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Noob Question: Which Equipment to Purchase?


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I might be doing this out of order compared to most people but here I am. I am a disabled vet who used to do commo in the military long ago. Decided to get back into comms as a hobby with the goal of getting my HAM license (studying for Technical test) and volunteering with Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service (RACES). So, one step at a time, I started with renewing my GMRS license. Done. Now I need to purchase some equipment.

Now that I have a VA disability check coming in to use as hobby money, where should I start? Should I start here at the house with a good base station? Anyone care to share a link on what to consider?



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HHmmm, Well, you will have a few options. The legal way, (And if you plan to be a relay station between GMRS and Ham) would be to get two separate radios, one (preferably dual band) for ham, one for GMRS. If you go this route, I would say the TK880 low power (25W) would be a good start. With a power supply and proper wiring for RACES, you can make that radio swap from a vehicle to your house to a command post and will give you a legally dedicated part 95 radio for GMRS use. They typically go for about $60 on ebay. Youll need a programing cable ($10-20) and software (can be found for free) If you have a little more cash on hand the Motorola XPR4350 covers both 70CM HAM and GMRS bands at about $175. This radio is part 90, and will give you DMR options for the ham bands (if there is a local DMR repeater near you this would likely be a better option)

If you would like a lesser legal way, and I am not supporting this, though in an emergency it will work, is to get a reasonable ham radio (I used a yaesu 7900) and have a cap mod done which allows the radio to transmit out of band. This would give you both 2M and 70CM ham bands and access to the GMRS band though I would only run low power to prevent too much interference.

Next you'll need coax. If your only doing 20-30 feet, RG8x will be fine. Longer lengths and you may wish to find better coax. I used LMR200 for some time at about 60 feet and found it was reasonable, however that observation is irrelevant as your install situation will be different from mine. Being you'll likely eventually have several radios in the shack, you may wish to consider the LMR200 just to prevent inductance (I think thats the proper word, basically signal from one radio getting into the another radio through coax run very close to one another)

For antenna's, again, it will vary by install. A friend of mine runs a browning unidirectional antenna at about 20' up and has shown good results with low SWR. I have a couple antennas, One Tram hi-gain antenna for the repeater at 25-30' up and it gets about 6 miles range, and another being a diamond 200U which in the same install configuration only had 3 miles range. The use of the antenna also will change what type you will want to use. My understanding is that the higher gain antennas are more for repeater use, while lesser gain are better for mobiles and portables.

Im in no way an expert on this and am just going by the experience I had when starting out. Most of the comms stuff you learned in the past will cross over here. Use your best judgement, and if you have a question ask and you'll usually get an answer rather quickly.

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I definitely want to stay fully legal. What would be the benefits of picking up a used Kenwood TK880 with the programming software? What would reprogramming it allow me to do? Why would I want that compared to something like the Mdiland MXT115?

The MXT115 does not allow you to store channels. So, for instance if you wish to access 5 different repeaters you would have to re-enter the information each time you change repeaters. The 880 allows you to save each repeater on its own channel. There are also a few extra options like being able to scan the channels you enter, where the MXT will just scan all 22 channels.

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This has been very informative. Thank you everyone for your posts. After doing some more research, I can definitely see the appeal of the commercial radios. I do not feel intimidated by the need to configure them so it looks like a used commercial radio - with the Kenwood radios appearing to be the best deals - is the way to go.

So much to learn ... and re-learn. I haven't calculated the proper length of an antenna since the 1990s and yet here I am. Lots of cobwebs to knock out of some parts of my brain that have gone unused for a long time.


Right now, my interests are falling towards GMRS for local voice comms and getting my technician's class license for digital comms.


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Just get a used Motorola/Kenwood/Icom/Vertex instead of anything made from Retevis, TYT, Baofeg... those are garbage, with 26.99 special one-wonder chips POS receivers. Range will be measured in tenths of a mile, rather in tens of miles. 


You can find higher quality used commercial grade LMR gear for dirt cheap on eBay, which will work better than any of that Cheap China Radio CCR garbage.


...but its your money, waste it accordingly.



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Heh - my pair of "garbage" Retevis RT76P's are kicking @ss here in New Mexico - and they're on sale for under $30 dollars. You can spend more on a used set of commercial HT's that won't make a dirt spec of difference in the real world - except maybe lull you into thinking you've got some bragging rights. It's your money.

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  • 2 months later...

For me, the issue is durability. I'm an offroader, and overlander,

That means it has to be rugged, reliable and some durability.
I wouldn't want to put out big $$ for a radio that is too delicate for the trails.
It's always a balance of cost vs usage. $40 a piece is about where the cost/usage falls.

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