Little Pistol DX – Tough Going

In the early 2000’s I enjoyed chasing DX from my home station in the Torres Strait Islands (OC-138).

A 4 element long boom yagi some 20m high, nearby waters of the Coral Sea acting as the perfect ground plane, and a positioning high on a ridge overlooking nearby islands all combined to grant me “Big Gun” status.

I was spoiled also with a 200 watt amplifier hammer I used whenever a DXpedition came on the air to bag it quickly.

This setup allowed me to bust a “Most Wanted” dxpedition or AT world contest pileup in just one or two calls and enabled me to hit the 200 DXCC mark in just a couple of years.

Indeed, at this time, I was the envy of most 11m DX Hunters across 43 Division and had one of the most easily recognized callsigns in the world.

Life was good in paradise, the hobby was incredible and I enjoyed every second of it…



These days, however, times are different…

Of course the hobby is still enjoyable but we sit collectively at the bottom of solar cycle 24 and a station once considered “Big Gun” is not nearly as effective as it once was.

The boundaries have been shifted.

The goal posts moved.

The station described above, in fact, is now better defined as a “Small Pistol”; modest bordering on redundant at the very least and somewhat ineffective as a DX weapon compared to the ‘good old days’.

The old saying “It’s not the size of the gun that matters, it’s how you use it” just doesn’t cut the mustard.

Essentially, to achieve results these days — to take full advantage of any small band openings and derive any sort of enjoyment or satisfaction out of the hobby — one needs to go truly “BIG”.

BIG Antenna.  BIG power.  BIG radio.  And most significantly…BIG money (Not great when you dedicate your annual hobby budget to DXpedition work).



In my opinion, anything less than 6 elements and a shack built on a hill or mountain, in the current operating climate, puts you in the “Small Pistol” class.

Furthermore, anything less than 1KW is QRP.

If you can’t hit these targets for one reason or another then hunting DX then is tough work.

For an operator with a ‘pop-gun’ station living in the Pacific it’s tougher than tough; it’s brutal; and only the most resilient of 11m DXers survive to maintain a presence on the airways.

For those of you, like me — a “Small Pistol” with a modest station — take heart though; there is hope on the horizon.

With today’s high end transceivers, propagation predictions, and worldwide spotting it is possible to at least work some local DX, even if it’s the same guys in the same locations.

And if you can survive the tedium of low signals, periods of deafening silence and dust covered log books for a few more years then your “Small Pistol” might graduate to the category of “Big Gun” without so much of an upgrade or penny spent!

73 de Darren, DA-RC HQ Oceania