5 Best Handheld CB Radios On the Market

handheld cb radio

123RF (Narin Phapnam)

There are many options for local communication from FRS to GMRS to ham radio to cellphones. But no matter how many alternatives exist, there are still many places for Citizens Band radio in the modern world. Handheld CB radios are practical for offroading, hunting, trucking, hauling, emergency response, and more. Here are the best CB radios for on-the-go use.

What Are the Best Handheld CB Radios On the Market?

midland cb radio Amazon Customer Reviews
  • 4 Watt antenna
  • Channel memory + dual watch
  • 40 Channels + NOAA weather
Price: $99.99 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
uniden 401 handheld cb radio Amazon Customer Reviews
  • 4 Watt antenna
  • Built-in automatic noise limiter
  • Low price tag
Price: $41.89 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
uniden 501 handheld cb radio Amazon Customer Reviews
  • Built-in automatic noise limiter
  • 40 Channels + NOAA weather
  • Channel scan + dual watch
Price: $82.76 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
cobra hh550wxst handheld cb radio Amazon Customer Reviews
  • 40 Channels + NOAA weather
  • Compact design
  • Channel scan + dual watch
Price: $89.95 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
cobra hhrt50 handheld cb radio Amazon Customer Reviews
  • Included magnetic mount
  • 40 Channels + NOAA weather
  • Channel scan + dual watch
Price: $99.95 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
Our Unbiased Reviews
  1. 1. Best Range: Midland 75-822 Handheld CB Radio

    Pros:
    • 4 Watt antenna
    • Channel memory + dual watch
    • 40 Channels + NOAA weather
    Cons:
    • Bulky design
    • Sidelit display hard to read at night
    • Antenna should be upgraded

    The Midland 75-822 CB Radio comes highly recommended across multiple professional fields because of its versatile feature set. It has a 4 Watt output through its rubber duck antenna (which is the FCC limit for CB handsets), which can easily be unscrewed if you want to connect it to a car-mounted antenna.

    This handheld radio has access to all 40 CB channels plus all 10 NOAA weather channels. It has a suite of handy features like a channel scan and a 5-channel memory bank. The Emergency button automatically switches to Channel 9 and the Dual Watch feature lets you talk on one channel while keeping an ear on another channel you are interested in. My one gripe with the control interface is that the screen is sidelit, not backlit, which isn’t quite as easy to read at night.

    The Midland 75-822 can be powered by six AA batteries, the included AC adapter, or the included car accessory port adapter. The battery life is pretty decent, though it comes with two field battery packs so you will always be prepared. To add even more utility, this radio also has a microphone in port and a speaker out port. No matter what you are using it for, the Midland 75-822 is a great pick.

    VideoVideo related to best range: midland 75-822 handheld cb radio2020-03-06T16:36:32-05:00

  2. 2. Cheapest Handheld CB Radio: Uniden PRO401HH

    Pros:
    • 4 Watt antenna
    • Built-in automatic noise limiter
    • Low price tag
    Cons:
    • Mediocre signal range
    • No channel memory
    • Bulky design

    If you only need a cheap CB radio for occasional hobby use like hunting or offroading, the Uniden PRO401HH should be your go-to choice. This feature-light handset keeps it simple with just the essentials: a basic speaker, a solid microphone, and a rubber duck antenna.

    You have all the basic controls needed to navigate the airwaves: channel up/down buttons, a talk button, an on/off/volume knob, and a squelch knob. The PRO401HH also has a hi/low setting, a speaker output, a microphone input, and a built-in belt clip. That’s it. If you want access to NOAA weather channels, dual watch, or channel scanning, you would have to upgrade to the Uniden PRO501HH.

    The PRO401HH requires 9 AA batteries to power on, which makes it fairly hefty in the hand. That said, it is still handheld and it sports a solid battery life to boot. This radio includes a DC adapter for use in a car accessory port, though it should be noted that CB radios typically require an externally mounted antenna for proper use in a car. If you just need a simple CB radio that offers basic functionality, then it is hard to beat this radio’s price.

  3. 3. Best Sounding Handheld CB Radio: Uniden PRO501HH

    Pros:
    • Built-in automatic noise limiter
    • 40 Channels + NOAA weather
    • Channel scan + dual watch
    Cons:
    • Mediocre signal range
    • Bulky design
    • Antenna should be upgraded

    The Uniden Pro PRO501HH faces some stiff competition in its price range but it still remains a solid pick for a handheld CB radio, especially where fidelity is concerned. The Uniden Pro sounds great in optimal listening conditions, especially when you plug a set of earbuds into the external speaker jack next to the external mic jack. Granted, this only comes from my personal experience with this handset, as signal quality is almost entirely dependent on line-of-sight and atmospheric conditions.

    That said, the PRO501HH comes through clear with the stock rubber duck antenna and even better with an upgraded antenna such as a 3-foot FireStik will put this on par with any high-end CB radio. It has access to all 40 CB channels plus 10 NOAA weather channels. You can automatically scan through them for activity, or you can automatically switch over to the Channel 9 emergency line with one button press. This radio does not have a memory bank like the Midland 75-822 but it does have a better backlit LCD display.

  4. 4. Most Compact Handheld CB Radio: Cobra HH50WXST

    Pros:
    • 40 Channels + NOAA weather
    • Compact design
    • Channel scan + dual watch
    Cons:
    • Antenna should be upgraded
    • Battery life could be better
    • No channel memory

    Though the Cobra brand is best known for its high-end truck units, the Cobra HH50WXST is a capable handheld radio that is one of the most portable handsets we’ve come across. It is respectably compact for analog gear at 6.3 x 2 x 1.75 inches and it gets up to a month of battery life from six AA batteries.

    Like all CB radios, it is capped at 4 Watts and requires line-of-sight to get a clear signal. With the right conditions, you can broadcast up to 5 miles with the HH50WXST. With the wrong conditions (such as being inside a car) you will get a half-mile or less.

    This isn’t a fault of the device but rather the nature of battery-operated CB handsets. It feels a little more powerful when you use the included DC power adapter with your car’s accessory port but you’ll want an external antenna mount like you’d find on the Cobra HHRT50 if you intend to use this radio on the road.

  5. 5. Best Handheld CB Radio For Truckers: Cobra HHRT50

    Pros:
    • Included magnetic mount
    • 40 Channels + NOAA weather
    • Channel scan + dual watch
    Cons:
    • External antenna cable could be longer
    • Battery life could be better
    • No channel memory

    Those who want a CB radio for handheld and car use alike should consider this over other options. It is hard to beat a handheld CB radio and a magnetic antenna mount for this price.

    Okay, so the Cobra HHRT50 should look familiar. That’s because it is basically the Cobra HH50WXST with a different serial number and bundled with a magnetic mobile antenna mount. 

    If you don’t already know,  you shouldn’t use other handheld CB radios in the car without an antenna mount because most CB radios aren’t powerful enough to pass a signal through a car’s frame. That’s because the FCC requires Citizens Band output power to be limited at 4 Watts. That is also the reason that this magnetic mount doesn’t amplify the signal, it only sends it from outside of your car cabin.

    But even with these limitations baked in, the HHRT50 delivers some decent performance, reaching about a 5-mile range with the mobile antenna. You won’t get nearly as much with the included rubber duck antenna but both get the job done. This radio can reach all 40 CB channels plus 10 NOAA weather channels. Plus it has a backlit LCD display, a channel scan feature, and a dual watch feature for even more utility.

How to Use Citizens Band Radio

Citizens Band radio is among the most practical frequencies for businesses and ordinary folks to communicate long-distance because CB gear is designed to be easy to pick up and use. Ham radio may cover a much larger band of frequencies but it requires a license for you to legally broadcast, which requires taking a test. Conversely, we can get you up to snuff for using CB radio in just a few paragraphs. Here's what you need to know.

Citizens Band radios come pre-tuned to 40 channels on the shortwave band, most of which have no broadcasting restrictions. That means users can discuss whatever they want as long as they aren't running a commercial business. Channels 9 and 19 are typically reserved for emergency services and are regularly scanned by law enforcement.

CB radios are limited to an output power of 4 Watts, so they legally cannot be amplified. They can, however, be outfitted with a larger antenna, which improves signal strength.

That's basically all you need to know to get started, though as more questions come up you can always reference this handy FAQ from National Communications magazine. The next thing to learn would be some great trucker jargon, which you can read up on via Midland's CB lingo guide.

How Far Can a Handheld CB Radio Reach?

Determining the max range of a CB radio is a tricky thing, but generally speaking, handheld CB radios can reach up to 5 miles in perfect conditions. This takes several factors into account, though, including terrain, antennas used, and even air condensation.

Physical interference is the biggest reason you see so many negative reviews for CB radios online, though, as many users don't realize that their antenna has to be external or else their signal won't make it out of the building or vehicle they are broadcasting from. That is the exact reason why CB radios have interchangeable antennas as well as the reason why handheld CB radios are typically regarded as less powerful than mounted antennas.

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