saving military communications gear at hamfests

maddawg308

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Wanted to start a thread on this topic - going to hamfests and saving military-issue communications equipment and accessories. I'll admit, I am an unapologetic pack-rat when it comes to well-made radio gear, and when it comes to quality, nothing beats the ruggedness of mil gear. I often don't need all I get, but I feel the urge to save as much as I can from these venues for a couple reasons.

First, for decades the ham radio guys have saved all sorts of older gear for their own projects. A lot of the mil gear has been hacked up and made into custom projects for the ham folks, using military equipment and it's ruggedness but altering it for ham radio band use. Most military radios are meant for frequencies that are not really the same spread as those that the FCC has delegated for the civilian sector, so hams have swapped parts, scavenged and modded to the point that a lot of really good mil equipment is either no longer available or available only in a modded state.

Second, many hams don't realize there are folks like us that save military vehicles and related surplus equipment, to use for their stated purpose (i.e. installed in the correct configuration as originally intended). So, hams sell mil gear for generally good prices, since to them it's just electronics and they are not emotionally connected to the original purpose of the gear. Not all military stuff is cheap, however, it depends on whether or not it has a collectable following - for example, a 1950-1960s era T-368 transmitter that 25 years ago was scrap metal price, today is fetching $1,000 to $1,500. But this is not always the case.

Third, with the ever-advancing of electronics, things keep getting smaller and lighter. Mil gear is heavy and bulky, and over-engineered for most ham radio purposes nowadays. As hams get more into the newer gear, the old gear just takes up space and they are happy to sell it for a couple bucks to put toward newer stuff.

So - add this all up and I've been to three hamfests this year so far, and it's only Feb. 2nd. I plan on hitting a bunch of them to find the gear we all love, and can use in our own vehicle installations and collections. A lot of what I save is for my own purposes, but if the price is right (and it often is) I'll save it to trade/sell to other military hobbyists that are looking for the "good stuff".

Have you been having good luck saving military commo gear at hamfests? What have you managed to snag in your travels?

Went to the Richmond VA "Frostfest" yesterday and here's my haul of just the military stuff. Includes manuals, phono plugs, a WWII tuning unit, cables, 3 heavy storage boxes that were original for military repair sets, a VSC-3 teletype control box, pile of vacuum tubes, a PRC-77 antenna for repair, ARC-5 radio parts unit, a bunch of modules for the VRC-19, an H-156 handset, and some other odds and ends. Everything you see on the table was $69 total.

Couple other things I saw there: Collins-made R-392 vehicular receiver (part of AN/GRC-19 set), with LS-116 speaker and separate power supply for $350 working. Also a Collins-made R-390A receiver, restored in it's correct CY-979A cabinet, for $750. Those were both steals, but quite a bit more than I had in my wallet. Maybe next time....
 

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ODFever

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HamCation is this weekend in Orlando. I'm going at least one of the 3 days. Hopefully, I can find some OD radios or antennas. I can usually spot OD from 50 yards away!
 

maddawg308

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I can usually spot OD from 50 yards away!
I have this 6th sense as well - with OD green, black crinkle, and navy gray radio as well. I usually get to a show, walk quickly around everything, and if a "veteran" radio is on the table I usually do like a double-take and kind of jughandle on back to see what it was. Sometimes it's a false alarm and it's some odd piece of WWII radar or tape recording gear, or test equipment I don't need, but other times my 6th sense directs me to a deal on something I can use!

More pics, from an earlier hamfest haul in January. Mostly not military in the pic, except the rack mount for the Collins KWM-2A that ran me $20 (this radio I have doesn't look military, however it was used by the Army in many installations in the 1960s and 1970s, and the CIA as well - it was known as the AN/FRC-93). There's the USM-223 multimeter I snagged for $10. Everything on the table, civvy and military alike, ran about $130. Seems like a lot, but that rack mount sells for $125 regularly, so the money I paid was worth it. Both of those mics cost me $25 each. BTW - the mic on the right was brand new, I just sold it on ePrey for $176, so the hamfest paid ME to haul it away. The Astatic mic on the left I kept for myself.
 

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maddawg308

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Well, went to another hamfest Sunday, this one in Annandale, VA. It's an indoor/outdoor show, some vendors inside with tailgating outside. Generally a nice small show with a lot of folks showing up. Weather was nice outside, in the 40s all morning, and I sold a little bit there, enough to save more military gear.

Left to right:

A WWII era RBS-2 receiver, unit CCT-46217-A. Four bands from 2 MHz to 20 MHz, made by Stromberg Carlson, and used from WWII up through the late 1950s. Decent shape, the top covers are banged up a bit, and the knobs are not original, but the insides are complete and unmolested. Started life black wrinkle painted, someone spray bombed it grayish-blue. I was going to resell this unit, I'm not really into the WWII stuff, but it's kinda neat and for $20 purchase price, I'll fix it up and see what it's capable of. Heck, for that price it's worth it for the tubes.

Also late WWII, is the long black box which is an RT-18/ARC-1, the first of the ARC series of aircraft radios. It's 100-156 MHz, so it covers the 2-meter band, but it's AM, so it's not much use today except for collectors. It was 10-channel crystal controlled, and had a Collins made mechanical autotune which is kinda creepy to watch tune itself.

Right, OD green box is the CH-264 spare parts chest portion of the SCR-508, a WWII-era vehicular installation. I'll find a new home for it, I'm sure someone needs this for their CCKW or Weasel radio setup.

Also, a new pile of manuals to add to the library. About 10-12 manuals, all for $15 together. Most on test equipment like oscilloscopes and preamplifiers, but also a couple for the PRC-77 radio, and the Navy SCR-20 UHF transmitters. Never hurts to have more documentation.
 

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Storm 51

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Well, Mike, I'm interested in any of the Old Family gear that you might find (A/N GRC -3, -5, -7 or A/N GRR-5 and VRC stuff from that period). Especially 24 VDC vibrators, mics, headsets, connectors, wiring, etc.

I'm a General class HAM, but not very experienced (I'm good at taking tests).

Please keep me in mind during your wanderings. There seems to be far, far more stuff on the east coast than the west coast.

Thanks,

Storm 51
 

tennmogger

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Mike, I really enjoy your posts. Makes me want to drive further so I can 'do' more hamfests! The descriptions of your acquisitions are educational.

Bob WB4ETT
 

maddawg308

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Please keep me in mind during your wanderings. There seems to be far, far more stuff on the east coast than the west coast.
Not true - there's a lot in So Cal., a lot got surplussed out of Long Beach and San Diego after the war. But it is older, WWII era stuff. A lot of the newer stuff comes from East Coast installations.

Also saw a set of PRC-117 backpack radios, complete but untested, for $500 for the pair. Those were the ones made by Harris, precursors to the SINCGARS series of radios. Once again, wish I had the cash on me, $500 for a pair is a steal considering they sell for $1000 each regularly.
 

Storm 51

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San Diego and L.A. are a universe away from northern Washington state. (like from northern Maine to southern Florida).

WW II is too old and late Viet Nam is too new for me. I'm looking for the last of the tube stuff and the hybrid radios. Boat Anchor stuff from the 1950's to the late 1960's.

It's getting pretty hard to find these days.

Storm 51
 

Wile E. Coyote

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San Diego and L.A. are a universe away from northern Washington state. (like from northern Maine to southern Florida).

WW II is too old and late Viet Nam is too new for me. I'm looking for the last of the tube stuff and the hybrid radios. Boat Anchor stuff from the 1950's to the late 1960's.

It's getting pretty hard to find these days.

Storm 51
AN/GRC-3 thru 8 stuff? RT-68, RT-70, R-110 -- that family gear? There's tons of it around. Fair Radio has the sets - there's a number on Ebay right now - complete AN/GRC-3 setups plus spares - and I've seen several listings featuring garages full of it at a "come and get it" price that almost made me want to drive nine states away. Seriously - the one thing I never thought I'd ever hear anyone say is that they were having trouble finding stuff from that era :-D However, if you mean you can't find it at *local* hamfests etc. then, yes, mileage varies, and it's all really heavy and expensive to ship. But it's out there. One guy had something like six RT-68s up on Ebay not that long ago in a lot, and one of them looked like it was factory navy gray or tan from the pics (not a repaint as the face lettering looked solidly original.) Fair Radio still has tons of stuff - antenna mounts, brackets, headsets/ handsets, trays, cables, radio mounts, C-375 boxes, copper AB and MS style antenna sections...the works. And they're good to deal with, though their selection of anything built within the last 30 years is basically nothing nowadays.
 

Storm 51

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Most of the stuff I have. All the big pieces. Getting the working stuff is harder.

Yes, you are correct, I'm not driving 9 states away to look at this stuff.

Mics, cables, junction boxes, etc. are much more difficult to find.

If you run across any in Washington or Oregon, please let me know.

Thanks!

Storm 51
 

maddawg308

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Hit another hamfest on Saturday in Hagerstown, MD. It was a small affair, a club gathering but a nice one. Most of the vendor spots were under cover to provide protection from sun or rain, though since I had a trailer with me I had to settle for an outdoor spot since I wouldn't fit in the pavilion. My primary goal for attending this hamfest was to sell off a large amount of older gear from my elmer Ralph, who had a stroke 2 years ago and, although he's doing great in his recovery, realizes he will never get to all the projects he has and it was my job to bring the stuff there to find new caring homes for the gear. Or at least homes for the parts that were left due to the gear mostly being in poor storage for many years. Oh well, such are the ravages of time...

I did use the little funds I had from my own parts sales to buy a couple interesting pieces:

- several misc. military manuals, $1 each plus a freebie: a 1960-dated topo map of a section of Vietnam, which will be a welcome addition to the Dawg House display

- wooden transit chest for the TRC-8 radio set, good buy at $10. I'm sure someone at Aberdeen will want it for their radio collection

- an interesting WWII radio, BC-1068A. This thing was also a steal at $5 in untested condition, but I wish you guys could see the case on this - the metal is 8 or 10-gauge steel. Almost armored! I bet pistol bullets and fragments would bounce off this radio, never seen something this heavily built! From the Surplus Conversion Manual vol 1: "These receivers were designed originally...as IFF receivers in conjunction with the SCR-268 to SCR-271 series of radar equipment. The receiver comes complete in an olive drab steel case which is approximately 16"x16"x10" and weighs about 75 pounds. It contains a built-in 110-volt AC power supply and covers the range of 155 to 200 Mc." According to this book, they can be modified easily to work on the 2-meter band, 144-148 MHz. Again, It will probably find a caring home at Aberdeen

- heavy steel box originally used as a spares box for the CNR23442 transmitter control and keying unit used in the Navy. Contains a handful of spare parts for the rig, mostly caps and resistors, stuff like that. I'm a sucker for well-made storage boxes that will last the rest of my life, so for $10 in my truck it went

Sad to say, I didn't sell enough of my own stuff to buy more goodies, the gentleman next to me had a table full of about 7-8 ARC-5 units of varying condition and purpose, and I love saving those little Command Sets. The prices were right too, but I had to pick my battles, with the little cash I had on hand, so they went back home with the seller. :( Maybe next time.
 

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CARNAC

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If anyone runs into a decent priced SCR 510 (BC620) radio/power supply/install kit I'm looking for one.
 

maddawg308

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Another weekend, another hamfest. This time was the Manassas VA hamfest on June 8th. Beautiful weather and a good turnout, LOTS of military gear there, mostly WWII to 1950s. I was primarily there to sell some oddball things for a friend, ended up being a bust for me re: sales, but I didn't plan on making a million anyways.

Felt like shopping in Macy's with a WalMart budget - the few things I could buy were small items I added to the collection, but MAN there were some smoking deals on radio equipment there. An R-390A in PERFECT shape for $500 (they seem to bring over $1K nowadays on ePay). I love old ARC-5 radio sets from WWII, if anything for the history of them, and there were at least 15 of them at the show for $25 and under (including a couple perfect-condition transmitters for $25), but none came home with me. Oh well, once again, waiting for a good job or a winning lotto ticket.

The snags I did save:

- Pile of military manuals - always welcome especially if they are older radio gear or test gear manuals, they aren't getting any cheaper. Total of 12 manuals for $15 altogether.
- Commo wire reel, DR-8A type, no wire. $2
- 5 misc radio cables, one for PRC-41, two for ARC-52, and two for VRC-12 series. Excellent condition, $5 for everything.
- H-113 headset used with the GRR-5 receiver, the headphone jack has been replaced with a civilian type RCA jack, I can swap it out and make it correct again, $2.
- Couple of radio crystal holders including a Navy type, large, made of porcelain. $1 for both together.
- Keying radio control box BC-451-A, used in conjunction with various ARC-5 units, brand new for $5. I was told by someone I know who is a collector of ARC-5 stuff, said this control box is rare as hen's teeth, in any shape. When I told him the price I paid for it, he gasped and said the one in his collection he paid $75 for it. Glad some hams don't know what they have!
 

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maddawg308

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Went to the Berryville VA hamfest on Sunday. Beautiful weather, the site reminds me a lot of the Gilbert PA fairgrounds where they have the MV show in September, lots of oak trees and shade, big crowds, etc. Sales sucked for me, only $20 in sales, but then again I only had some small stuff that I didn't really care too much about. I lucked out, though, the folks next to me were liquidating an estate and had piles of parts and even some mil gear. By the end of the show, they wanted it all GONE, so they asked if I wanted to pick through the lot for CHEAP, otherwise it was going to go home and probably be tossed out. So here's the military stuff I saved (there was more I saved, that was not military in nature, that I could use as well):

A few microphones and headset related items; a brand new in wrap H-43B/U headset dated 1986. H-156 handset for the field phones, plus a spare coil cable in new condition for it. A RCA phone plug extender for mics and headsets. Something that looks like half of a handset, which is actually the handset for the Gonset Communicator, a square yellow 6-meter base station used in the 1960s by Civil Defense. And lastly in the handset/headset category, a Navy CME-51008 hand telephone assembly (missing the telephone), but still a neat piece of WWII hardware.

Also snagged: new condition Indicator Channel Alignment ID-1189/PR, basically a radio test set and channel alignment device, meant specifically for the PRT-4 and PRR-9 personal field radios used from the 1960s-1980s. AB-15 antenna base, good condition with a little wear on the metal parts but the good news is the porcelain is perfect. Two-channel amplifier model B-7A, made by the Sperry Gyroscope Co. And lastly, a grey Navy ship's deck light, missing the batteries but that's no worry, they are still sold in Lowe's.

Total spent for this haul was about $12. !!! I'm a happy camper!
 

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maddawg308

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Well, fall is here and that means the last couple hamfests in the area for the year. Once October is over, hamfest season is done until early next year when snowed-in tech weenies like me feel the need to go inside and sell wares at the first few of the year at local colleges and exposition halls, but for now they are still doing a couple shows OUTside while the weather is nice. Today was Howard County MD hamfest, located at the county fair site in West Friendship MD, just west of Baltimore.

This time was opposite of normal: most times this year I had little money to spend and there is military radio gear everywhere. Today I had a pocket full of money to spend, and it was a VERY light showing of surplus gear, barely anything interesting to buy (at least for me)! I showed up mid-way through the show, and curses! I missed the only great deal on a military rig there - a Collins R-390A in beautiful shape, with a complete set of manuals, headset and a homebrew sideband adapter for $350 !!!! That's easily worth double that, for that package. I saw it 10 minutes after it sold, but was awaiting pickup at the sellers space. DRAT!

Did snag a few things for the collection, otherwise known as the "pile of crap that will have to be sorted through when MadDawg eventually passes away." Here's the booty:

-Handful of military manuals, calibration sheets, etc., from the WWII to 1950 period, $12 for all
-What looks like a Navy sound-powered handset, made by Shure Microphones. Only markings I see are on a tag on the cable: CX-1846B/U, which only applies to the cable, not the handset, worth the $1 I paid for it.
-Pile of vintage panel meters, about half of them have Navy pedigrees as indicated by the anchor stamp on the rear of the meters. Two are brand new in original mfr. boxes with NSNs on the side. $10 for the pile, $1 each.
-Rack mount General Electric dual meter/speaker setup, not sure it's original purpose, but government NSN data on the back sticker. Will salvage the components and use the aluminum panel for my rack projects. Worth playing with for $4
-Misc parts, crystals, a mic base and stand, few bucks for everything.
-Navy signal flare box, not radio related but hey, worth $5 for watertight storage of radio parts in the hamshack.
 

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