QSL means sending out a confirmation of the QSO (Call) you had with a Ham on the wireless radio. QSL can be done in 2 ways. By sending a printed Post Card or electronically. The QSL card that you receive is counted as proof, which makes you eligible for the awards offered by ARRL.
The ARRL (American Radio Relay League) the most substantial ham radio body in the world, offers awards to the Hams such as Honor Roll, DXCC, US States and a couple of more. One of the famous and most chased awards is DXCC (DX Century Club), wherein a Ham has to make contact with 100 countries with a confirmed QSL.
Let’s say you had a QSO with 140 countries, but you have received QSL (Confirmation for only 85). This doesn’t make you eligible for the award, which means you have to get 100 QSL before you can apply. There’s one more award where you can use your QSL, this is the biggest award, that is ‘Honor Roll’.
It requires you to make contact with all the entities (countries + islands) recognised by ARRL, minus 10. For example, if there are 339 entities, then you should have at least 330 entities with QSL to apply for the honour roll. Apart from using the QSL Cards for awards, Hams love to collect them and put them in their shack as their memories.
They just love to have them all around, it’s their happiness that they’ve worked with that ham, that country, or that island. It’s something which cannot be explained. Hams are passionate about collecting cards.
Now let’s talk about QSL methods.
QSL can be sent in 2 different ways. Mail QSL and Electronic QSL.
Let’s talk about Mail QSL first.
Mail QSL is the conventional method wherein you send a postcard printed on a card paper, that has QSO details like Date, Time, callsign, grid, region, zone, some graphics (Not compulsory) and a few more info. The postage cost is bared by the sender ham, but in some case, the receiver pays for it. Depends upon the individuals & understanding.
Hams also send out QSL cards to the Bureau, which then sends the QSL once or twice a year (varies) upon the country, or clubs or the body handling the QSL. The sender ham should be a member, paying a yearly fee for his QSL cards to be processed with the scheduled lot.
Electronic QSL is the new method used by Hams to exchange QSL over the Internet. You had a QSO, you then log your QSO details in your logbook and wait for the other ham to do the same in his logbook. If the entry matches, you get a QSL. But the situation can get tricky sometimes.
The QSL can be received in 5 minutes or may take 5 days or a month. Depending upon the uploading schedule of the logbook, of that other ham. Here is how it works. By using the term logbook, and uploading it to the logbook, I am referring to the online services available at LoTW, QRZ.com and eQSL.cc.
LoTW (Logbook of the World) is managed by ARRL (American Radio Relay League), the most significant authority in the Ham Radio world. So once both the hams upload their QSO details on these websites, and if the details match, then you get the QSL confirmation immediately, and you are eligible for various awards, depending upon your score.
Now the question is which is Best?
Personally, I prefer electronic QSL, because they are fast, no need to spend time and money and wait for that snail mail to arrive. Some hams prefer both the ways, Mail QSL and Electronic QSL. I’ve seen hams spending a good amount of money every month for sending out QSL cards all over the world. As I said, enjoy the hobby the way you like.