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Reviews Categories | Keys & Paddles | Vibroplex Lightning Bug Help

Reviews Summary for Vibroplex Lightning Bug
Vibroplex Lightning Bug Reviews: 28 Average rating: 4.9/5 MSRP: $80 - $150 on eBay
Description: Semiauto keyer by Vibroplex. It is the pattern used by the US Navy ca. WWII and is distinguished by a triangular upper bearing mount and a single, cubical weight on a flat spring arm.
Product is in production.
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WA9LAE Rating: 5/5 Feb 17, 2012 13:03 Send this review to a friend
Best of the Best!  Time owned: more than 12 months
I collect keys, lots of them. I have probably 25
J36 lightning bugs. They are by far the easiest to
use, easiest to adjust and have the absolute best
feel of any bug modern or antique. Personally, I
think that the nickel-plated models are very, very
slightly better than the chrome models for touch.
Even my ham-fisted bug swing sounds magical when I'm
using one. If you don't already have a Lightning,
get one!

73, Joe-WA9LAE
WP4AOH Rating: 5/5 May 27, 2010 19:13 Send this review to a friend
One of the best semiautomatics  Time owned: more than 12 months
The Vibroplex Lightning semiautomatic is one of the finest keys around. The Lightning does not move on the table when operated at high speeds. I have to hold my Blue Racer Deluxe with the other hand when sending at high speeds. I can adjust speed on the fly faster with the flat pendulum and square weight. The weight can't rotate like on the Original or the Blue Racer. I can control the Lightning better than the other Vibroplex keys. The U.S. Navy adopted this design for their J-36 not the Original.I don't understand why Vibroplex dropped this model in favor of the Original. Scott, please bring it back. Lightning Bug 2000 maybe?

N8NSN Rating: 5/5 Sep 16, 2009 05:45 Send this review to a friend
Excellent  Time owned: more than 12 months
Picked up this little jewel at Cincinnati Hamfest in 2006. Poor thing was in a box in several pieces. Nothing was missing except the screw that holds the damper on the T bar. As well, one connection strip was missing on the bottom, easily fashioned out of a 1/4 inch wide piece of brass with solder added at the connection points. After a good cleaning The bug is now fully restored to original... I made a set of paddles for it, but have since put the original knob and paddle set up back on it.

When the gentleman saw how sincerely I wanted my first bug key, as I looked over the parts in the box; when I asked how much he had to have for it and he replied, "Twenty dollars", I almost ripped my hip pocket getting my billfold out!

I absolutely love this bug. I use it at least 50% of my contacts now. I work CW about 95% of the time.

Hope to QSO wid u soon!


The previous review did not mention that the bug is a signal corps J-36...

Order 9054 Phila 42 / 3-17-42 ser# 483 Fulton St. New York

GREAT bug / smooth action
K0EWS Rating: 5/5 Jul 3, 2009 11:00 Send this review to a friend
Great Bug!  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
This is my 2nd bug. My only other bug is the Vibroplex Presentation, built in 1955. This one is serial number 188,xxx which puts it built in the same year. I am VERY pleased with this bug. It has a very crisp feel to it, and I cannot believe how well it sends code. It's just a great bug, and would probably be a great bug for a beginner, provided they could slow it down. I had the medium weight when I got it, and buying the heavy weight slowed it down. Putting both weights on slows it to about 12 wpm. However, I like to keep it set around 20 wpm, which is easy with the large weight. The genius in the design is in that square weight being mostly on the far side of the mainspring for the dits. That makes the dits much easier to control. The bug, for being over 50 years old, still is in great shape, and a simple cleaning makes it look almost new. These things were made with great craftsmanship!
All in all, this is a fantastic bug, and it's too bad that Vibroplex doesn't still make this model. Perhaps they'll bring it back some day like they did the Blue Racer. One can only hope. In the meantime, if you are lucky enough to come across one of these things, get it!
K5RIX Rating: 5/5 Aug 5, 2006 10:23 Send this review to a friend
Ya gotta try it!  Time owned: 3 to 6 months
I'm with W9RIG. My particular lightning bug is a Martin Flash Key m/n 6. Same beast exactly. After 23 years of hamdom, I'm learning a new skill, and I just love it. There is no comparison between an iambic paddle/keyer and a genuine semi-auto key. I used to dread working ops using bugs because so many are not used correctly. The key (no pun intended) is to send as perfectly as possible. The Lightning bug is available cheap and is a great way to learn the mysteries of the bug. If you need to go slow, the dash paddle can be used like a straight key. No batteries, menu switching, or other such nonsense. Hey, tens of thousands of ops earned their living using one of these things. The hardware is perfect, and the flat pendulum works great at 20WPM. Great stuff. Shake hands with history.
W9RIG Rating: 5/5 Jul 30, 2006 16:10 Send this review to a friend
Timeless Classic  Time owned: 6 to 12 months
I own two Lightning Bugs, a 1944 WWII Deluxe (charcoal grey base) and a 1960 Deluxe with the
chrome base. Although I prefer using an Original
Bug, the Lightning Bug is very close second. I switched to bugs about a year ago. Before that time I was using iambic keys. There is a learning curve involved. Once you learn about the adjustments for these keys, and practice, you won't want to go back to iambic. I find that bugs have a certain charm to them. I enjoy producing my own code instead of letting an electronic keyer do it for me. A Champion or a Lightning Bug are very good choices to learn on. Make the proper adjustments, clean the contacts periodically, and you'll probably be surprised what an easy transition it is from iambic. They are often available on eHam or eBay. They usually are not too expensive. Maybe I am too nostalgic or old school...but I will never sell my Bugs or Lightning Bugs. They make CW a lot more fun!
W2RDD Rating: 5/5 Jun 22, 2006 12:44 Send this review to a friend
Best of the litter  Time owned: more than 12 months
I've had this one twenty years. Probably purchased at a ham fest. It is the J-36 Signal Corps model. Date on plate...June 6, 1941...six months before Pearl Harbor. I think of that time and place every time I use it. It is the best of the half-dozen bugs I possess.
W8ZNX Rating: 5/5 Jun 22, 2006 11:52 Send this review to a friend
do love this old key  Time owned: more than 12 months
have lots of keys
some cheap some high end

key use the most
pre ww 2 Lightning bug
have had it for over 10 years
looks like it
escaped from the junk box

makers plate missing, switch missing
base repainted 50/60 years ago

it is the most loved key in my shack

if i could keep only one key

it would be my old Lightning bug


K2VCO Rating: 5/5 Dec 13, 2005 21:20 Send this review to a friend
Another vote for Vibroplex's best!  Time owned: more than 12 months
I want to add my vote for the Lightning as the best bug for everyday CW. Mine is actuually a Signal Corps J-36, manufactured by Vibroplex.

Here's what's good about the Lightning, compared to the Original:

1) Wide speed range, from too slow to too fast.
2) The weight stays where you put it.
3) This is subjective, but it just feels better!

Like other reviewers, I've used many other bugs. Some of them move around on the desk too much (Blue Racer, smaller Speed-X's), some of them won't slow down (most Vibroplexes except those made in the early '60's with thin mainsprings), some of them won't stay in adjustment, and some -- including a brand-new fancy Japanese bug with optical sensors -- just don't feel right.

I agree whith what another reviewer said: if you are starting out using a bug, look for a Lightning (or a J-36 or a Champion, which is almost the same). You won't go wrong. See you on Bug Night (Dec. 31)!
WB7QQR Rating: 5/5 Jan 7, 2005 13:15 Send this review to a friend
Worth Restoration  Time owned: more than 12 months
Smoothest, quietest, most comfortable bug around. My 1942 standard needs new nylon washers and spacers, but it's well worth Vibroplex's high prices for those replacement parts. I'll keep this one forever.
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