The popular statement, "There’s good news and bad news ...", could have been written for CB radio. The good news is, sometimes you can talk to someone down the street, or halfway around the world. The bad news is, you may not always be able to talk to someone down the street, or halfway around the world. That is the nature of communications on the CB band.
The frequencies that CB radios operate on are affected by terrain, ambient weather conditions, the forever changing height of the ionosphere, sun spot cycles with their radio frequency (RF) interfering magnetic waves, and the quality and design of the equipment. On any given day (or hour of the day) you might find that the person you spoke with earlier can no longer be contacted. And, while you are trying to talk to that person who is two or three miles away, somebody that lives a thousand miles or more away comes in as if they were in the other room. Since it is humanly impossible to manipulate the things in nature that affect all radio wave transmissions, especially those in the CB band, knowledgeable people with honest intentions will not promise the CB user a specific distance that they can consistently communicate over. Of course, dishonest people are apt to tell you anything when trying to separate you from your hard-earned money.
If ask to make an honest statement regarding the distance that one may expect from a legally operated CB, the statement across the industry must read as follows.
CB operators can expect a fairly consistent operational range of three to five miles in an area of limited obstructions. Prolonged periods of relatively consistent performance between two or more sites in the five to twenty-mile range is a very common occurrence. Consistent operation between locations beyond twenty miles will most often be sporadic. During the course of any given day, for a period that will vary in duration, could occur at any given hour and be in any possible direction, communicating over hundreds, thousands or even tens of thousands of miles with no more than 4 watts is a very probable possibility.
There are many things that a CB operator can do to maximize performance under any set of conditions.
CB is meant to be a fun, useful, inexpensive, and unlicensed means of communications for Joe Citizen. Cost is minimal and airtime is free. If you are aware of the limitations that go along with the frequency, you can expect your CB to perform exactly as it was intended, so long as you do the most that you can do with the pieces you can control. Have fun! Have good conversations! Have CB!