HAM Advice From Warrior Capitalist

Here’s some good HAM advice



The ham radio license seems one of the bigger preparedness mysteries. Communications will be very important in any event, whether a local event, a regional event (usually weather), or an all out, nationwide event. The previous requirement of knowing Morse Code was enough to scare many away. Fortunately things have changed for the better, at least for Private Defense Network (PDN) purposes.

An amateur radio license is really a license to experiment. This does not concern us, initially. Many of you will get hooked and go on to experiment, and we encourage that. There is much to know about ham radio and best learned on the job.

This article is designed to get you on the air in a week or less, with a radio, for around $100. Usually less.

Since we are taking a different approach attaining your ham radio license, we suggest you first get a radio. You’ve seen this if you’ve been looking: The Baofeng is probably the best beginner’s radio. Well, it’s cheap and it works well enough for a first time user. After you get your license you may find yourself in a spiral of more capable and expensive radios, but the Baofeng will work. Breaking a thirty some dollar radio is much better than breaking one that costs several hundred dollars. (Trust us: We’ve done it.) Buying the Baofeng will give you something tangible to play with while studying for the test. You can program it and listen to radio traffic. Instructions and videos are available on the net. It’s cheap, you’ll outgrow it quickly, but it will make an acceptable start and an adequate backup when you upgrade to an ICOM, Yaesu, Motorola, etc.
How and where to begin

Earning your license requires you to pass a test. There are three different licenses available. This study method works well for the first two, the technician and General license. The third, the Extra Class license, is its own animal. The technician license will get you talking regionally and will be most useful for local communications in a disaster: Getting news in and out of the area or communicating with family members in a bad situation. The General class license opens up regional and worldwide communications, independent of infrastructure.

The tests are structured to help you earn your license without spending months or years understanding the subject. The technician test consists of 35 questions from a pool of 426. Each question has four multiple choice answers. Passing the test requires you to answer 26 of these questions correctly. These tests are administered monthly by Volunteer Examiners from the American Radio and Relay League (ARRL). There is no charge for the license, but the ARRL charges $15 to cover the costs of administering the test. That $15 and the $50 or so dollars you spent on the Baofeng and accessories gets you to the “100 dollars or less”.
Step 1: Finding a testing location

Finding a test in your area is quite simple. Go to ARRL.org, enter your zipcode, and pick a convenient location and time. Some tests require pre-registration. Pick a test that is a week or more out and commit to it. Note that DSI can administer the test at your location.
Step 2: Finding the questions

There is an excellent resource out there that will be the focus of your study: hamstudy.org The site is easy to understand and contains all of the questions on all of the tests. We will focus on the technician exam. Selecting the technician section will yield three choices: study test questions, read test questions, and practice test.
Step 3: Familiarizing yourself with the questions

Some with an electronics background might instantly recognize the answers to the questions. For others, it might seem like gibberish. We’ve personally directed people to this site and all who have committed to the test have passed. For some it took a just a few hours of study, for others it took up to a week, but that was for the general exam. (Note that you must pass the technician exam to take the general, and so on.). Assuming you can dedicate an hour or two a day for a week, spend the first study period using the read question option. You will quickly determine whether this will be easy or require more effort. All of the questions are presented with the answer as well as the incorrect answers. You should be able to read through the all of the questions in your first study period.
Step 4: Flash Cards

After your first study period, move on to the flash card section. The questions presented to you cover the different subject areas of the test. You can click on the answer you think is correct and it is graded, the correct answer shown, and context. Your progress will be shown on the right side of the page.

Many of the questions fall into the common sense category. You will also notice that the questions that directly concern ham radio such as specific regulations, frequencies, and schematics will present an obvious answer with three not so plausible distractors.

On the last two study sessions before the real test you to want to move to the practice test section. These questions are specifically chosen from the pool as they appear on the actual test. You will be presented with 35 questions. Each question is selected from the different subsections, so this is more accurate in predicting your score on the actual test.

Each exam is graded upon completion, with the questions you missed linked to their sub section. You have the option to review the test: Please use it. The question you answered incorrectly will be shown with the correct answer. Remember, you must answer 26 of the 35 answers correctly on the exam. Before grade inflation, we called this a C. For the last two study sessions, take the tests over and over until you can pass 9 out of 10. We haven’t had a person who followed this method fail, yet.
Step 5: The Test

If you’ve diligently put in seven honest days of study, you should recognize the correct answers. You may have found that a few nagging questions you can never seem to get right, but for the most part you can answer the questions by just seeing the first few words of the question. Please read the entire question anyway. It helps with nerves.

Don’t forget to bring your $15 IN CASH with you to your test. When you arrive, you will be greeted by three Volunteer Examiners. These are three fellow amateur radio operators that have taken time to administer your test. You will be handed a booklet containing the questions, and a bubble sheet for answers.

We recommend you take tests, especially multiple choice tests, in this fashion: Sit down, relax, organize your scratch paper and pencil (It helps to jot down any formulas.), and take a look at the first question. If your studying has produced an amateur radio expert, the answer should be readily apparent. If it isn’t, don’t despair: SKIP the question. Move on to question two, same here. Ensure you don’t mark a skipped question inadvertantly. It helps to check every five or so questions. Answer the questions for which you are POSITIVE and SKIP the ones for which you are not sure. Do this all of the way to the end of the exam. When you get to the end, go back and count the number of questions answered. Our observation is most of people answer at least 26. Go back and make you best guess on the remaining questions. Even if you weren’t POSITIVE of at least 26 you are close, and logic will get you over the hump. You may wish to look online for test taking strategies. Our goal is to get you licensed, then trained, not to make you engineers.

Your test will be graded by each of the Volunteer Examiners. If you breezed through the technician exam, you can take your general exam on the same day if you wish. You won’t have to pay an additional $15 (cash) to take it. Many take all three exams in one sitting.

Getting a license isn’t difficult. If you are willing to put in a few hours over the course of a week, you are on the way to a stronger PDN. We realize this article is more about studying and test taking than amateur radio, but the resources listed tell you everything you need and take the mystery out of the process. Becoming a skilled ham is a lifelong process.

Don’t forget to join a local club. This is fun, as well as important, and hams love to help.



American by BIRTH, Infidel by CHOICE

16 thoughts on “HAM Advice From Warrior Capitalist

  1. If you have the time to volunteer for CERT you will likely have an ARES/RACES ham group affiliated with CERT and they often offer free classes and free test taking…plus you can learn a lot from long time ham radio people. You can also acquire good training for free from CERT.

  2. Hi JC,
    Just a note.. to “Speak” on radios like in “Airplanes” you Need a “FCC” “Restricted Radiotelephone Operators Permit!!” All you have to do is fill out the form with your name and snail mail addy and it is yours!! In 1961 after I was too “OLD” for Boy Scouts and Sea Explorers me and my “Aviation Minded Troops” went out to the Airport that Summer and low and behold a whole new experience opened for us!! We joined the local “Civil Air Patrol Squadron!!!!!!!” One of our first tasks was to fill out this form and send it in with “Two Box Tops!!” (Joke Joke) but you get the ticket.. an we were able to operate radios and talk “Over the Air” to other aircraft!! That was just the beginning..along the way to our “Certificate of Proficiency” required us to learn to “Receive” Morse Code at at least “5 WPM!!” Hell, when I took the test I was receiving at 15-20 WPM!! Piece of cake!! might I digress.. The “RROP” is the baby step stepping stone to Great things!! Our old “Comandant of Cadets” Ed Dufresche had his “General (K5AIU) and Marion O. Snell (prior Comandant) also had a General (K5GLG) and as Marion used to say on the web,,,,”K5GLG… That’s Kissin’ 5 Gorgeous Louisiana Girls!!!!!”
    When I got my FCC “RROP” the form was Form 753-B , “GO GET YOURS!!!!!!!”

    • Back in the day all it was, was an abandoned WWII training base that because enough “Aviation Minded” people in the parish kept it from becoming a housing Trac…. it is today..The “North Shore Regional Airport!!” The same CAP Squadron I was in during the early 60’s is still active and I “Support” them!!! Go out to your local Airport.. CAP unit and “Get Involved!!”

  3. This is something have wanted to do for “too long”,have some down time coming up work wise and this along with working on lead license are on my schedule.

    Is there any reason to not study for technicians and general license at same time?I say this with having time and thus can put a decent amount of nose to grindstone effort into it,well,that and get me ass hiking more.

    • I did the tech and general in the same day. Not that hard. Get on line and take the practice exams to see what areas you still need to study. You’ll find that the HAM people are really helpful and friendly.

      Like you, it’s something I always wanted to do but never did. One day I just decided to do it. Glad I did. In less than a year I’ve talked to 67 countries and most of the states. Don’t neglect the local fun on 2m and 70cm bands.


  4. This was very helpful. Thank you for posting it. Just got a little set up and was looking for a first step towards learning to use it- now I know where to start. Cheers!

  5. Pingback: AAR PATCON ELEVEN | Alamance County Rangers

  6. Pingback: Ham Radio Advice From Warrior Capitalist | Western Rifle Shooters Association

  7. Great info and, as said, no reason not to. I’ve mentioned this in other places on the internet but IF you’re going to take a little more time than the arbitrary 7 days (you may have to wait for an exam session nearby anyway) please consider this:

    In the name of all that is holy in the ionosphere, study for the General exam as well. (MDT is right, the Extra really is a more out-there different animal). But a BOATLOAD of what you have to know for the Technician ticket is regurgitated in slightly changed questions for the General exam. Pass your Tech, thank the VE’s, go to the bathroom, have a cup of coffee & donut, then sit back down & pass the General. (VE’s love it when this happens.) If you think you might have ANY further interest in the many modes or options that open up to you then spending the extra little bit of time (you’re already there) is a no-brainer.

    Good luck!

  8. For most people, having the General Class license adds a great deal of capability for not a great deal more effort. Having HF voice privileges makes a huge difference.

    The exception would be someone who already knows Morse code; the tech license has HF privileges for CW which are very useful both for NVIS and longer range communication, but most people don’t invest the time into learning Morse until they make Extra and get into working foreign stations a long way away. Anybody who already knows Morse, however, is likely to have a technical background anyway and probably would find the General exam easy.

    I agree with the comments above- get the General class license!

  9. As this is a south central PA site and close to MD, there is a group called the MD Mobileers. They offer free testing at the Electronics Museum (Near BWI Airport). You can contact them about testing and all they ask if that you contact them to set the date so they can plan for the number of folks who will show up. I have also noted that if there is not a line of people to take the tests they will let you retake an exam if you fail it. Pretty nice. FWIW my method for passing the tests (now have my general) was to buy the test questions and answers book from AARL. I simply read it 5 times focusing on the correct answer. When I took the test I was able to pretty much remember the correct answer or at least drop out 2 possible answers that I knew were not even close, thus increasing my odds. The tests (IMHO) are a formality. I learn so much more by doing in this type of hobby. Also, especially with HF, you are really benefitted by finding SOMEONE to talk to you. If you can set that up on few times it will REALLY help. Sometimes HAMs can’t hear you. Sometimes the nets simply won’t answer you because you are not in their group (yes there are some jerks out there). But if you can KNOW you have someone listening to you and for you, you can remove a huge variable. I say this because small hand held 2M HT radios are closer to the walkie talkies in operation. HF has so many more variables due to how the waves travel.

  10. The author mentions the test cost $15 and is conducted by Volunteer Examiners from the ARRL. That is not always the case. The ARRL is the largest of the Volunteer Examiner Coordinators (VECs) but there are 13 others such as W5YI and even smaller VECs like the JARC in the New Orleans Area. The JARC currently charges $13 dollars. I have heard some VECs who give the test for free thanks to donations from members. The ARRL is certainly not the only game in town.
    That said, If you are a liberty minded, prepper type of person you should seriously consider joining AmRRON/TAPRN. While ARRL ARES and Red Cross are focused on assisting with the Continuance of Government, AmRRON is focusing on Continuance of Community. And unlike ARRL/RACES/CERT, AmRRON won’t tell you to leave your gun at home. EmComm with AmRRON could mean anything from relaying health and welfare in a shelter to operating as the RTO in a Patriot Fire Team. https://amrron.com/

    • Regarding the testing, it’s true enough regarding the dispersed nature of Volunteer Examiners. Without disparaging FOGs (and I are one) the typical location is simply a local radio club with some old guys dedicated to the hobby. (My examiners kept their radio station with ex-shipboard boat anchor equipment in the top-floor of an old church in the town, the church donating their space to them.) Work out the compatibility of club affiliation (or not) later; get the ticket & get learning.

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