December 30, 2015

Running MilSurp Gear

For the long term, you want to have radio gear that's rugged and repairable.  One way is to run Milsurp gear, the older the better.

These are not appliances.  They are more like ham gear from the 1950s and 1960s that required you to know something.

Start here: Index_to_Surplus

This is a bibliography of magazine articles from 1945-1961 dealing with amateur radio use and conversion of military surplus radio equipment. It will require you to go out into meatspace (aka the real world) and do research.

Back issues (and the articles within) of QST are available to ARRL members off the organization's web site.

Back issues of 73 Magazine are available here:

I would check the archives of a large city or college library for the other magazines. Someone in your ham club may also have them, or you may find them at a hamfest.

The "current" book on Milsurp Radio Gear is this one:

It is out of print, and used copies are about three times what the new price was.  That's the nature of good, hard to find information in print.  Volume 2 is still in print, and can be ordered here.

Finally, here is another page that talks about more modern milsurp equipment: Read what he has to say:
This page is to share what I and some others have learned about several items of surplus radio gear suitable for use in the Amateur Radio service. Many models of surplus commercial and military radio equipment are desirable because of the higher physical and electrical characteristics this equipment is built to. Amateur radio equipment is usually designed and constructed to appeal to a mass market of end user consumers, similar to other items of consumer electronics such as stereos and televisions. While Amateur Radio equipment is feature rich in buttons and functions, it is not robust nor does it reach the level of design excellence found in may commercial and military radios. This is due largely to the Amateur Radio market demanding bells and whistles at low prices the manufactures cannot afford to build quality equipment to.

It is no accident this page is attached to a emergency communications organization's website.  Practice has shown time and time again Amateur Radios do not hold up.  While adequate for the "typical" ham, offerings from Yaesu, Kenwood, Alinco, Icom, others just don't cut it when communications are for real.  Commercial and Military radios are intended to be used in the presence of other powerful radios, when the antenna is shot off the vehicle, when the operator is stressed, etc.  When your Yae-wood-com falls apart, these things keep plugging along - they have to, they were intended to function in roles where people die if they fail.

The radio amateur can obtain robust, very high performance equipment at reasonable prices if he looks outside of the mainstream of the Amateur Radio market. While much of this equipment may be 10 or 15 years old or older, it was state of the art in its day and will often outperform most new amateur radios. Remember, the government may have paid $40,000 for these radios, and what they paid for was the best design available, the best materials available, put together in such a way to survive a nuclear attack. Don’t look for fancy knobs, buttons, RIT, Shift, etc. These things are real radios, built for people who need to communicate with each other in a difficult environment. Most of the bells and whistles are advertisement department hype and you don’t need them anyway.


December 28, 2015

Cui Bono?




Now go back to the first link, and try to think for yourself, for a change.

Regurgitating other people's opinions that you found on the net is stupid and wrong.  If you do it, you are stupid and wrong.

Imagine This Times Twenty, and You'll See The Future

Incidents like this will become more common, and they will be one of top problems you'll have to worry about.


Trucker Destroys Historic Bridge Because She Didn't Know How Many Pounds Six Tons Was

Ms. Lambright was aware of the iron bridge stating she had driven on it several times in her personal vehicle and was also aware of the posted signage “no semis, weight limit of 6 tons”. When asked by Paoli Police why she continued through the bridge knowing the weight limit was only 6 tons she admitted to not knowing how many pounds that was. She was advised the weight of the vehicle at the time of the crash was close to 30 tons.

Sideband CBs

After hearing some rumors from my readers, I have confirmed that Cobra is at this time no longer manufacturing CBs with sideband (SSB).

They cost a little more money, but if you were going to stick strictly to license-free comms, I would advise spending the extra money and getting a CB with SSB.  SSB works better under difficult conditions.

Yes, they also do AM so you are compatible with AM-only CBs.

Uniden and Galaxy are still making SSB CBs.

Uniden Bearcat 980SSB

Galaxy DX-949

I have been asked about ham gear that can be modified to cover CB frequencies, and the "export" CB/10 meter radios that also have FM and a "Band Switch".   If you know enough about RF to inquire about them, then you should know the answer to your questions, and know better than to make an admission against interest to someone you don't know.

I don't know you, and therefore don't trust you just on general principle.  I also find it highly suspicious when you just come out and ask certain things of someone you don't know.

And yes, I'm well aware of the provisions in 47CFR97.403 & 405.  You're not being clever by bringing it up.

SiGB: Rechargeable Battery Basics

"Getting your power system squared away should be a primary objective for 2016."

December 27, 2015

Another Sign Of The Times

I looked through my local Wal-Mart's sporting goods department today, and saw this:

Retro CameraThe vast majority of survival gear items normally on the shelf were gone.  These are the little necessary items you put in bug-out bags or contingency kits.  I'd like to think they became stocking stuffers or wound up under the tree on December 25th.

Remember this sign?


Get your essential gear together while there is still time.

December 24, 2015

A Reader Sends: Icom IC-718

h/t Z-Man

Do not taunt happy fun ball.



FYI: Good Old Technical Books

Reader Request: Electronics Books For Beginners

For the gentleman who asked:

NEETS - US Navy Electricity and Electronics Training Series - Free downloads.

Other Recommendations

Start here:

I've found this to be the best beginner book on Electronics.

Then get this one:

And then this one:

I believe those three, combined with the NEETS downloads, are your best electronics books for beginners.

The first book is goes into basic electronics from a total beginner level.  It's what I started with.  The second two show you how to make basic RF receiver components from raw materials.  This is important, especially for long-term grid-down scenarios.  All three are easy to read and understand.


Merry Christmas

A good, solid, USA-made folding knife that the recipient  will be able to use and enjoy for decades.


December 22, 2015

OSINT-resources on equipment

Really good info.

Source: OSINT-resources on equipment

Something To Consider: Power For Radio Equipment

Back when I worked in land mobile radio,  I observed that handheld radio (HT) rechargeable batteries generally had a 3-5 year lifespan, before they were incapable of holding a decent charge. The more abused the battery, the shorter the lifespan.  If the battery was taken care of properly, a little longer.

My best HT battery lifespan so far has been 10 years for a Ni-Cd on a milsurp Bendix King PRC-127.  That was doing everything by the book, so to speak, and using an aftermarket battery charger/conditioner.

Here are some websites to check out:

Consider how you will be able to power equipment in a long-term grid-down sceneario, and choose appropriately.

HINT: Much of the off-the-shelf stuff you find will be inadequate.



December 21, 2015

The Sum Of All Good

When the present socio-political system collapses,  and those of us who remain start to rebuild, what are we going to use as a means to facilitate economic exchange?

Those who think that barter is going to work out 100% are wrong.

Here is the solution:

We must go back to real money.  What they used from biblical times up until the present mess started.

Silver has always been the common man's means of engaging in trade.   It will be again once we start fixing things.

Learn a trade that you can take past the reset.  Get your tools and materials together.  Put aside some silver.  You will make out OK.


A Sign Of the Times

As seen at the local supermarket:
Yes, it is that bad.
Yes, it will get worse.

Here are some books that you will want to read:



December 20, 2015

Good Cheap Knives

Get two, in case you lose one or a friend comes late to the party.

On-Scene, On a Budget

You're driving down the road, and see a group using radios.

  • What frequency are they on?

  • Can you hear them?

  • What are they saying?

I've talked about scanners that have the function known as (depending on brand) Close Call, Signal Sweeper, or Signal Stalker.

If you have visual contact on the group, one of these will do the job for you.  Provided they aren't using some digital or other esoteric mode.

If they are running P25, then you need a Digital Trunktracker, and I've heard too many of you whine about how they cost $400+.  Any other digital mode, and you're out of luck unless you want to take a try at wrangling some of the RTL-SDR software.  Caveat: It's a lot harder than programming a Chinese HT.

Cancel the Cable/Satellite TV service, and pawn that widescreen TV.   You don't need it.  In four months, you'll be able to afford one.

In the meantine, here are the two cheapest Close Call/Signal Sweeper handheld scanners on the market.

One is a Whistler, one is a Uniden.  Doesn't matter which one you buy.  They also make good cheap bubba detectors for those of you who haven't bought an Icom R-6.

Consider these two scanners to be the Baofengs of near-field signal interception, just with a better build quality.

December 18, 2015

A Good Field Shirt

I stopped by one of my local gear sources, and found the proprietor had come across a batch of these:

This is a US GI Issue Wool Field Shirt.  They were issued from the 1950s up until the 1980s.  Got my first one from a sympathetic supply sergeant at my first unit.  He managed to get a bunch in assorted sizes just before they were declared obsolete, and gave them out to those who knew and asked about them (and didn't piss him off).

Despite not being standard issue for almost 30 years, they remain available via Milsurp channels, although sizes larger than Medium are a little less available.   They are a well-made, warm garment that will last for decades.

December 17, 2015

Advanced Signal Acquisition and Experimental Communications


Many in the RF hobbyist scene have talked about the RTL-SDR, a European TV Receiver Dongle that can be used as a wideband VHF/UHF receiver.  This device has become so popular that a website was started to support hobbyist efforts, and many spin-off designs have been created to improve on the original.

It remains, however, that many of these devices are made in China, and require a computer to work.  One of my favorite authors, KK7B, said in a presentation a few years back:

Note that experimental gear that requires a computer before you can hear anything will no longer work in five years.

Interestingly enough, his go-to handheld transceiver is an Icom IC-Q7A, the transceiver version of this radio:

The Icom IC-R6A Wideband Receiver

How do the new USB dongle receivers compare and stack-up when compared to more traditional receiving equipment?

If you presume to be a communications specialist, you must go beyond the Baofeng and expand your communications horizons.

Are you an appliance operator, or a communications specialist?

Want to learn more towards becoming the latter?

These are the matters I will be discussing next year in upcoming issues of Signal-3.

sig3Click here to subscribe.

December 15, 2015

Kitting Out for Winter


Winter's here in the high desert, and long past time to change out all the summer stuff in the kit.  I find myself lugging more contingency gear during the winter, so the change-out also includes a bigger pack:

Got one of these in OD at Clothing Sales back in 2004, and it has held up admirably since then.  They don't sell them in OD anymore, but you can get one in "Coyote Brown" which is just as good.  Or in Multicam if that's your thing.   Only thing I found better so far is my London Bridge 1476A, but you definitely get what you pay for when you buy LBT.

For those of you who run Yaesu FT-817s as your field radio, I have found that they fit nicely in the Spec-Ops SAW Magazine Pouch:

I use the internal battery pack and stock Rubber-duck antenna (with 6 meter extension) on the FT-817, and mount the pouch on the pack's upper set of PALS webbing.  Now I have 6m, 2m, and 70cm ham band capability while on the go.

Before I ran with those packs, I used an old Medium ALICE pack:

Got mine back in the day at my local Army/Navy store (which is still there).  It was cheap, rugged, and worked.  Actually, it did a good job. Still have it.



As per the survival rule of threes, you've got about 3 days before you are incapacitated due to lack of water.  That puts it among your higher survival priorities in the grand scheme of things.

Water weights about 8 lbs. a gallon.  The US Army recommends a daily consumption of 50-75% of your body weight in ounces, depending on your level of activity.  1 gallon = 128 ounces  =  4 quarts.  So, if you weigh 150 lbs.: 150x.75=112.5 ounces or .8 gallons That's about 6 1/2 pounds for each day's worth of water.

Now let's think 72 hours, because a lot of preppers like that time frame for short-term emergencies.  72/24=3 days. 3x6.5=19.5 lbs for your water supply for that period.

Due to the weight and bulk of water supplies over a period of time, a lot of us get water filters to help provide for our hydration needs.

My primary field filter is an MSR Waterworks.  I picked this one because I liked the construction quality, maintenance parts were readily available, and you can clean the filter (and restore full operation) with a steel wool pad.  The Waterworks is discontinued, but you can get the MSR Miniworks, shown below:


That would be my primary filter.  For a secondary filter system, I found these Frontier Straw-type filters:

I picked up a couple back East, but haven't been able to source them locally.  I did, however, find a better substitute made by Sawyer:

It comes with a small 16 oz water bag, but can be attached directly to plastic soda/water bottles you may scrounge up along the way.   You can also use it as a regular straw filter.

Throw one of these in your kit, and at least you won't go thirsty.

I don't care for Camelback-type hydration bladders after I had one spring a leak in a pack during a hike.  I stick to 1 and 2 quart GI Canteens, and Nalgene bottles.   The GI canteens have a cup and stove that fit over them in the canteen pouch, and the Nalgene bottles screw directly onto the bottom of my MSR Filter.  The MSR will also screw onto the bottom of a Camelback for those of you who run them.

Chest And Shoulder Mounted Handgun Rigs

Interesting thoughts on shoulder holsters.

A Reader Sends: New Portable Power Source For Field Electronics (Including Radios)

Kitting Out for Winter

A Reader Sends: New Portable Power Source For Field Electronics (Including Radios)

h/t Z-Man



  • 18 AH @ 12v DC

  • 2 lbs.

  • 10.4 x 9.9 x 2.5 in.

That's a lot of juice in a small package.

They also have other products that may be interesting.


Download, print, read, and keep handy for future reference.

Things will fall apart.  It remains to be seen if it will a quick collapse that will leave remaining resources intact for an easier rebuilding, or a slow decay that consumes everything right down to our seed corn.  Right now, it looks like they are kicking the can down the road long enough that the latter seems to be the more likely possibility.

In the meantime, we'll still have our Katrinas, Sandys (including those of the Hook variety), Fergusons, and other disasters whose effects will be amplified by the slow decay.  You will still have a need, in our increasingly post-industrial idiocracy, of getting news and information about local happenings. Here is one more useful tool you can add to your kit.  It contains a list of tactical frequencies that are generally only used when multiple public safety agencies have a need for interoperability (to talk to one another) during disaster response and mitigation. That means they are generally quiet unless something is happening.

Learn what you can. Acquire the necessary gear.  Get ready.  It's gonna happen, just not as quick as you think. Be thankful for that.  It gives you more time.

The National Interoperability Field Operations Guide (NIFOG) is a technical reference for emergency communications planning and for radio technicians responsible for radios that will be used in disaster response. The NIFOG includes rules and regulations for use of nationwide and other interoperability channels, tables of frequencies and standard channel names, and other reference material, formatted as a pocket-sized guide for radio technicians to carry with them.

I would also peruse the other document selections at will become the basis for Version 2.0 of the workshops starting next year.

You might want to start with .  That's a real-world list of what would be expected from you as a communications specialist.

December 9, 2015

Watching the Watchers

Here's one that'll make you rend your garments and seek the comfort of Alex Jones' voice:

Or you can seek a solution...


Combined with some free software.

Specifically, you want to download and install this one:

Or maybe this one:

Want to learn more?


See you in class.

December 8, 2015

Free Sample Issue Of Signal-3

Advanced Studies - My Picks

Because otherwise you're just an appliance operator, and not a commo specialist.

This two-volume series is one of my favorites.  Good general overview on doing interesting things with receivers.  Read this "backwards and sideways", and you'll learn a lot.  WARNING: May cause debunking of conspiracy theories, and altering of status-quo reality picture.  You have been warned.

Seriously, the best (and often least expensive) gear is that which you make yourself.  You know, like back when Amateur Radio was taken seriously as a technical service, and hams usually built their own gear. This book shows you how to do it.

Many items described in this book can be ordered as kits from Kanga in Ohio. -

This one is a little more beginner oriented.  Another favorite of mine.  "Stone tools and yer bare hands" type receivers. The cover subtitle "How to Build Working Radio Receiver Components Entirely From Scratch" is not joking.  Real simple techniques in here.  Start with this one if you are afraid so far.

Every ham or electronics techie-type should have a copy of this (even if a few years old) on their bookshelf.


It'll only get worse.

Freedom begins between the ears.
– Edward Abbey