One of the biggest thrills for an amateur radio operator, and even a lot of CB operators is picking up a transmission from hundreds or even thousands of miles away. Just today I was talking to a customer in southern California that regularly picks up CB skip shooters from Oregon, Idaho, Hawaii, and even Australia! How does that happen, though? How can you pick up transmissions from hundreds of miles away on a CB radio that can only transmit 5-10 miles?
When someone is “shooting skip”, it means their CB signal is going very high up in the sky and bouncing of the ionosphere, an upper region of Earth’s atmosphere. The ionosphere usually makes a good reflector for CB radio waves, but is better when there is more solar activity. Any decent radio and antenna can achieve this to some degree, but usually the ones you hear are doing on purpose.
If you have ever picked up skip shooters, you may have heard them saying things like “CQ”, “DX” or asking for a good copy. These are CB hobbyists that have most likely tuned up their radios and/or are using large CB antennas in an attempt to transmit as far as possible. Unless you have a system like this yourself, don’t plan on talking back. You will not be able to cover the distance.
What is the point?
So why do people spend the extra time and money to send a signal thousands of miles that they may not get a response from? Why climb Mt. Everest. It’s there. People do it so they can say they did. Yes, you can pick up the phone or hop online and be in contact with someone around the world. You can hop in a car and and drive from Oregon to California in a few hours. Hiking there on foot is a much better tale, though. Contacting someone a thousand miles away on older tech like CB radios is still an impressive feet, even if there are easier ways to do it today.
Have you ever picked up skip? From how far away?