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.
  • Is it FRS or GMRS?  FRS radios don’t require a license but you cannot upgrade their antennas  GMRS radios can be upgraded and offer higher power on some channels but require a family license although there is no test required to obtain one.
  • If it is a GMRS radio, does it allow using repeaters?  When repeaters are used transmissions go farther, particularly in hilly areas but thre are very few GMRS repeaters in the Portland area.
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
not without programming NOAA
Notes FRS GMRS, repeater capable FRS



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