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FAQ: How do I Choose a Metal Detector?

How to Choose a Metal Detector

Here at High Plains Prospectors we field the question, "How do I choose a metal detector?" daily.  We act as a metal detecting outfitter.  We never oversell someone on a detector and try our best not to undersell one.  When someone comes in asking for advice on which detector to buy.  I don't point everyone to one metal detector or one brand. Typically I start by asking a couple basic questions and try to point them in the right direction based on their needs.

The questions I ask someone before suggesting a metal detector are pretty standard.

  1. Where will you be using the metal detector?
  2. What are you searching for?
  3. What is your experience level?
  4. What is your budget?

Bear in mind, for a more detailed consultation on which detector will work for you, you can always call our store at 888-236-6580 or stop by our retail showroom in Olathe, KS and we can discuss your needs in person and you can actually try the metal detector before buying it.  Let's dig deeper into the above questions.

Where will you be using the metal detector?

This is an important question.  For example, if your primary metal detecting location is on a saltwater beach, you will need a detector that can handle the heavily mineralized saltwater and wet sand.  Many lesser metal detectors will act erratic in these conditions.  Likewise if you are hunting somewhere there is heavily mineralized soil (i.e. a lot of iron or magnetite in the soil) you need a detector that is designed for this type of use.  In this situation you need a metal detector that has a mode for these situations or can be manually adjusted for them.  

If you are using your metal detector in "neutral" soil, you have a lot more flexibility in choosing the right detector for you.  For instance, where I live in Kansas, we have relatively neutral soil.  Meaning there is very little mineralization - it's is mostly dark soil or clay.  Just about any metal detector will operate just fine here.  All I have to decide is what bells and whistles do I want and how much do I want to spend.

As I discussed in a previous article titled How Much does a Really Good Metal Detector Cost, depending on your specific needs, you don't need to spend an arm and a leg to get a good, solid, dependable metal detector.  And, sometimes, it can be a hinderance to buy a too-advanced metal detector.  Especially if you are new at the sport.

For those of you that are new to metal detecting, you may want to check out the article below.

Click Here to read my article on, "How to Get Started Metal Detecting."

What are You Searching For With Your Metal Detector?

This is an important question as well.  For instance if you are metal detecting for gold, you will want a higher frequency metal detector since most gold found is small.  Higher frequency metal detectors like the Fisher Gold Bug 2, which operates at 71 kHz, are better at finding the small sub-gram pieces of gold.  However if you are looking for coins, jewelry, and relics.  Just about any metal detector will suite your needs.  More specialized metal detector, such as those used for diving and underwater detecting, will cost you a little more but are worth the money.  

The Minelab Equinox 800 is a good all around metal detector
that covers just about every metal detecting need.

It is important to understand that not all metal detectors are suitable for all conditions.  Heavily mineralized soil, like that found in places like Australia or even Arizona will require a detector that can handle the heavily mineralized soils.  As mentioned, saltwater beach detecting is another condition that will require a metal detector that can handle the wet saltwater sands and ocean.  If you do not have a detector that has a mode for these conditions or a way to ground balance the minerals, your metal detector will act erratically and make detecting a little more difficult.  Dry sand and freshwater, however, can be detected with just about any machine.

What is Your Experience Level In Metal Detecting?

This is an important factor too.  I always say there are two reasons a metal detector ends up collecting dust in the attic.  One is because the metal detector is too complicated for the user.  They try using it and it simply confuses them to the point they say, "To heck with this," and give up on the hobby.  The other reason is because the metal detector is too basic and doesn't give them the information they need to determine if the object is really worth digging up.  The same thing happens.  They dig up a bunch of junk and forgo the hobby altogether.  

It is important to get the right detector for the right job and for the right person.  That is why when we talk about metal detectors with a newbie we ask these questions and explain the hobby thoroughly to them.  The fact is, you will dig junk.  It is unavoidable if you want to find valuable treasure.  But, having the right detector for your experience level and the right guidance from a reliable source will help tremendously.

Another consideration that falls in this category is:  How technologically inclined are you?  If you are one of those people that likes to fidget with things, gets real technical, and will dive into a book or the thousands of metal detecting blogs and forums to figure out how to fine tune an advanced metal detector.  Then, you might be okay buying a more advanced metal detector.  However, if you are like a great many people looking to get into the hobby, you would want to keep it basic.  There are a lot of good quality metal detectors out there that have preset modes where you can literally just turn on and go.

 What is Your Metal Detector Budget?

Probably the most important question (but not the first asked) is what kind of money do you have set aside for a metal detector.  You can spend a little or you can spend a lot.  The aforementioned questions will get you into a price range.  Don't expect to get a good gold prospecting or diving metal detector for a couple hundred dollars.  However, if you are simply looking for an inexpensive metal detector for finding coins, jewelry, and relics, you can easily keep within a budget of less than $300 for an entire setup.  

The Fisher F22 Metal Detector is a Good Inexpensive Metal Detector

When it comes to budgeting for a metal detector I cannot stress enough how important it is to budget in a pinpointer.  A pinpointer is a small, hand held, metal detector of about 8-10" in length.  Also called a "probe" by some people, these little gadgets are invaluable to a metal detectorist.  By using a pinpointer you can get down and retrieve your target much faster than the old method of sifting around through the dirt and waving handful after handful over your metal detector to find your target.  This drastically increases your recovery speed.  Thus, you can move on and locate more targets.  And, as I have always said, the guy who digs the most wins.  Almost invariably the guy with the largest pile of trash will have a larger pile of treasure at the end of the day.


One other thing to consider when it comes to budget is DO NOT OVER SPEND another thing you don't want to do is under spend.  As mentioned, there are two reasons metal detectors end up in the attic collecting dust.  The first one is people buy a piece of crap metal detector.  One that goes off on every target, has no discrimination, has limited audio output, and hardly any way to tell what the item is when it locates a target.  The other reason is people buy too much of a metal detector for their skill level.  The detector has too many functions, it is too complicated for them to figure out - basically it is way over their heads.  DO NOT OVER BUY A METAL DETECTOR!

I have people come into the shop to look at metal detectors and say something like, "I want the best metal detector there is.  Price is not a concern."  I could have easily sold these people a CTX 3030 metal detector and sent them on their way.  But I never do this.  First, I have the discussion on their skill level, where they will be using it, and explain to them that they can buy way more than they need and deeply regret it later.  Generally I can talk them off the ledge and get them into something that is a great metal detector with a much easier learning curve.  More often than not, this person, after a few years detecting, will come in and thank me.  Then, once they have cut their teeth, we can begin talking about the benefits of a more advanced metal detector.  

The sport of metal detecting if fun and rewarding.  It is important to realize that human beings are trashy.  You WILL certainly dig up a whole bunch of trash.  Be prepared for that.  However, if you stick with it long enough, do your research, and learn your metal detector (whatever model you choose) you will eventually find that piece of treasure you are seeking and when you do - watch out.  This hobby can also be very addictive.

Hopefully this quick guide and simple questions will help you determine the right metal detector for you!

Stay tuned to our blog for upcoming articles and episodes by following us on your favorite social media outlet to stay informed of releases:

YouTube:  HighPlainsProspectors

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