AM & SSB: A ‘Gentlemen’s Agreement’

Hello to my friends and Directors of the ARRL,

I noted with pleasure that the ARRL Board has passed a motion addressing HF data bandwidth.

For many years, there has been an outcry from HF AM operators to have the ARRL Board address the situation of the original ‘Gentlemen’s’ agreement that was set up – basically from the stations that operated AM. In the mid 50’s, SSB became more in use, the “wars” began and I can attest, personally that there were actual wars. I was not a part of the physical ‘wars’ but knew some that did get involved. All of this came to the end when both sides met and formed a ‘Gentlemen’s agreement which – at the time, the ARRL helped to adopt and publish the agreement. Everything became calm. The two modes worked side by side, respecting each other.

The ‘agreement ‘ on 75 meters was originally 1.885 – 1.900, 3.870 – 3.890. 7.290 – 7.295. 14.280 – 14.290 This ‘Gentlemen’s’ agreement worked for more that a decade but as new license holders came on the scene, they knew nothing of this verbal agreement as the ARRL no longer published or admonish the original ‘Gentlemen’s’ agreement. Little was said of it – nor the need. If they did publish, one had to dig deep to find any of the information about the AM window. To answer some of the complaints , the ARRL set out to publish their own band plans… however most of the times the band plan is published, the AM Window is never mentioned…. Perhaps just a calling frequency. The DX windows, the SSTV windows have all been rewarded the strength of the ARRL to help publish their operating window and helped to keep those published and policed. Why has the ARRL not continued what was set forth back in the late 1950’s ?

With the advent of the newer transmitters and SDR equipment that all work beautifully on AM, there is a resurgence of the mode joining the scores of vintage operators that have been operating in those windows for many years….. usually having to put up with many unruly operators that could care less about a’window’. Little is published or talked about from the ARRL, so why should they worry? The respect of other operators has certainly dwindled. The other issue of maintaining these windows, is that new operators are invited to join an entirely new form of Amateur Radio communication. Without your help, AM operation sometimes become a vast wasteland of SSB operators that feel they can land anywhere, thus causing very unwelcome places to operate. Each of us work hard to bring young operators onto the frequency bands, but I know – first hand that when some of these brilliant, inquisitive young minds are looking into modes that have never worked they sometimes discover some very unpleasant conversations. All of this can be corrected by publications, articles and some policing by the new Volunteer Observers organization. Without the help of the Board of Directors to maintain this ‘Agreement’, the VOO have no ’teeth’.

I, along with many AM operators truly believe that if the Board of Directors would address THIS situation as they have the data bandwidth situation, it will further the development of new operators to join fellow AM operators and brings yet another aspect of Amateur Radio without conflict.

I look forward to being of any help to bring the ‘Gentlemen’s Agreement’ back into play.


Dr. Bob Heil, K9EID

Bob Heil, K9EID, is the founder of Heil Sound and host of's Ham Nation which streams live each Tuesday at 6:00pm PT (9:00pm ET) at Contact him at [email protected].

22 Responses to “AM & SSB: A ‘Gentlemen’s Agreement’”

  • Tony Everhardt/N8WAC:

    Since 1992 I have yet had any help from the ARRL on a gentlemen’s agreement. I’ve always had them turn their back on me. It’s basically as long as you are within your FCC approved band plan you are free to do what you want. Good luck Bob. Maybe they will listen to you since you have more clout.

  • Colin GM4JPZ:

    Bob, as we have found lately in my country, the problem with Gentlemen’s agreements is that they require gentlemen to be valid. You will look long and hard nowadays to find gentlemen anywhere amongst the braying herd. Just try to educate those who are – through no fault of their own – ignorant, but maintain a zen detachment when it gets awkward. We are living amongst aliens, but they are in the majority, and we are like the dinosaurs on our way out.

  • Ross KG5OED:

    Sounds good to me. Let us do and get more frequency to work on.

  • N5MAB:

    We keep AM and will not give up our Agreed frequencies.Some time we have down right rude interruption! Bout on the whole Hams are a great bunch! Check us out on 3890 net and round table saterday and sunday mornings
    Paul N5MAB

  • Joe, N3JI:

    Agreed 100%, Bob. I am holding out hope that together with the ARRL, and Riley’s hooks into the FCC, the VOs will have some bite. I have seen the lack of respect almost weekly lately with our AM activities in the “Window”. I started on 3880, but a group would start up on 3878 even after 3880 was occupied with AM for hours before. So we moved up. Now I see it on 3890 from above. It’s a damn shame that people can’t respect the mode and understand the a lot of this gear is crystal controlled so QSY’ing ISN’T an option for us. This is what makes the Window so valuable.

    Hope to hear you again soon on AM, and thanks for all you do!!

  • Walt N5EQY:

    What we have her is the result of the new generation who have NO respect of anything but ones self righteous desires. Its the new socialist age of children who have been brought up with no discipline or respect for rules and traditions. Its a shame really but its reflected in our liberal media and now our amateur radio community. Traditions change, sometimes for the worst when we ignore the rights of others or long standing agreements. Realistically, the advent of computerized radio control and digital programs has created a new culture that has little or no interaction with each other. This is becoming very aware to us all as the screech of pc to pc comms without human interaction is popping up in established voice areas. Traditions are ignored and the selfish now “have rights”. Hopefully, when and if propagation rises to a semblance of the past, things will improve?? I started my amateur radio life in the 70’s and made contacts and friends with people all over the planet and was actually fortunate enough to live in many places and travel and meet many of them in person. Try it you will like it.

  • Zal----VU2DK:

    Lets see if this makes any sense–its out of any ARRL-The Radio Amateur’s Handbook.
    Its the very 1st. The Amateur’s Code of conduct——The Amateur is Gentlemanly—He never knowingly uses the air for his own amusement in such a way as to lessen the pleasure of others. He abides by the pledges given by the ARRL in his behalf to the public & the Government.
    There are a total of six Codes of conduct–how many newer hams today, are aware of these ?
    When I became a ham in the 1960s–my father told me–you dare go on the air without knowing these six Codes !

  • Dr. Bob HEil, K9EID:

    Thanks everyone for your comments… keep them coming and let’s get as many as possible to contact your ARRL Director. Better Than that, please send your thoughts to Howard Michel, WB2ITX the new CEO. He is marvelous. The first bright light at the end of the tunnel – and it is NOT a train coming this way. Howard WANTS to make corrective changes. If we all just sit back and let the trolls and unruly people continue, they win. This is an EASY fix as the rule was already set in place decades ago, but slipped away as SSB advertisers became more prevalent with the league so they didn’t support the AM mode. Today is a different animal as just about every new transmitter sounds great on AM and we are seeing a new interest in the mode, so let’s all gather asa many as possible and send some thoughts and ideas to Howard at [email protected]. Togehter we can make this happen.

  • Steve Herrington, KH6VK:

    Thank you for this article and for the responses (I especially appreciate Colin’s…).

    I am not an AM operator, but this is the first time I’ve ever heard of these AM windows. From now on, I’ll respect them, and I suspect that the majority of hams who are aware of them will also adhere to them.

    Education is the key, and I salute what you’re proposing/doing.

    Aloha and 73…

  • Steve Herrington, KH6VK:

    I forgot to ask…

    What are the portions of the other bands that were part of this agreement? Do AM operators still limit their operating to those?


  • Ron K4SX:

    I strongly support the AM Window Gentleman Agreement.

  • Nick K5EF:

    I agree with the OM who, as a young Op, read that Amateur Code and understood what it meant: that being an Amateur Radio Operator is an earned privileged. Surely the League can include the Amateur’s Code with the pieces of material it sends to prospective and current League members each year.

    Perhaps revisiting these various Gentlemen’s Agreements and the Amateur Code would awaken some folks and return a degree of civility to Amateur Radio. It used to be a simple and to the point “LID” comment served as a concise wake-up call to an operator who truly needed to clean up his act. In the 1960s, NOBODY wanted to be viewed as a LID. LID was the put-down of last resort, reserved for special circumstances. Yet now, nobody is a LID…just a #@$XX!. Is that really necessary?

    Gentlemen Agreement Windows are needed to keep QRM down to tolerable levels and for all to enjoy their specialized interests in the hobby. Offering these AMers a mere sliver of spectrum absent of SSB QRM/splatter is not going to cripple any SSB net operations, QSOs or scare DX off into the Sunset. What’s so difficult about avoiding those few AM segments? SSB rigs – since the the early 1950s – have vfos….turn the Big Knob, boys, and let’s give everyone a bit of space!

    73 Nick K5EF

  • Paul, N6SFC:

    One of the first things I learned as a Novice in 1971… LISTEN FIRST! It seems so simple to me. Tune your receiver to a desired frequency and just listen for a minute or two. If you’re operating SSB and you hear an AM carrier, move up or down 5 kHz and try there! Nobody wants their QSO interrupted by an AM carrier OR “Donald Duck”. I love that old saying about having two ears and one mouth; we all should use them in that proportion.

  • w8tow Steve:

    Greetings all.

    We have an amateur radio license that is not mode by frequency dependent
    except where specified by FCC law. I do not feel we should support such a
    petition that exempts activities in the AM mode on frequencies outside of
    the “Windows” described. Those were loosely established by the ARRL years
    ago and are largely Unenforceable.

    20 Meter AM activities on 14.330

    75 Meter AM activities on 3.705, 3.725, 3.838

    40 Meter AM activities on 7.175
    These operations need inclusion in the “gentlemen agreement” and the only
    way for such courtesy to occur is via respect and dialog between those who
    operate AM vs other modes of operations in the spectrum.

    Thanks for the discussion

  • Al Gallo WOERE:

    I so appreciate all the comments. Being licensed since 1957 I am very familiar with A M now and then.
    When one comes up in the ranks, it is much easier to understand the dilemmas that we have faced being an “AM’er. I particularity coincide with K9EID and N5EQY opinions. We are all in the same special fraternity of HAM RADIO. We need all for one and one for all attitude. “RESPECT” This is a way of life, lest we not forget!

  • Chris, KD6LOQ:

    I agree with “windows” as a place to start looking for desired mode/activity, but Paul, N6SFC is right. The first and foremost thing we should always do is LISTEN for all modes! Remember CW is allowed in all portions of the spectrum and can de disrupted too. That said, the Gentleman’s Agreement has worked because back in the day, we were taught to be gentlemen (and ladies) and respectful as such. But that’s another story. No mode owns a window of spectrum and many vintage AM rigs may be limited to a select few frequencies by their rocks (crystals, for you younger folks) and not able to tune to the AM windows.

  • Renee KC3NG:

    Bob Heil Im amazed at the position you are taking.

    I’ve been a ham since 62 and remember this argument vividly. In the early 60s I was an AMer. I could easily give a one hour lecture on AM. But why? That’s history. It’s very old news. There isn’t anything new to AM.

  • Dr. Bob Heil, K9EID:

    …thanks to all that have read and agree. There certainly IS new AM news ! Until recent, the SSB transceivers never worked our sounded well on AM. The new bread of SDR with FLEX, ANAN as well as the 7610 and the game changing transceiver 7300 – ALL sound wonderful on AM. Many times it is difficult to discover if the station is truely plate modulated or the new breed of SDR transmitters and because of this, AM activity is growing – and growing at leaps and bounds so yes, there are many new things happening within the AM Windows – and my main reason for making some of the new license holders as well as seasoned operators aware of the AM Windows.

  • Richard /w0bvt:

    When I’m asked, why AM? I explain that for many of us, after we purchase or restore one of the classic vintage radios from yesteryear we want to try it on the air. If you restore a vintage car or truck, in most cases you are going to want to drive it, of course.

    There are others that just enjoy AM for the many reasons already mentioned. Also, AM and CW are great modes for those of us that love building ham radio projects. In this case, advanced electronic techniques can produce extraordinary results. As I recall, the FCC did want us to experiment.

    Much thanks to Dr. Bob Heil for getting this moving in the right direction.


  • Walter Underwood (K6WRU(:

    I try to be pretty careful about frequency usage and this is the first time I’ve ever heard of an “AM window”. I have heard of a couple of AM frequencies, though those seem to be mostly used on the US east coast. Maybe there is some AM activity on the west coast, but I haven’t heard about it.

    Note that the 14.280 to 14.290 AM gentlelman’s agreement exactly conflicts with the 14.285 QRP centre of activity gentleman’s agreement.

    If you do operate on these frequencies, please be considerate to the worldwide Scouting Jamboree on the Air on 14.290 and other frequencies. That is Oct. 18-20 this year.


  • Norm Jacques W1NLJ:

    I am a 68-year-old ‘newbie’ that wants to play by the rules, including ‘gentlemen’s agreements’ but, as I prepare to put my first HF station on the air, I can find no guidelines other than reference to ‘calling frequency’ or ‘AM window’ on any band plan. Technically, my General Class license gives me access to certain portions of the radio spectrum, but I would much rather do so courteously and without ‘stepping on any toes.’ I can’t do that, however, if there are no clear guidelines for where I can courteously transmit SSB signals, for instance.

    Also, I get a monthly ‘come on’ from ARRL, but don’t see that they are particularly effective in lobbying on our behalf! The magazine is nice, but $49 a year is a pretty stiff subscription fee…..when I can get essentially the same info from YouTube!

    Thanks, and 73

  • N4RXV:

    Thank you Bob for your efforts… one of the problems with the Window that is allotted, is, the Broadcast Stations that are still in our Window on 40M. I will say mostly we do OK on 40M playing hopscotch back and forth from 7285 to 7295 but will run in to folks that will get right under us or over us. So, even when we do get to use the AM window frequencies, we are hopping around the BC stations… All help appreciated sir !!!
    joe b.

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