- Amateur Radio (Ham Radio) Community

Call Search

New to Ham Radio?
My Profile

Friends Remembered
Survey Question

DX Cluster Spots

Ham Exams
Ham Links
List Archives
News Articles
Product Reviews
QSL Managers

Site Info
eHam Help (FAQ)
Support the site
The eHam Team
Advertising Info
Vision Statement

[Articles Home]  [Add Article]  

Easy HT Improvements

from Dale Kubichek, N6JSX on November 18, 2013
View comments about this article!

Easy HT Improvements

We all know OEM (original equipment manufacture) HT rubber-ducky antennas are a dismal compromise, at best, facetiously called “helical-dummy-loads.” There are a few ways to improve your HT’ing distance and experience. First and foremost consider buying an after-market antenna, like the Diamond SRH77CA-SMA or RC77CA-BNC, or make a more economical full ¼ wave BNC Brass Whip and add a Tail. I found my 2m Brass Whip to work well on 70cm too.

Second, is to improve the antenna’s counterpoise; an HT body is a very poor counterpoise! A product I saw decades ago, called the ‘Tiger-Tail’, seemed to have been the answer to this problem but it was just too easy for HAMs to reproduce, killing its sales. The Tail is a ¼ wave +5% counterpoise wire hung from the HT antenna connector creating a mock ½ wave dipole. The trick in making an affective Tail is to insure a good tight fit to the HT connector. I duplicated the Tail by using ring terminals but a problem with ring terminals are those darn BNC posts. I over came this by filing a small notch inside the ring to fit over one post, twist it around the BNC barrel and slip it over the other post.

But with the advent of HT’s going to a SMA connector the BNC post issue disappears making this Tail a much simpler and far easier to attach.

The Tiger-Tail is a ¼ wave + 5% length of wire hung from the HT connector. Thomas & Betts ring-crimp-terminals:

SMA = 1/4” eye for 14-16AWG wire (blue) T&B #14RB-14X
BNC = 3/8” eye for 10-12 AWG wire (yellow) T&B #10RC-38X

Black 14-16AWG stranded wire is soldered to the ring. (I do not crimp my tails but solder the tail wire to the ring terminal.) See Table “A” for wire lengths per band.

The hardest part of using this Tail is getting the wire to hang straight.

Easy ¼ wave BNC Brass Whip

Here is an easy ‘how-to’ make a ¼ wave BNC whip antenna that I created in the 80’s.

Parts needed:

BNC RG-58 type coax crimp connector, 3 piece. Brass welding/brazing rod 3/32” diameter. Heat shrink tube 3/32”, 1/8”, & 3/16” ~1.5” long each.

Method of build:
1. Cut the brass rod to table “A” plus 1 inch.
2. On one end grind/file off enough brass to securely fit that tip into the center pin of the BNC.
3. Solder the pin to this brass rod shaped end.
4. Slide 1.5” of 3/32” heat shrink over the brass rod and just covering the top edge of the attached center pin and shrink.
5. Slide 1” of 1/8” heat shrink over the 3/32” shrunk tubing just down to the brass rod and shrink into place. This will act as an insulting spacer to the BNC barrel.
6. Slide all into the BNC barrel – insure the BNC pin protrudes well into the connector then slide 1.5” of 3/16” heat shrink tube over both the BNC barrel and rod, then shrink tight. This piece of heat shrink holds the whole BNC antenna together.
7. Measure Table “A” dimension and cut to length or tune for best VSWR.
8. Round off the top end of the brass rod.

Table "A"

146 MHz 19.3”
222 MHz 12.7”
445 MHz 6.35”
902 MHz 3.1”
1250 MHz 2.25”

NOTE: insure the BNC center pin & rod do NOT make any physical contact with the BNC outer housing.

Making this rod whip antenna with a “SMA” connector was found to be very difficult and then I was leery of its durability!

Some of the HT’s sold today have different type male/female SMA connectors all SMA-to- BNC adapters pictured were bought from eBay. HT’s are most difficult to quantifiably measure antenna performance from - you will just have to do it the old fashion way of over the air reports flipping between using a ducky vs. Whip+Tail under the same conditions, to judge.

Here are a few of my HT’s with my Whip & Tail:

If you want to use your HT mobile seek or make an over-the-edge Stainless-Steal window bracket (I designed & sold this in the ‘80’s under Kuby-Kommunications™ but an AES copier and then MFJ coping killed my sales too). It was simple but affective!

Never use coax length >5’ RG-174 (1/8”dia) -1.65db/10’ ; I only use RG-8x (1.4”dia) -0.4db/10’.

Writer BIO: Dale Kubichek, BS/MS-EET, GROL/RADAR, N6JSX - Amateur Extra; licensed in 1972.

PDF of this article, and many more, can be found in the ‘Files’ folder “N6JSX Stuff” on my Groups:

Member Comments:
This article has expired. No more comments may be added.
Easy HT Improvements  
by KE6IIJ on November 18, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
I for one like this post, it's basic technical knowledge, but a lot of people I am willing to bet hadn't thought of this. I remember making my first 1/4 wave ground plane out of an SO-239 connector and was surprised at the results of the radiator just dangling from the ceiling.
RE: Easy HT Improvements  
by M6GOM on November 18, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
Agreed. Obvious solution seldom presents itself until someone posts something like this.

I would like to make one comment though and that as insulated wire appears approximately 4% longer to RF to reduce the size of the counterpoise wire by 4% to ensure its more correct although given it will be potentially used over a 4MHz spread it probably doesn't matter.
Easy HT Improvements  
by W4FJT on November 18, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
FYI Diamond makes a low profile BNC to SMA adapter that makes it easy to use BNC antennas and coax on your HT. I use one with my Kenwood TH F6 and it almost looks factory. Universal Radio is one dealer that lists it.
Easy HT Improvements  
by K9ZF on November 18, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
I done the same thing several years ago:-)

The full quarter wave whip, with the tail, is still the best performing HT antenna I have ever used. However, it tends to be a bit bulky and annoying in use... So, I carry the "big" antenna in my kit in case it's needed, and use a small ducky for normal use.

Great construction article! Love the pics, very well drawn out!


Amateur Radio Emergency Service, Clark County Indiana. EM78el
former K9ZF /R no budget Rover ***QRP-l #1269
Check out the Rover Resource Page at:
List Administrator for: InHam+grid-loc+ham-books
Ask me how to join the Indiana Ham Mailing list!
Easy HT Improvements  
by W5LZ on November 18, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
"Tiger tail" or "rat's tail", same thing different name. Probably the simplest/easiest way of improving an HT. Depending on how the HT is made that 'tail' doesn't have to be connected to the antenna's base...
- Paul

(pink wire works exceptionally well! ;))
RE: Easy HT Improvements  
by K9MHZ on November 18, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
One of the nice advantages of using 33 or 23 can get a full-sized center fed dipole in your "rubber duck", rather than a spring dummy load on 70 cm or channel 19 (oops, I mean 2 meters).
Easy HT Improvements  
by AB1LT on November 18, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
I did some with/without tests of a tail during a 2M net and the difference was between 3 and 5 S units! All my HTs now have tails.
Easy HT Improvements  
by KB4QAA on November 18, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
These are the tips that so many beginners need today. I try to pass them on as often as I can bear the repetition. Great photos. Thanks Dale
Easy HT Improvements  
by AF5DN on November 18, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
My experimentation with this a year or so ago with different brands of radios showed this to be a very minimal improvement.. if any.
Don’t expect too much.

But.. if you don't mind the extra hunk of wire dangling around... go for it. It wont hurt anything.
Hope you have better luck than I.

IMO it's mostly hype.

Easy HT Improvements  
by KD8GEH on November 18, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
Another good one Kuby!

73 DE Dave
RE: Easy HT Improvements  
by K7KY on November 18, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
Both clubs I belong to have featured tigertail construction on Project Nights and many members have built them for their HT's. They have all realized some improvement, some more than others. Contrary to AF5DN's experience, most have achieved significant gain. Those that didn't had other issues with their radio/antenna. Some radios with SMA connectors are recessed into the radio body and don't have sufficient clearance for a lug.
For those radios (like Baofeng) we use a small clip for the lanyard link which is part of the radio frame. This works very well and is easily attached/removed quickly.
Easy HT Improvements  
by W5LZ on November 18, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
Should have mentioned this before... I inserted a 'rat tail' between the battery and the HT's frame. Best place for one? Nope, but it certainly works. The HT's frame is part of the 'other half' of the antenna along with the hand/arm of the user. Making that 'organic' 'other half of the antenna' into a metallic one helps with my radio (less impedance?). Can't say it's a huge difference but I can hear the difference which means it's 'good enough', right?
- Paul
RE: Easy HT Improvements  
by K7RNO on November 18, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
I like to tinker, so I like your article with its inspirations. The counterpoise idea is known to me and I have one but am not sure if it is the right length (if its precise length is critical at all). You suggest 1/4 wave + 5%. Are you using the classical formula of 468/f for a 1/2w, or a modified one, and why are you then adding 5%?
Easy HT Improvements  
by HA7WX on November 19, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
Hi there.
I agree with AF5DN. Improvement seems to be so substantial one cannot notice (well that was my experiments results).
I think however there actually must be some, the gap between like being heard of not and it just ads this little bit of missing signal.
If it's all about that, then it would maybe worth having that rat tail in your pocket in case.
73s de HA7WX Chris
Easy HT Improvements  
by RADIOPATEL on November 19, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
Dear Friends

May I request Elmers to add info on following topics so that this article is a Classic Plus for HT Users.
1> Power saving technique.
2> Portable folding telescopic antenna or other small antenna.
3> Various connectors for various antenna and interconnections with portable linears.
4> Portable power solutions e.g. solar,battery etc.
5> Digital modes and satellite operations.

Once again request all experts to contribute.

Dinesh Patel VU2DCI
RE: Easy HT Improvements  
by JOHNZ on November 19, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
Ref your item #4, have you considered Super Capacitors? They have a large power storage capability. Capacitors have two storage variables: Max charging voltage & capacitance (mx in Farads). A super capacitor normally has a capacitance in the range of 1 to 3000 Farads, thus they make a good substitute for batteries. Two 400 Farad capacitors in series can be charged 5.4 VDC. There are pros and cons too numerous to get into here, but this can be a reliable safe alternate power source for your application, and it is an easy DIY project.
RE: Easy HT Improvements  
by N6AJR on November 19, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
can you curl the rat tail around aa pen or something and still use it with out loosing too much counterpoise, ?
RE: Easy HT Improvements  
by W4OP on November 19, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
3> Various connectors for various antenna and interconnections with portable linears.

This may seem like a small point, but VHF/UHF HT's are FM. One would not want to use a linear amplifier as it is not as efficient (and more expensive) than the class C amplifier.

Dale W4OP
RE: Easy HT Improvements  
by AF6AU on November 19, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
Perhaps the level of improvment depends on the HT you are working with. My old Alinco 580 has a fairly substantial aluminum frame that couples well with the host human holding it, forming a decent grounding volume. When equipped with a gain antenna, the tail does not do much. I would think that many of the newer and much more compact HT's that lack the mass, length, and capacitive coupling would achieve greater benefit from a tail.

Trying to use a HT inside a running car is asking for issues with noise and reduced range. The improvement for using any outside the vehicle antenna is fantastic, and you easily obtain double to triple the range, or more.

For some of these rigs they do not develop full output with the standard battery packs either. For whatever HT you own, look up the manufacturer's options and see if you have a rig that the "standard" battery only delivers reduced output power. There may be a battery pack that allows full output if the standard pack does not.

Easy HT Improvements  
by K8QV on November 19, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
I've tried this in different configurations on two HTs. Didn't notice any difference. I get the theory, and I'm glad it's worked for some. What does make a noticeable difference for me is placing my HT on the metal patio table. I also suspect that some human bodies provide better ground than others. Don't sweat it, it's just an HT after all, not a DX machine!
RE: Easy HT Improvements  
by KB4QAA on November 19, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
Not really. If you coil up the counterpoise you lose the advantage of the length of the counterpoise.
RE: Easy HT Improvements  
by N1DVJ on November 20, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
I would just say DO NOT round off the top of a wire antenna. It's not much better than a point when it's a single wire.

First time you have the HT sitting on your desk and you bend over, think about your eyes...

If I make an antenna like this, I use needle nose pliers and put about a 1/4" loop at the end. Cut the antenna a bit long and when you tune it, tune it with the loop. Just keep twisting it until it tunes, but always keep the 'end' of the wire away from the tip just in case it sticks out. You don't want something that could poke or scratch if it does hit your eye. An advantage to this is the 'ball' at the end acts a bit like a capacitance hat and will widen the bandwidth a bit.
Easy HT Improvements  
by KF4HPY on November 21, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
Use small clamp , battery or alligator for BNC type mount. Ed KF4HPY
Easy HT Improvements  
by K1CJS on November 23, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
If you can get into a repeater well, the extended 19 inch whip and the tiger tail will not seem to be an improvement, but if you're in a fringe area and sometimes can't get into the repeater, it may mean the difference between picket-fencing the repeater or having a scratchy audio input and getting into it solidly--or as it's said, full-quieting.

In other words, if you're getting into the machine well now, it won't make a bit of difference--but if you're not, it probably will.
Easy HT Improvements  
by W8AAZ on November 23, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
The cheap way to do it for sure. However I obtained one of those collapsable defunct AEA half wave HT antennas some years ago and it is great for fringe use but costs money and is something else to carry around. Equivalent antennas are still being made though. The wire deal costs basically nothing for the performance improvement, and is easier to stash than another antenna when not needed, or no real tears, if lost.
Easy HT Improvements  
by W4CP on November 27, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
Thanks for the article.

I've been buying or making better whips for my HTs since around the mid-1980s and I still do it.

I bought a Tiger-tail when they first came out to test it (early to mid '90s). It worked well, so I made a couple more and used them regularly.

Then, a couple of moves and time goes by and I didn't really "need" the extra performance of the Tiger-tail very often. So now I don't know where they are and haven't used one in years.

Sometimes you need to be reminded to do what you already knew you ought to do. :-) [I could relate this concept to exercise too... ]

And I also purchased the AEA half-wave long ago. I haven't used it quite a while, but I DO remember where it is.

I've just got to put things I already have to better use. :-)

Thanks for all the info (gotta make a Tiger-tail for my newer SMA radio) and the reminder.

Curt W4CP
Raleigh, NC
RE: Easy HT Improvements  
by N3CSA on December 1, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
That's a great article with good information.

I use a Diamond SRH77CA and it has significantly better performance over the stocker on my ICOM T7H.

You have me thinking how much better it could be with your mod added! Thanks for your article.
RE: Easy HT Improvements  
by K0VH on December 4, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
I tend to agree with K1CJS regarding being on the fringe of repeaters. I was also initially skeptical of this article but since it technically made sense gave it a try with great results so far. I am 1 mi north of the city limits on the fringe of our three club repeaters in Rochester MN: two 2m and one 440 DSTAR systems. During warmer months I am either outside more (or can step out on the deck or hang the whip outside a window), but now that winter is here the next four months I am stuck inside a lot more. If I want to operate outside the basement HF/VHF shack, using my VX-170 2m HH or ID-31 440/DSTAR HH on other main floors of the house is the convenient "family" way to go. Last year I dumped the SMA OEM rubber duck antennas and put a 19" bendable whip on the VX-170 and an extendable gain whip on the ID-31 with improvements, just not enough to wander far from windows on the main floor.

I put a 6" counterpoise on the ID-31 over a week ago and was amazed I could actually get into our DSTAR repeater from our basement! During a net Sunday night I pulled the counterpoise on/off and saw 1-2 bars of receive change (I used open ring terminals around the SMA ground so I could easily remove just the counterpoise since I frequently use the ID-31 when mobile). Yesterday I put a 19" counterpoise wire on the VX-170 and during a QSO with a local ham pulled the wire off (I was unreadable) to on (almost full quieting).

The 6" 440 wire is easy to handle, but the 19" is more of pain to drag around, so while I plan to keep using them inside, I would classify them as more in-house range extenders that really do make an improvement.
RE: Easy HT Improvements  
by KF7VXA on December 9, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
Good article. HT's can be a blessing or a curse.
Just getting the new people to hold the antenna vertical goes a log way in reaching as far a possible. I still see too many with their HT slung sideways.
Just climbing a hill helps sometimes and I've even managed to complete a very noisy contact just by standing on the cab of my truck once. (low power UHF) It's gotta be pretty bad before that will help at all.

Thanks for the write up. I've considered putting a rat tail in my bag before, but have never done it. Looks like I just may do so. I don't think it would be needed often, but there just might be that one time.

73's John KF7VXA
Easy HT Improvements  
by K2XLG on December 14, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
Just want to add a quick note on this.Yes,the additional counterpoise works.Most every HT can benefit from this. But be careful doing this on HT's that use BNC connectors.Depending on the plug,or antenna,there may not be sufficient space between it and the base of the BNC socket.If connector is tightened without enough clearance at the base,it will strain the two lugs on the side of the socket and possibly rip them off.Been there,done that.The lugs aren't very substantial to begin with.This obviously isn't a problem with SMA connectors.
RE: Easy HT Improvements  
by N6JSX on January 1, 2014 Mail this to a friend!
It is nice to see this article was well received and not trolled to severely. Are these items THEE answer to fix the natural limitations of HT operations, no - but it does give you alternatives to try to improve your HT performance.

If you are on the fringes of the repeater coverage using these ideas may improve you signal just enough to be comfortably heard, which is the goal.

The BNC whip included (but poorly shown in this eHAM layout) is a super simple, easy, and very cheap antenna to make. I also use it on my test bench spectrum analyzer, frequency counter, ATV test signal sources as well as a cammy painted stealthy Hidden Transmitter antenna. It may not be the sexiest antenna but it sure is durable.

As far as the Tiger/Rat-TAIL completing a dipole, it is so cheap and easy to make, what do you have to loose in having one coiled up in your pocket or HT Go-Box/fanny-pack.

A 2014 New Years idea: For those of you that wear an E-hardhat with a HT rubber-duckie affixed on the top center, adding/connecting the Tiger/Rat-Tail to the hardhat duckie (rather than at the HT) will complete the desired remote antenna signal improvement you seek. Now just add your call-sign LED blinker badge to your E-hardhat and your are ready for any Emergency.
Email Subscription
You are not subscribed to discussions on this article.

My Subscriptions
Subscriptions Help

Related News & Articles
Experiment: My Son 12 Years Passed Tech:
The Stories Behind the Signals

Other How To Articles
How to Use a Spectrum Analyzer