CB/FRS radio question

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There are three types of non-HAM radios:

CB's, FRS's, and a Professional UHF/VHF model sold by Motorola. Do any of these three types of radios share any frequencies in common (e.g. can they talk to one another)? I'm leaning towards FRS's for local defense within 1-2 miles, but the professional Motorola's have much more power and range.


-- Bob (janebob99@aol.com), September 29, 1999


Unless you're on the Great Plains I wouldn't depend upon the FRS for 1 to 2 miles. With a max. power FRS we only got up to 1/2 mile in flat wooded country. The 2 miles max. quoted is under _ideal_ conditions. I have heard that CBs have a little better range.

But, like everything else, test it before depending on it (well, bulletproof vests are an exception ;-)--and have a Plan B even if it's just an air horn.

(3 blasts = international distress signal, you can agree that 2 = "come here" and 1 = "acknowledge")



- Bulletproof Vests for Law-Abiding Civilians -

888-374-7029 * 512-647-7147 * vests@bigfoot.com


-- CONCEALABLE BODY ARMOR (vests@bigfoot.com), September 29, 1999.

GMRS (General Mobile Radio Service) shares the first 7 FRS channels, and adds several other GMRS-only channels.

In a nutshell: the shared channels are limited to 5 watts, 20 foot antenna height. The GMRS-only channels can go to 50 watts, no height restrictions, and can use repeaters.

Probably the best GMRS resource is Doug's Magazine and BBS. The BBS is here, and the magazine is here.

BTW, until about 6 months ago, getting a GMRS license was a major PITA. Now, it's *very* easy. You only need to fill out a couple of pages of name, address, and similar stuff, and if you fill out the temporary license form (and keep it on hand), you can be on the air the day you fill out your application.

(Prior to the recent license reform, you had to detail the number of radios you wanted to use, the make, model, and power of each, the location of each transmitter and antenna, and lots of other nit details (including precise lat/long coordinates!), plus, you could only license *two* channels. Now, you supply *no* technical info, and your license is good for *all* channel operation. And, whereas before, family members were covered so long as they lived under your roof, they're now covered wherever they live.)

-- Ron Schwarz (rs@clubvb.com.delete.this), September 30, 1999.


I own both FRS & CB's (handheld). I have found that the FRS gets better range than the CB's. The terrain here is flat with spotted woods - heavy woods. With the CB's I barely get 1 1/2 mile range. With the FRS I've gotten clear reception at 2 miles through spotted woods.

I believe that the distance depends on the quality of radio. I originally purchased a couple of Ranger brand radios ($35 each) and the reception was very static at 1 mile and non existant at 1 1/2 miles. I returned them to Walmart and bought a pair of Motorola FR50's (about $50 each). The reception was much better. At 1 1/2 miles the reception started going from clear to somewhat static (it never went away totally). When I stopped at 2 miles it was very clear. I'm sure I could have gone further and still recieve a clear signal but didn't feel it was necessary as I was very satisfied.

One of the benefits of the FRS is they only use 3 or 4 AA or AAA batteries (compared to 8 - 10 for the CB's) and the average life of the batteries is about 30 hours of online time with 3 hours of talk time (the Motorola FR50's use 3 AA's).

I plan to use the FRS for field to base and the CB's for communicating with other CB'ers while in the field since they are more common (I also have a mobile CB with sideband set up as a base).

BTW, Motorola makes a FRS called "Talkabout Distance" with greater range (they claim 5 miles) if you are willing to spend about $100 more.

Hope this helps.

-- NokternL (nokternl@anywhereusa.com), September 30, 1999.

The Talkabout Distance is a GMRS radio, not FRS, and needs a license. It's also limited in that it cannot use a repeater.

-- Ron Schwarz (rs@clubvb.com.delete.this), September 30, 1999.

I need some clarification, please. Does FRS stand for Family Radio Service? We bought some FRS radios and were so unhappy with them that we sent them back. (We had hoped to communicate with relatives living about a mile and a half away. They didn't do the job.) I would still like to have the ability to listen to ham or CB transmissions nearby, since I hope locals will be patrolling the area, watching for invaders from a nearby city. Are you saying that FRS radios could pick up such transmissions? On what channel? The radios we had didn't seem to pick up anything but each other, and then not very well.

-- Pearlie Sweetcake (storestuff@home.now), September 30, 1999.

A mile and a half should be do-able, *if* you're both outside, and there's no major obstructions to the line-of-sight. Yes, FRS = "Family Radio Service". It's designed for reliable *short* range communications, and it serves that purpose very well.

If you want to listen to ham or CB transmissions, you'll need a receiver that receives the bands you want to hear. Hams can transmit over such a wide range of frequencies that there's no one receiver that can listen to them all.

As far as the difficulties with listening to *others* with FRS, that's one of the reasons people buy them. When you're shopping, or camping, or driving down the road in a "caravan", you want to talk with *your* group, not listen to a bunch of "breakerbreaker goodbuddy" nonsense.

If you want greater range, with some shared channels with FRS, you should look at GMRS. But remember, FRS and GMRS are UHF services, which means line-of-sight. That, in turn, means that your range is determined more by antenna height than it is by power. A 2 watt GMRS handheld radio will only provide a marginal increase in range over a half watt FRS radio, given identical conditions.

If on the other hand, you've got a base station with a decent antenna, or access to a repeater, you'll have *much* better range.

-- Ron Schwarz (rs@clubvb.com.delete.this), September 30, 1999.

Thanks Ron.

-- Pearlie Sweetcake (storestuff@home.now), September 30, 1999.

Ok, my question/suggestion is this: What if the grid goes down from y2k, solar flares, nuclear blasts, etc., and ya happen to get whatever you have for communication up and running on some sort of battery. (In my case it is a CB base station.) Shouldn't there be some agreed upon channel for people to monitor for news from other places? I keep thinking about the guy in the "Postman" who kept monitoring dead air. Wouldn't it be nice if there was ONE channel he could monitor so he was sure he didn't miss a transmission just because they were on another channel? Would that natural channel be 9 0r 19 on the CB? What about sideband?

-- marsh (armstrng@sisqtel.net), September 30, 1999.

We've tested FRS radios (Motorola) true line of sight at over 10 miles, but that was with nothing, not even a leaf in the way. Other folks have gotten much much farther. My Motorola FRS radios are pretty reliable at 1.5 to 2 miles in the neighborhood but I made a buy of VHF surplus Highway Patrol handhelds (5 watt) that will work very well up and down our canyon (according to a friend, a state radio tech who's setting them up and programming them). If you live in a very hilly area VHF (around 150mhz) is much better than UHF (about 450mhz) which FRS are. Of course being a licensed Ham I have much better radios and access to repeaters and autopatch (telephone) links. If you were really serious about emergency commo I'd suggest ham radios (50 watt VHF/2-Meter mobile units...about $200 per) and getting a license...it's not that difficult. I'd also (and do) want to have a good quality scanner so I could find out what the emergency professionals (I resemble that remark :@) are up to.


-- Don Kulha (dkulha@vom.com), September 30, 1999.

There are many more CBer's out there than FSR, being that the people in our preparedness group live up to 24 miles away, we elected for the CB type. Hand held CB's just have a short range and can be used mainly about the town at best. If the hand helds are setup with an external antenna mounted on the roof at the highest hill in town, you could reach father. Mobil and base station CB's offer the best distance. Our group is tuned to channels 30 - 35. We have a set of words to shorten and privatize our converstations. Time on the channel is limited to five mins max. Each one of us has a means to charge our battery. There are over eight families and other individuals. Two people in our group are Hams. They will handle state-to-state communications and relay back to us. They have made and setup contacts with others for us in other states. Timing is everything. Best type of time to reach people is the wee hours in the morning.

Also, do you have a sump pump? Does it have a 12v backup? If not, get a hand pump or a 12v bilge pump from your local Marine store or Wal-Mart.

Joe Martin -- Buffalo, Ny

-- Joe Martin (nospam@nospam.com), October 01, 1999.

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