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Please recommend a quality handheld for GMRS / FRS

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Mikado

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Hello,

I am looking for advice on a handheld radio that I can program for GMRS / FRS. I have spent a great deal of time reading about GMRS, and I will apply for a license. I have a few friends with their ham license. I have thought about that, but I already have some other expensive hobbies… I don’t need any more ;-)

I am looking for a handheld radio that is better quality than the bubble pack radios from Walmart and the like. I have been looking at Icom, Midland, Kenwood, and others. For a little bit more than the cost of a bubble pack radio, I think I can pick up a quality used radio on ebay. So here is my list of requirements. Please let me know if I missed anything important.

Frequency range: Needs to cover the necessary frequencies for GMRS / FRS
Transmit power: Needs to be programmable from 0.5W for FRS, up to 5W for GMRS (some of the radios I’ve been looking at had a max power of 4W, and that’s OK too.)
Memory: at least 22 channels so I can program both GMRS and FRS frequencies
An alpha-numeric display would be nice, but not absolutely necessary

I have previously used third party software to program my Uniden Trunking scanner. And I am also a professional database geek. So I’m pretty sure I can program a two way radio if I also pick up the necessary software and interface cable on ebay.

So based on that, are there any brands / models that you'd recommend?
 

jassing

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gmrs can go to 50 watts

I recently tried wouxun radios and they worked fine for GMRS (not capable of sub 1 watt tho)
There's a lot of motorola's being sold (due to rebanding) that would work for gmrs -- but you'd need software too; iow: not field programmable.

We have Midland GXT1000VP4 that work ok -- (4 watt maybe?) for short distances (caravans, motorcycle person to person) -- and they automatically drop to .5 for frs channels.
What's nice about the midlands is you can use them with gmrs repeaters.

Most will not recommend blister pack but they're ok for what they are -- water proof; dustproof handhelds -- again; for short distances.
 

Mikado

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Thanks Jassing

I did see that GMRS can go as high as 50W. But I'm talking about a handheld radio. I don't think I want a 50W transmitter that close to my head ;-) But with a more advanced radio I program myself, I'd also have the option to use a repeater if I wanted to.

I have searched for a while, and I'm having a hard time finding one that will output just 0.5W as well as full power of 4W or 5W. So that's why I came here to ask the experts.
 

jassing

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I'm far from an expert.... but if you must have gmrs and frs -- I think you're going to be stuck with a blister pack solution....
 

mmckenna

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Kenwood or Icom would be a good choice. Good solid radios, reasonable price, and easy to get/inexpensive programming software.

Technically, FRS frequencies can't be used on a radio like this, that is if you want to stick to the rules. FRS rules say no removable antenna. Under the GMRS rules, you can use the 462.xxxx FRS frequencies under the GMRS rules at 5 watts.

Just be really careful when buying radios off e-Bay. Most manufacturers will split the UHF band up, and someone advertising a "UHF radio" on their might not be giving you all the info you need. It is possible to purchase a UHF radio off e-bay that won't do the correct portion of the UHF band for GMRS. I've talked to a few folks that got burned by that. They bought "UHF" radios off e-bay, and ended up with radios that did 403-433MHz, and there isn't a cheap and easy way to stretch them up to 462-467MHz.
 

RodStrong

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Kenwood or Icom would be a good choice. Good solid radios, reasonable price, and easy to get/inexpensive programming software.

Just be really careful when buying radios off e-Bay.
I agree and would add Vertex into that recommendation as well.

And one more thing. I would only buy from an authorized dealer, no matter what brand you buy. You might pay a few percentage points higher than rock bottom, but it's worth it. There are a lot of cut rate vendors on Ebay and the net in general, who sell out of market radios and/or engage in unfair trade practices that undercut legitimate dealers. This may not mean much to you, but if your radio takes a dump, there is a decent chance you will find out the hard way. Good luck.
 

Mikado

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Hmmm, I didn't see the regulation about no removable antennas for FRS radios. And, I haven't found any yet that can be set to transmit at a half watt. Please correct me if I am wrong, but a half watt is the max allowed for FRS channels that are not shared with GMRS. Is that right?

Maybe my idea was half baked. I appreciate the advice.
 

jassing

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FRS = .5 watt, fixed antenna.
GMRS shares some channels with FRS -- but if you don't have a license, then legally; you must use the frs power/antenna restriction.

FRS has some channels gmrs doesn't -- if you want frs -- go with the blister pack gmrs radios; if you can loose frs; then you have a lot more options.
 

WQOC472

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Get a Kenwood TK-3180. Ive used one for several years on GMRS. Its a great unit. There very easy to program also.
 

Mikado

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I'd like to have full coverage for FRS and GMRS, just i case I need to talk to someone on an FRS channel. I have been reading some good things about the Midland GXT1000VP4 radios. And from what I read, the GXT2000VP4 may be available in June. So I think I will wait till then.
 

KB7MIB

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Wirelessly posted (Mozilla/5.0 (X11; Linux i686; U; en-US) Gecko/20081217 Vision-Browser/8.1 301x200 LG VN530)

If you want capability on FRS channels 8-14, and you want to be legal, you have no choice but to use a bubble-pack type radio. Any other radio with a detachable antenna or with more than 0.5w ERP, cannot be used on FRS ch's 8-14.
 

jassing

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I have a few of the midland gtx 1000's and they work fine. we use them with throat mics on motorcycle rides to talk to each other. Don't believe the miles claim...
 

willgrah

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Like the others have said, I am not aware of any radios that can power down to the .5 watt that do not have a removable antenna, most only go down to 1 watt.

If you have no intention of using a mobile or base antenna with your HT I don't think that you will see much of an advantage going to a more expensive professional type UHF radio as far as distance goes. I have read where some of the better Midland and Motorola's are exceeding 3 watts. The only issues with these are the durability and small battery capacity. Batteries drain fast transmitting on full power. But, for alot of uses a $50 radio is just what is needed and will do the job. I have an older set of Midlands (1 watt at best) that I use for hunting and fishing. They work just fine for short distance and perfect for when I don't want to drop my $300 radio in the drink or woods. There are a ton of accessories for these radios out there as well.

If you change your mind about the FRS compatability there are quite a few good HT's in the 4 watt (usually 4 watt UHF and 5 VHF) range that are great durable radios. My personal choice is Ritron, I have the SLX400's, Part 95 accepted and can program down to 405 mhz for HAM use. They have a newer model out now but it only covers 450-470 and has half the channels. That said you won't go wrong with anything Kenwood, Icom, etc.

Hope this helps! Bill WQOV721
 

Mikado

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Get a Kenwood TK-3180. Ive used one for several years on GMRS. Its a great unit. There very easy to program also.
Thanks for the recommendation. They look like good radios. I'm watching several auctions on ebay now for the TK-3180s.
 

mformby

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I have had the GXT1000's for a while now and am pleased (if not impressed) with their performance. I just wish the volume control knob had more resistance so it wasn't so easy to bump and change without knowing.I have used them in large malls and on cruise ships with great results.
 
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