Using a two-way radio as a scanner

One of the more common question we get here at the opulent ScannerMaster Palace is how do I program this (Brand X) radio to my local systems. Usually it is one of those off-shore $40 two-way radio with unpronounceable names that are flooding the market on eBay and in stores.

The basic answer is that you don’t. These radios are intended as Ham radios and are basically toys. Some can be made to receive on VHF and UHF conventional analog channels and even talk on them.  This is not a good thing. First off the build quality on these things is poor. They are designed not for performance but for cheapness. If the radio breaks it usually cannot be repaired.

If your area still uses VHF or UHF analog channels then these might be able to be used to receive your local channels but they cannot do any type of digital or trunked system.

These cheap radios are not ideal for most monitoring anyway. They lack the features scanner buyers have come to expect such as banks, scanlists or quick-keys. They also usually do not support other typical scanner features like CloseCall, Fire tone out, easy field programming etc. They often do not work on aircraft, either civilian or military.

For not much more than you will pay for one of these cheap toys you can get a decent basic scanner like the BC125AT or WS1010 that will run rings around  them with the feature sets.  Our basic scanners start out at under $100 and have way more features than these junk toys.

Favorite Scanners: BC125AT

Another entry on our favorite scanners, past and present!

Today we look at the BC125AT
The BC125AT is the premier analog conventional scanner in Uniden’s line. While it does not work on digital or trunking systems it is a fantastic scanner for analog and conventional systems. It is a favorite for planewatchers and railfans due to it’s small size and large display. It comes with the rubber-duck style antenna and beltclip. It improves on the less expensive BC75XLT in that it supports alpha-tags and PL/DCS.

I spend a lot of time trackside or at airports and the BC125AT is almost always with me. I clip it to my camera strap and it works great. The small size really helps!

This also works in the old-fashioned “Banks & Channels” programming mode. It has 10 banks of 50 channels each totaling up to 500 available channels. If the newer modes of scanner programming confuses you then this might appeal to you.

I use Banks 1 and 2 for rail channels, I put them in AAR Channel positions,  for example AAR Channel 79 is in channel 79 on the scanner. I have a bank each for a few of the local airports and a couple for some local operations. I leave the last bank open to enter in anything I might want to listen to on a trip or event.

The BC125AT uses regular or rechargeable AA batteries and can charge with the USB cable. Free programming software is available from Uniden or you can use the awesome ARC125 software from Butel for an even better experience.


Scanner Tip:  Aircraft Listening with the Air Scanner Package

One of the favorite uses of scanners is for aircraft. It is exciting to listen to control towers, air to air, air shows and other aviation communications.

Some airports have viewing areas that allow you to watch aircraft operations. A scanner will allow you to listen to the operations and know what is coming along next. For the aviation photographer a scanner is essential!Uniden BC125AT Air Scanning Package

One of the best aviation scanners is the Uniden BC125AT due to its compact size, easy operations, low price and great features. We put together an Air Scanner Package based on the BC125AT specifically for the aviation fan, this include the W901 Airband antenna, leather carry case, AC and DC power adaptors and a Starter Aviation Frequency list. This package gets you up and running quickly!

The BC125AT handles the civilian VHF aircraft band (108-137) and the Military UHF Aircraft band (225-380) as well as other analog communications like railroads, some police, fire, EMS and business traffic. This is an easy to program and use scanner at a great price. For serious photographers we suggest keeping a scanner in the camera bag as well, at this price it is very affordable and the size is small enough to leave plenty of room for lenses and camera bodies.

Check out the BC125AT Air Scanning Package!


Scanner 101 – Installing New Firmware for the BC125AT

Firmware Update
Download Firmware Update 1.02.05 (April 26, 2012)

This update makes the following changes:

  • Update the frequency steps in the VHF band to match the latest FCC Narrowbanding band plan.
  • Change the opening screen to include the current firmware version.
  • Apply a one-time routine to convert the memory image of existing channels to the new format required by the narrowbanding change.
  • Change how Marine channels are displayed during service search.
  • Fixed a bug that could cause scanning/reception to stop with certain combinations of Close Call and other features selected.

Directions using Internet Explorer and Windows7 as the operating system

Step 1
Download the Firmware loader for the BC125AT – Download here

Step 2
When download prompt pops up select “Open”
(this will take a few minutes to download)

Step 3
A window will pop up select BC_VUP_V3_00_01 folder

Step 4
Select Setup_BC_VUP.msi and then click run

Step 5
Click close on the Installation Complete window

Step 6
Open the Firmware loader in programs under Uniden , then BC_VUP3

Step 7
When software opens a “Select Model” window should appear. As seen in the photo bellow.
Click Next
BC125AT-Soft001 Step 8
At this point you should have your Uniden BC125At turn on and connected to the PC via the data/power cable. Once this is done Click “OK” (Note: Uniden BC125AT drivers must be installed – Click here for directions)

Step 9

Click “Auto Detect”, when the comport is detected then click “Next”

BC125AT-Soft003 Step 10
Click read and then click “Start”
BC125AT-Soft004Step 11
It will take about 3 minutes for the new firmware to be written to your BC125AT Scanner. Once you see the screen bellow your firmware update is complete.


Scanner 101 – Installing PC Drivers Uniden BC125AT

Installing Drivers for the Uniden BC125AT

Step 1
Download the driver for your Uniden BC125AT
Click here to download

Step 2
Select Save as, then save the file to the desktop

Step 3
In your start menu, go to “Control Panel”

Step 4
In the Control Panel select “System”

Step 5
Select “Device Manager” (Top left)

Step 6
Plug in the Uniden BC125AT info the PC Via the USB Cable

Step 7 
“Other Devices” should pop up on the list as seen bellow.

Step 8
Right click on “BC125AT” and select “Update Driver Software”

Step 9
Select “Browse my computer for driver software”

Step 10
Click the “Browse” button and select “Desktop” and then hit “Next”

Step 11
You computer will find and install the drivers for the Uniden BC125AT Scanner.

Step 12
Take a look at your “Device Manager” window you will see the “BC125AT” listed under “Ports (COM & LPT)”  Once you see this you have successfully installed the drivers.

Scanner 101 – Programming the Uniden Bearcat BC125AT Scanner

Product: Uniden Bearcat BC125AT Scanner

Scanner 101 Topic: Manually programming the BC125AT Scanner without software.


Here are the steps to programming a conventional frequency into BC125AT

Step 1
Press Hold Button and Press the channel number you want to program then hit hold again.

Step 2
Press “Func” (Orange Button) then hit “Pgm E” button.

Step 3
“Enter Frequency” will be highlighted press “Pgm E” button.

Step 4
Press in the frequency you would like to program, then hit “Pgm E” button when you done.

Step 5
Select “Edit Tag” by scrolling the knob at the top of the scanner one click clockwise, then press “Pgm E” button.

Step 6
Using the knob at the top of the scanner scroll thru the letters and stop on the one you want then hit the “6 >” button to add the next letter. (repeat this step on until complete) Once your done with your Text Tag then hit the “Pgm E” button

Step 6
Select “Set CTCSS/DCS ” by scrolling the knob at the top of the scanner one click clockwise, then press “Pgm E” button.

Step 7
You can select from the following CTCSS/DCS options

  • Off
  • DCS
  • CTCSS/DCS Search

If the frequency has a CTCSS or DCS you can program it here or you can Search for it.

Step 8
The other options in the menu you wouldn’t need to worry about when programming. You can now hit scan to start scanning. To add more frequencies repeat Steps 1 – 7.

Programming Software
Programming software is available from Uniden and from BuTel software. Uniden Software will be very basic vs. the BuTel Software will more advanced. With the BuTel Software you will have capability to import frequencies from with a paid Membership.

Product Test – Uniden Bearcat BC125AT

By Jonathan Higgins – The Scanner Expert

Product Tested: Uniden Bearcat BC125AT
Cost of product: $139.95

Out of the box
I’m very impressed with the Uniden Bearcat BC125AT, everything I could ask for in a basic analog conventional scanner. Alpha Tagging, PL Tone, NOAA Weather Alerts, and much, much more!

Once programmed, I had great reception inside of our Holliston office. The speaker audio quality was clear and crisp. Unit is pretty light weight even with the batteries installed.

This scanner will be ideal for someone that in area using analog conventional communications . Also great for auto racing, railroad buff or aviation hobbyist.

What makes this scanner different from BC72XLT and BC95XT?
Uniden added a lot of features, that are available in the XT models.

  • ALPHA Tagging – you can program a frequency and assign a name to the channel such as:
  • Private Line Tone (PL Tone) along with programming the frequency you can program CTCSS or DCS. If you’re not sure what the PL Tone is you can do a CTCSS/DCS Search. This is very helpful with blocking interference.
  • Bigger Memory – 500 channels, 10 banks, 50 channels per bank.
  • NOAA Weather Alert Mode
  • Narrowband Compatibles
  • Includes Military Air Band
  • Priority Scan with “do-not-disturb”
  • Close Call RF Capture with Do-Not-Disturb

    BC125AT is very handsome in it black and gray case, with its easy to press black and white buttons. Very compact and can fit in a shirt pocket without a problem. The display is much larger then BC346XT/BCD396XT, and super easy to read. Across the top of the scanner you have; multifunction knob at the top right, head set jack in the middle and BNC antenna connection on the left. Charging/ remote programming port on the right side. The back of the scanner you have the fixed belt clip and AA Alkaline/rechargeable battery compartment.

    Memory System
    Bank structured memory system with 500 channels, 10 banks with 50 channels per bank. The layout is very simple to understand for someone trying to field program the scanner.

    Band Coverage
    25-54 MHz
    108-174 MHz
    225-380 MHz
    400-512 MHz

    Service Searches
    Very simple to turn off and on Press “Func” then “Srch”. The services are broken down into banks and you can turn them on and off by press it number. Let’s say you want to turn off “CB Radio” press the “8” button to turn it off and to turn it back on just press the “8” again. To return to normal scanning press the “Scan” button.

    1. Police
    2. Fire/Emergency
    3. Ham Radio
    4. Marine
    5. Railroad
    6. Civil Air
    7. Military Air
    8. CB Radio
    0. Racing

    Custom Band Search
    Band Searches, press “Srch” button, you can set up to 10 custom search band limits. While in this mode press “Func” then “Pgm” then Select “Program Limits”. You will have a list of 10 custom search bank.

    Powering the Scanner
    Very much like IPhone/IPod, the BC125AT comes with a multipurpose USB cable. This cable can connect to the PC for programming and firmware updates. This cable powers the scanner via a USB AC or USB DC adapter (Sold Separately). Rechargeable batteries can be charged inside the unit.

    Programming Software
    Programming software will be available from Uniden and from BuTel software shortly. Uniden Software will be very basic vs. the BuTel Software will more advanced. With the BuTel Software you will have capability to import frequencies from with a paid Membership.

    Weather “WX”
    This compact unit is great for monitoring NOAA Weather radio. You can also receive NOAA Weather Alerts while the scanner is scanning. Or you can run the scanner in Weather Alerts Standby mode. In this mode the BC125AT will act as weather station, audio will kick-in with weather alerts. To see all weather options on the scanner press “Func” then the “3 WX” button.

    In the Box

  • BC125AT
  • Rubber Duck Antenna
  • Multipurpose USB Cable

    Owners Manual
    (available online PDF)

    Recommend Optional Accessories
    Scanner Master is currently developing multiple carrying cases and we will keep you posted on that. We carry both optional AC USB and DC USB adapters, along with backup rechargeable batteries. We also have full line of portable antennas with BNC connections. If you plan on using the BC125AT in the home make sure you check out “Spectrum Force Desk Mount for One Portable Scanner“.

  • New Product – Uniden Bearcat BC125AT Scanner

    Product: Uniden Bearcat BC125AT Analog Conventional Scanner
    MSRP Price: $179.95
    Price: $139.95
    Note: Available first week in February!

    This scanner will not work in all areas, please check out sister site for compatibly.

    Bellow is product description provide by Paul Opitz Senior Product Manger @ Uniden

    BC125AT, 500 channels in 10 banks/50 channels per-bank, the BC125AT includes full VHF and UHF coverage (see the frequency chart below), including Air and Military Air channels, as well as full alpha tagging for all channels. PC programmability makes it simple to quickly program up for events such as air shows, auto racing, boat racing, and more.

    Close Call® RF Capture including Do-Not-Disturb makes capturing those unknown frequencies a snap. Plus, Uniden has extended the Do-Not-Disturb functionality to include Priority channels, so annoying interruptions from priority or Close Call checks is a thing of the past.

    The BC125AT includes all the feature enhancements you’ve come to expect from Uniden, including Temporary Lockout, CTCSS/DCS decoding, per-channel dropout delay, and complete search features, all in a compact, easy-to-carry chassis. Weather priority and weather alert will also keep you informed as to the latest weather and other hazard as announced by the National Weather Service.

    BC125AT Features:

    Memory Storage/Programming

    • 10 Channel Storage Banks – You can store up to 50 frequencies into each bank for a total of 500 frequencies so you can more easily identify calls.
    • PC Programming – you can download information into the scanner and control the scanner via your personal computer.
    • CTCSS and DCS Squelch Modes – rapid search for CTCSS/DCS tones/codes used during a transmission. You can identify up to 50 CTCSS tones and 104 DCS codes.
    • Direct Access – lets you directly access any channel.
    • Text Tagging – you can name each channel, using up to 16 characters per name.
    • Memory Backup – keeps the frequencies stored in memory for an extended time if the scanner loses power.
    • Key Confirmation Tones – You can turn on/off a tone that sounds when you perform an operation correctly or if you make an error.
    • Key Lock – lets you lock the scanner’s keys to help prevent accidental changes to the scanner’s programming.

    Close Call

    • Close Call RF Capture Technology – you can set the scanner so it detects
      and provides information about nearby radio transmissions
    • Close Call Do-Not-Disturb – checks for Close Call activity in between channel reception so active channels are not interrupted.
    • Close Call Temporary Store – temporarily stores and scans the last 10 Close Call hits in the ‘Close Call Hits’ system.

    Lock-Out Functions

    • Lock-Out Function – lets you set your scanner to skip over specified channels or frequencies when scanning or searching.
    • Temporary Lockout – makes it easy to temporarily lock out any channel or frequency. The lockout is cleared when you turn power off, then back on so you don’t have to remember to unlock the channels later.

    Priority Functions

    • Priority Scan with Do Not Disturb – lets you program one channel in each bank (10 in all) and then have the scanner check each channel every 2 seconds while it scans the banks so you don’t miss transmissions on those channels. Do-Not Disturb keeps the scanner from interrupting transmissions during receiving.
    • Priority Plus Scan – you can set the scanner so it scans only the priority channels.


    • Display Backlight – You can turn on/off the LCD backlight, set it operate on squelch only, keypress only, or both.
    • Signal Strength Meter – shows the signal strength for more powerful transmissions.


    • Flexible Antenna with BNC Connector – provides adequate reception in strong signal areas and is designed to help prevent antenna breakage. Or, you can connect an external antenna for better reception.
    • Triple-Conversion Circuitry – virtually eliminates any interference from IF (intermediate frequency) images, so you hear only the selected frequency.

    Service Banks/Searches

    • Service Banks – frequencies are preset in 10 separate Police, Fire/Emergency, Ham, Marine, Railroad, Civil Air, Military Air, CB Radio, FRS/GMRS/MURS, and Racing banks to make it easy to locate specific types of calls and search any or all of these banks.
    • Custom Search – lets you program up to 10 Custom Search Ranges and search any or all of these ranges.
    • Quick Search – allows you to enter a frequency and start searching up or down from that frequency.
    • Turbo Search – increases the search speed from 100 to 300 steps per second automatically for bands with 5 kHz steps.
    • Search Lockouts – you can lock up to 200 search frequencies: 100 temporary frequencies and 100 permanent frequencies in Custom Search, Service Search, Close Call Search, or Quick Search Modes.
    • Scan/Search Delay/Resume – controls whether the scanner pauses at the end of the transmission to wait for a reply. You can set the Delay time for each Channel, Close Call Search, Custom Search, and Service search. You can also set a negative delay where the scanner stops on transmissions for a set time then automatically resumes.


    • Weather Alert Priority – the scanner scans active WX channels every 5 seconds to check for the presence of a 1050 Hz Weather Alert Tone.
    • Weather Alert Standby – the scanner allows you to monitor for weather alerts broadcast on NOAA channels.


    • Two Power Options – let you power the scanner using the included two AA rechargeable or alkaline batteries or the supplied USB cable.
    • Battery Save – works when there is no transmission for 1 minute in Scan Hold Mode and any Search Hold Mode (without Priority Scan). This feature turns off RF power for 1 second and turns on it for 300ms to extend the battery life.
    • Battery Low Alert – the icon will blink in the display and a tone warns you every 15 seconds when the battery power gets
    • Built-In Charger – allows you to charge Ni-MH batteries in the scanner using a USB port on any computer and the supplied USB cable.

    Frequency Coverage:
    25-54 MHz
    108-174 MHz
    225-380 MHz
    400-512 MHz