Category Archives: Vintage

IX1CKN: Packing the PRC-320 on an activation of Tsatelet Natural Reserve

Many thanks to Christian (IX1CKN) who shares the following field report:

Activation of I-0120

by Christian (IX1CKN)

After “infecting” Andrea (IW0HK) with the use of military surplus for POTA activations, on December 26, 2023, I decided to repeat the experience. I brought the Plessey PRC-320 to the 791 meters of the Tsatelet Natural Reserve / I-0120.

With its 11 kg weight, two images came to mind. The first was from an article on QST dedicated to “green radios,” where it was said: “if you’re not fit, carrying one on your back will make you.” So true, even truer.

The other reminded me of all the Army officer cadets (who attended courses at in Aosta for years) that, specializing in transmissions, carried stations (also) on short waves on their shoulders around my Valley to ensure connections (I’ve seen some beautiful photos just in the past few days, here:

After 10 minutes of walking, I didn’t have much more left. Wonder how they made it…

After dispelling the mysticism, once at the destination, I set up the PRC in manpack configuration: with its whip vertical antenna and the counterpoise consisting of four coils to be laid on the ground.

Finding a frequency in 20 meters, I started calling. Propagation in phases, but a satisfying activation emerged, with 40 contacts scattered throughout Europe in 70 minutes on the air, including 5 “park to park.” Among them, even IW0HK, who was at Montemario Park.

A small curiosity: with the Christmas Eve activity, I had exhausted the dedicated logbook since 2013 for portable operations. To continue, I used the “Radio Adventure Journal” that I had seen mentioned on a Facebook group (being available on Amazon [QRPer affiliate link]).

It’s nice to see a program like POTA spreading like wildfire, not only in practice but also for some “accessories.” Thanks to everyone for the contacts.

Chris activates Les Iles Nature Reserve with his Plessey PRC-320!

Many thanks to Christian (IX1CKN) who shares the following field report:

Activation of I-0395

by Chris (IX1CKN)

Hey folks, I just wanted to share my activation at the Les Iles Nature Reserve (I-0395) on Christmas Eve (December 24, 2023)!

It’s been a while since I last visited (in July). The weather was perfect, around 20 degrees Celsius, and I was in the mood for a real outdoor activation.

I decided to go with the manpack Plessey PRC-320, a trusty companion delivering a solid 25 watts. I wanted to be one with nature, so no benches or bird-watching huts this time.

Got off to an exciting start on 20 meters with two stations from the UK recognizing my gear. One even complimented the excellent modulation with a whopping 9+10 signal strength, giving me hope for the rest of the activation. Then came a Spanish station, the always attentive IX1VKK Rinaldo (following me from home), a colleague from the Netherlands, another Brit, and then… silence. I kept calling for another 5 minutes, but no luck.

Could it be the morning flare that affected propagation? Who knows, but I noticed on the POTA cluster that another Italian colleague was activating on 28 MHz and being spotted by several American Hams. I decided to give it a try, found a clear frequency locally, and started calling. And guess what? Responses from across the Atlantic started pouring in – Massachusetts, Georgia, and even a park-to-park with Jim KC1QDZ from Brenton Point State Park in Rhode Island.

Short video:

Maybe not my first contact with a U.S. park on 10 meters, but definitely a memorable one.

Signal reports weren’t super strong, hovering around 5/3-5/4, but hey, as long as the noise floor isn’t sky-high, that signal is enough to complete the QSO. Moved to a different frequency as the band was buzzing with North American stations – Kentucky, New Jersey, North Carolina, and Maryland.

An hour in, and I’ve logged 12 contacts. Pretty incredible considering that what “saved” my activation were stations on the other side of the ocean. Europe on 20 meters was a bit challenging, but hey, that’s ham radio for you. You’d think POTA, with its simple and not-so-full-power setups, is a local affair, and then, on Christmas Eve, you realize DX is very much on the table.

I turn around, a duck dives in, and the last rays of sunlight caress the wetlands. Perfect way to end it.

Travelogue and Field Report: POTA and Aviation Geekery with Friends in Dayton, Ohio!

A couple months ago, my good friend, Monty, hatched a plan to take his father to the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force in Dayton, Ohio.

I thought it was a brilliant idea. Monty’s dad, John, served in the US Air Force in the 1960s and has always been a fan of aviation. Despite this, he had never been to the USAF museum.

Monty and I have been friends since being roommates back in our undergraduate years; he and his parents are like family to me. (You might remember Monty from a couple of SOTA/POTA activations in the past.)

When Monty asked, “Hey, would you like to join us–?” It took me all of one microsecond to say, “Heck yeah!

Off we go…

Monty, John, and I hopped in the car and headed to Dayton (from Charlotte, NC) Sunday morning, July 16, 2023.

It was a beautiful day for a 7+ hour road trip, too. Of course, I made sure we timed the trip so that we could stop at Tamarack in Beckley, WV for lunch.

We arrived at our little AirBnB vacation rental late that afternoon.

The house was literally a stone’s throw from the USAF museum. If we would have been any closer, we would have been on the museum driveway.

USAF Museum

Monday morning (July 17) we ate breakfast, then made our way across the road to the museum shortly after they opened the doors at 9:00.

I’ve been to the USAF museum at least fifteen times and it never gets old.

It’s the largest military aviation museum in the world and it’s brilliantly curated. They’re always shuffling around exhibits so that even if you visit annually, you’ll always find something new and fascinating.

The one and only Memphis Belle.

Without a doubt, my favorite part of the museum is the WWII Gallery because I’m such a huge history buff of that era.

Then again, I love the modern stuff, too, and the USAF museum certainly serves it up. Continue reading Travelogue and Field Report: POTA and Aviation Geekery with Friends in Dayton, Ohio!

Postcard Field Report: Pairing the Elecraft KX3 and Tufteln Random Wire

Believe it or not, the 2023 Hamvention and Four Days In May is only ten days away at time of posting.

Where in the world did the time go–?

If you’re going to Hamvention, I hope to meet you there. When I’m not floating around, I’ll be hanging out at the Ham Radio Workbench/Halibut Electronics table: 3011.

I’m super excited about attending, but I’ve so much to prepare in advance. Every day between now and then is planned out to the max with family activities and projects.

That, and being an introvert (this might surprise some of you), I have to mentally prepare myself for hanging out with 30+ thousand other human beings. I’ll need ten days for that alone. If I appear tired at Hamvention or FDIM, you’ll know why! Ha ha!

Postcard Field Report

I’ve got a load of videos in the pipeline and to keep from falling behind publishing them, you’re going to see more of my slightly shorter “Postcard Field Reports” for the next couple of weeks during my travels.

These postcard reports contain all of the core information, just less wordy.  (In theory!)

Tuttle Educational State Forest (K-4861)

On Wednesday, April 5, 2023, I had a bit of time in the early afternoon to do a POTA activation. Tuttle Educational State Forest was low-hanging fruit as my errands that day took me within a stone’s throw of the park.

I arrived a bit before noon and took some time to record a Hike and Talk video (which will be published in the next couple of weeks).

After the hike, I set up my Elecraft KX3 and paired it with my Tufteln End-Fed Random Wire antenna. Continue reading Postcard Field Report: Pairing the Elecraft KX3 and Tufteln Random Wire

Joshua acquires an Argonaut 509

Many thanks to Joshua (KO4AWH) who shares the following guest post:

Ten-Tec Argonaut 509 Acquisition

by Joshua (KO4AWH)

My club president sent me a text on Sunday before our Monday club meeting. He wanted to know if I was interested in a Vintage 80s QRP Radio. He knows I have an affinity for QRP. Honestly, I think he is still amazed at how I managed to get through piles ups on his hexbeam during summer field day with my TX-500. Boy was that fun.

The deal was a Ten-Tec 509 with the microphone and CW filter, the matching 251 power supply with meter, and the 504 matching 50W amplifier. He sent me a photo, I had to look it up. I have heard of Ten-Tec, thanks to Thomas K4SWL, but certainly was not familiar with their Argonaut 509. I was intrigued. I don’t have a single vintage piece of equipment. I have only been a Ham for less than 3 years.

We had some equipment from a club member SK donated for auction to raise funds for some club repeater upgrades. This was a good excuse to purchase an old piece of equipment that I likely would not have purchased otherwise. After looking over the 509 and accessories, all of which were in great condition, I brought them home. Of course I couldn’t help but hook everything up and turn on power. Everything powered up but no movement of the frequency indicator, not a great sign, and no audible hint of changing reception frequency. After further inspection it seemed the dial tuning mechanism was seized up. Looks like another project.

The next morning, as I had a few minutes to spare I started taking things apart. I have never pulled apart an old transmitter before so I took my time as I studied all the components and marveled at the simplistic yet complex circuitry found under the covers. Once I was down to the tuning mechanism, a few desoldered wires later, it was removed and ready for cleaning. I don’t know if the grease was original, but it sure was hard. After carefully cleaning, greasing, and reassembling all the components, soldering a couple wires back, and reassembling the housing, I was ready to power it back up. I don’t want to understate the work involved, it can be quite tricky, but I really enjoy this type of thing.

After tuning around a bit and working with the controls on the Radio, I found a POTA operator to zero beat. I needed something to reference in order to adjust my knob indicator so I would know what frequency the radio is on. I actually received the manual for the radio and each of the components. Reading through a few key points the night before really helped out when I was ready to start tuning in and transmitting.

I had the amplifier on, I set the DRIVE to about half way guessing that was okay and called back to the Activator. First call, he called me back with a 59! WOW, I was excited. I let him know I was on an old Ten-Tec that I had just repaired and he came back and said the audio and signal were great. How exciting! So, naturally, I hunted a few more stations and then listened to a few rag chews as I got familiar with the Radio.

Not only was I excited to have repaired my first radio, I am also amazed at the capability of this Radio originally released in 1973. I am not a long time SWL or radio operator but there is certainly something very appealing to me about the audio this Rig produces. I wasn’t certain what I was getting into with this rig, but I sure am happy how it worked out! I may just be on the hunt for another Ten-Tec. I even plan to take this to my local park and do at least one activation with it.

Here is a quick excerpt from the introduction in the operating manual.

“The Argonaut opens a whole new world of excitement and fun in Amateur Radio. We think you will find QRP a welcome change. Five watts are only 2-1/2 S-units below 150 watts for the same conditions. When skip is favorable and QRM light, you will not be conscious of using low power.”




W9FKC’s suitcase portable

Many thanks to Pete (WB9FLW), who writes:

Found this link on the Soldersmoke Blog this morning.

Click to access W9FKC.pdf

Interesting to compare this 70 year old Rig with your KX2 or KX3!

We’ve come a long way since then.

Indeed we have, Pete! But, man oh man! What a gorgeous vintage portable–absolutely beautiful vintage example of form following function!

Click here to download the PDF.