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callumbagshaw

Best value radio units for a small team

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Hi all,

I used to use a two-way Motorola radio when it was just me and one friend going to game days, since then we've managed to persuade 2 or 3 others to join us regularly (and, typically with airsoft - they're now hooked). Would be nice for us all to have coms between us, can anyone recommend good value sets (ideally less than £40 per person)?

Thanks!

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You could also look on the maplins site, quad packs for £89 - £109, not Motorola though , Cobra. Bought some for a back up at work and they work very well. Motorola Quad pack with ear pieces £184

 

http://www.maplin.co.uk/c/gadgets-toys-and-hobbies/radio-communications/pmr-radio

 

http://www.maplin.co.uk/p/motorola-t80-extreme-pmr-quad-pack-a72tl

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Maplin are rarely the cheapest for anything unfortunately.

 

I'd recommend bulk-buying the Motorola T80s that Spartan linked to - they're the updated version of what Monkey posted (which are also very good) but are incredibly rugged and come with a bunch of accessories that are actually half-decent. A four-pack will cost you about £120-130 on eBay. They aren't quite as good value as the T41s though but they're obviously much more up to date.

 

If you play woodland though the T80s are worth considering for their weather resistance.

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I often play airsoft with my 12yr old and we always get split up and have wondered about a short range radio. I was looking at the binitone 100 series. Not sure on the range of it, has 8 channels and comes in camo as well. But will look into the Motorola tlk 41 also. Worth it to keep safe on case he'd got lost or worse..

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Baofeng UV-5R, about 20ish a piece from Amazon, loads of options, great range and quality. An as it has freq rather than channels you can talk to any other make with a simple list of freqs

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Illegal to use on PMR 446 (due to being twice the power even on 'low' setting and having a removable antenna) and illegal to use outside of that without a licence. I have a UV-5R, but they're not very friendly for people buying their first radio unfortunately.

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Yeh, but like I say: Without a licence from OFCOM they aren't legal. Some sites have them as do some groups of players, but not everyone. They're an absolute no-go on PMR 446 as well (which is what 90% of players use) regardless of what licence you hold as the highest power you're allowed is 500mW - the UV-5R transmits at 5W by default and no less than 1W on 'low power'.

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Yeh, but like I say: Without a licence from OFCOM they aren't legal. Some sites have them as do some groups of players, but not everyone. They're an absolute no-go on PMR 446 as well (which is what 90% of players use) regardless of what licence you hold as the highest power you're allowed is 500mW - the UV-5R transmits at 5W by default and no less than 1W on 'low power'.

would that then overpower everyone on that channel or make it un useable?

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So the baofeng UV-5R's are illegal to use?

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On PMR 446, yes. PMR 446 are effectively the public frequencies (i.e. 'un-licenced') - 8 channels, and are what most airsofters use. The max operating power is 500mW, which the UV-5R cannot do. You could buy a licence to operate outside of PMR 446 (£75 for 5 years I think), but most people don't. If you go to Maplin and buy a handset for under £60 then the chances are it's a PMR 446-compliant one.

 

If you go the 'licensed' route then you'll get better range, but you do need a licence for your group and that does mean you're liable for any issues they might have with their handset legality. Some sites hold these licences and allow players on these frequencies (as do some larger groups where they need uninterrupted comms across longer distances). For the vast majority though, you want an no-license-required PMR 446-friendly handset as they're still highly functional and will be fine for almost all skirmishes. I'd only really bother going the licensed route if you're a large-ish group and can afford to swallow that admin cost or play a lot of milsim or something where communication distances are abnormally far.

 

The Baofeng UV-5R isn't made specifically for the British market and by default isn't even on legal frequencies out of the box - you could be talking on emergency services frequencies without even knowing it (though I'm sure you configured yours correctly but a lot of people don't) and obviously it has double the power of what's legal for PMR 446 even on its lowest power setting. If you are communicating with a user who has a cheapo handset with 8 channels using your UV-5R then you will be breaking the law.

 

Basically just buy a PMR 446-friendly Motorola TLKR series radio and be done with it :)

 

Edits for clarity (I hope)

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All emergency services in the UK use airwave now, interfering with it using a ham radio is almost impossible.

 

As for baofeng radios being able to transmit on PMR446 frequencies at more than 0.5W... who knows if they're actually putting out 1W anyway? OFCOM certainly aren't going to come and find you to test your radio, there's no other way to prove it. a 1W radio will transmit (in theory) 50% further than a 0.5W radio, not far enough to impede other users significantly.

 

Personally, I think the baofeng type radios are the way forward for airsofters, especially if you want to use them as a team at bigger events where you can use licensed frequencies to escape the shit show that is PMR446 with 200 people trying to use 8 channels!

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On a forum where we try and educate people about staying on the right side of VCRA and defences it's also sensible to try and make sure players are buying legally-compliant radios. Whilst emergency services may have moved to airwave as you say, many of their frequency bands are still reserved for their use, so they're absolutely potentially still using them or monitoring them.

 

Sure, there's almost zero chance of OFCOM ever giving you a visit over your handset but I'm trying to make sure they know what's legal and what's not: The fact of the matter is that with a removable antenna and twice the power limit of what's allowed on PMR 446, the UV-5R isn't legal. For bigger events take your UV-5R along and find someone with a licence and get them to designate a frequency for you, but for regular skirmishes I think it's best practice to stay within the law and try to teach others to do the same.

 

Just because OFCOM aren't looking for people this year doesn't mean they won't have a crackdown next year and start auditing these sites. Airsoft in the UK gets a larger following every year and it's only a matter of time before some farmer complains that the airsofters near his field keep dropping onto their vehicle frequencies and are transmitting miles across open farmland - it's the responsible thing to make sure your handset is compliant for the future of airsoft, not just because you might not get caught today.

 

You do make a fair point though: If you are a larger group of friends then all pitch in and buy a licence as an 'organisation' and then go from there and it may work out cheaper. If you're an individual then the £15 cost of a UV-5R vs. the £40 for a Motorola T80 doesn't look good until you factor in usability, ruggedness, the fact that you're not breaking the law and also (if you go 'legal') don't need to pay that £75.

 

An extra thing that's worth mentioning is the support for 38 CTCSS tones per channel on the TLKR series (at least the newer ones), so effectively you do have a lot more than 8 channels (assuming people have a semi-modern handset that is).

 

I just bought both. Intend to take the T81 to regular game days but have a UV-5R in case I go to some special event. For the extra £15 I figured why not.

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CTCSS tones don't give extra channels though, they just hide transmissions on the codes you're not on. If you try and transmit on channel 1 CTCSS 8 while someone else is transmitting on channel 1 CTCSS 10 neither of your transmissions will work properly.

 

It's one of my massive bugbears when event organisers say stuff like "all 100 people on red are on channel 2, blue are on channel 3, use privacy codes to separate yourself into groups" what happens then is no one gets to use their radios properly all day because you've constantly got 5 people keying the same frequency at the same time and no one hears anything.

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Yup, having to rely on people to use sub-channels is not ideal. It'd be nice if they designated certain 'CTCSS only' channels and then let everyone with older/poorly configured handsets work the rest out on some other channel but I imagine some idiot would still be on the wrong one.

 

Still, I guess that's why you buy a UV-5R and use a site frequency for the bigger stuff :)

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Crikey that was a much bigger response than I expected over a single weekend!

Thanks for all the info as always, I just want to stress that the handsets I'm after should use a frequency instead of channels (unless I am mistaken) because I'd like the ability to add more handsets/players as time goes on (we may start with a group of 4 of us, but in a year or two there could be 10-20 etc.)

 

as far as the Motorola TLKR T80's go (http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/Motorola-TLKR-T80-Extreme-Quad-Two-Way-Radios-Long-Range-up-to-10-KM-/301048455316?hash=item4617e2e094:g:DxEAAOSwLnlWp1wg) , are they limited to just a 4-piece set? Or by getting 2x 4pieces, would the team be capable of having 8 radios on the same channel?

Thanks!

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In PMR 446 the 'channels' are 8 frequencies rather than a range of frequencies like licensed ones use. You can have as many people as you like on one channel. As I've said,without buying a licence this is your only option, but it works fairly well.

The T80 isn't limited to the pack you buy it in; just cheaper to bulk buy them. You could buy 8 individual handsets and it'd still work. They'll work easily for any regular game, but if you play over very large distances or with over 80 people at a time then look into licensed radios.

They do 8 packs as well AFAIK.

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In PMR 446 the 'channels' are 8 frequencies rather than a range of frequencies like licensed ones use. You can have as many people as you like on one channel. As I've said,without buying a licence this is your only option, but it works fairly well.

 

The T80 isn't limited to the pack you buy it in. Just cheaper to bulk buy them. You could buy 8 individual handsets and it'd still work. They'll work easily for any regular game, but if you play over very large distances or with over 80 people at a time then look into licensed radios.

 

They do 8 packs as well AFAIK.

 

Thanks Prof, but as I understand it - without buying a license, it is my only legal option ;) Still, it looks good enough to me - I'll have a word with the lads and see if they fancy putting some cash in for a set!

We play (mainly) on a 33 acre woodland site, where our current two-way radios have more than enough range to communicate corner to corner, so they'll have plenty of range.

 

One more thing is, are there any (reasonably cheap, but decent) throat mics that are compatible with the T80s?

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Even expensive throat mics are rubbish.

 

Oh really?

That's a shame because I find the "push to talk" thingys that clip to your collar etc. are a bit rubbish too - means you have to take a hand off your rife, fumble around under your face protection and feel for it!

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There's plenty of other options; headsets, fist mics, etc.

 

Throat mics sound awful on the receiving end and regardless of what setup you get you're going to have to push a button to transmit. Don't be the guy who thinks vox is a good idea, it's not!

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I wear a Paintball mask and used to have a Motorcycle headset on it, with the PTT on my weapon grip.

It's all non-intrusive stuff - the mic is grape sized, cable-tie attached. There is no boom, just a wire again cable tied, as were the earphones (Pringle sized). It was all easily detachable so when the mask comes off or the weapon is put down, you just unplug the respective cable. The sound quality seemed fine.

I briefly did the same thing on a half-face mesh mask once and while less comfortable on the ear - it was ok.

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