Review: Rocky Mountain Radar
By Radartest Staff
Last updated: 2023
For years we've received inquiries about Rocky Mountain Radar (RMR) products. A typical query, this one from Paul Schultz: "I ran across an item on eBay for a radar detector called the Mini-D [RMR-D312] which they say blows away the Escort 8500. They claim that the 'Mini' was not included in your test but had a total score of '100?' Any comments to this claim? Thanks for your help."
Schultz was referring to a comparison test we'd recently done for Automobile magazine. Winning a test like this can be worth millions in sales. But it's unusual for a company to claim a first-place finish in a test that included none of its products.
Our history with RMR dates from late 1992 when we noticed its first efforts, the Spirit and the Eclipse. Ads in auto-enthusiast and trucker magazines read: "Radar Jammer, 'No More Tickets.' New technology makes cars invisible to radar, yet 100 percent legal."
Invisibility to police radar strikes an instant chord among drivers. But historically, effective radar jammers have been nigh impossible to find. There's an easy explanation for this: Possession of a working radar jammer is a federal felony, good for a fine, jail time or both. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) rides shotgun on the nation's airwaves, radar included, and tends to go ballistic on the subject.
To learn more, we arrived at a split-level home in Highlands Ranch, southwest of Denver. A woman greeted us at the door and ushered us past a baby stroller and into a basement workshop, corporate headquarters of fledgling Rocky Mountain Radar. There we met the inventor, mid-forties at the time, who quickly rattled off his career highlights: electronic warfare design engineer for Texas Instruments, radar detector designer, radar jammer inventor.
Mr. Churchman showed us his Spirit jammer, hardly bigger than a pack of cigarettes. Its plastic case had but a single red LED on the front. No knobs or switches, no signal strength meter, nothing. Not much heft either: it weighed a feathery 2.5 ounces sans power cord.
"This is a passive jammer," Mr. Churchman explained, "and it works against X-, K- and Ka-band radar. It doesn't transmit. An active jammer transmits a signal back at the police radar. That's illegal. What the Spirit does is take the incoming radar signal, mix some 'white noise' with it, and reflect it back to the radar." And the radar, confused, would simply remain blank, he assured us.
This statement is somewhat at odds with science, not to mention our own experience. A one-square-inch antenna, no matter how efficient, is simply incapable of reflecting enough energy back to a powerful police radar to jam it. For that matter, we've tested $5,000 active radar jammers that pumped out 500 milliwatts—25 times more powerful than a police radar—that couldn't jam anything. Yet here Mr. Churchman was offering effective jamming for a mere $90 to $195, depending upon the model. FCC-legal, too.
Intrigued, we asked to peek inside a Spirit. Mr. Churchman handed us a unit without its cover and we found ourselves looking at a crude, hand-soldered circuit board with one integrated circuit, a couple of diodes, and a half-inch-by-two-inch strip of sheet metal at the front of the case, angled back 45 degrees from the vertical. "That's the antenna," Mr. Churchman said. "See, it reflects the signal right back at the radar."
How did he test his jammers? we inquired. "I just shoot a Doppler source into the Spirit and then to the spectrum analyzer. Here, you can listen to the white noise yourself," he said, and he switched on the analyzer while powering-up a Spirit. When he pointed them at each other a faint screech was heard.
"I use tuning forks, too," he added. "And a lot of customers tell me that they drive right by police radar and nothing happens. Sometimes they even see the cop pounding on his radar, real mad because he didn't get their speed." Mr. Churchman also offered testimonials. Sort of; all appeared to have been written by the same hand and there were no last names, just initials. They all loved his jammers.
Surprisingly, later in our conversation Mr. Churchman volunteered a telling opinion of a consumer's ability to differentiate a working radar jammer from a scam. "You could ship an empty box with a weight in the bottom and only get 22 to 24 percent back [returned]," he confided.
When we later conducted a test of RMR's first jammers—the Spirit and Eclipse—neither jammed anything. None of our half-dozen radars was fazed in the slightest. We couldn't help but remember Mr. Churchman's observation about shipping empty boxes.
Mr. Churchman proved to be quick on his feet. Within days of our story appearing [Automobile Magazine, "The Little Radar Jammer That Didn't", June 1993], the tested products had disappeared, resurfacing instantly bearing new names. Then we received a threatening letter from Mr. Churchman's attorneys.
The letter said back off, or we'll sue. Our attorneys responded: Be prepared to demonstrate the effectiveness of your products in open court—or get lost. That was the last we heard from Mr. Churchman.
The FCC Weighs In
In 2004 the company rolled out its "100% FCC-legal RMR-C450, a radar/laser detector and scrambler [that] not only makes cars invisible to police speed traps up to three miles away, but also scrambles every major kind of radar signal (X, K, and Ka), as well as all laser tracking signals, down to a distance of under 150 feet from the source unit. So effective are the capabilities of the RMR-C450 that its scrambling function is banned in the states of California, Minnesota, Oklahoma, Utah, and Virginia."
The FCC banned this one too and slapped Mr. Churchman and company with a $25,000 fine for "willful and repeated violation of Section 302(b) of the Communications Act of 1934."
Oh, and that claim that the RMR-D312 trounced the Escort Passport 8500 in the test it didn't attend? It's probably best that the D312 was MIA, judging from the results of a later comparison test of the two.