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The problem with radios...

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Hi guys.. Just joined here as I have lurked for long enough!

 

Background:

Ex- British Army (Royal Signals) for 6 years

First posting Germany with no deployments but lots of interop exercises.

Second posting Germany again with deployment on Telic 3 (Iraq)

DAOR 2005 in search of a more stable life, worst thing I ever did!

Licenced radio amateur (whoop de doo)

Desperate to find a local group / club and at least spectate a few skirmish's.

Will respond to any excuse for heating one of my soldering irons up!

 

 

I'm not really involved with airsoft, but I know a few who are, and they keep pestering me for something and I thought I would see what the wider community thought of it.

People know that I am a bit of an electronics / radio geek and have asked me about Racal / Harris / BAE military radios, cost, legality availability etc.

I can build from scratch, modify, re-program, hack and generally crack just about anything which is radio related, so I am looking into building something with the possibilty of making more.

There are LOADS of points that I want to cover, and I intend to do just that in the future, but for now, some simple questions.

  1. Are you guys even BOTHERED about realistic looking military radios?
  2. Would you prefer EXACT replica's or just something more rugged than most 446's?
  3. How big are most of the game sites?
  4. Do you have an actual problem with radios that needs fixing?
  5. Is my tangent for lists pissing you off yet?

 

 

Some inspiration:

 

Look at that multi-polarised antenna!!! I don't care how much it would get in the way, it would make me weep tears of joy to see you guys cracking one of those out mid-skirmish just for shits and gigs!

 

spartanairsoft_tac_accessories_02.jpg

 

 

 

 

 

This is what I would refer to as "grim".

 

Z%20tactical%20PRC%20152%20Dummy%20Radio

 

 

Urgghh... plastic. :angry:

 

Z%20tactical%20PRC%20152%20Dummy%20Radio

 

 

OT-SPA-PRC-148.JPG

 

 

 

 

What about manpacks?

 

 

1390119825967.jpg

 

 

 

Let the arguments and flaming commence!

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Forget radios mate. Just offer us a decent headset and boom mic with a mil plug for the PTT that looks like a Sordin or Peltor but doesnt break like the budget crap we have from the far east and doesn't cost hundreds of pounds like the real thing.

 

Most Players will keep buying cheap radios like Baofeng or PMR446 and a small minority of hardcore milsimmers will buy the real units or the Triumph replica units. There is no one answer fits all.

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I'd have no problem lugging about an antenna or back packing a radio, IF it was useful. I mean, I've always liked the idea and I'm all for immersion, but I think the problem lies in we are limited by range, would these extend range at all?

 

If they did I'd be all for it!

 

RE your questions :

 

  1. Are you guys even BOTHERED about realistic looking military radios? Your average player, maybe not. Milsimmers and gear wh*res like my self, I'd love one, I just dont have the money to buy an expensive replica (I hear most are rubbish anyway)
  2. Would you prefer EXACT replica's or just something more rugged than most 446's? I'd allow slight differences if it appeared the same on initial inspection/sitting in a pouch. Similar controls and functions would be nice.
  3. How big are most of the game sites? This really REALLY varies, you can have ridiculously smalll sites with 30 players, upto sites with 100+ per side. I've no idea on their size but I know a few MOD training areas are rented for weekends to put it in terms you might be familiar with.
  4. Do you have an actual problem with radios that needs fixing? Cant speak on this, I'm yet to take the comms plunge but I'm in the process of doing my pre-purchasing research. I'm not really content with the civilian looking pmr's. My inner gear wh*re wants something legitimate to match the rest of my kit.

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Forget radios mate. Just offer us a decent headset and boom mic with a mil plug for the PTT that looks like a Sordin or Peltor but doesnt break like the budget crap we have from the far east and doesn't cost hundreds of pounds like the real thing.

 

Most Players will keep buying cheap radios like Baofeng or PMR446 and a small minority of hardcore milsimmers will buy the real units or the Triumph replica units. There is no one answer fits all.

 

 

Decent headset:

We still had quite a lot of clansman kit when I left. We were seeing the odd bit of Bowman pop up from time to time such as PRR. The headset that came with the PRR was the only bit of kit that had that headset at the time (as far as I saw) so I shall refer to it as "the bowman headset"

 

ZTAC-HS-Z027-TAN_1_mark.jpg

 

Everyone uses these style of headsets now. There seems to be a million different types in circulation.

Is this what you meant?

The ones I used (real steel) were lightweight, unbreakable, submersible (I fell in a river to test) and made your ear and cheek sweat like a %$£*.

 

Personally, if I was going to go down this route, I would buy genuine Bowman from ebay, There is some terrible quality shite coming from china, and I'd rather spend £40 on something that works, than £10 on something that breaks 5 minutes into the first skirmish.

 

The issue would be converting from Bowman connectors to your choice of radio. A simple adaptor cable could be made with your choice of PTT (if you want an external PTT).

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I'd have no problem lugging about an antenna or back packing a radio, IF it was useful. I mean, I've always liked the idea and I'm all for immersion, but I think the problem lies in we are limited by range, would these extend range at all?

 

If they did I'd be all for it!

 

RE your questions :

 

  1. Are you guys even BOTHERED about realistic looking military radios? Your average player, maybe not. Milsimmers and gear wh*res like my self, I'd love one, I just dont have the money to buy an expensive replica (I hear most are rubbish anyway)
  2. Would you prefer EXACT replica's or just something more rugged than most 446's? I'd allow slight differences if it appeared the same on initial inspection/sitting in a pouch. Similar controls and functions would be nice.
  3. How big are most of the game sites? This really REALLY varies, you can have ridiculously smalll sites with 30 players, upto sites with 100+ per side. I've no idea on their size but I know a few MOD training areas are rented for weekends to put it in terms you might be familiar with.
  4. Do you have an actual problem with radios that needs fixing? Cant speak on this, I'm yet to take the comms plunge but I'm in the process of doing my pre-purchasing research. I'm not really content with the civilian looking pmr's. My inner gear wh*re wants something legitimate to match the rest of my kit.

So to cut a long story short, the civvie PMR radios are a bit "limp" in the ruggedisation department and simply don't have the range to cover the biggest of sites? It seems a bit shoddy to have a little radio for close quarters and a separate radio for distance..

 

446 in the radio world is what me (as a radio geek) would liken to plastic, single shot, see through L86A2 that is supplied with a round cocking handle.

 

You guys expect MORE from your kit.

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Some people want that style and some want the dual earpiece Sordin type.

 

We are not talking £10. Z Tactical ones are a lot more than that.

 

They don't need to be mil standard for Airsoft, but spending £60-80 on a Chinese Sordin copy that only lasts a few games in some cases is not good commercial sense.

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In essence, yeah. I'd like a connector for real Bowman's as you said. Thats the only reason I've not bought a surplus one.

 

I personally (if its do-able) would love a PRR with pmr guts so that I could keep my kit accurate but not need everyone else I want to speak to using a PRR also.

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From what I understand, there aren't many of you who are "loners". Mostly, you belong to a club / group and (mostly) go to pre-arranged games at fairly well organised sites.

VCRA has, to some extent reduced the number of "call of duty" kiddies (or their parents) from buying toys they don't understand. You guys stay on the right side of the blue line (as you always HAVE done) and so apart from a little paper work, the law hasn't really affected your hobby.

 

How about the same kind of initiative on the radio side of things? It doesn't have to involve anyone apart from ourselves.

 

446 doesn't QUITE cut it does it? The handsets are almost too delicate for what you use them for and the RF characteristics are not great. They have quite low power AND (because they are mostly built as toy radios) are quite deaf as well.

The club/group is mobile, so could go anywhere in the world. A licence for radio that does the same is BLOODY expensive.
The venues are fixed position, and a fixed position licence is FAR cheaper.

How about suggesting to the venues that they obtain a UHF licence with 2 frequencies? One is for team 1 and the other is for team 2.

Visiting teams could rent radios from the site (pays for licence) or buy their own.

If a team buys radios, they could buy something like a Motorola GP380 (serious shit) for about £150 each. My youngest GP380 is 12 YEARS old, and I would happily take it to Afghan tomorrow. Oh, and when I got home, I'd cover it in fairy liquid, and hit it with a toothbush under a hot running tap.

 

The point is, the radio would still be working when you die of old age.

 

There are cheaper radios out there.. I'm just throwing ideas about at this stage.

Thoughts?

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In essence, yeah. I'd like a connector for real Bowman's as you said. Thats the only reason I've not bought a surplus one.

 

I personally (if its do-able) would love a PRR with pmr guts so that I could keep my kit accurate but not need everyone else I want to speak to using a PRR also.

 

This is basically what I'm aiming for in the long run.. I am trying to establish some facts, figures and ideas first. If you are going down the British army route in terms of gear, then PRR IS the most accurate bit of kit for inter team comms. PRR was ONLY designed so that team members don't have to SHOUT fire control orders. It was never intended to do any kind of distance.

 

446 into PRR would be easy. I just need a source for the PRR case and a decent 446 donor. Strip them both and start hacking dials and knobs.

 

The problem is .. 446. To stick within the 446 standard, you can't have more than 500 milli Watt (500mW) which is half of a Watt output power. The restriction on fixed antennas was lifted some time ago.

 

More to follow.. You guys are replying faster than I can spill the contents of my peanut / brain!

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This is basically what I'm aiming for in the long run.. I am trying to establish some facts, figures and ideas first. If you are going down the British army route in terms of gear, then PRR IS the most accurate bit of kit for inter team comms. PRR was ONLY designed so that team members don't have to SHOUT fire control orders. It was never intended to do any kind of distance.

 

446 into PRR would be easy. I just need a source for the PRR case and a decent 446 donor. Strip them both and start hacking dials and knobs.

 

The problem is .. 446. To stick within the 446 standard, you can't have more than 500 milli Watt (500mW) which is half of a Watt output power. The restriction on fixed antennas was lifted some time ago.

 

More to follow.. You guys are replying faster than I can spill the contents of my peanut / brain!

I'm lucky in that the PRR is also correct for my early USMC kit.

 

For PRR bodies : http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/Genuine-CLEAN-grade-C-Prc-343-bowman-H4855-Prr-100-WORKING-body-/221574707983?pt=UK_ConsumerElectronics_SpecialistRadioEquipment_SM&hash=item3396e1bb0f

 

The seller has a lot of PRR related stuff for sale, I'm sure if you contacted him he'd be able to source empty bodies if you wanted to go into converting them.

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Lets face it, the Motorola GP380 is BEGGING to be converted into a PRC152 or similar

elect_anprc152_01_400.jpg4c7708c83f57f_61475n.jpg

 

 

The GP380 could be programmed to 446 channels, and on low power (1 Watt) wouldn't hurt anyone in reality. However, to stay within the letter of the law, a licence would be required, and if going down that route, a separate frequency / selection of frequencies would make sence.

 

Again, just throwing ideas out there so you guys can chew it up and point out any problems.

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I'm lucky in that the PRR is also correct for my early USMC kit.

 

For PRR bodies : http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/Genuine-CLEAN-grade-C-Prc-343-bowman-H4855-Prr-100-WORKING-body-/221574707983?pt=UK_ConsumerElectronics_SpecialistRadioEquipment_SM&hash=item3396e1bb0f

 

The seller has a lot of PRR related stuff for sale, I'm sure if you contacted him he'd be able to source empty bodies if you wanted to go into converting them.

 

Selling loads of PRR's on Ebay. Seems legit. Ah well, as tax payers, we have already paid for them eh?

 

I'll fire him an email and see what occurs. Wait out.

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Yer main question i get asked ia about PRRs. Maybe look at putting good quality UHF/VHF radios inside the cases. Being a dirty scaly back you should be able to do it fine lol. I was sigs in RE and those headsets are not indestructable the amount that i sent back for being broken was crazy. Clearly engineers just like to break shit.

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I've worked with radios in my job for about 30 years and have quite a collection of new and old stuff, plus weird and wonderful antennae.

 

I'm not sure whether you are advocating some sort of business to supply airsofters with radios or whether you just want to experiment.

 

If its the former, you run the risk of making what interests you rather than what people want to buy. Its the old problem of hobbies vs work.

 

How much do you think the average airsofter will pay for a radio ? In my experience, most expect to pay less than £40 each.

 

How many airsofters will pay £100+ for a radio - from what I've seen, if you go the TRI route or converted PRR route, you are looking at in excess of this. PRC-343's are changing hands at much more than this when they are complete working sets.

 

The TRI units from the far east are not perfect but are probably the best available in the operational replica market - not cheap either. Basically Baofeng radios in a new skin.

 

To be honest, I don't really care what my radio looks like. Its hidden in a pouch and on a locked simplex frequency for a game. At most, I reach in and give the volume knob a twiddle.

 

In terms of marketing and if I wanted to go into business doing this sort of thing, I would take a Z-tactical headset unit apart, sort out the imperfections, add a volume control to a PTT so you don't need to touch the radio in battle and provide uprated headsets to work with the existing common radios. The US style dual earcup type with audio level protection (talkthough) is gaining in popularity in Airsoft.

 

http://www.airsoft-forums.co.uk/index.php/topic/23646-sordins-with-boom-mike/

 

Everything is historical that you see anyway as the military world is moving into cognitive radio and all the radios we are talking about now will be replaced with CR at some point I suspect, which means a whole range of new radio products to lust after in Airsoft.

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RE PRC152, there's a company in china called Triumph Industries (TRI for short) who make a pretty sturdy U/VHF reproduction of the 152.

I saw their kit and it LOOKED a bit "plastic". Has anyone actually played with this kit to see what it is like? As Baz said above, they look like baofeng / quangsheng / matsushita in a brittle plastic case.

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I've worked with radios in my job for about 30 years and have quite a collection of new and old stuff, plus weird and wonderful antennae.

 

I'm not sure whether you are advocating some sort of business to supply airsofters with radios or whether you just want to experiment.

 

If its the former, you run the risk of making what interests you rather than what people want to buy. Its the old problem of hobbies vs work.

 

How much do you think the average airsofter will pay for a radio ? In my experience, most expect to pay less than £40 each.

 

How many airsofters will pay £100+ for a radio - from what I've seen, if you go the TRI route or converted PRR route, you are looking at in excess of this. PRC-343's are changing hands at much more than this when they are complete working sets.

 

The TRI units from the far east are not perfect but are probably the best available in the operational replica market - not cheap either. Basically Baofeng radios in a new skin.

 

To be honest, I don't really care what my radio looks like. Its hidden in a pouch and on a locked simplex frequency for a game. At most, I reach in and give the volume knob a twiddle.

 

In terms of marketing and if I wanted to go into business doing this sort of thing, I would take a Z-tactical headset unit apart, sort out the imperfections, add a volume control to a PTT so you don't need to touch the radio in battle and provide uprated headsets to work with the existing common radios. The US style dual earcup type with audio level protection (talkthough) is gaining in popularity in Airsoft.

 

http://www.airsoft-forums.co.uk/index.php/topic/23646-sordins-with-boom-mike/

 

Everything is historical that you see anyway as the military world is moving into cognitive radio and all the radios we are talking about now will be replaced with CR at some point I suspect, which means a whole range of new radio products to lust after in Airsoft.

I'm not really thinking of a business as such. I know for a fact that there wouldn't be enough money in it to pay my rent anyway. And yes, you're right about turning a hobby which is fun into pain in the mag pouch.

 

How much will people pay? Well I can see people on here with genuine SUSAT and ACOG sights mounted to the top of airsoft weapons that have a range which I would have thought would fall below the minimum setting of the horizontal graticule of these systems. This indicates to me that people take this quite seriously.

I deployed to Irag with iron sights believe it or not, so ACOG sights for airsoft are a bit extravagent no? However, if people get enjoyment from modifying their rig, or satisfaction from obtaining and setting up such systems, and paying so much attention to every detail, who am I to question their enjoyment?

 

In MY experience, people will use watever old crap they are fed, so long as they don't know any better. There are multiple threads on here and all the other forums where people fail to understand CTCSS usage and think that 500mW is 500 Watts. Its a fairly complex subject, and not to everyones liking. And so, people think that an Argos binatone will be ok for airsofting, when it is anything BUT, judging by peoples comments of "I plugged this in and it doesn't work" "how can I get more range" "my radio is dead".

 

Airsoft is quite a "robust" hobby. Your kit takes a kicking. If someone made a 446 unit with a solid aluminum case, rugged connectors, 3ah lead acid, speech inversion, removable antenna and a decent, sensitive front end, I would buy one, and so would every one else.

 

No one DOES though, do they? :unsure:

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Few Airsoft people buy real optics.

Don't confuse a few geardo's who spend all their disposable income on airsoft with the masses.

For most, radios come low down on the spending budget priorities.

 

My advice for what its worth is get commissions and deposits before you spend time building any custom radios.

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Few Airsoft people buy real optics.

Don't confuse a few geardo's who spend all their disposable income on airsoft with the masses.

For most, radios come low down on the spending budget priorities.

 

My advice for what its worth is get commissions and deposits before you spend time building any custom radios.

 

I'm going to do one for myself anyway. I link various radio systems up over the internet (RoIP) and 446 is one of the standards that I play with. I'm toying with the idea of:

small manpack sized case

crazy big lead acid battery backup

IEC kettle lead socket to an inbuilt mains power supply / charger

custom display behind toughned glass

water proof speaker grill with nice big 8w driver (big volume)

feed the driver with a decent amplifier

Have the audio go through a bandpass filter tailored to human speech (rejects SOME noise)

4 pin CB style mic connector, some type of clansman telephone handset connector and maybe more

Line level audio out for recording

Inbuilt speech inversion

USB comms for connection to onboard USB soundcard and serial control of PTT (RoIP)

All controls will be anti vandal ruggedised.

Front and rear mounted N-type and BNC connectors for RF

The most expensive part will be a CRAZY narrow band notch filter for RF to help the RX a little.

 

Its gonna be "propper bo" I tell thee.

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For most sites, PMR446 is just about adequate - you are rarely in need of more than 250m through medium density woodland, or 75m through 3 storey buildings. There are sites where 500mW is never going to cut it however, like Ground Zero nr. Ringwood, but the main problems there are hills and valleys, plus during the yearly mega National Airsoft Event, hundreds of people using the same channel (regardless of CTCSS, there are 3 factions which get 2 channels each, and the marshals keep a channel for themselves - it's a boot off offence to piss around on the marshals' channel or transmit on an enemy channel, if caught).

 

In my experience the Z-Tactical Bowman Evo II is sufficiently rugged, and just like the real thing gives you a sweaty squashed ear, but that's nothing to cry about. There is an Evo III however, with a removable boom mic, and this is naturally fraught with problems. The Comtac and Sordin replicas were always going to be problematic, because we're expecting high end audio performance from budget components and, to a degree, this is true of PTT's also... part of the reason i haven't bothered tinkering myself is that they're using Nexus jacks/sockets which are bloody expensive, even though they're bog standard chrome surface (i mean whoa... it's used in helicopters, the market must be able to bear 3 x the cost of a Neumann TRS jack eh?) and the real steel uses mini din, so there's an immediate outrageous expense when considering some kind of civilian/busted surplus repair/bodge. If you can get hold of Nexus TRRS jacks/sockets at a sensible wholesale price, you could probably help us out with a more rugged PTT and surplus headset combo.

 

I mean, the real deal Sordin costs £340 and that's without a PTT - I am a bit of a gear whore, but shit, there are limits! But the £80 replica is, according to many, a waste of money because it is ineffective - I am in the process of buying a 2nd hand Sordin replica so i'll soon see for meself how bad they are, but I am a sound engineer so improving what i get isn't beyond possibility - the trouble is that i expect the guts to be an undifferentiated PCB, so probably beyond my knowledge to do more than redo dodgy joints and/or improve RF shielding / mechanical attenuation (although tbh 95% of the time we are dealing with sub 130dB bangs and those fairly few and far between, not artillery, or even live fire, so that's probably not necessary).

 

BTW, do any military headset/handset combos use balanced audio? I'd also be very interested in what you can tell us about antennas and how we can get better performance out of our 446's.

 

For me the ultimate dream would be to also play music through a talkthrough system, with mixer control over the 3 sources, and if the tunes could be shared across a team, that'd be sooo cool :lol:

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I can see people on here with genuine SUSAT and ACOG sights mounted to the top of airsoft weapons that have a range which I would have thought would fall below the minimum setting of the horizontal graticule of these systems. This indicates to me that people take this quite seriously.

 

Most of the sights you see on airsoft weapons might look like the real deal, but very few actually are, they are usually cheaper knockoffs. As you point out - real military scopes are calibrated for the range of the real weapons they are intended to be used with (which is probably three to four times the range that a typical airsoft weapon is likely to be engaging at, so would be fairly pointless on an airsoft weapon, and, they are prohibitively expensive compared to a knockoff copy with the correct calibration. For example, a surplus Warsaw Pact PSO-1 scope is going to be a few hundred quid at least, whereas I got a knock off copy of one to put on my airsoft SVD Dragunov which has the same reticule engravings as the real PSO-1, but calibrated for airsoft ranges. That cost less than fifty quid, which is just as well, because even the open sights on an SVD are calibrated for 1,200 metres, so a genuine scope for it would be useless.

 

So why am I pointing this out?

 

The fact that a Chinese company has gone to the trouble of making a replica PSO-1 scope specifically for an airsoft SVD Dragunov sniper rifle, tells us a couple things worth noting: That airsofters will certainly pay for an alternative version of some military kit which looks authentic, even if it isn't actually that authentic. So there is a market there for the right product, but, people don't want to pay too much for that gear, and are probably more concerned with the look of stuff - i.e. the 'pose value' of it - rather than an exact replication of the functionality.

 

Where PMR radios are concerned, yes they aren't generally as sturdy as military equipment, nor do they have the range and sophistication of it either. But let's be honest, when we are dressing up as toy soldiers to run about with our toy guns, we are not going to be contacting a Forward Air Controller in a USAF OV-10 Bronco orbiting thirty miles away from us, so he can direct a napalm strike on Milton Keynes, and we are not going to die if our radios go U/S, so they are a useful aid, but nowhere near as critical as they are in real military operations. So a PMR radio is generally enough for what we need. But airsofters are still going to want that PMR to at least look authentic when they are using it, so really, about the only requirement for most airsofters, would be stuff like Bowman and Liberator headsets ready to plug into PMRs, because the PMR is likely to be stuffed in a tactical vest or webbing pocket somewhere. After all, I'm all for a bit of realism on my Vietnam soldier load out, but I don't want that quest for authenticity to extend to lugging a 25 pound AN/PRC-25 radio around on my back, when i can get that kind of look by simply having an H-250 handset with a polythene bag over it, plugged into a tiny PMR.

 

Much of that stuff is available in replica form, but there are already people doing conversions of the real equipment commercially, so I'd look at undercutting those enterprises if I were you (since you said it was more of an interest than a means to keep a roof over your head), because in spite of the fact that airsofters don't want to pay a lot, I suspect they probably would pay a bit more (within reason) for a genuine headset which could be easily plugged into their PMR, knowing it wasn't going to fall to bits in a matter of weeks, especially if you were able to make it a bespoke service.

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