Rockwell Collins KWM-380

Discussion in 'General Technical Questions and Answers' started by MB104, Jan 29, 2013.

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  1. MB104

    MB104 QRZ Member

    I am a first time poster here, and have never used a ham radio. My grandfather was quite the radio user, and has many patents and inventions to his name. I don't recall his call sign, but he was big into ham radios for decades. He passed away recently, and I was just given his Rockwell Collins KWM-380 radio. I literally know nothing about it. There is no microphone or antenna, but when I plug it in, it powers up fine. He barely used it, since he had a heart attack shortly after buying it in 1969 and never set it up. It sat in his closet for decades until he passed away in 2012. A picture is below...

    My main reason for posting is for some help in getting this up and running. I assume I need the following three things: 1) a call-sign 2) a microphone (it is missing) 3) an antenna. I understand that I can make an antenna with 50 feet of stripped wire, but this is foreign to me. I'm not looking to break the bank, but do want to get this operational. Sorry, it is not for sale, please don't make an offer. Yes, I do know what is worth.

    Thanks for any/all help.


  2. WB2WIK

    WB2WIK Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    For assistance with getting licensed, I'd recommend you consult here:

    Then, find the location of a local "license class" activity:

    They often include VEs who can actually provide the examination; but for more information on your local VE sessions and locations, look here:

    I doubt your grandfather acquired the KWM-380 in 1969, as it wasn't invented yet. It's actually from about 1979 (first introduction) and was sold for several years after that.

    50 feet of stripped wire doesn't make a good antenna. You can "listen" with almost anything for an antenna, but for transmitting and actually making contacts, there's more involved. Several good books that can serve as an introduction to amateur radio, including antenna theory and construction, are here:

    You can also use the search feature of this website to find local hams who are close to you and will be able to help. Type your zip code into the search box and click the arrow next to the box directly under that, highlight "BY NAME/ADDRESS" and then hit ENTER to do a search on hams in your zip code. You may find some who are very close by to you. Reach out and see if you can find an old-time ham who's been licensed many years and has a lot of antenna experience, and ask for help!:eek:

    Good luck. The KWM-380 is old enough that even after a long period of "storage," it could have functional problems such as oxidized switches and controls, etc. However it's worth trying out, and if necessary, servicing to bring it back to full functionality. It was a very good "rig" in its time.
  3. MB104

    MB104 QRZ Member

    The year 1969 was a typo. I read your post and then realized I put in the wrong year. He did buy it in 1979. When I picked it up last week, it still had the plastic covering that he put on it before storing it. It is in nice shape. A local ham recommended a G5RV classic antenna. Any thoughts on it? I also found a mic. designed for this radio for $45.
  4. W9GB

    W9GB Ham Member QRZ Page

    The KWM-380 was built by Collins at their Cedar Rapids & Anamosa, IA factories. It was based on the military / US gov't Collins HF-380 transceiver.

    There are handful of qualified technicians for this radio, many retired or former Collins employees.
    KWM-380 Service & Parts

    Jim Maccani - WØHUP
    4140 Elkhorn Drive N.E.
    Cedar Rapids, IA 52411
    Phone: 319-393-0094

    The date is incorrect, as this radio was only available from 1979 - 1983 (My Elmer had one).
    There were ~ 20 factory modifications for this radio.

    KWM-380 Accessories, microphones were mfg. by Turner.

    Do Not Attempt self repairs, radio is early computer logic design, some parts now difficult to find.
    That may be suitable.
    Do you have an FCC license? What are your intentions?
    Last edited: Feb 1, 2013
  5. WB2WIK

    WB2WIK Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    The 380 will work with many microphones except condenser mikes which require phantom bias voltage. But if you can find a "matching" mike for $45, that sounds like a good deal to me.

    A G5RV works on 80-40-20-12 meters, so it's kind of a "4-band" antenna. The KWM-380 does not have an internal antenna tuner of any sort, so you'd probably need one unless you use antennas that are well matched.

    Try it out, receiving; that will allow you to check the functionality of all the front panel controls (switches and potentiometers) and give them some exercise, which after lengthy storage they might need.
  6. WA6MHZ

    WA6MHZ Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    That is a VERY VALUABLE, and HIGHLY COVETED Radio!!! Treat it gently as it is worth THOUSANDS and THOUSANDS of Dollars!!!
  7. WB2WIK

    WB2WIK Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    Could be. There's one on eBay right now that's like brand new with a $2000 "Buy It Now!" price. It may or may not go for that:

    I sold mine in 1988 for $1195 and it was perfect, but there's been inflation since then.:p
  8. MB104

    MB104 QRZ Member

    My intentions are to 1) get this working with the right antenna/mic 2) get a license 3) use and enjoy it!
  9. W9GB

    W9GB Ham Member QRZ Page

    Mike -

    You may be eligible for your grandfather's call sign, IF you progress in your licensing in near future. Otherwise, it will be available as a vanity or for reassignment by the FCC (for US amateurs).

    As I remember, only 2000 of these radios were manufactured -- which is reason for collector pricing ($1700 - $2300 typical).
  10. WB2WIK

    WB2WIK Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

  11. KE3WD

    KE3WD Ham Member QRZ Page

    It would be highly recommended that you get your license and then pick up a more modern transceiver in order to use everyday, to learn, to experiment and use grandad's rare gem once in a while for special occasions -- IF it is still in operating condition.

    That rig is a collector's dream indeed. It is rare. It is also a difficult piece to work on or repair, even for the experienced ham operator.

    You really should contact a pro technician who specializes in these rigs and see about shipping it to them first for complete checkout, cleaning of controls and lubing same, before attempting to operate that rig yourself.

    Then, after getting it back from the shop, you should really study the operation manual for the rig, sign up for the collins yaesu group and communicate with other owners and operators of the rig.

    You will be better off to do so. And so would Grandpa's fine piece of ham radio history, as well.

    He left you something a bit rarer than a Rolls Royce Silver Ghost...

  12. KL7AJ

    KL7AJ Ham Member QRZ Page

    That is one fine radio, laddy...and it looks extremely clean.

    Get yourself licensed and have a blast!
  13. KO6WB

    KO6WB Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    Depending on what your grandfather's call was, then you could obtain it as a surviving member of the previous holder. You would also need to have the proper class of license to do so. If the call was just a 2X3 or a 1X3 then a technician ticket or better would enable you to get the call. If it was a 2X1 or a 1X2 then you would need to obtain the level of Amateur Extra to claim the call.
    There's going to be a lot of studying and taking the practice exams to find out when you're ready for the test. I used a site call Hamtestonline. The site is; There are also practice exam right here on this site.
    Okay, the various functions and adjustments and so on are fairly easy to become familiar with. Just read the manual and it'll help you get an understanding of which knob does what.
    For antennas a G5RV may be okay or you could find out how to make your own. It's usually just a specific length of wire, a balun and a feed line. Not difficult really. There are a number of antennas out there and some factory made units as well. If you can get it up properly then an Alpha Delta DX-CC is just about plug and play. Other simple antennas such as single band dipoles are easy to construct. Here is a free download that explains most things well enough for now; Try to keep the first antennas as simple as you desire and you'll be surprised at the performance. It'll even tell you how to make a G5RV if that's what you want.
    Hope this helps
  14. K8JD

    K8JD Ham Member QRZ Page

    Before you plug in the mic (or telegraph key) put up some wire in the back yard, run it thru a window and connect it to the antenna socket in the rear of the radio and LISTEN for a while, get to know how to tune in signals and see what's going on on the air.
    Get some books on short wave and Amateur radio from the library.
    Buy a few Ham radio magazines from a large bookstore's magazine department. QST, CQ are titles to look for .
    Learn all you can about the hobby.
  15. MB104

    MB104 QRZ Member

    Thanks for all the replies. Lots of good information. His call sign was W2JTJ, and has been his sign since 1951. It is still a valid number. He was big in the radio antenna industry for decades, and if you google his name, you will see some interesting stuff that he did (that is WAY over my head). Here is the google search result from his name: Watson Czerwinski
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