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Need suggestions on some 2 way radios for non licensed use.

JoshuaHufford

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Not sure what was the best section to post this in, please move it to the appropriate section if needed.

I would like to buy a set of 2 way radios, at least a few miles range but the more the better. I know nothing about these.

Do they make any that can be used with an external antenna such as an NMO mount in a vehicle for increased range?

I don't want to get carried away on money but I don't want to buy anything that is junk either.

I'm planning a railfan trip with a few friends, because of Covid we are taking more than one vehicle. Often we are in areas with little to no cell phone reception and we would like a way to be able to communicate with each other when needed.

Suggestions please!
 

SteveSimpkin

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MURS radios might be a good option for this case. MURS is a VHF FM radio service that requires no license, has up to 2 Watts of power output and most importantly allows for external antennas. One of these combined with an inexpensive magnetic mount MURS antenna would probably work in this case.
Here is a review of an inexpensive ($60) MURS handheld.
 

mmckenna

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I would like to buy a set of 2 way radios, at least a few miles range but the more the better. I know nothing about these.
Do they make any that can be used with an external antenna such as an NMO mount in a vehicle for increased range?
An external antenna requirement limits you to pretty much MURS or CB.

I don't want to get carried away on money but I don't want to buy anything that is junk either.
That doesn't help us very much. Not wanting junk, but not wanting to pay a lot leaves a lot to try and figure out. Telling us what your budget is would help a lot.

Suggestions please!
Well, budget friendly but not junk rules out all but the Cheap Chinese MURS radios. $60 each for the Mikor may or may not be a good bet. On the other hand, for $60 you can often get a pretty good CB radio and that may give you a bit more range and is generally more accepted by the non-radio crowd. Yeah, MURS is great, but most people have no clue what it is.
Benefit to a CB is you'll have louder audio than what you'll get out of a hand held radio. You can wire it directly to vehicle power, so you don't need to worry about battery charging.
On the flip side, a hand held radio would be easy to use. Just gets a bit cumbersome when trying to use mobile with an antenna cord hanging off it.

Budget input would be helpful.
 

JoshuaHufford

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Sorry, I guess I should have worded my question differently. I basically meant how much do I need to spend get something that works well and is of decent quality.

I've used some of the cheap Wal-Mart type 2 way radios before and they were obviously a disappointment, I wanted something a step above that and could be used with an external antenna outside the vehicle. Again, how much do I need to spend to get something at this level.

I thought about CB but one of the guys works for a rental car company and often rents cars for our trips so something portable would probably be a better choice. Also I don't really want a giant antenna to get decent performance, a 1/4 VHF whip seems like a much better option so I'm liking the MURS idea.
 

evilbrad

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MURS radios might be a good option for this case. MURS is a VHF FM radio service that requires no license, has up to 2 Watts of power output and most importantly allows for external antennas. One of these combined with an inexpensive magnetic mount MURS antenna would probably work in this case.
Here is a review of an inexpensive ($60) MURS handheld.



The V1 is a very nice radio got one used in very excellent shape and for a good deal. I add it to my dakota alerts
 

mmckenna

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If you want decent MURS capable radios, and budget isn't your biggest concern, it's hard to beat Ritron:
My brother in law is using those for his tower crews. You can program them via PC to make setting up features and PL/DPL tones easier. They have an SMA antenna jack, so you can add an external antenna easily.

He's been using them for a few years with good results. Not the cheapest choice, but you'll get something that'll last a long time.
 

mmckenna

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Thanks.

And I know this is slightly off topic but would this be a good choice for antenna?


Yeah, Laird, Larsen, PCTEL are all good choices.
For temporary use, those are fine. I've found that after years of use, water will eventually make it's way down under the nut. If this was going to be an antenna you left installed on top of your vehicle permanently, then the Larsen NMOQ has a better base design that seals much better. https://www.theantennafarm.com/catalog/larsen-nmoqc-767 It's $4 more than the Laird.

Also, 1/4 wave antennas are quite broad banded, and even though that one is listed as 152-162, it will still work well and give you low SWR not only on the 2 meter ham band, but will act as a 3/4 wave antenna on the UHF band.
 

JoshuaHufford

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Just out of curiosity, I know when transmitting having a properly tuned antenna is much more critical.

I already own 3 antennas that are pretty close, would it damage the radio to use them?

I have a 5/8 wave tuned to 161MHz,

I have a Compacttenna 2Meter/220/440,

And I have a PCTEL MAXRAD MHB5802 1/2 wave NGP antenna.


I bought it used and the whip is 36.75" out of the base so I'm not exactly sure what frequency it has been cut to as I don't have a chart for it.

I guess I really need to buy an antenna analyzer. :)

I also have this antenna which I know would work great but it is the antenna usually hooked to my scanner/s.

 

WB9YBM

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Also I don't really want a giant antenna to get decent performance, a 1/4 VHF whip seems like a much better option so I'm liking the MURS idea.
[/QUOTE]
At MURS frequencies you could probably go with something better than a 1/4 wave without it getting all that big...
 

alcahuete

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Just out of curiosity, I know when transmitting having a properly tuned antenna is much more critical.

I already own 3 antennas that are pretty close, would it damage the radio to use them?

I have a 5/8 wave tuned to 161MHz,

I have a Compacttenna 2Meter/220/440,

And I have a PCTEL MAXRAD MHB5802 1/2 wave NGP antenna.


I bought it used and the whip is 36.75" out of the base so I'm not exactly sure what frequency it has been cut to as I don't have a chart for it.

I guess I really need to buy an antenna analyzer. :)

I also have this antenna which I know would work great but it is the antenna usually hooked to my scanner/s.

No need for an antenna analyer. All the antennas you included links for cover the range of frequencies that include MURS. You're not going to notice a difference if they are tuned exactly for the MURS frequencies or not. The only questionable one is the Compactenna, and it's likely not to be far enough off to make that much of a difference.
 

RFI-EMI-GUY

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Yeah, Laird, Larsen, PCTEL are all good choices.
For temporary use, those are fine. I've found that after years of use, water will eventually make it's way down under the nut. If this was going to be an antenna you left installed on top of your vehicle permanently, then the Larsen NMOQ has a better base design that seals much better. https://www.theantennafarm.com/catalog/larsen-nmoqc-767 It's $4 more than the Laird.

Also, 1/4 wave antennas are quite broad banded, and even though that one is listed as 152-162, it will still work well and give you low SWR not only on the 2 meter ham band, but will act as a 3/4 wave antenna on the UHF band.
Any thoughts on the Laird B4505C 5/8 over 5/8 antenna?


I have a Motorola PX300-S that I have converted to UHF GMRS and was thinking that one of these with an NMO-PL259 adapter (machined brass nut and center pin) might work well on that set.
 

mmckenna

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And I have a PCTEL MAXRAD MHB5802 1/2 wave NGP antenna.


I bought it used and the whip is 36.75" out of the base so I'm not exactly sure what frequency it has been cut to as I don't have a chart for it.

According to the cut chart on that PDF, 36.75" lands you right at 154MHz. Perfect for the upper MURS frequencies. It'll work just fine for the 151MHz MURS frequencies, too.

Of the options, that's probably your safest bet. If you mount it over a suitable ground plane, it'll give you almost 2.5dB of gain. If you don't have a ground plane, it'll still work just fine.

The 5/8wave will probably work. It'll have a bit more gain at 161, but they are narrower bandwidth antennas, so not so much at MURS. Also a 5/8 wave antenna wants a good ground plane under it to work correctly. Anyway, you'll probably want that antenna for the railroad stuff.
 

mmckenna

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I have a 1/2 wave VHF Laird with the base spring. It's mounted on my Polaris Ranger and I've beat the crap out of it for a few years. Nice antenna.

I have a Motorola PX300-S that I have converted to UHF GMRS and was thinking that one of these with an NMO-PL259 adapter (machined brass nut and center pin) might work well on that set.
I had a VHF version of one of those at work. Then someone stole it.

I think the 5/8 wave would want a better ground plane, but it might work just fine. Larsen sells an adapter that threads on to UHF antenna mounts to convert them to NMO.
 

RFI-EMI-GUY

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I have a 1/2 wave VHF Laird with the base spring. It's mounted on my Polaris Ranger and I've beat the crap out of it for a few years. Nice antenna.



I had a VHF version of one of those at work. Then someone stole it.

I think the 5/8 wave would want a better ground plane, but it might work just fine. Larsen sells an adapter that threads on to UHF antenna mounts to convert them to NMO.
There is a ham named Mike who fixes CB radios on Youtube and he demonstrated that the VSWR was independent of the mounting. He tuned it on a concreted floor with a mag mount and then moved it to his bench and the VSWR hardly changed. It seems to good to be true, I am leery of NGP antenna claims. For $30 I will have to try this out on the PX-300S. I bought the NMO adaptor from China for nearly nothing. I figure I can try it out and compare with a 1/4 wave whip. The radiation pattern for 5/8 over 5/8 is a mystery to me.

Sorry to hear you lost your PX-300S. Mine started out as a WHCA radio on 167 MHz and I switched out the transceiver board from a UHF DES radio. Not a job for the faint at heart. So I have 48 channels of GMRS/FRS in all sorts of simplex, repeater and inverted pairs. As long as it is 141.3 Hz I can work it!
 

mmckenna

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Yeah, it was a nice radio and it had been treated well. I had plans to put it on 2 meters. I had a bunch of old VHF stuff that I'd removed from places at work and had stockpiled in a cabinet. I went in one day and a bunch of the stuff was gone. Pissed me off. Someone knew what it was, because they didn't touch any of the newer 800MHz radios. I had an old 6 channel Wilson VHF hand held, some VHF voice pagers and a mobile or two. All the VHF stuff was gone.

The ground plane under the 1/2 wave will change the radiation pattern, as I'm sure you know, so it improves performance in some cases. Not sure about the SWR thing or not, never tried it. I always tune mine once they are installed and never tried that. Maybe some day I'll give it a try.
 

JoshuaHufford

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Thanks for all the great info.

One more question. With 2 watts of output power, how much spacing do I need from the antenna I'll use for the MURS radio and other antennas?
 

mmckenna

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2 feet would probably be safe, but it can really depend on a number of factors. I've done fine with 2 feet spacing between 50 watt VHF radio antenna, but each receiver, the amount of loss in the coax, the amount of coupling between the antennas all plays into it.

Filtering on the front end of the other radios plays a role, too.
 
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