Excellent discriminator helps you find worthwhile items without wasting time digging for metal debris. Waterproof to 10 feet. Includes a pointer. Comes at a mid-range price.
Rare reports of malfunctioning headphones. Some owners complain that the keeper's box that comes with it isn't very practical or spacious.
Easy to assemble, easy to use. This model is suitable for beaches, fields, and parks.
For smaller objects, such as coins, this unit can only go about 6 inches deep under optimum conditions. The "Trash Eliminator" ignores most unwanted items while the "Power Level" sets the depth of your search.
Good discriminator. Lightweight yet durable build with different detection modes. Decent price point, yet can handle searches in different types of ground. It’s great for beginners, although kids may need some adult help.
Learning curve for younger users is steep but not impossible. Practice with coins is encouraged. False alarms do occur.
This metal detector kit includes headphones, a carrying bag, and a shovel. The unit has an easy-to-read display, is sealed so it can function in shallow waters, and includes a sensitivity adjustment.
Even fully extended, some users feel this detector is a little too short for comfort.
We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.
We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.
Searching for hidden treasures can be a fun adventure or a profitable hobby. However, to be successful, you need a metal detector that is up to the task of locating those buried valuables. Unfortunately, not all of them are. There are certain features a metal detector must have in order for it to be considered the best.
A unit that has both large coils (so it doesn't miss anything on a sweep) and small coils (to help pinpoint an exact location) is ideal. Having a metal detector that can not only differentiate between materials but can block the signal of junk metals will make your hunt far more enjoyable. A volume control, a headphone jack, and a sensitivity control, are all desirable options.
If you would like more tips and legal advice, continue reading this article. If you're ready to head out on your quest for lost treasures, try one of the suggestions we've made in this article.
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 list, 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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
This is a measure of how deep underground the device can actually detect coin-sized pieces of metal. Not all manufacturers provide this information. Bounty Hunter advertises that its TK4 can detect coins eight inches down; the Time Ranger is advertised as having a nine-inch coin depth.
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.
Your metal detector will beep frequently. If you’re interested in controlling the volume, you’ll want a volume knob.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Most metal detectors require batteries and few are rechargeable. Be sure to check your owner's manual for the specific needs of your detector.
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.
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.