It was during a recent manhunt that we first came across the popularity of police scanners among the general public which is why we have decided to review the best handheld police scanner. There were tweets and reddit subs by the gazillion giving real time updates of the action as it unfolded.
And we thought that these dainty little devices are only being used by sneaky journos looking to get ahead of the coup and radio shack junkies like us who like to keep track of storm watcher networks and law enforcement agencies. So, we decided to create a list of the best ones in the business for noobs looking to hop on to the scanner bandwagon.
If you are looking to get yourself the best handheld police scanner but didn’t know which one to pick, then you are in the right place folks. Alternatively if your not fussed about it being handheld you can look at our main review of the best police scanners.
And for the rest who landed here accidentally or out of pure curiosity, the best handheld police scanner puts you into contact with a world of communication that’s not accessible to the public over a normal radio frequency.
You can tune in and listen to frequencies used by the police, fire department, ambulance and any other emergency service. In the event of a calamity or a natural disaster, owning one of these portable devices can make a significant difference.
We’ll talk about the perks of owning these later. For now, let’s get this done.
Uniden UBC-125XLT Handheld Scanner
Uniden has a range of handheld scanners and the UBC-125XLT is one of the most popular ones due to its robust features and ease of use. This is a 500 channel scanner that includes a bunch of frequencies including Military Aircraft Band, which at this price point is considered to be a premium addition.
It has a very compact form factor, something that can be vital if you intend to hook it to your belt. The construction is top notch too. It has a nice solid feel to it when you hold it, the buttons are well spaced and have a tactile feel to them when pressed. The scrolling knob also feels crisp when you use it.
It also an integrated speaker into it which usually suffices if you have a clear and strong signal. A headset is recommended if you want better quality audio though.
Coming to the most important aspect of the scanner, this is a very efficient device that can be used for listening into communication from air traffic control, ham radio, events, churches, police, boats and occasionally from truckers too. It covers the 25-88MHz, 108-174MHz, 225 – 512MHz and 806 – 960MHz frequency steps with channels being grouped into 10 banks of 50 each.
You can use the Text Tagging feature to add your favorite channels to the pre-programmed channel list. The scanner also has a close call feature, which picks up any strong signal within a two to three mile radius and you have the option of setting it up to inform you about the local signal even if you are listening into another one.
The integrated antenna works perfectly even when used in an urban household that is usually riddled with interferences from electronics and metallic objects. It can easily pick up clear signals from as far as 40 miles with ease. For listening to civil air traffic, you can add a dedicated airband tuned antenna to it.
- Compact and durably constructed
- 500 channel scanner
- Includes military air band
- Text Tagging feature for easily identifying your favorite frequencies
- Rechargeable batteries
- USB slot for charging in car or from a computer
Whistler WS1040 Handheld Digital Scanner Radio
If you have already owned a handheld police scanner and are looking for a meatier upgrade to it that comes with a few bells and whistles, then here’s the Whistler WS1040 for you. This is an advanced scanner that’s considered as Whistler’s successor to the immensely popular Radio Shack PRO-106 and some say it is truly the best handheld police scanner, do we agree?
It covers an extensive range of frequencies including 25-54, 108-174, 216-512, 764-824, 849-869, 896-960 and 1240-130 MHz. To top it off, it boasts of 1800 memories which can be dynamically structured to your preferences.
First things first, the WS1040 is larger than typical handheld police scanners. That’s mainly because of the large backlit LCD display and keypad. It also includes a multi-color programmable LED alert light which can be customized according to the channel received.
If you do not have the scanner in your hand, this feature can be useful in helping you identify which frequency is transmitting a signal without even getting up from your position. For example, Red for County Sherriff, green for fire and so on.
The Object Oriented User Interface makes it really simple to get started with it. The audio quality is excellent, it scans fast and you can program it manually provided you spend a little time with the instruction manual. It also allows you to digitally clone the recorded or programmed data to another WS1040.
If your intended use is to keep track of storm watcher networks, then the Whistler WS1040 gives you one-button access to the frequencies commonly used by them. It is called the SKYWARN Storm Spotter function. You can also use the integrated spectrum sweeper function to track nearby RF sources.
The only possible nit that we could pick with the Whistler WS1040 is that all the menu options and customizations can make it a tad overwhelming for the newbie. You can use software like the WIN500 or Butel to automate the programming. Local HAM radio networks will also be a great point of reference to get started with.
The WS1040 features a MiniUSB port for charging which allows you to use just about any USB charger to power it. Also, the USB Scanner programming cable allows super fast data transfer to the PC or during cloning.
- Sturdily built handheld scanner
- Backlit LCD screen and keypad
- 1800 storage memory with the option for dynamic strtucturing
- Alert LED and audible alarms
- V-Scanner technology
- Digital data cloning
- One button access to storm watcher networks
Uniden BCD436HP HomePatrol Series
When Uniden came out with the HomePatrol-1, it significantly bridged the gap between professional grade scanning devices and ones intended for consumer use. The BCD436HP features the same user friendly interface that takes the guesswork out of scanning.
This is a handheld scanner that comes ready to use out of the box. Load the batteries, power it on and enter your zip code or use GPS to be automatically connected to Police, Fire and EMS channels in your area. For anyone who’s new to scanning, this eliminates the hassles of manual programming.
Also, this makes for a perfect gift for anybody looking to buy the best handheld police scanner only for listening into these channels. Of course, that’s not the only thing that the BCD436HP is capable of.
It features the TrunkTracker V which supports both APCO Project 25 Phase I & II, Motorola and LTR trunked radio. Also, it comes integrated with a list of all radio systems in USA and Canada on a 4GB microSD card. Apart from making it easier to scan, this also leaves ample rooms for recordings.
You can either select channels by browsing through service types and letting the BCD436HP pick the best ones for you or scan using the preprogrammed database. There are dedicated quick keys which give you access to 100 favorite lists with 100 systems per list and a whopping 100 departments in each system.
The BCD436HP also features Uniden’s Close Call feature which allows you to capture RF frequencies nearby with uninterrupted access to ongoing listening. Unwanted frequencies can be silenced using the Temporary Avoid function and restored again when you reboot the device.
With large tactile buttons, a backlit LCD screen and keypad and USB PC connectivity, the Uniden BCD436HP is one of the best handheld police scanners in the market currently for home use.
- One touch set up using Zip code or GPS
- Preprogrammed database of all radio systems in USA and Canada
- Close Call RF Capture function
- Dedicated quick keys for 100 Favorites Lists
- NOAA Weather Alert with SAME
Uniden BCD325P2 Handheld TrunkTracker V Scanner
The Uniden BCD325P2 is an excellent choice for novice scanning enthusiasts looking for a budget priced option that’s close to the BCD436HP in features and performance. It contains most of the features of the BCD436HP but is considered to be a more user friendly option.
The BCD325P is almost identical to most other scanners from Uniden. It is compact, sturdily built and has the large and responsive buttons. The LCD display is among the best at this price point and the contrast and oversized font make it easier to read even from a distance.
In features an in-built antenna which receives digital signals excellently even in a surrounding with possible chances of interference. But like most internal antennas, the capabilities can seem limited if you are looking for distant signals.
It can follow communications on P25 phases I and II along with older analog modes and X2-TDMA, Motorola, EDACS & LTR trunked systems.
Also included is Uniden’s popular Close call RF capture technology, a true band scope function which scans the signal strength for a frequency area or for individual ones. If you are using the scanner in your home with the stock antenna, then this can be a very useful feature that shows you the ideal location to place the scanner in.
You can also use the location based scanning feature provided you attach an external GPS unit with it.
Like we said earlier, it is almost a younger sibling of the 436.
- Budget priced option from Uniden
- Excellent LCD display screen
- TrunkTracker V system that follows APCO Phase I and II, TDMA, Motorola, EDACS & LTR trunked systems
- A.M.E. Weather Alert
- Close call RF Capture
- 100 quick key access
Uniden BC346XTC TrunkTracker III
We thought that it would be good to end this list with one of the entry level models from Uniden because many a time, a casual scanning enthusiast finds all the advanced features and tech talk to be akin to jargon.
This is the BC346XTC that is small, easy to use and has a list of practical features that you’d find useful for casual as well as professional use. For starters, it is GPS compatible. If you are just looking to listen into local frequencies like fire and police, this is a great way to get started without fiddling with the more time consuming details.
It has an internal memory that lets you store up to 9000 conventional channels and trunked system frequencies. Sadly, you cannot name them since it does not feature text tagging. Instead, you can have an audible alert for your priority channel and set different ones for each.
The search mode is very effective too. You can program a range of control channels and the scanner searches through it for frequencies. When it detects a frequency, it opens Squelch. The close call feature which scans for stronger frequencies every two minutes or so is also very useful.
A possible downside is that the manual programming can be cumbersome even if you sync it with a computer and use software. Having said that, there are enough features to use out of the box if you do not wish to go deeper into the settings.
Oh, almost forgot to mention that the package includes an adapter that lets you connect it to an external BNC antenna.
- Compact sized handheld scanner that is ideal for carrying in-car
- Trunktracker III scanning that lets you listen to Motorola, EDACS and LTR systems along with regularly used channels
- Location based scanning compatible with an additional GPS unit
- Close Call RF Capture
- Stores 9000 conventional channels for quick recall
- Fire Tone-Out Alerts
That’s it folks. We hope you enjoyed reading through our recommendations of the best handheld police scanner. Irrespective of whether you are looking to listen into police and emergency service frequencies or looking to listen to storm watcher networks, you can pick any of the five handheld police scanners from this list that fits into your budget. It will work perfectly. Also, we recommend that if you have never used scanners, you spend some time beforehand researching and doing your homework about how these devices work.
Once you get a hang of it, you won’t be able to get enough of it.