Strategic vs Tactical Radios for Defensive Use

tactical radios

In any type of serious emergency, be it a major national disaster, a nuclear attack or major civil disruptions you need to be able to communicate with your friends and family.  In addition, you need intelligence, to know how to react to the situation. This leads me to the subject of discussion, strategic vs tactical radios.

Both types of radios are important but they serve different purposes.  Strategic communications would include long-range two-way radios, television, AM/FM radio networks and shortwave.  Long-range two-way radios would be used to communicate with people at a distance.  Television, AM/FM and shortwave would be used to try to collect intelligence.

Strategic radios serve useful purposes, but they have their downside. Some of this are limited by only providing one way communication.  Second the ham radios can provide excellent long-range communications and a good setup can easily reach overseas.  This gives you the ability to collect information and communicate with distant family and friends.  The downside to ham radios is their range.  Anybody who is listening in can copy your conversations.  It does not take a high degree of technology to locate your signal source.  So you can very easily give away more information than you gather.

Now let’s talk about tactical radios

tactical radios
FRS/GMRS radios

Tactical radios are ones that you would use for short-range communications.  A radio with a range of less than a mile may be a great convenience on local communications.  It is much less likely to attract attention than a longer-range radio.  More range means more potential listeners

Good examples of tactical radios would be the FRS/GMRS (Family Radio Service and General Mobile Radio Service) and the MURS radios (Multi Use Radios Service).  All of these are relatively short-range radios.  For instance, the manufactures of FRS radios claim the range is up to 2 miles.  The actual range is closer to ¼ to 1 mile depending on the terrain.  They are small inexpensive two-way radios that operate on 14 dedicated channels.

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Many of the new radios coming on the market are hybrid radios, meaning that the radio is FRS/GMRS, and works in a GMRS band as well.  The GMRS had a longer range and many of these radios will list 22 channels and claim a 25 – 50 miles range.  The claimed range always seems to be about twice what you get.  The hybrid radios will be short range only if used on the FRS channels.   GMRS radios require a license to use.

tactical radios
MURS radio

Myself I have several of the MURS radios and feel that they are the best choice.  They are readily available and require no license.  The range falls between that of the FRS and the GMRS radios.  In the area I  live which is hilly I seem to get between 2 to 5 miles depending on my location.

FRS/GMRS radios can be purchased in pairs for as little as $35.00 a pair.  MURS radios are more expensive.  I would recommend that you buy good quality US made radios and avoid the Chinese radios.  Stock extra batteries and antennas and any other accessories you need.

Yesterday’s post gives a lot of good information on the MURS radio, Getting the Most from Your Personal Radio, MURS or FRS/GMRS.  Just remember that when you use a tactical radio anyone within range can be listening.  Keep your communication short and possibly in a code of your making.  Avoid using the radios unless it is important and don’t give information to others who may pose a threat.


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5 thoughts on “Strategic vs Tactical Radios for Defensive Use”

  1. The 25-35 mile range claimed for GMRS is correct ONLY for LICENSED users accessing a REPEATER system. A repeater consists of a radio receiver, an amplifier, a transmitter, an isolator, and either one or two antennas.

    The repeater transmitter produces a radio signal on a frequency that is different from that of the received signal. This so-called “frequency offset” is necessary to prevent the strong transmitted signal from “desensing” or disabling the receiver. The isolator provides additional protection. A repeater located on a hill top, high building or tower, can greatly enhance the performance of low power portable or mobile radio equipment by allowing communications over distances much greater than would be possible without it.

    The effective range of a 500 milliwatt FRS radio operating on the UHF band in typical urban terrain is less than a mile, or six vertical floors in a high-rise, steel reinforced concrete building. Licensed GMRS portables are authorized up to 5 watts of transmitter output, or ten times the power of an no-license required FRS radio. This enables reliable “simplex”, or direct unit-to-unit contact without use of a repeater, for several miles and more than ten vertical floors.

    Licensed GMRS mobile radios may not exceed 5 watts transmitter power on the seven interstitial simplex channels which are shared with the FRS, but they may use more efficient external antennas. When used on the designated “split” repeater frequencies, GMRS mobile radios are authorized up to 50 watts, or 100 times the power of an FRS radio, which enables wide-area throughout the metropolitan area of a large city by using pre-established repeater networks.


    “Repeats” signals to extend range of portable and mobile units.

    Receives on one frequency while simultaneously re-transmitting on another (Duplex).

    REACT and other user group repeaters are available to licensed users.

    Commercial-grade equipment used is similar to that in public safety radio systems.

    Repeaters are typically located on high-rise buildings or towers.

    Transmit at 50-100 times the power of a portable radio.

    Repeaters may be linked together in a wide-area network.

    Some repeaters enable “phone patch” to 911.

    Coverage depends upon “radio horizon,” typically 20 to 60 miles operating radius for licensed users with commercial-grade equipment.

    1. What type of radio(s) are you looking for. Most of the ham radio’s are made in Japan by either Kenwood, Icom, Yaesu, Alinco. I am not aware of any radio’s at all being made in the United States. It is all overseas for the cheap labor.

      The last time I bought a ham radio was in 1995 or 1996 and that was a Icom IC-2100H. All of the radio’s that I purchase now are FCC Part 90 rigs because I also work in the public safety sector and need those frequencies outside of ham radio to communicate on.

  2. No current US manufacturers that I am aware of. ICOM is Japanese and Motorola may be either Japanese or made in China depending upon the model. Older Bendix-King, GE, Maxon, Uniden, Midland and E.F. Johnson LMR radios are readily available used and can be reprogrammed by commercial 2-way radio shops.

    I have the MURS channels re-programmed into my older GE MP-A and MP-D radios which I used to use on the job. These have 2-meter ham and some of the old fire department mutual aid and fire ground talkaround channels still in them, because they remain in use in many rural areas. Our volunteer SAR and CERT teams where I live now is authorized to use them.

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