(Continued from Part 2.)
Editor’s Note: The following section of the article describes some high power and out-of-band transmission modifications that are not legal under most circumstances. In an absolute disaster situation, anyone can operate outside of normal bands/channels without a license and probably without any legal repercussions. But doing so in normal times will surely get someone arrested, their gear seized, and some hefty fines. Beware!
BACK TO THE FUTURE, CB RADIO IS BACK!
Although Citizen Band (CB) might not be a part of our primary radio communications plan, we may need to operate a CB to talk to neighbors. Although it appears that CB has fallen into disuse, it is not forgotten, in fact it is fast making a ‘come back’. And there are yet many hidden away that will be dusted off and put back into service in a disaster. It could be the radio that connects and informs the masses. A low-cost example should then be in our radio shack even if it is not our first choice, since it will be the first and only choice for many neighbors. And it would be good enough for most local situations.
Sigle-sideband (SSB) mode CB offers twice the range and four times the COMSEC as a standard CB. Yet if there are no other SSB CBs that we could contact, then SSB is not a practical choice. Unless of course we planned ahead and SSB CBs were apart of our primary or alternative radio communications, and members standardized on SSB CB. Standard CB radio is a good alternative, if the operation requirement is less than 3 to 8 miles. Cost and technical barriers also weigh heavily on our decisions, and may force us to compromise and choose the CB. If a radio choice is too difficult for the least technical capable member, then it is not a good choice. CB could at the least be a contingency radio option.
My approach tends to favor lower-cost radios coupled with the best antenna that I can afford. This usually works out well in the field. Connect a lower-power, or lower cost radio to a optimal antenna, and it usually will outperform, or perform just as well as a better quality, and higher priced and powered radio that is connected to a sub-optimal, or sub-standard antenna. There is a general tendency to purchase brawn (power output), rather than using ‘brains’ to get the job done.
The choices of transceivers and antennas available is impressive and overwhelming. In this day and age, vehicles have evolved beyond the traditional CB antenna mounts of the past. In this comparison, I’ve chosen to use a decent performing magnetic mount 5 foot long antenna, because it is easy for the average person to install on modern vehicles. There are better performing antennas, but the goal is to find and examine combinations that are a sensible balance of cost, performance, with a low technical barrier. Motor homes, pick-ups, and even base stations could use a no ground plane (NGP) antenna if a full-sized antenna is out of reach. Whatever the application, there are numerous options that are offered as solutions that will allow us to install a better antenna. Ask around, and choose the best performing antenna for your situation.
Generally speaking, the longer the antenna, the better it propagates. This is especially relevant when it comes to CB antennas. As a rough rule of thumb, for every one foot of antenna height, we might expect 1 mile of range. However, there are too many variables to estimate the actual range. If the range requirement is modest, then buying the best antenna one can afford, will likely allow the radio to perform adequately. There is likely a better antenna that can be used if the installer is up to the technical challenge. Those with older vehicles and trucks would do well to install a Hustler 102″ Stainless Steel Whip that is 8.5 feet in length:
Hustler 102 Inch Whip CB Ham Antenna Stainless Steel – 18 ft RG8X Coax – Spring & Mount
Modern pickups and other modern vehicles are better served with compact radios and modern mounting brackets. Here is an example from CB World’s “Help Center”:
And here is a kit complete with CB for modern pickups found at Amazon:
SSB CB, and CB TRANSCEIVERS
SSB CB is good long-range choice for alternate or contingency communications. The might be your first choice after a collapse, and when GMRS is too risky to use. The built-in layers of COMSEC that SSB CB provides could be life-saving. I would have both GMRS, and SSB CB, or standard CB mobiles in my vehicle, and as a base stations to talk to my vehicles and handhelds. MURS handhelds would be much more secure than FRS/GMRS handhelds, and SSB CBs would be far more secure that standard CBs, and have greater range, if needed. However, If we cannot afford an SSB CB, then go with a standard CB. We gotta have a CB, or three. Redundancy is priceless. I would buy three standard CBs if I could not afford two SSB CBs.
Standard CBs for a low-cost option:
Uniden PRO505XL CB Radio
(We can use a SSB CB with this antenna as well)
Wilson W500 54″ Magnet Mount cb radio
Here is my top choice in SSB CB, a power supply and base station antenna for it:
Uniden CB Radio with SSB
$194.07 (I do not recommend their ‘peak and tune’ service)
We can use a standard CB instead with these components.
Samlex SEC-1212 10 Amp Switching Power Supply for CB’s
PATRIOT – ProComm 12 Foot CB or 10 Meter Base Antenna (pre-tuned for CB’s)
If no metal roof, or other larger area ground plane exists, this is other half of the antenna:
PAT12GPK – ProComm Ground Plane Kit for Base Station Antennas Patriot And Proton
Use RG213 coaxial cable up to 100 feet. A base station CB antenna takes up lots of space so the cable will need to reach
an area that is suitable.
Next, an unusual and easy to install and use, portable and mobile CB of note.
It is the most versatile, popular, and interesting CB for the money. It has this slot in this list, because of the price and utility. While it is not the most cost-effective, it is also the easiest to install, and that is where part of the value could be found. See the Amazon reviews and video to fully appreciate this one. When attached to the same external magnetic mount antenna as a mobile CB, the range should be similar.
Midland 75-822 Portable / Mobile 2 in 1 CB Radio
“Midland is known for its portable radios. Now it takes CB to true portability with the Midland 75-822 Micro Mobile-Portable CB radio! The 75-822 is a 2 in 1 plug and play two way radio that’s a lightweight hand held and a mobile CB all in one powerful package!”
Other part, and component needed to be used in its mobile, and portable with external antenna configuration that is not demonstrated, but possible with an adapter is used:
Eightwood UHF Female SO239 to BNC Male Adapter Antenna Extension Cable 3 feet for CB Ham Radio Antenna Scanner
Wilson W500 54″ Magnet Mount cbradio
OUTLAW RADIO, THE WILD, WILD WEST OF CB
While these radios are outside of our topic of easy to use, these could be interesting enough to inspire one to delve into these deeper waters. They offer exceptional range, COMSEC, and freedom. It is the last bastion of freedom on the airwaves, and few dare go there these days. It is wide-open territory, it is truly the radio equivalent of the free range of the pioneer west. While I can’t afford to go there, I’m fix’n to get there ASAP. IMHO, the best choice to start are the affordable, yet capable Anytone Smart.
There are low-cost amplifiers, but unless one makes sure your choice can handle the input, it will over-drive and eventually damage the amp. Be sure the CB you use is putting out less than 4 watts before hooking it up to an amplifier. Unless you know your antenna can handle the power out, do not use that antenna. Buy something that is rated for the power. I would also advise not to ‘peak and tune’ your CB. It may sound louder, but it is not a better radio afterward. I can use a spectrum analyzer and see if it adjusted correctly. Most have no clue that the crude meter on their radio in only indicating increase voltage and dirty RF. The best way to improve your CB is with a better antenna, then a high gain handset, then go to a SSB CB. If you want to have a high-powered, and finely tuned CB, send it to a competent radio tech who specializes in CBs, or look at one of the unusual choices such as the Anytone Smart listed below.
A Beginners Guide To CB Linear Amplifiers.
CB Radio Installation & Troubleshooting at CB World
A step by step guide for setting the SWR on a CB Antenna
Inexpensive low-powered linear amplifier for CB radios.
A 50 watt CB would a long-range radio. This amp, at CB frequencies, puts out about 100 watts. That is great performance for very little money, and that is all the power you need. Verify that your CB produces between 2 and 4 watts, and no more, otherwise the amplifier will be damage over time. If you are over-driving the amplifier, the audio will sound distorted. If you have a talk-back feature or another CB nearby, then you’ll hear the distortion. It is best to detune the CB to 3 watts You’ll also need 50 amp power supply if its used a base station CB. To extend the life of the amplifier, do not turn it on unless needed. Also, make sure the SWR is as close to 1.0 to 1 as possible. The CB will transmit normally thru the amplifier.
HYS HF Transceiver 3-30Mhz HF Power Amp for 3-30Mhz Handheld Radio with a Mini Fan
This power supply can be used to run the CB and linear amplifier using 110VAC power as part of a base station.
Universal Compact Bench Power Supply – 50 Amp Variable Linear Regulated AC to DC Power Converter/Power Supply Adjustable DC Voltage Supply with Amperage Gauge, Volt Meter, USB Port – Pyramid PSV500
Expensive, high quality, high power linear amplifiers:
Antenna basics and troubleshooting.
Testing CB antennas for SWR
Coxial Cable installation basics
CB antennas, Setting the SWR
CB antennas, A concise chart of antenna type, length and price
(for best performance, choose the longest length appropriate for your application)
This is must-have, and inexpensive SWR meter. I recommend that you get two:
Astatic PDC1 100 Watt SWR Meter
The Quick and the Dead
(A professional shop for CBs, the gunslinger’s, and trucker’s best kept secret.)
In this video, we see cutting edge of what can be done to a CB. He specializes in the Uniden 980 SSB CB:
UNIDEN BEARCAT 980 SSB S.R.C. QUALITY SETUP AND MODS FOR KIM
THE 1970S ARE BACK, MODERN FREEBAND CBS ARE BETTER THAN EVER
What is ‘freebanding’, and what are the free band frequencies?
The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
The Number One Gun, The Anytone AT-6666, a high power CB with SSB, $289.95 while supplies last.
AnyTone AT-6666 10 Meter Amateur Radio with SSB(PEP)/FM/ AM /PA mode,High Power Output: 15W AM,45W FM,60W SSB(PEP)
Very Limited Inventory. 360 Memories CTCSS / DCS Option Included. Programming Cable Included
Snake Radio Customs also sells and modifies the Anytone AT6666 into a high power CB that can transmit in the U.S. CB band as well as other such as the Russian CB band and other European CB bands between 25 to 28 mhz. This would be my first choice in a multi-role CB that is also a 10 Meter Amateur radio, that would not only talk to standard CBs, but also a private network of friends in the freeband CB frequencies in with AM, FM, or SSB. Only a high end scanner, or USB Dongle or spectrum analyzer could intercept these frequencies. But it is not likely they would be even looking in this part of the spectrum in the first place or would mistake the signal as a standard CB. This is infamous part of the radio spectrum that back the late 1970s, where CB freebanders could go. With this modern radio, we could go where even the Freebanders could not, and with SSB! This would be a versatile and fantastic transceiver for COMSEC, and it is affordable. It is sold as a 10 Meter transceiver, yet is easily modified and several different ways. Instructions for these mods are widely available on the internet.
Here is a video
of the Anytone AT6666 undergoing the modifications that Snakeradiocustoms can perform that turns it into a full feature 10/11/12 meter, AM/FM radio with SSB CB and Freeband CB. I would definitely give him call if you are a gunsling CB kind of guy.
The Compact EDC, The Anytone Smart, $59.99
AnyTone Smart 10 Meter Amateur Radio, compact Size, FM and AM PEP power over 16W. Frequency range 25 to 30 Mhz once modified.
It marketed in the U.S. as AM/FM 10 Meter Amateur transceiver. It is designed as a one size fit all radio marketed for all CBs services worldwide, and that also includes the 10 and 12 meter Ham bands. The different European CB services have different frequency subsets of the larger band. that is 26 to 28 mhz. Anyone who is a hobbyist could modify this one at home in less than 10 minutes with a soldering iron, allowing the user to select use all the CB services they wish the radio operate on. It can go where all other CB radios can not, and you cannot be heard unless you have this, or one of the other model Anytone radios. This puts one in a far more exclusive part of the spectrum than the 1.25 Meter Ham band, and because it can operate in the CB band, enforcement is just about nonexistent, particularly in lightly-populated regions in the western US.
I suppose that Snakeradiocustoms could modify it for less than $50. And the price might be lower if ordered through him, and purchased in bulk. IHMO, it would be well worth it for the rare capabilities of this radio at such a low purchase price. However this is only the little brother of the Anytone AT666. It is lower in power, and does not do SSB. Without peaking the radio, it offers low and high power that is 4 and 8 watts. When ‘peaked’ it can put out at much as 28 watts on high power. ‘Peaked’, or not, it is 2 to 3 times as powerful as a standard CB. And the price is right in that one can afford to buy a box full for your group or family. As is provides exceptional off the beaten path frequencies, and FM capabilities, thus 2 additional built-in layers of capability that provide additional COMSEC, and can also talk to CBs, all at a low price. It is so tiny that is could be carried in a 2 quart canteen pouch, and a long antenna attached to a pack. It really should be my number one choice as a standard issued transceiver for my friends and family. If I can scrape up enough for four of them, then I’ll go for it.
The one weak point is that there is no frequency chart provided by Anytone for the CB frequencies, on the 10 Meter part. I hear that a Stryker model radio provides a chart that corresponds with the channel # and frequency of the Anytone Smart. In reality, I would not be concerned with the actual CB frequency if I am using the Russian or Polish CB bands. All that is really needed there is channel number. One could also use a frequency counter, a USB Dongle, or a standard CB to identify U.S. CB frequencies and the assigned channel numbers. Simply select the U.S. CB band and verify that channel 1 in the Anytone Smart is the same as channel 1 on the standard 40 channel CB. I consider the price a bargain.
(To be continued tomorrow, in Part 4.)