Scanner Antenna

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  • Member since
    July 2006
  • 5 posts
Posted by rangerbob on Tuesday, May 31, 2011 9:07 PM

I am no electronics wiz for certain, but I had an average Radio Shack antenna for years that gave so-so reception. I was about to purchase a popular advertised antenna for railroad scanning use. Then, I read about an optimal length for an antenna based on the frequencies sought. I found the formula and determined the length for the range of railroad frequencies. I trimmed the antenna accordingly and discovered an appreciable gain in reception. FWIW.


Tags: Scanners
  • Member since
    February 2008
  • 602 posts
Posted by Bruce Kelly on Thursday, April 21, 2011 8:25 AM

For hand-held use, the rubber antennas from have been touted to perform far better than the standard rubber antenna that comes with your scanner. Haven't tried one myself.

Next best option is the telescoping metal antenna from Radio Shack for about $10. Follow the instructions to adjust length for best performance on the railroad band (160 to 162 MHz). You will notice a vast improvement in reception of weak or distant signals.

Better yet, for home or mobile use, I recommend the 5/8-wave magnetic-mount "Railscan" antenna from (about $90) or other sources. The first one I bought from Railcom more than 20 years ago is still on my SUV and working marvelously. Have since bought two others, one of which is mounted on a metal plate in my attic and feeds down to scanners in my house, the other is used for trips in my wife's van or when we fly to distant locations and rent a vehicle. PIcks up detectors that are 30 miles or more away across very hilly terrain. You can place it on top of your fridge for home use and then move it to your car when heading outdoors. In both cases, you'll hear things that are impossible to pick up with your standard rubber antenna. It's the same antenna you see on many company vehicles and crew vans.

  • Member since
    October 2001
  • From: US
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Posted by petitnj on Thursday, April 21, 2011 7:32 AM

For mounting on your car, use a magnetic mount 5/8 wave antenna on top of the car. There are many available at ham and CB places and range from the Wilson 300200B at $44.95 to others at $110. The 5/8 wave antenna gives you some antenna gain over the simple 19" 1/4 wave and is still only about 50" long. If you drive with an antenna, be sure to get a sturdy base and mount. Magnetic mounts work just fine and have a soft aluminum bottom to prevent scratching the car.Also be sure to get a cable that matches the antenna connector on your scanner.

The 8 foot collinear antenna will help a little over the 5/8 wave, but you will not really notice the difference and will have to mount the colinear somewhere on your bumper (which are all plastic now). For receiving any VHF antenna will work fine. Some may give you cutting dimensions for particular frequencies and you can cut the antenna for 160 Mhz. However, if you cut it for 160 Mhz it will be too short to use as a Ham radio transmitting antenna on the 2 meter (146 Mhz) band. So I recommend that you leave the antenna long as it has very little effect on reception.

  • Member since
    January 2009
  • 51 posts
Scanner Antenna
Posted by TrainsRock on Tuesday, April 19, 2011 10:29 PM

For Christmas I got a basic Radio Shack PORTABLE scanner. I need to know what antenna to use for it. I keep finding stuff on making an 8 foot antenna, but I want something to go on my scanner that is still portable. Thanks guys!

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