Before choosing a metal detector, think about the places you’ll be able to use it and what features will help you find buried treasure.
Before you invest in a metal detector, think about what type of targets you will be looking for and where you will be using it. If your metal detector is going to be used near the ocean or a large river, it’s important to buy one with waterproof coils or one that is completely submersible.
If you’re headed to the desert to find gold deposits, waterproofing isn’t as much of a concern. Rather, it is important to buy a metal detector with a gold-specific detection range. History buffs who are seeking Civil War or other historically significant relics should look for VLF detectors because they can separate out screws and coins.
The discrimination of a metal detector determines what it can and cannot find. For example, a detector with good discrimination would be able to differentiate between a coin and a bottle cap. A detector with excellent discrimination saves you time because you don’t have to stop digging up targets only to find them to be trash. The detector only sounds an alert when it finds an object that meets the selected criteria. For some relic hunters, metal detector discrimination may not be necessary. They prefer to locate everything and sort through it themselves, which is not possible for a piece of equipment to do.
Soil contains trace amounts of metals and metal alloys. These metals can interfere with the ability of a metal detector to find coins, jewelry, or other metal objects. Metal detectors that have a feature called ground balance are able to ignore these metals, effectively reducing false readings. There are four main types of ground balance:
Automatic ground balance
The transmission will automatically detect and adjust for interference. The user doesn’t have to do anything.
Preset ground balance
A machine's ability to detect an object can be affected by the user. The manufacturer tests and sets the baseline for detection, allowing the device to ignore small interferences that fall below this threshold.
Manual ground balance
The settings on a detector can be changed by the user, depending on what type of target you are looking for. A beginner may find a detector with this feature challenging to use if they do not know how to properly set ground balance.
Multiple ground balance
The detector has a switch to set the ground balance level manually or leave it on automatic.
Metal detectors with target identification take the search for treasure a step further. They will not only alert you to possible finds, but also indicate what the object is within a certain range. This type of metal detector can usually identify jewelry, junk, gold, even coins of different denominations.
When a metal detector with target identification finds an object, it will either emit an audible sound or display a visual notification. The audible sound is typically high pitched for valuable items and low pitched for trash. The visual notification will display an icon of the assumed type of object. Most detectors have five or six indicators for typical finds, like coins.
The operating frequency of a metal detector is the number of times per second that the signal is transmitted and received by the detector. Low-frequency metal detectors are able to scan deeper into the ground, which is why they’re very good for finding large, buried objects. In general, most metal detectors have a low- to medium-frequency range.
In search of gold or small objects, a higher frequency metal detector might be more useful. While these detectors have less penetration depth than a low-frequency detector, the high frequency of transmission allows for the identification of small objects that would elude a low-frequency detector.
The sensitivity level of a metal detector refers to how well it can detect conductive materials from a specific distance. Most metal detectors are labeled with the recommended sensitivity level that is appropriate in most applications. The user might need to lower the device’s sensitivity level, for example, if the search area has high mineral content or is near power lines. In the
Sometimes the device may not react properly to the presence of conductive materials. If this is the case, you may have to turn up the sensitivity level. But be aware that if you set it too high, you’ll likely get distortion and static instead of clear indicator sounds.
Lowering the sensitivity should rectify the issue.
The maximum depth that a metal detector is able to search for conductive material is known as its search depth. Typical search depths vary greatly between products: They range from about 2 inches to 15 inches. Low-frequency detectors offer better max-depth ratings than high-frequency detectors and location, ground type, and interference can all affect the search depth of your metal detector.
A metal detector’s weight is often overlooked, but should not be. Choosing the right weight is important so you don’t struggle with the detector for long periods of time. You want to be able to focus on readings and findings.
If you are buying a metal detector to share, think about who you’ll be sharing it with.
Children need lighter detectors that can be adjusted to an appropriate height. Sharing with another adult will also impact which detector is selected and those with back or shoulder injuries should avoid heavy detectors that could worsen existing health problems.
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