Wiki - Radios and Antennas- GMRS Testing

Admin Note

Although this excellent article was written by @MattMIBronco, it’s been drafted into into Wiki-article service. :slight_smile: We hope this’ll allow the curation of key info on some key areas of expertise.

This is a summary of several tests and post I completed in the prior forums. I am eventually going to post a video of the test process, but I thought this might help members as they decide what approach to take to communications between vehicles and during off-road events.

First off, any decent quality handheld GMRS/FRS with a minimum of two watts of power will allow for consistent communications between you and other Broncos in most situations where you can maintain a “line of sight” connection between vehicles. These frequencies require that the radios can “see” each other antenna to antenna to work. Hills, buildings, trees, valleys can all quickly reduce range.

Based on that starting point, the biggest difference between radios is the height of the antenna. The next biggest factor is getting an antenna outside the vehicle. This reduces the effect of vehicle structure (especially if you get above the roof line). The next factor is SWR (Standing Wave Ratio) simply put, that is the tuning of the antenna to maximize output, based on several factors like ground plane, antenna length and other stuff I cannot remember.

This is a summary of my testing with three different radios and three different antennas. I will give links to the products that I recommend as a starting point if you are considering something as an upgrade from a name brand “blister pack” radio available at most retailers like Best Buy or Wal Mart. All of these options require a GMRS/FCC license see here- Personal Service and Amateur Application Fees | Federal Communications Commission


Option 1- Btech 5W Handheld

Features: 5 watts, Weather Channels, Repeater Capable, Removable Antenna, External Mic Compatible.

  • Good - Has a lot of features, good sound quality, can serve as an upgradeable platform, reasonable price.

  • Bad - Somewhat more complicated to set up and use.

Option 2- Midland MTX-275 Mobile Midland MXT275 MicroMobile Two-Way Radio | Midland Radio

Features: 15W, Included Antenna, Permanent Mount, Remote Control Unit with Display/Control built into the mic.

  • Good - Simple, slightly longer range, easy install in the Bronco, Always In the Vehicle, No Batteries.

  • Bad - Magnetic mount antenna isn’t really viable on the Bronco. You have to mount and wire it for the most secure set up. Doesn’t have a ton of features and some are hard to access through the menu.


# 1 Performer (Also the tallest, see above for what matters most!) Midland MicroMobile MXTA26 6DB Gain Whip Antenna

This is a 32" 6db Gain antenna. It clears the roof when use with a JBG Trail Sight mount.

  • Good - Delivered a 1.4 SWR (best of three antennas tested with the same mount and cable). It achieved about .5 mile longer range in my somewhat controlled test than the next best antenna in the test. Noticeably more consistent in reception and sound quality in actual use than my handled Btech (W/O external antenna).

  • Bad - It is ugly. I need to level the mount, just haven’t figured out how to do it, but the angle isn’t pleasing to my eye. I much prefer the look of the smaller micro mount and would probably also prefer the look of the Midland “Ghost” antenna (not tested, but generally well-reviewed and looks cool). It will be more susceptible to trail damage, being taller= more opportunity to snag on branches or other trail obstacles.

# 2 Performer- The included Micro Mobile antenna from the magnetic mount, on the JBG Trail Sight mount with MNO connector and cable (links below).

  • Good - 1.6SWR, still acceptable. Small, looks good, made it through the car wash. I actually leave this on as a daily use item and swap for rides where a little distance might matter.

Here are some pics (videos eventually). I am happy to help with the install and tuning process if any members need some guidance.

MTX275 Handset

JBG Mount-

MNO (connects radio and antenna) Mount and Cable