FRS/GMRS Buyers Guide

by Jun 27, 2018

The choice of a FRS or GMRS radio can be bewildering.  Manufacturers do not help the situation.  Here are a few tips to help you get started.

 Shopping Guide for FRS/GMRS radios

  • Don’t pay much attention to claims about transmission distance.  These claims are for perfect conditions, such as over water and from mountain peak to mountain (line-of-sight).  NET members are rarely so lucky.  For the highest power GMRS radio, plan on a range of between ½ mile to 2 miles at best in an urban environment.  Remember, transmission power is not as important as using a good location and proper operating technique.
  • Plan on paying as much if not more for necessary accessories as for the radio.  Most radios come with a charging station, a single rechargeable battery, and an earphone.  Here are some other accessories you will want to add.  Count on paying about $15-$20 for each one of these.
    • An acoustic earphone/microphone – The earpieces that come with the radios are typically not very good.  You need a good earphone/microphone to operate hands-free in search and rescue situations.
    • Extra rechargeable battery and possibly an additional charger.
    • An adapter for AA batteries if the radio does not accommodate AA batteries.
    • A “battery eliminator,” which permits you to run your radio off of a cigarette lighter or automobile battery.
    • If you have a GMRS radio, you may need an adapter from your radio’s antenna connector to the standard PL-259 UHF connector to use an external antenna.

The Ideal Radio

Manufacturers offer a range of FRS and GMRS radios. The selection seems to change monthly as models come and go. Prices range from $25 to $150. How to choose? While Portland NET program cannot officially recommend any particular radio, the RTLs (Radio Training Liaisons) have come up with the following suggested feature set and a list of radios that come close to meeting them.

Questions to consider:

  • Supports both low and high power, to provide battery demand flexibility?
  • Weather resistant or waterproof?
  • Supports multiple battery options, particularly AAs, rechargeable as well as alkaline?
  • Includes earbud/mic and desktop charger?
  • Supports FM and NOAA weather reception?
  • How good is its receiver?  Some inexpensive radios become relatively deaf when they are operated within a few miles of a commercial broadcast tower.
  • If it is a GMRS radio, does it allow transmitting to repeaters?
Motorola T4xx/T6xx series Wouxun KG-805G Midland GXT series
Supports low/high power yes yes yes
Weather-resistant or waterproof T4xx weather-resistant
T6xx waterproof
no Weather-resistant
Supports AA batteries yes no yes
Desktop charger T480
Others use wallwart
yes yes
FM and NOAA reception T480 FM+NOAA
Others NOAA
no NOAA
Repeater capable no yes no

 

 

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