What is a Citizen Band radio?
A Citizen Band Radio is an AM/FM transceiver. A transceiver is a radio that can both transmit and receive. The "Band" part of Citizen Band refers to the "Bandwidth" or frequency range that has been reserved for use by your average citizen. You do not require a license to operate a CB which means anyone can pick one up and begin using it.
What do I need to operate on the Citizen Band?
First of all you will need an actual CB Radio. The CB radio itself can vary in size, function, and age. You can have a mobile (for your car), base (in your home), or handheld (in your hand) to choose from. For all CB's you will need some source of power.
For a mobile this would be a 12 volt DC connection to your battery, for a Base you would usually have a plug for the 240V converter through a power supply from the home system, and most handhelds run on batteries. The last thing you need is an Antenna. They vary in size and function, and there are specific antennas for your car, home and handheld radios.
What do all the dials on the CB do?
Please note that not all CB radios will have these controls.
Volume - Usually the on/off switch and volume of the internal speaker
Squelch - Helps you to adjust the radio to pick up only strong signals and shuts out the static that you will hear on most radios.
AM/FM allows you to switch between the legal AM and FM channels
RF Gain - This adjustment can be used to adjust the strength of receive that an incoming signal has on your radio. If someone is right next to you and their radio is very loud you can turn down the RF gain and their signal will sound softer and their signal will register lower.
Mic Gain - Used to adjust the audio level of your voice into the radio.
ANL or NB - Used to cut out static on the radio
Fine Tune - Usually found on older radios, used to tune in the signal for clearer receptions
CH9 switch - Gives you instant access to channel 9, which often is considered as an emergency channel.
Meter - This shows you how strong an incoming signal is, or on some radios how strong your outgoing signal is, what your SWR is, or how your modulation is.
SWR/MOD/DX Switch - Many radios have self-diagnostics functions. Swr is used to measure the standing wave ratio (the lower the better), Mod measures your voice modulation (the higher the better, usually), RF measure the strength of your outgoing signal (the higher the better).
LSB/AM/USB - Often nicer radios have SSB or single sideband operation. SSB is a bit complicated to explain, but basically instead of putting out a signal and have your voice go for a ride on the signal as in AM, in SSB the voice takes a trip on its own. For every channel you have Upper and Lower Sideband, but can only talk on these with a SSB radio. Why use SSB? SSB radios put out up to 12watts of power instead of the regular 4 watts on AM and the SSB signals tend to go farther and pick up less static.
Clarifier - Used for tuning in signals when operating on SSB.
Roger Beep - Beeps at the end of your transmission to let other stations know you are done talking.
Local/DX - Adjust output when transmitting for short or long distance.
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.
Are there differences between 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.
Fixed base radios will have their usefulness to the survivalist. Many times communications between like-minded survivalists, or survivalist camps, are needed and this is where fixed base radios come into play.
The term "fixed base" is a bit of a misnomer when referring to modern day 2-way and shortwave communications equipment. The vast majority of so-called base station radios run off of 12 volt power supplies making them very adaptable for mobile or portable use.
ADJUST YOUR SWR on your CB radio
Equipment needed: SWR meter, short jumper coax 3 foot.
Procedure: The SWR meter needs to be placed in line between the antenna and the CB. Connect the antenna (normally connected to the back of the CB ) to the connector marked "Antenna" or "Ant" on your SWR Meter. Connect one end of the short jumper coax to the "transmit" or "Xmit" on the SWR meter. Connect the other end of your jumper coax to the CB.
Assuming you have a standard SWR meter the switches should read as follows: REF or SWR, FWD, and there should be a slide switch marked "set" or "Adjust". If different consult your meter's owners manual.
With the radio on the lowest channel (1 on CB) and the SWR meters switch in the Forward (FWD) position, depress the transmit switch (key up) located on the microphone. While holding the unit in this transmit mode, adjust the meter needle to the set position using the Set or Adjust knob on the meter. As soon as the needle is in alignment with the corresponding mark on the meter face, flip the switch to the Reference (REF) position. The meter is now showing your SWR on channel one. Note the value and quickly release the microphone switch. Record this reading.
Repeat the previous step on channels 19 and 40.
How to read your results: If SWR on channels 1, 19 & 40 is below 2.0, your radio can be operated safely.
If SWR on all channels is above 2.0 but not in the "red zone" (normally over 3.0), you may be experiencing coaxial cable reaction (bad quality, wrong length, etc.), insufficient ground plane, or have an ungrounded antenna mount.
If SWR is in the "red zone" on all channels, you probably have an electrical short in your coax connectors, or your mounting stud was installed incorrectly and is shorted. Do not operate your radio until the problem is found, serious damage can occur to your radio.
If SWR on the lowest channel is higher than it is on the highest channel, your antenna system appears to be electrically short. Your antenna length may need to be increased.
If the SWR on channel 40 is greater than that on channel 1, your antenna is considered to be "LONG" and reduction of physical height and/or conductor length will correct this situation.
How does an antenna size affect my CB radio?
If you put 4 watts into a four-foot antenna, you will get the same power out of that antenna as if you were putting 2 watts into a 102-inch whip.
If you put 4 watts into a 3-foot antenna you will get the same power out as if you were putting about 1.5 watts into a 102-inch whip.
If you put 4 watts into a 7.5 inch antenna on a hand held CB, it would put out as much power as a third of a watt into a 102-whip.
If you put 4 watts into a 102-inch whip antenna, it is the same output as if you put 11 watts into a 3-foot whip.
If you put 4 watts into a 102-inch whip antenna,, it is the same as if you put 14 watts into a 28-inch antenna.
If you put 4 watts into a 102-inch whip antenna, it is the same as if you put 54 watts into a 7.5 antenna.