Workshop: Tiger Tail Counterpoise For Your HT by Mindy W7ZAP

A simple, inexpensive and effective expedient to improve a “rubber duck” antenna is a counterpoise or “tiger tail”. Make this from a piece (19.5″ on 2m, 11.5″ for 220 and 6.5″ for 440) of stranded wire, crimped and soldered to a battery clip. Your antenna acts like a center-fed dipole instead of an end-fed dummy load and adds up to 3db to your TX/RX signal. In marginal conditions extend it horizontally, pointing your hand to direct the main lobe of the radiation pattern in the direction where you need a stronger signal.

ARES groups around the country suggest you carry one in your radio go-bag stating that they’re invaluable when you are relying on your HT for critical communications in rough terrain.

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Parts: (makes 2 tiger tails with no wire wasted)

  • Cut exactly 26″ 14-18 gauge zip cord
  • #10 terminals or alligator clips depending on your antenna
  • Solder (if using alligator clips)

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  • wire strippers / cutters
  • soldering iron (if using alligator clips)
  • measuring tape
  • sharpie pen
  • crimper for #10 terminals (if necessary)

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  1. Measure 6.5” from one end of the wire and cut the RED wire only. Be careful not to cut the BLACK wire.  Now, measure 6.5” up from the other end and cut the BLACK wire only. Do not cut the RED wire.
    2 meters = 19.5″
    440mhz = use 6.5″
  2. Separate the RED & BLACK wires between the two cuts at 6.5” by pulling them apart.  You now have two tiger tails.
  3. Strip 1/2″ of the insulation at the double end of each tiger tail and twist the wires together
  4. Crimp a terminal on these wires OR solder on an alligator clip (depending on your radio)
  5. That’s it! Install the tiger tail on your handheld radio

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Theory:(KE4SKY’s explanation here)

The idea is that an HT using a “rubber duck” has -5db gain compared to a quarter wave antenna that is held at shoulder height. Speaking in terms of effective radiated power, a 5 watt HT with rubber duck antenna held at shoulder height is actually only radiating 1.5 watts on key-down. The stock antenna is a horrible radiator, and it lacks a counterpoise or a ground plane to keep the RF from coupling to your body. Similar to using a 1/4 wave mobile mag-mount and not mounting it to a metal surface.

By using a tiger tail counterpoise, you give your HT a missing lower quarter wave and along with a quality aftermarket antenna (flexible 1/4 wave or telescoping 1/2 wave) you succeed in creating a center-fed half-wave vertical dipole, giving the HT much more effective radiated power. The tiger tail can be left to dangle, but is directional and the radiation pattern can pointed in the direction of the station you are attempting to contact for better results.