Sorry for the delay in replying - somehow missed your post for a few days.
Originally Posted by DHERRON
You don't say what part of WV you are in. I've been to several parts of that state, and can't say I remember hearing a soul on 2 meters. There was another fellow from WV who posted here a lot who claimed that 2 meters was a snakepit in his part of the state, though that's been some time ago.
Unless you happen to be someplace that's unusually active for 2 meters, I think you should skip VHF/UHF, go straight for the General, and get on HF.
Indeed, I think the FT-950 would be a better home station than the FT-897. But you really must consider antennas. The antenna is much more important than the radio. A good antenna will make a mediocre radio shine.
For the lower bands, a vertical is a good choice. I do like my 43 foot vertical, particularly on 40 meters. If you can roof mount a trap vertical like one of the 'BTV' series from Hustler, and get at least three 'tuned' radials for each band, it can be a very effective antenna for 40 meters and higher in frequency. The 4BTV is cheap, too. You'll need a way to tune it, and I recommend borrowing or stealing an SWR analyzer to make the job easier, particularly if it's on the roof. If you can get a dipole high enough in the air, it will work well and you'll work some DX with it. For the higher frequency HF bands, a beam is really a good idea. It does not need to be a monstrosity. Consider a two element tribander like those from Mosely, a Hexbeam or Spiderbeam. I have the spreaders for a Moxon's Rectangle I'm building sitting on the front porch. These antennas can be supported by a heavy duty TV mast and turned with a TV antenna rotator, or better yet, use a roof tower with the feet reinforced inside the roof.
You can score a better radio for less money by going the 'used' route. There are good deals out there if you are patient and look around. Several reputable dealers resell used gear, and most of them have some kind of warranty so it's hard to get burned that way. I generally have faith in the people who advertise on QRZ and QTH.com, too. I avoid EBay for the most part. There are a lot of good HF and HF+6 meter rigs of fairly recent vintage that should fill your wish list. The Ham Station has an IC-718 for a little over $500 - definitely a decent little rig. If you want to start with a much higher end rig, they have a used TS-480 HX (200 watt) for under $1,000. They have an IC-7200 at AES for under $800. You should be able to buy any of these rigs with confidence that they will work. The 480 HX will require one huge power supply or two 20-something Amp units.
If this is for a home station, invest in a good power supply. I picked up a used Astron RS-35 for about $100 recently, and I expect it to last me forever. It almost matches the RM-35 I've been running for about 40 years now.
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