It used to be that people used police scanners for borderline nefarious purposes and it was indeed a bit of a problem for emergency responders. Nowadays, however, police scanners have evolved to the point where they can also be used to hear the latest news, aircraft, weather, and road condition updates across the waves so as to be fully aware of what dangers await you on the road in your general area. This is bound to save you an awful lot of stress in the long run and perhaps even safeguard you against potential threats short-term.
We should also point out that police scanners have come a long way technologically, to the point where they should be seen as stand-alone ham radios to some extent. That said, you have to understand that not all police scanners meet the same functional standards and that some are definitely better than others. In fact, the good ones can be relied on in all sorts of emergency situations and understandably so. To give you a better idea of what’s out there, we put together a list of the ten best police scanners the market has to offer right now.
Best Police Scanners – Reviews
10Uniden Digital Mobile TrunkTracker V Scanner
With the Uniden Digital Mobile TrunkTracker V Scanner, you will be able to keep up to date with the latest news, alerts, and other information around you at all times. This scanner can be used to pick up on frequencies from the police, weather, news, marines, and more so that you always know what’s happening. It also has a large memory bank which makes it easier to store all your favorite channels and frequencies. At the same time, the device scanner is extremely easy to use and can be set up in a few minutes while the audio quality is excellent and clear.
9Whistler Handheld Digital Scanner Radio
The Whistler Handheld Digital Scanner Radio is a great way to stay connected and aware of what’s happening around you. You can use the scanner to listen in on updates from the police, marines, fire, weather, and news and save them for instant access. The buttons on the scanner are programmable and can be customized to your preference which makes it easier to operate. With the Skywarn Storm Spotter feature, you can get alerted to the closest and most powerful storms around you.
8Whistler WS1065 Desktop Digital Scanner
Definitely considered as one of the most user-friendly scanners available, the Whistler WS1065 Desktop Digital Scanner is easily customizable and programmable. Every item on the menu describes the function in a few words and can be activated or deactivated with the touch of a button. The Scan-List function is great for setting your favorite channels and frequencies so that you can access them quickly. Interestingly enough, all the saved frequencies do not get erased even if the battery dies thanks to the enhanced memory on the scanner.
7Whistler Analog Desktop Scanner
With the Whistler Analog Desktop Scanner, you get a number of functions and features that truly stand out. The Look-Out function is extremely useful as it lets you quickly skip over specified frequencies and channels. Thanks to the Tune feature, you can find new frequencies and unlisted ones that start from the already specified frequencies. You can even set your Priority Channels so that the scanner checks back on them every two seconds so that you’re always kept up to date with the latest developments.
6Uniden 500 Channel Scanner and Alarm Clock with Snooze
This particular device allows you to tune into 500 channels on 10 individual banks, a device that also packs an Alarm Clock with a Snooze feature. With it, you can catch up with the latest news, music, entertainment, public safety announcements, and much more with just a touch of a button. You can use it to search for and listen to the radio bands for Police, Aircraft, Marine, Fire, Emergency Services, and other such bands through this scanner. There is also a built-in FM radio with 30 preset stations and a loud alarm clock with a snooze feature as well.
5Uniden 800 MHz 300-Channel Base/Mobile Scanner
Offering some of the most advanced features on a basic scanner, the Uniden 800 MHz 300-Channel Base/Mobile Scanner delivers a performance very few can match. You can use it to listen to analog receptions from the police, weather, fire, marine, emergency medical services, air, and much more. With the Close Call RF Capture technology, you can pick up the signals from the closest transmitters. It also allows you to save up to 300 frequencies and access them with the touch of a button including your favorite news, music, sports, entertainment, and more.
4Uniden Bearcat Handheld Scanner
This exquisite device features 500 alpha-tagged channels that can be accessed with a push of a button. It is compact and lightweight but delivers a performance very few scanners can match. With the Close Call RF technology, the scanner instantly connects to nearby signals while the Do Not Disturb Mode keeps out Close Call alerts during a transmission. Interestingly enough, there are over 4,000 frequencies that can be accessed using this scanner including police, emergency services, weather, railroad, aircraft, racing events, and more.
3Uniden HomePatrol Series Digital Handheld Scanner
Uniden is one of the biggest names in the scanner world and its HomePatrol Series Digital Handheld Scanner is a unique and powerful product by most standards. This scanner is made from high-quality, durable plastic which ensures that the scanner will last for years. You can use it to scan and select from over 300 frequencies and channels to find all your favorite news, music, police, marines, weather, entertainment, and fire options. The extra-large display makes it easy to read and is perfect for navigating through the menu items and customizing your experience.
2BaoFeng Dual Band Two Way Radio
The BaoFeng Dual Band Two Way Radio is extremely powerful and offers you high and low power settings that save a lot of battery life long-term. It works as a programmable amateur radio as well and has a frequency range of 65-108 MHz which lets you enjoy all your favorite music, news, and other information. We should also point out that it is powered by a 1,500 mAh battery which can be recharged quickly and offers extended life on a full charge. At the same time, the channel names are customizable that helps you reach your wanted destination quicker and easier.
1BaoFeng 8-Watt Dual Band Two-Way Radio
Powering the BaoFeng 8-Watt Dual Band Two-Way Radio is a superior battery that offers 30% more power than regular scanners. This handheld scanner also offers twice the antenna power as most scanners which lets you pick up on frequencies that are harder to find. It also needs to be said that there are 3 power settings to choose from that help you save battery as well as extend the life of the scanner in the long run. Whether you want to enjoy your favorite FM music, local news, entertainment, or want to stay alert with updates from the police, fire department, marines, and more, this scanner will get it done quickly and efficiently.
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Police Scanner Buying Guide
One thing to understand before we get into the specifics of using police scanners is that there isn’t one, universal purpose for using such a device. As a matter of fact, these versatile devices have a wide range of uses when you consider their long-range reach and extended functionality. Before we get into the specifics, we should perhaps point out that police scanners can differ between one another in regards to their design, size, range, inbuilt systems, and their general purpose. To ensure that you’re getting the right quality, you should take the time and first figure out what exactly you need such a device for.
What To Consider
- Model – The first thing you need to consider is whether you want a portable device or one that you can accommodate on a tabletop somewhere. If you are the type to move around a lot, then maybe it would make sense for you to get a handheld, portable version for practical reasons. Now, if you want power over portability, then, by all means, go for a desktop model as they have the longest range of all models.
- Systems – Another thing to think about is whether you want a device that employs an analog, digital, or dual-band system. You make this decision based on whether you want to listen to local broadcasts or nation-wide frequencies. For instance, if your local emergency services are using digital, your best choice is an analog scanner and everything that implies. If, however, you are unsure about the type of system and frequency used, then you should perhaps opt for a dual-band scanner for greater versatility.
- Emergency Use – A good police scanner isn’t just for casual or entertainment purposes, then do your best to get a device with an emergency use feature. Bear in mind that some scanners are better equipped for emergency use than others. So if you want a scanner that will keep you updated on emergency situations, go for a unit that can tune into the local weather warning system like SAME or the like. On a related note, try to consider the battery life of your device as some devices can be quite power-draining by design. In this respect, devices that run on AA batteries are not only guaranteed to last an impressively long time but they are also easy to prepare for in regards to replacing the batteries long-term.
- Local or National – You also want to consider whether the scanner uses a local priority frequency or whether it’s more inclined towards national coverage. By choosing a scanner with a local priority, it will become significantly easier for you to pick up local frequencies and radio transmissions. It is also possible for the scanner to have GPS compatibility to make the device more accurate to some extent. It usually comes down to personal preference with the coverage as it usually depends on what you use the scanner for.
Types Of Police Scanners
- Handheld – These scanners are generally small in size and light in weight to ensure their portability. As you would imagine, handheld scanners are usually quite limited in rage on account of their small size, a range deficit they usually make up for through their ease of use. We should also point out that because of their compact size, these devices also have a limited battery lifespan, much smaller than desktop models for example.
- Mobile – With mobile/base scanners, you get a hybrid between handheld and desktop scanners. As such, they can either be plugged into a wall socket for home use or installed in a vehicle for a more mobile purpose. Some of these devices might even incorporate both a battery operation along with the power cord so as to present the user with a choice when it comes to powering up the device.
- Desktop – The desktop version of police scanners are quite large and bulky, which is understandable considering their range. In this respect, desktop scanners have by far the longest range, yet this comes at the expense of their portability. Now, the lack of mobility is usually balanced by more inbuilt features like a wider range selection, additional channel memory, and more durable construction. Like we said, choosing a type of police scanner usually comes down to personal choice.
Analog or Digital
When it comes to whether you should use an analog scanner or a digital version you need to first understand the history of it. You see, analog devices used to be the standard back in the day and many emergency services still employ the system to this day. This is because of its cheaper running costs and because of how simplistic it is overall. Digital signal, on the other hand, is a lot more versatile as it allows itself to be split into different channels, thus being a lot more accommodating. Bear in mind, however, that digital signals aren’t all that widespread because of the running costs and difficulty to operate.
Why Use A Police Scanner?
Perhaps a better question would be ‘who needs a radio scanner?’ as many of those who employ such devices aren’t really doing it to ‘tap into’ emergency frequencies but rather to access a wide range of channels that are usually closed to the general public for one reason or another. For instance, professional drivers like truck or cab drivers find them very useful to get real-time updates on road conditions, weather alerts, and criminal activity in certain areas. Last but not least, the costs of buying and using such equipment fully reflect the usefulness of these devices so if you haven’t already invested in such a device then maybe you should.