Class Enrollment For Connecticut Ends This Weekend


We are two weeks out from the Waterbury, CT 3%/Grid-Down Communications Class. This will be the last class in the Northeast.  If you are interested in attending, please sign up by the end of this weekend.

III%er Communications Course

The class will revolve around the basics of low power/qrp/covert operation with low-profile/improvised antennas, and communications monitoring focused for VHF/UHF COMINT. It will consist of  classroom instruction and a field training exercise  (FTX). The FTX will be held *rain or shine*. Dress and equip yourself appropriately. It is strongly advised that the attendee have at least a general class ham license, as HF operation will be involved. You will ALSO receive a copy of my book “Grid-Down Communications.”


Registration cost for this course is $175. A non-refundable deposit of $50 is required to reserve a slot. Course fees are non-refundable, but if you’ve paid and can’t make it for whatever reason you can take a later course or have someone take the course in your stead. If the course gets cancelled by me, you get a full refund by whatever means you paid (Paypal or MO). Hotel, travel, and meal arrangements/expenses are the responsibility of the course attendee.

Click here to pay via Paypal for Sparks31 Classes in Connecticut and Oklahoma.

If paying via MO, please send me an email for my new mailing address.

If you have any questions, email

As Seen At Wyoming & Wisconsin Classes: Antenna Analyzers

Antenna analyzers are useful for adjusting and tweaking antenna systems for the best match at the frequency you are operating at.  Z-Man and I showed the models we use at the classes in Wisconsin and Wyoming.  They are different from an SWR meter as they don’t require you to key up your radio into an unknown antenna system, and risk blowing up the transmit final amplifier in your rig.  If you are working with improvised and field expedient antennas, your commo section needs one of these.

This is the latest version of the classic, reliable MFJ-269 that I use.  The ‘269 has been around since forever and a day.  A little on the big side by today’s standards, but gets the job done.  MFJ sells it for $300. You can get it new at Gigaparts for $270, and I’ve seen them in the ~$200 range at hamfests.  A good choice.

Z-Man’s implement of choice is the newer Youkits FG-01.  It sells for $270 new.  It is a much smaller unit, but only goes up to 60 MHz. versus the MFJ’s top end of 230 MHz.  This is also a good piece of kit.


AAR: Sparks31 – Grid Down Comms – Western Wyoming – 6/7 Sept

Originally posted on Western Rifle Shooters Association:

From one of the students:

Grid Down Commo: Rock Springs Wy 6-7 Sep 2014

Instructors: Sparks31 and Z-man (11 combat tours in OEF/OIF)

Students: 11 – Preppers with various degrees of experience and commitment. Lot of helpful student expertise in one-on-one discussions. Many with military experience. Mr AMRRON provided a useful one-hour briefing on AMRRON and the SOI.

WX: Cloudy 70 degrees

TD1 – Saturday – Classroom

TD2 – Field Training Exercise – BLM Land 30 minutes south of Rock Springs

Training material – Grid Down Communcations Volume 1 – course followed book in almost page order.

Mission: Assist the student in understanding the grid down environment from a commo standpoint and developing the expertise to train, organize, and equip a TOC.

Background: Prior to attending the course, I read the existing AARs, Sparks31 blog, AMRRON, and many other sources. Was looking for a formulaic solution, buy x, buy y…

View original 731 more words

More on Squad Radios

There are a few different alternatives to the standard VHF/UHF HT that many of you are running as a squad radio. Like everything else, it’s up to you to do your research and figure out what would work best for you.  What works best in Wyoming may not be what works best in Connecticut, despite them being on the same latitude.

Instead of initially looking at specific models, you should look at what frequency/band would work best for you.  Now regardless of the band, you can expect a couple miles range maximum depending on terrain from a VHF/UHF HT with a stock “rubber duck” antenna.  However, when used with supplemental gain-type antennas you may be able to get out much further.  Also, some bands are more suitable for different types of terrain.

  • Six Meters/50-54 MHz./VHF Low-Band – This is an excellent rural/wilderness band, although the antennas are rather long compared to other bands, with a 1/4 wavelength being 4 1/2 feet long.  Six meters is operable with surplus military VHF tactical radios such as the PRC-25/77 and PRC-68.  A 10-50 watt base station with a good antenna will suffice for local and possible regional (depending on distance) comms, and will reach out even further when the band opens.  Many of the higher-end ham HTs cover this band, which offer interoperability with users on other frequencies.

ah-50Shown here is the excellent Cherokee AH-50 6 Meter HT. This radio is discontinued, but available used for under $100. It is rugged and simple to use, both important considerations for a squad-radio.

  • Two Meters/144-148 MHz./VHF-High Band – This is the standard squad radio ham band, and considered a good suburban band.  It’s performance in rural/wilderness areas is adequate to good depending on the terrain.  Radios are commonly available, and most radios can be freeband modded to allow WROL operation on adjoining MURS frequencies.  90% of all multiband radios cover this band. If you don’t use this band for intra-squad use, you should at least have the capability handy for interoperability.
  • 1.5 Meters/222-225 MHz./VHF-High Band – This is traditionally not a very popular band, which makes it very useful for those of you looking for a quiet place to operate.  Recently more equipment has become available for this band.  Its characteristics are very close to two meters.  Many police scanners don’t cover this band, which makes it a little more private than other bands.

tyt_th-uv3r_flatTYT is one of the better brands of Chinese HTs.  This palm-sized TYT TH-UV3R is a dual-band radio covering both 2 meters and 1.25 Meters with excellent freeband frequency expansion range for WROL use.

  • 70 Centimeters/420-450 MHz./UHF Band – This is the second most popular squad-radio band behind 2 Meters.  Most dual-band HTs cover 2M/70CM.  This band works best in urban terrain.  Freeband modded radios will offer WROL interoperability with GMRS and FRS radios.

One very useful feature that many of the China HTs feature is single-band inversion audio frequency scrambling.  If you have scanned the VHF/UHF bands and heard Donald Duck sounding audio, you’ve encountered inversion scrambling.  White not a high-security form of encryption, it still offers a little more privacy than you would normally have.  While you can’t legally run encryption on the ham bands or GMRS, it has not been specifically disallowed on FRS or GMRS.  Once we enter a period of WROL however…

ft817_radio_in_pouchProbably the nicest multi-purpose squad radio is the Yaesu FT-817, shown here with an HF antenna tuner in a US GI MOLLE radio bag. In addition to the HF bands it covers 6 Meters, 2 Meters, and 70 cm with FM, CW, and sideband modes. Significantly bigger than that TYT handheld, but still smaller and lighter than most HF-UHF rigs and much more versatile.



There are still a couple slots available for all classes.  Click here for more information.

If you live East of the Mississippi and North of The Mason/Dixon line, and are interested in a local class, the October 4-5th. Waterbury, CT class is the last class I will be holding in the Northeast due to my relocation to the American Redoubt.

After the December class in Buckholts Texas, classes will be on hold until Summer, 2015 at the earliest and limited to locations in The American Redoubt, assuming things hold together that long.  This applies to both my regular scheduled classes and group rate classes.


GuerrillaComm: Syntor X9000

I mentioned GuerrillaComm a little while back.  He puts out good material.

The only Syntor X9000 I would consider is a VHF-Low Band (30-54 MHz.) model.  With the modified HamSyn RSS, you can get a nominal 100 watts FM from 27-54 MHz.  However as GuerrillaComm mentioned on the blog, programming the radios with newer computer hardware is fraught with difficulty.  Also, a lot of those old Syntors have seen better days and may not be operating to spec.

If I happened to come across a free Low Band Syntor, I wouldn’t turn my nose up at it, but there are more modern frequency-agile radios that will do the same thing, albeit not at 100 watts.

tyt_mobileThe 50 watt quad-band TYT TH-9800 could be a contender. I mentioned this radio in a previous post, and the extended TX/RX coverage on the radio was nice, although the power output does drop the further “out of band” you go. Milsurp tactical radios of the PRC-77 and VRC-46 variety run 30-75 MHz., but they are limited to 50 KHz. steps and run a little more deviation than your standard low-band land mobile radio.  Many “10 Meter” radios can run from 25 to 30 or 32 MHz.

There are a lot of choices out there.  You just have to learn as much as you can so you can make an educated decision.


Wyoming and Wisconsin Class Updates


  • I received word that there are only two class slots left for the class in Horicon, Wisconsin on September 13th-14th.  Sign-up information is at If you are interested in this class, I would act on it, quickly
  • Today is the last day to take advantage of the Early-Bird rate for the Rock Springs, Wyoming Class on September 6th-7th. You can click here to pay via Paypal, If you wish to pay via more old-school methods, please make sure your envelope is postmarked by Monday, 8/18.  Send your Money Order to:
    Homestead Design Works
    PO Box 96
    Plymouth, CT 06782
    Please send me an email <> letting me know it’s on the way.

Those of you who have signed up for the Wyoming class will receive an email this evening with the specifics.  If you have not received an email from me by tomorrow, please  email <> me.

Discount hotel rooms are still available at:

Best Western, Outlaw Inn
1630 Elk Street
Rock Springs Wyoming 82901

phone number 307-362-6623
fax number 307-362-2633
Reservations only 888-688-5296

Their price is normally $129 per night for a single. They have discounted for the class a price of $88 plus tax.

They must reference Signal Corps to get the discount for the 5th, 6th and the 7th if need be of September.

See you in Class.