There seems to be a flood of metal detector brands entering the market with many offering new features that promise increased pinpointing and accuracy. But how do you choose a metal detector that is right for your needs and your budget?
Choosing a metal detector comes down to your requirements. Although all detectors work on the same basic principles, some have strengths in certain terrains, such as beaches, soft mud and loose soil. Whilst others are aimed towards users detecting in waterways, streams and the sea.
If you are just starting out in metal detecting, it would be wise to spend some time thinking about the areas you are going to be searching. These are some of the questions you should ask before making a purchase:
Will you be immersing the metal detectors head in water?
Many affordable detectors now come with fully waterproof heads (coils), but there are still a few on the market that have splash-proof heads, not waterproof. Read the description carefully and ask the seller to verify this.
Will you be exposed to all the elements or do you live in a dry area?
As well as having a waterproof head, you may need a detector that has a fully watertight body and control panel. Even though I have a fully waterproof machine, I still wrap the control box in a plastic bag when it’s raining. Moisture will destroy the electronics. I also use a clip on head cover to further protect the coil.
Are you searching for metals other than gold?
Most metal detectors are produced for users who want to find gold, but they will find other metals too, including silver. But there are other specialist metals that your machine may not detect. If you are searching for specific metals, ask the supplier if the detector will find them.
Does the detector use affordable batteries?
I have come across this quite a few times. Most detectors use either a 9v PP3 battery or a couple of AA batteries. These are readily available around the world. But I would steer clear of detectors that use button cell or very heavy batteries. You need to have a good handful of fresh batteries with you at all times. When you are out in a field, nipping to the shops to pick some up isn’t always an easy option. Very heavy batteries will add to the weight of the machine, which could make it uncomfortable to use over extended periods of time.
Note: Every metal detector I have ever used recommended against using rechargeable batteries. Although I have never had an issue using them, I have read of others who have received false signals when using batteries that had been re-charged too many times.
How quickly does it use up the batteries?
Modern metal detectors offer lots of fancy features and detailed displays, but these can shorten the life of your batteries. If you can live with a simple display and a couple of tones in your ears, then go for it. But if you really need all the bells and whistles, keep some extra batteries handy.
Does the detector adapt to fit your height?
Many detectors allow you to shorten or lengthen the tubular section of the shaft that joins the control panel to the head. All good manufacturers will tell you how much adjustment is available. If you are very short in height, or extremely tall, it could be worthwhile having a try of your desired detector before you purchase it. Keep in mind you will be spending many hours swinging it from side to side and that can cause discomfort if you are not in a comfortable position.
A proper fitting metal detector should feel balanced on your arm and still feel comfortable after hours of use.
How heavy is the whole machine?
Just as important as the length of the machine is the weight of the machine. Anything too heavy and you will feel like you are swinging a brick around – and that will soon lead to muscle fatigue and sore arms.
A metal detector with an armrest or support fitted will help relieve a lot of the tension and allow you to detect for longer sessions.
What depth will the metal detector locate objects?
An average metal detector will detect to a depth of around 8 to 10 inches deep – depending on ground conditions. This is great for the majority of users as most small finds tend to come from those depths. If you need something with a bit more power, you will need to spend a bit more – perhaps moving up to a more professional model.
As well as depth consider width. What is the minimum width and object needs to be for the detector to register a hit?
Does it have a headphone socket?
Almost all detectors have a headphone socket built in. Headphones are essential for hearing tones – especially if you are detecting in noisy or crowded areas.
You may need to buy an adapter to suit the size of the headphone socket on the detector. These can be picked up on sites like eBay or Amazon for a few bucks.
As with all purchases of metal detectors, it pays to spend some time with one before you buy it. A metal detector club is a great place to get your hands on other models and get some first-hand advice from actual users.
Unfortunately, there aren’t as many stores around these days where you can go physically touch one – as we now buy practically everything online – so my advice would be to seek out other users, read trusted reviews and buy the best you can afford, according to your needs.
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