Metal detecting is one of those activities that can appear ‘geeky’ to many people. But once you get that beep in your headphones and see the edge of something shiny in the ground, your hooked.
Everyone has to start somewhere. My first metal detector was a C-Scope 770D, which I received on my 14th birthday. At first I put it to the side and focused on the new Frogger game I had been given from my Dragon 32 (wow! remember them?), but my curiosity was spiked and I headed out to some local waste ground to see what I could find. Thirty five minutes later I was the proud finder of a beautiful 18 ct gold ring encrusted with four diamonds and five perfect blue sapphires.
Needless to say… I was hooked.
The 770D was a very basic detector, but it was very easy to use and clearly did the job. I used it regularly for many years until accidently dropping the whole machine into a river. I was sad to see it go – but excited at the prospect of a new shiny machine with superior functions and, more importantly, a weather-proof casing.
Point is, you don’t have to break the bank to get into metal detecting. For just a few hundred dollars, you can enjoy the latest in detector technology. The more you spend, the better you tend to find the detector will be at finding and pinpointing the type of metal you are after. Obviously nobody likes finding piles of ring pulls and old drinks cans, so learning to set up your machine to suit your requirements is extremely important.
My gold ring was a lucky find – the next two hundred finds were pieces of junk. But that’s the appeal of metal detecting – it’s the hope of getting that next big find that keeps us heading back outdoors.
First of all, you need a metal detector! There is a good choice of detectors available to buy these days, but before you rush out to buy one, here are some tips…
ps. Don’t forget to check out our metal detector review section. We will be adding new detectors and accessories as we field test them.
Don’t break the bank
There is no point splashing out on a super expensive metal detector only to leave it lying in your cupboard after a few months. I started out with a simple discriminating model that more than paid for itself over the time I used it. In todays money it would have only been around $120.
My current model cost me $850 (details in another post) and has lots of fancy features that help me make better quality finds – but it does take me longer to set it up each time I want to use it. I have worked my way up to this detector and have exhausted every machine I had before it. Your metal detector is your main tool. It has to be in perfect working order. Keep it clean and dry between uses.
Try before you buy
This can be difficult if you are ordering your detector from an online seller. The main reason I prefer to physically try them is comfort. You can spend up to eight hours a day swinging your detector from left to right. If the balance is off, or the machine is too heavy, you will probably just give up and go home.
Think about the locations you are planning to search
If you live in a cold wet country (like we do), then a good quality detector with a waterproof casing is a must. Also ensure that the head is fully waterproof. I regularly search in streams, rivers and long wet grass, so a waterproof head is essential. If you live in a warm dry climate, your needs will be different – but I would still advise a waterproof cover for those unexpected showers. Almost all detectors are shower-proof, but water will always find a way in – so don’t take the chance.
Choose fully enclosed headphones to help block out surrounding noise and help you hear the faintest beep. A coiled lead can be useful if you are sweeping in a large arc. I always keep a second spare pair handy.
Noise canceling headphones can be good, but we found they omitted some key frequencies. This was extremely frustrating. Remember to take a break every now and then as your ears may be become quite sweaty.
It wouldn’t be the first time I’ve gone off to detect only to discover I forgot to bring my shovels! You don’t need anything fancy for digging a hole, but you do need a selection of strong tools for different environments.
Use a small hand trowel for loosening up tough ground and small hand shovel for digging smaller holes. Also carry a folding shovel for excavating larger areas – but use with caution – as you don’t want to damage any of your finds.
I picked up a long thin trowel a few years back, which is great for digging up smaller items. I will add details of all my equipment to my Buying Recommendations page soon.
Please remember to fill in EVERY hole you dig.
There is nothing more annoying than a low battery warning. Make sure you carry plenty of spares. If you are working in a cold environment, don’t let the batteries get too cold – it will shorten their life. I keep mine wrapped in a bubble wrap bag inside my vest pocket so they are close to my body for heat.
Some metal detectors allow you to attach an external battery pack to them. This is great for longer search days. They usually clip onto your belt and attach to the battery terminals of the detector, or to a power port. Some that claim to last up to eight hours or more.
You can use rechargeable batteries, although I have found that they don’t last as long as fresh standard ones. This is may be the brand I am using though – and battery technology is improving all the time.
Clothing For All Seasons
Before you set out, check the weather forecast and think about the area you are visiting. Always take something warm and dry, like a rolled up fleece. Where I am in Scotland, the weather can change in a heartbeat! Sunny one minute, snowing the next. Be prepared!
Wear good quality footwear with strong soles. You may be walking over rough terrain or wet grass. A pair of gators can be useful to keep the bottoms halves of your trousers dry.
Food and Water
If you are planning to travel a good distance, take some food with you. Metal detecting can be hard work and if you are swinging your arm about for a few hours, you’ll soon build up a sweat. Take breaks often and re-hydrate.
You can easily download and print off a map from the internet these days. Use it to find your location and to record your finds. You may wish to revisit the same area again in the future and a map will help you locate where the best finds were.
Ordinance Survey maps that show terrain can be extremely useful for identifying ground features and buried structures.
Notepad and Pen
In addition to the map, taking down details of your finds and the settings / signals your detector gave, can go a long way to helping you improve your detecting skills. Over time you will build up a picture of how your detector reacts to different conditions. You will also have accurate details of your finds and how they were when you discovered them.
I record every little detail. Its amazing how much I refer back to my notes when I am discussing my finds with other detectors enthusiasts.
Line the inside of your rucksack with a large plastic bag. This helps keeps the contents dry – especially when detecting in a river or in a rain storm. Take a roll of plastic ‘sandwich’ bags to keep small finds in. If the rain is really coming down, tie a plastic bag around the detector body. There is no such thing as 100% waterproof.
On one particularly wet day, I actually tied shopping bags around my boots to stop the water coming over the sides. Nothing stops your search more than soggy wet feet.
Mobile Phone (Cellular) & Portable Charger
Never go anywhere without letting a family member or friend know your rough destination. I quite often visit locations that have no mobile (cellular) signal, so it makes sense to let people know beforehand. I switch off my phone while I am detecting to minimize distractions and preserve the phones battery life.
Permission To Search
This is a difficult topic to explain in detail on this post, so I will come back to it later in better detail in a future post. Just about every bit of land on this Earth is owned by someone. Many land owners neither care nor bother with people exploring their land – but most will sit up and take notice if you dig a pile of gold coins out of the their ground.
Getting prior permission to search can be as simple as giving them a call and arranging to discuss your intentions with them. Some may just wish you good luck and let you on your way. Others may want to come to some agreement as to who owns what in a find. It can be difficult to locate land owners too. I prefer to get things written down and witnessed – that way there can be no problems later on.
It goes without saying that you should not enter any land that is clearly marked ‘No Entry’ or has signs indicating military use. Care should be taken too when looking at searching on sacred land, religious sites or farm land. Metal detecting should be fun, not dangerous or illegal. It is not worth the risk – plus it gives the rest of us a bad name.
I’ve never had a problem detecting on public beaches or parks here in the UK, although I do seem to gather quite a crowd of interested onlookers wondering what my biggest finds have been. Different countries and states have different laws governing the use of metal detectors, so do some research before you head out.
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