A few years ago I installed lengths of LMR-400 Direct Burial coaxial cable in my back yard. I wanted good connectors for my investment. I seriously considered the superior N connectors, but my DX Engineering Coax Switch uses SO-239 connectors. While not the high quality choice, I succumbed to tradition and sought out suppliers for the PL-259.
Money was really no object since the connector is often the weak link in the system and deserves quality. I just made an investment in 240 feet of LMR-400 cable and wasn’t about to shortchange the connector.
Friends suggested the classic twist-on then solder-the-braid type of PL-259. I recognized this type would fit my coax fine, and seriously considered its use. However, I knew things moved on decades ago since industry (especially Aerospace) shuns shield-solder connectors for a variety of good reasons.
The attributes for my PL-259 connectors were…
- Low Ferromagnetic Content to reduce IMD – This is hard to find. “Pro” connectors are made of brass and plated with silver. Sometime in the 1970s nickel plated steel came on the scene. I certainly did not want Nickel Plating. I figured steel connectors were in my future, but silver plating was mandatory.
- Solder Center Conductor
- Crimp Shield Over Connector Barrel
- Adhesive Heat-Shrink Tubing to cover the crimp
Good connectors are brass with silver plating, solder center and crimp shield plus come with a pre-cut piece of appropriately sized heat-shrink. Typical prices for such connectors run $10+ each.
Affordable PL-259 Crimp-On Connector
Fleeman, Anderson & Bird Corporation offers a good compromise connector at a fantastic price around $3 each.
It does NOT come with the heat-shrink, but they sell that too in four foot lengths.
A good crimp tool is necessary with a .429 hex crimp die.
Yes, this tool is not cheap, but I made the investment and put it in the tool bag. It has been used dozens of times spreading its cost. I have no regrets purchasing this tool. Other less expensive tools are available and might work just fine with larger cable diameters like this.
So anyway this post is just to let amateurs know good quality crimp connections are available today with the supplies from Fleeman, Anderson & Bird.
Shield Electrical Connectivity with Crimps
Many “soldering the shield is the only way to go” folks don’t understand just how good these crimped connections are. A good question asked by some is what is the coaxial cable shield crimped against. The answer is the body of the connector. During installation, the connector body is slid over the inner dielectric and under the shield. The shield is trimmed and the crimp ferrule is then slid over the shield. After the crimp tool does its thing, the shield is held tight against the connector body between the body and the ferrule. This assures positive electrical contact far more regularly than any solder style connector.
It is hard to fathom why the braid solder style connector remains a mainstay in the amateur radio community for anything other than price. In my CB technician days, I certainly had my time with these connectors along with those screw in reducers that make them work with smaller coaxial cable like RG-58. So very many amateur resources come to its defense despite the availability of superior methods and products long ago adopted by the rest of the electrical world.
I guess tradition has its place and I get that. For me, however, I soldered my last braid decades ago and have never looked back.