Beginners guide to metal detecting

So you want to get into metal detecting but where do you start? There is so much information out there that it can make it confusing. I want to break it down, step by step and simplify the process for you.

What kind of metal detecting do you want to do?

The first thing you need to figure out is what kind of metal detecting you want to do. There is water hunting, prospecting, coin hunting, relic hunting and some of those can even be broke down. For example if you want to go to a park and find newer coins vs hunting for silver coins. And of course you might want to do more than one of these and you need a detector that can handle everything you want to do or more than one metal detector for various types of metal detecting. Determining what kind of metal detecting you want to do will help you choose your machine. There are some great metal detectors out there but most have a specific purpose and you want to make sure you choose wisely.

If you’re not sure what kind of metal detecting you want to do I would suggest talking to locals who metal detect. See what kind of hunting they do and see what is possible, social media is great for this. Make sure the type of metal detecting you want to get into is either local to you or you plan on traveling. I wouldn’t suggest buying a gold machine if you live in a state that is not known for gold unless you understand and know you are going to do some traveling.

Choosing your metal detector

When I was a dealer I would often have customers who would want a metal detector to find silver coins/relics but they didn’t have the money to afford a metal detector that could consistently do that. Or they simply didn’t want to spend that much. There are so many hobbies and very few give back the way that metal detecting can. I used to compare it to fishing and hunting a lot. There are people with 1,000’s of dollars in poles and lures alone, add a boat and some have an investment of over 50,000 dollars to go fish, most throwing the fish back! Wrap your mind around spending a little money to get what will actually do what you want to do, even if that means holding out and saving up! If you don’t want to wait I suggest a 200 dollar metal detector and get out every day you can to schools and parks and find the money to buy what you want, believe me, It can be done and it’s a good introduction to metal detecting.

Choosing a metal detector dealer

Choosing a dealer is a very important part that is often overlooked. I would suggest to always give your local dealer a chance if you have one. You might pay a little more but often the service is well worth it. If you don’t have a local dealer I would research where others are buying their metal detectors and equipment online and I would stay away from the big box dealers. They rarely have time to help you out, if you call you’re usually getting a salesman who doesn’t detect in most cases. If you have questions about your metal detector, accessories etc. they aren’t going to be able to help you like a smaller dealer that actually gets out and metal detects. With some of the big dealers you have to be aware of the trickery. Don’t fall for the 300 dollars in extras, in most cases its 50 dollars (tops) in junk. A lot of times a local dealer will even take you out detecting and help you learn your machine, teach you proper techniques and will always be there to answer questions. Always give them a chance first! Don’t be afraid to ask around social media to find out the good dealers who will be there after the sale to help you if you have any questions or need help.


I’m not going to go into a lot of detail here but depending on what you are going to do there are a few tools that you’re going to need. One is a good digger. There are a lot of diggers out there and I have used several kinds over the years. Once I found the predator tools model 85 I have stuck with that one. I could never understand why they were so expensive until I owned one and I can’t imagine using anything else. Another important tool is a pin pointer, I went years without using one because no one had a good pin pointer on the market that was worth using until Garrett came out with the pro-pointer. Garrett now has the pro-pointer II and the pro-pointer AT. Once you have a good pin-pointer you won’t know how you ever lived without one. Another critical tool is a set of headphones. At the very least you don’t want to annoy everyone around you but they do so much more than that like letting you hear targets in traffic, faint signals etc.. You spend less time on your knees digging for targets and sifting through the dirt and more time metal detecting, they are worth every penny! One last thing that is critical is a skid plate for your coil, most come with skid plates but verify it before you buy your detector, and it will wear out instead of the bottom of your coil! If you’re prospecting then you will need a good pick or water/beach hunting, you will need a good scoop. Besides that, most things are just to fit your needs like carry pouches, backpacks, large shovels etc.


Ready to go metal detecting!

So you have your new metal detector and you rip open the box and you grab your stuff and run out metal detecting right? Wrong! Something you need to do for yourself, other detectorists and the hobby is learn how to dig a clean hole. If you have a yard I always suggest starting there and if not, find a forgiving family member or friend who will let you practice. Set up your metal detector and in your yard lay out some coins and various items, raise your coil a few inches above and listen to how they sound, look at your VDI numbers and get a quick reference for when you start. Also, try pinpointing, visualize where the center of the target is in correlation to the coil.

Once you’ve done this you can start metal detecting. When you get your first target don’t throw your detector down and start digging the hole (you laugh but I’ve seen it so many times) turn 90 degrees and make sure it’s a good signal first then once you’ve determined you actually want to dig it now is the time to pinpoint it. Depending on your metal detecting sweep one direct and imagine the center. Most metal detectors the tone will get louder the closer to the target and quieter as you go away from it. Find the center then keep that center in your head and turn 90 degrees and repeat. Once you feel like you have the exact center of the target now here comes an important step that I see so many new to the hobby not do. Don’t take your eyes off that spot! If you need to keep a golf tee, small stick or something you can poke in the ground. It’s very easy to lose sight of where you want to dig as your kneeling and sitting your detector down at same time.

How to dig a good hole

It is very important to know how to dig a hole properly. I know not everyone uses or believes in the method I use but as far as I am concerned it is the best way. Hold your hand out with your fingers rested comfortably. From your wrist to the end of your fingers and the width of your hand is about the size you want your hole. You leave one of the ends attached and fold it back leaving the grass attached. Although it is a little big I believe this is the most reliable way to ensure the grass doesn’t die. Some dig plugs and I do not believe in this, you are severing all the roots to the grass and they will often turn brown in the summer. Grass is resilient but its best to cut a flap rather than a plug. No matter where you are digging you always fill in your holes and take any trash. The idea is to leave no sign behind that you were ever there.


Where to metal detect

I always suggest finding a park that allows metal detecting and go dig everything that repeats that isn’t iron until you get the hang of it. You can air test all you want, have a garden, research numbers and watch YouTube videos but the only real way to learn your detector is to get out and dig. I understand that metal detecting parks might not be what you got into this hobby for but I have always used this method to learn a new machine.

If you want to look for old coins and relics, once you have a good understanding of your metal detector and digging holes, I would suggest talking to friends and family and try getting permissions that way. Explain to them that you are looking for older houses or property where something once stood or they will mostly likely tell you about an old park but don’t dismiss anything. I have been amazed over the years of how many permissions or great leads I got from talking to friends and family, even if they aren’t interested. If you can get them interested by your finds and stories good places start coming to mind. Old parks and schools can be another great place, although usually hunted heavily over the years I have found some that have produced heavily for me. Several years back I moved to a new town and everyone I talked to about metal detecting would mention the old fairgrounds. I dismissed it because I knew it had been hunted hard over the years, there was a civil war training camp on the site before and it seemed like ever detectorist in Ohio knew about the site and many had hunted it. One day, with nothing to do, I went down to the fairgrounds and asked permission. I was given the ok and before I knew it I was finding old silver coins. I ended up hunting it for years and pulled out over 40 silver coins, several wheat and Indian pennies, a really nice civil war button and an 1832 seated half dime! My point is, don’t ever dismiss a place that you haven’t hunted!

If you’re going to prospect or water hunt the best suggestion I can give you is to check with local, state and federal laws. I know some state parks you can metal detect the beaches and other you can’t. I also know some coastal beaches are strictly off limits and penalties can be harsh so it’s best to always ensure you have permission. As far as prospecting goes I absolutely know nothing about although someday I hope to get the chance to do it. I would suggest finding a local club if you’re wanting to get into that and see if you can find a local GPAA chapter.


Caring for your finds

So now you’re detecting and starting to make good finds. It’s as important to care for them properly as it is to have found them in the first place. One of the most important things is to NOT rub silver coins with your fingers! Watch YouTube videos and you will often see people rubbing silver coins to try and get a date, if you find something valuable you can wipe half or more of the value away, be patient and simply soak them in warm water. I would suggest if you have enough good finds from a site to put them in a display together and put a note where they came from. You will be happy you did this because years into the hobby you are likely to forget where they came from.

There are so many websites, blogs and even book on cleaning and I would suggest researching how to clean specific finds so you don’t ruin anything in the cleaning process.

Final thoughts

I could write a book on this subject and there are books out there. This guide is a condensed version but should get you started off on the right path. If you have any questions or need help please feel free to contact me.

 Some helpful links

Article I wrote about cleaning silver coins – http://allmetalmode.com/wiping-away-value.html

Our 2017 metal detector buyers guide podcast – http://www.spreaker.com/user/allmetalmode/2017-metal-detector-buyers-guide

Link to a podcast we did on getting permission – http://www.spreaker.com/user/allmetalmode/obtaining-permission-for-metal-detecting

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