The Newbie’s Guide to Buying Radio Scanners

If you’re gong to buy a radio scanner, familiarity with its basic features is necessary. You also have to be aware of its legal status, when it can be used and its limitations.

What Can a Radio Scanner Do?

It depends on the type of radio you get. But most scanners let you tune in to authorities as they interrogate suspects and try to control hostile crowds. You can also tune in to paramedics and firefighters as they go about their tasks.

You can listen in to commercial aircraft and choppers as they fly. You can also hear military aircraft and race car drivers. Other services you can hear when you buy a radio include the National Weather Service, amateur radio operators and CB radio.

Are Radio Scanners Legal?

All the chatter you hear on scanners is legal. However, the law forbids using a radio scanner to listen in to cell phone conversations or encrypted communications. Most scanners cannot unscramble encoded communication messages.

Even if the scanner can pick them up, it is illegal to listen in. Some states also impose some limitations on using scanners while in the car. There are no legal restrictions when listening to radio scanners at home.

Before you buy a radio scanner, it’s a good idea to know something of the various accessories these scanners come with.

Flexible Antennas

Flexible antennas (also known as rubber ducks) are fitted on most radio. These are made of wire covered in rubber plastic. While commonplace, the reception can be weak at times. You need to look at different brands to find one that works for you.

Telescoping Whip Antenna

These are metal antennas constructed of short tubes. They are superior to rubber ducks in terms of performance.

Car Antennas