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How to Choose a Metal Detector

Last updated on: February 7th, 2020

Heading out with a metal detector is a hobby many people have found rewarding. Not only do you get to enjoy some fresh air, you may find some highly valuable items. Collecting found metal items can be a lucrative leisure activity, and the tools you use will have a profound influence on your success.

Here is everything you need to know about choosing a metal detector, what you can find with your new tool, and some tips for the best places to go looking for metal.

How to Choose a Metal Detector

Purchasing the best metal detector is a big decision. Most metal detectors are not cheap, and you want to make sure you select the best model for your needs. When deciding which kind of metal detector you should buy, keep the following factors in mind.

Which Features You Want

Some designs are more complex than others, and some models have extra features that you may not need. If you want a tool to use for casual metal hunting, a basic model will likely suit your needs since you won’t be using the additional fancy features. On the other hand you can make a homemade metal detector in few simple steps.

Conversely, if you plan to do some serious searching you should consider a higher-end model with more options.

Your Budget

Not all metal detectors are expensive, but what is affordable for one person may be out of reach for another. Set yourself a budget, and shop within it. Some basic versions start around $100, but others are a few thousand.

There are several models to fit every price range, each with several features. Once you know what you want your metal detector to be able to do, you can look at the price ranges for those kinds of models.

Remember that the models with all the bells and whistles will be more expensive than the basic designs. This is because they are more complex, require more expertise to assemble, and use more materials.

Who Will Be Using It

If you are shopping solely for yourself, decide what you want and go from there since you only have yourself to please.

However, if others will also be using the metal detector you need to take their preferences into consideration. For example, if you have a child who will be using the metal detector, an extremely long shaft or heavy search head will make it much harder for the child to use.

Also, consider the other person’s technical skills. A complicated search head will confuse someone who has no idea what they are doing, whereas a tech whiz will likely find a basic model too simple.

What You Will Use it For

If you are looking for one kind of metal in particular, be sure to purchase a metal detector that can be set to that specification. Some models have different settings and can be placed in different modes. For example, if you are planning to look for gold, be sure to purchase a metal detector that is designed for hunting gold in order to see the best results.

How Often You Will Use It

Since purchasing a metal detector can be an investment, you want to make sure that you are spending money rather than wasting it. Spending a ton of money on a tool that you will use a couple of times per year is not practical, as the amount per use is much higher than it would be if you spent less money and used it the same number of times.

If you are new to the metal detecting scene and are just beginning to figure out how to use one, your best option is to start small. If you discover that this hobby is, in fact, not for you, you won’t have wasted your money. Conversely, if you find that you love using your metal detector, you’ll have a less expensive option you can practice with until you can afford a more advanced model.

What Do Metal Detectors Find?

Many people assume that a metal detector will find any kind of metal, regardless of its composition. Not all metals are magnetic, and this property greatly impacts whether or not you will be able to find it with your metal detector.

Some items are more commonly found than others. Quite often metal detectors find pop cans, paper clips, screws, and nails. While these items are not valuable, they do show you that your metal detector is working as it should.

More profitable items are also found on a regular basis, including coins and small pieces of jewelry. If you are in a historic area, you may also find antiques.

While a metal detector will find almost any kind of metal, there are three main categories of metals you can find.

1 – Stainless Steel

This type of metal does not conduct electricity very well, which makes it the most difficult kind of metal to find. Stainless steel is also not very magnetic, so metal detectors have a harder time locating this kind of metal in comparison to other kinds. This type of metal is often used in construction tools.

2 – Ferrous Metal

Ferrous metals are any metals that are made primarily of iron. Other elements may be added, but the most prominent component is iron. As a result, ferrous metals are highly magnetic and are relatively resistant to corrosion. This makes them the easiest type of metal to find. Ferrous items that are found on a regular basis include nails, pins, and high carbon steel.

3 – Non-Ferrous Metal

This is the opposite of ferrous metals. This type of metal does not contain iron in any noticeable amount. Since there is such a low amount of iron, this type of metal is not very magnetic and is difficult to detect. Commonly found non-ferrous metals include aluminum, lead, and copper.

Can You Find Gold With a Metal Detector?

Gold nugget

You can find gold with your metal detector, although some models are better than others. Older, more outdated models won’t be very useful for finding gold. This is because the technology in the search heads has changed drastically over the years. Newer circuits have greater capabilities than earlier designs.

If you want to find gold in particular, use a metal detector designed specifically for this purpose. Detectors made for gold will give you much better success than regular detectors. Gold-specific metal detectors can find flakes or nuggets, as close to one inch below the surface. Regular metal detectors may not pick up on these bits of gold.

Types of Metal Detectors for Gold

There are two types of gold metal detectors – Very Low Frequency and Pulse Induction circuits. Which type is best for you depends on where you will be looking for gold.

Very Low Frequency (VLF) circuits are highly sensitive to gold and are often the first choice for prospectors. Unfortunately, this kind of detector will also pick up on certain minerals embedded in the soil in areas that are rich in gold. As a result, you will have to dig up a lot of earth to find the gold. Newer models can be adjusted so that they filter out a lot of the intruding frequencies from these minerals.

Pulse Induction circuits are more focused. This kind of detector is best used for finding large nuggets deep in the ground. PI circuits are able to overlook the surrounding minerals and search further down than VLF circuits, but they are not useful for finding gold closer to the earth’s surface.

What Are the Best Places to Use a Metal Detector?

Beach metal detectingThe best place to use a metal detector depends in part on what kind of items you are looking for. That being said, there are some places that are overall better suited to using a metal detector. In general, any place where people have met in groups will be rewarding. Everybody loses something from time to time, and the more people there are the greater the chances are that you will find a dropped item.

Wherever you go in search of treasure, remember that almost every area is governed by regulations about who owns what is found on the land. Do your research before you go hunting to make sure you don’t cause a problem down the road.

Open Fields

These areas are potential treasure troves. Since open areas are undeveloped, the items that hide there have likely been there for generations, if not longer. Some areas may have been the site of ancient battles or settlements.

Beaches

Beaches are usually a safe bet for a place to find more modern treasures. People regularly lose change, phones, music players, jewelry, and more at the beach. Once these items get buried in the sand they are abandoned since it is incredibly hard to find them without the aid of a metal detector.

Forests or Woods

Any wooded area with a natural trail is a great place to look for both old and new items. Hikers may have lost items along the way, and old artifacts may have been sitting along the sides of the trail for years.

Ghost Towns

Settlements that have been abandoned for years may contain a ton of items. Small items like coins and jewelry are easily left behind. If the area was once used as a trading post, you may find other kinds of metal as well.

Freelance writer with over 5 years experience in multiple niches. Specialist in personal care and men's grooming. Outdoor tools are something I'm pashioned about since I can remember. Other than that I do also like to travel and meet new people. "Research is creating new knowledge" - Neil Armstrong

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