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Just-a-Swingin’ – Metal Detector Swing Speed

Just-a-Swingin’ – Metal Detector Swing Speed

I watch a lot of metal detecting and treasure hunting videos and see a few comments from random viewers criticizing other detectorist’s detecting techniques. One post said, “Why you swingin so fast? You’d find a lot more treasure if you slowed down.” That struck me as kind of odd…I sorta disagree (he was hunting on the beach BTW).

Metal detecting is about running your detector over the right piece of ground at the right time. How do you cover more ground going slow? Okay, okay, let me appease all of the nay-sayers that are reading this. There is a time and a place for swinging your metal detector slow. There is also a time and a place to keep moving. It is not the viewer’s (who only sees but a fraction of the actual hunt) position to decide. Garrett Metal Detectors, for instance, recommends 3-feet per second for their At Series Detectors. Which, is relatively fast.

Here are some examples and reasons why you may want to swing your metal detector fast or slow.

Scenario 1 – Rich Hill Arizona

Known for large and small gold alike, Rich Hill, AZ is place of gold prospecting legend. My detecting guide was very clear that you should take it slow, stick my metal detector in every nook and cranny I could find, roll over boulders, reach under vegetation, and take my time. He told me of a story of one time when a visitor to their claim found the nugget pictured to the left right near the claim’s campsite, “Other detectorists have been over that spot dozens of times…including myself!” He told me. He went on to explain, “Out here, it could take you a day to cover a 20′ x 20′ area if you are being thorough enough.” It is a matter of hitting the target from the right direction, at the right speed, with the detector properly tuned in. Another important factor is that the detectorist was listening to the right audio disturbance and decided to dig it. Whereas other prospectors may have passed right by a very slight and hardly discernible signal. Perhaps this nugget was deep and had several rocks over it. The odd shape and resulting signal too may have made the target be overlooked by other treasure hunters.


The types of targets you are dealing with, along with how much trash you have to contend with, are big factors when determining how you want to detect a site. In the scenario above (the wide open desert) the site has seen some history…though mostly geologic. Any tangible history left by man was few and far between, and hard to detect. Aside from the occasional bullet, lead fragment, or shoe tack, nature had reclaimed any visible trace. So, there was little trash to contend with on this hunt. Any target was fair game, therefore taking your time hunting was wise advice. Since you want to dig everything in this scenario, finding EVERY target takes time. Turn the discrimination off, turn up your threshold or sensitivity, slow down, and make every moment count.

Scenario 2 – The Relic Quest
I have been on hunts with some very experienced detectorists. They had researched a historical site and knew the exact location within the site they wanted to focus their efforts. I will be the first to tell you that research is imperative when hunting for relics. I will also tell you that you SHOULD focus the majority of your efforts on areas you have researched. However, as a prospector by nature, I know that treasure can often be found in some very unlikely spots. You may never know it unless you keep your “nose to the ground”. Keep in mind, even though you may not be right on top of that hot spot, it doesn’t mean you won’t find treasure on the way to that hot spot. That is why I suggest keeping your detector swinging the whole time you are out. I have also seen people turn off their detectors, throw it over their shoulder and walk straight back to their vehicle. I personally like to maximize my time in the field. I cannot tell you how many times we have “packed up” and headed back to the truck when WHAM! I get a 90+ digital reading on my Garrett AT Pro only to dig up a prized relic, coin, or other treasure just because I kept looking. Detect your way to and from your area of interest.

It is not necessary to use a slow methodical swing if you are trying to get somewhere quickly. Trees, shrubs, rocks and other obstacles may make it difficult to do this. Don’t worry about technique. Go ahead and poke it into a hole under a rock, between two trees, or up under a cactus. Swing erratically if you want…just keep your detector on the ground. If you get any type of reading, that is when you stop to investigate. It is a numbers game at this point. The more ground you cover, the more treasure you are likely to find in due time.

Here is one caveat: Don’t waste too much time looking for or digging targets on the way to your hunting ground. Don’t dilly dally and only dig the targets you feel are good. You can burn the greater part of a good hunting day doing this. Do your research, focus on the likely treasure grounds, but keep your detector on the ground to and fro!

The Bottom Line
The bottom line is don’t listen to the critics or so-called “experts”. Guess what? Every one of them started out as a beginner. They only learned what they (think) they know by experience. Do what works for you. If you decide to take up the awesome hobby of treasure hunting and you practice enough, you will dig enough trash and treasure to learn how to sniff out the latter more effectively.

One fact does remain true: You have to get out into the field to learn. Does practice makes perfect? No, practice makes you better!

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  • Josh Turpin