Measuring radiation isn’t as complicated as all of the terminology makes it sound. Any radiation measuring device has some sort of Geiger–Müller tube, also called a G-M tube. The tube is a surprisingly simple device that turns any type of ionizing radiation into an electrical pulse. The rest of the machine we call “Geiger Counter” or “radiation meter” is just a signal amplification circuit that can contain computing chips and measurement dials or readouts. In a nuclear emergency there won’t be time for news of it to hit The Drudge Report. You’ll have to take evasive measures immediately (a topic for a future article). We are all waiting for the next big false flag or hoax catastrophe, and if it turns out to be nuclear, you’ll want some sort of Geiger counter, both to tell you when it is time to go inside, and also when it is ok to come out. For the most part, Geiger counters aren’t cheap. But I found a source for a DIY Geiger counter that takes only basic soldering for under $60, including the G-M tube. You can also get a no-solder option for still under $100, and they work great.
The Geiger counter business is not a business you want to be in. Like most of the survival/prepper market, it is feast or famine. When things are good, the sheeple are lost in their bread and circuses, you can’t sell anything. Then, when an event like Fukushima happens (a nuclear reactor meltdown in Japan in 2011), you cant ship them out fast enough, and your customers hate you because you charged them three times what you charged before the event. That’s the way it is though, and that is why I am telling you to go out and buy a radiation meter today. The overall prepper demand is very low and prices, while not at rock bottom, are as low as you will see in the foreseeable future. You can buy hand held units from Russia made by a company called Soeks for well under $200 on Ebay. The American-made unit you see here has both a round tube and a pancake sensor on the back, making it more sensitive to particle radiation called Alpha and Beta, and they are in the $500-$600 range. But all G-M tubes detect Alpha, Beta, and Gamma radiation, and in my own testing there is little difference in the overpriced American meters.
The DIY kits you see that I tested her don’t have to be entirely DIY. You do have to build an enclosure for them, and attach the battery wires to the board, but the boards themselves are available pre-soldered and working perfectly for only $12.50 more than unsoldered. The blue board that I did solder myself is available in kit form from the seller’s website for $32.50, or you can buy it assembled on Ebay for $45.50 from the same guy. You also need the SBM-20 G-M tube that fits all of these kits, and I bought a whole box of them from this guy in Bulgaria on Ebay for $20 each shipped. The blue kit is not very flexible unless you are an Arduino electronics hobbyist and you have a separate digitizing board. The blue kit only clicks and lights when it detects radiation, but like with many other things, what else do you need? It clicks and lights with a test radiation source, like crazy.
You can easily test any radiation meter with a little known radiation source also available on Ebay. They are cloth mantles made for camping lanterns that are treated with Thorium, a radioactive element. The normal background radiation rate is 5-50 counts per minute in most areas. It amounts to an occasional click on the meter. When you put the Thorium mantles next to the meter it goes crazy. Just don’t sleep with them under your pillow.
The red kits are much more elaborate and I bought two of them to see if they behaved differently with the same tubes. As you can see, these kits use a chip and display to calculate and show you the current radiation dose in milli-Sieverts, designated as μSv/h, which is per hour. The Sievert is one of many units that are used to measure radiation, and exposure to radiation. The Russians have had to deal with the Chernobyl disaster aftereffects in Ukraine since 1986, and there is even tourist travel in the effected areas today. That is why those handheld Soeks meters are such mature products compared to the big cludgy American meters. They aren’t any better, but they have a bunch of easy functions to measure accumulated radiation dosage and many other factors. These red kits don’t do any of that, but the display does give you μSv/h and the actual counts per minute. Additionally, you can download free software from that same RH Electronics and connect the board to a computer with a UART TTL module (about $8) if you want to log a history. I couldn’t get the software to work with Windows 8 though, FYI.
As I write this there are only 9 of those red kits left for sale by RH Electronics on their website. They are discounted to $50 until they are gone, because this kit was upgraded with some more features. I paid $70 each for my two kits, and the new red kit is $80. It apparently connects directly to the computer USB for data, and it comes with its own battery. Assembly is $15 now for this kit, and shipping is free, or $5 if you want it quick.
It wouldn’t be right to talk about radiation meters without mentioning the Victoreen Civil Defense meters you see all the time on Ebay, the yellow ones. There are three basic models with slight variations. One is just a yellow box with a meter. One is the same yellow box with a removable base that extends on a cord, and a third has an actual wand and headphones. These devices all measure in Rads, which is a completely different but valid system of measuring radiation exposure. The problem is, you don’t know what you are getting when you buy them, and many of them have had exploded batteries over the years of sitting. A new batch seems to have recently hit the market that were serviced as late as the 1990s, but the sellers are getting upwards of $100 each for them. For that price, I don’t see any reason to buy them over the RH Electronics kits, or maybe just spend a little more on a Soeks. The Victoreens offer no real benefit over any other radiation meter. Again, they are very simple devices with a very specialized circuit for a 300-400 volts specialty tube. I haven’t figured out what the yellow cardboard tube “dosimeters” do, but I have never tested on to work either.
It is hard to imagine a U.S. Government that bought Geiger counters to distribute among local quasi-militias, hoping to protect the citizenry. Now they arm themselves with tanks and millions of rounds of ammunition against us. Don’t be caught at the end of this horrible downward spiral with nothing to support the survival of your family through what may be the worst of times. A Geiger counter isn’t priority one, but if the powers that be pop a nuke to start their next manufactured war, you are going to wish you had one. Then you won’t be able to get one, even if the nuke pops across the world. There are plenty of Youtube videos on basic soldering, and those blue and red boards with the shiny solder pads make it really easy. You don’t even have to solder. The guy will do the work for fifteen bucks, a no brainer. Just don’t forget, you have to also buy the G-M tube.