I find that most detectorists’ biggest concern is getting the most depth from their metal detector. I see detectorists almost continually posting on social media, “how deep with X metal detector go.” If a poll were taken, you would find it is probably one of the biggest concerns amongst most detectorists, and it is the question I get asked the most, especially from detectorist new to the hobby.
In some cases, if I know the metal detector well, I can offer some suggestions, but to do an article that covers every metal detector would be impossible as every metal detector performs differently.
Crank the Detectors Sensitivity
Any decent metal detector will have a sensitivity adjustment. Most detectorist will crank that as far as they can, and some will even crank it so far that the metal detector is running unstable. Over the years, on several different metal detectors, I would crank the sensitivity in my pursuit for the ultimate depth out of the detector. In my experience, this did nothing but complicate things.
Again, in my opinion, turning up the sensitivity until your metal detector is chattering away unnecessarily not only is it not helping you, but it’s also probably hurting you! Running a metal detector unstable from having the sensitivity turned up to high has never worked in my favor on any metal detector I’ve ever used.
A few years ago, when the Garrett AT Max came out on the market, many detectorist, including Garrett AT Pro users, were rushing out to buy one. In the beginning, there were many complaints about the Max falsing, being too sensitive, and a lot of chatter.
Not having used one, I talked to my good friend Gypsy Jewels about it, who I knew was loving her AT Max. She relayed to me that she turned the sensitivity down until it stopped all the chatter and was still finding it a very deep and reliable metal detector.
The point is, so many detectorist have it in their head that you have to run the sensitivity as high as possible, or they will miss something, and it’s just not true. Once everyone figured out that all you had to do was turn the sensitivity down a bit on the AT Max, I never hear complaints!
Metal Detector Test Gardens and Air Testing
There are plenty of videos out there where someone shows a particular metal detector, cranking the sensitivity up and getting more depth either air testing or in their testbed. The problem with this is there is a HUGE difference between metal detecting one object in a test environment and actual metal detecting, where 99% of your experience will be with high trash or iron surrounding good targets!
I will not watch videos, nor will I follow anyone showing these kinds of videos where they air test or use testbeds or test gardens. Testbeds can provide information, but they are trying to prove way more than capable of using these methods in most cases.
Tuning Your Metal Detector for Specific Soil Conditions
Many detectorists are concerned with how deep their metal detector will go when the concern should involve the separation of targets. Most modern metal detectors made by the accepted reputable manufacturers will get to the depth you need to find old coins and relics. In my opinion, the big difference between metal detectors is how well they work in heavy trash or iron. It doesn’t matter how deep your metal detector will go if it can’t pick out the good targets amongst trash or iron.
I talk a lot about knowing your metal detectors basic settings and how they affect your metal detector in different conditions. Knowing how to tune your metal detector for different situations properly will get you much farther than just depth alone.
A quick example Years ago, I had a site that had produced many old silver coins. There was a section about 40 yards square that I nicknamed the Island. The ground was so much different there, heavily mineralized, sandy and no metal detector worked well there, myself and anyone else I took to the site avoided the Island.
One day, long after I felt I had hunted this site out, I went back determined to find a way to hunt the Island. In the end, turning the sensitivity down to about half of what I would usually run, along with a few minor tweaks. I successfully hunted it and added a few more old coins to my collection, including a Barber quarter.
Get Deeper, By Metal Detecting Wet Ground
Targets are more conductive when the ground is wet versus dry. Go to a site you’ve hunted to death that’s produced after a good rain, and I bet you find more targets. When the ground is wet, targets are more conductive. Depending on your metal detector, you might need to turn your sensitivity down so you’re not picking up every tiny bit of trash and iron.
Improve Your Swing
Another often overlooked thing, especially with detectorist new to the hobby, is keeping that coil on the ground at all times. If you’re swinging your metal detector like a pendulum and bringing it up off the ground, you’re doing it wrong. Metal detectors come with coil covers for a reason; use it and scrape along.
Metal Detecting Good Practices
- Again, know your metal detector settings and how they affect your machine. Research your setting to get the most out of your metal detector for whatever ground conditions you might encounter.
- Overlap your coil sweeps! I have even seen seasoned detectorists sweep their coil as they are walking, and the next sweep, there is no overlap to their last. You’ve heard the term “miss by an inch, miss by a mile” missing targets and especially deep targets is very easy to do when your sweeps don’t overlap. I like to overlap where I just was by half. I sweep, move my coil halfway out of where I just swept my coil, and do it again.
- If you have a site or an area that is producing good, detect it from different directions. For example, if a site produces well that I detected from North to South, I will come back over it going East to West. Often I will even hunt it diagonally! It doesn’t take much to miss a good target, especially if other objects like iron are close to it. Often your metal detector won’t pick those targets up unless hit from a particular direction.
- SLOW DOWN! Even after all my years of metal detecting, sometimes I realized I am going too fast. It’s usually when I first get to a site, I’m excited to be out metal detecting, and I tend to run too fast. This is especially true when you’ve found an area that’s producing. You just discovered something good, and you want to find more, so you speed up. Slow down, take your time, and I promise you’re going to find more.
So many detectorists think that more depth equals more good finds, and this isn’t true. Know your metal detector settings, practice good sweep speed, slow down, work a site methodically, and you’re going to increase your finds! Depth is such a small part of the equation that most detectorist put entirely too much emphasis on.