Best all around metal detectors for beginners
Metal detecting, especially as a hobby, can be an exciting and entertaining past time. It’s always a great feeling to unearth a lost treasure that could be hundreds of years old, and if it is something of value, you may be able to make a little money off it too.
Of course, as a beginner, you’d want to take on such an exercise with one of the best metal detectors available for beginners in the market right now.
The thing is, each metal detector has its pros and cons, and picking one that is right for you takes some consideration. If you order the first one you see off Amazon and expect it to be a ‘one-machine finds all’ kind of tool, you’ll probably be disappointed.
Location, mineralization, search depth, weather conditions, ground conditions, the type of metals you are searching for; there’s a lot that needs to be considered when investing in a metal detector. However, with all the proper considerations, choosing the right kit can be a breeze, even for a beginner.
In this article, we’ll explain the conditions that you should consider before purchasing a metal detector. Later on, we’ll help you identify the attributes of an ideal metal detector.
Let’s get started.
The Basics of Metal Detecting
First things first, let’s learn some important terminology that you will come across in the rest of this article.
· Frequency – this is the speed at which your detector oscillates to create a magnetic field. A thing of note is that there is a trade-off between frequency and sensitivity. At a higher frequency, you’d be able to detect smaller items, but they would be much closer to the surface. You won’t get the same sensitivity at a lower level, but the field can penetrate deeper into the ground.
· Conductivity – every metal has a different resistance to electricity that affects how easily electricity passes through them. This is their conductivity level. The detector can tell what type of metal is in the ground by knowing each metal’s conductivity.
· Discrimination – often with high-end detectors, the goal is to look for certain metal pieces apart from old scraps. These detectors come with a discrimination setting whereby you can select a conductivity threshold, and the detector won’t look for any metals with a conductivity below that level.
· Search coil – this is the coil in your metal detector that sends out the magnetic field and receives the incoming magnetic field from the ground’s metal.
· Mineralization – this attribute refers to the amount of salt or iron in the hunting ground. You would have to adjust your settings according to the detector’s ground conditions to work with minimum interference.
· Ground balance – as mentioned earlier, these are the adjustments you would make to ensure the detector can reduce ‘chatter’ over highly mineralized soil or vice versa.
· Target ID – target identification (target ID for short) provides a measure of how your detector responds to different kinds of metals.
With that out of the way, let’s talk a bit about some of the things you need to consider when choosing a detector.
How Do I Choose a Good Metal Detector?
Best Ground Conditions for a Hunt
Two essential items need to be considered when beginning metal detection, the detector itself and the hunting ground. You have to understand the area you choose as your search location and how your specific detector will work there. A keyword here is mineralization.
Highly mineralized soil or ‘hot’ ground either has a lot of salt or iron in it, so your detector might receive signals from the ground, making for a lot of noise and interference. In that case, you’ll have to dial down the sensitivity. This kind of ground can be difficult if you don’t have prior experience.
Furthermore, there’s the issue of wet soil, which actually isn’t an issue at all. After a long spell of rain, wet soil is great for metal detecting because the ground has a higher conductivity, so the detector becomes more sensitive. You can expect to find relics much deeper in the soil and even smaller items without changing the frequency level. However, if you want to go metal detecting underwater, you’ll have to make sure you get a waterproof detector.
The Best Sites for Coin Shooting, Relic Hunting, and Gold
Now, after you get sorted with your brand-new detector, there is the matter of where to start your treasure hunting adventures. Here are a few ideas about how to decide on the site you choose. Obviously, the best places to search are where you know human activity has happened over time. I tell beginners the best place to start is in your own back yard. You’ll probably be surprised what you will find right out your front door, and you don’t have to get any extra permissions to dig.
Pro tip: Make sure you have specific permission to search on any property you don’t own. Contact the landowner or the town for permission before ever digging. Click here to download our landowner permission form.
From there you can move to other areas like the park in front of your house, the neighborhood church, the beach even. You could go out there and have a random walk around and try to find something exciting, or you could decide on what you want to find, like old coins, lost jewelry, ancient relics of colonial times, etc., and then pick an appropriate location based on that. We recommend the second option, simply because it’s more fruitful.
Looking for old coins and lost bits of jewelry is easy enough to find. In fact, any place with a lot of foot traffic is good enough because where there are a lot of people, you can be sure someone would have dropped something of value on the ground.
Relic hunting will require a little info gathering. You can start at some abandoned site near you, an old church, an unused train stop, or you could find out if your city has any historical spots of colonial significance, ancient settlements, or war grounds. You might find old buckles or pieces of a mucket.
Pro tip: Check your local area for metal detecting clubs or groups you can join. They often have great information on search locations and are usually very open to helping newbies.
Gold prospecting is a whole different ball game. You can find gold in areas near mountains or rivers, probably a little away from civilization. You will need to invest in a detector made primarily to find the gold with a waterproof coil and a high frequency of about 20Hz or over and works well in mineralized soil. Given the specific nature of metal detecting for gold and the higher cost of equipment to do it effectively, it’s not the best fit for beginners.
Types of Metal Detectors
Depending on your venture, you can choose from the following metal detectors to help you achieve your goals.
Very Low Frequency (VLF) Detectors
Very-low-frequency detectors are the most common kinds of metal detectors. They are lightweight, durable, and affordable. They have two coils, a transmitter, and a receiver, making them a little less than suitable for highly mineralized soil. However, it is worth the price point. These types of detectors are perfect for coin shooting and hunting for relics.
Pulse Induction (PI)
These detectors use only a single coil that transmits and receives magnetic fields. The single-coil makes it more stable over mineralized soil and underwater hunting. Unfortunately, the discrimination on these machines isn’t as good, making them unsuitable for inner-city use. Lastly, they are also a more significant investment in terms of price.
These can be either PI or VLF detectors that come with features that make them more suitable for specific metals or tasks. These can be gold metal detectors, multi-frequency metal detectors, or under-water metal detectors.
What are the Qualities of a Decent Metal Detector?
If you’re looking into metal detecting as a hobby and mainly want to look for coins, jewelry, and relics, you may want to invest in a lightweight machine, between 2-3 pounds. The frequency required for most metals that makeup coins and artifacts need a detector with a range between 12-15 kHz that can penetrate the ground at least 14 inches deep.
Your detector will need to have an excellent target ID to identify the scraps, nails, and other useless items from the real prize. Notch discrimination would be a desired feature, so you can tune out the metal frequencies you don’t want. A bonus would be a waterproof kit.
For gold, you’re going to need a higher frequency detector, 20kHz upwards with waterproof coils and a harness guide, as gold finders tend to be on the heavier side.
What Materials Can’t Be Detected?
A quality metal detector will detect more or less all kinds of metals, including ferrous and non-ferrous metal, steel, aluminum, silver, lead, & iron. If it’s the right sort, it will detect gold as well. However, there are materials of a non-metallic nature that a detector obviously will not detect.
Things like bone, glass, rocks, wood, and plastic will definitely go unnoticed.
The Best Quality Metal Detectors for Beginners in 2021
With all that said, here are some of the best detectors you can look into for your next metal detecting adventure:
· Fisher 22 ($200) – the Fisher 22 is a lightweight, durable model that weighs around 2.3 pounds and is perfect for coin shooting and relic hunting.
· Garrett AT PRO – the AT PRO version is an upgrade from the Garrett ACE 400 model. This waterproof detector weighs over 3 pounds and has a range of 15kHz so that you can use it for relic hunting.
· Garrett ACE 400 – this Garrett model provides similar performance as the Fisher 22, albeit at a lower price. It weighs 3 pounds and has a frequency of 10kHz, ideal for coin shooting.
· Nokta Makro AU Gold Finder – the Nokta Gold Finder is considered a basic gold finding metal detector suited to beginners. It weighs 3.1 pounds, and its range goes up to 56kHz. The coil on this model is waterproof, although the metal detector itself isn’t.
It’s best to consider all the contributing factors that will help you make a well-informed decision before opting for a metal detector.
As a complete beginner diving into the lucrative world of metal detecting, it’s hard to go wrong with any one of the recommended metal detectors on the list.
Not only are they generally great all-around metal detectors, except maybe the Gold Finder, but they are suitable for kids as they are relatively simple to use and completely safe.
Good luck with your next find!