2-way Hand Held Communication Primer

Below is a guest article from Justus at Centerfire Antenna. If you have an interest in HAM radio’s or 2 way communication – contact these guys – they know their stuff. This article was originally published at ModernSurvivalOnline.com and can be seen HERE.


2-way Primer from Centerfire Antenna

We get many questions from those that are just starting to plan their emergency communications.

Most are simply looking for a way to keep in touch with each other when one or more are out of sight but still nearby.

Many that want or need to use 2-way radios don’t have the desire to get an Amateur Radio License.

And, fortunately, communicating nearby or across town doesn’t require a ham license!

Whatever your specific needs may be, you need to know your options and what you can realistically expect.

“Range” is the probably the most asked question. And the simple answer is that a radios “range” is dependent on terrain.

A radio can “talk” further on flat deserted land than it can in a valley or in a city.

Below is a summary of the most common options for non-hams along with practical distances.

Keep in mind that these are strictly for close-range communications and there is really no reliable

alternative for long range communications without obtaining an Amateur Radio license.

Additionally, since these are considered “Citizen’s Bands” the odds are good that you and your group

will not be the only ones using them.


1) CB:

CB radios are most likely to be the least expensive option for a group to set-up and use.

Radios and accessories are very common and can be found at truck stops and garage sales.

FCC regulations:

No license required.

40 specific frequencies between 26.900 and 27.400 MHz.

4 watts maximum output.

Base,mobile and handheld stations allowed.

Amplifiers not allowed.

Repeaters not allowed

Side Band OK

Realistic range up to 10 miles with an elevated antenna


2) FRS (Family Radio Service)

This service is limited to 1/2 watt output.

It uses frequencies in the UHF band near 462 MHz.

There used to be several brands of radios that were FRS only.

Nowadays, it’s hard to find an FRS-only radio.

They are GMRS radios that share some of their frequencies with FRS and

automatically reduce power when using an FRS frequency (or channel)

All FRS radios are handheld.

FCC regulations:

No license required.

1/2 watt maximum

External antennas not allowed

Amplifiers not allowed

Repeaters not allowed

Realistic range up to 1/2 mile.


3) GMRS General Mobile Radio Service

This service picks up where FRS leaves off.

GMRS uses UHF frequencies near 462 MHz and 467 MHz

There are 2 classes of GMRS radio:

a) Consumer grade handhelds like Midland, Uniden and Cobra.

Most of these radios exaggerate their range and power.

Typically, the best consumer radio is actually pushing about 3 watts

and has a realistic range of about 2 miles in most environments.

b) Commercial grade equipment from Rittron, Vertex, Icom etc.

This equipment is built using the same quality chassis as ham and

public service equipment.

Very good range, depending on the equipment and terrain.

FCC regs:

A “No Test” license is required. ($80 for 5 years)

Up to 50 watts allowed

External antenna OK

Base, mobile or handheld OK

Repeater OK on specific frequencies


4) MURS Multi-Use Radio Service

This is a low-power service that uses 5 specific frequencies in the VHF band near 150 MHz.

It is extremely popular due to the no-license feature.

FCC regs:

No license required.

2 watts maximum

External antenna OK

Handheld, mobile or base station OK

No repeaters

Realistic range: 1 mile with handhelds, 5-8 miles with an elevated antenna.


The FCC regulations shown above are to be used as a general guideline so it’s best to research before you buy.

There have been several changes made concerning radio equipment performance in the last decade.

Stay away from older radios and radios that have been modified.

Don’t just buy a radio and put it on the shelf, there’s more to it than that.

It’s best to check and use your “system” as often as possible to be sure it will function when it’s really needed.

Monthly practice drills are ideal, especially with base radios. You’ll be able to find any weather related problems.

It may be tempting to purchase a radio system that is illegally modified or intended to be used by a licensed user or business.

There’s no way to practice with that type of equipment since:

a) You’re not licensed to use it.

b) You may be seriously interrupting lawful communications every time you key the microphone.

c) You WILL get a fine when they find out where the interference is coming from.


Justus / Centerfire Antenna


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