Last updated 6/24/2012
Early Phazer, Patriot and Eclipse jammers from Rocky
could ship an empty black box with a weight in the bottom and
only get 22-24 percent back," inventor Mike Churchman told
us in 1993. Which is exactly what he was doing.—and it made him rich.
For those seeking more protection than a
detector can deliver, there's a veritable smorgasbord of gadgets
claiming they can cloak your car with an impenetrable electronic
shield. Some promise protection from radar, others from lasers;
some claim they can defeat both. Another group promises protection
from photo radar, the stealthy camera-radar system used in fewer
than 20 U.S. cities.
claim to jam radar by receiving the inbound microwave beam, mixing
with it some white noise, then reflecting the altered signal back
to the radar, so confusing it that no speed is displayed. Active
jammers transmit a signal designed to make the radar disregard
its own return signal, placing it in an endless loop as it continuously
tries to acquire a speed. Not surprisingly, active jammers are illegal
Passive jammers transmit nothing and are perfectly
legal. Passive jammers were invented by Mike Churchman, proprietor
of Rocky Mountain Radar. We first tested Churchman's magic boxes
in 1993 and have since tested all his products, including the best-selling
Phazer ($200) , claimed to jam radar and laser and Phantom
($350), claimed capable of both detecting and jamming lasers and
See how Rocky Mountain Radar jammers and others fared in our latest laser jammer test.
In reaction to past stories we've written for Automobile Magazine,
the BMW Roundel, Mercedes Star, AutoTronics
and Car Audio & Electronics, among others, the resourceful
Churchman quickly renamed these same boxes--the new appellations
include Illusion, Shadow, Eclipse, Patriot
and Avenger among others--and continued doing business without
missing a beat. He's also produced several private-label versions
with names like Barrier-RDR and Barrier-LSR.
Except for the Phantom, which contains rudimentary radar-detection
circuitry, each is essentially an empty box with a 12-volt power
cord, a cheap cast-plastic waveguide assembly, one or two front-mounted
LEDs, a basic power-supply circuit and a button or two. Press the
button and an LED lights up, accompanied by a tinny bird whistle.
("Our patented 'FM Chirp', " company salesmen proudly proclaim.)
We've tested these products a dozen times against every front-line
police radar gun and laser, finding all of them utterly worthless.
Interestingly, while we were riding with Texas Highway Patrol trooper
Mack Wallace near Houston recently, he stopped a Dodge minivan with
Colorado plates. On the dash was a spanking new Phantom jammer.
The van pilot was told he'd been speeding. "Impossible," said the
agitated driver, "my Phantom jammed your radar."
"Didn't seem to be doing much jamming when you came by me," deadpanned
the trooper. "I got you at 69 mph in a 55 mph zone. Maybe you should
take it back, ask for a refund."
Officer's eye view of Gatso Type 24 control
console. Violation speed of 73 mph is the 238th to be recorded in a two hour period. Worthless at making roads safer but spectacularly
successful at generating revenue, no wonder cities love these
On another occasion, for a film production we had borrowed a Gatso
photo radar unit, complete with marked Ford Explorer police vehicle,
and were operating it next to busy six-lane I-225 near Denver. On
the rear of the radar van we had mounted a giant speed display.
During a break, we noticed a new Monte Carlo pass by several times,
a time-consuming maneuver since it entailed a six-mile round trip
between freeway exits. Then the Chevy pulled in next to us and the
passenger window slid down. "I jammed your radar," the twenty-something
driver said gleefully.
And how, I asked, had this been accomplished?
"With this," he said, pointing to a Phantom jammer on the dash.
"I came past you three times and the sign didn't show my speed until
I was right on top of the radar."
"The radar's supposed to work that way," I told him. "Target speed
isn't read until the vehicle is within about 50 feet."
No way, he insisted. The jammer saved him. And it worked equally
well against lasers.
Whatever. Then I had an idea. "Tell you what," I told him. "We've
got a new Kustom ProLaser II and an LTI Marksman. Why don't you
back up about 700 feet on the shoulder and when you're ready, flash
your lights and drive toward us. We'll try to get you on the lasers."
He loved the idea and backed slowly away from us. When he was in
position I handed the LTI laser to an assistant and hefted the ProLaser
myself. When the pleased Phantom owner flashed his lights and started
rolling, we both aimed and fired. Each laser displayed a target
speed before he'd gone 30 feet. On impulse I snatched up a Kustom
HR-12 hand-held radar when he'd closed to about 500 feet, pulling
the trigger to lock in his 35 mph target speed. When he pulled alongside,
we showed him all three readouts.
"This can't be," he said. "I just paid $350 for this jammer--and
it's so good they'll pay for any tickets I get."
His concern was understandable. The allure of a gadget guaranteed
to make you invisible to police radar and lasers is undeniable.
And nobody enjoys learning that they've been conned. But despite
the fact that Rocky Mountain Radar's wares now appear in reputable
mail-order catalogs, complete with promises of ticket refunds, they
simply don't work. Our suggestion: save your money.
Watchful Eye, a.k.a Mirage 2001--our tests proved
this passive jammer highly successful--at extending radar target
range, thanks to its large antenna.
Another passive jammer is the Mirage 2001, aka The Watchful
Eye, priced variously from $150 to $250. When we prepared to
test one in 1995, shortly after its national debut, company exec
John Turner insisted that we position the radar at least 3,000 feet
away before driving toward it in the jammer-equipped target car.
Forget it, we told him. Typical radar target range in the real world
is more like 700 feet. Turner left in a huff with his jammer.
After purchasing a Mirage/Watchful Eye anonymously, we discovered
why Turner was so insistent on the vast separation between target
vehicle and radar: this jammer actually increased the distance at
which our three radar units could begin clocking the target vehicle.
This is a function of its large antenna. We found that at ranges
beyond the radars' typical operational maximum--about 1,400 feet
on average--the jammer's big antenna reflected enough extra energy
to pump up radar range by up to 500 feet. Try explaining that to
the arresting officer.
One jammer that worked--sort of--was the Phantom RCD ($600).
Originally labeled the Stealth VRCD, it was designed by David
Sullivan, a Silicon Valley microwave engineer of exceptional talent.
The Stealth employs four powerful Gunn oscillators--the same gadgets
that generate a radar gun's microwave signal--to produce a strong
jamming signal. It does so after it detects the police radar and
deciphers its exact center frequency. Then it broadcasts a return
signal which the radar accepts as its own. But target speed varies
so wildly that the radar dismisses it as noise and continues trying
to lock on. So engaged, it refuses to display a target speed.
The sophisticated, expensive VRCD appeared
in 1993, now is called Phantom RCD. Unreliable and totally ineffective against Ka band or modern DSP radar; an elegant answer to a question no one's asking.
When we were first to test a prototype Stealth VRCD in 1993 we
found it capable of some amazing feats. On one occasion, while doing a test for Truckers News magazine, it made
a barn-sized Kenworth cab-over tractor disappear from five of our
seven radars even at point-blank range. But its performance was
spotty--sometimes it refused to jam anything at all--and we found
that bumpy roads tended to set it off accidentally, leading to flat-spotted
tires and ragged nerves while the driver searched anxiously for
lurking police cars.
Another significant drawback: only X- and K band are covered. The
prohibitive cost and extra bulk imposed by adding Ka-band components
dissuaded inventor Sullivan from attempting a triband unit. At the
time it probably seemed a worthwhile compromise. But the roads are
becoming littered with Ka-band radar these days.
Worse, when the current generation of police radar with Digital
Signal Processing began appearing in 1993, we learned that their
lightning-fast signal processing will easily outwit the Phantom
RCD's much slower, analog circuitry. And since DSP radar has nearly replaced the older units, driving today with a Stealth can be risky
The $60 Shadow anti-photo radar license plate
cover claimed to obscure enough numbers to foil identification.
But like competing plate covers, this one didn't work either.
License plate covers began appearing in 1990 not long after photo enforcement became popular. Most use a clear prismatic material that's claimed to allow the plate to be read from directly behind the vehicle. Get off-angle a bit and the plate becomes obscured. Great concept but as we discovered, the execution is a bit flawed.
Recently we rounded up every plate cover available and tested them against each type of photo-enforcement threat--red light and speed cameras, and photo radar. We also tested spray-on material that claims to make the plate so reflective that the glare overpowers the camera and overexposes the photo.
None of this stuff worked. The Photo Blur and Photo Blocker sprays proved especially worthless. Read more >>
There are more countermeasures we'll examine in a future story.
Meanwhile, be advised that the countermeasures market is positively awash
in fast-talking con men, fringe loonies and mad-scientist inventor