It’s a great time to be into Survivalist Communications. It’s a great time to be into Survivalism, period. Sure, the world sucks. We’re on track to reignite the Cold War. The flames keep being fanned higher and higher here at home. The economy is borderline insane. Yep, all that.
And yet, the technology out there is advancing by leaps and bounds. 3D printers and rapid decline in the price of CNC machines has led to the world’s truly open-source weapon, the AR-15. Computers are smaller and more powerful than ever before. The access to information has never been easier. And radio has never been better.
QRP HF used to only have a handful of options- Ten-Tec was the leader- but even then it was limited to a couple bands and kinda tough to run in the field. Yaesu brought out the 817 and with it, revolutionized what a ‘field day’ radio should be. It’s served a lot of people well and continues to do so today. But even still, it’s got a couple drawbacks, namely an outdated receiver. The Icom 703 was nice, but kinda bulky, and no longer made. Elecraft came along with the KX3 and proved how nice and power efficient a receiver can be with QRP capability, and the KX2 has so far proven big things come in tiny, if expensive, packages. LNR is building nice sets in small batches, and the Chinese are importing a few interesting designs if one likes to gamble with their money.
Enter CommRadio, a subsection of AeroStream Communications in Colorado. Perhaps not a household name, AeroStream develops new and innovative SDR products, producing the excellent CR-1a all-mode receiver. After having been on the market for a few years, requests for a QRP transceiver have led to the development of the CTX-10- and from the looks of things, it’s just about everything one could want in the field for HF short of shelling out the cash for a Harris PRC-138 or 150. The whole body of the radio is machined as a heat sink, which as many know is a must-have accessory for Elecraft’s radios. The knobs are machined aluminum as well, proving that durability was put first in the design. But the biggest thing to get excited about is the inclusion of three 2600mAh internal batteries- so this thing can likely run in the field for a long time. No internal tuner option like offered with Elecraft, but I’d gladly trade off an internal tuner for ruggedization.Edit to add- apparently it does include an internal tuner as well. This is incredible for its size.
Looking at the back of the case, all the standard features are where they should be, along with a fan to keep things cool and a BNC connection. It looks like it will have USB control capability, which will make running digital modes from a variety of devices simple. This is a big plus for efficient, reliable communications at low power. Running up to 10w @ 2A of power consumption, it appears to be very efficient although the full power specs have yet to be published.
Overall I’m very excited about this- I think it’s the radio 817 fans have been asking Yaesu to build for a long while now and similar in size and form factor. No MSRP is posted as of yet, because they’re still waiting on FCC certification, but it’s due on the market early next year. If it’s priced just under the Elecraft KX2, the CTX-10 is going to be a home run.
It’s a great time to be into Survivalist communications.
Every once in a while a concept comes along that’s so bad it must be addressed- or at least, countered with something rooted in anything aside from abject pontification. In the interest of full disclosure, I’ve been a registered Libertarian since being eligible to vote- the Patriot Act pushed me in that direction, discovering a whole world of folks who seemed to embrace the philosophy of Locke with the passion of Thoreau and the rejection of the nepotism that comes from the two party snake. A lot of the talking points at least sound good, Survivalism and self-reliance was a long-standing cornerstone, the people seemed at least concerned with preserving and advancing the interests of individual liberty, a personal life philosophy of mine and one that’s becoming ever more difficult to reconcile.
Philosophy keeps being used- as with the classic exchange between Alec Lemas and Fiedler in Le Carre’s The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, one’s personal philosophy is the driving force behind that which we do. Collectively, Marx, drawing from the classical philosophers, refers to this as Praxis in The German Ideology– action we take rooted in reality to further our goal. You may recognize this word from a series of posts from the late great Mike Vanderbough; he was a former adherent of Marxism and as such used their language. Regardless of the emotions this may stir, Marx is the root of the continuum of issues we see today forming the Left, and if any of you took the time to study it beside reading interpretations confirming your own bias you’d better recognize the signs in order to formulate a counter.
Which brings us back to ‘philosophy.’ How do we define libertarian philosophy? Rothbard? Von Mises? Ayn Rand? Ron Paul? Is it a study political economy being the amalgamation of capitalist distribution of resources with the logical social conclusion of Marxism, that being an abstract society without definition? Certainly it cannot be the Marxist-rooted Anarchism furthered by Chomsky as some so haplessly claim; or is it? Is it to be simply dismissed as ‘No More Government Interference!’ with little to no direction or path, allowing an ‘anything goes’ atmosphere absent moral standards? Certainly the adherents of the more vocal ‘libertarian’ groups feel so. Rather, could it be rooted in Max Weber, in his dissertations derived from Calvinism and the justification of Capitalism? That Liberty defined, being the right to accumulate wealth and develop according to one’s will and in line with God the Almighty was an underlying current of Weber borrowed from Wesley and uniquely American in continual reference to Franklin. But we are rarely subject to this definition, save the cries of restoring that which was too flawed to stand in its genesis, hence a branched model separated only in theory alone. But this implied religiosity cannot be, among the Libertarians who wish to disprove Durkheim’s Anomie theory in vain, failing to recognize the means of both Mechanical and Organic Solidarity and what role religion plays in social cohesion. Religion is but a sinful word among many in the ‘libertarian’ movement. Ask them, you’ll see. Quickly do they forsake Christianity for the moral equivalence argument of the Left as the roots of the Left were, after all, the originators of the denial of the existence of God. Amid these factors, Libertarianism then defined by its adherents, appears to simply be an idea in search of philosophy defined quite plainly by whomever is writing about it, theoretical grounding be damned.
Libertarianism thus is one logical framework of Hegel. It is largely from Hegel the ideology of Revolution is rooted. The battle of the individual against the divine rule of Kings, the questioning of all that is the status quo among the classes and the masses, the rooting of the Enlightenment and the tree from which its Revolutionary branches sprung. The Master-Slave dialectic is that from which the Conflict Paradigm of Marx arose. Simplistic cries of “WE ARE THE 99 PERCENT!” and “BLACK LIVES MATTER”, as with the repetitive phrases of Orwell’s Boxer the Workhorse, embody this process entirely- us at the bottom versus them at the top- and the police in this paradigm serve the only purpose of protecting that top percent in the tradition of the modern Praetorian. Perhaps this is true, perhaps not, defined alone by the paradigm of the observer. But how does this paradigm work when applied to libertaianism? Dwell on that as you read certain contemporary would-be “philosophers.” Libertarianism at its root appears to diverge from Marxism in its philosophical sense upon the idea of absolute right to property alone- rejection of any authority aside from self-rule, however defining this through Capitalist terms rather than that of Community Property, thus maintaining the social goals of Marx forgetting somehow that he was an acting economist criticizing the economic structure of royalty in the development of the industrial revolution. With that, it fails to address several very poignant issues rather simply leaving morality and standards to the social constructionism popular with those concerned with breaking a society.
Libertarianism is thus a movement in search of coherent philosophy, while Marxism and its decedents are a philosophy perpetually creating a movement.
Why do I submit to you this philosophical-based essay? It is not solely to rebuke Libertarianism as an institution, albeit a minor one. I do however wish to raise points nearly never made, as it is critical to understand where the root of your movement lay should you wish to attach yourself to it. If not you are no better than those you rebuke, collectively dismissed as useful idiots. Further, you must know where the ideas of your movement originate in order to keep it grounded, to keep it from becoming co-opted and to ouster those engaged in undermining it, in order to allow it to manifest in the world you want to live. Further still, a movement with no philosophy is no movement at all. Which one of the options explored here have gained more ground in time? Thus enters politics.
The current election for the future of the nation is indeed disturbing- but which one has not? Early on the Libertarian candidate showed promise- and subsequently fell apart, first by picking the worst possible running mate in terms of personal liberty and second becoming the worst possible candidate to take seriously. I ask of the ‘Libertarian philosophers’, if you were so truly concerned with the direction of things, not simply talking as Marx pointed out of Hegelians in The German Ideology, why have you not lobbied Johnson’s staff to make him into a better candidate and a viable option? Why have you not, with your numerous readers and established name within the Libertarian movement, openly campaigned on his behalf in anything resembling an effective model? Take the recent essay by well known pontificate Claire Wolfe; in it, she justifies support for the Democratic Socialist candidate by continuing the facade of faux-resistance by the Republicans elected to the House and Senate. For what reason have you not made the Libertarian candidate stronger? You certainly could, surely, and be taken seriously by your name recognition alone. As of this writing you have not. Because you know, as do I, he’s nothing more than a spoiler by disenfranchised Republicans rehashing old talking points from the Left sans-effective social action. But the cries of ‘Free State Project!’, ‘rallies!’,’Restore the Constitution!’, and the most illogical of them all, ‘armed nonviolence’ (what’s the point? The right to arms demands assurance of violence on its behalf or its no right at all). Nothing changes because the Left understood long ago it was much easier to play the long game and create the change you wish to see from inside a party already existing. The government did not grow because it is a living entity, it grew because people elected those who enabled it to happen. Those people are not your people, you are not theirs and they want you gone in the name of progress. They’ve done so coupled with a monopoly on the power structure rendered in the University System. The Right attempted to mirror this from the bottom and was shut down by the power structure of both parties with the greatest weapon in America- the IRS, which leads to the conclusion that the entirety of the structure wants a sole state under the facade of opposition. They’re not there quite yet, but close. The Left perpetually advances while the genuine Right, clinging to whatever status quo may remain, rudderless amid faux-philosophy, attempts in vain to halt the Marxist advance. Thus, the ballot box has indeed failed.
Thus, when I read the self-labeled ‘Freedomista’; itself a label attempting to infer analog to Marxist Guerrillas who actually have at a minimum took up arms for a cause; advocating for a Democratic Socialist candidate as our best option coupled with a futile use of chance obstructionism I find revolting. It is not only a contradiction, but with a jaundiced eye coupled with actual serious training in higher education, a near-surrogate level rendering of her garments. Is it the words the Republican candidate used eleven years ago which disturbed you so? The Republican is a boor. Why do you care among an ‘anything goes’ social system to which you adhere? So was Kennedy, behind the scenes, so was Clinton, very openly, and likely so were a good measure of the others. With all of the emotion, venom and illogic of a Social Justice Warrior you lash out against the best option we have, short of replacing bullets for ballots, as our feminist-turned-liberty philosopher decides our best path forward is the sure fire bet to irreversible destruction through complete socialist control of the Judicial System. The colors ring true. But this matters not to the ‘freedomista’ who’s revolution has still yet to manifest. What’s keeping you my dear?
Don’t worry, we’ll wait whilst cries of ‘revolution starts at home!‘ are chanted by those who’ve championed such drivel. It’s false and we all know it. A better outcome would result from aiding the best option, our side winning even if its not ideal, forcing the Left to overplay its hand in the streets in the coming insurrection thus winning the opinion of majority populace through their savagery. The stilted media would further be hung by the noose they’ve tied for themselves through their own propaganda. Instead you offer at best maintaining a status quo which has only moved rapidly Left, all legally I may add, in quick fashion brilliantly painting the Right as everything they say we are, destroying any chance for winning the people. The lone instance of the Right taking kinetic action ended in further fragmentation and government empowerment from its lack of preparation or realization of mass base. This from a government, may I remind you, without the aforementioned complete control of the Judicial Branch.
Some will simply at this point revert to the intellectual cop-out, there’s no voting our way out of this, that may be true, but absolutely will be true post-2016. No solution ever follows such statements. Associated is cries of a rigged game all along, which can neither be proved nor disproved, thus should be squelched if real results are desired. A Solution? Work harder now to do all you can. You do vote- if for this once and once alone. This also means one doesn’t dismiss all options until there is no option, but commit to the first option (ballots) while preparing for the next (bullets). Organize within your communities. Gain stature and build social capital. We are dangerously close to replacing Bullets for Ballots, an outcome as one who’s seen what that looks like no one should be hoping for, but without the first there may be little chance of success from the second. Revolution likely will not turn out the way you wish. And with a Democratic Socialist victory, only the voices allowed to remain will remain, crushing any meaningful resistance before it forms, save for those who’ve followed advice of a very few.
Dwell on that one.
Until that time, coming sooner rather than later, I challenge the reader to at least forsake the laity faux-philosophy that merely makes one feel better about the world prevalent in the ‘liberty movement.’ It’s all been covered long ago by people further down the road than we, with a better snapshot of what social upheaval looks like from the ground level than the ‘philosophers’ who keep telling us, minus any real experience. With that, certain voices should not only be hereby rejected entirely, but exposed exactly for the surrogates they are- may you never forget for whom side they advocate.
I leave you with a quote from a man whom everyone concerned should become familiar with, if not already:
Politics is a strong and slow boring of hard boards. It takes both passion and perspective. Certainly all historical experience confirms the truth – that man would not have attained the possible unless time and again he had reached out for the impossible. But to do that a man must be a leader, and not only a leader but a hero as well, in a very sober sense of the word. And even those who are neither leaders nor heroes must arm themselves with that steadfastness of heart which can brave even the crumbling of all hopes. This is necessary right now, or else men will not be able to attain even that which is possible today.
You’re looking at my favorite view in Oahu- one you’ll likely never see in a travel guide, never take a tour there, and probably never know you could even get there-till I let the secret out. The folks who live on Oahu know it as Ka’ena Point, an outdoorsman’s little slice of Heaven. Between the locals and the ha’oulis four wheeling, the zero dark thirty fishermen looking to snag the next giant ulula at 0300, or the beachgoers looking for a private cove for an uninterrupted private day at the beach, to a certain wild-eyed Platoon Sergeant taking his guys out to kill pigs with his Hoyt bow (he was a feral man), this little secret on the other side of Hale’iwa is an amazing place with a lot of great memories.
Fun stories, very fun times. Oahu or ‘The Meeting Place’, the capital of the Hawaiian islands, is truly one of the coolest and most unique places on Earth to visit. Hawaii also was a big leap forward in my skills with radios- both as an Infantry RTO as a young Joe and an avid CBer doing stupid things in a rusted out $600 K5. But from there, I really started learning the science behind a lot of the skills I’ve gained since, including having to build improvised low band VHF antennas from breaking the ASIPs Whip (blackhawk door on the way to Kahuku…whoops…). Regardless, it laid the foundation amid seemingly endless cycles of road marches, KoleKole runs, and deployments to Iraq with a tight Brotherhood united by the bond of the hardships of training (and tearing up Kemo’o Farms).
So with that I jumped at the chance to test an antenna offered by the Emergency Amateur Radio Club- Hawaii (EARC-HI). As the title implies, it’s an End-Fed antenna not unlike the LNR Trail-Friendly, previously reviewed here and seen to the left on the table top. While similar in the basic design, there’s some critical differences. First, LNR’s end-fed is rated for just 20W Peak Envelope Power, meaning it’s a low power only antenna. While ruggedly built, it is fed into a spindle which may be a weak point. I say may be, because it’s very well built, but anyplace where components meet is a potential failure point.
Moving on to the EARC-HI design, it’s probably the simplest antenna out there. The matchbox houses a still relatively small torroid with one critical difference- it handles 100W. The design is simple and robust, with just one sole strand of #18 AWG. Put an insulator on the run end and attach the lead end, hoist, and you’re set. While it doesn’t pack up quite as tight as LNR’s antenna, it’s still nothing to complain about, and is simpler to fix should something break. Also built into the design is an attachment point for a counterpoise wire, turning this antenna quickly into a dipole if so desired. It’s feedpoint is a standard UHF connector vs. LNR’s BNC, which is likely a little more versatile for using pre-made runs of coax but that’s really a matter of personal preference. A lot of the SOTA and NPOTA guys love BNC connections, and it works fine too, so this really is a moot point, but a data point nonetheless.
Hoisted in a tree, the matchbox nearly disappears and slides through branches like they’re not even there. She’s just as fast getting in the air as the LNR, and every bit as stealthy. Getting it around 15ft up was absolutely no trouble and took just a couple minutes to rig.
Backing away, the run end of the antenna disappears among the trees. If it wasn’t for the bank line in the foreground, you’d never know the antenna was there. It’s a very clandestine antenna.
For this test the End-Fed was rigged to my Yaesu 857D and LDG auto tuner powered by a 12AH SLA battery. While not the most compact setup, this rig and test simulates conditions likely for a disaster scenario and operating in a fixed position, not unlike a signal section inside a Tactical Operations Center (TOC) and one nearly ideal for Survivalist considerations. A tuner is absolutely required to use this antenna, as it’s not resonant on any single band (although you can cut it to be resonant using an antenna analyzer) but the broad range of this antenna as-is (7mhz-54mhz) lends itself to a high degree of versatility. The first test is my go-to NVIS band, 40m, scanning for any band activity. Although HF conditions are rough for SSB at the moment due to the bottomend of the solar cycle, contacts most definitely ARE possible, even with very low power, as folks attending PATCON last weekend observed with me running just 2.5w and making SSB contacts in VA. 40 was in rough shape, but with just 10w out I managed to make positive contact in WV, OH, PA, and relayed a station in FL getting a sitrep from a station in Cuba. That’s right, trial by fire- while Hurricane Matthew is wreaking havoc and destroying communications infrastructure, radio amateurs are on the air still, with wire antennas, coordinating communications. Moving up to 20, the noise floor is still pretty rough, but the Hurricane Watch Net is still on the air and relaying information in real time. I boosted my power output to 15W and had no problems making contact. 14mHz is NOT an NVIS band (it doesn’t propagate that way) and antenna height makes a world of difference, but in this case the antenna worked just fine.
As a shortwave listening antenna, the End-Fed once again shines. WWCR came in stronger than the local FM stations, with zero fade that’s usually the case when listening on shorter length wire antennas or whips. Many other stations were coming in very clear, including several foreign stations, but I didn’t take the time to log any of them as I moved back to 40 to continue working. Compared to the LNR, the EARC-HI has less noise, likely due to the larger torroid. In both tests the antenna was placed in the same tree, albeit at different times.
This is an antenna you should have. Both this and the LNR are great pieces of kit, but if I only could have one, this one edges out due to it’s absolute simplicity. While the LNR is smaller and marketed to backpacking QRP-only radio enthusiasts, this model is more general purpose having the ability to handle up to 100w and being very simple in design should repair ever be necessary. It disappears into trees making a very stealthy package, and is so rapid in its method of deployment that its ideal for EMCOM and disaster preparedness, as well as those restricted by HOAs or the occasional operator who can’t justify investing in a tower.
The EARC-HI club and the antenna’s designer, Charles Hanebuth, made this antenna for all of the reasons it was tested and posted here. It’s a heck of a good design by folks who take amateur radio and it’s role in disaster preparedness very seriously. For what it costs ($40 for the kit/ $56 pre-assembled, both prices include shipping) it’s an excellent investment. The plans are available here as well, for those who wish to source all of the components locally and roll your own.
A huge Mahalo to the EARC-HI club…you guys rock. Have some Maui Mike’s for me!
Over the weekend I had a great opportunity to meet some kind and very generous folks at the 10th NC PATCON. Among the broad topics demonstrated and discussed, a few items of interest stood out in my mind as needing more attention from a Survivalist paradigm rather than the usual Small Unit Patrolling concepts. The reason for this is rather patently clear- from placing the needs of your community first, which defense is certainly a part but only one part, a large number of folks will be highly concerned with day to day sustainment activities rather than roving about looking for an adversary.
The Survivalist paradigm differs from the militant one in that capabilities are viewed from the simplicity and flexibility standpoint, rather than worrying about who’s listening in and keeping everything hush-hush. If you listen around, you’ll notice in rural areas fire and first responder communications are normally in the clear and police frequently moving to some type of P25 based system. This is because latter has a arguably sensitive nature and the former has a 100% reliability requirement. So where are we going with this?
As discussed, a need for local communications with your neighbors independent of infrastructure is pretty darned important. So what were the solutions presented?
First, check out AmRRON’s CH3 Project and gather a couple pointers. CB channel 3 (26.985 mHz), MURS channel 3 (151.940mHz), and FRS Channel 3 (462.6125 mHz). None of those require a license. All of those are easily found in the wild, meaning there’s lots of radios that operate on those frequencies. The radios that utilize those frequencies are also normally very easy to use as well. This is important because setting up a community wireless or radio-based communications plan will require little training to get up and running and won’t intimidate or scare anyone off. The goal here is getting as many folks near you on the air as possible reliably – in a long term interruption of service this is critical.
Well, a governing body (any governing entity) is only legitimate when it provides for the needs of the people. Once it fails to do that repeatedly, that confidence erodes. The same goes for you. A tight knit community that effectively communicates and aids one another is a successful one. This doesn’t have to be some goofy hypothetical scenario- look at the Cajun Navy example in Louisiana. The flood response in SC last year. The relief effort in Joplin MO. The list could go on and on, but the best help comes not from waiting for FEMA and feel good speeches by clean and comfy politicians, but from your own neighbors. And once you apply this principle to projected fun times ahead, communications become pretty important. Implementing and practicing something now makes doing it later much easier and infinitely more successful, and playing radio can be pretty fun with folks in your area.
But…wait a second…I though we had to worry about direction finding, interception, counterintelligence and all that stuff?
It’s not that you don’t. In a tactical sense, those are all very real concerns. But there’s also a pretty high value on having so much chatter it literally cannot be processed- ie overloading a system. If everyone in a community is talking most of the day, messages can rather easily be passed using local slang that would go completely unheard. From the analyst’s perspective, even a good one will get burned out from routine traffic and ignore the mundane stuff. For you that benefit is twofold; it’s a human factor to security, but it also, through communicating regularly with people you know personally, becomes sources of real time information (known in many locales as gossip) with a large and nearly instant bona fide confidence.
This is not anything new. LTC Les Grau, in one of his many dissertations on Chechnya, indicated that many villages equipped their people with as many radios as possible to as many people as possible thereby getting as many reporting eyes on a target as possible. As the photo suggests, think of it as an old party line, and sorta the same logic as the ‘camera in a cop’s face’ phenomenon going on these days, or really social media itself for that matter. In South Africa rural farmers established a VHF radio net to alert plantation owners of impending communist guerrilla attacks from the ANC. The idea is still around, much more for a mutual aid purpose these days.
In both cases the operators, from being in a small localized structure, knew each others voices over the air. Not only that, but they know when something is wrong, because you know a bit about that person. It’s these human factors that cannot be ‘learned’ once whatever downturn in the current social status happens. To be effective it needs to be put in place and practiced regularly now.
A lot has been written about the cheap chicom radios, particularly the Baofeng. There’s folks who worship at its altar as some sort of God-sent miracle of technology and others, myself included, who very realistically have been telling you you might want to invest in some better gear. But the reality is that they’re out there en masse, in use in real time, and have literally every accessory imaginable available for it. Review what I previously wrote on maximizing their use, not forgetting that they are what they are- a $25-ish radio.
All that being said, they are simple, they are cheap enough to not break anyone’s wallet, and it has a decent enough receiver to multi task as a NOAA receiver and scanner. Its also good for testing new antenna designs that might otherwise be risky for higher end radios in regards to SWR. (And yes, SWR matters on ALL radios, it’s a part of physics and its critical to efficiency. 1:1 means 100% of your power is ‘getting out’, 2:1 means 50%, 3:1 means 33%, etc, and the power not going out comes back into your radio, causing problems and eventual equipment failure. So yeah, it matters, no matter what.) The bottom line is that while FAR from ideal, they do work, and they’re increasingly being found everywhere. There’s even a Packet TNC out there compatible to it for APRS, should you get more advanced.
I wouldn’t use these for snooping and pooping in the woods. The stupid flashlight on top and the ridiculously poor build quality kill it in my opinion. But to hand to an elderly neighbor or the farmer at the other end of the loop to be able to call you if lines are down, sure. To hand out to new folks to get them on the air and build some social capital, sure. For everyday use playing on repeaters, sure. It’s far from being an ideal Survivalist radio (the Yaesu VX-7R is…) but know that it’s no miracle wonder kit, it’s not high quality, it’s a $25 radio and performs like one. But if that’s the chair you’ve got when the music stops, then that’s what you’re sitting in.
Don’t discount the value contained in simple CB radios either. As the sun cycle makes 11m not as much fun as it used to be, it’s popularity is fading a bit, but it’s still very much a viable option. The migrant worker community around here certainly hasn’t had a problem with it. On most channels most of the day you can hear lots of chatter en espanol, limiting it’s utility in my opinion (in my area at least…ymmv) but it’s a good demonstration of community radio party lines in practice serving a community.
Speaking of party lines, one of the attendees to the PATCON brought along a really interesting project– an actual off grid, solar powered closed phone set. But, ain’t that what the TA-312 is? Yes. Except these look like normal landline phones you’ll find in every home. The TA-312s I have stick out like sore thumbs. This is important because social camouflage and plausible deniability is critical to guard your infrastructure. From a door kicker’s perspective, I would very quickly overlook the landline, because well, it’s a landline. Using common phone line found everywhere, they’ve successfully created not only a normal wall phone but field phones as well, along with a simple tone generator (which works very well as a CW keyer over the line too…). It’s something I’m highly impressed with and see a lot of potential at the community level. The best part of it all, it’s solar powered and you control it.
Get to Building
The bottom line of all of this is to make use of what you have, what is practical for everyone concerned to get on the air with, and DOING IT! The underlying message here in case you missed it is the party line- building a community communications infrastructure. This stuff is great from a hypothetical standpoint, but without action, is just a fun suggestion. If that’s accomplished with a solid mobile base unit and weekly check in net, a handful of Baofengs or midland FRS radios, or tin cans and string, get it going. This stuff is important.
I’d like to thank Brock, Tom and everyone attending this year’s PATCON. I had a lot of fun and had some great BBQ (especially the banana pudding…it’s kryptonite). The house was beautiful and the event was full of Patriot camaraderie- the world, at least for last Saturday, made sense. I’m going to be at the next one come hell or high water, and I’d like for y’all to as well. No matter who ‘the will of the people’ pick to skipper this Titanic, get-togethers like these are critically important and are going to be even morso in the near future.
Fact #1- If you’re planning on taking up arms, plan on getting hurt.
Fact #2- Statistically speaking, 10% of those injured will die from injuries sustained. Nothing you will do can change this. These casualties will be dead usually from first contact.
Fact #3- Of the 90% who don’t die, without a tiered response plan by trained and seasoned pros, many of them will die also.
Fact #4- In this era of government sponsored public endangerment, most public places are now an asymmetric battlefield.
Now that may not fit into your 3%er Rambo paradigm, but its the truth. So if you haven’t been a) networking, b) networking with the right people and c) training, you might just want to get on that. We are going to deal with how to stock a realistic personal kit that will actually save lives and won’t kill you or your patient in the process of using it. Simplicity is the watchword here.
Not long after I got out of the Army I was contacted by a local milita-type, who was a little too eager to show off his field kit seeking approval. What he called an ‘IFAK’ was stuffed to the gills with all sorts of crap that couldn’t be accessed when needed and was otherwise generally erroneous even if he could. This individual had no other training aside from a long out-of-date CPR course, which is to say, none at all. I tell you this story to illustrate a painful reality for many; not only is there little to no concept of what defines individual trauma response, but there’s even less of a concept of how to implement a basic treatment plan. From here we will address what goes in a real Individual First Aid Kit (IFAK), how you implement it into your kit, and guidelines for use.
Keep It Simple, Stupid
The IFAK is not for treating others. It’s for others treating you. It is not for treating minor booboos and earaches, it’s for trauma that follows a strict definition based on the MARCH acronym, which we’ll talk about in a bit. The contents of the IFAK must be standardized across the board. We do this so that we know what’s in them, what each of those components do, and so that the next echelon of care can get a visual idea of the wounds by what items have been used. The IFAK is an immediate response to trauma in order to increase wound survival, hence it is very simply constructed and organized. This simplicity, like all things, is key to effectiveness under duress.
MARCH is the acronym to follow for treating trauma in order to save lives. CLS, or the Combat Lifesaver Course the Army teaches everyone in the Infantry (and probably everyone else too) is very outdated, or at least was according to the last doctrine I saw before I got out. The medics emphasized Responsiveness, Breathing, Bleeding, Fractures, Bruising/Contusions (as a sign of internal injury), and Head trauma, followed by treating for shock (which was very vaguely defined). The problem is that following that paradigm first takes too long and second is not placed in the order of what will kill you the fastest. MARCH is more logical and is as follows:
Massive Bleeding: While you won’t bleed out quite as fast as what’s commonly thought Arterial wounds, while they do gush for the first bit, are marked by very bright red blood will clot faster and re-route themselves. I’ve actually seen arterial blood clot to itself on asphalt in a street. Venal wounds which are dark blood take much longer to clot but bleed slower. Despite this, blood loss is the fastest killer, especially when dealing with blast injuries. The primary item that belongs in your IFAK is a tourniquet. You should have one in the kit and two more on your your person. There are two types of tourniquets you should consider. I know there’s a bunch of other ones that I’m sure work just dandy, but these two I’ve used and it saved the respective lives of those casualties. Don’t ask me about the other tourniquets.
The first tourniquet is the Combat Application Tourniquet, or CAT for short. It’s a long strap of velcro with a plastic windlass for tension. Because it’s plastic, it works just fine for arms but I don’t trust it on legs. Muscles sometimes spasm uncontrollably from blood loss or shock, and plastic doesn’t give me a warm and fuzzy. That being said, the CAT is the fastest and simplest for self-aid, AKA putting it on yourself, so it’s likely the first one to be used.
The second design is the Special Operations Forces-Tourniquet, AKA SOF-T. It’s a little more complicated, being a thick strap of nylon with a screw down strap tension and metal windlass. This is the one you use on legs(ideally) because once it goes on it will not come off by accident. A note on using tourniquets- they do NOT go, as erroneously taught in Army CLS, two fingers above or below joints. They are placed on single bone structures as close to the top of the limb as possible (to use the single bone as a compression point) to immediately stop any bleeding. Conventional wisdom used to teach that everything below the tourniquet would get amputated, and this is 100% false. Arteries love to roll and move, and slip in between double bone structures of lower limbs.The higher you go, the better the tourniquet works, meaning as close as possible to armpits and crotches. Roger?
The second item to go in your kit also addresses bleeding. The Compression Bandage,seen above, sometimes also known as an Israeli Bandage, is the most versatile bandage on the market and allows for a high level of compression second only to a tourniquet. In addition to stopping the bleeding, it also covers wounds, can be used as a stabilizer for fractures, and be made into a sling if need be. These three items alone, if you have nothing else, are a huge step to saving lives.
Airway: The second fastest killer is blocked airways, common in blast injuries and other facial trauma. There’s two steps to address this- lifting the chin of a casualty in the supine position (on their back) while clearing the lower airway (throat). Next you’ll insert a nasopharyngeal airway, or NPA for short. It’s a small green or blue rubber tube that goes up the nasal cavity and and into the throat, creating a clear artificial airway from an otherwise damaged path. (Yes, it sucks. BAD. Every CLS trained Infantryman knows, because they all had to do it. If you’re prone to fighting, like I am, and have a deviated septum from a broken nose they suck that much worse. They universally suck so bad, that I had a SGM that loved to give them to soldiers who fell out of formation runs and ceremonies. He kept it in his pocket and made that soldier’s NCO put it him in as a sweet reminder to not do that again.) This being said, an NPA needs to be in your kit. It WILL save a life.
With these two areas addressed we’ve increased the odds of a casualty surviving many times over. Even if you forget the rest, a casualty stands a good chance of survival with the appropriate follow-on care. An additional note on hemostatic agents (such as Celox and Quik-Clot) because I know someone is going to ask- I don’t recommend using them unless you’ve been trained on their use by a professional. I have, and I don’t tell you carry them individually without training. Do they work? Yes, and quite well. But there’s a caveat. First, the untrained go for them primarily whenever they see blood. Wrong. That should be the tourniquet. Second, Celox is made of shrimp shell, so if your casualty is allergic to shellfish, guess what- you just killed him. Third, and this has to do more with Celox than the others (when used improperly) it can break off and cause an internal blood clot killing your patient sometime down the road. It is only used as a LAST RESORT in places a tourniquet cannot otherwise go, such as groins or necks. Last, higher echelon care now must take it off, causing more problems. So in short, use the tourniquet. Its simple. It will do what it’s supposed to, and let those with more training take it from there.
Respiration: This is where CPR comes in. Get them breathing.
Circulation: We’re looking for swollen limbs, which indicate internal trauma. You’ll want the follow on medical aid to know about this, but there’s little you can do as a primary responder.
Head Trauma (H1): For head trauma, like circulation, you’ll want to make a note of it, then cover any open wounds to the head to prevent possible encephalitis. Further, upon recognition of head injuries, prevent the casualty from moving around. I’ve been that guy (catastrophic IED, I was in the turret nearly completely exposed) as well as treated that guy and he’s gonna say and do some strange things. Keep them as calm as possible if they’re awake.
Hypothermia (H2): The injured get cold FAST. It’s something we don’t think about, but open trauma causes the body to lose heat at an expedited rate which will kill an otherwise stable casualty very quick. The easiest way to address this is with a simple space blanket, available pretty much anywhere that has a sporting goods section.
So as a recap, our new acronym for treating casualties is MARCH- Massive bleeding, Airway, Respiration, Circulation, and Head Trauma/Hypothermia.
But wait- you didn’t talk about abdominal injuries- gunshots, sucking chest wounds, etc? No, I didn’t. The reason why is that there’s not that much without extensive training you can do for this type of injury. You can pack it with gauze (or a tampon) to keep it from getting worse, but the best thing to do is close it with a safety pin. You should not consider a needle decompression for a sucking chest wound if you have little medical training either. Doing so incorrectly or overestimating your skill can cause many more problems than it solves, possibly killing your casualty. Understand? Extremity wounds are the ones you can treat the easiest and also kill the fastest if untreated. So focus on what you can do (unless you’re trained in advanced medicine by an accredited institution) and leave the rest to people who know what they’re doing. I also didn’t reference pushing fluids- that’s left to those with training for not only administering fluids but for monitoring the patient for shock possibly induced by those fluids.
Your IFAK is built along this paradigm, stocked with a CAT and SOF-T Tourniquet, a Compression Bandage, a NPA, medical tape (to better secure the tourniquet and NPA- make sure it’s 3M and not the cheap crap), space blanket and a safety pin. It’s not expensive, the equipment is available on Amazon and should be on the hip (or accessible in a standard place) of every person on your patrol. Ideally it should be on your belt and not your kit (because your kit might come off of you, your IFAK is Line 1) and in the same position on each person, so they can each be accessed without searching for it.
Since apparently everywhere is a potential battlefield in this era of government sponsored public endangerment, these basic techniques will be likely be needed in the near future. Act accordingly.
Note- I’ve been swamped with duties elsewhere for the past couple weeks, between extensive studies in a foreign language and preparing for the winter (I heat with wood). I have a lot on tap, including a review of another higher power capacity End-Fed Antenna option (Marshall, you’re the man! Just bear with me Brother.) but for the moment I simply haven’t had the proper time on my hands to do it right. The world will spin properly shortly.
If you’ve ever wondered why a general Survivalist rule is in keeping at least a half tank of gas in your car, now you know why. By now you should be aware of the Colonial Pipeline gasoline rupture in Alabama, as it’s kinda a big deal and worse than what you’re being told. I have family that work in the fuel shipping industry, and they warned us based on what they know. Yesterday the public story was they were re-routing gas through the parallel diesel pipe, and today it’s that they’re building a temporary pipe. The truth is they still don’t have a plan. Gov. McCrory declared a State of Emergency but you wouldn’t know it by the lack of local news coverage. (They’re more worried about placating to males who wish to use the ladies’ room.) This could be due to not wanting to incite a run or the subsequent price gouging, but normally when the media keeps mum it’s bad. CP will get around to fixing it, once the EPA approves a plan and it satisfies the correct government oversight regulations and environmental concerns for non-offensiveness, but in the meantime, there’s gonna be a lot of sad pandas and short tempers next week(s).
But you should have at least thought ahead. I was talking about all of it while hauling wood with my Dad yesterday. He was telling me about the gas rationing of the 70s, and how my Grandad and many others beat it by storing their own. Many old houses still have in-ground gas tanks around here that long predate the 70s and were put in because it was simply cheaper to buy fuel in bulk for agriculture use. You won’t find this in suburbia. If you find an old farm house for sale, you just might find a buried tank (don’t tell the EPA). We just recently found a tank last winter by accident on a property my family’s owned nearly all my life. Large poundage tobacco farmers usually store red-dye diesel in bulk around here too for the same reasons today.
Does this mean bury a tank in your backyard on top of everything else you should be doing? No, because for most this isn’t an option. But it does mean if you call yourself a Prepper or Survivalist or whatever label you like, you should be aware of your surroundings and know where to source what in an emergency as well as being on good terms with the people from which you’re planning on sourcing. Trade and barter is important here, as is being versatile. (And if you’re planning on stealing it just know this- the meanest SOB I’ve ever known is an old Tobacco farmer who won’t hesitate to kill you should you threaten him. He’s got plenty of shovel and lime folks on his payroll too. All of the small towns around here are like this.) I own an older 4X4 diesel truck that makes finding fuel pretty easy. Red dye diesel runs just as good as green dye (don’t tell the tax man) but in the newer trucks, I dunno as they have a lot of EPA mandated crap that gets finicky when something isn’t exactly right. And no, my truck doesn’t look like some gawdy jacked up safari wagon. That crap ruins efficiency unless you’re actually driving a lot off road. As it sits, it’ll get anywhere I need it to and a few places I don’t. I also own two very fuel efficient cars that average 30+ MPG as commuters. Large SUVs and other gasoline guzzlers are kinda silly unless they’re diesel from an efficiency standpoint. But don’t mind my opinion, I’ve only grown up in the rural life and experienced both it’s rewards and hardships. Maybe that $60K + 12 MPG soccer mom grocery getter makes more sense for you.
And not surprisingly, nothing is being said or done about any of these incidents within close proximity outside of local emergency responses. Because obviously it’s not a budding insurgency becoming increasingly brazen with each new step. Each of these locales have a population of folks willing to use violence, especially this pattern of violence, to further their aim as well. When I wrote my critique of ‘leaderless resistance’ as a concept, I pointed out that step three of a culturally directed resistance following frequent ‘isolated’ incidents would be overt warfare. We’re not quite there yet, but it’s getting close. And multiple factions who have demonstrated a propensity for violence are getting pretty po’d right now. Wait till this time next month if Hillary flounders further, when the Jill Stein anarcho-greenie crowd proxies go full retard (and who knows, maybe they already did with CP 48hrs ago and Duke Energy last year. The coal ash spill wasn’t investigated by LE, just by the EPA, who’s agents’ aim is in line with the goals achieved by the incidents. Monkeywrenching is an old-school Leftist favorite, btw). Because her crowd didn’t just threaten another oil pipeline last week. None of these could be considered ‘on the Right’ either, no matter how much our media gaslights us to think ‘Alt-Right’ is the new AQ.
But don’t worry suburbia, the government has top people on it- so don’t worry, because worrying is bad, so nobody panic, because we say so. Now let’s all huddle around and watch multi-millionaire athletes spit on our values while they make more money playing a game than we could ever hope for in ten lifetimes. Drink your Bud Light and eat your Nachos and laugh at the talking dog in the commercial.
Get your stuff straight. Go meet your neighbors today, at a minimum, or have a meal at the local greasy spoon. Read the flyers on the billboard or taped to the door. Get involved with the local Church congregation. Start meeting the wheels of your community and figure out how to contribute. Build networks. Figure out how they stay in the loop independent of conventional means, and get into the chain. Bum around the flea market or go to a fall gathering in town (every small rural town has one). Go shop at the local hardware store, even if he’s more expensive than Lowes. You’re paying for more than a product. I promise you it will get you a lot farther than just retreating and writing everyone off as some are so fond of telling you to do. It’s about to get more ‘interesting.’
May God continue to bless you and keep you. Stay safe.
The antenna I used with the Youkits TJ2B review is a relatively well known and very well made antenna from a company that caters to QRP and SOTA operators- LNR Precision, made right here in NC. I purchased up one of their antennas a short time ago on a recommendation from a buddy who’s big into NPOTA and has had hands-on input with LNR’s product development.
Wanting something ultra compact for trail use, I’ve normally always built my own antennas out of whatever I can source at Lowes, Harbor Freight, Sears, and Hamfests. I like building antennas, as long-time readers know, but my aforementioned friend talked me into trying one of LNR’s designs and promising he’d buy it if I gave it a thumbs down. Thinking it’s simply an end fed with a small matchbox, why bother buying? Well, after a few runs with it, I’ve taken some notes.
Built with very good components, the antenna is worth the money, and is on par with the issued HF long wire antennas I used in the Army, but much, much lighter. The total package weighs in at just a few ounces, and can fit in a pocket without you knowing it’s there. The matchbox is super compact, and features a BNC connector, which not only makes a more compact coax interface, but is easier to attach or take down in a hurry. On the matchbox is two tie down points for hoisting lines. Tarred bankline works well and is cheaper than 550 cord for stringing it up in a tree. The wire is very compact polystealth, and is extremely flexible, making it quite durable. This is an asset. The end of the primary section houses a plastic spool with another short run of wire and terminated with a small insulator. Again, bank line works very well to hoist the antenna end.
The tiny matchbox mates well to RG-8X fitted with BNC connectors. I use RG-8X because it’s the best medium between weight and durability and has very little loss on HF. Many SOTA and ultralight operators like RG-174, which is a super-compact and lightweight coax. I don’t run it because with the advantages of lighter weight comes a tradeoff with durability- the connectors vastly outsize the diameter of the wire and looks like it could break if moved the wrong way. RG-8X, while heavier, is more durable with its attachment to either BNC or UHF connectors, so I’d rather trade a bit of weight for hardiness on the safe side. A 25ft run of RG-8X is nothing to complain about weight-wise anyway, so it’s no big deal.
The antenna configuration was one that should be familiar to any HF-capable RTO- a simple horizontal longwire with a counterpoise strung relatively low, in order to allow for strong NVIS propagation characteristics. The counterpoise is simply a 40ft run of 14AWG THNN, available anywhere and cheap, strung out on the ground to give the hot wire (radiating element) something to push off of- a reflector.
An end-fed antenna is essentially a dipole with one end chopped off, so the use of a counterpoise makes for an even stronger radiation pattern, roughly broadside to the antenna wire. In plain terms, this means your pattern will move at 90 and 270 degrees to the antenna direction. Raised to just above head level, the antenna will have a very tight radiating pattern which is exactly what we’re looking for when we need NVIS propagation on 40M.
The LNR raises fast- I had it up and running in under 5 minutes, and I was taking my sweet time and enjoying a fine pilsner while doing it. In a hurry, I could have it up much faster. Running the antenna roughly N-S, East and West stations were coming in strong in both directions, especially from the West. Using the LDG QRP tuner, the antenna tuned very fast for both the 817 and the TJ2B, presenting a low SWR to protect the radio.
The antenna presents very low noise, which is surprising considering it’s compact form factor. Shortwave stations were very loud and clear, which was also surprising considering the noisy atmospheric conditions present. I had no problems making 5w SSB contacts into TN, which is a testament to both the radios I was using and the antenna itself. As a complete system, it works, and works well. One station in TN was surprised I was only running 5w, and even more surprised I was on a field-expedient setup. With both radios I had no issue making solid contacts, even in the deplorable band conditions present on 40m.
Why pay for something I could make? Because it works. And works well. At $75, it’s worth the money especially for the beginner who’s new to making antenna, and likely would spend twice that on trial and error. While I strongly advocate building your own antennae to learn the underlying theories, engender a sense of accomplishment, and most importantly, gain the know-how that can never be taken away, this antenna is a great example of something done right, built by my neighbors just a few counties over.
For a compact, stealthy antenna system, the LNR is a good choice and a solid performer. For 20w and under, this is a definite performer and one you should be eyeing for a simple, rapidly deployable antenna in the field. Pick one up- you won’t regret it.
Youkits has made a name for themselves in the inexpensive QRP market with small transceivers that originally were imported in kit configuration and presented fun projects for the amateur operator looking to build something and get on the air. Not breaking the bank, these sets offered a lot in the cost-to-ratio department, and as such, caught the eye of the Prepper/Survivalist radio market. But being from China and having little to no information and no big name backing them, many frugal-minded folks have been understandably cautious to spend hard-earned money on something possibly of dubious quality. Henry Bowman, a frequent commenter, contributor, and friend, had the testicular fortitude to pick one up, and dropped it off with me for an eval. This is nothing but objective and there’s no personal benefit involved, other than spreading the word on how to spend/save your money on field gear options, because people are buying this radio and more needs to be said about it whether good or bad. He owns the radio and wanted to know what I think of it. So here goes.
The TJ2B model offered a form factor not seen in the states for a long while- a QRP HT. That alone attracted the attention of a few, desiring a simple form factor and ease of use in the field. I’ll state up front that the thing looks like an PRC-148 MBITR- and is similar in size and weight. It comes stock with a 1600mAh internal battery, charger, external battery hookup, external mic, and Henry’s came with a 40M BNC whip antenna which reminds me of something from an old 80s bag phone. The radio itself is a tri-band, covering 40/20/17m and working in USB/LSB and CW. There’s no AM for those hoping for SWL in this set, and no coverage in between the bands. It is exactly as it appears- a bare bones, no frills, uber-simple HF set that pushes 5W.
The TJ2B uses around 350mAh on receive and just over an Amp on transmit, so for a short activation such as SOTA or NPOTA, a small battery will work just fine coupled with the internal battery, and for pre-arranged Commo Windows (or a RaDAR activation) it’s well suited. As previously stated, this radio’s sole purpose is transmitting and receiving- no SWL or scanning the spectrum, just working the allocated bands this set covers in a minimalist fashion.
For this evaluation, the TJ2B was rigged up to an Endfedz Trail Friendly End-fed wire antenna around 5ft off the ground (for NVIS testing), which is the perfect mate for QRP and low-profile operations. Fed with 25ft of RG8X, the setup was very quick to raise and tune. Total time rigging was around 5 minutes. My 817 was used as a control for this experiment, as I know it works, have made lots of contacts with it, and it sets a benchmark to be measured against. For this test SSB was used, as it’s the hardest mode to make contact with at QRP power levels on a good day, much less days with little to no propagation as we’re seeing currently. I rigged both radios to the LDG tuner during operation to protect the radios. First, the 817 was tuned to 40M and the first person I heard calling CQ I answered- and got a response, to my surprise, as band conditions are abysmal right now. My rig works, the antenna works, life is Happy, Happy, Happy.
On to the TJ2B. I connected the LDG, switched it to CW, transmitted the carrier and re-tuned the antenna, then went back to LSB to make another contact. No high power, no problem. Made several contacts in TN relatively easy, despite the noise on 40M and overall tough HF conditions. But that makes for the best testing environment, right? ‘Severest school’ and all that jazz? The radio works, and pushes the advertised 5w, so yes, QRP is definitely possible even in the Maunder Minimum.
This is, hands down, the simplest HF rig I’ve ever used. There’s two knobs up top, for volume and tuning, with the tuning knob being able to change the tuning step as well. The whole process is very simple. There’s two VFOs, three modes, and three bands, topped with a BNC connector for the antenna. It’s all very, very straightforward, with nothing to confuse a user unfamiliar with this radio. Along the side is a switch for external power, internal power, and cutting it off, along with the mic jack and a small PTT button, which leads me to my next point.
The PTT is a tiny little piece of plastic, almost like an after-thought. The appeal of an internal mic (which it has, but I experienced little modulation gain, meaning little power was going out, so I went to the external mic and had no more problems) is neat for the whole HT thing, but seriously, it just gets caught on stuff and feels like it could break really easily. It’s the only thing that feels like it can break, as everything else is pretty solid, more so than the knobs on my Yaesu rigs. They could either do away with switch like this or make it an actual PTT button like on real HTs, flush with the body and shielded. But with the non-existent mic gain, it could be done away with and save production cost and lower the retail price.
There’s no SWR or voltage meter, but there is a power meter that reflects the gain on SSB. A SWR meter is far more important, especially considering that some other Chinese HF rigs suffer from blown finals on even small degrees of mismatch (the Xiegu X1M, another QRP set, reportedly blows finals on 2:1 SWR) and I doubt this rig implements any sort of fold-back protection for poor antenna matches. I STRONGLY urge you to use a tuner, even with resonant antennas, as a blown final is not a field expedient fix. Keep all of this in mind when running not just this rig, but any radio.
On the internal speaker, I’ll be blunt, it flat out sucks. Strong stations come in OK, but something down in the noise won’t be heard without sticking your ear right up to the speaker. Like the PTT, I feel ‘why bother?’, when YouKits could shave a few dollars off and just not include these features. Plain ol’ earbuds from the gas station work much better.
Finally, this rig, while solidly built, has a lot of holes in the case, so it’s not remotely weatherproof if in case you were wondering. I’d strongly recommend using a small Pelican or Hardig case for weatherproofing. This is obviously the same with the 817 and every other commercial oriented rig on the market, but it needs to be said should anyone buy under falsely conceived pretenses.
Versus The 817
So by this point I’m sure the question on everyone’s mind is “well, how does this compare to the more expensive 817 you’ve got sitting there?”
That’s a complicated answer. As an HF rig, it seems by my ear to be just as sensitive and matches the capability on the three bands they both share. The 817 is a vastly more versatile rig- offering all bands(except 220) and modes(SSB, CW, CW-R, AM, and FM) versus the TJ2B’s three, the ability to listen to Shortwave, and have a large company that stands behind it’s product when something goes wrong and a recognized name to protect. That being said, and all valid points, the TJ2B offers a few things the 817 does not. It is, by far, the simplest radio I’ve ever operated. At $329 or so, it’s around half the price of the 817. In addition, being that it’s half the price, one might in theory be more prone to using this in the field and not being heartbroken when it inevitably gets beat up, as, try though we might, happens often.
The TJ2B consumes less power, has less moving parts, and offers simplicity that can be appreciated when one is cold, tired, wet, and unable to process simple functions. Those that know this feeling and have driven on through it appreciate simple stuff- I certainly do, as does Henry Bowman, which enticed him to purchase this rig. The 817 can be a complicated animal, with several menus controlling functions that may be needed at zero-dark-thirty and cannot be readily be recalled because you’ve frozen or sweated your ass off in a hide site for three days. The TJ2B on the other hand, is more simple than a Baofeng to get up and running, provided you’re well versed on rigging an HF antenna.
From a utilitarian perspective, or rather, the ‘one rig to rule them all’ paradigm, the TJ2B loses out by a fairly wide margin to the numerous shack in the box rigs that have been on the market since the original Icom 706 hit the scene many, many moons ago. It’s not built for that segment of the market, and if you buy this thinking that it’s your one-and-done rig you’re in for a big disappointment. In addition, the radios are offered from a Chinese company with little presence in the US aside from a website and a smile- which leads one to gamble with money, not an attractive prospect for those on tight budgets and unsure of how to maximize every penny. This rig is somewhere in between an LNR mountain topper CW-only set and an far more sophisticated (and expensive!) 817 or KX3, with an attractive price point to boot. Unfortunately there’s not a lot of data out there on this rig, aside from a few reviews on Eham, and the obligatory ‘prepper’ review which contains little if any substance other than taking said item out of a box, it remains largely an unknown quantity. But it’s not bad by any means.
You’re not going to win any contests with this rig- it’s bare bones, no frills, and not built for those new to HF operation. No QRP rig is, for that matter, but it is a small form, efficient, and packable little rig that definitely has it’s place in the tactical HF realm. While I cannot attest to its long-term durability, it is indeed well built and when coupled with a necessary tuner and the proper weathering precautions are taken, should give little issue for years of use. I’m impressed with its performance, and when paired with the tiny 9v battery powered Elecraft T1 tuner and a good wire antenna, can become a fairly tough, very compact, dead simple little patrol HF rig for use in the field. I wouldn’t hesitate to pick one up for myself, and just may do so in the near future.