Radio Guidance - A WW2 Era Walkie-Talkie!

I’m looking for some guidance in tackling a project.
First let me state anything done will be done legally.
One of my hobbies is WW2 reenacting, both living history and tactical battles.
Over the years I’ve seen folks using the blister pack radios with marginal success, in regards to com, and no success in terms of authenticity.
I’m looking to improve things in regards to com in this department. By mounting a modern radio in a a reproduction case and having it functional.
This has been done with a good degree of success by a gentleman in Norway using their PMR446 radios in case, with a removable antenna, hand held mic and headset.
I’m looking to do the same thing here in the US. Radio will have to have a removable antenna, jacks for mic/speaker, and a decent range outdoors in woods and with some terrain (we will have to work with elevations to optimize).
Having done some research it seems a toss up between UHF/VHF (seems folks plug UHF at 5 watts over the 4 watt VHF for penetration in in foliage).
So I’m leaning towards GMRS, handhelds would seem to fit the bill, but a mobile could work as well providing 12v batteries could supply enough power (plenty of room in a backpack as things have gotten much smaller over the past 70 years).
I’m open to all suggestions on this.

I wrote a blog on handie-talkies and walkie-talkies about a year ago!

There is a rather nice bit of information here as well:

It sounds like you want a walkie-talkie backpack style radio, but a handie-talkie could work as well.

I think it is great you are trying to create a functional unit. The biggest issue is not going to be placing a modern radio inside the box, but alignment issues (as you have mentioned). You also cannot just gut the radio and ditch the stock case. Too bad since that would be the way to go. If the case is made from thin wood, then you could get away with a “dummy” antenna, since the radio may transmit almost as well from inside the wood shell. Do you have a shell designed? It might help to know the interior size constraints (though the original radios are rather large).

Regardless I am sure there are people here how may be interested to see what you come up with.

For a handie-talkie Most of the top-end GMRS radios will work fine, though a few may fit better than others:

For a walkie-talkie, (depending on your budget) there is also this option programmed as GMRS:

Getting a battery to work with it might be a bit of work though. You could also use a regular GMRS radio, and there are a few that even have a speaker mic:

Thanks for the response.
Interestingly enough when I use the buyers guide on the site. The suggestions are for VHF (which would have made sense to me having read about foliage, pin needles, etc) but as mentioned some folks are split and still suggest going with UHF.
Any of these would be fine in regards to the costs. Just need to make sure they suit the application.
The case in question is a backpack unit, originals were cast “bakelite” the repro is aluminum (case is made to house the original guts of a unit). Developing a spin cast at this point would be really costly (limited market to sell to as well). Not removing the antenna isn’t a good option. The control panel is cast and functional to the degree of you can plug in mics and headsets.
Bottom line at the end of the day, the set up needs to work and look right. (unlike what I’ve experienced to date)

Forgot to add:
I will be picking up 2 radios:
One for the HQ unit tuned to the same channel (most likely stock with a handheld mic in a canvas bag)
Backpack unit for in the field (or display) antenna and power on this unit could be the advantage to making the whole thing work best.
Picture of a back pack
[Non-working link removed}

If you want to see how the actual US backpack (walkie talkie) radio looked and operated, here’s the website with the technical/operating manual.

Note that they did not use ‘hand held’ microphones, so if you want ‘realism’, you need either a phone handset, or a headset and a seperate ‘hangs around the neck’ microphone.

‘Realistic’ antennas are going to be a problem, since the original units were around 45 MHz, and used, therefore, long antennas. Faking it would mean using a non-operational long rod antenna, with a ‘hidden’ rubber duck antenna somewhere as out of sight as possible, for VHF or UHF radios.

The problem with VHF is the cost and hassle involved in getting a license. GMRS for general purpose use is just easier and cheaper. I do not think the slight range gain from VHF out in the open is enough to justify it. It would also limit who you could communicate with. Since the cases are aluminum/plastic, yeah a detachable antenna will be needed.

You could go with a commercial grade radio programmed to GMRS, since there are no consumer radios made anymore with a detachable antenna You would then have some more options in accessories as well. I like that you are trying to be as authentic as possible and it is just not a wood box in a canvas backpack. If you could also figure a way to use a hand crank to charge the batteries, it would be awesome. :slight_smile:

Again, very cool project!

I was thinking about the phone style hand-held that was used. If you could find an old phone handset, gut it, and replace the parts with those from a speaker mic it would be a nice touch. Nice link BTW.

Oh, and this is one thread where out resident HAM folk may have some great input. I did a small edit to the title, because I think people are going to find this interesting.

Thanks for all the inputs, exactly what I’m looking for. Good info on the VHF licensing as I have zero background in this. If it were a large difference in getting things to work well I’m willing to tackle the project.
To set things straight this is an axis radio (if you hadn’t come to that conclusion yet)
The mic is one of the easiest things in this case. I have some recasts of an original, these will be made functional, with donor parts.
[Non-working link removed]

Keep the inputs coming. I will be sure to let folks know how things turn out.

Bear in mind… once designing a radio, it needs FCC approval before it can be used. Ham radio operatirs are exempt from this; but if you are not a licensed amateur, then forget it. You would need approval for the radio itself, then the appropriate operator’s license… unless you are a ham.

I thought this was getting into more of a HAM radio area with all the tinkering involved.

I’m a bit lost. Am I building a radio by installing COTS radio with removable antenna in a case and adding an antenna that meets the radios standards?

Jeff I took a look at the mobile the only thing that got me wondering was the references in distance to the antenna to people in the manual.

Aside from that it looks as if UHF business radios are the way to go.
Having looked some over they seem pretty consistent. The Kenwood claims a further range, I’m guessing they all are the same and this is just a Kenwood thing.
I’m also interested in good battery life with the ability to swap them in the field.
Of course the radio needs a removable antenna and remote mic and speaker jacks. Any more tips on which brand/model may be better?

Most commercial radios will get about the same range of 2 miles. I would look at Icom (nice quality, and lithium-ion batteries):

Once again thanks for all the info to date.
I’m looking at one more option on this and that would be to program a decent ICOM for MURS.

  • No license
  • Close to the original freq used, antenna length is not an issue
  • Could perform better with foliage VHF
  • Use in rural area, not much chance of interference with other units
  • Could use radios for other options if licensed

I’m guessing all the bells and whistles can be applied to the MURS channels? Software setup can adjust output power? At one time MURS editions were on the market

Again… though… the radio needs Type Accepted for use on MURS. Every radio service, except for the Amateur service needs any and all equipment that is used in that service to be Type Accepted for use on that service.

You really have me confused, I am not sure what point you are trying to get across. I’m guessing you are coming from the position of knowing what you are talking about and I’m asking for some “clear” guidance having limited knowledge in this. Can you elaborate?

He’s telling you that a radio used in the MURS service must be type accepted (have FCC recognition as meeting the appropriate rules for technical specs and some other things) for the MURS service.

MURS is under Part 95, and many radios are NOT type accepted for Part 95, even though they are type accepted for public safety/business use, under Part 90 of the rules.


ANY radio manufactured for ANY service… EXCEPT the Amateur radio service requires an FCC authorization. You cannot build any radio, except an Amateur Radio (IF you have an Amateur Radio license) Amateurs can build their own equipment and use it, within the frequency limits of their licenses.

Essentially, a “do it yourselfer” is totally out of luck, unless they hold an amateur (Ham) radio license.

All radio transmitters and receivers have to be cleared by the FCC for various safety and emissions guidelines.

No one other than a licensed ham has legal authority to experiment and design radios, unless granted a special authority by the FCC.

If yoiu are an experimenter, I stronglyu suggest studying and getting your Amateur radio license.

You seem very intesested in experimenting and designing… GET YOUR HAM LICENSE!!! We need you :slight_smile:


Guys I’m not interested in experimenting, in fact I’m looking to avoid doing that hence I’m asking the questions up front.

I’m looking for an off the shelf radio that I can stick in a box, disconnect the antenna, hook up a piece of coax run it to the outside of the case and mount an antenna. Then do the same with a PTT mic by disguising it. Nothing more.

Not sure how I gave the impression that I wanted to build a radio, maybe it was because Jeff modified the title.

Back to the question on MURS

I’m looking at one more option on this and that would be to program a decent ICOM for MURS.

* No license
* Close to the original freq used, antenna length is not an issue
* Could perform better with foliage VHF
* Use in rural area, not much chance of interference with other units
* Could use radios for other options if licensed

I’m guessing all the bells and whistles can be applied to the MURS channels? Software setup can adjust output power? At one time MURS editions were on the market