Antenna question

Hello, I came to this forum because I know next to nothing about radio comm other than using green gear in the Marines. I want to know what is a cost effective way to have decent comm in the civilian sector. I have a pair of midland 1050’s right now they work pretty well I think anyway. So what can be done to these radios to make them reach out a bit farther. I saw a YouTube video of angry amature putting a different antenna on a radio similar to mine what would be the gains of a mod like that? Thank you.

You’ve got plenty of choice out there, but you probably need to think about what exactly it is you want to do. The license system in the US is broadly similar to here in the UK - and you have to balance up each possibility. In all honesty, the equipment really doesn’t have too much to do with how well it works!

Your green radios are designed to do pretty much the same thing, and the type is chosen depending on the actual job. Talking to a group of local marines being quite different from satellite kit to get from the guys on the ground back to the powers that be - hence the different green comms kit available.

You can buy license free kit, get access to a few channels, share these with every Tom, Dick and Harry (who can annoy you severely) and low power that might get you no more than a few hundred feet, reliably. You can buy licensed gear, that gives a few more channels, has less idiots sharing them and allows a bit more range, radio to radio. You can also spend more money and have frequencies allocated that give greater range, and can if you wish include repeaters on high points top give even further range.

You can also use public comms kit like CB, where the normal range is similar to the licensed systems, but during unusual or special weather conditions, or just night time at certain times of the year, get you across the world - not reliably of course, but it can sometimes be done.

Portable CBs need pretty long antennas, so aren’t really that practical. Most handheld radios use pretty short, and therefore inefficient antennas, so theres a good trade in aftermarket antennas that are longer and more efficient so the range increases - a bit, but not that much.

What do you want them to do, over what distance, and in what terrain? Then we can advise further.

Think too about features and benefits. Little point in a really expensive complicated radio if you’ll be in the woods with gloves on, and are likely to drop them in the mud! Military radios usually have big buttons, simplified operation and can be worked with gloves on. Civilian ones have dinky buttons and knobs and loads of features and complex menus. So sometimes, a cheap one can often be better.

Thank you Paulears! Most likely to need them in a wooded type terrain and within 2 miles would be more than sufficient. Yes the military tries very hard to make our gear idiot proof at the same time it often wasn’t the best quality poor reception batteries that were more weight lifting than powering radios. I’m very interested in having the satisfaction of successfully modifying my radios with an antenna that came be removed and or replaced. Here’s another one, Do longer antenna mean longer/farther distance? Say if I were to buy the BNC connectors and the rf 174 cable would a longer piece yield farther range or does radio battery power become a limiting factor? Also I don’t mind of other people where I’m going to be there won’t be any other people.

yep, in general size is important, but as you mention it’s also to do with height. Some of the military kit has crazy long antennas, but they do give greater range.

Antennas usually have two main criteria. Size and length. Electrically, you can design a perfectly matching antenna that gets very little of it’s energy out into the ether. The simplest type is a quarter wavelength long. A VHF quarter wave is getting on for 20", while a UHF quarter wave is around a third of the size. The physical length also contributes to it’s efficiency - so in general VHF radios get you a bit further for the same power, because the antennas are more efficient. Extending the antenna via a cable to get it higher on the body, give more range due to the height, and to a degree, getting it away from your body. I’ve seen one crazy guy with a quarter wave sticking out of a plastic building site hard hat, hed covered in tin foil in side to create a ground plane. Looked stupid, but worked really good!