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FAQ: What Gear do I Need to Get Started Metal Detecting?

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FAQ: What Gear do I Need to Get Started Metal Detecting?

Probably the most common question I get from new metal detectorists or those interested in getting started is, “Okay, what do I need?”  Note the emphasis on the word “need”.  This is because the sky is the limit.  You can spend as much as you want on all of the fancy gear.  You can rack up a quite costly bill for a metal detector with all of the bells and whistles your ears can withstand.  In my opinion, to be a successful metal detectorist, it is simply not necessary.

“The best piece of advice I can give a new metal detectorist is:  The guy (or gal) who digs the most holes wins.”

Then, I continue on with other advice that will help them succeed.  There are three crucial steps to being successful at metal detecting (hang in there, I am going somewhere with this).  They are:

1.  Finding a Good Site to Metal Detect

Many new metal detectorists don’t realize that you will likely have to spend substantial time and effort to locate a site that will provide more opportunity for discovery of valuable or interesting targets. Unless you already own or have access to good metal detecting property, you may spend 1/3rd of your time tracking down good metal detecting hunting ground! This is important when deciding on gear because certain metal detectors are made specifically for certain terrains.  This will

2.  Finding A Target to Dig

This is a whole blog post by itself.  But, this step involves using a hand held metal detector and slowly and methodically meandering around a property in search of an underground piece of metal that may be worth digging up.  Once you find a metal target you have to decide if it is worth the effort digging.  This is where metal detector settings come into play.  The more money you spend on a metal detector the more information it will provide you as to what the buried target may be.  This gives the user some data to process and make the decision whether to dig.  The problem is that so many targets sound the same (i.e. pull tab – gold ring), that by discriminating too much, users inadvertently skip valuable targets!  There is much room for discussion on this topic.  The point is you will spend a fair amount of your time detecting wondering (either aimlessly or methodically) around properties in search for targets to dig (let’s say for the sake of this discussion 1/3rd of your time).

3. Recovering The Targets You Find

Anyone who has metal detected for 8 hours straight will attest to the fact it can be an arduous task.  Walking up, down, and around all types of terrains and obstacles.  Constantly kneeling and bending over while digging holes.  It is all very physically demanding by itself.  Throw in 90 degree weather and 100% humidity and it can be downright exhausting at times.  Recovery can consume a tremendous amount of your treasure hunting time.  This is why it is as important as possible for you to reduce this part of the hunt as much as possible.  It is best to make recovery quick and efficient.  This way you can save that energy for more lucrative activities.

Why are these things so important when deciding what gear you need to get started metal detecting? You will soon see.

Three Pieces of Gear Absolutely Necessary for Metal Detecting 

Hand Held Metal Detector – This is a must to successful metal detecting.  Prices range all across the board.  A good starter metal detector for a kid like the Minelab Gofind 22 may be in the $180 range.  A decent hand held metal detector for an adult will start around $250.  This will be sufficient for finding coins, relics, and jewelry on very basic types of terrain.  If you are an advanced user or are planning on hunting on beaches, go in the water, or prospect for gold, you will most likely be spending upwards of $600-800 to get a machine for your needs.  If you are new to metal detecting, start small and just make sure you dealer will give you a good price on a trade in if you decide to upgrade.

Pinpointer/Wand – This is an absolute must.  Make sure to budget this into your gear package.  I won’t venture into the field without one anymore.  If someone comes into the shop with a $500 budget I ALWAYS tell them to budget in a Garrett Pro Pointer for $125ish…this leaves them enough money to purchase a sufficient hand held detector and the additional items they need to get started metal detecting.

“A good quality pin pointer will not only make you more faster and more efficient at recovery, it will make metal detecting much more enjoyable.”


The Garrett Pro Pointer II Is Our Favorite Pin Pointer.

Digging Tool – A good quality digging tool is essential to quick recovery.  Although you can find a wide variety of digging tools at your local hardware store, beware:  Metal detecting is very hard on tools.  I amassed literally a pile of broken shovels my first couple years metal detecting before I discovered the Sampson Ball Handled Spade by Wilcox.  Experienced metal detectorists know how important a good tool is to recovery and they know how hard the sport can be on these tools.  Built by treasure hunters, there are numerous designs of small trowels and longer spade-type shovel on the market.  A trowel is absolutely necessary in about any condition.  A larger spade is vital if you are digging in hard ground or rocky soil.  If you are permitted to dig deeper, you will likewise need a spade or perhaps a good quality pick.

sampson ball handled metal detector shovel

The Sampson Ball Handled Spade is Tough Enough for Any Abuse.

First, Start With Your Budget

Start with a budget in mind but make sure you fit these three things into your arsenal.  If your budget is not enough to fit all three.  Start with the handheld, then save up enough money to buy the pinpointer (you can thank me later) then the shovel, etc.  As you begin collecting enough coins, silver, and scrap metal to cash in, you can continue to stockpile your equipment.  Regardless of how much gear you eventually assemble, don’t forget the equation:

More Digging = More Treasure!

For more tips, check out:

Part II – 5 Items That Make Metal Detecting Easier But Are Not Absolutely Necessary 

Protective Covers, Treasure Pouches, Metal Detecting Carrying Cases, and More!

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  • Josh Turpin