How to Get Started in the Fun Hobby of Metal Detecting

Metal detecting is a great hobby and not that expensive to get started having a lot of fun. With a metal detector, you never know what you might find with that next beep. It could be an Indian Head penny, a ring or maybe a 100 year old dime. You can get a good metal detector for as low as $90.

Buying a Metal Detector

A lot of people think that a metal detector has to be expensive to be good and that is not the case. You can buy very good metal detectors for under $200 that will work great; in fact many metal detector enthusiasts who buy a very expensive metal detector will go back to one of their cheaper metal detectors. Simpler is sometimes better.

There are different or specialized types of metal detectors. Some are better at finding gold than others. The most common type of metal detector is the VLF (very low frequency) type and they work great for telling the difference between different types of metal. Some recommended all-purpose metal detectors include:

  • Garrett Ace 250 currently costs around $215.
  •  Bounty Hunter IV which will cost between $90 and $140.
  • Tesoro Compadre for $165 to $190. Tesoro also has a lifetime warranty.
  • Tesoro Silver uMax costs around $255.
metal detector finds
What you might find with a metal detector / Relic Hunters

Metal Detecting Accessories

You can buy the following accessories that can help with your metal detecting.

  • Different coils for your metal detector like a smaller coiler for searching areas that might contain a lot of trash.

  • Probes can be of great help in pinpointing an item and a timesaver. A probe is a small unit that depending on the brand is either hand held or attaches to your metal detector.  The cost of the probes can start as low as $15 and go much higher. Some probes only work on one metal detector, while other probes can be used on most if not all metal detectors.

  • Coil covers to prevent dents or scratches on your coils.

  • A good pair of headphones, the kind that fully cover your ears will help you detect the faint beeps without background noise. Koss is one recommended brand that doesn’t costs a lot.

Learning to Use Your New Metal Detector

Do not think your metal detector is bad if you don’t immediately start finding all kinds of coins and rings. It does take time to learn how to use your metal detector and how to interpret the beeps it makes. Learning what the sound means is important; as a friend of mine calls it, listen for the “fatness” of the beeping sound.

Those in metal detecting say that it takes about 80 hours to really learn what the beeps mean and to become experienced with your metal detector. Practice in your own yard before you take it out to more interesting locations, you could be surprised at what you find in your backyard. Just don’t expect to find rare coins right away.

Many metal detectors can find items buried as deep as 8 inches and sometimes deeper. The larger the item, the further down the metal detector can find it. Practice sweeping the metal detector slowly. By slowly sweeping an area, you can find items that were missed by others because they moved their metal detectors too fast and missed items. Another tip is to put the metal detector coil close to the ground.

Metal Detecting Rules and Etiquette

There are rules with metal detecting. Knowing where you can use your metal detector and the proper etiquette is important; otherwise you could have your metal detector confiscated, pay a fine or possibly even arrested.

Look for posted signs and make sure you know the local and federal laws and rules pertaining to metal detecting. And just because some place is public property does not mean you can metal detect there.

When finding a place to metal detect, you will be dealing with a variety of federal, state, county, local laws and officials. Federal land like BLM, national parks and national forests could have different laws and you might need a permit. Usually at historic battlefield sites, it is against the law to use a metal detector. State parks have their own laws. Here is a list of state park rules for each state.

On any private property, make sure you talk to the owner of the property and get permission before you go metal detecting on that property. Always pay attention to signs because no trespassing means just that.

In many cities, metal detecting in parks and schools are usually fine unless there is a sign posted forbidding it. For schools, this means outside of the locked fences and not during school hours. There are also rules you must know and follow. Some cities and counties have rules that dictate the size of the shovel or digging tool you can use. Here, the size of the digging tool or shovel can be no more than 2 inches wide, and each city can vary with these rules.

And always fill up your holes, because if you don’t, you give metal detecting a bad name and you could get metal detecting banned in your town. Using a tool like a dandelion digger is good for getting out coins and other items. If you use a trowel, dig a closable flap of grass if possible instead of digging a hole, this way you can just put the flap of turf back in place. 

metal detecting
Metal detecting in Vermont / Flickr


Like with many hobbies, metal detecting will become more enjoyable once you learn more about it and how to use your metal detector. A friend of mine has found 2,000 coins and numerous rings in his first 170 hours of using his metal detector. The main metal detectors he uses are the Bounty Hunter IV and the Tesoro Compadre.

Copyright © 2011 Sam Montana

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