Recently, in the All Metal Mode Facebook group the question came up asking, is it better to use your metal detector’s discrimination or your brain to discriminate?
There is not a simple answer to this question. This depends on the metal detector you are using, your skill level, the site you are detecting, and the level of patience you have for analyzing the different signals you will have to listen for to ensure you do not miss a good target.
A few years back I ran into a guy using a metal detector I knew inside and out but had not used for several years. He was taught by someone else who had the same metal detector and he had heard through different forums and YouTube videos that he should run it with just enough discrimination to knock out the smallest pieces of iron.
I remembered when I was using that metal detector, that many people liked setting the detector up how he was now using it. I found that to be confusing and overwhelming and so did he. I set up a program for him on his metal detector that took advantage of a lot more discrimination and he quickly started finding good targets and enjoying the detector more than he had been.
Although I run most detectors with little to no discrimination, there have been some metal detectors I have used over the years that I feel like discrimination is needed to get the most out of it. It is a tradeoff knowing I might miss targets, but I feel more confident I will miss less when I am not being overwhelmed with multiple tones while running little or no discrimination.
In my experience, running less discrimination decreases your chance of missing good finds if you can interpret what the metal detector is telling you. Most metal detectors I have used over the years seem to find more and run smoother when they are not busy trying to discriminate out targets you have rejected. A good example of this was when the TTF (Two Tone Ferrous) program was discovered on the Minelab E-trac. There were only 2 tones obviously, 1 tone for iron and another, higher tone for everything else.
Although you had to slow down since there were only 2 tones and no discrimination, you needed to look at your numbers for the high tone targets and decide for yourself if you wanted to dig the target. I can tell you from many hours of experience, this program saved a lot of great finds from sites I had already beat to death with the same metal detector running discrimination.
Most of the metal detectors I use now, I only operate with two or three tones and no discrimination. Every digital metal detector I currently own, except two, have Iron volume which has become an extremely popular feature on metal detectors.
Iron volume gives you the ability to turn down the volume or turn the volume off on targets that are deemed in the iron range. There are even some metal detectors that allow you to determine the iron range, such as the Nokta Anfibio.
The ability to turn down the iron volume was a game changer for me. When I was running the Minelab E-trac in TTF, even though I could ignore the low tone (iron tones) it was still a lot of noise coming into my headphones and still seemed to fatigue my ears.
Iron volume is not discrimination it simply allows you adjust the volume for targets in that range. I rarely turn the volume of the iron completely off, but I run it to as close to a whisper as I can, while still being able to hear it so I know what is going on in the ground. At a low volume I find it much easier to process the important, Non-Ferrous signals I am usually looking for.
If you are new to metal detecting, you would probably be better off using discrimination in a lot more situations than I would. Almost the only time I use discrimination is if I’m metal detecting a site with a lot of modern trash. Sometimes it is much easier to discriminate the junk out, even though I might miss a few good signals.
In my opinion, in most situations you should run the least amount of discrimination you can handle. If you can run no discrimination, then do it. It will take you more time to analyze more targets, but I believe you will miss the least number of targets and find more of the targets many others have left behind!