Most CB'ers, who've spent any serious time in the hobby and on the band have, at some time, run across the opportunity to talk some DX. DX is defined as "Distance" talking. "Distance", in this case, is defined as communicating beyond what would be considered "normal" daily communications range. In CB terms, what constitutes a "DX" contact, is somewhat subjective and very much dependant on conditions. Generally there are two different types of "DX"; "ground wave", or direct shots, and "sky wave" ionospheric propagation (also known as "skip"). The FCC considers working anyone over 150 miles distant to be illegal. So many people use this as the dividing line for what is, and what isn't a "true" DX contact.
Maximum range on the CB band is determined by several factors. The three most notable are antenna height, radiated power (A function of transmitter power and antenna gain minus feedline losses) and atmospheric conditions. The right combination of these factors can produce some fantastic distances. But you don't need to have them all to play in the game. To achieve maximum line of sight or direct range, requires a fairly high location and antenna height, and a little extra power helps. On the other hand, working ionospheric skip only requires that the atmosphere be ionized and the operator having enough power to overcome other stations and heterodyne noise. Line of sight DX is generally in the 50-200 mile range, while sky wave skip is usually between 400 and several thousand miles depending on conditions.
Those are some fairly basic technical definitions, but what really determines what is "DX" to the individual operator , is making a contact which is further than you've ever done before.
My first taste of "DX" came when I was still running a 100 mW walkie talkie. Normally, I was accustomed to talking no more than a block or two away. So one day, when I managed to work someone a whopping 1/2 mile away, I was naturally excited. Granted, the other station was running a "real" CB with a sensitive receiver and an outside gain antenna, which could stretch my limited range. That didn't matter to me though, and this first taste of DX'ing whet my taste for more and more range. Not long afterward, after experimenting with random length wire antennas outside, I increased the DX bar to a mile in the distance. Then, when I upgraded to a 1-watt walkie-talkie in 1973, the DX bar would be raised to 5 miles under normal use. "DX" for me using the 1 watt walkie, happened when I once took the battery powered radio up to the observation tower at the nearby Valley Forge National Park. This tower was over 70 feet high, on the top of one of the hills in the area. They had binoculars up there and, with them, people could look fairly far in the distance. So it stood to reason that I should be able to achieve similar results with radio. I was not disappointed as I was able to reach distances of over 10 miles. The DX bar moved up yet again, when I finally hit the big time, with a full 4 watt radio and 1/2 wave antenna. This time, the DX bar had risen to about 20 miles. It should be worthy of note that I lived in a bit of a valley with an average height above sea level of 160 feet, with ridges of hills flanking me in two major opposing directions (E&W). This had the effect of seriously limiting my line of sight DX potential in at least two major directions. A side benefit though was that one of the ridges blocked much of the "chatter" from the city of Phila., and prevented it from interfering with us suburbanites.
The time frame, at this point, was late in 1974 and our group of locals (Mostly teenagers) had all heard of "shooting skip". But we all thought that in order to be a successful skip talker meant that you had to be running at least 50 or 60 watts. Some of us tried shooting skip barefoot, on the regular channels on AM, and were met with failure. This further re-enforced our notion that you had to have serious power to do it. Indeed, it would seem that the successful DX contacts of the few stations in our area who did have 100+ watts, further added to the notion. But little did we know at the time, that it wasn't our lack of power which prevented us from making skip contacts, but rather it was the competition with the thousands of other CB'ers all over the country, who's signals all mixed together to produce a high pitched whining noise, which we commonly referred to as "heterodyne". Had we had the capability to go out of band then, we would have had much better luck making "barefoot" DX contacts. Be that as it may, my seeming inability to make skip contacts would not last for long, and would abruptly change when I joined the ranks of the "power users".
That change would come in late 1975 when I would become the proud owner of a Contex 6706 60 watt amplifier, as the result of a horse trade with another CB'er. When the skip rolled in one night shortly afterward, I was anxious to try out my new toy in the DX arena. I soon started calling for "skipland", without a lot of responses. One of my friends then told me that if I was going to talk skip, I had to have a unit number. It would seem that he was correct in that regard, as most skip stations did seem to use unit numbers rather than handles. It also seemed that most of those people preferred to use 3 digit numbers. At the time, I was running my Lafayette Comstat 25, so I simply added a zero to the end of the radio's model number, and I became the "Unit 2-5-0 in Southeastern Pa". My first ever "skip" contact came from a station in Ohio. I was understandably excited, but thought that I could do better. Somewhere I had read that a horizontal antenna was better for working DX than a vertical, so I constructed a 1/2 wave dipole from some 14 gauge wire, and strung it across the corners of my radio/bedroom. I really didn't expect much from an indoor antenna (They historically sucked for local use), but I was almost floored when a station in Kentucky came right back to me when I started calling. I would work stations in many other states the rest of the night on that dipole hanging mere feet above me, never once giving any thought about exposure to R.F. radiation and the possible long term health effects that it might have (I still have my fingers crossed). I also learned that by utilizing the 2 "extra" channels in the Comstat (22A and 22B), it considerably increased the odds in my favor for making skip contacts due simply to basic fact that there was far less noise and competition on those channels. I made many such contacts all over the country for quite a while afterward. But as working domestic skip became like shooting fish in a barrel, the novelty soon wore off. It was no longer exciting to work the same states over and over again. For me, it was not the amount of people I could work, but the absolute distance between us that held my interest.
Many of the other people in our group tried their hand at skip talking as well. Their degree of success, not surprisingly, was directly proportional to the amount of power that they were running. Guys like Steve, Al, Blue Bandit, and a few others, who normally had at least 200 watts at their disposal, usually made the most contacts. Al would eventually move to the freeband on SSB, to make DX contacts and he could routinely work South America, the coast of Africa, and Europe. While those contacts excited me to some degree, I had already "burned out" from "shooting skip" and I only put in a half hearted effort to pursue those "rare ones".
During my 40+ year career as a CB'er, I never really aspired to be a "big gun" DX'er. In fact, by the late 70's, I had pretty much grown tired of the whole activity. Once I proved that I could work skip, there was no longer much incentive to keep doing it. I was much more content to chew the fat with the locals, than trying to hit moving targets in the hit or miss style of DX'ing. With the high sunspot cycle active during the period, it also started grating on my nerves having to deal with daily onslaught of noise and heterodyne levels of "S9" or more. It made talking to the locals more difficult, and you might as well forget talking to a barefoot mobile any more than a few miles out. Many of the locals tried their best to work around mother nature, and maintain contacts with other local friends. In a strange twist of irony, the same conditions which enabled world-wide DX, reduced our local range to that which we struggled to obtain with walkie-talkies only a few scant years prior. Many of us resorted to running high(er) power or escaping to illegal frequencies in order to maintain reliable contact. It was this precise set of circumstances which brought about the best DX contact that I ever made on AM, and the really funny part was that I wasn't even trying! The time was the summer of 1986, and I was on my way home from work. My wife was talking to me from the base. She was running my Yaesu FT-101e at about 30 watts of power, and had the beam pointed due east, which was the direction where I was coming from. The skip level was high that afternoon, so we had moved to Channel 19A (27.195) to escape the worst of the noise. I was running a Midland 77-882, and about 50 watts in the mobile. At some point a station broke in and asked us where we were. I could not quite copy him through the noise and bleedover, but my wife could hear him fine and told him that she was in Norristown. The other station did not know where that was, and at that point I suspected that he was DX. But not in my wildest dreams could I know just how far he was, and was shocked to hear that he was hailing from Bonn in West Germany. While I had some trouble hearing him, he said that he could copy both of us in fine style.
There were a few other "sneak" contacts like that on SSB, where someone would break into a local QSO, who then turned out to be from "out of town". I found these DX contacts to be enjoyable, because they weren't of the "wham-bam-thank-you-ma'am" type of contact, and more along the lines of joining into the round table, for as long as the conditions would allow.
The other fun DX that I enjoyed partaking in, was more recent (mid 90's) and involved a local by the handle of "Unit 1490"(Bill). Bill was a drag bike racer, and high power CB aficionado. He frequently traveled all over the east coast and the south to run in various races. He would always attempt to work the home town via DX, when he was on the road. A few times, when the conditions were right, he was heard in fine style back home, and we would take turns working him. Even with the pitiful 10 watts of power, from my barefoot Uniden HR-2510, I had no problem making the trip when he was in the Carolinas, as well as a few other places.
In the later years, I lost almost all tolerance for skip, and it became more fun to yank the chains of certain, more annoying, DX stations. When some redneck station, who had just got done tuning up all over a local QSO, finally unkeyed, I would hit the switch and say something like "Robert E. Lee was a cross dresser", "Country music is for queers" or "Is that a real radio, or are you operating two cans on a string". It usually didn't take much to wind up these mental midgets, and they'd let out a tirade of obscenities and rhetoric, along with the obligatory "your mom" comments. I figured that since they ruined my night of radio fun, I would return the favor. I've also learned a few "choice" words in Spanish, that I've used against the ever-increasing amount of Central and South American skip that was dominant during the last sunspot peak in the late 90's. Yea, I guess it was a little bit childish, but exposure to this constant barrage of irritation was enough to push me over the edge.
Today, I have little interest in pursuing CB "skip", unless the station is one of the many friends I have made on the internet radio forums, and they're joining into the roundtable. If I turn the radio on and the "S" meter jumps to "S9" or higher and stays there, I turn it off again, and head for the quiet surroundings of VHF. Although making occasional long distance direct shots are still interesting. My new AM direct shot record has jumped to about 75 miles. SSB is a little better at about 95 miles, although I am not sure if the other station was being entirely truthful...