07 September 2020

Getting the Most From Your Baofeng...

The novices love them and purists hate them but their usefulness cannot be denied. The little handheld Baofeng radios are dirt cheap, rugged, loaded with features and they just plain work! Whether you choose the 5-watt UV-5R, the 8-watt BF-F8HP (which is really nothing more than an upgraded UV-5R), the 5w UV-82 or 8w UV-82HP, you'll have a radio that will bring you years of enjoyment and potentially life-saving capabilities in emergency situations. The radios listed above are by far the most popular amongst outdoorsmen, preppers and survivalists and they are all dual-band radios, which means that they can operate on VHF which is, depending on model, 136 to 174 MHz and UHF which is 400 to either 480 or 520MHz. Understand that while you can listen to all of these, there is only a limited range that you can actually LEGALLY talk on.

Are there better radios out there? Of course there are, for 10 times the money and half the frequencies. You see, the U. S. government restricts domestic radios to a very specific range of frequencies, most of which require a license. I will post another article soon that will clear up some the whys and where-to-fores of some of the laws and restrictions imposed by our Federal Communications Commission and how they affect you but the purpose of this article is for all those that already have their radios and are trying to figure out what kind of accessories they need for them and brother, there are plenty to choose from!

Let's start with antennas...

Generally speaking, no matter what kind of radio you have, the higher you can get the antenna, the clearer your radio will sound and the farther that it will both transmit and receive. A 5-watt radio may talk 50 or even 100 miles from the top a 10,000' mountain but may barely reach a couple of blocks in town. The antenna is key.

Antennas used for two-way voice communication MUST be tuned to the radio that they are servicing. This means that the Standing Wave Ratio or SWR must be set to the radio. To accomplish this, one must have an SWR meter and the knowledge to use it. However, all of the antennas described below are tuned close enough from the factory and should work fine with the exception of the detached, base antennas. If your SWR's are too far off, you can fry your radio. Don't chance it. No matter where you live, there is most likely a radio shop, a ham operator or hobbyist nearby that can help you with this procedure.

  • The flexible "rubber ducky" antenna that comes stock on the radio lacks in performance but is sufficient for most day-to-day activities. It is flexible and handy for general, portable use like hiking, hunting, etc where your contacts are not too far away.
  • A step up from that is the flexible whip antenna which is nothing more than rubber ducky on steroids. Its quite flexible and is 15.6" long. The one I use is the Nagoya NA-771. The whip antenna greatly improves performance and range but is a tad awkward to carry in the woods. It works best sitting in a window sill at home or at a campsite or something like that.
  • The collapsible or retractable antenna is the best of both worlds. When it is collapsed, it is maybe 5" long and will do anything the rubber ducky will do. Extended, it is the equal of the whip antenna. A word of caution on this antenna... it is NOT flexible! If you drop it and it lands on the antenna, it will likely break. Carry a spare in your pocket or backpack if your going to be out in the boonies or carry a cheap rubber ducky as a back-up! Mine is a Nagoya NA-771R
  • Another option for rigorous, outdoor activities is the "tactical" antenna. They are very similar to older military antennas. They are flat, exceedingly flexible and actually fold for transport. Approximate lengths of the 3 that are commonly available are: + 18", 30" and 43". These will do almost anything that your radio is capable of doing. They are not at all expensive and very useful.
  • Looking for communication security? Well, practically speaking, there's really no such thing, but here's something that will help. The "stubby" antenna. The stubby is 1.5" to 2" long, depending model and manufacturer. Some of them are VERY flexible and pretty much indestructible. The fact that they are so short means that they will not transmit very far. Use one of these and turn your radio down to low power and you're not providing information to people across the valley or giving away that favorite hunting or fishing spot. You might squeeze a mile out of this antenna combined with low power on your radio if there is nothing in the way. In the woods or in town, you may only get a few hundred yards out of it compared to maybe 10 or 20 miles, depending on conditions, out of a whip antenna and a full power radio.
  • There are also magnetic antennas that you can sit on the roof of your car and turn your handheld into a mobile or set it on the rain gutter or a piece of steel on your house and have an instant base station. They vary in height from about 14" to over 30".
  •  With the right connectors, you can hook up a big base antenna to your little handheld and get performance out of it that will blow your socks off! That's right, turn it into a respectable, boomin' base station! 
  • You can also build effective, expedient antennas very easily and very inexpensively with nothing but a couple of connectors and a roll of wire. There are hundreds of examples on YouTube.
  • One last thing regarding antennas. Make sure your antenna is right for your radio! Just any old antenna will not work. For instance, CB antennas will not work on ham radios. You need to make sure the antenna will handle the power that your radio puts out and that it is specifically designed for the frequencies that you plan to use.
OK, let's move on...
Power and Charging Options
Of course, your radio comes with an AC cord and charging cradle to charge any place that there's AC current. But, behold the options!
All variations of the UV-5R and UV-82 (and some others) have optional extended batteries available for them. The extended battery for the 5R series has a built-in jack for a charging plug to allow you to charge the battery sans charging cradle. Some of these more than double the time you can spend on your radios. The less you talk on your radio, the longer the battery lasts. Talking uses much more juice than just listening. When I'm out in the field, I usually run the extended battery first. If I'm going to be out for quite awhile, I'll drop one of the stock batteries in my shirt pocket to get home on.
Another battery option is the battery pack which is available for both types of radios. A battery pack uses commonly available alkaline batteries installed in a case that is dimensionally identical to the stock battery. The 5R series uses AA batteries while the 82 series uses AAA. The idea behind this is to simply have one more option to keep your radio running in the absence of power to charge your batteries. 
Next up, we have a charger that plugs into your cigarette lighter or power source. The other end plugs into the charging cradle that came with your radio. Be very careful of 2 things here. Some of these really are chargers as described above but there are a couple of imposters. One of them is a charger alright but it has a smaller plug and works only in the extended battery of the 5R series, NOT the charging cradle! The other one is not a charger at all. It is a power source only. It plugs into the cig lighter socket but the other end of it is a blank case that installs in place of the stock battery in your radio. This allows constant power, enabling you to run your handheld radio as a dedicated mobile radio without using batteries. They have one for both series of radios. This little gem along with a magnetic antenna and a hand mic equals a mobile radio!

OK, let's see what else we have here... Oh! Here's something, a USB charger. This little $10 accessory lets you charge your radio any place you can charge your phone. Plug it in to any USB power receptacle in your car, home or your PC. You can also use one of these to plug into one of those little solar phone chargers. THERE IS NO EXCUSE FOR HAVING A DEAD RADIO!

Next order of business is microphones. Four choices, really. Quite naturally, you can just use the built-in mic in the radio. Next choice is the little headset that comes with the radio. They work ok but they not my favorites. For recreational purposes, they're fine. Next is the hand mic or collar mic as some call it. This is a separate mic that plugs into the side of the radio like the stock headset. You know, like the cops use. This is a must if you are using your radio for a base or mobile. Lastly is the throat mic. Hands down my absolute favorite. As the name implies, it wraps around your throat and places two sensors right beside your larynx. The throat mic picks up vibration, not sound. This means no background noise to clutter your transmission and you don't have to holler to talk over the noise on your end. You can even whisper and still be heard!

There's probably something that I'm leaving out but this should keep you busy for a little while!



In Liberty, Cope Reynolds (Desertscout) 

 Southwest Shooting Authority of Arizona 

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05 August 2020

Dark Times


by Cope Reynolds

I posted something on Facebook a few days ago that some of you may have seen. It was about my childhood. It was nice to reminisce and I think many of you felt the same way. However, the more I think about it, the darker it becomes.

A recently married young friend of mine texted me not long after I posted that with some serious concerns. This young lady is on the young side of Generation Z Millennial age but she was raised right and she gets it. She's desperately concerned about the upcoming election. She understands that if we lose a couple of seats in Arizona, we turn Blue. She understands that if Trump loses, the Nation turns Blue and she understands what that means. She understands that widespread violence in this country is inevitable and all of this disturbs her deeply. But the biggest thing that concerns her is bringing children into this world in its current state of affairs. Oh, how I grieve for her and those like her! Kids her age should not have to worry about such things.

I know times change and things evolve. This has been going on since the beginning of time but I don't believe that any generation in history has witnessed as much deterioration of morality and loss of human values in such a short time as mine has.

Every generation in history has witnessed a certain degree of evolution in technology. But mine? I can remember fresh milk being delivered to our front porch in glass bottles with cardboard lids. I remember party lines and phones with dials and cords. I remember mercurochrome and merthiolate. Roller skate keys, church keys and bicycles with steel frames, fenders and one speed. Etch-a-sketch, Spirograph and Slapjack. No digital watches, cellphones or portable computers. Word processors were called typewriters. 

I remember going from no such thing as automobile air conditioning to having a little plastic unit with a fan that sat on the transmission hump that you filled ice cubes. Virtually no 4-lane highways, no radial tires and the standard car warranty was only good for 1 year/12,000 miles. Yes, I remember when postage stamps cost a nickel and all long-distance calls went through an operator. I remember when gas was 19 cents a gallon and a new car cost around 2500 bucks. Minimum wage was a buck and quarter and a dozen eggs was about 40 cents.

I could go to the Sunday matinee at the Allen Theater with a quarter and that would get me into the show with enough left over for a coke and popcorn and penny bubblegum was everywhere. We listened to wonderful, wholesome music and every movie on TV was suitable for every member of the family.

Hunting was normal. Nearly every family we knew went to the woods during deer season and spent a few days together camping and enjoying the clean air and beautiful scenery. Practically every boy (and a few girls) got a .22 rifle for their birthday by the time they were 6 or 8 years old. Most of us that were fortunate enough to live on farms and ranches were allowed to go hunting for small game and varmints by ourselves shortly after that.

We rode in the back of the truck, drank out of the garden hose and went skinny dippin’ in the river. We didn’t wear seat belts in the car or helmets when we rode bicycles or horses. There was lead in the paint on our walls and on the baby crib, water pipes were made out of lead and toothpaste came in lead tubes.

Kids were allowed to walk home at dusk or even a little after dark. People routinely went to neighbors’ homes to play pinochle and Yahtzee, eat dinner and visit. Doors were never locked and there was a rifle in the back window of practically every pick-up truck you saw. Guns were purchased at the gun shop or hardware store over the counter like a screwdriver. Age didn't matter unless the clerk knew your daddy and questioned your permission to buy one. Almost everyone had a daddy.

Dynamite and strychnine could be bought over the counter at the hardware store and I could walk into Ross Sporting Goods and buy a box of. 22 shells when I was 9. All of this and still nearly every report of violent crime was a fist fight down at the Office Bar.

What I remember most is freedom and liberty. These wonderful benefits were exercised regularly and we didn’t even really know we were doing it. It was just life. It’s the way things were. We didn’t realize we had it so good until we didn’t. Ronald Reagan said, "Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn't pass it on to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children's children what it was once like in the United States where men were free". Have we reached that generation?

DAMN, what a wonderful life we had in those days! Where are we at now? Compare every item above to present day and throw in some of your own. People can't do anything for themselves anymore and the "life skills" that kids are taught are how to play games on electronic devices and change the settings on grandma's cell phone. Kids are raised by X-boxes and Play Stations and many of them are introduced to drugs, sex and crime before they have pubic hair. I understand that there are exceptions but most kids nowadays can't sharpen a knife, build a fire, gut a rabbit, shoot a gun, change a tire, drive a nail or dig a ditch. How are they to save our Nation?

Its no damned wonder my friend is worried about her future! Dark times are upon us...

By the way, about having kids…

God has a Plan. He put us here to work out our salvation and “be fruitful and multiply”. At no time did He say, “OK, things are looking a little bleak so you can disregard everything I said previously”. No, the Plan has not changed. Babies still need to come into this world to be given the opportunity see how they do on this test called life. Whatever happens, it is supposed to happen. We may not like or agree with it but it is not our decision. Live your life, love your life, have fun when you can, fight when you have to. Things change but this is your world now. Make the best of it!


22 May 2020

He Said, She Said...

"Some people just need to be shot!" Have you ever said that when you were aggravated due to the actions of others? Have you ever heard anyone say it? Of course you have. Or how about, "That guy made me so mad I could have killed him!"? It may not be very appetizing to some of the kinder, gentler amongst us but it is, nevertheless, a pretty common phrase. Does anyone that says it really mean it? Although I'm sure there are exceptions, probably not.  Do you figure anyone that says that during a moment of frustration actually plans on carrying it out? Probably not. 

A very good friend of mine was making a delivery in a company vehicle for the company that he worked for a few days ago when a woman pulled out in front of him and almost ran him into wall.  Of course, the oblivious lady continued on her way.

A short time later while in the back of the store and out of earshot of customers, our pet phrase of the day popped out of my understandably still frustrated friend's mouth. Of the only two colleagues that heard him, one thought nothing of it, agreed and went on about his business. The other, a whiny-assed, snot-nosed, lilly-livered, pantywaist  punk, swallowed hard, dribbled a little pee down one leg, tucked his tail between his legs and crawled off to a dark corner to make a phone call. He bypassed the store manager (who is also a friend of mine and would have nipped it in the bud), the district manager and called HR directly. What happened after that is as astonishing as all the toilet paper in America evaporating. 

Instead of asking my friend what the circumstances were and getting his side of the story, they IMMEDIATELY suspended him, evacuated the store and locked it up. The next day, two policemen showed up at his house to serve trespass papers. The cops were told by the company that my friend was armed and dangerous and to approach him with caution. Of course, when the cops figured out who it was, they shook their heads, delivered the papers, conducted the customary BS session and went on their way. My friend ultimately quit his job in an effort to head off any further persecution by the company. 

The company? O'Reilly Auto Parts, Store # 3563 right here in Show Low, AZ whom I will never spend another penny with. Nor will I ever do business with any O'Reilly since this was ultimately a corporate decision. (Please consider this story before making your next auto parts purchase). I am completely dumbstruck by this turn of events. This is the world we live in. A world where a person can be accused, convicted and punished simply on the word of another without even being able to offer their side of the story.

This brings us to a closely related point and that point is; always, always be careful what you say, who you say it to, which else may be listening and might be the repercussions if the wrong person hears it?

Some of the foolishness that I'm seeing on Facebook is going to get good people taken out of the struggle prematurely, one way or another. This is not a 1st amendment issue. This is an ego issue. Most of posts calling for organization and revolution are either from scatterbrained, know-nothing, wannabe patriots that get on FB and stroke each into a feeding frenzy or from provocateurs trying to stir things up. The smarter patriots are discussing the state of the Nation more discreetly.

 A few years ago it was a little different. If you think the powers that be are not watching and taking notes, you're crazy as hell. Folks, as the saying goes, the genie is out of the bottle. He will not go back in of his own accord, not without a substantial amount of persuasion. If you want to be part of the solution and not have to watch what happens to America on the news from a jail cell, please put some thought into what you say and do and who you say it to. I promise you that if America winds up in an internal conflict, it will NOT be won on Facebook!