The BC125AT is a common radio scanner. So common, that the time it takes to write a quick guide for it is offset by its usefulness.
For certain radio channels, like the ones railroads use, listening is allowed but transmitting is illegal without permission. The BC125AT gives the ability to listen to these channels without breaking the law,✝︎ as it is not capable of transmitting.


The Asterisk
Quick Start: Scanning
Quick Start: Programming
Four Areas
Within Each Area
Close Call


The Asterisk

✝︎ In some states a HAM radio license is required for using a radio scanner while 'mobile' (currently: Minnesota, Indiana, Kentucky, Florida, New York). After taking a multiple choice test, you can use a scanner off your own property in these states, and also transmit on a broad range of HAM frequencies. (Also, you can transmit on FRS (walkie-talkie) or CB frequencies without a license in any state).


▫ The letter K represents clicking the Knob.
▫ The letter R represents Rotating the knob.
▫ The letter F represents pressing Function. Note that all inputs are one at a time.
▫ Frequency refers to the numerical value in MHz.
▫ Channel refers to the slot that holds a frequency in the scanner.
▫ Bank refers to a group of channels.
▫ Area refers to a group of banks.
▫ The BC125AT has four (arguably five) areas, explained below.
▫ Both channels and banks can be turned on and off, and a single area is selected.

Quick Start: Scanning

Turn on the scanner by holding down the power button at the lower left of the keypad.
F then Svc (Service) to enter the service banks.
For railroad, press the numbers until 5 (only) is showing on the screen.
K then R for volume adjustment (then K).
Warning: for headphones, start with the volume at 0 to 2; it may be very loud.
F then K for squelch adjustment. Squelch is a threshold above which the speaker is activated; for best reception, as low as possible without hearing continuous static (around 2).
If a single frequency is playing static, R. If it's still a problem, press L/O once to ignore that channel until the scanner is turned off.

Quick Start: Programming

Press Scan to enter the programmable banks.
If text is moving across the screen, press Hold.
Move with R to the channel you want to program. F toggles between moving one channel at a time and one bank at a time.
There are 10 banks of 50 channels each.
F then Prgm (Program) when on the desired channel.
R/K to scroll through the menu and select an item.
The Clr (Clear) button moves up one level.
Each of the first six menu items affects only this channel, can either be changed or left at the default, and is independent of the others.
If entering a frequency: the number buttons type numbers, R moves left and right, and Clr adds a dot, then clears the screen, then cancels to menu, then exits the menu. K to save and return to menu.
If entering a tag/name: the < and > keys move left and right, R rotates through a loop of capital letters, lower case letters, numbers, symbols, and back to space, and Clr clears the character, clears the screen, cancels to menu, then exits the menu. K to save and return to menu.
Place the frequencies you'd like to scan in separate channels.
Hold starts and stops the scan. When scanning, the numbers turn on and off each of the 10 banks.

Four Areas

When turning on the BC125AT, your goal is to get to one of four areas.
These are listed below, with the key presses that lead to them.
« Scan (Scan)
« Search (Srch)
« Service (F, Svc)
« Weather (F, Wx)
» Scan has 10 banks, each with 50 user-programmable channels. This is the most useful in my opinion.
» Search scans through all of the frequencies that the BC125AT is capable of listening to, divided into 10 banks. This takes a long time, so your odds of hearing a short transmission are low.
» Service has 10 banks, each containing frequencies allocated to a specific purpose, like railroads or aircraft. This is great if you want to turn on the scanner and listen without doing any customization. Service bank 5 contains railroad frequencies. Note that some of these services (other than railroad) now use digital/encrypted transmissions; certain communications are only heard as tones, with the upside that anything analogue is generally considered ok to overhear since it would be digital if private.
» Weather has 1 bank with 7 channels. These stations broadcast the weather continuously and give the name of the town every few minutes; this can be very useful for comparing antennas or current signal conditions, and you can even determine roughly where you are by trilaterating based on signal strength.

Within Each Area

In any of the four areas, Hold starts and stops the scan.
K then R for volume adjustment (start at 0 to 2 for headphones).

[The user manual would like to remind you that the headphone jack is output only and will break if power is applied to it]

F then K for squelch adjustment. Squelch is a threshold above which the speaker is activated.
When scanning, the number buttons turn each bank on and off if separate banks exist. The direction of last R sets the scan direction. Imagine scanning like traveling around the crust of a pizza; you can add and remove pieces from it and set the direction.
When stopped, move between either banks or channels using R, with F toggling between the two.


If a frequency is transmitting static and you want to ignore it, there are three options:
R. If stopped, you've selected a different channel or bank. If scanning, that channel will be skipped for a few seconds.
L/O once, which will display TL/O on that channel (Temporary LockOut). The scanner will skip over that channel while scanning until powered off.
L/O twice (LockOut), which will be remembered when power is lost. Both TL/O and L/O can be removed by pressing L/O while stopped on the channel or by unlocking everything from the menu of any channel (F, Prgm, Unlock All Channels).

Close Call

There is a hidden fifth area: Close Call. F then ©.
Close Call can be set to detect nearby strong frequencies. Rather than scanning, it just waits until the system is hit with a really strong signal then tells you about it. This is great for quickly finding the frequency of a radio less than a few hundred feet away.
Once I was stuck in a long line of traffic waiting to be flagged through a one lane area of road construction, and was curious what frequency the flaggers were on so I would know when we were about to move. I unsuccessfully tried to use Search, thinking Close Call was the same but with more steps.
Unlike other areas, Close Call can be set to run either on its own or at the same time as another area.
A detected frequency will show on the screen for a few seconds. Press any key to save it to the CC bank between Scan banks 10 and 1.


When adjusting the volume (K) the battery voltage is displayed. If this drops below 2.00 for more than a few seconds the scanner will shut off. Fresh batteries are about 2.75 volts.
The BC125AT comes with two 2300mAh AA batteries and a charger cable to charge them in the scanner.
Charging can be disabled via a switch in the battery compartment to prevent accidentally charging non-rechargeable batteries.
Charge time is set in the screen menu (F, lightbulb). Charging continues for this amount of time then stops, regardless of battery level.
I found that the included batteries seemed to lose capacity after a year or so. Since I was unsure whether this was due to the batteries themselves or the charging method, I bought some Ikea Ladda 2450s (the largest capacity AAs I can find that aren't a scam) and a different trickle charger. Ni-MH batteries are ok with being trickle-charged indefinitely (very low current entering them which they can dissipate as heat), so any trickle charger or charger that switches to trickle charging when the batteries are full will keep them ready to use. It's also possible to use the scanner while plugged in, and in theory batteries aren't even needed.
Two fully charged 2450mAh batteries give about 12 hours of runtime while scanning nearly continuously, with slightly better range the higher the voltage is.
Scanning takes the most power, along with running the speaker, since the electronics inside are adjusting many times per second. Leaving the scanner stopped on one channel uses almost no power.


The 'rubber duck' antenna that comes with most scanners is designed to pick up a very broad range of frequencies. An antenna that resonates at the same frequency as the oscillating electromagnetic wave you're picking up will receive that narrow range of frequencies much more clearly. These waves are stopped by metal and don't fit through holes that are smaller than the wavelength very well (this is how the tiny holes in a microwave door work). In other words, an antenna in a vehicle isn't going to work very well, but if it must be inside, your best chance is to keep it near the middle of a window.


The screen menu (F, lightbulb) allows adjusting when the screen lights up orange and how dark the text is. The default contrast is 8. If the orange backlight is set to be always on or always off, pressing the power button toggles between the two. Holding down the power button turns off the scanner.


F, Beep