Prepping 101: Testing Military Field Telephones for Off-Grid Communications

TA-312 Field Phone on Ebay
Swedish Field Phone $39.99
.5 Kilometer Military Phone Wire

Communications are something that nearly everyone takes for granted. But after the grid goes down, it will be the first thing that you miss. I have covered the different frequency ranges for long distance radio communications several times, and I’ll get back to them at some point, and I’ve also shown you the RTL-SDL radio receiver that allows you to not only listen, but also to visually see pops in large swaths of frequencies all over the spectrum. This week we flip that backwards and think about communication between members of our own team.

You may think that someone has to be “listening” to a specific frequency to catch you talking on it, but with modern computer technology, they don’t. Just like we can “listen” to a giant swath of frequencies with a visual screen, and with automated detection monitoring, so too can others watch for us. In the video I mentioned the giant communications towers that you see almost everywhere these days, but I failed to mention satellites. A 5 watt Boefeng UV-5R, or even those $10-$20 Wouxon radios, will struggle to get through more than a few hundred yards of ground obstructions, but all of them will easily reach into space, every time you press to talk.

Don’t underestimate the power of the people to assume that what you have should rightly be theirs. When the scarcities begin, and we do have those periods of grid down as the new normal, the masses of the useless will break out the word “fair” and the word “hoarder,” and grant themselves license to take everything you have. In turn, the authorities will use every resource they have to find those who have been hoarding food, and radio sniffing is one of their most effective tools. It is so easy to triangulate radio signals that you can download a free SDR# plugin to do it yourself.

That is why I got interested in these military telephones. People are always better off further apart from each other when it comes to long term survival. I have my stuff. I deal with my problems. You have your stuff. You deal with your problems. But we are officially allied should someone come after both of our stuff, and we won’t go after each other’s stuff.

But though frequent communication may not be needed, it’s good to have a quick line when an emergency occurs. Or of course you would want advance warning should one of your team find that something is headed your way. That is where some kind of wired telephone system comes in. Especially if someone is headed your way, I wouldn’t be pushing that button on your UV-5R. There are now devices to set up a local area cell network of your own as well, but again, that is radio waves that can be seen on a screen.

You could use two Dixie cups with a thread of course, but my focus here is what will it be in real life. In real life, you need a robust system that will withstand being dropped, getting wet, and being left to sit for years without getting used, while we wait for this whole thing to unwind.

In the video I test two different phones. The one most familiar to most of us is the US TA-312. I’ve seen hundreds of them over the years in milsurp stores, gun shows, and even some gunshops. Never in all those years did I decide to buy one. They look too complicated, and I just wasn’t interested. It was actually my initial tests with RTL-SDR that showed me just how vulnerable you make yourself with radio waves, and I do have a couple neighbors with whom I’d like to ally after the collapse.

That got me thinking, and then I saw these Swedish field phones on the Sportsman’s Guide, the ones you see in the video. In general, if I see something used on SG, I check Ebay to see if there is a flood of them out there and that they are cheaper, but I have to tell you, SG is really good on their military surplus. I saw those H-45 diesel/gas heaters on there for $100 complete at one point, and these Swedish phones are no different. At $40 each, with negligible shipping, I think they’re a great score, and you don’t have to guess if they work like with the US phones. My guess is that most of the US phones do actually work, but they are also like $90 on Ebay.

What most people don’t know is that these phones all use batteries, D batteries. So if you didn’t read my old article on rechargeables and charging stations, you may want to check that out if you decide to invest in these phones. What I didn’t mention in the video is that these phones are incredibly good for battery life as opposed to a radio. If you are using the cheap Wouxons (which work fantastic), they have to left on all the time in order to listen to other stations. The internal rechargeable could be charged from a solar charging system, but you’d have to match the voltage. If you want to use the charging stations, you’d have to convert your solar or wind system to AC with an inverter, just so you can plug in your radio charge that turns it back into DC. This is wasteful, and it has multiple failure points.

The field phones are always off. The hand crank is a generator, so you don’t tax your battery to send enough current to move a physical ringer. Then the push to talk only uses your battery when you need it, only after you know someone is listening because they picked up the phone. It’s a genius field system where battery replacements will always be scarce.

Please watch the video to see the controls on the TA-312. It is made for a larger campus type of communications system, and you if you look on Ebay, you’ll find that there is even a field operator switchboard for the system. Apparently you ring the operator, then he connects you to the line to the other party whom you are trying to reach. Obviously you could design a similar system yourself between several neighbors. I didn’t try to alternate battery or ringer settings. The manual is available for free online for the US phones. I also found a translation of the Swedish manual since making the video, but it doesn’t explain the other buttons that well. Both phones worked fine with just guessing.

The wire roll you see in the video is .5 kilometer, and that roll is currently on SG for $27. That beats the best Ebay price by about 1/4. My only beef with the military rolls is that they make the connector at the end of the roll too short to be of much use. It is a 1640 foot spool, so there is a good chance you won’t use the whole thing. I am going to solder an extension on mine.

The prices have come up on the US phones because so many preppers have already set themselves up with reliable communications. My point in this column is to get you thinking, and to show you that life off of the grid is possible, if you arrange the resources. If you are a regular here, you know that I try to relate a lot of stuff back to gold and silver. No matter what “conservative” news you put on, you’ll have at least one company trying to convince you to buy precious metals to protect your future from the collapse we know is coming. I can tell you that when the scarcities start to happen, I’m not swapping my food for anything you can’t eat, and I won’t be swapping these phones for anything that doesn’t fill a need in my actual life. I’m going to use them for listening posts. Do you have a plan? Ten years early is better than one day late!

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