A few tips on how to choose a metal detector

Treasure hunting and coin shooting are relaxing hobbies that can provide an enormous amount of pleasure, but deciding which metal detector to buy can rob a lot of the fun for those just starting out. There are a baffling number of options, designs, brand names, display types and models. Then there are search coils of multiple sizes and designs and shapes and a growing list of cases, shovels, bags, dippers and other paraphernalia that goes along with the hobby.

What can a beginner do to make sense of all of this? The first thing is to simply stop. Just stop for a minute and consider what the metal detector will primarily be used for, and where it will be used. Most beginners do not need a thousand dollar locator, a one hundred dollar one will serve them just as well until they can learn enough to understand which machine they really need. The great news is that used metal detectors often sell for quite a bit of money, which means a machine purchased now can be sold later to gather some money for the purchase of a more advanced locator.

Beginners should decide a maximum amount of money they are willing to spend to purchase a locator. Don’t worry about search coils or other accessories to start, all of those things can come later if needed. Many people never use more than one search coil, it all comes back to deciding what the metal detector will be used for. If the treasure hunting will mostly be done in the backyard, park or beach, the standard coil that comes with the locator should be enough to get most beginners finding coins and small treasures.

There are a couple of main differences between entry-level metal detectors and the difference between them is important enough that it should be considered. The first difference is that there are motion and non-motion units. Motion units need to have the search coil moving in order to give off a tone. If you find and object and stop the coil’s motion, the tone will stop. Non-motion detectors will still continue to give off a tone, although the tone may change if the coil isn’t moving. There are people who prefer both kinds, so it is difficult to advise which is the best. The non-motion option can make it much easier to pinpoint the exact location to dig, but it also can add cost to a basic detector, while the motion machines are usually cheaper and will still find treasures quite easily.

The second big difference is in “discrimination.” Discrimination means that the locator has the capability to tell you what type of metal is under the search coil. Discriminators are a massive improvement over the older style detectors that gave the same tone for every piece of metal. Some of the more expensive detectors will have an LCD graphic display that will show what metal the object is expected to be. You can also usually “tune out” metals that you don’t want. So if you are looking for a lost wedding band in a location where there is a lot of steel or iron, you can set the detector to ignore steel and iron, which lets you concentrate on finding only precious metals.

While discrimination is very useful, it can also be a hindrance since buried metals sometimes give off signals that are very different from what they actually are. Bits of junk may show up as coins or gold, or the detector may miss coins because the signature is very close to a base metal. Despite this limitation, most metal detectors sold today are discriminators, but a very few are not and beginners should keep their eyes open to avoid buying one without this feature.

So, forget about search coil size, accessories, graphic displays and all the other offerings that can make the process of selecting a metal detector difficult. Instead focus on finding a metal detector that will discriminate and has a good warranty. There is always time to trade up later, and most detectors with discrimination are capable of doing what the average beginner wants to do.

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