your computer. Most computers have the USB port. For my money, the software is the way to go.

The whip supplied with the scanner is OK on some bands and not so good on others. So, a lot of radio folks like to attach home made or purchased antennas in order to extend the range of reception or intercept. The cable you were asking about is to connect the radio to a wire antenna to do just that. One end of the cable will attach to the plug when the short whip (or as we called them the “donkey dick”) on the radio is unscrewed. The plug on the radio under the whip is an “SMA” type. One side of the cable screws onto it. The other side of the cable is the PL-259 type connector. You can screw it to any antenna that has a SO-259 connector. (PL stands for plug, SO stands for socket). SMA is listed as male or female. SO/PL-259 connectors are usually attached to larger diameter coaxial cables mostly used for short wave or Ham radios.

If you want to use a lighter, thinner type of cable, then instead of the SMA / PL-259 cable, pick up the SMA / BNC adapter for a few bucks at You will see them listed on the ICOM R-6 page. Go to Radio Shack, purchase a few feet of RG-58 coax with BNC ends attached, cut off one end and solder a 10′ piece of thin black plastic coated 18 to 22 gauge wire to the center conductor (make sure you don’t let the outer braid touch the center wire, strip the braid back an inch or so then tape the joint up or put heat shrink over it). Attach the other end (with the uncut connector) to the radio and scan away. If the radio reception is overloaded, start cutting the wire (not the coax) shorter until the reception is reasonable. If you cut it too short, start over. Here’s what I would do; I would run the short whip when on the move, scanner attached to my plate carrier or vest in a MOLLE pouch with the ear bud in one ear, then when we stop for a long break or in the patrol base, pull the whip, attach the wire antenna and throw the wire up in a tree or bush or carry a tack with the antenna and pin the free running end of the antenna to a tree trunk as high as I can reach. That makes it easy to pull down and stow if you have to bug out. Somebody in the patrol should be monitoring at all times. We want to know what “Bubba” is doing around us.

Now that your totally confused, here’s yet another option; for about $20.00 you can purchase a ready-made dual band flexible antenna. It is the OPEK HR-603VU-SMA VHF UHF DUAL BAND FLEXIBLE HANDHELD PORTABLE HAM ANTENNA w/SMA. Screw it to the scanner and go to town. The whip is flexible enough to bend over and tuck under a MOLLE loop on your ruck when on the move. When you stop moving, extend the whip up for better reception. The down side is if you are in an area with a lot of traffic it might be too sensitive.

Better yet, enroll in one of Sparks31’s communications courses while you still can and learn first hand from a master.



The Frequency Spectrum

Posted: 02/08/2014 in Communications

A commenter recently posted a question regarding a specific handheld scanner. While replying, I remembered a site that displays all US frequency allocations in chart format. Here is the link: Save it to PDF for future reference.