If you haven’t thought much about Midland radios since the CB radio craze in the late 1970s — if you’re old enough to remember that —a lot has happened since then. There are now more ways than ever to stay connected via radio, and Midland has been on the leading edge.

Founded in 1959, NASA national partner Midland Radio Corporation was the first American manufacturer to bring CB radio to the United States. The company continues to sell CB radios for trucking and other applications that prefer the AM-based radios, but the company is now focused on Family Radio Service (FRS) and General Mobile Radio Service (GMRS) models, which operate on the FM frequency.

“FRS and GMRS radios provide better voice clarity than your AM CB,” said Midland Director of Category Marketing Andrew Kinsman. “These are pretty much any walkie-talkie that you’d purchase in a big box retailer or sporting goods store, places like that.”

FRS and GMRS operate on FM frequencies, but Kinsman pointed out the differences between the two. FRS applies to radios of 2 watts or less, and requires no license. Depending on terrain and other potential obstructions like buildings or even the car or truck you’re driving, FRS radios are good up to 5 miles.

“As soon as anything comes in between you and who you’re talking to, it’s going to greatly decrease your range. On average, you’re probably looking at a mile or so with trees, hills, all that stuff, like buildings,” Kinsman said. “One thing that people don’t take into account a lot of times when they’re using a walkie-talkie in their vehicle is the vehicle itself is an obstruction, so that’s why we really like to promote our GMRS mobile radios in vehicles because you have an external antenna that comes with it.”

In the last six to eight years, General Mobile Radio Service has become more popular. GMRS does require a license from the FCC, but it’s only $35 and covers you and your family for 10 years. Range increases with GMRS radios, but again it varies with terrain and obstacles to the signal. With a 15-watt radio, you can get up to about 15 miles of range, depending on terrain. With a 50-watt GMRS radio, you can get up to 25 miles on average.

“We have people all the time that they’ll tell us ‘I was getting 40 miles with the 50 watt,’ but they’re probably in the desert or somewhere with flat, open space. And then your antenna can also obviously help with range as well and your antenna placement on your vehicle,” Kinsman  said. “The nice thing about GMRS radios is the flexibility you get with antenna placement. With CB, antenna placement is vital because the radio is only pushing 4 watts of power. With CB we recommend placing the antenna center-high on your vehicle.”

“With our top selling 15 and the 50 watt radios, you could have your antenna pretty much anywhere you want and it will outperform CB. We offer this little antenna, called the ghost antenna,” he added. “It’s like 4 inches tall and you can have that, on the hood of your vehicle, or back tire carrier, places like that, and you’re still going to get very good range just because that power output of the radio itself is pushing out so much power while enjoying the discreetness of a 4-inch ghost antenna. You don’t have to have this ridiculous, huge antenna on your vehicle.”

Obviously, radio communication is critical in places where cellular service is sketchy. Midland has a huge presence in the off-road market, side-by-sides and in things like agriculture, camping, hiking, hunting and fishing and other outdoor activities that are typically out of reach of cellular towers. Some racetracks immediately leap to mind. Though Midland doesn’t offer specialized in-car racing radio products, the company has a bevy of off-the-shelf products that can help NASA members make their racing weekends go more smoothly.

Kinsman pointed out how great it is to have radios on trips when you’re traveling with friends or for something as simple as helping a buddy back a trailer into a tight space in the paddock. Obviously, NASA regions nationwide rely on radio communications to foster seamless operations throughout the paddock, and NASA members get a 15 percent discount thanks to the partnership with Midland.

“I’m in my vehicle, my family’s in my vehicle, and our friends are behind us, and we don’t have to rely on somebody answering a text message or a phone. We just say, ‘Hey, ‘let’s stop at this next exit,’” Kinsman said. “Just that simple push-to-talk communication, it’s so much easier. Just takes away the hassle of hoping somebody answers their phone. It’s just instant.”

Kinsman said Midland’s best sellers are the GMRS Micromobile MXT275 and MXT575 radios. The appeal of those models is that they have the added range of GMRS and the convenience of having all the controls and displays on the handset. Powered by the 12-volt outlet in the car, radio installation is fast and easy.

Something NASA members also might consider keeping on hand is any of the line of Midland NOAA weather radios, which are a cost-effective backstop to the emergency advisories available via cellular telephone. If a cell tower gets knocked down by a storm, tornado or an earthquake, you can still receive vital emergency information via a Midland NOAA weather radio. Those NOAA channels also are available on Midland walkie talkies and mobile radios.

When you are not using the radios to keep in touch at the track, you can use them to keep track of your kids. One instance Kinsman cited was Halloween, when kids first begin to seek some strain of independence from their parents. Radios let them venture farther to the next neighborhood to fill their candy bags while allowing them to stay in touch. Another is the aforementioned caravan with friends, whether it’s on a road trip to a camping destination or a trip to the track with your NASA buddies. Radio service delivers where cellular service might not.

Midland sells more GMRS handheld radios than any company in the United States. The partnership between Midland and NASA allows NASA members to get special pricing on all Midland products to help keep them connected getting to and from NASA events, throughout each weekend and the entire racing season, with more relevant products to debut later.

“Where we shine is anywhere where there is no cell service,” Kinsman said. “And that’s why it’s so big in the off-road market. I’ll tell you one thing that really shocked me when I first started. About four years ago, I went on my first trail ride with Jeep Jamboree USA. They utilize our radios, and I knew that they did, but I never saw it happen in person. And I was absolutely shocked at how extensively they used our radios. I recognized that day the two biggest value propositions of the radios, safety and building community. Two-way radios instantly connect every person.”

Image courtesy of Midland

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