Learn Radio Terminology

Learn Radio Terminology

Amps? Rig? Feedlines? What are all these words? If you’re pursuing a survivalists comm plan then you will need to learn radio terminology so that you will understand what everyone else is talking about.

  • Amplifier – is as its name states a device used to make your signal go further on transmit. Note that the amplifier (or “amp”) does not help on receive. To increase one’s receive capabilities you would add a “pre-amp” to your antenna.
  • Antenna – is a term for the device used to send and receive radio signals. An antenna can be anything from a simple wire antenna up to a high-end structure.
  • Boom – the horizontal portion of a beam antenna which is held up by the mast.
  • CB – everyone knows that CB stands for Citizen’s Band. CB radios are good for survivalists as they are cheap and readily accessible Their main drawback is a lack of coverage brought on by such low power levels.
  • Coax – a special kind of cabling using a center conductor surrounded by a shield of braided wire. Coax is used to prevent interference to the transmit or receive signal.
  • DX’er is a person who pursues contacts with foreign countries. Shortwave listening is also considered DXing even though the SWL is not transmitting a signal.
  • Feedline is the wire that feeds the signal to the antenna from the radio (or to the radio in the case of shortwave radios). The most widely known name for feedlines is simply “coax” (pronounced ko-axe)
  • FRS stands for Family Radio Service and is attractive to survivalists because it is a license-free service.
  • GMRS stands for General Mobile Radio Service is a licensed service for an individual and their family members. The fees for GMRS are in the neighborhood of $85 US.
  • Ham Radio is the more popular name for ‘amateur radio. Ham radio require a license as well as some comprehensive testing to acquire the license.
  • LID – a derogatory term for an amateur radio operator who doesn’t follow the ‘rules of the road’ so to speak.
  • Mast – a mast is nothing more than a support for an antenna. It can be most any size and sometimes uses telescoping sections. The use of telescoping sections designates these as push-up masts’.
  • Rig – a rig is another name for a radio to ham radio operators. Some other names are transceiver, radio, or even squawk box.
  • SWL is short for shortwave listener and is a requirement in some countries before you are able to obtain an amateur radio license. There are a great many hams who are still SWL even though they are allowed to use a transmitter
  • SWR – this term is fairly familiar to survivalists with even a basic knowledge of radios (Ham, or CB). SWR describes the ‘standing wave ratio’ of your antenna system. SWR is a form of measurement of the ‘health’ of your antenna system. Improper SWR readings indicate the antenna itself is improperly adjusted. Excessively high SWR indicates a serious problem likely to be in the coax/feedline and will damage the rig if it is used in this configuration.
  • Transceiver is a cross of words which means you are using a radio that is both a “transmitter” as well as a “receiver”. In the mid-70’s and earlier it was not unusual to see hams and military personnel using a separate transmitter and a receiver.

Learn Radio Terminology

Mobile Radios

Mobile Radios

Mobile Radios have a distinct advantage over fixed base radios in that they are smaller (easier to conceal), they have almost the same features and options as fixed base radios, and they can be used as fixed base radios simply by connecting them to readily available 12 volt power supplies. Mobile radios and even fixed base radios can readily be used for portable operations.

Mobile radios will generally operate in the VHF/UHV1 range and are best for localized operations. Depending on the gain of the antenna used in mobile operations the area of coverage for mobile radios can be anywhere from 1 to 5 miles. Should a survivalist incorporate HF or High Frequency radio in their communications gear then they can expect to dramatically expand their area of coverage.

Of particular interest to those who want a comprehensive communications system is the fact that quite a few amateur (ham) radios incorporate HF & VHF. For instance, the Icom model IC-746PRO covers the amateur bands between 1.8 and 29.7 megahertz. Along with these frequencies theIcom IC746PRO HF/VHF/UHF IC-746PRO has a general coverage receiver which encompasses the frequencies between 0.030 and 60 megahertz. An additional receive only band of 108 to 174 megahertz also comes standard in the IC-746PRO. One more attractive feature of the IC-746PRO is that in contains an onboard antenna tuner. An antenna tuner’s function is to insure the antenna connected to the IC-746PRO is matched (tuned) to its optimum. Antenna tuners protect the transmitter of radios as well as improve the received signals. Even though the IC-746PRO is considered to be a fixed base radio, it is well suited for mobile and/or portable operation.

Portable Operations

We touched briefly on using mobile radios and base station radios in portable operations. One might wonder about the differences between that of mobile radios and portable radios. The radios themselves are no different when it comes to portable operations. It is the surroundings that differentiate between fixed base, mobile, and portable operations. Portable operations generally use a large and/or more permanent antenna system than a mobile radio would require. Portable operations generally are running on either generator or solar energy as the power source for the communications equipment. The antennas used in portable operation tend to be either verticals stuck on a pole or a series of tuned wire antennas strung between structures such as trees.

No matter what radio gear a survivalist chooses they need to consider the probability that they will be using mobile or portable radio setups at one time or another.


1VHF/UHF indicates the radio equipment operates in the VHF, Very High Frequency, or UHF, Ultra High Frequency, ranges.

Survivalist Communications

Survivalist Communications

Communications Resources – Survivalists – Preppers – SHTF Scenarios


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Survivalist Communications is a vital part of any survival plan whether the survivor is pitted against nature or man. The standard means of communications in today’s world is, of course, the venerable cell phone. Running a close second and some may contend that the Internet is an intrinsic partner to the cell phone industry. No one could argue the fact that these two technologies alone have allowed people to communicate more with each other. On the other hand it has turned us also into a lazy, self-indulgent society. Too harsh of a condemnation? Maybe, maybe not. Think about how many times you have been in line at the grocery store and Bimbo Geraldine is letting everyone listen in as she barks into her Bluetooth device. Also consider the numerous times you have stood in line at your doctor’s office trying to sign in and you have to wait on Eddy Entrepreneur as he conducts his business? And right under the “NO CELL PHONES” sign on the wall.

Now think back to the time the United States met up with Mother Nature in the form of Hurricane Katrina. Suddenly there was no power in this area of the country. Generators kicked in with a roar and cell phones and Internet services providers were able to stay on the air. But only for a brief time as the hungry generators craved gas or diesel fuel on a regular basis. The problem then was the gas stations could not provide these fuels due to the massive power outages. Internet servers and cell phone equipment was now “casters up”, which is slang for a piece of equipment that is completely broken. People could no longer communicate with each other nor could the authorities and emergency crews and responders communicate. This was, to say the least, an eye opener for the once free spirited cellaholic.

What was left when once reliable communications systems were left gasping for air, or in the case of Hurricane Katrina gasping for fuel? Amateur Radio was, and is, the answer. Not the AM/FM radio that you are thinking of but two-way radio, police scanning radio, shortwave radio. Ever pay attention to the fellow down the street or over in the next neighborhood with an “eyesore” of a tower or mast sticking up over his house with one or more large antennas or sometimes arrays of wires hanging off of it? You might have even participated in homeowner association attempts to get these antennas removed. But it was a much publicized fact that amateur radio, or ham radio as it is more commonly referred to, came to the rescue during Hurricane Katrina and many other disasters before and since.

That is what Radio Survivalist is about, making sure that folks know what communication alternatives are available to them when everyday communications such as cell phones and the Internet are no longer viable. We will go into the world of ham radios, shortwave radios, antennas, and might even touch upon police scanners (although these do not provide much during disasters).

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