We purchase every product we review with our own funds—we never accept anything from product manufacturers.
Are you a looking for a fun metal detector for a child who likes to “hunt” for buried treasure?
Or perhaps you’re a hobbyist who would enjoy scanning the ground for lost pocket change, jewelry, and other trinkets.
If so, our shortlist of top metal detectors can help you find what you need.
Our metal detector review focuses on a range of machines that would suit many different owners, from curious kids to adult beginners to dyed-in-the-wool hobbyists. All are affordable, and all deliver an excellent value for the money.
At BestReviews, we do not accept “free” products from manufacturers; we use our own funds to purchase the same “off-the-shelf” products that you do. We also interview experts, pore over product research, and consult owners to learn their opinions of different products.
When we've finished testing, we donate our test products to charities and other non-profit organizations. Because of the effort we put into our reviews, we feel confident that you’ll benefit from our honest reports.
Please see our product matrix, above, for our top recommendations in the metal detector field.
And please continue reading this shopping guide if you’d like to learn more about metal detectors.
A discriminator is a small device inside a metal detector that helps you discern between a 200-year-old cache of gold and a five-year-old aluminum can. The discriminator compares your “hunting” results to the reaction times of known metal samples. It then displays the matching metal type.
Most consumer-grade metal detectors use an older technology called VLF (very low frequency) detection. A VLF metal detector uses two related forces, electricity and magnetism, to generate an audible signal when something is detected.
Product in Depth
Product in Depth
Bounty Hunter Time Ranger Metal Detector
The Bounty Hunter Time Ranger Metal Detector is notably heavy, and there are those who think that the included arm brace – a necessity, given the device's weight – could be improved upon. But if you’re interested in accuracy, the Bounty Hunter Time Ranger Metal Detector could be just what you need. Two coils are provided: an eight-inch model for general purposes and a four-inch "Gold Nugget" coil that provides a more focused search for smaller objects. (It's not designed for gold specifically.)
A metal detector's circular base contains two wire coils: a larger transmitter coil and a smaller receiver coil. When the user activates the detector and begins a sweep, the electricity from the battery flows into the outer transmitter coil, creating a ground-penetrating electromagnetic field. Any metal object that receives this electromagnetic charge becomes “excited” at an atomic level. In a sense, the outer transmitter coil creates a magnetic “glow” around metal objects.
Once the transmitter has “excited” any metallic objects in the ground, a smaller receiver coil takes over. This coil looks for any changes in the charged ground's magnetic field. Metal objects send out a second magnetic current in reaction to the transmitter coil's energy. This change in magnetic polarity is what the receiver coil actually detects. A signal is sent to a loudspeaker, which issues a tone based on the characteristics and strength of the charged metal.
A metal detector emits different sounds to convey messages about the treasures it has found. Louder tones denote depth, while changes in pitch often denote the type of metal.
Many high-end metal detectors also contain a microprocessor-controlled analyzer known as a discriminator. A discriminator compares the signals sent by the receiver coil to the known signals of various metals. For example, the typical gold signal is noticeably different than the typical aluminum signal.
A discriminator can be set to squelch signals from common “junk” metals, such as steel and aluminum. This allows the user to concentrate on more valuable metals that could be lurking underground, such as gold and silver.
Valuable metals such as gold and silver have different electromagnetic properties than “junk” metals such as iron, tin, and aluminum. A quality metal detector's discriminator filters out common metal hits electronically, allowing only hits from possible gold or silver sources.
The models on our shortlist offer various search parameters based on their intended audience. After all, a child searching for quarters on the beach has different needs than an adult treasure hunter in the field.
Here are some questions to ask yourself when evaluating different products:
Although a discriminator can reduce “junk metal” hits, it can also limit discovery of metallic historical items. Detecting sessions combine archeological discoveries and trash collection, so you may want to keep your options open.
Some metal detectors are completely waterproof, some up to 10 feet.
Others have waterproof coils but can’t be completely submerged. Users should never submerge the electronic parts of these devices. Some cannot be used near water at all.
Arguably the most important thing about a metal detector’s coil size is the amount of ground you can cover. The challenge with small coils is that if you sweep too quickly, you could miss things. Larger coils help to eliminate this. However, smaller coils can help pinpoint objects.
Some metal detectors will have both coils so they can do both jobs.
When it comes to informational displays and other features, big differences exist among the metal detectors on today’s market. When considering a purchase, look for these special features. Granted, some of them may not appeal to you, but it’s nice to know what you’re buying into.
Product in Depth
Product in Depth
all-sun Beach Yard Junior Ground Metal Detector
The inexpensive all sun Junior Metal Detector would likely appeal to parents who want to give their child the experience of metal detecting without spending a lot of money. This is definitely not a toy that most adult hobbyists would relish, but children under the age of eight would likely love it. For example, we’ve heard of owners who were unable to find hidden property stakes with it, as well as some who had difficult digging up loose coins. But other owners — most of whom bought this for their children — say that it’s the perfect toy for a day at the beach or an exciting “field trip” to the park.
Your metal detector will beep frequently. If you’re interested in controlling the volume, you’ll want a volume knob.
Your metal detector needs regular maintenance. Lubricate the wires, brush dirt off of the joints, and clean it with fresh water after long hunts.
Metal detecting is a somewhat noisy hobby. If you’d rather keep your business to yourself, look for a detector with a headphone jack. Some products include headphones, too. But remember, the price of a complete kit is higher than the price of a lone detector.
Private owners of historical property may be willing to grant access to respectful hobbyists who agree to hand over any objects they find.
Many metal detectors offer a range of sensitivities, which you can adjust to filter out junk and focus on what you’re looking for.
Some basic models do not have an LCD screen, but such an interface is a great place for the user to gather information.
This feature gives you the ability to “tune out” interference from natural metals in the soil (like iron).
Notching is a lot like discrimination in that it allows the user to filter out some unwanted results. However, a bad notching system could lead to missed findings.
Learning the correct way to dig is as important as learning how to detect where to dig. Use the correct tools, learn the technique for fast and efficient digging, and always make sure you cover up your holes once done.
You don’t need a special license to own a metal detector. However, as a hobbyist, it’s important to know the general rules and regulations that apply to metal detector use.
Some cities allow amateur metal detectors to search public properties such as fairgrounds, city parks, and beaches. It may (or may not) be possible for you to keep what you discover. In either case, the ground must be returned to its original condition.
Some states require hobbyists to register before searching public properties. The laws on public metal detecting vary from state to state, so be sure to consult your local government agency before searching for treasure on public property.
If you’re to search private property with your metal detector, the owner of the property must first give permission. The owner can add conditions to your use of his/her land, such as ownership rights or time limits.
If the private property you search can be claimed as protected land under an antiquities law, it’s illegal to remove any items from the site.
Penalties for violating these laws and restrictions can range from a stern warning to thousands of dollars in fines. We urge amateur metal detectors to do some research and obtain all pertinent clearances before starting a search on any private or city-owned property.
Antiquities laws trump most property rights when it comes to the removal of metals and other objects of value.
With all of these rules and limitations, you may be wondering where you can actually use your metal detector lawfully. In truth, there are still a number of locations open to hobbyists. The key is to find places where people have actually lived, worked, or played. Consider these areas:
Old home sites
Note: Some states allow metal detection on sandy beach areas between the water and the dune line. Others require searchers to obtain special permission before gaining access to state parks and bodies of water.
Places like fairgrounds, parks, sport fields, picnic spots, and schoolyards can be very rewarding for metal hunters, as they are very likely to have bits and bobs left behind by the crowds. If you are looking for silver coins or relics, try your luck at “old” and “historical” areas. Beaches are a treasure trove and regularly yield jewelry, coins, and the like.
If you're going treasure hunting, you need a machine that's comfortable for you to use over the long haul. Look for these features to find the most ergonomically sound metal detector for you:
The length of some metal detectors can be adjusted based on the arm size of the user.
How much does the metal detector of your choice weigh? It may seem like a small matter, but if you’re planning to spend an afternoon waving the detector around, you’ll probably want something that doesn’t strain you. Anything around four pounds will work best.
Product in Depth
Product in Depth
Garrett 1140900 Pro-Pointer Metal Detector
Many owners say they’d use nothing but a Garrett Pro Pointer for metal detecting because it does its job two to three times faster than metal detectors from other manufacturers. The Garrett Pro Pointer is waterproof up to 10 feet, so if you plan to take it on vacation, there are no worries if a child takes it off the beach and into the shallow part of the sea.
Most metal detectors require batteries and few are rechargeable. Be sure to check your owner's manual for the specific needs of your detector.
A metal object doesn't necessarily have to be magnetic in order to become charged by the electromagnetic field the detector generates.
Before you go treasure hunting, be sure to understand the correct settings and capabilities of your metal detector. Read through the manual and research online, if needed.
Like golf, metal detectors require a proper swing to work well. Swing your detector slowly from side to side, keeping it as close to the ground as possible — but make sure it does not touch the ground.
Similar to having the right digging tools, your choice of clothing is important when you’re on a hunt. Wear comfortable clothes that are appropriate for the weather, knee pads to protect your knees when you have to dig, shoes that help you wade through terrain, and gloves for your hands so you don't get them dirty or cut yourself when scooping up soil.
Educate yourself on the local laws regarding metal detecting before you start. That way, you know which areas are permissible and what kind of digging is allowed. Remember, even public areas may not allow metal detecting if they have landscaping that could be damaged.
Metal detection takes time and patience. It can take up to six months to figure out all the settings on your metal detector and to find the best stomping grounds.
Q: How deep will a typical metal detector penetrate the ground?
A: The answer to this question depends largely on the detector's make and model, but in general, the average detector can find larger pieces of metal 12 to 16 inches below the surface. Deeper searches would require a more powerful device, such as a ground-penetrating radar.
Q: Do I need a special kind of metal detector to hunt for gold?
A: While most metal detectors can detect the presence of gold in a general sweep, many discriminators have difficulty tuning out other metal signatures. This is why dedicated gold hunters often purchase a special metal detector designed to “listen” specifically for smaller gold fragments.
Q: Metal detecting seems very straightforward to me. What do the pros know that I don't?
A: For one thing, experienced hobbyists and professionals use several different types of sweeping and search patterns, not just a simple back-and-forth or up-and-down motion. Through experience and mastery, they can tell the difference between valuable metal hits and “trash” hits by the subtle changes in signal tones. Mastering the art of metal detection takes time, patience, and practice.
At BestReviews, we purchase every product we review with our own funds. We never accept anything from product manufacturers. Our goal is to be 100% objective in our analysis, and we do not want to run the risk of being swayed by products provided at no cost.