Why Every Prepper Should Have a GMRS License

Motorola MS350R GMRS FRS RadiosFor reasons other than being legal while talking on a radio, the General Mobile Radio Service  (GMRS) offers communications capabilities that are the closest you will get to ham radio capabilities without testing for an amateur radio license.  The license process is straight forward and doesn’t require any testing.  Don’t be a lazy prepper, get your license.

So Why Get the License?

You can get a GMRS license for around $70 that is good for five years from the FCC.   This license is good for you and your family.  You do not need a license for each family member (as you would with an amateur radio license).  One license covers all of you, regardless of location.  So other than being legal, getting a license is easy and the reason to get one can be summed up in a few words.  Repeaters. Antennas, Height, and Power.


Repeaters are where the true benefits of GMRS become evident and there are more than 1,100 GMRS repeaters currently registered in the United States.  A repeater is a radio with an antenna at a high point (much higher than yours) such as a tower or mountain that “repeats” your audio when you transmit so it can be heard at a greater range.  When you can talk on a repeater, you can expand your communications from 5-50 miles (average is usually about 10-20 miles).

Most of the FRS/GMRS radios you purchase in the store will not allow you to access the repeaters.  A few handhelds we have found that do allow access the repeater channels “off the shelf” include the Motorola Talkabout MS350R, or the Midland MXT400 if you are looking for a mobile version with more power and better antenna.

You can check to see if there is a GMRS repeater in your area at myGMRS.com.

Midland MXT400 w J Pole Antenna in Tree

J-Pole “Slim Jim” External Antenna Deployed in Tree

Better Antennas

Internal antennas work ok when you are outdoors, but quickly lose performance when you enter buildings or vehicles.  GMRS is the only public UHF band (outside of amateur radio) that will allow the ability to use external antennas.

The ability to use an external antenna allows you to overcome the losses associated with being inside a structure.  It also allows you to select antennas that provide better performance (known as gain).  The higher the gain of the antenna, the better the performance both during transmit and receive.

If you are In a vehicle caravan for example, you can connect and external antenna and place it on the roof allowing you to get the antenna outside of the metal vehicle compartment and therefore extending your range and reception.  The same concept applies for buildings, basements, etc.

External connections is a limited feature in most “off the shelf” GMRS radios.  It is predominately found in mobile units such as the Midland MXT115 or Midland MXT400.  If you are looking for a handheld with the ability to connect an external antenna, the waterproof Cobra MRHH450 is a good option and it also includes the marine band.

More Height

GMRS also allows the placement of an external antenna up to 20 feet above ground or the mounting structure.  Being able to increase your height also allows for an increase in range and reception.  This means you can hit a repeater from further away.

More Power

GMRS allows for up to 50 watts output on most channels which is much higher than any other public band outside of amateur radio.  More power means better clarity at further distances.  Are you right on the edge of a repeater coverage area when on low power?  Up your power and have a higher probability of getting your communications through.

So How Do I Get The License?

The easiest way to apply for your GMRS license is online via the FCC’s website.  The first step is to get your FRN number by clicking here. Once you have your FRN, you are ready to start your application.  Go to the FCC ULS Site by clicking here, then start you application by clicking the “Log-In” button under Online Filing.  You will be applying for an application under the radio service “ZA – General Mobile Radio Service”.

Once you have your FRN, checkout our video below on how apply for your license in under 10 minutes.

Note on Paper Filing: Although you can file for a license via mail using the FCC Form 159 and Form 605, we highly recommend you file electronically so you can easily track the status of your license.  All paper forms can be found on the FCC Forms page.

GMRS for Every Prepper

There are a number of advantages that GMRS brings to the table to meet your communications needs.    Obtaining a license keeps you legal, covers your whole family, and allows you to train day to day to prepare.  Don’t wait until the communications systems are down to learn how they work.

Like what you see here? Check us out on Facebook or Pinterest.  You can also find out about more radio bands available without a license in our article 5 Communication Options Every Prepper Should Know.


  • Jerry

    Unless you’re going to use these types of radios now just like the ham radio why would you need to get a license? if and when TSHTF nobody is going to come to check for a license I think government agencies will have more to think of and do, so to stock up on radios and not using them to me having a license is a waste of money, I have a couple of radios like this that I make sure they’re in working order batteries charged and that’s all, I’ll probably never have to use them at least I hope not.

    • Raven

      Good question Jerry. Thanks for the comment. Glad to hear you keep a few radios ready to go. The primary reason is Training. Don’t start using a radio the day you need it unless you expect communications to fail. Training should start now. In GMRS, the most complex communications many will do is repeater communications (it isn’t hard, but is where your call sign has the most significance). So make that procedure the standard, and start training that now for all your GMRS communications both long and short range. If your family trains using your licensed call sign now for all communications, it becomes the routine no matter what GMRS system used. Just how it becomes habit for a ham operator to give his call sign anytime he is on the air. In addition, if anyone ever gets their amateur radio license, they will be a step above most techs starting out now, because they already know the routine. As far as the price, if you break it down, you are looking at a little over $1 a month over the period of the GMRS license. I say it is well worth the cost to train properly now. For many, just get a smaller size cup of coffee from the store once a month.

    • Gary Stubbs

      I’m considering buying gmrs/frs base station for my rv..the units I’ve looked at all seem to require that they be hooked up to a computer to be programmed…I’m pretty cyberstupid to start with..and I dont have anything but a smart phone at this time…are there and moderate priced radios that I would gave to program..??

  • John

    I need a radio, but I don’t want to pay for a license. What can I do?

    Almost all GMRS radios also support FRS frequencies, which can be used without a license. Channels 8-14 on a typical 22 channel consumer radio reserved exclusively for FRS. These channels can be used license-free, but are limited to a half watt of transmit power and will have limited range
    Just FYI

  • Kristy

    If you have a Ham license, does that cover GMRS?

  • Rita Colgan

    Hi. I’m interested in both GMRS and HAM radios. Is it mandatory that I use the code language for these radios, or may I use just plain and simple language? I am trying to study the codes, but am getting a headache. Please advise me. Thank you. — Rita

    • Raven

      I am assuming you mean Morse code? No. Morse code is not required to be used in GMRS radio.

    • Allison

      Also ham has Q codes for Morse that are sometimes used verbally, but rarely. In “phone” frequencies, ham operators prefer and recommend plain language.
      73 de KK4VLR

  • Rita

    My brother has a GMRS license. He s gifting me a hand radio. He recently got a new set. He said I may use it as a family member. Aside from his generosity, is this true? …. Rita

    • Yes. As a family member you can use the radios for GMRS, you still have to follow GMRS operations rules though.

  • Todd Felciano

    Raven, If I buy some GMRS radios, will they work without a license or is there something the license does to activate the radio?

    • They will work without a license, however GMRS rules on those frequencies still apply, so using them without a license would be against FCC regs. So proceed at your own risk.

  • Juan Cabrera

    What is the difference between gmrs and ham radios?…can i use a ham frequency with a gmr license?

    • Raven

      No you can not legally use ham radio frequencies with a GMRS license. You need to have an Amateur Radio License to use ham radio. If interested in ham, I would definitely recommend going for you Technician Class Ham License. Not to difficult to learn if you are motivated and teaches a lot about the basics of radio.

  • Sam Williams

    My brother lives in the town next to me, 12 miles. Does one license cover both of us?

    • Raven

      Yes, if you acquired the license. A single GMRS license covers the entire family.

  • James Andrews

    1) If you purchase FRS radio, like what you might get at Walmart, does that radio have all 22 frequencies programmed in it?
    2) Does having a GMRS license and a programmable radio give you access to frequencies not programmed in these off the shelf radios if so?

  • John Fitzpatrick

    Message to “Raven”
    on the 12/04/2020 you answered a question from Sam Williams
    // My brother lives in the town next to me, 12 miles. Does one license cover both of us? //
    Your answer was….Yes, if you acquired the license. A single GMRS license covers the entire family.

    My question to you.. Am I correct in thinking that the licence only covers members of your family that live at the same address ?

    I am in the UK… have both, Amateur licence & Marine licence …. And interested in All licence conditions World wide.
    Kind Regards,

    • Raven

      So in the USA, yet it does, however unfortunately I can not speak to the UK. The FCC does not regulate communications in the UK, so your mileage may vary.

  • EWWE

    THEIR LOCATION DONT MATTER ‘my family all of them are covered BY MY PURCHASE ‘its a family orientated service this is why

  • John

    The GMRS license is good for 10 years, not 5.

    • Raven

      Yes sir, you are correct, it was updated to 10 years in 2017. Thanks for the update!

  • Gregory Engfer

    Hi I was wondering how long it takes for fcc to get you call sign after you went thru process and approved.

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