One of our readers asked:
I have been reading on your website as well as some other places about radios, and unfortunately not only am I very inexperienced with this sort of thing, but a lot of the electronics techni-jargon just doesn’t sync up with my brain. So you could say I know enough to be dangerous to my wallet, but not to make a truly informed decision.
Therefore, I have a few questions for you in regards to a HT squad-level radio and maybe you can help clear some things up for me.
As stated I’m looking for a radio to use at the squad level, as well as for potentially longer distance comms. I’ve had more than enough experience with the usual 2-mile cobra/midland/etc walkie talkies, and they all sucked, especially once you get a couple hills between you, so I want something better.
The HT HAM style stuff like the ubiquitous Baofeng UV-5R is what’s in mind here. I’ve done a good bit of research on brand and quality- enough to convince me NOT to get a baofeng (haha) and decided on a Yaesu, as they seem to get unilaterally good reviews. I’m willing to spend a little extra for a quality product… Although I’m not made of money.
The two radios I am trying to decide between are the FT-60R and VX-6R
Bearing in mind this being a “field use” radio I saw that the VX was rated submersible with a metal case, so I’m leaning hard toward that one. Because sometimes you fall into water… some of us more than others… haha
As far as money, the VX is about the limit of what I’d be looking to spend.
Now, the questions;
1) Is there any reason I should NOT get the VX over the FT?
2) Dual band versus tri-band. Another topic that’s sailing over my head, if I have a tri-band and another person has the dual band, they’re still compatible right? I mean a frequency is a frequency and if both radios are tuned to that frequency all is well?
The way I’m understanding it, dual band vs tri band just means I can switch between three frequencies with the tri band versus two with the dual.
Or does it also give it more frequency ranges to transmit on as well (ie, 3 freq ranges vs 2 with a dual band)?
3)Here’s another very dumb question- can either of the Yaesu’s here be used on a mode/frequency that’s *not*HAM?
The background to this question is, I know of a lot of guys that use the BF UV-5Rs in various sporting uses. I KNOW half these guys can’t possibly have a HAM license, therefore I’m assuming the radios have other modes/freqs to transmit on? Do these have a GMRS or MURS mode or something?
The reason I ask is I do not have a HAM license yet, and as it may be a while before/if that happens I don’t want to have screwed myself buying a totally unusable radio.
OK. Quite a bit to digest here, but let’s take the questions one at a time.
1. No reason why you should not get the VX-6R over the FT-60. Both are good ham HTs, but there are some alternatives in the same price range as the VX-6R that you might want to consider.
2. Yes, they are usually comparable, but you have to look at the radio’s spec sheet and see what bands they cover. 99% of the time “dual-band” means 2m and 70cm. Tri-band will include both 2m & 70cm, as well as another band like 6m or 1.25m. In the VX-6R’s case, it’s 2m, 70cm, and 1.25m.
3. Yes, you can modify the Yaesu ham HTs to transmit outside the ham bands. This is to accommodate hams who volunteer for MARS (Military Affiliate Radio Service) and operate on MARS frequencies just above and below the ham bands. CAP (Civil Air Patrol) radio operators used to do the same thing before new NTIA regulations decertified the use of ham gear on CAP frequencies (and pissed off a lot of hams who were in CAP).
Yaesu ham HTs are not certified for use outside the ham bands or MARS frequencies. That means they are technically not legal on LMR, MURS, FRS, or GMRS frequencies. Yes, people do use them outside the ham bands. Yes, enforcement is non-existent for the most part. Yes, certain hamsexy types on some of the prepper forums get all bent out of shape about this type of thing. It’s not a topic of discussion here because I have better things to talk about.
Now some of the Chicom HTs are certified for Part 90 use, which are the LMR bands (land mobile radio – public safety and business services). That doesn’t make them Part 95 certified, which is MURS, FRS, and GMRS. Yes, people do use them on those bands. Yes, enforcement is non-existent for the most part. Yes, certain hamsexy types on some of the prepper forums get all bent out of shape about this type of thing. It’s not a topic of discussion here because I have better things to talk about.
Now that I’ve talked about all that, as a ham HT the VX-6R is a pretty good piece of kit. However, let me throw out two alternatives in the same price range:
Motorola RMM2050 – Milspec MURS Radio that is actually Part 95 certified. You may also want to look for the recently discontinued Motorola RDM2080.
Motorola DTR series – Milspec spread-spectrum radio operating in the license-free 902-928 MHz. Part 15 band. The DTR-550 and DTR-650 are the models to look for.
The potential advantages of these radios over the VX-6R are:
1. They are much more simple in operation.
2. They do not require a ham license.
3. They are properly certified for their respective bands.
The MURS radios will give you interoperability with other groups that run MURS. The DTR radios offer better privacy with your comms.
The fact is that the VX-6R, Motorola MURS, and Motorola DTR radios are all good choices. One just needs to decide where they want to operate, and standardize on a choice for their group. Then get on the air and practice.