Announcing Signal-3 Magazine

signal3 Recent events such as “Net Neutrality” and the use of Cyberwar bots as reported by WRSA had me thinking about “LO-TEK” solutions.  Like CA said, “Got Samizdat?”

Yea, I got it.  And you can get it too.

Starting in May, I’m releasing an old-school paper magazine called “Signal-3″.  It’ll be quarterly in schedule, and delivered in a discreet plain brown manila envelope via USPS First Class Mail, just like the way proper pornography should be sent.

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A Reader Asks: Questions About HT Radios

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.


Been a busy weekend out here.

HF Go-kit seen at Sheridan Hamfest.

  • I’d like to thank the Cloud Peak Radio & Electronics Group for hosting an excellent hamfest, and everyone who showed up and said “Hi!”.  I’d also like to give a shout-out to Big Horn Trading in Sheridan for their excellent book and preparedness gear selection and their hospitality during their event last Saturday.
  • The Events page has been updated with two new entries:

    Gillette Gun Club Gun Show – Gillette, WY
    April 24-26, 2015

    1635 Reata Drive
    I will have copies of the Grid-Down Communications book available for those who wish to buy one with FRNs or silver.  Likewise, anyone who wants to sign up for a course or subscribe to Signal-3 with FRNs or gold/silver coins/bullion can do so at the show.

    Communications Monitoring (RTL-SDR Emphasis) & COMINT/ELINT Collection

    September 12-13, 2015 – Riverton, WY (Fremont County)

    This is a two-day class that covers the Communications Monitoring and and COMINT/ELINT Collection with an emphasis on the RTL-SDR.

    The class consists of a one-day classroom instruction period and a one-day field training exercise  (FTX). The FTX is held *rain or shine*. Dress and equip yourself appropriately.

    This is an intermediate level class. Communications monitoring beginners are advised to take the Basic 3%/Grid-Down Communications Course first, or at least have read and understood the material in the Grid-Down Communications book. Personal communications monitoring equipment/accessories, including a laptop with an RTL-SDR, are required for this class.  RTL-SDRs are available from from Adafruit and other suppliers.

    Registration cost for this course is $225. There is $25 early-bird discount for signing up one month or further in advance. 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.

  • The first issue of Signal-3 is coming along nicely. Still plenty of time to subscribe and receive the first issue.
  • The evaluation continues on the Anytone TERMN-08R radios. A full report will be in the first issue of Signal-3, but for now if you were planning on buying them solely for the FHSS, you will want to reconsider your decision.


Anytone TERMN-08R Handheld Radios: First Impressions

  • The overall physical feel and build quality is pretty good, similar to the Woxun, Puxing, and TYT radios.
  • They come with an earpiece microphone. That’s a good extra.
  • The rubber duck antenna is about 6 inches long, which means the ERP might be better than the stock radiating dummy load stubby-duck antenna many radios come with.
  • Sensitivity seems excellent.
  • Contrary to popular belief, the radios are not certified for Part 95 operation. The cert was denied by the FCC.

Pictures from Tulsa 3%/Grid-Down Commo Course

IMG_20150412_105421205Elecraft KX-3 in the field.

IMG_20150412_112003436 IMG_20150412_112007454

IMG_20150412_112027645Homebrew antenna mast made from wood dowel and PVC pipe. Used to raise center of G5RV antenna in Inverted-V configuration.

IMG_20150412_125019841 IMG_20150412_125026428 IMG_20150412_125043529

A very good book on antennas.


Field station belonging to one of the students. Yaseu FT-817, Icom IC-718, Uniden Home Patrol, Solar Panel, and accessories.


Close-up of AGM battery power source used in station.

Classes remain available for enrollment in Wyoming and Alabama this year. Additionally I am available for private and public group rate classes.

Click here for more information.

See you in class.

Radio Weights

When I first joined the Army, we still used the PRC-77 manpack radios. They weighed just under 14 lbs.  Shortly thereafter we moved to the PRC-119 SINCGARS. The original version weighed about 18 lbs. The current version weighs just under 8 lbs.

The current issue handheld PRC-148 MBITR weighs just under 2 lbs, and the PRC-152 weighs just under 3 lbs.

These weights don’t include spare batteries or accessories.

In comparison, the Yaesu FT-817 weighs 2.5 lbs, an Elecraft KX-3 1.5 lbs, Yaesu FT-60 13 oz, Baofeng UV-5R 7 oz., and Anytone TERMN-8R 10 oz. The Yaesu FT-857 that many have been building into manpack units weighs 4.6 lbs, not including a power source.

A Collins KWM-2A weighs 18 lbs., 3 oz., not including the power supply (add another 7 1/2 lbs).

If you are going to be humping a radio in the field, take its weight, and the weight of its accessories, into consideration.