Over the past decade or so, the traditional CB radio and 10 meter radio have almost become one in the same to many folks. It’s not uncommon to hear the term “10 Meter CB Radio” and it’s clear that many users (and some radio salesmen) have no idea what the real differences are.
A traditional CB operates on the 11 meter band at about 27 MHz. This gives it 40 channels ranging from 26.965 MHz on channel 1 to 27.405 MHz on channel 40. Access to these frequencies is unrestricted by the FCC and available to anyone that is using unmodified Factory-Made equipment which is why it is called the “Citizens Band”.
Even though access to those frequencies is unrestricted, the FCC requires users to adhere to certain codes of conduct and equipment limitations. CB radio manufacturers “build-in” a maximum output power of 4 watts. Base stations use a good antenna system to increase their radio’s range but increasing output by almost any other means is prohibited.
And speaking of antennas, Centerfire Antenna has introduced several new Ground Plane Kit options that can turn almost any mobile antenna or handheld rubber duck antenna into a base station antenna…. a very handy and cost effective way to increase the range of your radio!
10 meter radios operate on frequencies ranging from 28 MHz to 29.7 MHz. These frequencies are contained in the Amateur Radio 10 meter frequency band and the FCC requires that the radio operator obtain a license. Unlike the 4 watt CB communications, the 10 meter amateur radio band is acceptable for long range communication. Most 10 meter radios transmit at wattages 10 to 50 times over the transmitting power of a traditional CB transmitter.
So what’s the problem?
Some CB users bypass the regulations placed on CB radio service. There may be legitimate reasons behind this like lack of range or crowded airwaves. CBers discovered that some radio manufacturers produce 10 meter radios that look and operate exactly like a standard CB. Some of these radios are easily modified to operate on the U.S. Citizen’s Band radio frequencies at a higher power than the FCC certified CB radios.. often at 150 watts or more.
At that level of output, radio energy has the ability to damage soft tissue and organs (just like a microwave oven). The nearer a person is the antenna, the higher the likelyhood that RF energy will affect them. The higher a radio’s output, the more likely it is that injury will occur. I know that I don’t want an untrained radio operator setting up a high power radio station anywhere near my home, how about you? To be clear, I really don’t care what a radio owner does with their radio. I do care about it when misuse could result in health damage from dangerously high RF energy.
The FCC also regards the CB radio service as a short range communication device and does not want high powered transmissions interrupting local communications between other operators and potentially other, more important, radio frequencies.
CB radio has it’s benefits for the prepper. Handheld CB radios can be used effectively to communicate within a decent range such as a large neighborhood. We regularly reach a 9 mile radius between base stations using unaltered mobile CB radios and elevated antennas. It’s not unusual to reach over 1 mile consistently between base station and typical handheld radios like this one:
By knowing the difference between 10 meter and CB radio, and how you intend to use your new equipment, determining which is the right model for you should be clear…… The 10 meter band is a good communication tool and versatile as well. It’s my opinion that if you’re not familiar with it you should probably get some training and understand the risks. A good place to start is reading the FCC RF exposure documents online. They can be easily found with a search.
Update: You can see for yourself how the 10 meter radios are being modified to be used on the 11 meter CB band. Some of the Amazon items below have instructions on the process in the customer reviews and in some cases Amazon will have a link to the required parts to do the mod.