Searching for gold almost belongs in a class by itself, as the metal detector is just one of many tools used in seeking that precious metal. A whole different set of equipment comes into play. For the purposes of this paper, gold detecting gear refers to equipment used in finding gold flakes, gold nuggets, and gold ore.
That being the case, you will want to research whether or not your physical location offers any possibility for success. Your best chances are in known gold deposit areas, in rivers and lakes in their vicinity, and in dry lake beds and arroyos with A history of water, again in gold bearing areas. The best advice comes from the Geology.com web page: “Prospect where gold has been found before.”
Geologically speaking, gold is found in quartz deposits, near gold and copper mines, in areas with a volcanic history, including hot springs, and in sedimentary soils created by erosion from gold-bearing sites. Source USGS Circular 1178, “1998 Assessment of Undiscovered Deposits of Gold, Silver, Copper, Lead, and Zinc in the United States.”
Selecting a Coil for Gold Metal Detecting
Coils for Standard Detectors
You can search for gold with pretty much any metal detector, but you will have better success with a machine dedicated to gold prospecting.
If you are using a standard detector you should be aware of the need for specific ground balance adjustments, because gold-bearing environments are often higher in minerals and iron oxide than regular soils. If your detector has motion sensing adjustments you’ll want to fine tune that as well. The instruction manual for the Fisher F75 is a good example; see page 38 in that manual.
Some high-end detectors have a built-in mode for gold prospecting. The Minelab Equinox 800 (Link to Amazon to check out the reviews) is a case in point. It it can scan five frequencies at once, but for gold hunting it uses the two highest ones, 20-kHz and 40-kHz, providing the best configuration for finding small particles. Similarly, the White’s MXT All Pro(Links to Amazon for current price) has a built-in prospecting mode for gold hunting.
Coils for Dedicated Gold Detectors
If you’re serious about hunting for gold, a machine made specifically for that purpose is your best bet, such as in Figure 3. Fortunately, gold detecting models come in all price ranges.
The standard coil that comes with your machine, usually 7 to 9 inches, will work fine for gold prospecting. Once you’ve had some experience you’ll generally find that most of the targets are tiny. This means that a higher frequency or small coil will provide an advantage for you. You’re probably limited in frequency choices, but you can always find a small coil. They go down to just a few inches in diameter.
My personal favorite is the 4 to 6-inch coil, as this is a nice compromise between getting a focused search field and not having to swing your detector a bazillion times just to cover a 10 by 10-foot plot.
I’ve gone for gold detecting in several river locations in California. Most of the trips yielded very few tiny nuggets. If this is the case for you, consider switching to panning or sluicing, which is covered in the next paragraphs.
Pans, Classifiers and Other Gold Detecting Accessories
Before you set out into the field it’s wise to be prepared with the right equipment. As mentioned already, most of what you’ll find are tiny specs and flakes. To sort this from the much more voluminous rocks, you need:
A good gold pan.
A set of tweezers.
A “snuffer” bottle and storage vials.
Picks and scrapers.
A simple gold pan works well, though experienced users prefer the green or blue colored pans, as it’s easier to spot gold in those shades. See Figure 5. Sometimes you can retrieve the smaller specs with a tweezers, but most folks use a snuffer bottle, sometimes referred to as a sniffer bottle. This is soft plastic bottle with a pointed intake. You squeeze the air out and as it returns to its normal shape it sucks in the air and the gold with it. Then you transfer it to a storage vial. See Figure 6.
For picks and scrapers you can use an old flat-head screwdriver to ferret out gravel and sand caught in bedrock along a stream.
Pan with rills, ribs.
Screens, classifiers, and sieves.
Pick, rock hammer.
Shovel and buckets.
For just few dollars more you might prefer a fancy pan with rills, ribs, and ridges that help trap the heavier particles. That same function is aided by screens of various mesh sizes, classifiers, which sort the soil by pebble size. Some kits have up to 9 different mesh sizes, but just two or three is all you need; one large size mesh and another for finer gravel, say a #4 mesh with 1/4” holes and a #20 with 1/20” holes. The larger rocks in the #4 classifier you just toss out by hand, giving a quick scan for quartz that might have gold embedded in it.
Sometimes in your search you’ll find what they call “black sand,” which is a good thing, because it contains the heavier particles that generally congregate with gold. If you have a lot of black sand, use a magnet to separate it out from the gold. Use a coated or covered magnet. A plastic scoop is handy too, so you can scan the scoop for gold with the detector coil.
Sluices and Hand-power Pumps for Gold
Panning for gold is fun, especially if you are teaching children about prospecting. The downside is that you’re lucky to find just a few tiny specs of the precious metal. The next level up involves using somewhat more advanced equipment to process more sand and soil in order to take home a bigger payload.
A sluice is a long metal channel that you place in a stream using the flow of the water to separate gold out from the sand and gravel that you feed in at the upstream end of the contraption. A small sluice is generally about 10-inches wide and 2 to 3-feet long. It has rubber or plastic ridges, or riffles, along the base that snag the heavier particles, including gold, while the flow of water pushes the lighter material back into the stream. See the Reference videos at the end of this article.
You generally shovel river sediment and soil piecemeal into the front of the sluice and, with a sharp eye and a quick hand, remove the larger rocks as you go. You’ll need to adjust the downward slope of the sluice so that the water provides enough energy to push out the lighter rocks away, but slow enough that it traps the gold in the bottom mat. With any luck, you’ll start to find tiny flakes of gold and small nuggets getting trapped in the ridges. See Figure 8 for sluice examples.
Typical sluice boxes. You feed material into the upstream end (left) and gold is captured in the mat as it flows down stream.
In practice, most prospectors use a shovel and buckets to carry the gravel from nearby sites to the sluice and process it one scoopful at a time.
More specialized and bigger sluices employ multiple stages of riffles to better sort out the wheat from chaff.
The Hand-Powered Dredge for Gold Prospecting
The hand-powered dredge is akin to the Super-Soaker water blasters that you see kids using in pools and water fights. There are many variations to this device and many names, such hand dredge, PVC suction, or Yabbie pump.
The idea is to pull back on a plunger to suck up water and sand from the creek bed, then squirt it into a gold pan or sluice to separate out the gold. See Figure 9. These pumps may sometimes include a narrow intake nozzle to reach into rock crevices, as well has built-in catch-basins which will store the heavier materials in a removable chamber.
An adjunct this process is the use of scrapers and picks to ferret out the gravel trapped in cracks and holes in the bedrock.
The Rocker Box (Shaker Table, Cradle Deck, Dry Washer)
In an effort to improve on the simple sluice, the Rocker Box, sometimes called a shaker table, or gold cradle, allows you to clear sand and gravel a bit more efficiently, thereby speeding up the gold retrieval process.
The Rocker Box usually includes at least one level for screening the input, which is a form of classifying. You scoop material into the top of the box, vibrate the box using a wooden arm or rocker-shaped base. When you pour water onto the top, the heavier material moves through the screens and onto a base that is much like your regular sluice. Then you can just pick out the gold nuggets and flakes. Many prospectors dump the larger, discarded rocks into a pile and then scan that mound with the metal detector, just to check that some nuggets might have slipped through the process.
A Dry Washer is similar to the rocker box, but instead of using water to separate out the materials, a blower is used; often a hand-powered bellows. As the name implies, it uses air instead of water to classify materials. It does this by blowing air under a screen-lined hopper. The lighter elements are blown away and discarded. The remaining material continues on down the sloping box. This variation is particularly useful in areas where there is little or no running water in which to run a stream-powered sluice.
The next level of commitment to gold prospecting is the addition of motors and pumps to help speed the process of separating gold from its soil. I use the word ‘commitment’ because this improvement can come at a hefty price tag, depending on the amount of dirt you want to process. Essentially, the techniques are the same as for hand-operated sluices and dredges, but the power tools allow you to sift through a much greater volume of material in a speedier fashion.
Engines, Pumps and Powered Equipment for Gold
You can take most of the devices described so far and add power to take the load off your arms. You can use gas powered engines or electrical motors to get the job done. An alternative is to use a gas-powered electric generator to run machinery on 110 volts AC or 12 volts DC. For example, you can use power to drive a rocker box, or to power a pump for a dredge.
Engines and pumps are described separately because many hobbyists prefer to build their own equipment, such as dredges. See any of the do-it-yourself dredge videos on the popular video-sharing web pages. Watch out, though; sand, soil, and rocks are very abrasive, so hoses and pipes can wear out quickly. Figure 11 shows a stand-alone pump for a dredge.
Highbanker for Washing Lots of Rocks for Gold
A highbanker is similar to the rocker box, except pumped water is used to separate out gold from the lighter elements. A pump forces water into the top of the hopper, dumping the lighter material out a back chute. The water is sprayed into the hopper where you load shovels-full of dirt. There is no need to shake the box, as the heavier elements are washed down into the secondary area which operates much like a regular sluice.
Highbankers require a lot fine tuning during the set-up stage, as you have to regulate the flow rate of the water, the slope of the hopper, and the incline and leveling of the sluice area. The picture above with highbanker in operation. A pump pulls water from the river and sprays it into the upper hopper, while the pay-dirt is poured into the loading area.
Concentrators for Gold
Gold concentrators range from a modified gold pan with a water jet input to a commercial grade helical spiral machine. The basic idea is that centrifugal force separates out the gold from lighter material. Think of it as mechanized gold panning.
A gold dredge works by sucking water, sand, and soil from the bottom of a stream or beach and running it through a process to separate out the gold. Some dredges work from land while others have floats, so you can move the dredge along with you as you scour the bottom of a river.
The key consideration here is the size (diameter) of the intake hose, as this will determine the power requirements of the pump motor and characteristics of the tubing and classifying sections of the dredge. Dredges make gold processing much more efficient. The old adage “It takes money to make money” applies here, as this equipment can run into thousands of dollars.
See examples at Proline Mining Equipment, or Keene Engineering to get an idea of costs and strategies. See Figures 18 and 19 for standard systems. Of course, many prospectors jury-rig their own contraptions using a stand-alone motor for the pump and an assortment of hoses, filters, and PVC piping.
Once you get into the realm of dredges, you are approaching that borderland of operation between being a hobbyist and full-scale gold prospector. In commercial jargon, they talk about “tons of dirt” to get one ounce of gold. In order to justify such expense, you will probably have to think about having access to a gold claim.
At the End of the Trail Searching for Gold
I hope can see by now that prospecting for gold has an attraction, an allure that is hard to resist. That is especially true once you’ve discovered your first few nuggets. The call to the rivers and hills can easily lead to the hobby becoming a second vocation. All that enthusiasm should be balanced, at least to some degree, by the cost of the more specialized equipment. Even if you don’t find the Mother Lode in your area, there’s an immeasurable pleasure in striking out into the wild, wading into rivers and streams, and immersing yourself in nature. Good luck, and let us know if you find “the big one!”
The first step in your underwater journey is to define the water depth you’ll be searching. Most detectors over $150 will have a waterproof coil and cable. Get a little deeper, say to your chest and you’ll need to think about a detector with a waterproof processor. If you plan to go “all the way under” your going to get into a combination of scuba and specialty metal detecting equipment.
The below article is organized by water depth, but remember that the electronics that work for chest deep usually work for full immersion.
Types of water metal detecting
Water detecting, much like detecting for gold, is a whole new ball game. It’s like the difference between basketball and golf. In both you want to get the ball (the ring) in the bucket, but there’s a big change in the equipment and techniques that you need for success.
At the beginner level, detectorists often use their standard, land-based, detector with a mode setting for “Beach” or “Water.”
This type of hunting gets you, at most, knee deep in the water, keeping the control box dry. Then a sand scoop helps you find the target. Let’s call this “Ankle Deep Water Detecting.”
Getting a Little Deeper (pun intended) Chest Deep Metal Detecting
Here you need a waterproof detector, snorkeling gear, and possibly a wet suit. At this level, detecting techniques require a new set of hunting skills and specialized equipment. We’ll call this Chest-Deep Detecting.
Fully Submerged Metal Detecting
Scuba or skin diving, is another level of complexity, where you may be swimming under water using fins and a hand-held detector. We will call this Underwater Detecting. NOTE: Scuba diving is an even more specialized activity, but it is distinct sport in itself, and far beyond the scope of this paper. Scuba diving is not covered here, but I do mention the equipment that you need, at the end, for those who want to explore this (much more expensive) variation.
Ankle Deep Water Detecting
There’s not much extra equipment you’ll need for ankle deep detecting. Most coils are waterproof, and most detectors have a mode or setting or beaches. If your detector does not have a beach setting you may have to adjust the sensitivity and ground balance. Beaches, especially salt-water locations have high mineral content and ionizing salts which will affect performance.
Wading Shoes, For this type of detecting you may want to look at shoes and socks that are specifically made for wading. The thickness and durability of the footwear will depend upon the presence of rocks in the surf and the water temperature. In cold climates waterproof boots or waders may be required. There’s more on waders below.
Scoops, For sandy locations you’ll need a sand scoop. For muddy or rocky bottom water detecting you can use a shovel or digging tool, but a sand scoop may still come in handy.
A sand scoop is essential for metal detecting in shallow water. A normal shovel will be way to heavy to lift the sand, gravel and WATER. Additionally it seems like your treasure gets washed away in the water spilling off the shovel. Read even more about digging for treasure in this article. A Complete Guide to Metal Detecting Tools for Digging
If you’re hunting in salt-water conditions, you should rinse all metal parts, including zippers, with fresh water when you get home, as the salt will easily corrode your gear.
“Beach Scoops – Your first thought might be this. ‘I can just use a shovel.’ You can do this if you want, but there are specialized shovels called beach scoops that will put an ordinary shovel to shame. I can’t say enough about how important a good scoop is.” ~ Metal Detecting the Beach, by Mark Smith
Chest-Deep Metal Detecting
Deeper water detecting is going to require waterproof equipment. You’re probably going to want to get a dedicated detector for this. Some manufacturers and third-party producers provide clears covers that seal the control box for detectors that are not fully waterproof.
Dedicated Water Metal Detectors
Here’s a list of some waterproof probes and detectors, increasing in price and complexity. These listings are for popular equipment. The fact that they are included here is not an endorsement of the product. Figures 7, 8, and 9 show sample detecting equipment in different price ranges. I’d suggest, if you’re just starting out, to try a few runs with the least costly items, then move up if your enthusiasm is piqued.
Water detecting is one of the few environments where Pulse Induction (PI) metal detectors work well. They are not known for good discrimination, but most metal you find in the surf is going to be something man-made, so you’ll want to dig up all targets.
Underwater Probes for Metal Detecting
An important feature for probing underwater is a vibration mode. You’ll be slowly sweeping the probe through water that has sand kicked-up. Sound and sight are useless underwater, you’ve got to feel the find.
If you want to get a “forever” metal detector take a serious look at the Minelab Excaliber II. It is a little more expensive than the general hobbyist unit, but once you learn how to effectively use this unit you’ll never look at another machine.
Weight belts, A weight belt is needed when you’re in water that’s deep enough to make you float. Nylon weight belts are cheaper. Rubber ones doesn’t slip as much. Many divers like to add accessory D-rings to the belt, for attaching bags and other items.
Snorkels and face masks, A face mask with a snorkel is needed so you can see and breath underwater, even if it’s just for a few seconds. Typical gear of good quality are listed here. Figures 10 and 11 show some popular snorkel and face mask combinations.
Wet Suits are coverings that let water enter between you and the suit, but the fit is tight enough that there is little circulation, so the suit keeps you warm. Wet suits come in different thicknesses to accommodate water temperature. For example 2-mm thick suits are for warm water and 5-mm suits for cold water.
“I have a two piece wet suit: a 7-mm farmer john and a 7-mm neoprene shorty. This gives me 14-mm of neoprene on my upper body. I also have a neoprene hood, boots, and gloves. On warm winter days I am baking potato hot until I get into the water.”
Dry Suits, as the name implies, are waterproof, so air, not water, is next to your skin. Most suits now have p-valves to allow urination on long dives. See p-valve discussion here. Popular brands are Hevto, O’Neill, and Stohlquist.
Gloves come in all shapes and sizes, with waterproof and tight fitting gloves, like nitrile, which is good for maintaining dexterity. Many surf searchers like webbed gloves, as these help you navigate in water, and by waving a hand over the target area you can whisk away sand to uncover a target.
Elbow length gloves are also handy for shallow water retrieving of targets. See these examples of webbed gloves and elbow length gloves.
Waders, the long boots favored by fishermen, come in all lengths and styles. Some have built-in boots and others allow you wear shoes inside. Waders are often all you need for water detecting and they are a lot less trouble to get into and out of than a wet suit. They come in different lengths, from knee high to chest high.
Miscellaneous. Once you’re actually out in the water, you’ll find there are hundreds of little things you absolutely need for water detecting. Too many to provide a comprehensive list, but items you can find at pretty much any hardware store or sports supply store.
Lanyards, belt clips, retractable key lines.
Mesh bags for stashing finds.
Detachable shafts for your detector control box.
Knives, probes, and tweezers for extracting items from rocks and crevices.
Underwater Metal Detecting (Scuba)
The only difference between chest-deep detecting and underwater detecting is that you get your head wet. This requires only minor add-ons in terms of gear. You might want to add a wet suit and a weight belt as described in the previous section.
You may also want to consider the following:
Fins to help with swimming.
Head cover for warmth.
Be sure to use the shorter, more manageable snorkel style fins as opposed to scuba diving fins. You can often save a little by buying the face mask, snorkel, and fins in a package deal. Have fun and be safe.
Metal Detecting While Scuba Diving
Scuba diving is profoundly different from metal detecting; so much so that it may be perceived as an entirely different sport. For the sake of brevity, I want to include just a short list of the gear you’ll need. If you’re interested in this activity it may be best to consult books and references dedicated to this sport.
Scuba diving requires a training class and certification. It’s a necessary step for your safety and enjoyment.
What follows is a short list of the types of gear you will need for scuba diving metal detecting:
Diving masks and snorkels.
Fins and boots.
Weight belts and buoyancy compensators.
Tanks and spare air.
Oxygen regulators, octopus regulars.
Gauges – depth, pressure, compass.
Clue: This will cost Thousands of dollars!
The Final Shovel Scoop
This has been just a broad view of the gear and equipment that you might need for metal detecting in the water. I’ve tried to provide links and photos to help you make choices. Don’t forget to add beach maps, tide charts and weather reports to your tool box.
Strictly speaking, there are only a few things you really NEED other than your metal detector to enjoy the sport. Things like a digging tool and a pin-pointer. But you’ll have A lot more fun, and you’ll be much more comfortable and productive with the right equipment.
When I was a child, we took a
lot of pleasure in playing “baseball” with a rubber ball and a sawed-off broomstick
that served as a bat. Later, as an adult, the game became more grown up with a
good leather glove, real bats, and a regulation baseball diamond to play on.
You can expect to gain the
same types of benefits by learning and using the right detecting gear to
improve your searches. Here we cover the add-ons, tools, and peripheral gear
you might want to consider for general metal detecting. That is, for coins,
jewelry and relics. Specialized detecting, such as for gold and beach detecting
are covered in separate papers.
I’ve divided up the general
categories of related gear into three, somewhat overlapping, categories:
Before the hunt.
During the hunt.
After the hunt.
Before the Metal Detecting Hunt
Maps for Metal Detecting
The simplest, cheapest, yet most effective piece of “equipment” you can buy is a map of your town dated from the mid-1960’s. This will show you the oldest streets and where your best chances finding silver are.
You can find such maps on auction sites, from historic documents in your local library, or from older USGS Topographical maps, Figure 3. The most often used are the 1:24000-scale topographic maps available on line. The “Historical” topographic maps are generally older, which I prefer, as they more easily direct you to silver coins. Newer digital maps from the USGS began appearing from 2006.
When I first started metal detecting in my home town, I found only recent coins. Checking the map, my city was only about one-tenth the size back in 1965 when clad coins were introduced. I had been searching in areas that were built in the last 20 years, with not much of a chance to accumulate lost items.
Best Clothes for Metal Detecting
We’re all adults here, so I won’t bore you with a lecture on dressing appropriately. You know your home environment and which hazards to look out for. That said, some things you may want to think about:
A hat that has a
flap to protect your neck from the sun and insects.
A good pair of
gloves. This prevents cuts and bruising to your fingers. I use the new nitrile
gloves with cloth backing.
I use a box in the trunk of my car for all the detecting gear. This keeps things neat, and if you need the car for a vacation or group trip, carrying one box back to the garage is easier than gathering lots of little items stashed in various nooks and crannies.
I find it best to have a dedicated pair of boots and pants for metal detecting, as things get dirty quickly. Maybe keep the dirty items confined to the garage.
This can save your marriage. I also use an old dish towel to collect the dirt when I’m digging a hole. Simply fold the towel in half when you’re done, and pour the dirt back into the hole.
Get a Compass and GPS for Metal Detecting
The idea here is not to get lost. If you are detecting in wilderness areas it’s easy to become disoriented. I take a compass and generally set off in one direction, stick to that, and follow the line back to the starting point.
In extreme cases of wooded or hilly areas, it may be advisable to get a hand-held GPS unit, or have an app installed on your phone. Set the starting point as a landmark. The GPS unit will tell you the distance and the direction back to your car.
A decent map application on your smart phone also works well to keep you oriented. The trick there is to remember your starting location.
Be Prepared for Bugs and Vermin Metal Detecting
The big headache in my area is rattlesnakes and mosquitoes. I always bring bug spray and wear long pants and boots. Again, you know your home environment and what to do. It may be ticks and no-see-ums (sand flies, gnats and biting midges). Just use common sense and good judgment.
Be Safe Metal Detecting
For safety reasons I always bring a cell phone with me on hunts. More than once I’ve pulled out the phone and pretended to talk when unsavory characters started loitering too close for comfort.
In wilderness areas I’ve often encountered vermin and animals, but they are generally more frighten of me than I am of them. If you detect in an area where bears, wild boars, or other predatory animals roam, you might want to consider stronger measures such as pepper spray.
My digging tool looks something like a Bowie knife or dagger, which I feel is enough security for my purposes, against both small animals and threats of the the two-legged kind. More useful is to bring an ace bandage and various sized band-aids for the scratches and hazards so common in wild areas.
For really remote or distant hunts your best bet is to go with friends. I always find detecting with others more enjoyable than detecting alone, and it is a lot safer. If you hunt in areas that don’t have cell phone coverage, be sure to let others know where you are going, and consider using Walkie-Talkies to stay in touch with your fellow hunters.
Gear for During a Metal Detecting Hunt
Metal Detecting Coils
Most detector manufacturers let you change coils. You can then choose different coil sizes and types to meet your needs.
The main choices are smaller coils, larger coils, and Double-D (or D-D) coils. Small coils are better for junk filled areas. They help in sorting out coins from bottle caps and other trash. Small coils do not penetrate the earth as deeply and you have to swing the coil more often to cover the same area as a larger coil.
A larger coil will help you find deeper objects, but you will often pick up multiple items at the same time, so you would need to scan from different angles and use the detector’s pin-pointer function to separate the valuables from the junk.
Round coils create a bowl-shaped search field. Many detectorists prefer the Double-D type coil. This design forces the field into a narrow band, like two dinner plates stuck together. With this design it’s much easier to find the exact location of the object before you start digging. If you’re like me, once you start using DD coils you won’t want to go back to the round ones.
Essential a Pin-Pointer for Metal Detecting
The hand-held pin-pointer is the single most valuable add-on I would recommend. Sure, you can zoom in on the target area with the detector alone, but the pin pointer adds another dimension to your search. If you dig a 1-inch round hole, for example, 2-inches deep, the pin-pointer will vibrate the loudest when it’s on the side of the hole nearest the coin.
Likewise, it will tell you if the target is near the ground surface or deeper in the hole. The pin-pointer makes retrieving the target MUCH faster. This increases your productivity.
For a long time I didn’t have a metal detecting pinpointer. UGH…..that was a mistake. My finds increased and I was able to scan more thoroughly. Read about how to select and why a pinpointer is so important in this article. What is a Pinpointer and Do I Need One
Headphones for Metal Detecting
After your first hour of scanning a beach you’ll understand how important headphones are. The sun will shine off the detector screen and you won’t see a thing.
Headphones and learning “tones” is a basic skill when metal detecting. Learn beeps from bongs and chirps is going to fill you pockets with treasure or dash your dreams.
Sometimes a pin-pointer is called a probe, but strictly speaking, for detecting purposes, a probe is a thin metal or plastic rod used to puncture the ground and feel for a coin or object. This saves a lot of time by zeroing in on the target without a lot of digging. Once located, the coin can be easily removed with a much smaller digging tool, such as a flat-head screwdriver. A probe is shown between the two pin-pointers above.
A probe is best suited for sandy locations or loose, arable soil. Rocky and hard-packed ground generally prevents the effective use of a probe.
Digging Tools for Metal Detecting
Whoa! This is a big, messy topic. Much depends on the soil type where you live and what kinds of detecting you favor, such a coin-shooting or relic hunting.
If you’re like most folks, you’ll start with a 2-dollar gardening spade, and about the third time the handle comes apart or the blade breaks trying to pry up a rock, you start to think something much sturdier is needed here. Specialized tools, designed specifically for metal detecting are worth the extra cost.
If you’re hunting in farm land, deep, rich soil, or searching for relics, a long-handled but light spade might be appropriate. For general coin hunting you can usually get by with a good hand-held digger.
In clay heavy soils or newer locales, such as California, where most of the coins are less then a few inches deep, a simple weeder or even a flat-head screwdriver is all you need. In undeveloped areas or hard-packed soil I sometimes use a curved weeder where the arch serves as a fulcrum; you press the point into the soil then simply press down on the handle, and the coin pops right out.
Metal Detecting is Hard on Your Knees
People have different styles of digging. Some squat down, some bend over, and some sit on the ground. If you are the type that kneels on your knees to dig then knee pads will both save your pants and make kneeling a lot more comfortable.
The problem is that most knee pads get poor ratings, due to them slipping down your leg or having the padding wear out quickly. Some that pass the comfort and slip tests are the K-P Industries Knee Pro and the REXBETI heavy duty knee pads. These are all over $20. If you want knee pads simply for occasional use, then lower cost models might work just as well for you.
Balance the Load Metal Detecting
The shoulder harness displaces most of the weight of the detector from your arm to your shoulders. This is good for when you are detecting for more than a couple hours, relieving the strain on your arms.
I find it a mixed blessing: It does take the weight off your arms, but being a fixed point of support, the coil head moves in an arc-shaped curve. That is, at the extremes of the swing the coil may be 3 inches above the ground and at the lowest point almost touching the ground. With a bungie chord connection you can push or pull the detector to keep the coil level, but that just adds more exertion to the swing.
Detector manufacturers and third-party can supply you will all sorts of harnesses. The best ones let you quickly adjust the height of the detector as you move along hills and slopes. You can also make your own pretty easily by buying a padded shoulder strap and rig it up with a sturdy bungie-cord. Some commercial versions, the Limbsaver Comfort-Tech 24502 sling and the Hanperal Black Comfort Strap.
Protect Your Metal Detecting Gear with Rain Cover
Most detector control boxes are “water resistant” but not necessarily waterproof. This means that a light sprinkling of rain will not ruin the detector, but a heavy downpour could be dangerous. Often the headphone jack, the charging connection, the coil plug, or the battery case will allow water to get in.
Several detector manufacturers offer their own custom rain covers. You might also buy a package of the stretchy plastic covers used on salad bowls to keep your food fresh.
Only a few detectors, specialized for water detecting, are truly waterproof. Coils are usually waterproof.
Eye Loupe and Magnifier for Metal Detecting
One of the first orders of business after you find a coin is to check the date. This is often hard to see with years of caked dirt and oxidation on the coin, so a good magnifier is quite handy. Likewise, if you find a ring, you want to see if there is a mark for silver or gold inside the band.
There are all kinds of magnifiers that are handy or fit on a key chain that you can use. I use an eye loupe with a 10X power. Any magnification from about 5X to 20X will work. Since you’re working around dirt, most folks prefer the kind of magnifier that hinges into a protective cover.
Metal Detecting Tool Belts and Holsters
I used to strap a small plastic bag under my pants belt and collect the junk items in the bag, and I put the coins in my back pocket. Coins, however, are pretty heavy, so more than once they tore a hole in the pocket. I learned this the hard way. I found an old dime, put it in my pocket, turned around an found another dime with the same date. Whoops! It was the same coin fallen through the hole in my pocket!
My do-it-yourself tool belt uses a regular utility belt, a holster for the digging tool, and a tool pocket for the pin-pointer, magnifier, brush, and tiny spray bottle.
So now, like the smarter hunters, I switched to using a tool belt with pockets for my various tools. Some tool belts have built in pockets. You can use one to stash valuables and another to collect the junk and trash.
Many people patch together their own home-made belt. Mine holds the digging tool, my magnifier, and the pin-pointer. Notice I have lots of clips and strings attached so tools don’t get lost.
Some coin hunters prefer to use a vest with many pockets instead of a tool belt. These you can find among photographer supplies or fishing supplies.
Most tool belts have funnel-shaped containers with a hole in the bottom to receive a wrench or screwdriver. Many detectorists use these pouches to hold a coin purse or container of some kind for their coins.
Since most coins are dirty, there is a growing trend to use a small jar, like a long, narrow olive jar, and fill it with soapy water, with a slot cut into the cap, so that by the time you get home the coins are already partially cleaned. In any case, depending on how much add-on gear you carry with you, a good tool belt is mighty handy.
Leather tool belts are generally the strongest, but you can find good ones made of cloth, canvas, and plastic that will do the trick. Examples, like the shrxy Metal Detecting Finds Bag (link to Amazon to read great reviews and check prices).
Gear for After Metal Detecting
Identification Books for Coins and Relics
The value of a coin depends on its denomination, the number of such coins minted, and its condition. The condition is evaluated using a grading scale.
The point is that you don’t want to damage the coins you find by rough handling or harsh cleaning. I always check the date first, in the field, and if there’s even a chance that the coin is collectible, I put it in a soft purse for special handling later.
For most coins, you can clean them simply with soap and water followed by a soak for a few hours in a solution of vinegar with a little salt added. This soak should last about 2 hours. If you have to scrub away dirt or grime, use a soft bristle brush or one of those sponges with a plastic scouring pad on one side.
Jewelry is treated the same way. For valuable finds take them to a jeweler for ultrasonic cleaning. Use the same kind of care for vintage finds, such as metal buttons, pens, and personal items. Besides a coin value book, you may want to get a catalog for vintage finds, antiques, and garage sale finds.
I found that using an ultrasonic cleaner is the perfect tool for cleaning coins and jewelry. It doesn’t damage your finds, so they retain the highest value. Magnasonic (pictured above has a great unit with thousands of reviews on Amazon. Check it out with this link to Amazon – Magnasonic Professional Ultrasonic Jewelry and Coin Cleaner
The vast majority of your finds will not fetch much more than face value, and these you can clean yourself with the soak described above. For large quantities of coins, many hobbyists buy a rock tumbler.
If you decide to go that route, again use just vinegar and salt (2 tablespoons of salt for a pint of vinegar) with 1 part coins to 2 parts aquarium gravel. Do not use scouring powder, such as Babbo or Bon Ami. These release a gas which can cause the tumbler to pop. After tumbling, rinse the coins thoroughly and, if necessary, wash again with a little dish-washing soap.
Metal Detectorist Need Coin Holders and Display Cases
Most of my cash finds I just dump in a jar and take to the coin machine at the grocery store. I get a gift certificate, usually for a popular consumer site, so I don’t have to pay the outrageous fees.
For rare coins and odd finds I buy cardboard coin holders and store them in binders. The coin holders fit nicely into plastic pages made for photographic slides. I have a separate binder for flat finds, such as jewelry, pins, and tokens. For thicker treasures I use clear plastic organizers. These you can find in the hardware store and are usually used for storing nuts and bolts.
Metal Detecting For Gold – You May Need a Scale
You don’t really need a scale, but sometimes hobbyists like to sell their jewelry and pins on auction sites and the buyers want to know the weights of the trinkets you are selling, especially if they are silver or gold. You can use this calculation to set a minimum starting price for your sales.
Digital scales are pretty inexpensive. I bought one in the days I was dreaming of weighing gold nuggets. (Clue: It never happened.)
Testing Gold Finds Metal Detecting
Valuable jewelry generally has markings that tell you the metal used, such as “925” for silver, or “14K” for gold. For unmarked jewelry you may want to use a chemical test for silver and gold. These are relatively inexpensive from multiple sources. See Amazon Gold and Silver Test Kit
Metal Detecting Gear It Seems Like You Can’t Have Enough
This has been an overview of the gear and equipment that might help you in metal detecting. I suspect as you get deeper into the sport there will be new tools and inventions that you’ll want to add to your Gotta Have list. Like wireless headphones.
Here’s hoping the review of gear is helpful to you. There will be separate detecting gear papers for gold detecting and water detecting.
Vince Migliore is a writer and researcher. He has written numerous magazine articles on metal detecting and three books. His latest book is “The Art and Science of Metal Detecting,” available in paperback at Amazon.
Yep, most of metal detecting enthusiasts have heard this question dozens of times. There are at least three different ways to answer it:
The quick, sloppy, just-being-neighborly response.
The technical, journeyman coin-shooter response, and
The practical explanation that gets to the heart of the matter, that is, how deep can I personally go with MY detector? Lets look at all three perspectives in turn.
The quick, answer to How Deep can a Metal Detector Detect?
The very easiest of answers is that the depth is about 80% to 100% of the diameter of the round coil you are using, or a little deeper for a D-D coil.
A slightly better estimate comes from reports of experienced dirt fishers. As a member of the Sacramento Valley Detecting Buffs, hunting with them about every weekend for several years, I’ve come up with rough estimate of coin retrievals and depths as summarized in Table 1.
We usually detected for about 3 hours, from 9:00 AM until about Noon. Then we’d lay out our coins and jewelry in front of each other and compare notes. A typical day would have twenty or so members, each displaying between a dozen and three dozen finds, mostly coins.
Experienced dirt-fishers with high-end detectors would generally have the highest counts, and beginners with $100 detectors would have the lowest. Similarly, the depths are deepest with the more advanced detectors. They would typically find money as deep as 9-inches. Although the expensive detectors can scan deeper, they still find treasure mostly in the top few inches of the soil. This is in California, after all, which is a relatively young state, so coins have not accumulated as much as in eastern states.
Table 1. Estimated depth based on detectorist reports.
Now, don’t go ballistic with this table. Conditions vary widely across the United States, by the experience of the dirt fisher, and by the equipment used, among other factors.
The Technical, Journeyman Response to How Deep do Metal Detectors Detect
For the thinking hobbyist the question of how deep you can find coins requires a more detailed look at the factors that affect performance. Some of these factors, like detector engineering, are beyond our control. Others may have fixes or work-arounds. All of them contribute to your understanding of the science of metal detecting, and that, in the end, serves to make you a better coin-shooter.
Baseline Factors for the Metal Detecting Depth
Metal Detector Engineering: Strength of Field, Circuit Design, Signal Processing
The upper limit of the search field of a detector is based on the strength of the radio frequency (RF) signal generated in the circuitry and the quality of the components, including the signal processing software. Manufacturers are constantly trying to balance the cost of the unit with consumer demanded features. This is why the higher priced detectors often work better. Generally, this is a fixed factor, except for your ability buy the next higher priced machine.
Power Supply of Metal Detector
Like the circuitry, the power supply is built in: you cannot change it. To work best you can keep the batteries fresh and recharged. Some detector models now have the option of a separate power pack that keeps the supply voltage at an optimum level for a longer period of time.
Metal Detecting Coil Size and Design
A larger coil size will penetrate deeper into the earth. Double-D, or D-D coils are better for deeper detecting. Many detectors models offer the ability to switch coils.
Detector type: VLF, Pulse-Induction, Two-Box
Many VLFDetectors now offer a choice of the radio frequency you can use. The lower frequencies generally penetrate deeper into the earth. Pulse Induction detectors usually penetrate deeper than the radio frequency models, but they suffer from sketchy target identification.
Pulse-Induction Detectors are superior in mineralized and salty environments. They are favored for beach detecting and even into the surf. The only drawback of these detectors is that they are often poor at target identification. See: https://electronics.howstuffworks.com/gadgets/other-gadgets/metal-detector4.htm
The Two-Box Metal Detector is used to find very deep treasure. Think pirate trunks filled with gems and bullion buried on an island in the Pacific. Although they penetrate deep into the ground, they are not suited for small coin hunting. They are generally heavy and quite large.
These detectors are best employed when a treasure hunter has an approximate location to hunt in where a cache is known to exist (very rare). Normally two-box detectors would be far beyond the range of the hobbyist coin-shooter, but now some famous brands have stepped into the arena with specialized and add-on units for the hobbyist.
For more on two-box detectors see: https://www.kellycodetectors.com/catalog/library/best-two-box-deep-metal-detectors.
Environmental Factors Affect Metal Detector Depth
Hard-pan, heavy clay, and densely packed soils are harder for the detector signal to penetrate than loose, arable land. Similarly, ground containing large rocks, aggregate accretions, and intermittent strata can create chaos in the return signal, making both depth and target identification readings less reliable. See Figure 1.
Ionization and Mineralization
Certain minerals, especially salts, often interfere with the coil signal and will decrease effective depth. Water in salty terrain can create ionized particles which block the signal. Many minerals and ores, such as at quarries and in desert landscapes can create false readings and faulty target identification.
Be sure to adjust your ground balance in these areas. Many detectors compensate for mineralized soil by decreasing the signal strength or sensitivity, which in turn reduces the effective depth of your searching.
Buried power lines, overhead power lines, and large utility transformers often muddle or even incapacitate your detector functions. Interference from other coin-shooters will do the same. Operating near a radio station will sometimes cause problems.
Figure 1. Air test versus ground test. Junk metals, minerals, ionized particles all tend to scatter the radio signal, making depth measurement and target identification more difficult.
Metal Detecting Target Factors
Metal detectors work by sending a radio signal through a coil. The electromagnetic field generated by the coil is transmitted into the ground. A metal object in the ground acts like a tiny radio antenna. Energy from the coil signal generates a minute current in the target, and the coil picks up that return signal, processes it, and tries to identify the target. (Reference: https://www.minelab.com/knowledge-base/getting-started/how-metal-detectors-work.)
The return signal from the target is not very strong. It’s strength diminishes with distance, which is another way of saying depth. Any interference from other objects or ingredients in the soil will contaminate that return signal. This process works against both the ability to detect a coin and the ability to identify it.
Target Size and Orientation
The best orientation for maximum depth is horizontal to the land surface, and parallel to the surface of the coil. This position captures the most energy from the coil. Likewise, a larger coin, or larger metal object, will have a better response. A coin in the horizontal position receives the least energy and is most difficult to detect. See Figure 2.
Figure 2. Return signal from the target to the receiving coil at different angles of orientation: A, parallel; B; askew at 30 degrees, C; on end.
If the target is a good conductor, such as copper or silver, the return signal will be strongest. Cheap, impure, and corroded metals will return a weaker response.
Metallic and Chemical Interference
Other metal objects near the coin, salts and ionizing chemicals, even ferrous rocks, will hinder the detection of the return signal. The most common culprits are nails, bottle caps, pull-tabs and metal garbage.
Metal Detecting Operator Factors
Keep the coil close to the ground for maximum depth. It’s not a good idea to actually touch the dirt, as this will quickly sand-paper away the protective cover. Touching the grass is not as abrasive.
Use the pin-pointer feature on your detector if you have one. When you find a target, scan it again facing a different direction. For example, change a north-south scan to an east-west scan. Changes in the signal may indicate an oblong or tubular target.
Knowing Your Metal Detector
There’s very common saying in the detecting world. “RTFM!” It means Read the Manual. Not exactly sure what the ‘F’ stands for. (Wink!)
You have to know how to adjust the gain, the discrimination level, the notch filters, ground balance and related controls. This is one of the biggest factors in getting maximum depth out of your detecting. Not knowing, or not caring about these settings is the most common error among detectorists, and it’s the most easily corrected with just a little tinkering with your controls. The solution, again, is to read your user manual.
Detector depth is also related to your chosen goals. Relic hunting, or settings for “All Metal” mode with cranked up gain will get you pretty deep. Gold prospecting, with a higher radio frequency and a small coil will get you only a few inches deep. And there’s a vast range in between.
The Personal, Definitive Answer to Depth
In order to determine exactly how deep ANY metal detector can operate you would have to calculate each of the above listed factors, measure the percentage of loss by each of the variables, then multiply those losses by the ideal air-test depth measurement.
That, of course is impractical, if not impossible, for the average detectorist. Instead, there are simple methods to determine exactly how deep YOUR metal detector operates.
Air Testing Your Metal Detector
Turn on your detector and prop it up against a wooden table or fence, away from any metal objects.
Lay out an 18-inch or 3-foot wooden or cloth ruler (nothing metallic) onto the table.
Cut a V-shaped notch into the side of a dowel or wooden stick, so that you can jam coins or objects into the notch and they will stay secure as you wave them under the coil.
Wave a series of objects directly perpendicular under the coil. The coins should be parallel with the base of the coil. See Figure 3. Suggested coins: zinc penny, copper penny, nickel, clad and silver dimes and quarters.
Measure the distance from the coil where you can just barely read the Target ID on your detector. Write down that distance onto a note-pad.
Field Testing Your Metal Detector
When you’re in the field and you find a relatively deep coin in your Target ID, write down the target and, if your detector displays it, the depth reading. Dig for the coin without removing it. Once you locate it with your pin-pointer, measure the actual depth. Write that depth reading down next to the depth that was recorded by the detector. Is there much of a difference? Repeat that for different coins and depths.
Field Research With Your Metal Detector
Remember that stick with the notch in it? (Air Test, above.) Use it to measure actual depth of your finds.
Take the stick and some test coins with you on a hunt.
When you’ve found something and you have deep hole, say 9-inches, then place the stick with a coin in the notch, and bury it with the loose dirt from the hole. Then scan it with your detector and record your readings. Repeat for each test coin.
Now you can measure the depth of each test coin in more realistic conditions. You will then have depth readings from three sources: the air test, the detector depth readings, and you own physical measurements from retrieved coins.
Figure 3. Depth calculations using an air test and measures in the field.
If the test coin is a quarter and you can easily detect it in the hole with dirt in it, then raise the coil up an inch at a time until the coin is just barely detectable. Add the height of the coil to the depth of the hole.
Now you will have a measure of depth for each coin in real-world conditions.
Of course, the loose soil in the measurements will not be as compact as the original conditions, but it will be a lot more accurate than the air test.
PRO TIP: Paint inch marks on your pin-pointer, or your digging too, so you can measure the depth in the field without carrying a ruler around with you.
Conclusions is Deeper Better Metal Detecting
So there you have it. You should now be able to rattle off the answer to the depth question for three different audiences.
For curious passers-by: “Oh, about the diameter of the coil.”
For the fellow dirt-fisher: “Well, it’s complicated. It’s mostly coil size, the quality of the detector, and conditions in the ground.” See Figure 4.
For your own satisfaction: “I did my own research and this machine goes reliably to 10 inches deep.”
I leave you with some helpful references. Happy hunting!
Vince Migliore is a writer and researcher. He has written numerous magazine articles on metal detecting and three books. His latest book is “The Art and Science of Metal Detecting,” available in paperback at Amazon. Your can read more about Vince on his Biography Page
I used to search for coins and other things in my back yard but had to stop because I was wreaking my grass with large holes. After doing some research I found out that I could have been digging much smaller holes if I had a pinpointer.
What is a Pinpointer in Metal Detecting?
A pinpointer is a device, whether handheld or built into the metal detector, which allows you to hone in on the exact location of a hit on your regular metal detector. They work by relating the frequency or volume of a sound to how strong the signal the pinpointer is receiving from the object.
What are the Different Types of Pinpointers?
Metal Detector Pinpointer:
A metal detecting pinpointer is essentially a handheld mini metal detector. It operates using the same technologies a regular metal detector uses, but it much smaller and useful in a completely different way. While a regular metal detector may be useful for searching large areas in a relatively short amount of time, a pinpointer can save you time when it comes down to finding exactly where an object might be and if you might have already dug it up. This is because a pinpointer has a smaller range of detection so it can be easier to look through a pile of dug up material when compared to using a regular metal detector.
Smaller range of detection allows for more precise searching.
Easier to use when digging up an object when compared to a full-size metal detector.
Can only be used when an object is already detected using a regular metal detector.
May be difficult to find object which are buried deep in the ground when compared to using a regular metal detector.
The Built in Pinpoint Function of a Metal Detector:
Many modern metal detector manufactures have realized the necessity of a pinpointer and in recent years have even began building a pinpoint function into their regular metal detectors. The pinpoint function on a regular metal detector works in the same way that a metal detector pinpointer does. In both cases the device will produce a sound whose frequency or volume is relative to the signal the device is receiving from the object, allowing the user to know how close the device is to the object.
Already in your metal detector so you don’t have anything extra to buy or bring with you.
Useful for beginners who are just starting out their metal detecting journey.
Suffers from a large detection area which somewhat hinders the ability to pinpoint an object.
The cumbersome design of a regular metal detector will slow you down while digging because you will have to repeatedly stand back up to pinpoint the object.
What are the Advantages of a Metal Detecting Pinpointer?
While the pinpoint function of a regular metal detector can be somewhat useful it should not be confused as being the same thing as a metal detector pinpointer. A metal detector Pinpointer is a specialized tool which is useful for determining the exact location, depth, and even size of an object without the hassle of using an all-purpose metal detector.
Because of the small or rather focused field of detection and handheld design a metal detector pinpointer it is especially useful for when you have found a hit and are on the ground digging through material. In fact, often times you can use the metal detector pinpointer itself to dig through material you have already shoveled away. It really is much easier to use this handheld tool rather than a bulky regular metal detector.
Additionally, often times with larger targets, and even some smaller ones, you will damage the object with your shovel because you don’t really know how deep the object is. With a metal detector pinpointer you will know exactly where, and how deep, a hit really is. This helps you dig smaller holes and find your targets quicker. These things together result in a much simpler experience for avid hunters and a much more positive experience for beginners.
How do you use a Metal Detector Pinpointer?
Find the general location of a target with your regular metal detector.
Begin digging small amounts of material, being careful to no damage the object.
Turn on the metal detector pinpointer and ground balance it. (This is often done by pressing the on button while the tip of the metal detector pinpointer is touching the ground)
Move the metal detector pinpointer around until the sound coming from the device either gets louder or more repetitious. (or both depending on your specific metal detector pinpointer).
Use the tip to dig through the dirt and locate the target.
If you can’t locate the target in the already dug up material try using the metal detector pinpointer to locate the object in the bottom of the hole, or possible even in the sidewalls of the hole.
Popular Metal Detecting Pinpointers?
1.Garrett Pro Pointer/ Garret Pro Pointer AT
The Garrett Pro Pointer and the Garrett Pro Pointer All Terrain are by far the most popular metal detector pinpointer on this list and for good reason. The Garrett Pro Pointer is well known for being a dependable and capable pinpointer, which is why it has often been the go to purchase for consumers.
The Garrett Pro Pointer AT is the newest version of the old favorite. It is a fully waterproof, durable, easy to use meatal detector pinpointer which is bright orange in color so you don’t lose it underwater.
2. The Bounty Hunter Pinpointer
The Bounty Hunter Pinpointer is a well-known metal detector pinpointer made popular through its high quality and affordable price. The Bounty Hunter Pinpointer is constructed of a high-quality plastic which is completely black in color.
Furthermore, the simplicity of the Bounty Hunter Pinpointer doesn’t end with its design. This pinpointer is controlled singularly by a knob which controls the sensitivity of the metal detector pinpointer. Moreover, it runs on just one standard 9-volt battery.
3. Kuman Pinpointer
This metal detector pinpointer is on the low end as far as pricing is concerned, but definitely not in quality. While the materials and functionality of the Kuman pinpointer are, expectedly, lower quality than the Garret Pro Pointer, the Kuman pointer does clearly get some inspiration from its more expensive competitor.
The Kuman pinpointer is a water-resistant metal detector pinpointer that is both bright orange and controlled by just a single button, much like the Garrett Pro Pointer. Another similarity is that both pinpointers come with an included waist holster.
4. Fisher F-Pulse
The Fisher F-Pulse metal detector pinpointer is similar to the Garret Pro-Pointer in that they are both at the top of the range when it comes to both quality and price. However, the similarities pretty much end there. The Fisher F-Pulse is an induction pinpointer with three sensitivity levels and is waterproof up to six feet.
The F-Pulse is bright red in color, which much like the bright orange of the Garrett Pro Pointer is useful for not losing the device underwater. As I mentioned the F-Pulse is similar to the Garrett Pro Pointer in price, but importantly, it is similar in its level of functionality. Some people even claim that they think the F-Pulse to be more sensitive than the Garrett Pro Pointer.
5. Deteknix Xpointer
The Deteknix Xpointer metal detector pinpointer is a good middle of the road choice when you don’t want to spend premium pinpointer amounts of money but still desire a premium experience. The Xpointer is bright orange and made of reasonably good quality plastic. It comes with a waist holster and is constructed to be water resistant. Unlike many of the pinpointers on this list the Xpointer has two buttons, one for controlling the sensitivity of the device and one for the included flashlight.
The reviews for this product describe it as just as good as the Garrett Pro Pointer but with a lower cost. Although, it is important to know that water resistant is not the same thing as waterproof.
Few products have evolved as much as headphones in the past 20 years. They started as a tool in a workplace, slowly transitioned into a lifestyle product and now they’ve become a fashion staple. If I forget my headphones when I’m heading to the gym or out on my walk, I don’t feel as if I can be my best self. My anger especially rises when I forget them when I’m metal detecting. They not only help me focus, but I know they help me find more than I would if I didn’t use them.
Why Use Headphones for Metal Detecting?
There are multiple answers to this question. First, wearing headphones is polite. Chances are you’re metal detecting at a place where other people are going to be spending time. It can be disrupting for those around you if they hear a consistent beeping noise. They’re most likely trying to get away from artificial noise so be courteous and wear headphones. Headphones will allow you to get closer to people without feeling uncomfortable. If they can’t hear you, then you can get away with more.
Another reason is that headphones are going to provide consistency. If you’re detecting in windy conditions, the headphones will block out the wind. If it’s rainy, they’ll keep the noise out. You want to be alert when detecting. It’s easy to get distracted by the surrounding terrain, people, etc. Headphones will block those out and allow you to get the results you desire. Also, if metal detecting is a hobby that allows you to gain some solitude, people will be much less likely to talk to you if they see you’re wearing headphones.
Perhaps the most important reason to wear headphones is the clarity that they provide. They’ll allow you to pick up signals that may be impossible to hear with just the external speaker on the detector. Also, headphones will help you identify different metals. If you’re hard of hearing like I am, wear headphones! It makes a world of difference. It’s obnoxious trying to guess what sound you heard. Headphones will clear up and confusion that may come with listening from the external speaker.
A good pair of headphones will even help you detect even deeper than you usually would. They make a major amount of difference!
Can you use any headphones for metal detecting?
The answer to this is maybe. Some detectors have mono and some have stereo outputs. Most smartphone headphones are going to be stereo. It’s important to know this before you choose a pair of headphones to use. If you choose the wrong headphones, you’ll likely only have one ear that fires. Detector specific headphones have a mono/stereo switch that allows you to operate between the two.
It’s also important to have volume controls on your headphones. Many detectors don’t have volume controls, so if you plug in regular headphones your ears are going to hurt due to the loud high pitch beeping. Regular headphones likely don’t have volume controls for the headphones themselves so be sure to know this before using or purchasing a pair. They’ll likely have a control that turns the volume down on the device instead of the headphones. If you can get headphones with volume controls on each ear, you can do a better job of balancing what you need.
Chances are you’re also going to need some sort of adapter to plug in the headphones. If this is the case, it could cause some sort of delay. Regular headphones are ? inch. Most metal detectors have a ¼ inch input. These adapters are going to put you at a higher risk of a weak signal, but should work just fine.
Are Wireless Headphones Better for Metal Detecting?
If you wear headphones in your everyday life, you know the answer to this question. Nothing is more annoying than catching a headphone cord on a door handle or other inanimate object. Your device either gets pulled out of your pocket or the headphones come flying out of your ears. It’s an obnoxious mishap that does not make your life easier in any way.
Wireless headphones have had to come along way before they could be compared to wired headphones. Also, the quality ones are going to be extremely pricey. The simplicity of them, however, is worth the money. The only downfall is remembering to charge them. Thankfully, the cases they sit in are going to charge them so you don’t have to worry about finding an outlet.
For metal detecting, comfort is key. You want to be in comfortable clothes and confident in your equipment. If you don’t have to worry about a headphone cord getting in the way of your day, then it’s one less thing to think about. Also, think about the times you have to dig. You have to remove your headphones, find a place where they won’t get dirty or in the way and then start digging.
I’ve heard numerous horror stories of people and their brand new wired headphones. I had a friend go detecting at night with a brand new pair of headphones and cut the cord on his first dig because he didn’t see where it was laying. Wireless headphones allow you to keep them in your ears at all times. There’s no need to remove them until you are finished.
Wireless Headphone Options for Metal Detectors
The process for installing wireless headphones to your detector is getting easier as well. For example, the Garrett Z-Lynk Wireless System has a transmitter that you’ll install on the shaft of the detector. You’ll do so by using an elastic strap or velcro.
You’ll turn on the transmitter and clip the receiver to your belt. The receiver has a ¼ inch jack just like any other detector. Plug your headphones in and you’re good to go. This keeps the headphones on your person and doesn’t require you to hassle with any connection to the detector.
Garrett MS-3 Z-Lynk Wireless Headphones (KIT) for Garrett Metal Detectors – Volume Control and Super Fast Response Time –
The Garrett MS-3 Z-Lynk Wireless Headphones are an even better option because you’ll receive wireless headphones with a built-in receiver. You won’t have to go through the extra hassle of plugging headphones to a receiver in your belt or pocket.
It’s nice to see the metal detecting world keeping up with the rest of the headphone industry. It’s an easy comparison to working out. When you’re lifting weights, do you want a headphone wire in the way or getting tangled? You have to have shorts with pockets and carrying your phone in your pocket can throw off your balance. Wireless headphones allow you to set your phone to the side and give you the reassurance to lift without any trouble. Again, you’ll pay for the convenience. The Garret MS-3 Z-Lynk headphones are going to run you about $150.
Another solid option are the Deteknix Wireless Headphones. These are similar to the Garret Z-Lynk and you can’t go wrong with either.
Wireless Headphone Concerns
There are always going to be concerns with going wireless. The two most glaring issues are battery life and delay. As far as the battery life is concerned, the Garret MS Lynk options are going to give you about 30 hours of battery before you’re going to have to recharge. Charging is not an issue. You won’t have to be changing batteries or anything. All it takes is plugging the receiver into a micro-USB charger and you’ll be fine. It can be charged from your car, laptop or wall outlet.
The concern about a delay is a legitimate one. You don’t want your headphones interfering with finding something fantastic. The options listed above only have about a 60 millisecond delay. This is so small that it has essentially no impact on you.
Is the response time important for Metal Detecting Headphones?
Yes. It is. Thankfully, the newer headphones aren’t going to interfere with response time. If you choose to use your own personal bluetooth headphones there will be a significant lag. That’s why it is important to use metal detecting wireless headphones. Regular bluetooth headphones are great for listening to podcasts or music, but won’t translate well to metal detecting. You need the most efficient equipment possible.
If you swing the detector back and forth at an inconsistent rate, you want headphones that can keep up. Headphones attached to an adapter or bluetooth headphones won’t. They’ll give you a delayed signal and confuse you. The faster you sweep, the harder your detector is going to have to work to keep up.
Metal Detecting Headphone Features to Consider
Comfort- Comfort is key. Like I mentioned earlier, you don’t want to worry about equipment, clothing or other accessories when metal detecting. In the summer, over the ear headphones may get uncomfortable. They’ll trap the heat to your head. If you can use earbuds, do so. However, if it’s cooler or there is a lot of excess noise, use over the ear headphones. Plus, they are more difficult to lose!
Weight- Weight is another factor for metal detecting headphones that isn’t always considered. You’re already carrying your detector, some sort of digging device and likely some water and snacks so your load could be heavy. Light headphones are an added bonus if you can use them. They’ll relieve some of the stress on your neck.
Volume Control- Volume control on headphones is an absolute necessity. If you listen to the external speaker, you’ll notice how loud it is. It can be overbearing for you and especially annoying for others in the vicinity. There is likely no volume control on your detector. When you plug in your headphones, you’ll notice right away how important the volume control is. Regular earbuds have a volume control, but it’s for the device, not the headphones themselves.
Battery Life- Headphones are going to save the battery on your metal detector. The speaker will get turned off because the headphones are plugged into it! Wired headphones are obviously never going to run out of battery. However, if you use wireless headphones battery can be an issue. Metal detecting wireless headphones are going to last you about 30 hours between charges. Bring along a USB car charger and plug them in on your way to your destination and it should be more than enough to get you through your session.
Size and Ease of Packing- This is a tricky one. If you are flying with your metal detector, you’re going to want smaller headphones. They’ll take up less room and be one less thing to worry about when you’re trying to fit more into your already full suitcase. Smaller headphones are going to be easier to lose and break.
I recently purchased a pair of Apple’s new AirPods and lost them for three weeks because they wedged between the side of my bed and the wall. While wireless metal detecting headphones aren’t going to be as small as AirPods, they still are possible to lose. Also, wireless headphones have the transmitter and receiver. There are more things to lose. If you’re responsible, then go ahead and purchase those wireless headphones!
Noise Cancelling- This is the most important feature of metal detecting headphones. Metal detecting relies entirely on sound. You need to pick up on the different sounds and signals. Noise cancelling headphones are going to block out excess noise. This feature will ensure you the most success. You can compare them to tires on a car. If you’re planning on doing off-roading in the winter, you wouldn’t use road tires. You’d choose tires with specific tread that will prevent you from getting stuck. Metal detecting headphones are the same. If you purchase a pair specifically for metal detecting, you’ll have more success.
Do I Need Waterproof Headphones for Metal Detecting?
Yes. Metal detecting in the rain can be uncomfortable, but it can be some of the most successful time to go. The soil is getting moved around which will help your detector detect things that are deeper or otherwise would be more difficult to find. If you don’t have waterproof headphones, you’ll either rely on the external speaker or won’t be able to go. You could wear a rain jacket with a hood, but it’ll likely soak through and ruin a cherished pair of headphones.
Choosing headphones for metal detecting is a heavily debated subject. There are minimalist metal detectors that will purchase a cheap ¼ inch to ? inch adapter and use regular smartphone headphones. This method works, but is it the best? No. Metal detecting specific headphones are going to produce the best results. It’s like attaching a baitcasting reel to a spin rod. It still works, but it’s not the most efficient process. I’ve metal detected with my regular iPhone earbuds and legitimate metal detecting earbuds. For one, the volume control is amazing. It makes all the difference in the world and it was all I needed to purchase a pair of metal detecting specific earphones.
8 Best Metal Detecting Headphones:
White’s V3i Wireless Headphones– These are going to be expensive, but they’re a solid option. They’ll run you nearly $300, but are well worth it.
Detectorpro Gray Ghost Ultimate Metal Detector Headphones– These are about $130
Garret Submersible Headphones– These work above and below water; a feature often forgotten when looking for headphones. They’ll run you $85.
Garret ClearSound Easy Stow Headphones– These are very affordable, but work well and can store easily. They’ll only cost you $23 on Amazon.
Bounty Hunter HEAD – PL Headphones – These will only run you around $40 on Amazon.
Garrett Deluxe Headphones– You can find these for around $35 on third party websites
Fisher Stereo Headphones – These are only around $30 on Amazon
Treasure Wise Headphones- These are also only $30 on Amazon