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Handheld Antennas
Which is the Best...

Asking "What is the absolute best antenna?" is the same as asking "What type of car should I buy".  The greater majority of the time it will happen to be the exact same antenna that person it using.

Many of today's handheld radios are Dual Band VHF/UHF. As a result, the OEM antennas supplied are a compromise between two bands and a convenient size.  Which is the best is determined by your personal preference.
Rule of Thumb
The longer the radiator, the better the range.  Much like a butterfly net. The larger the net, the more butterflies you catch.
Field Testing 
There are several factors to consider when upgrading and antenna. Size, SWR, design, etc.  An extensive comparison of 31 different antennas was performed by Mike W9MDB. These field tests were performed Over-the-Air.  The test results can be found  HERE
2"  Stubby Antenna
The short stubby 2" antenna uses a coil to match TX to a 50 ohm load, not radiate. Don't expect miracles with this one. Very close range on UHF only. SWR on VHF is through the roof. Use with caution.

2" Stubby Antenna with only 1" of radiator
Don't expect miracles.

2.75"  NA-810

Super flexible. For local repeaters, hamfests, casual use. It's the best of the small antenna group that I've used.  I use this one around the house and at hamfests. SWR is a bit high on these. Personal experience with these is they will get warm on long transmissions. Use with caution for short range.

8.0"   NA-701

This is the favorite replacement antenna for many of the original OEM antennas. The original UV5R antennas left a lot to be desired.  The 701 is a convenient length and has much better performance on both VHF and UHF. This is the minimum of the good replacement antennas.

 8.5"   NA-717

This is a new entry to the Nagoya line of antennas. Measuring in at a half inch longer than the NA-701, the big advantage is its extreme flexibility.  If you carry your handheld clipped onto your belt and don't like the antenna jabbing you in the side, this may be one to consider.

15"   NA-771

This seems to be the VHF/UHF antenna performance favorite of the group.  The 15" antenna tends to be a little large if you're trying to carry your handheld on your hip, but in the field, it's a great antenna.

15"   NA-771R   (Review)

This is the retractable version of the NA-771.  On the air tests show equal performance to the 771 with the benefit of the collapsible element.  With the antenna in the retracted state, it will still receive most signals, but you Must have it fully extended when transmitting to avoid damage to your radio.  A good antenna for hamfests or out in the field.

16"   NA-24J   (Review)

This antenna is the lighter, thinner and more flexible version of the NA-771 above.  Much like the NA-717 above, a good option if radio is clipped to your belt.

34"   Pryme  AL-800

This antenna is a very top heavy and cumbersome. The center loading coil adds to its imbalance. 
Side note: After 3 uses, the top section pulled out and rendered mine useless.


40"   MFJ 1714S   (VHF single band)

Yes, you read it right, a 40" antenna.  It is a full 1/2 wave antenna for strictly VHF.  Field tests show it is excellent antenna, but it's size could be a definite limitation.   MFJ 1714S
54"   Diamond RH205   (VHF single band)

Now, are you ready for the ultimate.  You read it right. A 54" antenna for your 4" radio.  A full 5/8 wavelength antenna for 2 meters.  The antenna termination is a BNC Male, so for most handhelds it will require an adapter. If you truly feel that size matters, this may be the one. 

11"   NA 702   VHF/220MHz Dual Band Antenna  (Review)
If you have a VHF/220MHz transceiver (UV-82X), there's also an antenna specifically for 1.25m band operation  It shows the primary Sweet Spot is around 225MHz, It also works on VHF as well with good results. I show the sweep below.

17.7"   NA 320A  TRI-Band  Antenna  (Review)
If you have a UV-82X, UV-5X3, or any of the new tri-band (2m/1.25m/70cm) transceivers, you may want to consider this one. It's a little longer than a NA-771, but the performance on all 3 bands is excellent.

Thread Depth
Also, be aware that some antenna require different length threads. It the threads are too short, they may not make a good connection. If they are too long, they may not fit flush. Make sure the antenna is made for your radio.  Thread_Link

Counterfeit Antennas

To start, here is the Genuine/Fake comparison directly from the Nagoya website.
My personal experience

Yes, they are out there. These antennas are made to look like genuine antennas, and even copy the manufacturers name.

I purchased what was supposed to be a Diamond 771 antenna from an online auction. When it arrived, there were two obvious packaging errors.
- The packaging read RH-771 (SMA version should read SRH-771.
- The tiny diamond in the fake's logo's letter 'E'  was actually a small triangle. Also the packaging on the fake was smooth plastic as compared to textured.

Click to view Detail

I compared the SWR readings against my two genuine Nagoya NA-771 antennas and threw this one in the trash.

Trusted Brands and Vendors
My personal antennas are Nagoya, but Retech, Diamond, etc. are all excellent brands. Just make sure you purchase from a trusted vendor to avoid disappointment and possible damage to your radio.
What is a Tiger Tail

A Counterpoise or "Tiger Tail" can serve as a nice addition to your radio's performance, especially when operating in the field. It is low cost and simple to construct.  The purpose of the TT is to the have the handheld antenna function more like a vertical dipole. This will add additional gain to both the transmit and receive performance.
- An excellent description of the TT construction can be found in this Video created by Larry WD0AKX.
Nagoya Antenna Feature Chart - Link Here

The absolute Best antenna is the one that meets your needs. There is No Magic Antenna.  And by all means, purchase from a reputable dealer.

All Antenna sweeps provided by Nagoya

NA-810   2.75"

NA-701   8"

NA-771   14.5"


Tiger Tail Video: 
Field Testing: 

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