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 Metal Detectors 

Metal detecting is one of the easiest, most profitable, and fun ways to find gold and other metallic treasures such as coins, jewelry, and relics. It's so easy to have your metal detector ready to go in its carry bag with extra coils, a digger or scoop, headphones, and spare batteries. Just grab and go! There are many thousands of passionate detectorists around the world already enjoying the rewarding outdoor activity of metal detecting.

If you want to join their ranks, browse the wide selection of Garrett metal detectors, coils, and pinpointers, as well as Electroscopes. Have fun and good luck treasure hunting! If you want a special gold detector, you have that choice, too. FREE shipping on any detector priced $350 or more!

Read metal detecting articles here.

What is the best metal detector? This is probably the #1 question that everyone asks. Unfortunately, there is no one single answer. Each metal detectorist  has specific needs that cannot be met by one single detector. The easiest way to find the "best" detector is to evaluate YOUR detecting style, your experience level, what items you hope to find, and the time that you will spend metal detecting. After taking all of these things into consideration, then you will be able to find a metal detector that fits your needs and your budget.

Why buy more search coils? Changing the search coil on your metal detector is the next best thing to buying a whole new machine! Most metal detectors come with a standard search coil that is good for general use – finding the broadest range of targets in the broadest range of environments. But search coils come in all shapes and sizes, and it's possible that merely changing the coil on your detector will lead you to a host of new targets in that “hunted out” area. A very general guide to the various shapes and sizes of search coils is as follows:

  • Smaller Search coils: Great for “trashy” areas, really allowing you to sift through pull tabs and gold rings. These coils are best for tighter places and the smallest, shallow targets.

  • Medium Search coils: Usually come standard with your metal detector, these are designed for general use in finding the broadest range of targets in the broadest range of environments.

  • Large Search coils: The larger the search coil, the deeper it will penetrate the ground. Great for finding caches or relic hunting, finding deeply buried, large targets.

  • DD Search coils: These coils have two smaller “D” shaped coils housed inside to penetrate heavily mineralized ground that is commonly encountered while gold prospecting and relic hunting.

metal detector
From dry sand to deep salt water, match your metal detector to the conditions for best results.
Beachcombing with Your Metal Detector
From dry sand to deep salt water, match your detector to the conditions

Water and sunscreen have a sneaky way of slipping rings from fingers of swimmers and sunbathers, making beaches a lucrative location for metal detecting. Recovering an object from sand is pretty easy, too, especially compared to digging in hard ground. Necklaces, watches, and bracelets are also great finds on beaches, along with coins— lots of coins. Although some beaches can yield historic artifacts, most finds will likely be of the modern variety.

WHEN TO GO. Purist beach detectorists will argue that the best time to find goodies on a beach is after a storm. While that’s certainly true, summer crowds can mean a fresh crop of coinage and jewelry just waiting to be found by the average beachcomber everyday.

WHAT TO TAKE. Beach hunting can be done on the dry sand or out in the water where many more rings are lost. Salt water beaches present special problems (mineralization) and you must determine if you will hunt only in dry sand, dip the coil under water in the shallows,  or desire a totally submersible machine suitable for deep water wading or diving. All quality metal detectors have submersible search coils but not all control boxes are waterproof or suitable for the pressures of deep water diving, so match your detector to the type of detecting you’ll do.

In all types of beach hunting, the discrimination must be kept very low, eliminating only small iron (bobby pins and nails). Aluminum pull tabs and tin foil should not be discriminated or you will lose some gold and/or platinum rings as well. Some beach hunters operate with zero discrimination and dig everything. Use of a sand scoop makes target recovery fast and easy.

If you plan to hunt only in dry sand and in very shallow water, a good coin shooting detector will work well if you keep the discrimination set low. If you wish to go out into deeper water you will need a totally submersible machine. Some machines have a single tone for all targets and some have variable tones for different targets. It’s important to realize that most gold rings will read in the “middle” tones (above iron but below coins).

All metal detectors work well in the dry ocean sand but most single frequency detectors become erratic in the wet salt sand or in the surf. Wet salt makes the ground conductive and the detector sees the sand as a large sheet of metal. In order to operate in those areas with most single frequency instruments, you must decrease the sensitivity of the detector and it may still operate erratically. If you only occasionally visit the ocean and own an instrument that becomes erratic in wet salt sand, you can still operate perfectly in the dry sand area. If you live near the ocean, or get to the ocean frequently, consider investing in a detector that will operate well in all conditions including wet salt sand. Those detectors are generally higher priced than multi-purpose detectors, but they are definitely worth the investment if you frequent the ocean.

Wet sandy areas are particularly lucrative for detectionists. The reason for this is that beach-goers first congregate at the "towel line" and then migrate to wet sand. The "towel line" is an invisible area where the majority of people plop down their towels and coolers and umbrellas. At the towel line, sunbathers slather on slippery sunblock and tanning oil that acts like a lubricant and lessens friction. After baking in the sun for a while, they will need to go into the water to cool off a bit, which is where the body's natural reaction to cold is to shivel up. Less friction + shrinkage = rings in the wet sand you can find with your detector!

SUMMARY. For best results on beaches, keep your discrimination levels low, tonal ID gives you an advantage, and purchase a fully submersible machine if you wish to hunt deeper water. If you plan on hunting salt water areas often invest in a machine designed for those conditions. Note: Fisher Labs provided some information for this article. Get more metal detecting tips here.

Metal Detector Glossary 

All Metal: a non-discriminate control setting that accepts detection of all metal objects, including ferrous (i.e. iron-containing) ground minerals.

Audio ID: also known as tone ID, this metal detector feature identifies targets via a tone that corresponds to their conductivity.

Cache: a group of objects that has been intentionally hidden or buried.

Clad: a term for coins that are still in circulation. With clad coins, a surface metal covers or clads a base metal. Pennies, for example, used to be made from copper, but are now copper-clad zinc.

Coil: also known as the head, loop, or antenna, a coil is the metal-sensing part of a metal detector. 

Coin Shooting: a slang term for coin hunting, or going detecting specifically in search of coins.

Concentric Coil: concentric means "having a common center." Concentric search coils feature circular transmit and receive windings of unequal diameters that are aligned on a common center, producing a cone-shaped search matrix. If the wire coils/windings of a concentric coil are on the same plane, it's referred to as coplanar concentric.

Conductivity: conductivity refers to how well a target allows electrical current to flow through it. For example, electrical currents freely flow around a highly conductive coin when energized by the electromagnetic field from a metal detector.

Discrimination: discrimination is a metal detector's ability to identify buried targets based on conductive and/or ferrous properties. Based on measuring these properties, it is possible to determine valuable targets from junk targets so you can spend more time digging valuable targets.

Electromagnetic Field: an electromagnetic field is an invisible matrix created by electrically charged objects. In metal detectors, the electrical current moving through the transmitter coil of the search head produces an electromagnetic field, and this field extends to a depth perpendicular to the size of the coil. When the field encounters metals, they generate their own fields, which can be measured by a metal detector's receiver coil.

Elliptical Coil: an ellipse is an extended oval shape resembling a flattened circle. A search coil in this shape is called an elliptical coil. Elliptical metal detector coils can be either concentric or widescan. 

Ferrous: ferrous objects (targets) contain iron and therefore are attracted to a magnet (nails, tin cans, horseshoes, etc.). Many natural and man-made objects contain iron, most of these are junk targets, although some could be valuable relics. Non-ferrous materials do not contain iron. Good targets include coins, gold rings, and copper artifacts. Examples of junk targets are bottle tops, pull tabs, and aluminum foil.

Frequency: frequency refers to how fast a metal detector sends signals into the ground. Frequency is measured in Hertz (Hz). Certain frequencies detect certain targets better than others, e.g., high frequencies find very small targets while low frequencies find deeper/larger targets.

Ground Balance: soil often contains ground minerals, magnetic material composed of ferric oxide and other metals. These iron-bearing materials cause loss of depth in a metal detector. Ground balance is the ability to manually or electronically ignore/neutralize these signals (sometimes called ground tracking or ground reject).

Ground Mineralization: naturally occurring minerals in the ground that affect a metal detector's performance. There are two main types of ground mineralization: one is due to iron particles and can be identified by its red coloration; the other is due to salt, such as salt water beaches. Iron particle mineralization causes the ground to become magnetic and salt mineralization causes the ground to become conductive. Both forms of ground mineralization can produce false signals that mask targets. The ground mineralization illustration shows minerals in the ground producing a response to the metal detector's electromagnetic field.

Masking: masking occurs when ground minerals or buried objects interfere with the detection of a legitimate find, resulting in a mixed signal. 

Matrix:  the total detection area covered by a search coil's electromagnetic field. 

Notch: notch filtering or notch discrimination is used to create a range of accepted and rejected targets. Setting the notch level on your metal detector to discriminate against certain objects means tuning out or blocking a particular frequency band. This is called notch reject. Conversely, creating a notch window of accepted frequencies is called notch accept.

Null: when a metal or coin detector coil passes over targets that have been discriminated against or are outside of the accepted notch window, a metal detector's threshold audio will go quiet or drop momentarily, i.e. go null.

Pinpointing: refers to the act of determining the precise location of a target. This can be accomplished by manually "detuning" a metal detector, or adjusting it to be less sensitive, and then sweeping the target response area again. Because the metal detector is less sensitive after detuning, an audio signal should provide a more exact location due to the strength of the signal.

Prospecting: treasure hunting with a metal detector in search of gold, silver, or valuables.

Relic Hunting: metal detecting in quest of objects that possess historical (and sometimes also monetary) value.

Sweep: the motion a metal detectorist employs when using a metal detector, it usually resembles the side-to-side movement used when sweeping a floor.

Target: any metal object that can be detected by a metal detector. A target can be either valuable, such as coins, or junk like a bottle cap.

Target ID: numbers and audio tones are produced by a metal detector to enable you to identify targets based on their conductive and/or ferrous properties.

Threshold: the threshold is essentially status quo for the listening detectorist. The threshold is a continuous, faint tone that provides an audible reference point for ground-balancing a detector. It also determines the minimum sound level for pinpointing targets, including deep targets in discriminate mode.

Metal Detectorist Code of Ethics

  • Always check federal, state, county and local laws before using your metal detector. It is your responsibility to “know the law.”
  • Abide by all laws, ordinances or regulations that may govern metal detecting in the area you will be in.
  • Never trespass. Always obtain permission prior to entering private property, mineral claims, or underwater salvage leases.
  • Do not damage, deface, destroy, or vandalize any property (including: ghost towns and deserted structures), and never tamper with any equipment at the site.
  • Never litter. Always pack out what you take in, and remove all trash your metal detector uncovers during your search.
  • Fill all holes, regardless how remote the location, and never dig in a way that will damage, be damaging to, or kill any vegetation.
  • Do not build fires, camp or park in non-designated or restricted areas.
  • Leave all gates and other accesses to land as found.
  • Never contaminate wells, creeks, or any other water supplies.
  • Be courteous, considerate, and thoughtful at all times when metal detecting.
  • Report the discovery of any items of historic significance you find with your metal detector to the local historical society or proper authorities.
  • Uphold all finders, search and salvage agreements.
  • Promote responsible historical research and artifact recovery, and the sharing of knowledge with others.