What is a good radio for Airsoft?
While any UHF portable radio is suitable for Airsoft use, the Icom F4S stands out for several reasons. See our F4S Airsoft Special. First of all, it’s time-tested and reliable. Secondly, it’s not “too much” of a radio, that is, it’s a 32-channel radio which conveniently accommodates the GMRS and FRS frequencies with room to spare for itinerant UHF channels. Third, the F4S represent great value in a UHF portable radio, with after market batteries and accessories being widely available. And, the F4S is cosmetically identical to the tactical F3S VHF radio in use by Central Command troops, lending realism to the “Airsofter” looking for an accurate appearance.
If you are looking for a great deal on a refurbished radio, consider the F4S, which we supply with a 90 day unconditional warranty. If, however, you'd prefer a new radio, consider either the F4021S or F43GS, both of which are supplied with a 2000 mAh Li Ion battery and a 2-year warranty. The principal difference between these two radios is that the F43GS has a 16-channel knob on top of the radio, and up to 16 banks can be selected for a total of 256 channels. Or, we also carry the Vertex VX-454U, with a huge 2400 mAh Li Ion battery, 32 channel knob on top, and an industry-leading 3-year warranty. Any of these 3 radios would be an excellent choice for an "Airsofter" looking for a new radio!
What is the range?
Much like your car’s gas mileage, “your actual results may vary”. Range cannot be stated with precision, but, in a desert-like or wide open area, you should expect at least 4-5 miles of reliable range…in hilly and woody areas, perhaps half that distance. All UHF portable radios transmit at 4 watts output, and the real determining factor is receiver performance and antenna match. The Icom receiver and antenna far outperform any store-bought GMRS-type radio, hands down. And, no, store-bought GMRS radios do NOT get 35 mile range, regardless of what the packaging claims. That’s bogus information and is based on a perfect situation with two users that have no obstructions between them and high enough in elevation that the horizon is not cutting off the path between the two users.
Do I need to use the same radio model as other members of my team in order to communicate with them?
No, you do not. All UHF portable radios can be set to transmit and receive on the GMRS channels, and the ‘privacy codes’ can be selected. However, professional radios, like the Icom F4S and other manufacturers’ radios, need to be programmed, or “cloned”, via a laptop or PC so that the UHF channels are pre-assigned into the radios. Professional radios (also called “Land Mobile” radios) cannot be programmed ‘on the fly’ to new frequencies or channels.
What kind of license do I need and how do I get it? How much does it cost and long does it take?
You need to acquire an FCC GMRS license, which you can do online and use your credit card to pay the $80 fee. The license is good for 10 years and can be renewed on-line.
First, you need to establish an FRN, or FCC Registration Number. You can do that at this link: the FCC's FRN Registration page.
Then, after you get notification from the FCC that the FRN has been assigned to you, go to this link to obtain your GMRS license: https://wireless2.fcc.gov/UlsEntry/licManager/login.jsp Login with your assigned FRN and password, then, click on the “Apply for a New License” link, and select ZA General Mobile Radio (GMRS) from the “Select Service” pull-down menu.
Can I use my radio before I receive a license?
You may use the FRS (Family Radio Service) channels only, on a license-free basis. You must have a GMRS license to legally use the GMRS channels.
How do I program my radio?
If you purchase your Icom F4S radio from Red Dog Radios, there is no programming required. Your radio will come pre-programmed for the GMRS and FRS channels. If you want to program the radio yourself, you will need to purchase the OPC478 cloning cable, which must be the Serial COM Port RS-232 variety (not USB). The cloning software, available from Red Dog Radios at no charge if you purchase your radio from us, will only run in a DOS environment. Windows 98 can be started in native DOS mode. The software is straight-forward and easy to use, even for non-DOS users.