Metal Detector Buying Guide
A metal detector is a portable, electronic device that is used by hobbyists and serious detectors alike to locate all kinds of metal that may be located underground. It could be junk, jewelry, coins, precious metals like gold and silver or even old historic relics. One of the many appealing things about metal detecting is the surprise discoveries that are made. This is one of the things that lures people in and gets them hooked.
How does a Metal Detector Work?
The simple answer to this question is that metal detectors use electromagnetic and their effect on conductive metals. The detector sends a magnetic field into the ground and anything that is metallic will be charged with that magnetism. Once that has happened, a signal is sent back to the metal detector and alerts the user that something metal is underground in that area. The higher quality metal detectors will also tell you what kind of metal has been found and how far underground the item is.
Metal Detector Components
All of the metal detectors on the market regardless of the make and model have the same components. We have listed these components below.
- Stabilizers – The stabilizer of a metal detector is the support that rests against your arm so it stays steady while you are moving it back and forth. They make it much more comfortable to hold and move the metal detector. It also prevents it from twisting uncomfortably while you are using it. Depending on the unit, the stabilizer may be an option you can choose or it may be part of the standard equipment.
- Control Box – The control box of the metal detector is where all of the circuitry, signal display, controls, speaker and batteries are located. On some models the signal display will be am LCD screen and on others it will be a meter that is read.
- Shaft – Adjustable shafts are preferable because they can be adjusted to fit different heights and accommodate different arm strengths. The shaft design on some units is a flattened S which makes the controls and signal display easily accessed.
- Search Coil – This is the part of the metal detector that locates the metal that is underground. It has also been called a search head, a loop or an antenna. Some search coils are water resistant and higher end models are waterproof, allowing the user to search under shallow water.
- Audio Headphone Jack – almost all metal detectors have the ability to use headphones. Using headphones is actually preferable to going without because it gets rid of background noise distractions and it extends the battery life as week because they take much less current to run than the speakers do.
- Target Selectivity – This is an important filter because it allows users to filter out the objects that are not worth anything like nails, screws, cans and other things of that nature. Being able to adjust the discrimination to allow for looking for specific metals.
Common Metal Detector Terms and Features
If you know the terms that are associated with metal detecting, you will have a much easier time sorting through all of the choices when you start shopping for one. We’ve listed the common terms and features below.
- Detectorist – the avid metal detector enthusiasts are often called detectorists, whether they do it professionally or for a hobby.
- Target – Any metal object that the metal detector can pick up is called a target. They can be super valuable like gold coins or diamond rings or as worthless as a nail.
- Ferrous and Non-Ferrous – Ferrous metals include steel, iron and alloys of iron. Non ferrous items contain copper, aluminum, lead, nickel, brass, gold, silver and platinum. Some models of metal detectors have a discrimination feature that users can program for either ferrous or non ferrous metals, or you can choose all metals.
- Target ID – The target ID feature tells the difference between a target and the depth it is underground. It is distinguished by one of three ways: an audible tone, a visual meter or an ID number on t he display or meter.
- Discrimination – All metal detectors have a discrimination feature of some kind. It is helpful when the detectorist is looking for a specific kind of metal. When a user sets the discrimination, it allows you to be able to ignore the useless items and focus on the ones that might be worth something. There are several different types of discrimination. We have outlined the differences below.
- Variable Discrimination – This is simplest form of discrimination. It uses a control knob to set the level of discrimination that is desired. If the discrimination is set low, it will pick up everything from a paper clip to a cannon. Move up a little to medium and that will overlook less corroded metals and the highest setting will locate only larger pieces of non-ferrous metal
- Iron Masking– Iron masking blocks all ferrous metals from the metal detector and only locates the more valuable non-ferrous metals. This is a setting most often used by those looking for gold.
- Notch Filter Discrimination – the notch filter blocks a narrow group of metal objects based on the ferrous properties. It allows the user to customize the types of things that are found.
- 2-D Discrimination – This is a very advanced filter that uses an LCD screen the will show a graphic picture of the item in question. This allows the user to see the object in a 2 D format based on conductivity and ferrous properties.
- Tone/Meter – Set the metal detector without discrimination because you will get an audible tone when the metal detector locates something of interest. Depending on the metal, the tone will change, lower conductive metals having a lower alert tone and highly conductive metals having a high pitched alert tone.
- Sensitivity – This term is used to describe how deep and far the metal detector can detect objects.
- Ground Balance – Some areas that you may use a metal detector will have a higher mineralization content than others will. Sometimes the soil is ionized (like wet beach sand) or it has high levels of iron (like black sand, clay or hot rocks) Ground balance means that the high mineralization of the soil is zeroed out so it doesn’t conflict with the metal detectors ability to work.
- Volume Control – If you are wearing headphones, the volume control will be of good use. By using your headphones, the battery life of your metal detector will be longer and you will be able to hear faint signals that background noise may drown out.
Metal detecting has continued to be a very popular hobby for people of all ages. One can go to a beach without seeing someone with a metal detector at some point looking for lost treasures. There are many benefits to engaging in this hobby such as being able to be outside, finding all kinds of cool treasures, and even finding valuable items.
The top rated metal detectors here are all perfect for the person just getting started in metal detecting but they are advanced enough and have plenty of features that make them good for intermediate detectorists too.
Now that you understand the terminology and know what to look for, you are ready to choose a metal detector that will bring you many hours of enjoyment and entertainment. Decide ahead of time what type of metal detecting you want to do so you get the features that will make it easy to accomplish the metal detecting goals you have.