GMRS radio disappointment.

GMRS radio disappointment.

This is a discussion on GMRS radio disappointment. within the Related Gear & Equipment forums, part of the Defensive Carry Discussions category; Years ago I bought some FRS radios that advertised 2 mile range. I found that even in line-of-sight situations the best one could really hope ...

Page 1 of 4 1234 LastLast
Results 1 to 15 of 48
Like Tree24Likes

Thread: GMRS radio disappointment.

  1. #1
    Senior Member Array adric22's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Location
    Fort Worth, TX
    Posts
    1,146

    GMRS radio disappointment.

    Years ago I bought some FRS radios that advertised 2 mile range. I found that even in line-of-sight situations the best one could really hope for was about 1/4 of a mile.

    Yesterday I bought a pair of GMRS radios advertised at 20 miles range. I tried them out first on the FRS channels and got about 1/4 of a mile, and when the signal started to break up, we switched to one of the GMRS channels and were able to get about 1/2 mile. I mean, I knew the advertised "20 miles" was never going to be achievable, but I was hoping for at least 2 miles. Its pretty sad, really.

    I bought these to keep in my emergency kit that I'm putting together for my car. My hope was, if I was stranded somewhere, and the cell-phone service was out (due to tornadoes, earthquake, etc.) that I'd be able to reach somebody by trying all of the channels. However, that appears to have been a waste.

    Is there some other type of radio that would be more useful to have in such a situation?
    "Good people do not need laws to tell them to act responsibly, while bad people will find a way around the laws." -Plato


  2. #2
    Senior Moderator
    Array MattInFla's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2005
    Location
    Central Florida
    Posts
    4,857
    You might look into GMRS repeaters in your area and see if there are any. A handheld VHF FM radio isn't going to to much better than 1/2 a mile or so in varied terrain with the typical flexible antenna.

    Repeaters typically use high gain antennas mounted on high points to receive the signal from the user's radio and then repeat it on a different frequency with higher power.

    You might also look into Amateur radio. You have a vastly larger selection of radios, frequencies and allowable output power as a licensed amateur. You need to learn some theory and take an exam, but it is not difficult.

    There are tens of thousands of open amateur repeaters throughout the US, many of which can link to other repeaters or provide telephone patching.

    Some information on the licensing process: http://www.arrl.org/getting-your-technician-license

    The exam for the entry level license (technician class) is 35 questions, multiple choice. The question pool is public, and there are books that will get you up to speed quickly.

    Matt
    JD, chandlerusm, tkruf and 3 others like this.
    Battle Plan (n) - a list of things that aren't going to happen if you are attacked.
    Blame it on Sixto - now that is a viable plan.

  3. #3
    VIP Member Array Civil_Response's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2011
    Location
    Minnesota, USA
    Posts
    2,558
    New to Ham Radio

    Spend some time learning about radio and become an amateur radio operator, much better for what you're describing.

    73!

  4. #4
    Senior Member Array adric22's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Location
    Fort Worth, TX
    Posts
    1,146
    Quote Originally Posted by Thunder71 View Post
    New to Ham Radio

    Spend some time learning about radio and become an amateur radio operator, much better for what you're describing.
    Thanks for the suggestions.. Just out of curiosity, what do you think of a handheld CB radio for this purpose? I've been looking online and have seen some for as little as $79 and also has the NOAA weather radio built in too.
    "Good people do not need laws to tell them to act responsibly, while bad people will find a way around the laws." -Plato

  5. #5
    Senior Moderator
    Array MattInFla's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2005
    Location
    Central Florida
    Posts
    4,857
    Quote Originally Posted by adric22 View Post
    Thanks for the suggestions.. Just out of curiosity, what do you think of a handheld CB radio for this purpose? I've been looking online and have seen some for as little as $79 and also has the NOAA weather radio built in too.
    If you were disappointed in the performance of a 5 watt FM handheld, you're not going to be impressed with the performance of a 4 watt (or lower) AM handheld. Plus, there are no repeaters on CB, giving you even fewer options.

    As far as weather radios go, most amateur radio handhelds or mobile can tune a wide variety of other services in receive only mode. Weather band, police and fire (if not using trunked radios), etc.
    Sky Pilot likes this.
    Battle Plan (n) - a list of things that aren't going to happen if you are attacked.
    Blame it on Sixto - now that is a viable plan.

  6. #6
    Member Array rtarich's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2004
    Location
    Missouri
    Posts
    41
    Quote Originally Posted by MattInFla View Post
    If you were disappointed in the performance of a 5 watt FM handheld, you're not going to be impressed with the performance of a 4 watt (or lower) AM handheld. Plus, there are no repeaters on CB, giving you even fewer options.

    As far as weather radios go, most amateur radio handhelds or mobile can tune a wide variety of other services in receive only mode. Weather band, police and fire (if not using trunked radios), etc.
    Amateur radio, is the way to go.
    "A man has a right to protect his property and his life"
    Robert Duvall
    Open Range

  7. #7
    Member Array Eaglebeak's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2011
    Location
    Republic Of Texas
    Posts
    367
    Actually, the 4-watt CB portable radio may greatly outperform a 5watt GMRS portable in many areas and conditions.

    First would be for you to determine if you have a true GMRS (General Mobile Radio Service) portable (which requires an FCC license @ $85), a FRS (Family Radio Service) portable that requires no FCC license, or a hybrid GMRS/FRS which also requires a GMRS license unless you use it only on the shared FRS channels.

    A GMRS only portable usually has a 5-watt transmitter output, their channel frequencies are all "duplex" (one frequency for transmit and a separate frequency 5MHz higher for receive) to use through a repeater. When switched to "talkaround" mode (or by use of different channel numbers) where no repeater is available, then they transmit and receive on the "receive" frequency. An FRS portable is a short-range consumer-grade unit that has it's own set of "simplex" frequencies (transmit and receive are always on the same frequency), and their transmit power is limited to only 500mw (1/2 watt) on all channels.

    Many new portables are hybrid GMRS/FRS which let the user switch to 7 (I think) shared channels with FRS and perhaps some can utilize all of the FRS channels; but when using any of those FRS channels, the radio automatically reduces the transmit power output to 500mw (1/2 watt) in order to comply with power limits on those FRS channels. So, if you have a hybrid and using it on any shared FRS channels, your range will be very limited since the transmitter is only running at 1/2 watt output.

    Aside from all the confusing techno-babble above, 5-watts of transmitter output power is only a rated level of RF (radio frequency) energy emission that is neither an absolute apples-to-apples comparison between different types of radios and frequency bands, nor does it imply some expected "range" of signal propagation related to output power. The "36-mile range" hype often seen on many GMRS portables would only happen if the users were each standing on a mountain top (in simplex mode) with nothing between them or when they were in standard "duplex" mode with a higher power repeater station between them.

    Regardless of what may be hyped about any particular type of radio, user group, or frequency band, all radio (RF) signals run pretty much at the same speed (just below that of light) and obey the same laws of physics. However, there is a major difference in "range" between different types of radios that is determined first by the frequency on which they operate and second upon the type of modulation they use to carry the voice or audio information propagated at an RF frequency.

    Looking at the differences in physics, lower frequency RF signals, have a very long wavelength, tend to bend with the curve of the earth to travel a greater land surface distance, and are not easily attenuated, deflected, or reflected by non-metallic objects in their path. However, as the frequency increases, the signal propagation becomes more "line of sight", does not bend with the curvature of the earth, and becomes more easy to attenuate, absorb, or reflect by objects in it's path (e.g. Radar is extremely high frequency and will reflect back from almost anything but a stealth fighter which absorbs and/or deflects it rather than reflecting it).

    GMRS and FRS are a modern extension of the old Class-A Citizens Band which are fairly high-frequency, short-wavelength, FM (frequency modulated) signals in the 460 MHz range which are very easy to be absorbed and deflected by trees, buildings, hills, or anything else lying between the two units trying to communicate. Plain 'ole CB (Citizens Band) is a continuance of the Class-D Citizens Band which is a much lower-frequency, long-wavelength, AM (amplitude modulated) signal in the 27 MHz range which is much less influenced or attenuated by things lying between the two units.

    So, if you're looking for something to take off in the hills and woods on a hunting trip that's away from cell-sites or other repeaters (GMRS, commercial, Amateur/Ham), then a low-band, 4-watt, CB portable will probably work better than anything else.

  8. #8
    Senior Moderator
    Array MattInFla's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2005
    Location
    Central Florida
    Posts
    4,857
    However, with the increased wavelength of the CB signal, you must either have a corresponding increase in the size of the antenna on the radio, or suffer huge losses in effective power.

    As a licensed amateur, there are a huge variety of choices in band / mode / power output available to get the job done.

    On CB, there is only one choice of band / mode and a very low maximum power permitted.

    As far as portable operation is concerned, there is a large community of amateur operators who work around the world using portable, low powered stations. If I have to select between a CB portable and a portable multi-band amateur rig for a life-safety communication link, I'll go with the amateur rig every single time.

    And when it comes to vehicle mounted radios, the comparison becomes even more one-sided.
    K7lvo, tkruf and Sky Pilot like this.
    Battle Plan (n) - a list of things that aren't going to happen if you are attacked.
    Blame it on Sixto - now that is a viable plan.

  9. #9
    Member Array CaptSmith's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2011
    Location
    Washington /San Juan's
    Posts
    350
    We have 4 FRS/GMRS "blister pak" consumer radio's on the boat, for crew coms when needed, range is limited (tested to 2.5m +-)and really get used mostly within 100 ft so I dont have to yell, the ship board (base)radio used to communicate with crew is a little, waterproof portable multi-band 5w transmitter - standard horizon HX471sb...transmit marine VHF and FRS, monitor GMRS, AM,FM, all 5 Weather, and Aircraft (SAR) freq, and additionally is DSC capable,(digital select call) and transmits GPS in alert mod...the family radios (FRS) recieve slightly better than they transmit, we keep a spare VHF for the skiff, you cannot operate VHF on land and this set up gets registered and you need a base licence and a personal licence to operate...If its staying in touch maybe the Standard Horizon HX471 would work for you, but if you want to communicate with high assurance in Mid America, Amateur (hate that term) HAM radio is for you. Lots of HAM portables with multi channel recieve options like my Standard, the licence is easily obtained, with some minor study...

    If its a trunk radio to keep in touch...get a crank/solar multi band reciever, that IMPORTANTLY includes a USB port cell phone charger, and get the appropriate converter/charger for your cell phone in addition for your powerports in the vehicle..RED CROSS has a really fine unit ...the ability to recharge your cell phone makes you an asset

  10. #10
    Member Array Eaglebeak's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2011
    Location
    Republic Of Texas
    Posts
    367
    The user seemed interested in portable radios which, regardless of band, usually have only a quarter-wave antenna physically shortened by internal coil to a nominal length and generally not exceeding 5-watts in TX output. If he were talking about mobile equipment and/or being other than in the "outback" and reasonably close to available repeater systems, then the other options mentioned would be far superior to CB. But with portable equipment only and located remote from any available repeater sources or cell-sites, then the only thing better than CB would be hand-held "sat-com" at orbital/astronomical pricing as well.

    Being a licensed general-class amateur operator and ARRL member for over 50 years and a radio communications systems engineer for the past 25 years (commercial, public safety, military using simplex, duplex, full-duplex, trunked, and satellite based applications), I've used everything from an 80-meter mobile (erroniously refered to by some as 75-meters) with a "telephone pole" antenna (that had some serious range) to some very nice 2-meter rigs through some very respectable amateur repeater systems that even support mobile data communications. But, I've still used CB portables when beating around the bush with hunting partners far away from any land-based repeater system of any type.

    Now if I'd been hunting with a few amateur buddies, then we'd have brought along a mobile repeater and worked our 2-meter portables, but that doesn't seem like the application adric22 was looking for.
    chandlerusm likes this.

  11. #11
    Senior Member Array adric22's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Location
    Fort Worth, TX
    Posts
    1,146
    Quote Originally Posted by Eaglebeak View Post
    Now if I'd been hunting with a few amateur buddies, then we'd have brought along a mobile repeater and worked our 2-meter portables, but that doesn't seem like the application adric22 was looking for.
    Thank you. Just to clarify. I want something to keep in my "emergency kit" that would allow me to communicate with other people in the general area in the event of a natural disaster.

    Let me give you an example from my personal experience. Several years ago we had a series of devastating tornadoes rip through Ft.Worth area, even right through the down-town area. Many of the skyscrapers were actually damaged, I think one had to be demolished later on. Anyway, I was on my way home from work when this storm came through. i was on the highway, which came to a stop and nobody could go anywhere. The winds became very intense, causing my car to bounce around a bit and some larger SUVs in front were actually slid sideways off of the highway from the wind. Within a few seconds, I saw all of the city lights go out. I was in a fairly busy area of town, right near a shopping mall actually. I saw all of those lights go off. Traffic still continued to go nowhere.

    I had two cell phones with me. One was my company phone, the other my personal. They were on two different carriers. One was AT&T and the other was Nextel/Sprint. NEITHER one would work. there was no signal. After an hour or so traffic began to move again. I was only about 6 miles from home. WHen this happened. When I got home, my wife was already home. But we had no power. Our land-line telephone didn't work either. We had essentially no way to communicate with anyone, anywhere. No cell phones, no land-line, no electricity, nothing. The blackout continued for about 8 hours until cell service started working again. My electricity and land-line phone came back around 24 hours later.

    So, in this case it would have been nice to have some kind of radio that I could have communicated with other people in the general area. What if I was on a side street where there were no other people around and my car was stuck in a ditch. Or what if I was injured? My cell phone is useless, how do I call for help? or what if there is somebody else who needs help and I might be able to render assistance, but I wouldn't be able to communicate with them?

    So.. I'm sort of thinking the 4-watt portable CB radio might be the best bet since it is still widely in use by a lot of folks, and from some other people I've talked to in the last few hours, sounds like I might be able to get a couple of miles range. Which translates to a diameter of 4 miles (if you are talking about a circle around my location)
    "Good people do not need laws to tell them to act responsibly, while bad people will find a way around the laws." -Plato

  12. #12
    Senior Moderator
    Array MattInFla's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2005
    Location
    Central Florida
    Posts
    4,857
    Part of the reason for the amateur service is emergency / disaster communications. Much of the amateur infrastructure is set up to run for a period of time without outside electrical power.

    Your chances of being able to reach someone through an amateur repeater are much higher than they are of being able to reach someone directly with a CB handheld.

    Matt
    Sky Pilot, chandlerusm and tkruf like this.
    Battle Plan (n) - a list of things that aren't going to happen if you are attacked.
    Blame it on Sixto - now that is a viable plan.

  13. #13
    Member Array CaptSmith's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2011
    Location
    Washington /San Juan's
    Posts
    350
    There is a HAM radio base in every hospital, Emergancy managment office and town hall in my state...as well as FEMA, military bases and RED Cross chapters AND hundreds of commited (read hi functioning) HAM operators to man this equipment, most have mobile or base stations set up to function no matter what. Get the hand held and the licence and get connected, the licence course you take will put you in close contact with the default comms for what-ever .. I am a CERT (Citizen emergancy response team) trainer and a MRC (medical reserve corp) officer and Red Cross member in the San Juan Islands, every emergancy plan in this state has HAM comms written into it...

    Well said MattinFLA and Eaglebeak... good luck adrick22 (The wife got the HAM licence, when we stood up a pair of stations for MRC...your locals will make this eazy for you..and your local emergancy managment office will know who they are))
    chandlerusm likes this.

  14. #14
    Member Array Eaglebeak's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2011
    Location
    Republic Of Texas
    Posts
    367
    Ahhhhh, after hearing the "emergency" purpose as possible disaster prepardness you're looking for instead of wandering around in the remote bush on a hunting trip, then I must switch hats and agree with MattinFla that you would perhaps be better with a 2-meter Ham (amateur) portable. This isn't something that you just walk into the store and purchase because even the most basic class license requires a reasonable amount of study and basic knowledge of radio fundamentals (and you don't have to know Morse Code anymore - lol).

    Generally, most cell-sites have emergency power generators and will remain up and running unless the site itself is hit; however the major problem there lies in not being able to access the site because it will usually continually swamped by everyone trying to use it.

    As mentioned, many amateur organizations' shared repeaters have UPS units that can keep them up for awhile, but you can still use the repeater "talkaround" (simplex mode) with the limited range you'd expect from a 5-watt VHF portable (which would be generally better in propagation range (without a repeater) than a 5-watt UHF portable.

    My strongest argument for using a Ham rig to do a "hail mary" call for help or establish emergency communications during a disaster is (no pun intended) the type of people you'll be most likely to contact on the amateur band as opposed to who knows who on a CB (perhaps a responsible trucker or perhaps a lot-lizard working a truck stop).

    Many amateur orginazions have members assigned to monitor the more common frequencies 24/7 in just such an emergency event to answer a call for help. Additionally, many Hams have their own UPS and/or emergency backup generators to keep their personal home stations on the air during most emergencies or power outages in order to provide a vital communications link when much or all of the commercial communications infrastructure has either collapsed or stays hopelessly locked up with incoming traffic.

    I suppose to be best prepared, you would carry a cell phone, 2-meter portable, and CB portable in your emergency pack. At least between one of the three you could call the wife, contact a Ham operator, or "breaker 1-9" a local lot-lizard depending on just what type emergency you were facing

    PS - "Amateur" radio is not a demeaning term and simply means they're not paid professionals, and there are many "amateurs" out there with twice the knowledge and experience of most "professionals"
    chandlerusm likes this.

  15. #15
    VIP Member Array mcp1810's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2007
    Location
    Texas
    Posts
    4,986
    To expand a little on what has been said above, if you want serious radio comms you are going to need to get licensed (to be legal). The GMRS license allows you to communicate with other licensees and with members of your family. That includes basically anyone related to you by blood or marriage. There is no test and the license is $85 for five years. A Technician class ham license will cost you about $15, you must pass a test, and is good for ten years. This does not allow you to communicate with family members unless they have their own license. But via networked repeaters, satellites and IRLP you can litterally talk to the rest of the world.

    If you check out mygmrs.com you can see some the gmrs repeaters in your area.

    For GMRS I am using Motorola MT1000 portables and a Maxtrac mobile as my base unit. I have a convertacom unit and power amp that I had in my last truck that I still need to install in my Excursion. That gives me 50 watts mobile. Performance wise GMRS can do basically anything 70cm ham can do except no phone patching allowed. With the upcoming narrow band mandate from the FCC there are going to be a lot of GMRS appropriate radios being dumped on the market by businesses and government agencies. Both GMRS and Amateur radio services are exempt from the narrow band requirement.
    Infowars- Proving David Hannum right on a daily basis

Page 1 of 4 1234 LastLast

Links

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •  

Search tags for this page

5 watt gmrs radio

,

gmrs portable repeater

,
gmrs radio forum
,

homemade gmrs antenna

,
motorola gmrs 5 watt
,

portable gmrs repeater

,

powered by mybb cb radio frequency

,

powered by mybb cb radio modifications

,
powered by mybb frequency
,

powered by mybb ham radio

,

true gmrs radio

,

true gmrs radios

Click on a term to search for related topics.