Military Surplus Radios for Prepping.

Started by gil, May 27, 2016, 12:37:31 PM

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This board was overdue! After all this forum is about radio prepping, not just QRP and Morse code.

Military surplus radios have all the features of the perfect prepper radio, except light weight and small size. I found out that you can import a PRC-320 to France from the UK for pretty cheap ;D The radio looks like you could run over it with a truck, literally. It's also submersible to 2m for one hour! I read a post somewhere about one tumbling down a hill into a river, with no ill effect.. Looking at the construction, I believe it. It also seeps 175mAh on receive, not bad and less than half of the FT-817nd. Coverage is 2-30mHz. They have a 250Hz CW, but also AM, USB, and LSB after modification. There is even a manual built-in tuner. The cheapest ones go for £100.

The UK radios can be imported into the United States. You need to fill the FCC740 form and send it to the seller (PDF attached, verify it's the current one).

Anyone here has any experience with the RT-320 or other demilitarized manpacks, please do tell!



So, no 160m. Not a deal breaker. This is VERY interesting to me. Depending on how difficult the mods are, I may be able to do the mods myself. I'll look online to see who sells these.
So long, and thanks for all the fish


I used a U.S. PRC-74B and "C" for years.  It was USB only, the CW note was 2,000 Hz for easy recovery of high speed Morse burst, which after slowing it down 20 times had a 100 Hz note. but I got used to flipping it up 1 Kc on receive only during straight CW, so that the note was 'only' 1,000 Hz, and easier on the ear.  These ran on 12 volts and - like many mil sets - also have a crude, but effective built-in ATU. The PRC-1099 "paramil" set is quite good, if you don't end-up with a hanger-queen. Added advantage, they also ran on 12 vdc and had the first auto-tuner I'd even seen.

I'd buy a PRC-319 or 320 in a heart beat, but shipping to the USA costs as much as the radio.

For now - to remember my days humping around a PRC-74 in addition to my normal load-out, I'll just carry my tiny MTR and a backpack full of jagged rocks.
"When we cannot do the good we would, we must be ready to do the good we can."  ~ Matthew Henry


QuoteI'll just carry my tiny MTR and a backpack full of jagged rocks.

You hit the nail on the head here Ray...

I came to the conclusion that I can't reasonably afford a KX2: $750+shipping+VAT, over $1K... Now I am torn between a PRC-320 and an FT-817nd. Here is how I compare the two:

PRC-320 (thick-finned)

  • Extremely rugged, watertight.
  • 175mAh on receive.
  • 30W output, full HF coverage.
  • 3W QRP setting.
  • 250Hz CW filter.
  • Cool factor.

  • Very heavy.
  • Requires 24V supply.
  • It's been used and abused.
  • Might draw unwanted attention.


  • Small and light.
  • Covers 160m, VHF, UHF.
  • Lots of accessories available.
  • Comes with mic, battery, charger anf VHF/UFH rubber ducky.
  • Built-in keyer.

  • 450mAh on receive.
  • Not as rugged.
  • Not as unique or interesting.
  • Older design.
  • No CW filter.

Price wise, a later model PRC-320 with accessories and battery will cost me as much as a new FT-817nd.
Tough choice... I change my mind a few times a day!



First - let me state that I LOVE green ( and black ) radios. 

One other factor missing from the PRC* is a tuning knob.  For keeping military skeds - good, for hamming - bad. I can remember flicking the 1 Kc knob up a half second per digit until it was time to flip the ten Kc knob and continue searching.  It was a tedious and SWITCH WEARING process.  The Clansman I operated was Falklands War vintage and persented the same problem.  Lovely sets - really!  And as you say, the 'Cool Factor' and ruggedness cannot be beat.

FT-817* filters from SOTAbeams would be my first choice.

Either SSB/CW or CW/Medium and CW/narrow.  Go to the ri site and have a look at the filter bandwidth plots -vs- standard 'narrow' filters and the wonderful price.  Being in the EU  for the monent) a packet from Britain should not cost much. Yes - the 400 mils on Rx is tough, but then again, solar panel are so cheap these days.  The VHF/UHF might be handy as well, in the closer quarters of Europe.  The shortwave listening is better than average as well.


Ps. Travel with an FT-817 might not flag you as a terrorist, but humping a PRC-320 in your luggage will probably get you a 'dream date' with the blue gloved gropers ...
"When we cannot do the good we would, we must be ready to do the good we can."  ~ Matthew Henry


Well, I am bound to get both! The question is, which one do I get first? LOL. If I knew what kind of camping I'm going to do this summer, the choice would be easier. Lots of walking or staying put.. Lugging around the PRC-320 on top of my backpack, tent and all, humm... But if I find a nice area to mostly stay around, why not?... I'll have to decide in a few days, aahrrrr!

I'll start my Kegel exercises in case I choose the PRC...





The more I use the RT-320 the more I like it. I have the whip antenna and Morse key on the way. Still no battery. The radio is incredibly rugged. You certainly don't need a case for it! It's probably even more rugged than the Codan in the video. Nothing to do with Ham gear.

Tuning is indeed not easy with all those hard to turn knobs. Hams like round numbers though and usually I can catch anything playing with the 10kHz and 1kHz knobs. I alternate the 1kHz knob on 0 or 5 and scan with the 10kHz.

The weight is the only issue. That and the age of the radio. Caps often need to be replaced. Unfortunately newer manpacks will not be sold to civilians because of built-in encryption. The last one might be the PRC-138, but good luck finding one and you better start saving now or sell your car. The pool of available military radios will dwindle... I keep saying that there is a need for a simple rugged and affordable civilian radio. The Codan with accessories is about $12K I believe. I think Racal still makes the PRC-1099, if I am not mistaking. All unreasonably expensive, though not saying they aren't worth it. Maybe I'll get another 320 as a spare this fall... One think is certain, they won't last or be available forever, and there is nothing else like it on the market...



The Radio Prepper Channel doesn't yet allow videos longer than 12 minutes so I posted it on my personal channel...



Since i was a CW / RTTY OP at the GAF i like mil Radios. Hve a AEG6861 and also a CODAN. this two working on USB AND LSB, but not all mil radios will do. my newest Transceiver is a KX2 from Elecraft: if u hold it in ur hand it is like nothing. HAs mni features, all modes, makes up to 10 Watts. if needed u can send direct RTTY (or PSK31) without the need of a computer (keying in in cw - going out as RTTY/PSK)
AND needs a minimum pwr for receiving. a built in mAh-Meter says me yesterday that i used for 2 hours of listening, including 2 short SSB QSO-s wid 5W out, that i've used 169mAh !!! I believe no mil radio needs so less PWR.


I have the KX2 also, but I would love a Codan 2110!