How do I get started Metal Detecting?
So you’re ready to get started Metal Detecting and you haven’t a clue how to begin. This quick guide will help get you started.
The three detectors commonly agreed best to start with are the Ace 250, the Fisher F2, and the Tesoro Compadre. While that detector from Radio Shack or the 1980s model from a yard sale will detect metal, you really should consider the three I listed.
The Ace 250 is the best-selling metal detector in the world and for good reason. It’s easy to use, it’s from a company with a long tradition in detecting, and it’s the one I started with. (Review video soon).
The Fisher F2 is less expensive than the Ace 250 and is also a great starter detector. Of the three, I actually recommend this detector based on videos I’ve seen and the fact that it comes with a pinpointer and sniper coil. The F2 has a greater range of sounds than does the Ace 250, which bings and bongs over targets. The broader range of sounds helps the F2 “tell” you what’s in the ground.
Lastly the Tesoro Compadre is the simplest of the three, in that it has no ID screen, just sound alerts. And it comes with the longest warranty of the three – lifetime. Target ID on even the most expensive machines isn’t always accurate. The Compadre teaches you how to know the good targets by sound only.
Find a dealer with all three and try them out. Watch YouTube videos. Join a local detecting club and ask to swing a detector you’re interested in.
Note: If you’re starting out and you have more to spend, I highly recommend the Garrett AT Pro. It has a Basic mode that is very much like using the Ace 250. Then when you’re ready you can switch to the Pro mode, which has a much broader range of sounds. While the above detectors are waterproof up to the control box, the ATP is fully submersible to 10 feet and has manual ground balancing, which will teach a detector what type of soil you’re detecting on for better performance. It’s a lot for a first detector, but you will grow into it and possibly keep on using it for life.
You don’t have to have a pinpointer to metal detect but it speeds up target recovery time considerably. The most popular (and most copied) is Garrett’s ProPointer. It can scan on the side and tip. Put some electrical tape on the speaker and it becomes quite water resistant. It’s pricey but it’s very very good and it’s worth the money. If you’re really on a budget some people start with a $14 pinpointer from Harbor Freight. However, you get what you pay for.
Next, you’re going to need something to dig with. A simple garden trowel or hunting knife is a good start. But if you want an amazing tool that won’t break or rust I suggest the Lesche digging tool. It’s serrated edge cuts roots with ease. And it’s available in both right and left hand designs. Garrett also makes a digger similar in price and design to the Lesche, however the Garrett is sub par in comparison. I did a review of both tools here.
If you have a bad back or your hands hurt from digging with a hand tool, you can get a Lesche T-Handle Shovel. But a small hand tool is best for parks as to not draw too much attention. Just like in American reality TV, the bigger the digger, the more people get upset.
You’ll also need a good pair of headphones for your detector, preferably one with a volume control. Check to see what kind of headphone plug your detector has. Many use a 1/4″ plug but some have a brand-specific connector. Most all detectors have speakers to work without headphones, but you’re going to want to really hear the subtle beeps. And you’ll attract less attention if no one else can hear your targets.
And you’ll need something to put your finds in. On the cheap side, you could get a nail apron. I use a Garrett Finds Pouch as it has a large pouch for junk and a zippered pouch for treasures. Plus the nylon belt and clip is sturdy enough to attach my digger and pinpointer.
Next you should get some gloves. Back in the day, people threw everything out in the yard and you will come across glass shards while digging. I like rubber dipped garden gloves as they are light and breathable.
Finally you are going to need a small towel to put the dirt on you remove from a hole. It makes it easier to dump the dirt back in, and helps make it look like you never dug the hole at all – something park and home owners will appreciate. You could use a plastic bag, but I like a towel as it won’t blow away in the wind.
Start in your own back yard. That way you can practice digging a neat plug and hole. Swing your detector back and forth with the coil always brushing the grass. Don’t lift the coil up on the edges of the swing as this will hurt your detector’s depth. Walk slowly so you don’ t miss anything.
Drop some test coins in the grass. Or bury them a few inches down. This way you can get used to the sounds they will produce. Do the same with some junk objects like a nail or a soda can.
Objects buried for a long time can leach minerals into the surrounding soil. This produces a “halo effect” that can make your detector think the object is more shallow than it is. Digging will disturb the halo. So if your detector says it’s 4 inches down and you dig that far and don’t find the object, it’s probably deeper.
When your detector finds a target it will beep, blip, or bong. A good coin target beeps and IDs with a high tone/number. While iron will beep and ID with a low tone. Mark your target with your finger or your knife. Cut a U shape around that target. This keeps some of the grass connected to it’s neighbors, reducing the chance it will die. Cut straight down so as not to cut and kill the grass roots. Then flip the U-shaped plug over.
Place your towel next to hole. If your target was shallow, scan the grass plug with your pinpointer. If it’s in the plug, try tapping the plug bottom with your knife to loosen the dirt and your target. Try not to tear the plug apart if you can help it. If the target is deeper, start digging with your tool, placing the dirt on your towel. Try to loosen the dirt “around” your target with the tool, and then remove dirt with your hands. That way you reduce the chance of scratching the object. Also, touch your pinpointer around the hole to find the object. Don’t dig with it, as you could damage the tip.
Once you’ve recovered the object, rescan the hole with your detector to be sure you got everything. Then use the towel to place the dirt back in the hole. Don’t pack the dirt too much or it will hinder grass growth. Some people put a few blades of grass in the hole to add helpful nitrates to the soil. Flip the grass plug over and step on it a few times to flatten. Again, the idea is to leave the ground looking like you found it.