Everybody knows that the so called “BIG GUNS” will win the contest, but you will have fun even if you come in the 9999th . When “Hams” (Amateur Radio Operators) talk about the Big Guns, they are talking about the radio station that another Ham is operating. These stations are built usually just for contesting. On the outside is a few acres (could be stretching it a bit) of antennas that are of special types (beams, dipoles, and verticals) for different frequencies at legal heights (up to 250 feet). These antennas are on towers with guide wires to hold them straight in the wind, and the antennas are mounted on rotors so the operator can turn them to the desired direction.

The inside of the “SHACK” has at least two of everything. Am not going to get into all the equipment that is in here or the lines/coaxes that run to the antennas as that would take too long and not part of this article.  There of course is (HF, VHF, and UHF) radio(s) with antenna tuners and the different amplifiers (will put out up to 1500 volts on HF, less on higher frequencies). These stations are set up by individuals or clubs that are interested in contesting and cost thousands of dollars (since they are all over the world it could be rubles or the currency of that country!). Of course then there are the “LITTLE LITTLE LITTLE GUYS” that don’t have money to put thousands into radio equipment, all they have is an antenna and a radio to transmit on! As you can see, contesting is made of Hams with different amounts of equipment, and they all are in the same contest and communicate with each other as the object of a contest is to see how many contacts you can make!

In contesting there are several different modes, and for a contest that has different modes involved, they are on separate week-ends. Modes are a method of communicating, and it can be voice (AM or FM), set of frequencies (HF, VHF, UHF), or digital (RTTY, CW, and others). The reason that I have said ‘and others’ for digital is that there are always new modes that Hams are using for communicating. Some contests can run for several week-ends and have various types of communication between the operators, each week-end has a different mode of operation for the same contest such as voice and morse code. Which ever mode of operation, an operator still trades the same information with the other operator. That is location of station (i.e.: country, state), call letters, RST (receiving strength of signal), and power of transmitting station. The exchange can include more information, but it depends on the contest and the mode that is used for that contest.

HF or High Frequency is known for its bounce capabilities. It can/will bounce off of the earth or the atmosphere, but some frequencies are affected by the daylight (heating) or nighttime (cooling) time of day capabilities of this type of acrobatics! These frequencies also will penetrate to a certain depth in most objects. When an operator has daylight conditions they will operate on the upper part of the spectrum, as night approaches the operators will migrate to the lower part of the spectrum. As can be expected the middle part of the spectrum (around 20 meters) has both daylight and nighttime abilitie

VHF (Very High Frequency) and UHF (Ultra High Frequency) are mainly line of sight frequencies with short distance communication. Occasionally under certain weather conditions a oddity called tunnel ducting will transport a signal back and forth for several hundred miles from locality to locality, this is an exception and not the rule! Signals in this area are Microwave frequencies and the power sent to the final for transmitting is regulated by the FCC (Federal Communication Commission) and part of the test to achieve an Amateur License. Some radios in these frequencies are set to a stationary frequency are called repeaters, all repeaters are limited by some contests as to the type of contacts they can make, straight contact without the use of a repeater is legal and not regulated in contests. In contests for higher frequencies the radios and antennas are either mounted on something mobile or are very portable and can be set up and taken down very easily.

The world is divided up into grid squares each one measuring approximately 70 miles by 100 miles (more like a rectangle). These grid squares are then designated by two letters and two numbers (LLNN), These grid squares are than broken down into smaller squares (3 miles by 4 miles Rectangles again)) and is designated by two letters at the end of a larger grid square (LLNNLL) to give a better location. The ham operator(s) that is involved in this kind of contesting will try and find the highest point with-in that square for their contacts and move to another square! The same contact is legal as long as it is from or to another grid.

Contesting on the Ham Radio can be fun no matter what mode it is in! It is my belief that every Ham Operator should be involved in at least one contest no matter which mode it is in! You do have to turn in the contact sheets within a certain time frame for recognition. There usually is either a certificate or pin stating which contest they were in, as well as the year that it took place. Guess if you win, that would be another feather in your hat as I never have, but I look at all the contacts that I have made and how far away they were and that is all the feather I need!

Source by Dave Glass