How to Use a Metal Detector

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How to Use a Metal Detector
Knowing how to use a metal detector will help you detect and discriminate between metals in the ground that are valuable or not. Metal detectors are a great help to treasure hunters because they are like the GPS on a car. They will help you get to your destination but you still have to park the car, meaning that once the detector alerts you to a metal, you still have to dig it up. In order to find treasure, the user must be able to use the detector's capabilities along with his or her own skills. Metal detecting hobbyists should know about the different types of metal detectors, the various activities in metal detecting, and how to use the equipment to their advantage.

Overview of Metal Detectors

Metal detectors use various mechanical, magnetic, and electrical processes to locate metal in locations far underground or very near the surface. The past one hundred years saw numerous advancements to the technology, and modern metal detectors include computing technology to analyze data. Older detectors had problems with false positive alerts because they could not distinguish between mineral deposits and rings, jewelry, and coins. Modern metal detectors are very good at helping the user determine if he or she may have found a valuable object or just an iron ore rock.

Hobbyists around the world enjoy this pursuit as it is conducted in the great outdoors and promises the thrill of buried treasure. People use their detectors on their own or join clubs to share the hobby. They learn, share knowledge with others, and display their finds. People use a variety of different machines and accessories and participate in several different types of activities. Hobbyists should know about some of the different types of metal detectors and the various types of pursuits and activities that are common using metal detectors.

Types of Metal Detectors

Metal detectors are designed differently because no detector can do every job. Every situation is different, so it pays to understand the differences in the machines in order to choose the right one and use it correctly. Detectors are either handheld or ground searchers. A new and upcoming variety is the foot detector.

Ground Search

The ground search metal detector is a long rod with a coil at the bottom and a control panel and grip at the top. It has features like ground balance that prevents false signals caused by minerals in the soil. The detector discriminates between ferrous and non-ferrous metals, establishes types of non-ferrous metals, and uses an intelligent operating system to aid the user in analyzing conditions.


To search an area above the ground or to search a person, handheld detectors are used to locate a metal object by indicating an approximate height or value. They can also be used to find metal in the ground. They are called pinpointers or pointers and are small rods with a handgrip.

Foot Wear

Foot detectors are wearable devices with straps. It operates as the user walks and can detect up to four inches in grass, sand, and dirt. The benefits of this style are that they can sometimes be used as a pointer and they are unobtrusive; they can detect metal anywhere you walk.

Detecting Pursuits and Activities

Not just hobbyists use metal detectors; they are also used in industrial and military applications. Industries such as the airline industry use walk-through metal detectors and hand-held detectors to screen for weapons. Courthouses and government buildings also use detectors for security. The detector is used to detect metal objects in food, and construction companies use it to find buried metal. The military uses metal detectors to find buried mines. Hobbyists though, use metal detectors for jewelry and coin hunting, relic hunting, cache hunting, prospecting, competition events, and treasure diving.

Jewelry and Coin Hunting

This general activity can be conducted anywhere in the world, at any time. This is the most popular form of metal detecting. You will often see detectorists on beaches and in parks, combing the earth for the remains of what people left behind. Beach hunters familiarize themselves with beach erosion and tidal movement and plan their searches accordingly. Coin shooters visit locations after an event is over to look for coins. Other coin shooters are simply interested in finding coins so they target locations like picnic areas where coins are likely to be found.

Relic Hunting

To relic hunt, you need to travel to locations that are the site of ancient civilizations. These sites are more often found in Europe, the Middle East, and Asia. Relics are objects in use during another historical time period, like ancient weapons and coins. People who choose this type of activity often have an interest in history and are willing to spend time finding metal objects that have historical value. Of course, these objects often do have high monetary value as well.

Cache Hunting

Long before banks and mattresses, people stashed their goodies away. They buried their money and jewelry and cache hunters seek to find it. This activity takes a bit of research as different types of people preferred various stashing ways. Some cultures buried their goods while others preferred to hoard in caves or tunnels.


Prospecting is the old practice of looking for gold and silver in the ground, mountains, and lakes. The metal detector adds advanced technology to this pursuit and makes it easier.

Competition Events

Scavenger hunts or treasure hunts are organized by associations or companies for fun, competition, or just to increase skills.

Treasure Diving

Snorkelers and scuba divers use metal detectors to look for treasure underwater. They use waterproof metal detectors that are specially designed to withstand water. Treasure divers use pinpointers or ground searchers.

Using the Metal Detector

Metal detectors require interpretation. While ground penetrating radar now comes with intelligent software, the user must be able to properly interpret the signals. Otherwise, you will waste a lot of time digging fruitlessly, when you could be spending your time finding real money, jewelry, and relics. Most metal detectors will signal when you are over an object that is about two feet down. Others can reach a depth of approximately five feet. Some units can penetrate 10-12 feet. It pays to research the penetration capabilities as a rule, especially if you want to do cache hunting in caves and tunnels.

Basic operation of the simple metal detector is about the coils on the bottom: an amplitude modulated (AM) three coil design. One coil transmits and two coils receive signals. It operates by interpreting dirt, plastics, etc. When metal is found, it creates a disturbance, a tiny electronic signal that is then amplified, and the user is alerted. Hobbyists should look for detectors that specify the power supply (batteries), the emitting frequencies, the indicators (visual and/or audio), and detecting depth.

These are technical issues and can be learned easily. Many hobbyists have a multitude of detectors that they use in specific situations. Reliable merchants, both at brick and mortar places and online, will provide assistance according to the intended use. They will help you pick a detector for certain activities like caching, diving, and so on.

Once you have secured a detector and headphones, get acquainted with the power supply and learn how to turn it on and off. Hunt in your house first and keep the instruction manual with you, in order to get comfortable with the equipment and gain experience. Graduate to your backyard or street. By then, you will have found your way in the basic operation. You are now ready to go to locations that offer an opportunity of finding real treasure. In order to use a metal detector correctly, you must also comply with all rules and regulations in your locality. Some countries require reporting of finds to authorities.

Metal Detector Accessories

The metal detector is the first part of the equation. You will need digging tools, a shovel, spade, pickaxe, etc. Headphones with the detector are almost a must, as the tone alerts you to the treasure. The headphones allow you to keep your head up while walking, because you need to pay attention to your environment and your route. You can find Accessory Bundles, Carrying Cases for the detector, Digging Tools / Pans, Headphones, and other Metal Detector Accessories at electronics retailers, hardware stores, and at online merchants.

Buying Metal Detectors on eBay

One of the most diverse locations to find metal detectors and their accoutrements is online through eBay. To find metal detectors on the site, visit the Electronics portal. Select TV , Audio & Surveillance, then Gadgets. Choose Metal Detectors and filter by Handheld or Ground Search. You can also refine the search by Beach / Surf, Diving, General Purpose, Gold Prospecting, Industrial, Pinpointing / Probing, and Security. Buying New is easy on eBay, but there are many Used detectors that can be a good deal as well. Manufacturer refurbished or Seller refurbished offers savings too. You can find a variety of brands including Bounty Hunter, Detector Pro, Fisher, GarrettMinelab, Teknetics, Tesoro, and Whites.

Keep in mind a few things that will make it easier for you to start your treasure hunt. Some authorized sellers on eBay offer free shipping, and you can refine your search by local sellers, in case you want to inspect the goods first. Local pickup in these cases may be possible. Don't forget that buying metal detectors, like any sport or hobby, offers means you need to purchase accessories, too. Accessory Bundles may be a solution to buying all your detecting items at once. One great feature eBay provides is seller feedback, so you can feel comfortable whether buying locally or at a distance.


There is more treasure to be had for the dedicated or occasional hobbyist. Folks have buried money, jewelry, and artifacts in the ground, in caves, in tunnels, and maybe even trees. People nowadays also leave treasure behind at the beach, parks, and after events. To find treasure, you need a good quality detector, headphones, and digging tools. A mindset similar to the people who buried or lost the treasure is helpful, as well. A treasure trove is left behind because a person forgot where it was, relocated, or suffered an ill fate. Modern detectors can determine that there is metal underground and discriminate between it and natural minerals. Like the GPS in your car, the detector will lead you to potential treasures, but you need to do the work to dig it up. You also need to interface intelligently with the detector and understand its capabilities and limitations. eBay is an excellent source for finding metal detectors and their accessories for a great price from reputable sellers. If you purchase your metal detector from eBay, you will soon experience the joy of the hunt and the thrill of victory.

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