A couple of weeks ago, I came across a good deal on a returned BC125AT handheld scanner on Amazon. I thought it might be a useful radio at the price, so I ordered it. At the same time, I went ahead and purchased Butel’s ARC125 to program it with and waited for its arrival. In short order, it was delivered and I programmed it up with coastal Georgia area air traffic control and military aviation frequencies.
Before I get into how it performs, it’s worth mentioning some basic information on the BC125AT. It’s about the size of the Uniden BCD396XT but slightly wider at the top (just like the 396 and the Uniden BCD436HP, it will fit in an AR-15 magazine pouch). It’s powered by two AA batteries (2 rechargeable ones come with it). The rechargeable batteries are charged through a USB micro jack on the side of the radio (if you’re computer programming the radio, it programs through the USB micro jack as well). The display is well lit and the characters are large and easily readable; those who have trouble reading the smaller characters on many new scanners won’t have trouble with this one. The display is also backlit, but the keys are not lit. Unlike Uniden’s newer scanners, it doesn’t use an SMA antenna, it uses a BNC antenna, so make sure you keep that in mind if you buy one and plan on getting an aftermarket antenna for it. It’s an old-school scanner; instead of using Uniden’s dynamic memory or Whistler’s object-oriented scanning, it uses banks and channels – 10 banks of 50 channels for a total of 500 channels. It’s a conventional analog FM/AM scanner only, it doesn’t do trunking and it doesn’t do digital. It does do PL/CTCSS and DCS tone squelch. It has a few menus for changing settings but otherwise, it’s pretty straightforward. It doesn’t have a memory card, so it doesn’t record audio or offer a replay function. As far as programming goes, software isn’t as necessary as it is for radios with dynamic memory or object-oriented scanning, but it does make programming the radio easier, especially when it comes to alpha-numeric tags on the channels (it’s worth mentioning here that you can’t rename the banks, you’re stuck with Bank 1, Bank 2, etc.).
As far as performance goes, I’ve been very pleased with how it’s been working. With the stock antenna, it did well on both VHF and UHF airband frequencies. It also did well on UHF military aviation frequencies. When I put a Diamond RH77CA antenna on it, it did quite well on VHF/UHF airband and UHF military aviation frequencies. UHF airband and UHF military aviation performance was on par with my BCD436HP and probably a bit better than the 436 on VHF airband. Needless to say, I was very pleased with how it worked for aviation monitoring. I tried it on both marine VHF and railroad frequencies in the Savannah area with its stock antenna using its preset searches for both and once again was pleased. On Marine VHF I was able to easily listen to USCG Sector Charleston and Station Tybee transmissions as well as Savannah Pilots and some of the commercial shipping traffic on the Savannah River from the Skidaway/DeRenne area. From the same area, I was able to easily hear railroad communications from the rail yards on the west side of town. Once again, I was pleased with the results.
Based on my experience, here’s what the BC125AT is useful for:
- Airshows or Aviation Spotting – It would make a great airshow or spotting scanner for aviation/milair frequencies and analog FM frequencies. On a full charge, the rechargeable batteries will last about 6 hours or so depending on how busy it is and how loud you’ve got it.
- Rail Fans – It would likewise make a great radio for rail fans as long as the area you’re in isn’t using NXDN. If the railroads in your area are using NXDN, you won’t be able to hear with a BC125AT. Analog railroad frequencies are pre-programmed in a service search bank so you don’t have to program them into the radio.
- Ship Spotting – It would make a terrific radio for ship spotting around rivers and harbors. The Marine VHF frequencies are pre-programmed in a service search bank so like the railroad frequencies, you don’t have to program them into the radio.
- Rural Public Safety – If you’re in a rural area that hasn’t moved to digital or trunking, this radio will scan analog public safety frequencies at an acceptable price.
- Race Scanning – It’s small size would make it a great radio for scanning the analog FM frequencies used by race teams. Keep in mind that if the public safety agencies supporting the race are digital or use trunked radio systems, you won’t be able to scan them with it.
Overall, I have been very pleased with the BC125AT. It’s not a fancy radio and it doesn’t have all the features of newer digital trunking scanners, but it fills the niche of a simple, inexpensive (you can easily find them for around or under $100) radio quite well. If you have a need or desire for a scanner that just does AM and analog FM and you don’t need practically unlimited memory, this is the radio for you.
Note: The BC125AT would not be a good public safety scanner for Bryan, Chatham, Effingham, Glynn, or Liberty counties; it does not do digital or trunking and the SEGARRN radio system used in those counties is both.