Product Recommendations - Handheld CB Radios
CBs have maintained a loyal following. Handheld CB radios are most convenient when traveling by road or by foot. They are compact, easy to use, and many can be converted for mobile use. They can keep you posted about weather and road conditions, and provide a means of emergency communications. Not all handhelds have those features, so it’s important to identify what you want and then choose the best handheld cb radio for your use and budget. To help, we’ll give you an overview, describe the best handheld CB radios and accessories and provide informative links.
Handheld radios, also called transceivers, can communicate with all other CBs. However, even the best handheld cb radios can't communicate with other types of radios such as walkie-talkies and amateur (ham) radios. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) established exclusive frequency bands and rules for different types of radios—for instance, amateur radio operators must be licensed by the FCC, while CB operators don't have to be. CBs are more accessible to casual users due to ease of using the less expensive equipment.
The FCC limits all CB radios to 4 W of output power. With that power limit and using only the flexible “rubber duck” antenna that comes with the handheld radio in real world conditions, you can expect to transmit less than a mile. Using an external antenna or a replacement antenna for the rubber duck can boost that range. Antenna and other equipment options are provided following the discussions of specific makes and models of the best handheld radios.
If you want to use a handheld CB radio as a mobile unit, you will need an external CB antenna! If you do not attach an external antenna, you will not have good performance since the signals cannot pass through metal. The Midland 75822 offers a unique adapter to hook up the radio to an external antenna. Other handheld radios usually require a BNC to SO239 adapter to attach an external antenna.
1. The Midland 75-822 Handheld CB Radio (read reviews)
The number one pick for the best handheld CB radio is the Midland 75-822.
One thing that sets it apart from the competitors for the top slot is its versatility. It's not only the best handheld radio, but it can also be easily transformed into a mobile radio that can be moved from vehicle to vehicle. No matter which vehicle you’re driving, your CB radio can come with you and hang right on a microphone holder. Its versatility extends to accessories that work with the unit. You can connect to any CB antenna on the market with a standard PL-259 connector. This unit is also compatible with a car kit with DC power and external antenna adapter.
The features of this Midland stand out. There are 40 CB channels, as many as any CB base station, including 10 National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) weather channels, which provide constantly updated weather reports. Reception and transmission are improved with the automatic noise limiter (ANL) feature that cuts down on background noise. The squelch control is used to boost reception.
Operating this radio in the dark is simple with its backlit display. The channel scanning allows you to quickly surf what’s out there, and the instant channel 9/19 (AKA the emergency channel and the truckers’ channel) can provide helpful road information and inform you about accidents, roadblocks, and police actions. Also, to make using your CB easier on the road, you can program a function button for instant access for up to five channels and then scan among them.
This light Midland fits in the palm of your hand. It comes with a mobile battery case that uses either six alkaline or eight NiCad AA batteries, which are not included. A money-saving feature of this handheld is the Hi/Lo power control, which saves on battery replacements. The included microphone hanger is handy for either hanging the microphone—or the radio when you’re using it as a mobile CB. In the box is also an AC adapter for charging the rechargeable batteries in the battery pack, a mobile vehicle adapter and a wrist strap and metallic belt clip. Of course the radio, the rubber duck antenna for handheld use and an owners manual also are in the package. The Midland 75-822 is covered by a one-year warranty.
If you want to protect your investment with a leather case, Midland Hard Leather Case as well. You can wear your handheld CB with the A-wedge swivel belt clip attached to the case.
Demo Video: Midland 75-822 Handheld CB Radio
2. The Cobra® HH50WXST Handheld CB Radio (read reviews)
The compact and rugged Cobra® HH50WXST is the second best handheld cb radio featuring a full 40 channels, including 10 NOAA weather channels which make it good for an emergency weather radio. Many features make this the second best handheld radio on the market today.
The power can be supplied by alkaline batteries, rechargeable batteries, or by plugging it into the cigarette lighter in a car. The battery low indicator is very handy, especially when using the radio for emergency communications. The power cord is included in the package. There is a Hi/Lo switch to conserve power consumption.
You can scan all 40 channels, and have immediate access to channels 9 and 19. You can also monitor two channels at once with the dual watch feature. Cobra’s SoundTracker technology improves both the transmission and reception sound quality.
3. The Cobra® HHRT50 Handheld CB Radio (read reviews)
The Cobra® HHRT50 is popular for the outdoors, but also operates well as a mobile unit. The included external magnetic mount antenna makes it easy to convert for use in your vehicle. It's powered by either nine AA batteries or the cigarette power adapter.
The RoadTrip includes many of the best CB features, including 10 weather channels, which would be particularly useful on a motorcycle trip. To make your bike trip even safer, you can use a helmet headset (described below).
This handheld CB has noise reduction with Cobra’s SoundTracker, an S/RF signal strength meter, battery saver technology with the Hi/Lo power button, scan and dual watch which allows you to monitor two channels at one time.
In addition to the mag mount antenna, the box is well equipped with a DC adapter for car charging, wrist strap, belt clip, and the radio with rubber duck antenna and owners manual.
4. The Midland 75-785 Handheld CB Radio (read reviews)
The Midland 75-785 has been around for quite a while, but retains its popularity because of the lower price, smaller size (about a half-pound), and simplified operation compared to other handheld CB radios. Yet, it retains a number of the essential features.
It operates from either batteries or the 12V lighter socket on a vehicle for mobile use. The Hi/Lo power adjustment helps conserve batteries.
This Midland model has 40 channels, ANL, automatic gain control, squelch and an easily readable LED display. It's also compatible with speaker/mic sets and you can use the included vehicle adapter (coupled with an external antenna, not included) to convert this model from a handheld to a mobile radio.
However, the 75-785 model lacks a couple of features that are found in other units, such as instant emergency channels, channel scanning, NOAA weather channels and memory buttons. Remembering that a CB radio could be your family’s lifeline in case of an emergency, when you want the best handheld CB radio for emergencies, consider instead the previously described Midland 75-822, which has those missing features just mentioned. However, if you want a simple, durable handheld CB radio for another vehicle or a backup, the Midland 75-785 will fit most budgets.
Power Up With Accessories
When you get your handheld radio, you can personalize it by getting some useful accessories. For convenience and safety, get the Cobra PMRSM microphone for Cobra and Midland handheld radios. You connect the six foot cord to the speaker/headphone jack on your CB radio, attach the two-pin lapel speaker/microphone that rotates 360°, and you’re mobile ready.
If you ride a motorcycle ATV, or snowmobile, a Motocomm helmet set promotes safer operation while riding. The MC-551 model is compatible with the Midland and Cobra reviewed radios. The waterproof PTT switch with its extension cable attaches to your handlebars. All installation cables and accessories come included in the package.
Even the best handheld CB radio can be tweaked to perform a little better by adding an external antenna to your vehicle or replacing the existing handheld antenna with a different one. If you want an easy way to improve propagation (sending and receiving range and quality) in the field, replace your “rubber duck” antenna with one of these cb radio antennas. Oftentimes, you will need an adapter, such as the KVAD1X, that will convert UHF connection to SO239 connection so that you can attach a standard coax.
To improve range for mobile use, install an external antenna, such as the eight-inch Procomm PC 108 magnetic mount. The three-inch diameter magnet sits on a protective rubber pad. The included 12-foot installation coaxial cable comes with either a PL259 or BNC connector. You’ll probably use the push and twist BNC, the most common connector for handheld CB radios. You can use handhelds with various other antenna setups- these were just a few examples.
Please note, if you decide that you'd like to use your handheld with an external antenna, that most handheld CB radios do not have a built-in SWR meter. It is very important for you to be able to tune an external CB antenna to 1) protect your radio from potential damage 2) optimize the performance of your antenna system. We have lots of information on SWR in our Help Center so be sure to check it out! So, if you decide to get an external CB antenna to use with your handheld, we recommend that you consider getting yourself an external SWR meter, such as the AUSWR.
CB World has the best selection of handheld radios because we carry the top brands, provide full details of features, offer useful accessories and include honest customer reviews.