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Reviews Categories | Towers, masts, accessories, climbing & safety gear | AB-577 Help

Reviews Summary for AB-577
AB-577 Reviews: 14 Average rating: 5.0/5 MSRP: $$400
Description: Military surplus 50 ft tower.
Product is in production.
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WA3AMH Rating: 5/5 Jan 12, 2016 18:31 Send this review to a friend
This "Rocket Launcher" is a gem!  Time owned: more than 12 months
Over several years I had seen several local hams with one or more of the AB-577 (or slightly larger AB-621) surplus military masts (aka "Rocket Launcher") installed to mount one or more good size antennas on. What I found very interesting, was the various ways the AB-577 was being used. Some hams had purchased several of these and mounted them on concrete bases as a permanent location to mount a beam(s) and often to hang wire antennas. Often clubs were using one or more of these at field day. Another group of hams were using these as a temporary mast at their home QTH, raising and lowering and even taking the entire mast down as needed.

In my situation, I began to look for one about 2 years ago to use mostly at my home QTH. Since I am in a small lot in a suburb and luckily no HOA issues, one AB-577 fit the bill well. Also, it could be used on a temporary basis without any special permit requirement, when cranked up it could be almost hidden in among trees in my small back yard, and last but not least, it just fit size wise in my yard including space for the mast, antenna and all guying required.

Soon I began to search for one. Initially I missed out on one, because I responded too late. Fortunately about 6 months later another one became available on an on-line ham site and was from a ham about 65 miles away. It turned out to be in almost new condition, with most of the parts included. I immediately contacted the ham, and we agreed on a price via the phone. Good thing I said I wanted to go ahead, because he had many other calls to purchase it right after mine, including from a ham over 2,500 miles away!! This seller had even tried previously to sell it at a local small hamfest, but had not found a buyer.....I am not sure why, but I was lucky no buyer showed up that day. The seller even had a pickup truck and even dropped it at my house when the rental truck I had arranged fell through.

Shortly after I got it, I made a careful inspection of the AB-577 and parts and even began to assemble it in my garage. Everything worked well, and I really learned a lot from this exercise, including that I did not know enough yet to put one up. One word of is quite heavy and can tip over so be very careful when you move it around. For the few parts that I was missing or needed repair, I contacted Ben at Ontario Surplus, and luckily he had these in stock and he quickly got these down to me in great shape at a reasonable price. Ben was great to work with.

Since I had not really used one of these masts before, I really needed some way to learn more before I attempted to put my own up. Fortunately Field Day was coming and I found a local ham club that uses a number of these each June....and they always love helpers to put them up and even more, to take them down. So I jumped in and spent most of Friday and Sunday PM, learning from some real experts and getting right middle to get as much hands-on experience as I could. It really helped!!

Another great help was the original manual which is available online and can be easily printed. I especially like the section which describes what to do with the AB-577 if it about to fall into enemy hands (this is a military mast that was often used in Vietnam and I believe even Korea). I read and reread this manual and it was especially helpful when I was getting ready to my mast and antenna up for the first time in November 2015 for Sweepstakes. If I didn't understand something, I reread the manual again. Or contacted a ham. I can't recommend this enough.

It took me 4 days to assemble my antenna, and put the mast up the the first time. I rushed nothing, truly taking my time. Since my antenna was relatively small, I planned to try and put it up by myself, with only very little occasional help.

When I was ready to put up the mast and antenna, I first broke it down as much as possible to help with the weight (and to keep my back intact). My son helped me for a total of about 45 minutes at various intervals. I intentionally took my time putting the mast upright and attaching the critical lower set guidewire assemblies. I continually was making sure it was level (with my $4 corner level from Home Depo!!). I did not use a concrete base, since I was not permanently keeping it up...I simply dug a small 1 inch hole and put a nice piece of cardboard in the bottom to keep the dirt out of the mast. I did stake the base as described in the manual.

Antenna wise, I was looking for a small antenna that would cover all of 20, 15 and 10 meters, CW and Phone. I almost went with a hex beam, but was concerned how top heavy one would be to mount up on the mast with a regular five foot ladder. After carefully measuring my backyard and tree spacing, I decided to go with the 2 element SteppIR. I was glad I did, since I was able to relatively easily mount it on the mast, tilted over or upright. And the SteppIR elements were very near the same shade of green as the AB-577, making the entire assembly hard to see, especially with tall trees in the background.

Fortunately I had time, so before cranking the mast, I waited for a nice calm day. I took my time cranking up the mast. I had carefully inspected and laid out the guy wire assemblies ahead of time. The antenna and mast went up flawlessly, the only issue was the two of the rubber guides on the launcher did partially come apart, perhaps due to age, but not enough to be of concern. Fortunately the rubber guides are still readily available, or you might be able to find/make something else that would work just as well.

The mast and antenna worked well for me in the ARRL Sweepstakes, even with a poor QTH location which is down elevation wise and has very tall trees around it. I kept it up for another couple of weeks, and then bought it part way down since we were due to have some heavy winds and I was going to be out of town. All was well and when I got back, so I put it back up the the full 40+ foot level and used it again for another few weeks. I then bought it down and now have the "rocket launcher" , mast parts and antenna very neatly stored in my garage. I'm sure the next assembly for Field Day and/or Sweepstakes next year will go much quicker.

The bottom line is I have been very happy with this mast. If you think you might want one, hopefully you can find a local ham or two or a club that is using them, to see how they work and if this mast really fits what you want to mount one or more antennas on. Even those with HOA/permit issues, you might be able to find a way to make this work.

Thanks for reading and good contesting and DX!!

73s Gary WR3R and previously WA3AMH

KD7EHB Rating: 5/5 Sep 16, 2015 11:02 Send this review to a friend
Great tower solution  Time owned: more than 12 months
Simply, if you can find one.....BUY IT! They are as rare now as hen's teeth posted for sale.I found one last year being sold by a ham caught between his two favorite hobbies, ham radio and off roading. Seems his XYL gave him a ultimatum when he blew his engine raiding the bank accounts and sell his truck or ham stuff. Must of been a difficult choice but,worked for me. The lesson here is anyone that has one, won't give it up since it is as good as it gets for a back yard tower or field day use. Nothing cheesy about the construction, the best Uncle Sam could pay. Recently I called Ontario Surplus and asked what a complete AB-577 would go for in good shape. Short answer of $1100 plus was given. Use that as a benchmark if you find one.
KY6R Rating: 5/5 Apr 4, 2015 16:39 Send this review to a friend
The Best  Time owned: more than 12 months
I have one with 55' of mast, and its the best tower system I have ever had. It will go with me when I retire in 10 years - because I can fit the whole shebang in the back of a pickup truck.

Found one 1 year ago in the Sierra Foothills for $600. Holds my N6BT DXU-32 (3 elements 20M and 2 on 40M) easily. Dang - should have purchased the second one the fellow had. Oh well.

These have become very hard to find . . .
N1YWB Rating: 5/5 Dec 10, 2013 13:49 Send this review to a friend
Perfect for field day  Time owned: more than 12 months
My club (Radio Amateurs of Northern Vermont) owns four of these. They have revolutionized our field day operation. They go up quickly and easily. They have safely and securely withstood severe thunderstorms and extreme stupidity. I can't imagine field day without them. Another local club even managed to let one fall down; They hit a root with the ground anchor and unknowingly broke the screw off the end. Thankfully nobody was hurt and the mast was, amazingly, undamaged.
KG6UTS Rating: 5/5 Apr 21, 2011 11:31 Send this review to a friend
free bee  Time owned: 3 to 6 months
Just lucked out on this one, a pleasant surprise. I was called to remove 'some ham junk' from a property and it turned out to be a complete AB-577 and the parts of two homebrew hexbeams. The tower is great for my temp set up holding a TH3-MK3. Its easy to pull out sections to lower the mast when storms are expected and since it is 'portable' permits ~8^)

K0EX Rating: 5/5 Jun 29, 2009 10:50 Send this review to a friend
THE portable tower solution !!  Time owned: 3 to 6 months
among the members of our DX group, we have several of these. they are perfect for putting-up a rotatable, directional antenna for Field Day. equally so, even tho they can be erected for long-term use, they are a great solution as a temporary tower (to keep one "on the air") while installing a permanent tower. when/if you buy replacement parts or accessories, working with Ben and his crew at Ontario Surplus is an A+ experience.
WB2SZR Rating: 5/5 Dec 14, 2008 11:31 Send this review to a friend
Get one if you can.  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
Getting harder to find but do a Google search and you will find the last remaining source. Put mine up, by myself in under a day. It is an amazing piece of engineering and a bargin at the price. This had to cost the Gvt thousands of dollars to produce. It is so well designed to be quickly put up without the need for a concrete base , special tools, ladders, or anyting. I am very impressed.
KB3IFH Rating: 5/5 May 25, 2008 05:51 Send this review to a friend
Nice Tower  Time owned: 3 to 6 months
Since there hasn't been a review in sometime I thought I'd add one. Purchased mine for $500. I put the tower up by myself with no help. Manual is very easy to follow and installation took about 3 hours since I had never done it before. The slowest part (for me) was getting the screw type stakes into the ground. Several folks in the Maryland area have these as permanent installations. It would be a perfect tower for Field Day or any portable operation.

Here's a link I found to download a pdf copy of the manual:

KN7T Rating: 5/5 Oct 27, 2006 15:59 Send this review to a friend
Perfect for small spaces  Time owned: 3 to 6 months
I have one of these installed in my backyard and it supports an HX-5Bi hexbeam and a B&W BWD-90 folded dipole. I bought mine from another ham who no longer had a use for it. Occasionally, you can still find these at government auctions but they are becoming increasingly rare. A number of places still sell spare parts for them and E-bay is another place where I've seen parts available. Installation of the AB-577 is rather straightforward, the military manual that came with it is very clear and intuitive. One person can erect this tower but I would only recommend that if you're doing it in completely calm conditions. Otherwise, have a buddy help you with the raising/lowering as needed. The base of my AB-577 sits on 4 square concrete pavers that are set in sand and the tower is pinned to the ground through holes that I drilled in the pavers. The tower base has a built-in level which aids in getting the thing set-up vertically. The steel guy wire assemblies are beefy but the adjusters on the ground end can be difficult to work and there are reports of them breaking at inopportune times. There are two types of guy wire anchors supplied with the tower, one is a standard drive in type stake - the other is a longer, screw-type auger. I used both types for my installation - the longest wires are attached to the screw anchors, the shorter two sets of wires are attached to the drive in stakes. The lowest set of guy wires can be a hazard, so be careful when you're working around them so you don't inadvertantly hang yourself. I have bright orange ribbon tied to mine to increase visibility. This tower can easily support a small tri-band beam but I've seen antennas as large as a TH6DXX installed on them. Since the tower can be rotated by hand, there is no requirement for a rotator but be aware that manual rotation of the unit is very noisy and not something that you'd want to do in the middle of the night during a contest. For my application, this tower is just what the doctor ordered and it's far cheaper than a full-up steel tower and concrete base.
N3FR Rating: 5/5 Feb 13, 2003 17:12 Send this review to a friend
Great tower, very sturdy  Time owned: more than 12 months
I have a Mosley Classic-33 tri-band beam atop this 50 foot tower and the entire setup works great. Initial installation took about 2 hours for 2 guys. Next lowering and raising should take only 1 hour for one guy. It would be difficult at best to reach the elevated back part of my yard with cement so this was the perfect answer. Last year we had 75 mph winds whip through our neighborhood and the tower didn't even wimper. The tower is also supporting 4 dipole antennas. I am very, very pleased with this tower.
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