Charlie's Blog: CB Radio Is Better Than Ham Radio


CB Radio Is Better Than Ham Radio

CB communication is not only fun, it's also smart.

The best communication device that exists today is the cellphone. Most people won't even leave the house without a cellphone on their person. Payphones are gone, so that cellphone is it especially if you are travelling. Preppers know that those cellphones are vulnerable to all sorts of systemic failures and sabotage. The government can also shut down those cell networks at a moment's notice. This necessitates having a backup form of communication which means radio. I believe that CB radio is better than ham radio as this backup radio communication.

1. CB radio does not require a license.

To talk on ham radio legally, you must study and pass a test to get a license. Some ham radio operators will tell you that the test is easy. I disagree. The test is easy if you are someone who geeks out on radio. Most people don't have that deep of an interest in this hobby to dedicate the time to passing that test. They want to key up a mic and start talking. You can do this with CB radio. No license is required.

The other nice thing about not having a license is anonymity. Once you get a ham ticket, you are branded as a ham operator by the FCC. They know where you live and who you are. If you are comfortable with that, you might like being a ham operator. If you are not comfortable with that, you should go with a CB radio.

2. CB radio is cheap.

Ham radio is very expensive. You can probably buy some used junk on the cheap, but you can expect to spend thousands of dollars on high frequency rigs and antennas for your ham radio hobby. If you are married, this expense will certainly put a strain on your relationship.

CB radio is cheap. You can spend less than $100 for a complete rig and be on the air. You can spend more for something better, but it won't be anything close to the cost of a ham radio.

3. CB radio is popular and ubiquitous.

Ham radio allows you to talk to people very far away in other parts of the country and the world. This is nice, but there are few ham radio operators. CB radios have sold in the millions. Truck drivers and the like with CBs are numerous. Even people who have stored their CB radios in garages and attics will have no problem dusting them off and firing them up in an apocalyptic scenario. This means that CB radio allows you to talk to more people. But you can still talk far away when the skip conditions are right. Ultimately, what matters is being able to talk with more people in closer proximity than talking with fewer people far away.

4. CB radio is simple.

When you look at a ham radio, all those buttons and dials are very confusing. CB radio is stone simple. You turn on the radio, find a channel, and key the mic. The most complicated part of CB radio is calibrating your SWR on your antenna. Ham radio guys have to do the same thing with their rigs. Other than that, anyone can use a CB radio. It's not rocket science.

5. Ham radio people are not friendly.

Ham radio is a dying thing. Most of the ham operators are over the age of 65. They know ham radio is dying. And they help kill it by running off any younger person interested in the hobby. These old timers are a referred to as "sad hams" and "gatekeepers." They are called worse things than this, but I will leave them to the Gentle Reader's imagination.

Ham radio already has enough strikes against it without this surliness from a bunch of grumpy old men. Regardless, ham radio has no future except as a niche hobby occupying an increasingly smaller niche. Is this worth your money and time?

CB radio users are friendly. You might encounter a jerk on the air, but no one can kick you out of the CB radio club. You just change the channel or turn it off. It's just like the internet. Most CB users learn to play nice because it is just better.

6. CB radio is utilitarian.

Ham radio is mostly a toy of hobbyists. The favorite thing for hams to do is participate in contests where they make a lot of contacts. A CB radio is something you see in a dump truck that drivers use to coordinate with one another. This is why you see all that CB equipment at your local truck stop. You're not going to see ham equipment. Ham equipment is mostly useless in the real world.

If you like tractors and pickup trucks and hardware stores, you will like CB radio. CB radio is for blue collar people. Ham radio is for nerds.

7. Hams vs HOAs.

The mortal enemy of a ham radio operator is the homeowner's association in his neighborhood. HOAs don't like ham radio antennas. They don't like CB radio antennas either, but a CB radio antenna is easier to conceal. Many CB base stations make use of the same antennas you would use on a pickup truck. Plus, most CB operators don't live in neighborhoods with HOAs. But if they do, they have an easier time of it.


I think CB radio is better than ham radio for people who want a backup radio option for their cellphones. CB radio is cheap, simple, and very functional. Plus, it is fun. CB radio was massively popular before cellphones, and I think CB would be very popular again in the event of cellphone disruption.


2 Meter Ham Band

Many preppers buy cheap Baofeng radios on Amazon to talk on the local ham repeater broadcasting on 2 meters. That is the case in my area. I listen on that band with my C.Crane radio, and it is dead most of the time. If I am lucky, I will catch a late night rag chew. I think if the cellphone towers go down, those 2 meter repeaters will go down with them.

GMRS: The New Kid on the Block

GMRS promises to be the new CB radio. I don't think this will happen. I find GMRS to be too byzantine. It uses FRS frequencies on some channels and repeaters on others. There are privacy codes except they aren't private. You have a lot of power but not on all the channels. Some radios don't even have all of the GMRS channels. It boasts a long range on simplex unless there are trees in the way. Then, the radio doesn't get any range. It has clear audio or absolutely nothing. You don't have to take a test, but you have to have a license to operate. And you have to use a call sign except only 30% of GMRS users bother to get the license and do this. You can use a Baofeng to listen and talk on GMRS frequencies, but this is not allowed by the FCC. Needless to say, I am not a fan of GMRS. I don't think it will ever replace the simplicity of CB radio.

FM on CB Radio

Recently, the FCC has opened up CB radio to use FM in addition to AM and SSB. This allows a CB radio to cut out the static of AM and other traffic from skip shooters and have higher quality audio when talking with others on FM. I think this move negates one of the primary appealing features of GMRS and 2 meter ham operation which is clear audio. I think FM will be a positive thing for CB radio.

UPDATE: I like this video about CB vs Ham from a fellow who is usually too profane to post here. This video is clean.

CB vs Ham - The Undeniable Coolness of CB!