Looking for some tips to improve your odds treasure hunting with your metal detector? I’ve complied a list of every tips and trick I’ve used or learned swinging a metal detector especially if you’re a beginner.
1. If at all possible buy a decent metal detector when you get your first one.
I’m not saying you have to spend as much as you can and get some thousand-dollar professional grade metal detector, but something in the $300 to $700-dollar range is really where you want to be.
Anything less and you start getting metal detectors that don’t have all of the features and capabilities that you will want to have as you go from a beginner to a novice. Anything more than that and you most likely are going to get a metal detector with functionality that you can’t fully take advantage of just yet (plus if you wind up not continuing to metal detect you won’t be out a bunch of money).
2. Don’t get easily discouraged.
When metal detecting in general, but especially when you’re just getting started, there will be plenty of times when you don’t find anything. There will be even more times when it seems like all you can find is trash.
The general rule of thumb when it comes to probability in being successful while metal detecting is that you are going to find a lot more trash than you are going to find treasure. That goes for all detectorists from beginner to professional. The difference is that the professional understands this fact and deal with it, and the beginner gets discouraged and gives up before they find anything of value.
I think it was Charles Garrett the founder of Garrett Metal Detectors that said ” You need to search for 10 hours digging every sound before you get proficient metal detectingCharles Garrett – Garrett Metal Detectors
3. Dig on every hit.
This one goes along with the last one in that it can be easy to get discouraged and not dig a signal just because it sounds like another signal that turned out to be trash, or one that you weren’t even able to locate.
However, as a beginner you are going to want to (and if you want to be successful you are going to have to) dig everything. You can’t know if it’s going to be trash or if it’s going to be treasure unless you put in the work and dig it out of the ground. Plus, simple probability will tell you that the more hits you dig the more opportunities you have to find something good. Not to mention the experience you gain from pin-pointing any target and unearthing it.
4. Start in your own yard to get comfortable with the metal detector.
When you first get a metal detector you are going to want to practice a bunch and also find the setting that work best for you. Instead of trying to figure this out once you’ve driven an hour to some beach, why not dial everything in back at home? Who knows what you could find waiting for you in your own backyard?
Personally, after thoroughly searching my entire property I was able to find a bunch of coins, some old tools, and of course some nails, pop-tabs, and pieces of foil. But, I was able to learn how to use features such as: discrimination, sensitivity, ground-balancing, and even how to adjust the volume of the signal.
5. Use an Overlapping Scanning Technique.
One of the worst mistakes a beginner detectorist can make is having poor scanning technique. If you don’t overlap your swings then there is no doubt you are missing ground and therefore possible missing treasures. I noticed that I got double the amount of hits when I first started using an overlapping technique, a huge improvement for such a small change.
6. Always sweep over the dirt you dig out of a hole.
When you are digging out a hit make sure to periodically sweep the coil of your metal detector over the pile of dirt you dig out of the hole to check if the object has already been dug up. I constantly dig up too much in a single dig and wind up putting my object in the discarded material pile, so I always make sure to check it every few digs to make sure I’m not wasting my time.
7. Keep your coil parallel and close to the ground.
Coil discipline, or the ability to always keep the coil of your metal detector parallel and close to the ground when detecting, is a skill learned with time. However, if you can start learning it from the beginning you avoid having to unlearn bad habits. Having a coil that is parallel to the ground ensures that you are detecting the ground directly below the center of the coil and thus helps you when it comes to pinpointing a signal. Having a coil that is close to the ground ensure that you are detecting as deep as possible which means your chances of getting a signal are instantly improved.
8. Use headphones… and make sure they are comfortable.
Of course, most metal detectors have a speaker. But, if your metal detector also has a headphone port use it. Wearing headphones helps mitigate the annoyance you may be causing to people around you, and even if you don’t care about that, headphones make it easier to hear (and are more sensitive to) a signal than the speaker on your metal detector.
When I bought my first headphones it was a game changer. I’ve played with lots of models and even borrowed many brands. It gave me a great chance to summarize what I found in this article: Selecting the BEST Headphones for Metal Detecting.
Just make sure they are comfortable. I hate wearing uncomfortable and itchy headphones for hours.
9. Take your time Scanning.
If you are moving too fast it is possible that you will miss a signal, and most likely you are going to miss ground. Slowing down and taking your time is the only way to make sure that you aren’t missing anything important.
10. Be respectful and follow the law.
This is probably common sense to most people, but then again common sense isn’t always common. So, just as a reminder, make sure to always be respectful and to leave as little of a trace of your detecting as you possibly can. This means filling in holes, not digging too deep, and in general not destroying the land that you are detecting on.
The team at Fisher Labs has a great article on the Metal Detecting Code of Ethics. You can read it here.
Moreover, unless you own the land or have express permission from the land-owner, you need to make sure that it is legal to metal detect on the land you plan to detect on. Plus, even if it is legal you need to make sure to follow any possible rules or regulations that go along with metal detecting at these areas. It’s not fun to get a ticket because you didn’t check with the DNR before detecting on a restricted portion of a state park.
Here are some tips if you are looking to find coins.
11. If you find one coin… you’re probably going to find another.
If you find one coin in a location it is always a great idea to make sure to search the area around it because you will often find another coin or many other coins. I once found three mercury dimes within a foot and a half of each other.
12. Go to the beach.
The beach is one of the most common places to find coins, and it’s often easier to dig them up when they are surrounded by sand.
13. Always go detecting after the snow melts.
It’s extremely easy to lose something in the snow, so it stands to reason that people are probably losing coins, rings, and other jewelry in the snow. When snow melts it leaves everything in plain view on the ground, ready for you to find.
14. Use a smaller coil if you are in a trashy location.
A small coil will have a smaller search area which will be easier to control when you are searching in a particularly trash infested area.
15. Carry a belt pouch to hold your finds.
One of the best investments I’ve made is to get s small pouch that I can carry all of my finds in. I recommend getting one that you can slip your belt through so that it is always accessible but never gets in your way.
The folks a Garrett have a nice in-expensive pouch that has great reviews. You can find it at Amazon here’s a link to read more. Garrett Metal Detectors Digger Pouch
16. Don’t clean a coin until you are absolutely positive of what it is worth.
By now most people know this from watching re-runs of pawn stars, but just in case you didn’t get the message, never wash an old coin before what you know it’s worth. Washing a coin, especially an old one, can damage it if not done extremely carefully.
17. Use a Pinpointer.
A pinpointer is a handheld metal detector that allows you to focus in on an object while you are digging. The benefit of a handheld tool is that it is easier to use when you are digging. Moreover, a pinpointers small size also helps you in small spaces. I invested in a pinpointer a couple of years back and now I use it just as much as my main metal detector.
Seriously use a Handheld Pinpointer. It will increase what you find and make it so much faster. Read more about Metal Detecting Pinpointers in this article: Do You Need a Pinpointer for Metal Detecting.
18. Look for high-traffic areas.
Going to locations such as tourist beaches to increase your chance of finding something is smart. What’s even smarter is further narrowing down your search location to increase your chance of finding something. Walking paths, hangout spots, the sand in front of a pop-up snack stand (after it’s gone of course), these are all great places to metal detect.
19. Record all of your finds.
An old trick that I learned from a guy I met on a beach on Lake Huron. Recording all of your finds, and not just the object description but also the location, is how I keep everything straight. Knowing where I get the most hits and where I get the best finds is essential to staying profitable.
20. Rotate the places you go to metal detect.
This tip works best when used in conjunction with the previous. If you often detect in areas with steady foot traffic, then the best way to maximize your chances is to give each of your locations a chance to ‘re-generate’. Rotating when and where you detect is the smartest way to accomplish this task.
Here are some tips for metal detecting on the beach.
21. Consider using a Pulse Induction metal Detector.
Very low frequency or VLF metal detectors offer discrimination feature which are helpful on the beach don’t get me wrong, but if it a saltwater beach then the additional sediment can cause interference that messes with a VLF metal detector. Pulse Induction metal detectors are unaffected by hot rocks, and yes, even a saltwater beach.
22. Walk in a grid pattern.
I’ve already explained why using an overlapping scan technique is essential to proper metal detecting technique (see number 5), but to be sure you are finding everything that you possible can I recommend walking in a grid pattern. Pretending that a grid exists on top of wherever you are metal detecting is a good way to keep track of where you have, and have not, already checked.
23. Go to tourist beaches.
A tourist beach probably has the lowest chance of holding some ancient relic, but if you’re looking for jewelry than a tourist beach is the best place for you to be. I know a bunch of people who find gold rings, necklaces, and earrings all summer long when they hunt for treasure on a tourist beach.
24. Go to abandoned beaches.
If a tourist crowd isn’t your thing, or even if you’re just looking for new places to treasure hunt, don’t overlook abandoned beaches. Just because an area is dead now doesn’t mean that it was never a spot where people gathered. Abandoned beaches are great, and importantly quiet, places to metal detect.
25. Carry a sand sifter.
A sand sifter is a metal basket with perforations that you can use to sift through beach sand more efficiently. Sand in one end, sand out the other, and your treasure is left behind completely uncovered. I don’t go beach hunting without one, neither should you.
I spent hours researching the best shovel and sand sifters. I combined all of it in this article: The Best Metal Detecting Digging Tools.
Here are some general tips for metal detecting.
26. Go treasure hunting after it rains.
This tip comes with benefits that are two-fold. Firstly, it’s only logical that after it rains the soil will be wet and easier to dig up. Taking advantage of the weather when it comes is a good way to get ahead.
Secondly, as we all know water is conductive. That means that after it rains the metal in the ground will be easier for you metal detectors coil to find. Not only that but you will also be able to find targets that are deeper down. So, even if you think you’ve already tapped out a location it’s not really done until you detect after it rains.
27. Try to go out in the early morning or late at night.
This is a tip especially for those who like to keep to themselves. But, all of us can agree that a trip to the park can turn into a scenario where you’re answering more questions about what you are doing than hits from your metal detector if you’re not careful. That is why I’ve always liked to try and go early in the morning or late at night.
28. Make a checklist of all your gear.
This probably isn’t a problem for those who have been using the same setup with the same equipment for a long time, but if you’re still worrying about losing something or not bringing something on an outing then a checklist of all your gear is what you need to keep things straight. I suggest keeping a digital copy, so you always re-print a copy when you need one.
29. Carry a test coin.
On days when you’ve gone hours without getting a single hit you are going to start thinking that your metal detector is broken. If you don’t already carry some change in your pocket, I suggest starting to at least keep one coin on you at all times. This will help you keep your sanity, and also check to make sure everything is in working order.
30. Carry coils of different sizes.
Different areas require different coil sizes plain and simple. A large field is going to be much better suited with a large coil, and the same goes for a smaller trashy area and a small coil that is easier to maneuver. This trick isn’t much of a trick at all seeing as how this is essentially just a policy of having the right tool for the job.
If you’d like to learn more about metal detecting coils, I HIGHLY recommend you check out this article. How Does a Metal Detecting Coil Work
31. Carry coils of different types.
Everything I said about coil sizes goes for coil types. There are a few different coil designs to choose from and all of them have their own purpose. Knowing how, and when, to use each one is one of the most effective ways to increase your chances of finding something good.
32. Always carry extra batteries.
Metal detectors come with a wide range of battery styles and types, all of which depend on the model and price range of your metal detector. However, whatever kind of battery your metal detector uses I highly suggest getting some extra batteries. While you’re at it, get some extra chargers and make sure to use them.
33. Remove trash find when you come upon them.
I get that you probably don’t want to carry around a bunch of garbage finds, but the next guy doesn’t want to dig up a ton of garbage either. Especially if the next guy is you. Removing trash when you find it is just good practice when it comes to metal detecting etiquette.
34. Use a hand shovel that has a built-in blade for sawing roots.
Roots are probably the absolute worst part about metal detecting. A hand shovel with a serrated edge is one of the most convenient ways to get through even the thickest roots you might encounter. A flat, knife like, hand shovel is the best in my opinion due to its superior sod cutting abilities.
I discovered a great find on Amazon – the SE Prospector’s Choice 12″ Serrated Digger (Link to Amazon for over 1000 reviews) is perfect in terms of price and quality.
35. Do research if you are looking for relics.
There is always a chance you can find a relic hidden away in your front yard, but if that doesn’t work out then you might want to do some research to up your chances. The internet, library record, heck even just stories from the locals; anything that points to an area having the kind of relics you are looking for is what you will need to make sure you’re working smarter not harder.
36. Dig slowly and carefully.
The only thing worse than damaging a coin by washing it is to damage one with the blade of your shovel. Digging slowly and carefully doesn’t ensure that you will never damage a find, but in my experience it definitely helps. I’ve had it happen to me, and so has any other detectorist, but it still sucks when you wind up being the reason that an object isn’t worth as much as it could be worth.
37. Carry a jug of fertilizer water if you are digging in grass.
I learned this one from a buddy of mine who let me metal detect in his front yard even though he had a pretty good lawn. So, along with promising to cut and replant the sod after I got a hit, I also promised to carry around a gallon jug of fertilizer water to pour over the area after I was finished digging up the find. It was kind of a pain at first, but I realized later it was actually a great idea, so I started doing it whenever I go out to metal detect in a grassy area.
38. Bring a strong screwdriver to use as a pick.
If you either, don’t have a handheld pickaxe or don’t want to carry it around; a large flathead crew driver can be a great tool for breaking up rocks or just hard soil compacts. I personally use one instead of pickaxe because the screwdriver will fit in my back pocket and the pickaxe won’t. Make sure it is both long and thick enough to handle a fair bit of ware and tear though, a sturdy handle doesn’t hurt either.
39. Make sure your metal detector is waterproof before you use it in the rain… or in the water for that matter.
Most midgrade metal detectors come with some sort of water-resistant qualities. However, a lot of cheaper ones and even some expensive ones don’t. Make sure to check if your metal detector is waterproof before sticking it in the water is all I’m saying. I’ve haven’t had it happen to me, but friends of mine tell me they’ve had more than a couple issues with rain getting into the connections in their machines.
40. Consider water level changes when beach metal detecting.
Most notably on beaches affected by the tides, water level changes need to be accounted for while beach metal detecting. Areas near the top of a high tide, or even just a high-water level after a heavy rain, are when the waves will deposit anything floating in the water. That isn’t to say that there is no point in taking stab at the ground below high tide, in fact the heavier the object the further below high tide it will have sunk to the ground.
41. Rock piles are always worth checking out.
This one isn’t always useful, but it’s worth mentioning that a pile of rocks is a terrible place to drop a coin, or even a piece of jewelry. At least it’s terrible for the person who dropped it, for you, it poses an opportunity to find something that someone without a metal detector probably couldn’t.
Bam! a HUGE list of Metal Detecting Tips
Wow, 41 Metal Detecting Tips! I sure hope you found this article to be a great resource and you were able to learn a couple things. The fun is discovering a little piece of treasure. I still remember my first find – YUP it was a quarter – not even a silver quarter. But I remember the feeling – MONEY FROM HEAVEN!