HT radio and support gear

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    • #96793
      Ronald Beal

        You’ve decided on some form of HT/WT/portable radio for your team comms…. This thread is to discuss, the carrying of and accessories for your radio kit. I want to keep this thread “radio type agnostic” i.e. no caliber debate…. whether someone is using ham, FRS, CB, Nextel, or Fisher-Price walkie talkies, shouldn’t matter.

        First things first:
        Batteries. At work, our professional grade Motorolas, with good batteries, get about 12 hours of regular use on a charge. As the batteries age, the run time goes down. You should have multiple batteries, and multiple chargers. Using a radio for 8 hours a day in a shooting class, and then recharging them in the hotel that night doesn’t necessarily reflect real world usage. DO a field exercise…. how do your batteries really hold up. Remember, batteries don’t do as well in cold weather. You may need to store spares against your body, to have them function. Get a baseline on how much normal usage your radio will last on a battery. Then pack at least as many batteries for the duration of your mission… then add 30 percent spares… It might last.
        Having multiple ways to power your radio can be a life saver. Having a AA, or AAA battery pack, and adapter cables to power your radio off of a cigarette lighter, or car battery from alligator clips, are also highly recommended.

        Carrying your radio.:
        Many radios, or radio batteries have belt clips. I have found belt clips range from good to awful in quality. For light duty use, good belt clips are fine, however if you are using the radios in adverse conditions (crawling through bush, lots of dynamic movement, etc)… you probably want something better than a belt clip. Avoid MBITR radio holsters… MBITR’s are huge, and most any other radio will be too small for a MBITR holster. Get a radio pouch that securely holds the radio… you don’t want your radio falling out. (some larger cellphoe pouches can also function as radio holsters.) I prefer something that positively locks, such as a fastex buckle, over snaps or velcro.
        Almost as important as how you carry your radio, is where you carry it. If your radio has a “lock” function that keeps keys from accidentally being pressed that helps. Will you need to access your radio often? Or will it be set it and forget it? If you don’t need regular access, then mounting on packs or your back are OK, but if you need to access it often, you will need to put it where you can get to it better.
        If you are not wearing a chest rig, a search and rescue chest radio harness may work… for casual use, a fire service radio sling may work. If you are wearing full tactical kit, make sure your radio doesn’t interfere with, or get damaged when going prone, etc. If mounted on shoulder straps, make it sure it doesn’t interfere with mounting a rifle on that shoulder. In other words… test your setup under the most real world conditions you can.

        I consider a hand speaker/mic a necessity. Unless you are going to hold your whole radio up to your mouth every time you talk, you have to have a speaker/mic. They allow the radio to stay unmolested in it’s holster, while still being useful. If the speaker/mic has an earphone port, that is even better. When stealth is required, or comsec demands that others around you shouldn’t be listening to your radio traffic, having an earbud is essential.
        I’m not a fan of bluetooth headsets… faster radio battery drain, and something else that needs charging/batteries.
        Headsets, or wired earpieces are a good alternative to the speaker/mic, earbud combo. just make sure it is one that doesn’t fall off with dynamic activity. Extra push to talk buttons, may or may not be handy depending on your set-up. Full sealed headsets are good for loud vehicles, aircraft, and lots of shooting. Electronic earmuff headsets are great for assaults/ direct action, but they are less than ideal for long patrols, low tempo environments, or watch standing.
        Sniper Rigs: Can you key your radio without removing your hand from your long gun? There are special shooter PTT buttons that are essentially tape switches that key your radio…..Unless you are are really sniping… they create more problems than they are worth.( you become wired to your rifle.. it may get tangled or caught)

        Have several. Rubber duckies are durable, but fixed antennas may give you better range. A roll up j-pole, or antenna extension cable and some fishing line may allow you to temporarily get an antenna up in some trees, thus higher, thus longer range. Adapters to/from SMA, N, PL-239, Etc.. turn-arounds, etc… allow you more improvised antenna options.

        That’s all of I can think of for now. I’m sure I’m forgetting something… so feel free to add, edit or expound on what I have started.


      • #96794

          Here’s a good start.

          Intersquad tactical radios

          Beware of 2M repeaters. They record activations and can be used for tracking. We had very good results with Talkabouts in Iraq, but we weren’t facing RDF, jamming, and English speakers.

          Eneloop batteries rock. Expensive, but very good.

        • #96795

            We use older Motorola radios. If units were looking for radio gear i would seriously be looking at Ebay for older public safety gear right now. Specifically the older Motorola and Bendix King rigs. Both are high quality pieces of gear that will handle abuse! They are also DIRT CHEEP right now, thanks to the narrowbanding thingie that happened a couple of years ago. Both pieces can also be computer programmed with the appropriate software and cables. This makes the freq changing that should be done all the time painless.

            The biggest problem I have seen is people trying to militarize low end civilian radio gear. Wuxong or other cheap china brands just are not going to hold up to the abuse long term. They will fail you when it matters most.

            Right now I can buy an older Bendix King setup for anywhere from 30 to 100 bucks and I know that I have good gear. If I am a little more tech savvy, or I have a radio dude, the Motorola HT’s are dirt cheep too. I mean a thousand dollar HT can be had for 40-100 dollars too. Those need special software that you need to get from Motorola*.

            We bought batteries for our HT’s for 30 bucks each brand new online. Stay away from uber antennas on your team radios unless you are a fan of being monitored and DF’d. More gain means you are easier to find. Have your radio nerd do the reaching out commo.

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