Want to find the best police scanners in the business?
The world is a crazy place. There are a lot of crimes going around nearby you and you’re not aware of them. You might walk into one not knowing that. Why not get a heads up and avoid those? With that thought, the police scanner saw a big rise in popularity.
And not just watching around the crime. Knowing about the weather in the area or the traffic on the highway you’re on, the device lets you get a real-time update of such events that more people are interested in it.
If you’re one of them, then here you will get something that might satisfy your interest. Just keep ongoing.
What are the Best Police Scanners?
Police Scanners have grown in demand and popularity as more people want to get a heads up on crime in their area and traffic updates. The scanners are no easy to find, let alone get the best. Below we summarize the best available in the market with their unique features.
Best Overall: Uniden Bearcat BC125AT Handheld Scanner
It has a clear LED screen, compact size, and a clear, loud audio reception that gives you a well-rounded performance.
Best Car Police Scanner: Uniden BC355N 800 MHz 300 Channel Scanner
You get 50 frequencies and storage banks that allow you to save your favorite band in organized categories.
Editor’s Choice: Uniden Bearcat SR30C Police Scanner
This police scanner has a Close call RF capture feature that allows you to listen to nearby transmissions.
Best User Friendly: Uniden HomePatrol-2 Touch-Screen Scanner
You only need to input an area’s zip code, and you will be able to listen to transmissions from the area.
Best All Rounded: Whistle WS 1065 Desktop Digital Scanner
This scanner comes with many unique features like manual and automatic scanning, manual frequency entry, as well as Skywarn storm spotter to give you everything you might need from a scanner.
Best Handheld: Whistler TRX-1 Handheld Digital Scanner Radio
You cannot go wrong with a whistler police scanner, and their TRX-1 is the best handheld scanner available in the market at the moment.
Most Portable: Uniden BCT15X BearTracker Scanner
It is decently sized and comes with hardware that makes it easy to install in the car and carry around.
Best Home Police Scanner: Uniden BCD996P2 Digital Mobile V Scanner
It comes with GPS compatibility and close call RF capture that ensure you receive active transmissions in the area in real-time.
Best Police Scanner Reviews
Police scanners aren’t that easy to find. Especially all the options out there make it hard for you to find the right option. Don’t panic about that. I’ve got some of the best finds here to share with you.
Check them out.
- 1. Uniden Bearcat BC125AT Handheld Scanner – Great Budget Scanner
- 2. Uniden BC355N 800 MHz 300-Channel Base/Mobile Scanner – Proven To Perform
- 3. Uniden Bearcat SR30C Police Scanner – Excellent Entry-Level Gear
- 4. Uniden HomePatrol-2 Touch-Screen Simple Program Digital Scanner – Simple to Use
- 5. Whistler WS1065 Desktop Digital Scanner – Exceptional Features
- 6. Whistler TRX-1 Handheld Digital Scanner Radio – Build to Last
- 7. Uniden BCT15X BearTracker Scanner – Killer Performance
- 8. Uniden BCD996P2 Digital Mobile TrunkTracker V Scanner – Guaranteed satisfaction
1. Uniden Bearcat BC125AT Handheld Scanner – Great Budget Scanner
The Uniden Bearcat BC125AT fits right in your claws, thanks to its compact size. Finding a good grip on it isn’t hard, and the ridges on the side do help. And while you’re not carrying it, you can seat it on the surface upright as it got a nice balance to it. Plus, the tactile feedback from the buttons is quite enjoyable.
That’s enough about the design and how it feels. Let’s look into the scanner more.
One of the standout features of the Bearcat is its display. It got a large LCD screen that shows everything. From channel numbers to frequency to the modes you’re using, everything gets displayed on it.
The thing that makes the difference on the screen is that you get text tags on it. Now, you can set the name of the channels to know who’s transmitting like your cell phone.
When it comes to listening to transmission, you get a loud and clear audio system here. It got a good tune to it, no muffling sound like the cheap gears.
Besides all that, you get many useful features with the Bearcat. One such is the close call RF capture. Using it, you can get the best reception from close signals near your area. Making this feature more effective is the Close call DND. This feature prevents those other transmitters nearby from interrupting the signal.
Not to forget, there is a temporary lockout feature. You can block the annoying transmission using it.
With over 40,000 frequencies to listen from civil bands to emergency ones, you got plenty to do with it.
- Offers 500 alpha-tagged channels
- Instant tuning to signals using Close call RF capture
- Do-not-disturb mode to prevent close call checks while transmitting
- Can listen to over 40000 frequencies
- Stores 500 channels in 10 store banks
- Has a portable and lightweight design
- Easy to read, low light display
- Simple programming using the radio
- PC programming is also available
2. Uniden BC355N 800 MHz 300-Channel Base/Mobile Scanner – Proven To Perform
If you want a scanner to have on the car, go with Uniden’s BC355N base station. This one has a pretty small footprint that it won’t take much space on the dashboard.
So, what does it offer?
With this police scanner, you get 300 channels in 6 storage banks. In each of those banks, you can have 50 frequencies. You can now store your favorite civil, military, weather, or any bands in their own category.
Even though it’s an entry-level gear, it got some cool features. To start Uniden’s Close call RF capture is available for the user to enjoy. You can tune into other transmitters in your area and listen to them to know about things happening around you.
It finds the active frequencies quite fast. The radio scanner can go at an amazing speed of 100 channels per second. If you’re justing starting with the radio, the pre-programmed search for services makes life easy for you.
And just like the handheld Uniden, you can lockout channels that you don’t want to hear too. Using the base radio, you won’t have trouble as it got a simple control panel. And with that large, LCD display on it, you as a user what’s going around all the time.
- Got 300 programmable channels
- Nice backlit display
- Has a Temporary lockout feature
- Uses close call technology
- Offers 6-preprogrammed service banks
- Supports both UHF and narrowband VHF frequencies
- Perfect for compact and mobile operation
3. Uniden Bearcat SR30C Police Scanner – Excellent Entry-Level Gear
Coming from Uniden is another great police scanner: The Bearcat SR30C. When you look at it, it looks and feels quite similar to the earlier BC125AT.
And to be fair, both devices are quite similar in terms of features too.
Let’s take it from the top. The SR30C offers you a scanner that got 500 channels with 10 storage bands. You can go through a lot of service bands weather reports, police/marine bands, racing, or other like and choose your favorite ones in their own category. Finding the frequency to listen to gets easier due to it.
To know what’s going about in the area you’re at, you can use the Close call RF capture of the scanner for which Uniden is famous. This feature allows you to tune to close transmission just like that. And yes, you get the close call check with the DND feature.
But you do miss out on the text tagging feature here.
Aside from that, there are a lot of cool features for you to enjoy. Take the delay function for instance. When having two-way communication, so that you don’t miss out on replies it got a delay function in place. Plus, other features are also there like the temporary lockout, key lock, custom, quick, and turbo search.
However, the feature that stands out from the crowd is the dimmable backlit display. If you don’t want the orange backlit, you can just switch it off.
With three power options to run this unit, there isn’t much you can ask to get for the price.
- Offers 500 channels
- Has 10 channel storage banks
- Tunes into close signals with Close call RF capture
- Offers PC programming
- Has priority scan feature with DND
- Display with dimmable backlit
- Has a flexible antenna
- Built-in USB charger
- Has three power option
4. Uniden HomePatrol-2 Touch-Screen Simple Program Digital Scanner – Simple to Use
Uniden with its HomePatrol-2 portable police scanner that is unique from the rest. First thing you will notice using the home police scanner is how easy it is to use.
Tuning into channels take nothing more than the zip code of an area with this scanner. You can listen to the transmissions of police, fire, or other services just like that. With its fast channel scanning, finding the right station takes no time.
To complement all that, the radio scanner has a quality stock antenna on it. It offers a quality signal reception. But in bad weather conditions, it might not work that great. For that, you can always switch to a better antenna.
Other than that, the HomePatrol-2 got features that make it worth spending big bucks on it. Take the active channel recording function for instance. You can now record transmissions with others to make sure to listen back to them later if you’ve missed something important the first time.
Even the NOAA alerts on the Uniden get recorded automatically. Now, you will never miss an urgent weather update ever.
One thing that makes the HomePatrol-2 truly unique is its ease of use. With that 3.5″ touchscreen display, it takes no time to get used to it. Though, it could’ve been bad for the battery life of the unit. But Uniden got that under control with its auto shut down feature. So, it saves power when it’s not in use.
- Simple programming with zip code, local city or GPS receiever
- Offers a channel database with free updates
- Provides active channel recording
- Comes with a 2 GB MicroSD card
- Has a two-color touchscreen display
- Offers NOAA alert service with automatic record
- Rapid selection from saved channels
- Has auto shutoff feature
- Offers avoid and mute option
- Usable as a table clock
5. Whistler WS1065 Desktop Digital Scanner – Exceptional Features
Take a look aside from the Uniden and go to the Whistler brand. They’ve got the best digital police scanner in the form of WS1065.
What makes this desktop police scanner so great is the number of features it has to offers.
Taking from the top, the amount of frequency range it works with is exceptional. You can store about 1800 frequencies on the radio which is an absurd amount. To take it to the next level, you get another 21 virtual scanners where each of them can save complete backups radio config. That gives you a whopping 38000 frequencies to store.
Unlike the old scanners, it doesn’t have bands that let you fix the number of frequencies to store. Instead, you get a dynamic structure system here that lets you choose the number of banks and their size based on your need. No more wasting of memory.
That’s not the end of it. You get both manual and automatic scanning with it. Quick jump to NOAA channels. And even there is a keypad on the unit that lets you enter a frequency number directly to the scanner.
Coming back to the automatic scanner, you can use this to go through the banks and find active channels from your stored ones quite fast. Another feature that is unique to the Whistler is its Skywarn storm spotter which lets you know about upcoming storms right away. Not forgetting about the memory backup that keeps frequencies stored even after some time without batteries.
And when communication going with others, the police scanner lets you know about the signal strength to make changes to get better reception on signals.
There are a lot of great features like such in the WS1065, no joke.
- Context sensitive help for menu programming
- Scan-list functionality
- Offers memory backup for frequencies
- Has a free-form memory organization
- Offers skywarn storm spotter function
- Got Multi-system trunking
6. Whistler TRX-1 Handheld Digital Scanner Radio – Build to Last
If you want the best handheld police scanner from Whistler, then TRX-1 is the one to get. Just like the base station model of its, the Whistler got some noteworthy features.
For starters, the gear got great frequency coverage. With the simple programming system of the TRX-1, things couldn’t have been any better. Just give your location using zip code, area, or the city, and it does the device does the rest.
The preloaded database it comes with makes the job a whole lot easier.
Something that makes Whistler stand out is its ability to receive or skip the encrypted messages. Not all radio scanner can do that, but the TRX-1 can.
Besides listening to encrypted audio, you can record them too. The 2GB microSD card on the unit offers at least 50 hours of recording. And the fact you get a date and time stamp on the recording makes it even better.
The digital trunking system of the radio is also something for users to relish. Unlike conventional radio, you’re not restricted to using the assigned channels. You can look for free channels and start communicating with others using them.
- Has a functional keypad
- Nice backlit LCD display
- Large USA/Canada radio reference database
- Easy and quick location based programming
- Can detect and mask encrypted audio
- Updates firmware, DSP and database library
- Skywarn/weather dedicated button
- Got clock/calendar
7. Uniden BCT15X BearTracker Scanner – Killer Performance
When it comes to the best radio scanners, Uniden is a brand name that comes again and again for the quality it brings to the table. Proving that again, the BCT15X radio scanner.
Yes, it is a base station model, but you get portability with it. That’s because it comes with the necessary hardware to install in the car. And installing it in the vehicle makes a lot of sense. With the BCT15X, you get GPS connectivity. Now, you can get auto frequency updates based on your location, thanks to it. Paired with the close call RF capture, you can tune into active channels in the area right away.
Another thing that makes it great is the fact looking for a service station in an area doesn’t require any programming. It got preprogrammed channels on it.
Memory management is also better with the Uniden. It got 9000 channels that you can store dynamically—No fixed number of stations per band.
But it does lack a recorder. Though that problem gets solved with a recording jack. YOu can connect an external recorded and keep track of transmissions to hear later that way.
So, all in all, you won’t be missing that.
8. Uniden BCD996P2 Digital Mobile TrunkTracker V Scanner – Guaranteed satisfaction
For the best home police scanner, try out Uniden’s BCD996P2 base station. Just like any of the other Uniden scanner radios, it got features that you’ve might become quite familiar with by now.
So, yes, it got close call RF capture that lets you tune into nearby active channels. GPS compatibility lets you move around the car and it changes frequencies within the system automatically based on the location. And dynamic memory allocation that makes the best use of the space for those 25000 channels it got to offer.
But what comes as a real stand out for this particular Uniden is its digital decoding system. Many gears can’t listen to encrypted transmissions. This one can make it more valuable as a police radio scanner.
Plus, there are other cool features that are unique to the device. Location-based GPS alerts are one of such. If you have an area of interest preprogrammed on the radio, this will alert you about that when you come close to that place of interest.
Then there are features like ID auto search and store that looks for active frequencies from a service band and stores them for you in a trunked system of your choice. Great stuff.
But you do miss zip coding in this radio. So, it requires some programming unlike some of the other Uniden’s. That is something you should know about before going with the scanner.
- Offers 25000 channels
- Has Close call RF capture
- Provides temporary lockout
- Has fire tone out alert
- Comes with channel number tagging
- Rapid DCS/CTCSS decoding
- Has a large display with backlit
- Offers preemptive trunking priority
What is a police scanner?
In movies, you might have seen plenty of times police getting radio dispatches from the control room about a crime near their area. Have you ever thought about why you can’t get on those signals using a regular walkie-talkie? They do use radio frequency, then why can’t you listen to any such thing ever?
That’s because those frequencies are discreet. With a regular radio, you can’t tune into those signals. And that’s what a police scanner is all about. It tunes into active frequencies like such to let you listen to emergency responders like the police or others.
Types of police scanner
When you’re in the market for a police scanner, you should first know about the kind of options out there. It’s because there is more than one kind. There are three.
The most common and versatile of the lot is the handheld one. Just like a phone or a walkie-talkie, you can carry it around by clipping it on the belt or having it in the pocket. It’s quite small to fit in there. Mobility is something that you inherit when you get this kind of scanner. Though it comes at a price of range as it gets limited. However, with a good antenna on the best handheld police scanner, you can get around the problem.
There is the next one that is the mobile/base station. These are quite similar to the CB radio in terms of the space they require. They are compact enough to fit in the car that gives it portability. The range such a police scanner provides is more superior. Though it lacks the mobility of a handheld device
Now, there are options like the desktop ones which is also a kind of a base station. However, they have a larger footprint. You can’t install them in a car to use as the other one. But compared to the two, the coverage of it is exceptional. However, it is much more costly, and hardly people can get their hands on them as they are more kind of equipment for professional use.
How police scanners work?
There is no need to get into great details to know how radio scanners work to tune into the signals. All you need to know is that the scanner looks through the radio waves around its area and picks up an active channel. And that is what you get to listen to.
Though there is a method of how the scanner does it. There is a wide range of frequency in use that finding a signal can take quite a long time. That’s why the device got something called the search mode. For a specific frequency range, the best radio scanners look for transmissions. Still, even after this, doing this again and again to find active channels can take some time. For that, the device got the scan mode. What it does, is that when the search is going, the found active channels by the radio gets stored in the memory. Using the scan mode, you can go through all those active frequencies in no time to hear what’s going in your neighborhood.
Benefits of Using Police Scanners
There are many benefits to using a police scanner. Let’s take a look at some.
With a police scanner, you can contribute to the community. Imagine there is a B&E in your area, and you’ve heard that on the radio scanner. Knowing that you will be more vigilant. You will be looking for something suspicious. And if you somehow manage to spot the offender, you can be of great help by reporting it to the police.
Same way, there can be some fire emergency in your neighborhood. You can be one of the first people to respond to see if you can help out there. So, there are many opportunities to come forward and help the community.
And in terms of personal benefits, there is that too. For instance, a journalist can use it as a source to find news. That is a good way to use it. Others can enjoy it for traffic to avoid packed lanes, and much more can be done with it.
From crime watching to traffic watching, there are many benefits of having a digital trunking police scanner.
Analog vs. Digital police scanners
These are your transmission system. The types of signals you use to send a broadcast in simple words. Knowing the difference is crucial. That’s because, if you have a radio with an analog scanner, you won’t be able to listen to broadcasts that are sent using digital encoding.
But if it is the other way around, then there isn’t an issue. It is because digital scanners can listen to both analog and digital broadcasts. And that’s what most services today are using.
You will see some use of an analog scanner in smaller towns. However, when it comes to price, these are more affordable. Digital ones come for a higher price.
So, you need to weigh down the things to get the right type of scanner. If you want to just get started, analog is yet a good option as it is still in use. But for taking more advantage of tuning into emergency frequencies and listen to them, digital is the way to go.
How to increase the range of a police scanner
Since its inception, the police scanner has come a long way. They got so many features nowadays. Yet, one thing that comes to haunt the users from time to time is the range.
People want more coverage area to get to tune into more active channels. In that case, what can you do? How can you increase the range of your gear?
Find out below.
This is a solution that works for all types of scanners. No matter whether you have got a base or a handheld device, with a better antenna for the radio, you can increase the range.
The regular antenna that comes with the radio is OK. But in bad weather conditions, you will have a hard time picking up any signal as there will be too much disturbance around the area. It won’t be able to catch those signals.
A quality external antenna will sort that out for you.
It is a solution that suits the desktop or car stationed devices. With those gears, you can use a signal amplifier to amplify the signal.
Often the quality of the feedline coax might be the reason why you’re not getting the reception you want. Most cheap police scanners got cheap quality feedlines as there are too many interruptions in the line to get the signal. Yes, the higher quality feedline coax will cost you some bucks, but the reception will you get will be much clearer.
Buying Guide: Features To Consider In Best Police Scanner
Looking into the police scanner reviews, you’re still not sure which one to buy. That’s because you can’t tell which feature you need and which aren’t that important for you in the scanner.
To get some idea about all that, take a look at the buying guide.
Number Of Channels:
The more channels you’ve got, the better it is. That’s the rule of thumb. With most of the radio scanner, you will get at least 3000-9000 channels at least to store your config for quick scanning through them. However, some of the radios like Whistler has their unique virtual scanner too in the mix. That gives you more channels to store.
What good is a scanner if it isn’t able to pick up the signals nearby it. With many gears that can be a real issue as they aren’t able to cover a good enough area. You often miss out on listening to some interesting transmission because of it.
It is a feature that has become quite people in recent times for an obvious reason. With a radio scanner, you use a couple of frequencies that are meant for a particular purpose.
But often those lines can get quite congested and you have no free frequency to use. You can get past the issue with the Trunking as it allows the use of conventional signals.
Using a mobile police scanner means, you take it around with you and move from one place to another. That means whenever you come to a new location, you need to program it to scan in that new area to find active channels.
This can be a lot of work, but with GPS compatibility it won’t be. The device will know its location and based on it will search for frequencies in that area. You don’t need to do it.
The device should allow you to fix frequency to find an active channel within that range for you to hear.
Service Search Feature:
There are radio scanners that let you search for a particular service frequency. Let’s say you want to hear the fire service transmissions, you can do that with it as it will go and look for that in your area.
Let’s say you’ve got a device with a lot of channels. Scanning through might take them a lot of time if you get a device that goes through the list slow.
But a gear like Uniden with its 100 channels per second lets you go through them in a flash.
Look for the features for your next radio scanner. If you can get it then it will be a plus as you will be able to operate the device through your PC.
Not to forget, you can download new frequencies and program them to the scanner quickly just using it.
To avoid getting into a sudden storm or anything in an area, the radio scanner got something called the weather alert. It will notify about the upcoming storm or other bad weather conditions with a notification alert on the scanner.
Using the police scanner, you can get updates about nearby crime or traffic in your area.
You can get confused about the mode or channel you’re listening to if you don’t have a good display gear. Some display even let you tag the channels with names.
That way you can make sure exactly what the frequency is and not guess.
If you want to find the active channel right where you’re standing with the scanner, then something like the close call RF capture of the Uniden can be of great help.
It prioritizes the locality of yours to tune into dispatches on that area only and not look for frequencies in a wide range.
Lists and Banks:
Getting a radio with lists and a bank system can be great as you can organize similar frequencies to a specific band. For instance, if you’ve got weather channels, you can keep all of them in one to go through them fast when you’re looking to listen to weather channels.
While using the radio scanner, your device can die on you. When you get it running again, it’s too late as all your config will get lost by then. You’ve got to again set all that from scratch which can be a real pain.
A solution is also there for it as some of the police radio scanners got a memory system that keeps the config stored for some time on the device even after when it is not powered.
If you can’t get a device with the above feature mentioned, then keeping your device running becomes even more vital. That’s why getting a device that can use many power sources to run it is a game-changer.
Even if the battery on the device gets low, you can plug it with USB and start charging it to avoid it getting shut down while in use. Many mobile police scanners in the car even use car power to run them. You can look for them too as you get another alternative power source for your scanner.
Many of the police radio scanners don’t make the best use of storage. They have that rigid memory management system that is quite wasteful. However, there are devices like Uniden’s where you can dynamically manage storage and make the best use of it. With the entry-level gears, you might not however get it.
Scanner Using Pro Tips:
There are a couple of tips that every police scanner user might benefit from. Here they are:
- To know how frequencies work, start first with monitoring the local traffic.
- You might have an analog radio while the area you reside in, the law enforcement there use digital frequencies for transmission. It is exactly why you need to learn about what type of frequency the govt. services use. The easiest solution is to get a scanner that can monitor both formats.
- For a handheld police radio scanner, you should make sure it got rechargeable batteries. Besides that, having the ability to use AA batteries to power it also can be of help.
- GPS and close RF capture is a goldmine that you shouldn’t miss out on. That will save you from a lot of trouble as these will help to scan and pick up active channels without any work.
FAQs on Police Scanners:
Are police scanners legal?
Yes, they are legal to use. However, if certain frequencies are not allowed to listen, then not trying to tune into them is better.
What are alpha tags?
These are alphanumeric tags to give channels name to make them easily recognizable.
What kind of scanners does police use?
Most of the police scanners today are digital today.
Do analog police scanners still work?
In small areas, still analog police scanners are in use. And even in some big cities, you will find active analog channels in use by federal agencies.
How far can a scanner pick up?
It depends on the radio scanner you’ve got. If you’ve got a base station with a powerful reception antenna, it will cover more than 20 miles radius with ease.
Can you use a TV antenna for a scanner?
Yes, You can use a TV antenna for the scanner.
Do police scanner apps really work?
Police scanners apps don’t work like the real device. It barely gets a signal for you to listen to using them.
How much does a police scanner cost?
It depends on the type of police scanner you’re in the market for. A starter kit like the Uniden Bearcat BC125AT goes around 100 bucks. Then others can go 1000 bucks or more.
What is code 6 on police scanner?
Code 6 on a police scanner denotes that the responder is from a long distance.
Is there a way to listen to police scanners online?
There are some websites that let you listen to scanners online.
What does trunking mean on a scanner?
Trunking means looking for conventional frequencies to use when there is no free line on the allocated frequencies for the radio scanner.
Ok, by now from the best police scanners you’ve found the one for you. And even if you haven’t no worries, you can go through them again and take help from the buying guide to nail down the perfect gear for you.
And when you do, don’t forget to share that here.