how-to articles

Tips to succeed in learning your new detector

Over the years I have been fortunate enough to use many metal detectors. From my years as a metal detector dealer and getting the opportunity to borrow different detectors for articles has given me some insight on how best to learn a new detector.

On both social media and forums I often see bad questions and answers when it comes to learning a new detector and I hope this article will shed some insight and help you to learn your metal detector quicker and better.

Social media/forums – I often see people with a new detector posting a very vague question. It’s usually something along the lines of “I just got this new detector (insert brand name here) and was wondering if anyone has any advice or can tell me what settings you use” and the responses start pouring in. If anyone starts answering this question without first asking you some questions like “what kind of soil are you detecting in, what are you looking for? Is it a trashy site? Are you relic hunting?” you get the point, that questions is entirely too vague to answer correctly. I’ve grown to like that vague question because you can always tell who will give you some real insight because they will start asking you questions like that. There is no way to properly answer that question without more information being provided.

Stock settings – Most metal detectors are designed to work right out of the box without changing anything. I often see people getting a new metal detector and asking what settings they should use. In most cases I feel it’s best to use the stock programs and settings until you start understanding the detector. Often times someone with a lot of experience will have their detector modified in a way that you will not understand and not real user friendly while in the early learning phases. Even once you have a good understanding you need to know that what works for someone else might not work for you. Soil, conditions and many other factors can play a part on why someone else’s settings might not work well for you.

Air tests and test gardens – I am not a big fan of either. Simply because people put too much stock in it. It’s fine to air test to see what kind of numbers and tones you’re getting and test gardens can be great for learning your settings but I’ve never heard or seen a test garden that can prepare you for the real world which leads me into the next suggestion.

DIG DIG  DIG! – I love history and it’s what I’m all about. Whether it’s field hunting or looking for old coins I’m just not cut out for coin shooting for clad but the first thing I do when I get a new detector is head to a park where I’m going to find a good mixture of trash and coins and just start digging.  I will watch the numbers closely, listen and give extra swings to really listen to what the detector is telling me. Even when I know its junk I will dig it and then slowly start going after what I believe is good targets and stop digging some of the trash. Dig those iffy and deep signals. Lets say you’re strictly a water, gold or relic hunter, go back to sites you know well until you get used to the new detector. I always have “testing grounds”.

 Read the manual – I always start by reading through the manual, often times, many times over. I will study it, go through it with a highlighter and even memorize certain parts of it. If anyone has written a book on the detector I highly recommend purchasing it and doing the same with it. I always find that I understand the manual much better after even just a few hours with a new detector.


Learn/understand the programs & settings –  When I first got a Minelab E-trac I found that I had a small issue. Some days the detector seemed to work flawlessly and other days I spent a lot of my time digging iron. After a few times of that happening I sat down with the manual and went through it and started messing with settings. What I came up with was this – if the volume gain is set to high in damp/wet conditions Iron can sound like an iffy, deep silver, set way to high and it can sound like a perfect silver coin! I learned to adjust my volume gain for the ground conditions and I consider it the most important setting on the E-trac. I know people who struggled with that setting for a long time, I even know of people who sold their E-trac because of it! Understanding what a program was designed for and how the settings will effect it is huge, not only will it help you learn your metal detector but it will make you a better detectorist in the long run and make it much easier to learn other metal detectors. Although the settings might not be the exact same from one detector to the next, most share similarities and once you know what those settings do, you can carry it over at least to some extent.

Dealer – The market seems to be flooded with dealers these days and it’s easy to be persuaded to buy from the big online store offering up amazing deals. Personally I look for a dealer with competitive pricing (doesn’t have to be the lowest) who metal detects and has a good understanding of what I want to buy. I want a dealer that I can email or pick up the phone who will talk to me and help me if needed.

Local/online users – I would recommend a local user first who is metal detecting in the same conditions you are. If you do look online try to find someone close to you with experience and beware, there is a lot of people out there offering up advice that I wouldn’t take. If you can find someone local who is willing to share knowledge, it can take really help you to master your detector much quicker.

I hope these suggestions will work for you. I know they have helped me over the years and rarely do I struggle to quickly learn a new metal detector!

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