What are CB Radios?
Citizens Band Radio (CB Radio for Short) is primarily used for short-range radio communication. Using the 11 meter band with frequencies between 26.965 MHz and 27.405 MHz, this two-way voice communication service is a perfect medium for localized emergency communication during disasters, highway communication between truck drivers, and of course, good old-fashioned fun for radio hobbyists and enthusiasts.
Made popular during the 1970s, because of movies like Smokey and the Bandit, for decades C.B. Radio was one of the most popular forms of short distance communications. Although its popularity has faded during recent years, largely due to the development of mobile phones, the internet, and the Family Radio Service, it still remains a highly popular option for truckers, radio hobbyists, and survivalists.
Why is CB Radio good for Emergency Communications?
One reason these communication devices are still popular is because they are extremely reliable during emergencies. Unlike traditional phone lines and cell towers that can fail during inclement weather, Citizens Band Radio works even when other forms of communication have gone down.
Even during small scale disasters (earthquakes, seasonal storms, etc.) normal communications channels can become compromised quite easily. In fact, it doesn’t take much to bring down an entire cell network, making the ability to communicate during a disaster one of your top priorities. With little more than the power from your vehicle’s battery or even a couple of double AA batteries for the mobile versions of these radios, you can ensure your ability to communicate when things go bad.
While Ham radio is always my first line of emergency communications, a C.B. Radio is another important part of any good survival communications plan. One advantage these radios have over Ham Radios is they do not require a license to operate, making them a good option for kids or people who refuse to take the Ham Test.
CB Radio Range
Citizen’ Band radio (CB radio) is primarily intended for short-range communication, usually distances of 5 – 25 miles. But as most serious radio hobbyists know, there are ways to increase their distance and during certain atmospheric conditions, radio signals can be reflected in a way that makes it possible to communicate with people over 1,000 miles away.
But in general, with a properly tuned radio and antenna, you should be able to achieve communication distances ranging up to 25 miles.
How to Increase your Radio’s Distance
Now we are getting into a gray area of the law, because technically you aren’t supposed to use things like radio amplifiers, and there are some pretty strict rules dictating how much power you can legally use to transmit your signal.
On the keeping it totally legal front, the best suggestion I have is to focus on your antenna. A good antenna can make even a bad radio transmit better, but a good radio paired with a bad antenna is a recipe for disaster.
On my mobile rigs, I use a K40 Magnet Mount Antenna. Right out of the box you’re not going to find a much better mobile antenna, and with a few adjustments, you can easily tune this thing to optimize it for your needs. If you’re using a cheap Walmart style Antenna, I guarantee using something like the K40 will extend your range and significantly improve your signal.
Another way to slightly increase your range is to look for a radio with Single Side Band (SSB) mode, something like a Galaxy DX-959. Radios that offer SSB as an option will allow you to transmit a little bit further, but since most of the radios sold today are AM only, you will not be able to talk to as many people using SSB. That being said, for communications with other family members who have radios with that mode, there may be a benefit to buying a dual mode radio.
What about Amplifying the Signal?
As far as radio amplifiers go, they are illegal. That being said, most truck drivers have them and you can usually find them sold at Truck Stops throughout the country.
CB FREQUENCY / CHANNEL INFORMATION
CB transmissions take place on 40 shared channels from 26.965 MHz to 27.405 MHz in either AM mode or Single Side Band (SSB) mode.
Here is a complete list of the CB Channels with their corresponding Frequency:
|CB Channel||Frequency||Frequency Use|
|Channel 1||26.965 MHz|
|Channel 2||26.975 MHz|
|Channel 3||26.985 MHz||Unofficial Prepper CB Network (AM)|
|Channel 4||27.005 MHz||Used by many 4X4 clubs|
|Channel 5||27.015 MHz|
|Channel 6||27.025 MHz||You’ll hear many operators using illegal high-power amplifiers|
|Channel 7||27.035 MHz|
|Channel 8||27.055 MHz|
|Channel 9||27.065 MHz||Channel 9 is the universal C.B. emergency channel|
|Channel 10||27.075 MHz|
|Channel 11||27.085 MHz|
|Channel 12||27.105 MHz|
|Channel 13||27.115 MHz||Often used in some areas for marine use & recreational vehicles.|
|Channel 14||27.125 MHz||Frequency for many walkie-talkies. FCMA (Federal Motor Coach Assoc) heard here|
|Channel 15||27.135 MHz|
|Channel 16||27.155 MHz||Used by many 4X4 clubs|
|Channel 17||27.165 MHz||Used by truckers on the east-west roads in California|
|Channel 18||27.175 MHz|
|Channel 19||27.185 MHz||Unofficial Trucker channel (but probably where you will find most of them hanging out)|
|Channel 20||27.205 MHz|
|Channel 21||27.215 MHz||Used by truckers for North-South routes in some areas of the country|
|Channel 22||27.225 MHz|
|Channel 23||27.255 MHz|
|Channel 24||27.235 MHz|
|Channel 25||27.245 MHz|
|Channel 26||27.265 MHz|
|Channel 27||27.275 MHz|
|Channel 28||27.285 MHz|
|Channel 29||27.295 MHz|
|Channel 30||27.305 MHz||30 and up are often used for SSB operation|
|Channel 31||27.315 MHz|
|Channel 32||27.325 MHz|
|Channel 33||27.335 MHz|
|Channel 34||27.345 MHz|
|Channel 35||27.355 MHz|
|Channel 36||27.365 MHz|
|Channel 37||27.375 MHz||Unofficial Prepper 37 (USB)|
|Channel 38||27.385 MHz||Unofficial SSB calling channel, LSB mode|
|Channel 39||27.395 MHz|
|Channel 40||27.405 MHz|
Additional CB Resources & Radio Suggestions
If you are just getting into communications, Ham Radio for Dummies is actually a really good book. Even if you don’t plan on taking the next step into Ham Radio, the book will give you a good general grasp of how radios work, how antennas work, and can help you increase the range and reliability of your equipment.
I’ve been asked a lot about what CB Radios are the best. While you could spend thousands of dollars at your local truck stop on a tricked out rig that goes far beyond what you really need, I suggest going with a brand like Cobra. I’ve been using Cobra Radios for as long as I can remember; I have a Cobra Electronics 29 LX as my base rig at home and a Cobra LTD 29 Classic as a mobile rig in my truck. My truck setup is over 20 years old, so I know these things last and I know they can take a beating.