Surplus Comercial Gear for Ham Use - A List

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K9WG

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Went to the Fort Wayne IN hamfest yesterday. There was quite a bit of commercial VHF/UHF equipment at very good prices. (Saw new looking Motorola UHF handhelds for $50.00 with chargers) I thought maybe some of the experts could start a list of what is good to buy for conversion to the Amateur bands. One of the reasons I didn't buy any of the equipment is not knowing how available programming equipment/software is. So the questions are:

What can be converted?
What is available for programming?
What is a good price?
 

bezking

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As a matter of fact, most commercial stuff doesn't need to be "converted," just reprogrammed. For example, the Motorola UHF radios can come in one of three bandsplits (basically): 380-470, 403-470, and 470-520mHz. Notice that the first two actually contain the 440mHz band. If you wanted to use one of those radios on the ham band, you'd just have to reprogram it. Likewise, the modern Motorola VHF radios cover the 136-170 range, which includes the 2m band.

The Icom and Kenwood commercial series come in similar splits as well.

The only caveat is most of these radios aren't field-programmable. The required software could be either expensive or just totally unavailable (depending on the radio), making it hard to make regular changes to your radios. Most current Motorola software is in the $250-300 range, which also includes three years of updates. My understanding is that the Kenwood and Icom software is significantly cheaper.
 

LtDoc

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The reprogramming is the 'catch' with most Motorola radios. Motorola is very 'picky' about turning any of their software loose, so, finding a Motorola dealer to do that programming is very nice to do before buying any surplus gear.
Then you start into the replacement of parts, that's going to be a 'pain' too. Oh well, nothing that says it can't be a good deal, but it isn't going to be easy.
- 'Doc
 

mikewazowski

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Get yourself a software licence from Motorola and then buynthe software.

Nothing picky about it.
 

zz0468

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Adding to the problem of Motorola's draconian software licenses is the fact that much of the software for the older radios is NLA - meaning you can't buy it at any price.

But if you're looking for a list of radios known to be usable, put Spectras at the top of the list for VHF, UHF, and 900. Maxtrac radios for the same bands will easily go, Maratracs, Syntors, SyntorX and Syntor X9000 radios will all go. Only the X9000 is RSS programmable, the others require the suitcase programmer. The lowband Syntor X9000 is the holy grail for 6 and 10 meters. One radio will do both bands.

Depending on how technically capable you are, you can even slide the frequency range around a bit. For example, range 2 spectras, that cover the 440 band are rare. Range 1 spectras can be moved up, and range 3 radios can be moved down. How well they work when you move them depends on how much effort you put into the conversion.

The UHF Maxtracs just work with a minor tweak to the VCO. The 900 Maxtracs require a firmware change, said firmware being about as difficult to find as the programming software.

As to the NLA software, the way that's handled is, it's been "released to the wild" and if you know where to look, you'll find whatever you need.
 

GSPD

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As far as the Motorola gear and software, I believe Batlabs has a list of software no longer supported through Motorola. Also, if you look at the radio specific information on the site you'll also find the model number break down. Of course there are a lot of variables to consider since some people will swap out components and recase radios. One of the most important things is to ask questions and know the seller before you purchase.

I have several true amateur radios, both VHF/UHF and they get very little use compared to my commercial Motorola and Kenwood gear. Since going digital here, the Motorola's are my most used and contain my local amateur frequencies. My biggest reason for using commercial radios on amateur frequencies is the nusiance delete capability along with ease of use. There is nothing worse then some yahoo constantly kerchunking a repeater! A one button push solves that! As the radios get smaller, the menus get larger with more button pushes.

As stated earlier, the only drawback is setting yourself up for programming. Fortunately that's not an issue for me and the commercial radios will always be my first choice.
 

W9BU

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Also at the Fort Wayne Hamfest, I noticed roughly half a dozen Motorola MSF5000 base stations/repeaters. With retuning and controller, they would make very reliable 2m repeaters.
 

MTS2000des

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Surplus commercial gear of late are an excellent choice for ham use. Commercial radios have superior front ends, better selectivity, clean, clear audio and much cleaner RF output. They also have superior signaling capability, scan is also more effective (useful features like priority scan), and are generally built better and will last for years of daily use that will put cheaper ham toys out to pasture.

There's a reason why. A single band LMR mobile radio such as a Spectra analog cost $1200-1500 when new, designed for 20 years of service. A single band ham radio cost around $200. One is designed for performance in harsh electrical and physical environments, the other is a recreational toy designed for use by a hobbyist. What do you think is going to perform better and last longer with daily use?

It's about to be FUN again with LMR gear in ham radio, thanks to the upcoming narrowband mandate. Tons of quality, AFFORDABLE gear, are about to hit the market. Good radios that will last for years, take little to reprogram for ham use, and will blow away any cheap ham stuff for performance. Not to mention repeaters and infrastructure. It's going to be like 1977 with HT220's and Motracs minus the costly crystals and diddlesticks!
 

W2NJS

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Unfortunately a lot of old gear gets taken back by the manufacturer and sent to the crusher. (The Feds once had a really "great" procedure whereby they would take an old portable and literally drill a large hole with a drill press straight through the middle of the radio with a half-inch bit, which of course completely ruined the unit.) For whatever reason it appears that the manufacturers don't like to have their old stuff circulating in the secondhand market because it dilutes their power in the market for new units. It's a theory that doesn't hold water in many ways but that's apparently what they think.
 

K9WG

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Also at the Fort Wayne Hamfest, I noticed roughly half a dozen Motorola MSF5000 base stations/repeaters. With retuning and controller, they would make very reliable 2m repeaters.
I was looking at some of the UHF mobile units. Wouldn't mind having a dedicated Skywarn transceiver in the shack or truck. Some of the units looked almost new.
 

Skypilot007

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MCS2000's are a great option for Hams also if you like commercial gear. You could aquire one software package and the get yourself some mcs2000's for 144, 440, and 900 Mhz. They're even available on 220 but it has a seperate software package. Seems to be lots of them in all varities on ebay lately. If you can pick them up at a local auction, even better.
 

kd8omt

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I use a ton of Motorola stuff for ham. Just check the freq range and programming can be found under a good google search. My shack is full of Motorola and I even have a Motorola UHF repeater up for my clubs 442 repeater.
 

ropin4gold

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I had a maxtrac 16ch for 440 and a spectra for 2m. Both were excellent radios. A buddy was able to program them for me and they worked great.
 

mass-man

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I just this week started looking into gear to put on 902 mhz! Seems the Kenwood TK981 is the rig of choice...no mods need to be done and reprogrammed with simple WINDOWS free software and a $10 cable. There are a couple of repeaters in my area, and 927.500 is the agreed upon simplex freq. Why not use a band with little or no activity and generate some interest...
 
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