What you need to know, to choose the right radio the first time.

CB or FRS ?

As cell phones become more and more popular, people tend to forget there are other forms of communications that are available, with little to no work. Choosing the right form of communications for a specific need can be a daunting task, and without careful thought to different factors,  can be a disaster just waiting to happen.

Take for instance the Fire Dept of your local community. Most fire departments use VHF (Very High Frequency) or UHF (Ultra High Frequency) for their day to day communication needs. The mode is almost always FM (Frequency Modulation), which provides a clearer, more natural sound than AM (Amplitude Modulation) or SSB (Single Sideband). The drawback to this is the range of communication that is possible. Most of the radio gear used is medium to high output of around 50 watts. This is great, as long as they are using a repeater set up on a hilltop somewhere, but as soon as they start talking radio to radio the problems start.

Terrain and distance are the two biggest factors that should be considered, along with legal output power of the radio. Some of the most common used by individuals are:

Family Radio Service.

1. FRS: The Family Radio Service is a set of frequencies allocated by the FCC, for home and personal use. The frequencies used are 462.5625 to 462.7126 and 467.5625 to 467.7125. These radio’s are in the UHF range, and are line of sight. Most of the radio’s include a mixture of channels that include the GMRS service as well, which are not free.

The regular output of a FRS radio is usually 0.5 watts (1/2 watts). This is fine and works fairly well, if you are in a public place and want a quick way to communicate. The radio’s are small and will fit in a shirt pocket. The drawback is that contrary to Advertiser’s claims they do NOT have the ranges that are specified on the packaging, unless you are in a salt flat somewhere. that little radio with a 3 inch antenna is NOT going to talk 50-80 miles.

One radio that i found to have a decent range was one that was made by Radio shack a few years ago. This radio had a Mag-mount antenna that sat on top of your car, increasing the range tremendously. Even in a forested hilly landscape like the area i live in, the range was about ten miles. That is the one exception I have found.

Citizens Band.

2 CB: The Citizen’s band has been around since the mid 1950’s and is a proven contender for day to day, as well as worldwide communications. The most common mode used for voice is AM (Amplitude Modulation) and SSB (Single SideBand). It is a set of 40 channels, each with a frequency allocated between 26.965 and 27.405 MHZ.

The range of a CB can vary depending on the terrain, but is usually farther depending on the radio, antenna and power output. The LEGAL output power of a CB radio is 5W for AM, and 12W for SSB. Do not exceed this limit. You can and will get into trouble.

The biggest problem i have had with using a CB for talking with friends or family is when the conditions are right, you will start hearing stations from all over the country which can actually cover over the desired signal, rendering that form of communication useless.


Well, that should cover most people’s needs, and most commonly asked question’s about radio. Just don’t buy into Manufactures claims, and do a little thinking before you buy.

Remember, if you have to operate in an illegal manner (higher output, non-designated frequencies) to maintain the communications, then it is probably time to consider going with one of the licensed services such as Amateur radio GMRS etc etc.

Thanks for reading.

2 thoughts on “Choosing the right radio

  1. Nice. I grew up around CB’s my dad’s handle was Rusty Ford. and my mom was Scooter. They had hours of enjoyment from CB’S. My oldest brother now in his 60’s operates a ham radio and talks around the world. Interesting site and very informative. I will stop back by sometime.

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