The Family Radio Service Can be Used as Tactical Radios.

The Family Radio Service (FRS) is an improved walkie talkie radio system that was first authorized for use in the United States in 1996. This system uses channelized frequencies around 462 and 467 MHz in the ultra high frequency (UHF) band.  FRS radios are limited to 500 milliwatts by FCC regulations.

FRS radios frequently have provisions for using sub-audible tone squelch codes, these filters out unwanted chatter from other users on the same frequency.  Although these codes are sometimes called “privacy codes” or “private line codes” (PL codes), they offer no protection from eavesdropping and are only intended to help share busy channels.  I have known people who thought that this gave them a secure channel.

The manufacturers generally claim exaggerated range.  Large buildings, trees, etc., will reduce the range.  Under normal conditions, with line of sight blocked by a hills, buildings or trees, FRS has an actual range of about ½ mile.  Under exceptional conditions, (line of sight from hilltop to hilltop) the range can extend to several miles, but that is rare.

Now with this limited range, why would you want them?  Personally, I consider the limited range an advantage.  This is the main reason I use them.  The short range limits eavesdropping.  These make a good tactical radio for use around your home or BOL.

But before you use them walk around your area and get a feel for their range.  I live in an area with many hills and ravines, the radios work well here and the range is quite limited.  Know the dead spots and hot spots in your area.  Don’t go to the very top of a hill and broadcast unless you want people further away to hear you.

The main point is to know your radios, how far will they reach under what conditions.  They can be very useful for short-range communication as long as you know their pros and cons.  But just remember they are not a secure channel.  If you shop around you should be able to find them for under $50 a pair and sometimes quite a bit less.

Howard

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6 Responses to The Family Radio Service Can be Used as Tactical Radios.

  1. Matt in Oklahoma says:

    Use these for hunting and hiking etc.

    Pros:
    Cheap
    Lightweight
    Easy to operate
    Most model can talk to other models on the same channel
    Can be used for misinformation as well (we do that hunting often because folks will move the next morning based on what you say:) LOL)
    The hold up well in weather and getting banged around
    Some offer weather channels and other features
    A lot of them have earbuds and some even have throat mics

    Cons:
    Range stinks in terrain
    Battery life varies but can be a up to set a day so stock up
    Some models need the “call” button cut off because when inadvertently pushed they are loud

  2. ke4sky says:

    FRS is the best way to teach the wife and kids the basics of how to use a portable 2-way radio, help them get over “mic fright,” and see if they have interest in learning, before considering a more expensive, longer range portable which requires a license.

    If you need or simply want more range and better reliability than FRS, but don’t want anything which requires a license, consider the Multi-Use Radio Service or MURS. This is a citizen band in the VHF range. Its use does not require a license. Up to 2 watts of transmitter output is permitted, and you can use more efficient mobile or base antennas. It is a very good option. I have sent Howard additional information on MURS, which can be post if there is more reader interest in this subject.

  3. ke4sky says:

    The course material we use to teach hand-held radio basics to our Community Emergency Response Teams can be found at this link:

    http://transition.fcc.gov/pshs/clearinghouse/cert.html

  4. Veteran Who Is Preparing says:

    You can use FRS and GMRS together sometimes but only on the low number channels and not with an off-set such as channel 7.4, etc… We found that it usually had to be channels 1-4 at most and it usually helped if you had your instruction booklet that showed the freqs your radio uses for each channel. Even then it was iffy depending on the radios. We found this out because most of us were not aware there was a difference in the handhelds and we got what we could afford before we deployed. It was usually much later that we found out some of us had GMRS and the others had FRS radios.

    Some of the handhelds have a scanner capability. We used to sit back and turn on the scanner and wait for someone to transmit to then eavesdrop on their conversations for intel during exercises.

  5. ke4sky says:

    According to the FCC:

    “If you operate a radio that has been approved for both FRS and GMRS, and if you limit your operations to the FRS channels with a maximum power of ½ watt effective radiated power, you are not required to have a license. (Note that some dual-service radios transmit with higher power on FRS channels 1 through 7; these radios can be used without a license only on FRS channels 8 through 14.)”

    Channels 15-22 are split frequency repeater pairs which are used only in the GMRS, so their use also requires a license. FRS-only radios are becoming harder to find, because manufacturers and mass market distributors “push” the hybrid radios, with ludicrous range claims. Further information at these links:

    http://www.fcc.gov/encyclopedia/family-radio-service-frs
    http://www.fcc.gov/encyclopedia/general-mobile-radio-service-gmrs

    The bottom line is that use of 22-channel FRS/GMRS hybrid radios on anything other than the low power 500mw channels 8-14 requires a license. The interstitial simplex channels 1-7 in these radios are shared with GMRS and their use requires a license.

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