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Recently in Articles Category

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December 14, 2017

Two new Wouxun mobile radios have lower prices

kg-uvr5.jpgWouxun mobile radios are known for delivering good performance at a fair price. Two models in particular stand out in this category, the popular UHF/VHF dual band KG-UV920P-A and its powerful quad band cousin, the KG-UV950P. A little while back, TYT responded with its own mobiles, the TH-7800 and TH-9800, and at very competitive prices. Now, Wouxun is firing back with the introduction of two new models with aggressively lower price points, the KG-UVR5 and KG-UV980H.

If these new models look and seem familiar, it's because they are. In fact, they are the same radios, but rebranded with the frequencies limited to only the amateur radio bands. Wouxun The KG-UVR5 is the lower priced dual band KG-UV920P and the KG-UV980H is the lower priced quad band KG-UV950P.

What Wouxun did was very simple. They took the dual band KG-UV920P, re-labeled it the KG-UVR5, limited the frequencies to the 2 meter (144-148MHz) VHF and 70cm (420-450MHz) UHF ham bands right out of the box, and dropped the price by thirty bucks.

kg-uv980h.jpgThen they did the very same thing with the quad band model. They re-labeled it the KG-UV980H and limited it to the ham bands. It's the same radio as the KG-UV950P, but out of the box it's limited to the 2 meter, 6 meter, 10 meter and 70cm ham frequencies. They reduced the price accordingly.

Yeah, it seems odd, but considering the features, that's a huge deal for a thirty dollar price reduction. Thirty dollars? That's a twenty percent discount. It's a significant drop in price for merely locking down the transceivers to stay only within those frequencies the hams should be using anyway.

The KG-UV920P-A and KG-UV950P are popular models used by both amateurs and businesses worldwide. If you're a company in a country that uses either of these models for business use, it's business as usual with these radios. However, if you're a ham who needs one of these models but needs to save a few dollars more, the KG-UVR5 and KG-UV980H are made just for you.

Buy Two Way Radios is an authorized Wouxun dealer.

December 12, 2017

When winter weather arrives, will you be ready?

Blizzard1_-_NOAA.jpgNational Weather Service Forecast Office Goodland KS. Photo: Brad Schick, NWS.

When we talk about emergency weather preparedness, the discussion often refers to spring storms, National Hurricane Preparedness Week and the annual hurricane season. However, severe weather events aren't limited to the warmer seasons. Severe weather can happen anytime, including and especially during winter. Just because the monsoon season is over doesn't mean we can let our guard down. A blizzard may be just around the corner. So here's another variation on the same old question. When winter weather arrives, will you be ready?

Snow and ice storms aren't mere annoyances. They can be dangerous, destructive and devastating. Severe winter storms can create power outages, communication disruptions, and road hazards. They can make streets impassable, air travel impossible and any outdoor activity extremely limited. In some situations they can leave people immobile, trapping them for days indoors. It's not over when it's over, either. When the snow and ice begin to melt, the flooding begins.

Do you have an emergency preparedness kit? If not, the time to build it is now. The Department of Homeland Security created an entire web site to help you build your own emergency preparedness kit. Called ready.gov, this site gives you more than just a simple checklist of items to have in case of an emergency. It provides valuable information about many types of disasters and helps you develop an emergency plan for survival. Sure, It takes some effort now, but it can save you a lot of trouble later, and possibly even save lives.

Build A Kit lists 13 essential items you need to assemble a basic disaster kit. The most important item on this list, without question, is water. The second item is food. The number 3 item on this list is a radio.

A radio is a crucial item to have in a weather emergency, after food and water of course, because it is a basic, tried and true form of communication, a technology proven time and again to be indispensible in a natural disaster or severe weather event. It can serve as an early warning system before a disaster, providing advance notice of an impending event so you can gain precious time to evacuate or prepare. Afterwards, when the power is out and other forms of communication are down, a radio can be a lifeline to the outside world, to keep you informed of relief efforts as well as potentially hazardous or threatening post-storm situations around you.

There are many emergency and weather radios on the market, and they vary in features, form, and function. While their primary purpose is generally the same, these radios are not equal. Some are intended for use in the home or office, some outdoors. Some are base stations, others are mobile or even handheld. Each is designed for a specific type of operating environment, scenario or user. In other words, the emergency radio isn't for purchase as an after thought. It's a choice, based on your requirements, environment, budget and needs.

At Buy Two Way Radios, we understand the many choices and options available. This is why we recently updated our Emergency Weather Radio Comparison Guide for 2017. This handy, one page guide takes all emergency and weather radios currently listed on our web site and compares their key features on a simple chart for quick and easy reference at a glance. Best of all, there is no price for this portable document. The Emergency Weather Radio Comparison Guide 2017 is FREE to download and print for your personal perusal and reference.

Here is a quick overview of some popular features included with the weather radios listed on the chart and currently available on our site.

Emergency Weather Radio Comparison Chart 2017

Model Weather
Alerts
SAME Clock AM/FM
Radio
Display USB Backup
Power
Midland HH50
Midland HH54VP
Midland EX37VP
Midland ER210
Midland ER310
Midland WR-120
Midland WR400
Motorola MWR839

For more information about choosing an emergency weather radio, listen to The Two Way Radio Show Episode 13 - Emergency and Weather Radios.

December 7, 2017

Midland BizTalk BR200 Default Frequencies

Midland-BizTalk-BR200.jpg Midland is well known and respected for its line of FRS/GMRS, CB and emergency weather radios. The company recently expanded into the business communications market as well, with the introduction of its first portable handheld onsite business two way radio, the Midland BizTalk BR200.

The BR200 supports 56 UHF business frequencies and has 16 channels, some of which are pre-programmed with frequencies and codes most commonly used by some of the other onsite business radios, most notably the extremely popular CLS Series radios from Motorola and the Kenwood PKT-23.

Here is a list of Midland BizTalk channel numbers with the default frequencies and privacy codes assigned to them out of the box.

Midland BizTalk Business Two Way Radio Default Frequencies
Model Channel Freq. No. Frequency Code
BR200
1 2 464.5500 67.0
2 8 467.9250 67.0
3 5 467.8500 67.0
4 6 467.8750 67.0
5 2 464.5500 82.5
6 8 467.9250 82.5
7 5 467.8500 82.5
8 6 467.8750 82.5
9 2 464.5500 179.9
10 8 467.9250 179.9
11 5 467.8500 179.9
12 6 467.8750 179.9
13 2 464.5500 -
14 8 467.9250 -
15 5 467.8500 -
16 6 467.8750 -

Although these channels are pre-assigned to these frequencies by default, they can be re-assigned to any of the other supported 56 frequencies stored in the BR200, many of which are also supported by other makes and models of onsite business radios.

November 28, 2017

Real two way radios for kids

MG160A.jpgTwo way radios come and go, but one thing hasn't changed. The walkie talkie is still great fun for kids of all ages. Yet in this age of cell phones and apps, kids today are accustomed to using higher end devices, and at very young ages. The Sponge Bob and Spiderman themed toy radios don't always cut it for the 6 plus crowd anymore. By the time they get to first or second grade, they've long since outgrown the cheap little toy radios branded with cartoon characters. They want something more grown-up and sophisticated. They want real two way radios.

Asthetics aside, consider this. If you give a child a toy stove or a toy phone, It doesn't have to really work. In fact, it's generally not supposed to work at all. It's all about imagination.

When your child receives an electronic toy, or any toy powered by batteries, the game completely changes and a new set of rules kick in. If it is a new pair of toy walkie talkies, he or she expects to do more than play pretend. It's not just a toy anymore. It's supposed to really work. What happens if it doesn't work very well, or doesn't work at all? Of course, I think we all know the answer to that one.

It isn't just about the kids, however. It's also about your wallet. Many of the toy FRS walkie talkies cost almost as much as the real thing. Yet the quality is not the same. For instance, a set of Marvel Ultimate Spiderman Walkie Talkies model SM-210 retails for $24.99. The Midland LXT118 is the same price with a display and greater range than the toy. It's more durable, it comes with a one year warranty from the manufacturer, and it's water resistant.

So, when you buy a set of cute Thomas The Tank Engine or Barbie branded radios, if not for the minimal quality, or even minimal functionality, what are you really paying for? Simply put, you are paying for the character licensing or merchandising of the product. You aren't buying a walkie talkie. You are buying a movie, TV or comic book character themed piece of promotional paraphernalia.

Now, if you're into character themed collectibles and the walkie talkies are just another set of curios from your favorite TV or movie franchise, perhaps a $50 pair of Transformer transceivers would be a worthwhile investment in the long term, provided you never open the package. However, if you simply want to give your kids a working set of radios that won't disappoint them when they turn the units on and try to communicate across the yard, chances are you will get a lot more bang for your buck if it looks more like a practical radio than a Power Ranger.

The question is, if you are going to spend even $25 on a set of walkie talkies, why waste it on a wannabe that's all eye candy and nothing more? Get something your kids can really use, something that will give them hours of real fun, something that really works, something that will last longer than a holiday, and something they may even learn from. Get them the real thing. Go for the genuine article.

Get some real two way radios for the kids.

The chart below lists FRS walkie talkies suitable for kids of all ages and some commonly searched features. There are too many features to list them all on this chart, but you can click on the name or image of each radio for details. We also have a Two Way Radio Product Comparison tool so you can choose between any two specific models of these or any other two way radios on our site for a full, comprehensive feature-for-feature comparison between them.

Low Power FRS Two Way Radios For Kids

Brand Model Display Privacy
Codes
Audio
Jack
Batteries Batteries
Included
Power
(Watts)
Range*
Cobra
CX112
AAA No 0.78 Low
Midland
LXT118
AAA No 0.132 Low
Midland
LXT118VP
AAA 0.132 Low
Midland
T10
38 AAA No 0.221 Low
Midland
T31VP
38 AAA 0.221 Low
Motorola
MD200R
AA 0.62 Low
Motorola
MG160A
AAA No 0.207 Low
Motorola
T100
AAA No 0.2 Low
Motorola
T107
AAA No 0.2 Low
Olympia
R100
121 AA 0.861 Low
Uniden
GMR2035-2
AAA 0.6 Low
Uniden
GMR2050-2C
AAA 0.6 Low
*Manufacturers typically advertise FRS/GMRS radio range in miles, however your actual range may vary as it depends on a number of variables. In this chart, we to refer to range as Low, Mid or High. For more information watch our short video Radio 101 - The Truth About FRS/GMRS Two Way Radio Range.

September 28, 2017

Which FRS and GMRS radios are license free?

In May 2017 the FCC ruled on Part 95 reform. Starting today, September 28, 2017 the new rules are now in effect. There were many changes, but here's the big one. Consumer FRS/GMRS two way radios 2 watts or less are now considered FRS radios and are license free!

Technically speaking, the radios are now licensed by rule, which means that you are no longer required to apply for a GMRS license from the FCC to use these lower powered models with 22 channels, even on those previously considered the 8 GMRS frequencies. The simple act of purchasing the radios gives you a license to use them on all 22 channels.

Since most of the models, particularly those sold in retail 2-packs or "bubble packs" do not include actual power ratings or wattage on the packaging or the product marketing spec sheets, only one question remains. Which FRS/GMRS radios are within the 2 watt power limit and are now considered FRS?

The truth is, most of the FRS/GMRS combo radios currently on the market are under 2 watts and follow the new rules as FRS only radios. In addition to the wattage requirement, any models that are capable of operating on GMRS repeater frequencies are considered GMRS radios and require a GMRS license to operate. Only two handheld models currently available are repeater capable and fall squarely in the category of GMRS.

Rather than creating a long list of radios that do fall under the Family Radio Service (FRS), perhaps the easiest thing to do is list the models that don't, and are now considered GMRS only. It's a short list.

GMRS Handheld Two Way Radios

Make Model Power
(Watts)
Repeater
Capable
Cobra CXR925 2.8W No
Cobra MR-HH450 DUAL 2.24W (GMRS)
6.2W (Marine)
No
Midland GXT1000VP4 3.07W (high power) No
Midland GXT1050VP4 3.07W (high power) No
Motorola MR355R 1.32W Yes
Olympia R500 .973W Yes
We will continue to update this list as models are introduced. Bookmark this page or subscribe to our blog for the latest information.

September 15, 2017

Why upgrade to digital radios?

Vertex-Standard-S24-2.jpgThere is a lot of talk these days about moving from analog to digital two way radios. Although It's not a new concept, these migrations are starting to pick up steam. Manufacturers are constantly adding new digital models, and these new radios are gaining more serious attention and popularity among business users who are in the market for additions or upgrades to their radio fleets.

Some companies and organizations have moved their operations to either mixed or full digital radio communications, but many have not, opting to stick with analog models only.

There are several reasons for this, of course. For many businesses, particularly small scale on-site operations, short range analog radios meet their current needs and expectations of performance. In short, they seem to do the job. Digital two way radios are different, and for many businesses, an unknown or little understood technology perceived to be too advanced or upscale for their current needs.

But let's be honest. For many businesses, the primary reason is usually the cost. When they were first introduced to the marketplace, digital radios were notoriously expensive. They called into question the ROI of such a migration, as most companies considered them too pricey to seriously consider.

However, the past few years have seen a significant drop in pricing, down to a point that now brings some digital models almost right in line with the price points of their analog cousins. These radios are now within reach of more companies and organizations, and perception is beginning change.

Financials aside, there are still the perceived costs of time and effort to move everyone to a new system and new tech. Simple analog radio communications are still an industry standard, and companies still rely on them every day. So if the radios work and business is getting done, why change now?

What's the point of upgrading to digital?
There are a many advantages to using digital radios over their analog counterparts. For now, let's consider the following four:

- Audio quality - Digital radios sound better. It's hard to describe the sound quality difference in an article, but a good comparison is HD television compared to SD television. Once you start using digital radios, you really will wish you had made the move sooner. Not only is the quality always clear (it doesn't degrade with distance), more processing can take place to eliminate background noise.

- Security - Digital radios are also more secure than analog radios, as it's easier to add encryption and your conversation can't be heard by common handheld scanners. Although not a perfect solution for all situations, such encryption does add an extra layer of privacy and security that are a step or two above standard analog voice scrambling.

- Call Management - Digital technology gives you the ability to manage your calls. Digital radios allow you to direct-call a single contact from your list, instead of always calling an entire group. Of course, if you want to call a group or go all out and call everyone, you can do that as well. Digital gives you control. When it comes to digital, it really is your call.

- Text Messaging - Digital radios support text messaging. There are times when verbal communication just won't get it done, yet you still need to get the message across. Digital radios can provide pre-set or full free-form text messaging capabilities as needed, giving you more options for communicating with other members of your group or team.

But wait, there's more.
If you'd like to hear about more features, check out this Guide to Digital from Vertex Standard. Also, watch this video to see and hear a side by side comparison of analog to digital.

Will you have to eventually upgrade to digital? Most likely. In 2015 the FCC stopped approving conventional analog-only radios that are 2 watts and up. All new 2+ watt radios approved by the FCC must be digital. As manufacturers discontinue old radios, their only option is to replace them with digital models. For this reason, eventually most businesses will likely find themselves using digital radios for lack of other options. At this point there is no indication that the FCC is going to force end-users to upgrade to digital.

What's the best approach to switching to digital? There are two options: all at once, or gradually. Since replacing all of your radios at once can be an expensive undertaking, most businesses choose to do it gradually. As you add new radios to your fleet or replace older or broken radios, simply start buying digital radios instead of analog. Fortunately, all digital radios are also backwards compatible to analog radios. We can program analog channels to be compatible with your old radios, and separate digital channels for groups that are all-digital.

We offer free basic programming for the life of any radio that you buy from us, so when you reach a high number of digital radios and want to add some advanced functionality just send the radios back to us and we'll update your programming (or you can buy a programming cable and do it yourself!)

Do you have more questions? Migrating your radios from analog to digital feels like a hassle and is something that most people would just rather not deal with. We understand that and we try to make the process as simple as possible. Contact our sales department today and we'll quickly get you on the right track.

August 21, 2017

Are your radios ready to go back to school?

We are quickly approaching that time of the year again - back to school!! Not only are parents going to run like crazy to get the kiddos ready for the new year, but faculty and administration will be doing the same.

I talk with a lot of schools throughout the year in regards to radios. Two way radios are a must in this day and age, especially for schools. They provide quick and easy communication throughout the premises and are important in the operation of everyday activities. Radios are particularly important when it comes to security.

One thing schools typically miss and are scrambling at the last minute to find are batteries. Their radios will typically sit unused all summer long and aren't checked again until school is back in session. Unless they are stored properly, this can be damaging to the batteries.

Here at Buy Two Way Radios, we don't just offer radios, but also all the accessories that go with them, including antennas, belt clips, chargers, cases and batteries. If your batteries are more than 3 years old, it is probably time to purchase replacements. If you have an antenna that is bent or damaged, it is definitely time for a new one of those as well to insure proper coverage across the campus.

The last thing you want is a radio that is not working properly. The good news is we have you covered!

Give us a call at 1-800-584-1445 and let us take the worry out of your radio accessory needs. Best of luck with the new school year!

July 12, 2017

How to update the TYT MD-2017 to store 100,000 contacts

TYT-MD-2017-firmware-update.jpgAs many of you may know, I work tirelessly with TYT directly to provide feedback to them (both my own and that of the end user) to enhance their products. I can honestly say it is an around-the-clock job. I spend many hours outside of normal day working with TYT to make their products the best in the Chinese market. I was the one who had them re-work the programming software for the MD-2017 and MD-9600 so they could be used with your pre-existing code plugs. This has been a game changer as far as I am concerned. So, let me jump off my soap box now..

When the MD-2017 was released, my biggest concern was the lack of storage in the radio for contacts. For most folks, 10,000 contacts is more than enough; however, I am a firm believer in the old saying that bigger is better.

From my feedback, TYT recently released a firmware upgrade for the MD-2017 to allow up to 100,000 contacts! However, in order to accomplish this, the recorder option had to go away. I was not a fan of the recorder anyhow. It was a neat concept on paper, but a useless function on the radio- kind of like a flashlight or a wrist strap.


Want to add up to 100,000 contacts into your TYT MD-2017 dual band DMR digital radio? Here's how to do it.

What you need:

Note: Microsoft Excel is currently required to be installed on the PC for the import of contacts to work.

Step 1: Save the correct firmware version to your desktop. In the case of the early release radios, it is V3.33 bin (non GPS)

Step 2: Double click on the "FirmwareDownloadV3.04_EN.exe" link

Step 3: Under the "User Program" section, click on "Open file upgrade". This is where you will find the file you saved to your desktop.

Step 4: Plug the programming cable in to your radio and the USB in to your computer. With the radio powered off, hold down the PTT and orange button and power the radio on. The screen will remain black but the LED light on top will flash red and green. You are now in firmware update mode.

Step 5: Write the firmware to the radio. To do this, click on the "Download file of upgrade" button. Your radio will now begin to receive the updated firmware. Once the download is complete, power the radio off and unplug the cable from the radio.

Step 6: Open the V1.17 software and plug the cable back into the radio. If you have a current code plug, the contacts that are in that will remain. This is important for your talkgroups.

Step 7: Click on the "Program" dropdown and select "Write contacts". A box will open with available buttons "Read, Write, Export, Import, and Cancel".

Step 8: If you already have a list, you will want to click the "Import" button. After you do this, select the list and import it to the software. The only notification you will get is if it was successful or not. You will not see these in your regular contact list.

Step 9: Once you get the notification that the import was successful, you will now want to power the radio on and hit the "Write button". The process will now begin. Upload times depend on the number of contacts. With the 64,000+ contacts I uploaded, it took about 5 minutes. Be patient and do not power the radio off!

Step 10: Once the download is complete, power the radio off and then back on again. Next is the most important step: You will need to go into your menu for the radio, click > utilities > radio settings > ContactsCSV, and turn it on.

Now your radio should be good to go! I think there are a few little things I would like for TYT to fix, but for the most part this is pretty awesome!! I like the display on it. It has the look of a pretty well-known firmware hack from the MD-380 days.

I installed this on my MD-2017 a few weeks ago and have been using it ever since. I also released my csv file containing over 64,000 contacts.

As always, my sales staff and I appreciate each and every one of our customers. We will continue to support you and the products we sell!

73,

Anthony R.
Sales Manager
www.buytwowayradios.com


February 1, 2017

Midland MXT MicroMobile GMRS radio comparison

The Midland MXT Series adds an exciting new element to the world of GMRS radios. These micro mobiles offer more power, range and features than any of the consumer FRS/GMRS portable handheld radios currently on the market, expanding the flexibility and capabilities of the General Mobile Radio Service. Midland MXT MicroMobile GMRS radios are available from Buy Two Way Radios.

The chart below lists all the models in the MXT Series for a full feature comparison. These models include the MXT105, MXT115 and MXT400. Although now discontinued, the original MXT100 is included as a reference to the upgrades and improvements added to the current models in the MXT line.

Midland MXT Series Comparison Chart

Midland MXT Series Comparison
Item MXT100 MXT105 MXT115 MXT400
Radio Service GMRS GMRS GMRS GMRS
Transmit Power 5W 5W 15W 40W
GMRS Channels 15 15 15 15
Repeater Channels
Weather Channels
Weather Scan
Weather Alert
Privacy Codes 38 CTCSS/
104 DCS
38 CTCSS/
104 DCS
38 CTCSS/
104 DCS
38 CTCSS/
104 DCS
Backlit LCD Display
Manual Squelch
Channel Scan
Monitor Mode
Keystroke Tone
Voice Compander
Keypad Lock
5 Call Tones
Digital Volume
Silent Operation
Timeout Timer (TOT)
Auto Power Off
Call Alert
Signal Strength Meter
Talk Around
Selectable Power Levels Hi/Lo Hi/Lo Hi/Lo Hi/Med/Lo
Backlit LCD Display
Display Colors 1 1 8 1
Adjustable Backlight
Keystroke Tone Signal
Flip Display
Flip-Frame Detachable Mount
Hand Microphone
3.5mm Audio Connector
USB Charger Port
Reset Function
12V Adapter Cord
12V Hardwire Cord
Includes Antenna
Warranty 1 Year 1 Year 1 Year 1 Year
Weight (ounces/grams) 6.08/172.36 6.08/172.36 - -
Price (MSRP) $149.99 $99.99 $149.99 $249.99


Additional resources:
TWRS-108 - New Midland Mobile GMRS Radios
TWRS-86 - The New Midland MXT100 Mobile GMRS Radio
Midland MXT MicroMobile® radios unboxing video
Midland MXT100 Micro Mobile GMRS Radio Preview video


December 23, 2016

GMRS Radio Range Chart

Range is a popular word in the world of portable handheld two way radios or walkie talkies. Ironically, it's also one of the least understood among the masses, which makes it quite controversial. This simple, five letter word is easy to enunciate, yet it is perhaps one of the most complicated to resolve in the consumer radio marketplace.

The reason for this is contained in the word itself. Although range has an absolute definition, it is defined by a range of variables. In short, range is absolutely relative.

The Variables of Range
A number of variables determine actual range. These include (in no particular order):
  • Type of Radio Signal
  • Obstructions
  • Terrain
  • Distance to Horizon
  • Antenna
  • Radio Power (Wattage)
  • Atmospheric Conditions
Type of Radio Signal
The type of radio signal is a significant variable in determining range. Lower frequencies such as those on the VHF band travel farther but can be more easily blocked. Higher frequencies in the UHF band do not travel as far but can pass around obstacles more easily. The GMRS operates on UHF frequencies around 460 MHz, so our range estimations will be based on that variable.

Obstructions
GMRS radios operate on "line-of-sight", which simply means that as long as they or their operators can clearly "see" each other with nothing between them to obscure their view, the radios should be able to communicate with one another. Anything that gets in the way can adversely affect the line of sight. Such things include, but are not limited to, hills, trees, bridges, buildings, vehicles and anything else that can potentially block, deflect or divert the radio signal away from its intended target.

Terrain
The terrain between the radios is another important consideration. If the area is flat with few or no obstructions, the signal can freely travel unencumbered towards the horizon, even at a very low power. If the terrain is populated with vegetation such as trees or heavy brush, such obstructions can slow or eventually block the signal at some point along the way. Higher frequency GMRS radio signals cannot penetrate earth, so if the terrain is hilly or mountainous, the distance the signal can travel may be reduced significantly.

Distance to Horizon
Since the earth is round, GMRS radio signals do not have an unlimited line of site across the entire globe. At some point, they are blocked or diverted by the curvature of the earth. This is the earth's horizon. In an area of open, level terrain with no obstacles or over open water, the average distance to the horizon is just a few miles. On the roof of a very tall building or mountaintop, the horizon could be ten, twenty or thirty miles. The higher you are over the terrain, the greater the distance between you and your horizon, hence the farther the line-of-site. Conversely, the closer you are to the ground, the nearer you are to your horizon, thus the shorter your line-of-sight.

Antenna
The antenna is one of the most critical components of a radio. It converts the radio signals into the electrical signals the radio can understand and vice versa. Without an antenna, your radio could neither receive nor transmit across any perceptible distance at all. This means the type, height, location and quality of the antenna will have a significant impact on the overall range of the radio signal.

Radio Power (Wattage)
Obviously, the more powerful a signal, the greater its potential range. Or is it? When comparing a 5 watt radio transmission to a 50 watt signal, the difference in range can be quite significant. However, when comparing two low power signals between 1 and 5 watts, the difference is not as impressive. Depending on some of the other variables, there may not be much of a difference at all. For instance, an entry level GMRS handheld walkie talkie operating at about half a watt in an open field may have about the same coverage as a five watt model in the middle of a large city. Depending on the distance to the horizon and/or the height and quality of antenna, it may be even better! The moral? Don't let the wattage rating alone dictate your choice of radio. Consider all of the variables.

Atmospheric Conditions
One variable that is sometimes overlooked is the atmosphere. While not as disruptive as many other variables, atmospheric effects such as rain, snow and fog can interfere with a radio signal and may slightly reduce overall range.

The Confusion with Range
Considering all the variables, calculating range still doesn't seem too complicated. It isn't, really. So, why the confusion? To answer that question, all we need to do is pick up a brand new pack of consumer FRS/GMRS radios and look at the packaging.

One of the first things you may notice, more often than not, is a great big number emblazoned in bold and prominently displayed on the front of the package, usually designated in mileage. It may read 16 Miles, 26 Miles, 36 Miles or more, and is implied to be the mileage rating of the radios enclosed. The higher the number, the greater the range, and the more powerful or higher wattage the radios are perceived to be. But are they? Not necessarily.

Remember, power/wattage is only one of the many variables used to calculate range, and as we've noted, it is not the most influential. After all, a low wattage handheld radio can have a greater range than a higher wattage handheld radio within reason, provided the other variables exceed those of the higher wattage model.

It's easy to pick out the big bold number on the box, but miss the words "up to" in the small print above it. As a result, many who latch onto the large font and tune out the tiny type naturally assume the double digit figure is an absolute, when it isn't. In fact, the mileage on the package doesn't really figure into the range equation much at all.

The Truth About Range
Are the manufacturers lying? Well, technically, maybe no. If the radio is advertised to transmit (up to) 36 miles, you might get 36 miles - that is, if you're transmitting from a mountaintop or hovering somewhere in the upper troposphere and the horizon is at least 36 miles away. If you're orbiting the earth and there are no obstructions, you might even get more. But then, how often do you go there? Exactly.

The truth is, the number on the box only indicates how far the radio has supposedly been tested to transmit and receive under what the manufacturers refer to as optimal conditions. This phrase or a variation thereof is usually found in even smaller type somewhere on the back, side, or bottom of the box. Unlike those big numbers, you'll probably have to look around to find it.

Optimal vs. Actual Range
Forget the fantasy figures. Let's get real. If those numbers mean anything, they serve as a general reference as to which tier the radio is placed within the industry. It works like this. GMRS radios with a low optimal range of 10-16 miles typically have basic features and functionality. These are considered low-end or entry level models. Those labeled as a higher optimal range of 35 miles and above with the most wattage, add-ons and options are considered the high-end models. The mid-tier models consist of everything in-between. While not perfect, it's a fairly reliable method and goes a long way towards simplifying the confusing marketing hype surrounding the range claims created by the manufacturers of FRS/GMRS two way radios.

To simplify things further, the chart below was created to convert the manufacturer's advertised range to an actual, real-world range and assigned to a tier as a range rating. The chart is further divided by type of terrain for greater accuracy. Note: These are real world estimates only.

Rick's Simple GMRS Radio Range Chart

Urban Terrain
Advertised Range Actual Range Range Rating
16 miles 1-2 blocks Low
20 miles 2-3 blocks Low
26 miles 3-4 blocks Mid
30 miles 4-6 blocks Mid
36+ miles 0.2-0.25 mile High


Suburban Terrain
Advertised Range Actual Range Range Rating
16 miles 300-800 feet Low
20 miles 0.1-0.3 mile Low
26 miles 0.4-0.5 mile Mid
30 miles 0.6-1.0 mile Mid
36+ miles 1-2 mile High


Open (Level) Terrain
Advertised Range Actual Range Range Rating
16 miles 0.5-1 mile Low
20 miles 1-3 miles Low
26 miles 3-4 miles Mid
30 miles 4-5 miles Mid
36+ miles ~6 miles High


No Terrain
Advertised Range Actual Range Range Rating
16 miles Up to 16 miles (est.) Low
20 miles Up to 20 miles (est.) Low
26 miles Up to 26 miles (est.) Mid
30 miles Up to 30 miles (est.) Mid
36+ miles Up to 36+ miles (est.) High


Related Resources
30 Miles? The Truth About Range
Getting The Most Range From Your Radio
The Two Way Radio Show TWRS-05 - Radios in Range
The Two Way Radio Show TWRS-45 - The Truth About GMRS Radio Range
Radio 101 - The truth about FRS / GMRS two way radio range
How To Optimize Range for Motorola Talkabout Two Way Radios