Looking To Start Metal Detecting

If you’re looking to start metal detecting now is the best time to start. You don’t need to outlay an enormous amount of money to get into the world of detecting.

Why metal detecting

People are attracted to metal detecting for a number of different reasons. 

  • Getting out in nature – most users will spend their days in very scenic locations, wether it be beach front or in woodlands, being a part of nature can be the best part of detecting. Sometimes being away from any other people for days at a time.
  • Exercise – it can be hard work just swinging away with your detector and digging up your targets, not to mention the hike that is often required to get to that ‘perfect’ location. Multiple users have reported significant weight loss after taking up detecting.
  • Spending time with family and friends – many users take the opportunity to spend extended periods on trips for prospecting. Going on a camping/detecting trip is a great way to spend time with those important to you.
  • The thrill of the ‘hunt’ – it only takes one good find to get you hooked and once you are, say goodbye to any spare time you once had. You will find yourself with a new thirst for knowledge and a willingness to spend any spare dollars on the hobby.
  • The potential to change your life –  not everyone has the instant life changing find where they find a gold nugget bigger than their head or a super rare coin, but there are many users making a good living from detecting. Those users go out and work hard searching for the small finds that eventually all add up.

Metal Detector Types

The two main categories of detector types are gold detectors and coin and treasure detectors. There are detectors suitable for every users price range in both gold and coin and treasure detectors.

To determine what kind of detector you might need, you first need to determine what you will be searching for and where.

Ideal locations for coin and treasure:

  • Sports fields
  • Beaches 
  • Parks, playgrounds and school yards
  • Battlefields
  • Camping grounds
  • Ploughed fields 

Ideal locations for gold prospecting:

  • Old gold fields
  • Locations where gold is panned for
  • Residue from goldmine sites

Metal Detector Features

The old saying ‘you get what you pay for’ rings true, even with metal detectors. Spending more will typically get you a better detector, but having a better detector might not mean you will find more, but it can certainly increase your odds.

Typically you will find that more expensive detectors have better:

  • Pre configured settings – These are fine tuned extensively by the design teams alongside with field testers to get settings just right for certain environments. More expensive detectors are more refined when it comes to the pre configured settings.
  • Discrimination – this helps you decide if you’re digging or moving on, defined target IDs  on more expensive models often indicate almost exactly what you have find. When it comes to gold prospecting more expensive models have better iron reject on VLF detectors.
  • Frequency – is specific to different types of detectors, generally the higher frequency detectors have less depth but are better with small targets compared to low frequency detectors having better depth for large targets. 
  • Coils – coils are specific to different detector technologies and environmental/ground conditions. Often more expensive units have larger coils, but depending on the type of detector, environment and target type will determine which coil is best.
  • Ground balance – improves the depth capability when on mineralised ground. It basically gets rid of noise given off by the minerals in the ground so that targets can be better heard. 
  • Noise cancel – More expensive detectors will be less susceptible to environmental noise, but will also have the ability to noise cancel to reduce the effects of un-wanted noise. 
  • Looks and feel – Lets face it, we all like something that looks good, but sometimes a good looking detector just doesn’t feel good. Typically a more expensive detector will get you something that feels and looks great. Unfortunately, even some of more expensive detectors get a bit heavy, but with advancements in technology this is sure to improve over time. Just keep in mind that if you are starting to find it heavy in the store, you might need to re think if it’s right for you.
  • Manufacturer support and warranty – support and warranty is almost as important as the detector itself.  By sticking with the best metal detector brands you will find that even their cheapest products are well backed.

Establishing a budget

Metal detector price range can be anywhere between $50 to $10,000. How much you want and need to spend can be tricky to work out, here’s a few things that can help you decide:

  • Financial situation – probably the most obvious one, not everyone is currently in a position to drop $10,000 on a fancy new detector. Your very first detector doesn’t need to be the best.
  • Borrow a friends – or even hire a detector, this is an excellent way to try before you buy. This gives you an idea of what features are important to you. Hiring a detector gives you an opportunity to get a more expensive model and see what exactly makes it better.
  • Go to an open day or show – a lot of the big brands hold open days or attend product launches or events. This gives you one of the best ways to try detectors in each price range and get advice from experts in the field. 
  • How frequently will you be using your detector – some people just know they won’t be using there detector that frequently, whereas others have a plan for serious prospecting for extended periods. Having the best detector on the market might not be the most suitable for someone that uses it once or twice a year for an hour or two on the beach. 
  • Who will you be detecting with – are you going on your own or with the whole family, will you need more than one detector? If you’re on your own it might be worth spending a little extra but if you need multiple detectors, it may require a little more budget planning.
  • Is it your livelihood – if it is your livelihood then you might require a large budget for multiple detectors and equipment. 

Equipment for metal detecting

On top of purchasing your metal detector there are some other things that you might want to consider purchasing. Not everything is absolutely essential straight away, but should be kept in mind when considering your budget when starting out.

  • Pinpointer – these small scale metal detectors are essential for detecting in holes you have dug, literally helping you to pinpoint a target when using your detector is too awkward.
  • Coil skid plate – if your coils don’t come fitted with skid plates, you should look at investing in one for each. They protect the coil from scraping over sharp surfaces, you don’t want to wear through and damage the coil itself. It’s a small price to pay to protect a much more expensive coil.
  • Spare batteries – there’s nothing worse than a battery pack failing completely or not holding charge. It’s good to hold at least one spare set of batteries.
  • Spare battery charger – as with having spare batteries, having a spare charger can be a life saver on trips that are planned over multiple days. Good luck finding a charger in the middle of nowhere.
  • Digging equipment – you will almost certainly need some kind of digging tools, depending on where and what you’re searching for will determine exactly what you may need. Gold and coin and treasure detectorists will usually have a small pick, digging tool or scoop and perhaps a blade or coin popper readily available. Those detecting on sand often only carry a sand scoop at hand, these allow the user to dig whilst also being able to sift the sand in one scoop. Make sure you get the best quality you can find and afford as these will receive a lot of use and abuse.
  • Gloves – Save your skin from cuts, punctures and insect bites. Spend a little extra and get something durable, thin gloves will be shredded on the first outing. Leather gloves are often a good choice although at times a bit sweaty.
  • Sat phone – if you’re spending a lot of time in areas without cellular coverage, it might be worth the investment in a satellite phone incase of emergency. With advancements in technology satellite phone prices and subscription rates have fallen substantially. Satellite phone rental is even available in some locations and can be a cost friendly option. Remember, if you are spending time in areas without coverage you should let a family member or friend know of your whereabouts and what times you’re likely to check in or return.
  • First aid kit – a small all purpose first aid kit is recommended, have this tucked away in your backpack to treat minor scrapes, cuts and sprains. A slightly more comprehensive or even survival kit can be stored at camp or in the car, depending on your situation.
  • Sun protection, Insect protection – this is an absolute must to prevent skin cancer. Full brim hat that covers the neck, long sleeves and pants (UV rated is best). Where skin is exposed you should use the highest SPF rating sunscreen available. Remember you can even get burnt on cloudy days and don’t forget sunglasses to protect your eyes. Insect repellent can save your sanity especially when try to relax or sleep. Some detectorists will use a mosquito head net to go over their hat to shoulder to keep fly’s and mosquito’s at bay.
  • Water – It’s important to stay hydrated, take regular breaks and be sure to pack extra during summer months.
  • Good quality backpack – Now that you have all of this equipment, you will need something to carry it all in. Fitment is very important here, you want a bag that is comfortable walking around with when loaded with some weight. It’s a good idea to head to your local store to check them out before you buy, a good outdoor store will give you advice on fitment and what you might require in regards to budget, size and the environment you will be in.

Metal Detecting ethics

It goes without saying that responsible detectorists do research before detecting. It’s important to check your local legal requirements or those of the destination you plan to detect in. Joining you local detecting club or even checking in with your local detector dealer will lead you on the right path.

    • Always check the local laws before you go detecting.
    • Do not trespass onto private property, sacred land or historic sites.
    • Ask for permission to detect on private land, preferably in writing.
    • Let the land owner know if you find anything.
    • Do not return trash finds to the ground.
    • Do not litter.
    • Do not disturb any animals you come across on purpose.
    • Leave little to no sign you were ever there.
    • Fill in the holes you dig, no matter where you are.
    • Never leave anything that can potentially poison, maim, injure or kill animals or humans without contacting relevant authorities. 

How to use your metal detector

Getting started with your first detector is an exciting time but it’s also easy to get a little lost in the excitement. Most reputable dealers will run through the basics with you in store, by the time you get home you’re likely to have forgotten some, if not all of what they taught you.

This is where the user guide comes in handy, the big brands have excellent user guides included with their detectors. You should first spend your time reading the guide and getting familiar with the detector and user interface. 

Once you’re familiar with your new detector, the best place to go is right in your own backyard. This is where you can really get to know your machine.

Start off by turning on your detector and holding it so that the coil is up in the air, then with a coin or gold item, run it at distance across the coil like you would searching the ground. This is where you can test how far your target can be from your coil and what your detector sounds like when you have found something.

Next try burying a variety of targets, start at the same depth and gradually try deeper until the tone is very faint.

Things to remember:

  • Adjust the shafts to make sure you can comfortably detect without hunching over or over reaching.
  • Adjust the coils angle to make sure that its parallel to the surface.
  • Keep your swing parallel to the ground, don’t lift up towards the ends of your swing.
  • Carefully sweep the coil in a smooth even fashion, bumping surfaces can cause false signals.
  • When sweeping the coil across the surface, try to slightly overlap your passes so you don’t miss any targets in-between.
  • Dig everything while you’re learning, once you’re confident in your skills, then you can decide wether or not you will dig or leave it.


Metal detecting can be one of the most exciting and possibly life changing hobbies out there. You will need to put in a little bit of work to learn your detector and master the art of the swing, but with time it becomes a truly enjoyable hobby or even a career for some. Just remember to take your time, ask lots of questions and enjoy the journey.

Detector Guru