The Silver Bullet Syndrome…


I’ve noticed that I get the most visitors to my blog whenever I talk metal detectors or post photos/videos of finds. On the flip side, if I talk about archaeologists, organizing the pastime, or simply piss and moan (which is a forte of mine), the numbers go down. 

I get the photo/video thing….no need to tax the ole brain, but when it comes to discussing detectors,  I am guessing it’s the “silver bullet syndrome.”  You are looking for that one clue, one tip or secret that will turn you into Indiana Jones. The ever elusive silver bullet.

Well I hate to disappoint, but there is no silver bullet.  No magic formula or hidden secret. Likewise the basics haven’t changed much over the past forty years.  You turn it on, set the ground balance, discrimination, threshold, desired frequency and you scan your coil. Shazam! You are a treasure hunter.


Apparently too everyone is looking for that one detector that does it all.  The hippest, coolest, meanest looking, bad-assed, machine on the market. The one that “Billy Bob” or “San Francisco Sam” uses to find all that bling!  Well here too I hate to disappoint you, but it really comes down to how much money you have to spend, how much time you are willing to put in learning your detector, and how thoroughly you research.  I think the detectorist who spends a lot of time in the field learning the nuances of his MXT-Pro, is just as adept and skillful as the tekkie doing the same thing with his E-Trac, AT-Pro or F75.  Where he or she uses it is the key.


And you know my feelings about coils. I don’t care what they look like or where they come from. Round, oval, square, closed, open, domestic, imported, organic, whatever.  Bottom line, the small is for trashy areas, the large for cleaner sites that don’t offer many signals and the mid-sized works for almost all your other needs. Of course if you want to get caught up in the hype, no problem. Have at it.  I did at one time. Today, I think we “imagine” a specific coil is better because we bought the hype, spent the money, and as a result, it WILL be better. Nothing wrong with the power of positive thinking. Same thing happens when you buy a new detector…

Difficult soils will certainly play a big part in your success or lack thereof, but that’s why there’s ground balance, ground grab, whatever. Depending on where you live, you may have to continually monitor and change the settings, but that’s life. Que sera, sera. The alternative? Move! Nothing complicated about sensitivity or gain either. The higher you set it the more unstable your audio, the lower you set it the more shallow your detection range.

When I hear a faint response, but can’t get a decent readout on my MXT, I will move my threshold down below audible, crank the sensitivity up and try to force a more stable number.

Accessories? Whatever your little heart desires. I don’t use a pinpointer because I have never had difficulty pinpointing. Headphones? A necessity IMO, but the only requirement I have is that they have individual volume controls, AND I refuse to pay a lot of money for them. Otherwise I use a Lesche digger, cheap carpenter’s apron and carry a small drop cloth. Finally, if you think dressing in camo will help you find more treasure, most certainly go for it.  Wear face paint, and put a few twigs in your hat if you want. I personally think it negatively impacts how others see us. We are hobbyists, NOT an occupation force.

So here you go….MY SILVER BULLET

(1)Buy a detector you can afford, (2) learn it inside out, (3) research your locale, county and state, (4) go detecting, and last but not least, (5) HAVE FUN.

It’s not rocket science!


There’s has to be a point, or cutoff, when someone posts a photo of a UFO (unidentified metal object) on a forum, asking what it is.  I mean come on, after fifty wild ass guesses someone needs to call time and say this is a POS (as in piece of sh*t).  I know the finds are scarce, but jeezus, not every single item you find is museum quality.



Filed under Metal Detecting

23 responses to “The Silver Bullet Syndrome…

  1. danhughes1

    Good grief, Dick, you’ve summated (just made that word up) the essence of treasure hunting into just a few stark paragraphs! If this gets out, the treasure magazines will go out of business!

    As for headphones, I like these:
    They were $25 when I bought mine.
    (The one bad review is for a different headphone!)

  2. Hah, I doubt it Dan…. incidentally, that link does not work.

  3. Yo Ricardo:
    You and me both know that ANY metal detector will locate treasure…the secret that evades many is knowing WHERE to use it…in other words hunt where people gather now, or gathered in bygone days.

    As a Rule of Thumb, I reckon 20% of Tekkies find 80% of the treasure…while 80% of Tekkies share 20% between them.

    Was that photo taken in downtown Warsaw…that face seems somehow familiar.

  4. Stan Shoemaker

    Enjoyed the blog and Especially the part about camo, there is more truth about camo hurting the hobby than most realize, I won’t bore anyone with antidotal personal stories, but I have seen and experienced the negative feedback from landowners about my guest on numerous occasions. In a time when mistrust of all governments agencies is ramped amongst many property owners the last thing you want to do is emulate their look.

  5. Cody

    Could not agree more!!! Location, location, location will make any detector seem like the best if it is the right researched location.

  6. RoyR

    In regards to your POS, we also have a lot of leaveitrights. As in leave right there.

  7. Dick;
    You nailed it on the detectors and coils. I do disagree on the headphones, as I have used a pair of Gray Ghost for years now. They have outlasted every other pair I have owned and have the best sound. Of course that could just be that my hearing is comfortable with the range of Db they output. I really am not a supporter of camouflage, but I do have a tee shirt or two and a pair of army camo pants. Now, I use the camo pants not because it stops the animals from seeing me, but they help me from messing up my good jeans. The heavy duty camo pants have lots of pockets and helps hide the stains of dirt and red clay. I did see a pair of OD Green pants my buddy Pat D had on at the last hunt. He explained that they were stain resistant, double stitched and had reenforced knees. I said I would probably get a pair. You know, maybe I’ll get them in camo anyway.. Awe hell you really have to sneak up on those pesky coins, they see ya coming from a mile away…
    Thanks for all the words you write. I do read them and like seeing things from your perspective.

    • Jessie, spent two years in OD green and camouflage….don’t care if I ever see it again. Sorry to hear you are still messing your jeans. Thought you had gotten over that…

  8. Liked your comments on the POS and I can relate. Here is what I wrote on a forum last year in regards to that. The guy found a small piece of an aluminum rivet.–

    I tell you I get no respect.
    I take somebody’s advice and go out and search 4 lots and post my items there(and here) and I get 5 comments. This guy finds a piece of junk aluminum and has 26 comments so far. If he gets one more I’m gonna find the bottle of whiskey to ease the pain.

    To top it off he has 2 comments from mods and admins regarding proper picture alignment. One of our friends from across the pond gets jumped for not knowing what a quarter is that is being used for size comparison. Can you blame him? Next to that piece of junk a quarter looks like a 21 cent piece.

    And then there are 3 links to technical data covering everything from eyelets,grommets,flanged sleave bearings and wire ferrules. IT’S A PIECE OF JUNK

    I’m thinking the next thing they are going to do is take up a forum wide collection and send it off for analysis before getting it placed in the Smithsonian Institution. IT’S A PIECE OF JUNK

    I suggest he buy insurance on it just in case something happens. Then he needs to put it someplace where it won’t get damaged any further. I would suggest someplace where the sun don’t shine. I’d hate for it to loose that patina before it gets to the Smithsonian.

  9. Wearing camo while detecting allows you to hunt in stealth mode. The finds are not aware of your presence, and cannot escape your coil 🙂

  10. I sometimes wonder if there should be a separate hobby called “Metal Detector” as opposed to “Metal Detecting” I’m trying to be cautious here as I am kinda running out of forums, but I put myself on vacation recently from one before I piss off the wrong person so I should be okay.

    Don’t get me wrong I’m glad some people are into the technical aspect of detecting. It’s actually called a metal detecting forum and there is no list of rules or sub-forums there that can be used against a member. If you get booted from there you shouldn’t complain.

    There are some technical people there and some I think just act like it. I think there are some that would much rather research the workings of a detector than actually use one. I was on there joking around and was getting some lip from some members telling me how that was a detector forum and how I was interrupting the flow blah blah blah. Same old stuff.

    However, there were just as many members wanting to joke around and discuss other elements of the hobby. I posted a find there and challenged one of my “enemies” to post one and we could continue if he were so worried that I was off topic of metal detecting. He left the discussion so I’m not sure if he even detects or just plays with his detector.

    I do think some get too caught up in the “gear” aspect of detecting and I wish they would not call that metal detecting. I’m going over to my father-in-law’s house today to detect his yard before he gets back from vacation. I heard my wife talking about how the neighbor there comes out to work in her garden wearing skimpy little outfits. I know what this hobby is about- Look.,Beep,Look,Dig,Look. It’s not that complicated.

  11. coin25...aka Bigtony

    Dick, certainly if you know where X marks the spot then yes it’s not rcoket science. Do your research and go but be sure to have a back up because folks may have been there already. But if you are still just walking to the local area park and it’s been pounded over the years – you need to know your machine to get a keeper or two. We are all waking over stuff from days gone by – and it is a true statement indeed. If they dig up a pounded park and you happen to get in – surprise – how did I miss these coins and orther goodies…..

    Today it’s not about Camo or the highest costing equipment — it’s about target separation and listening to the signals. I finally learned after all of these years and this past spring has been my best since I started in this hobby….no brag just happy.

    Thanks for keeping up your blog and giving us all a laugh or two and of course some common sense reminders

  12. Jimnick

    When I started beach hunting, and that is many many moons ago, I used to search those places where I thought there was jewelry to be found.

    30-odd years later, I search those places where I KNOW there is jewelry.

    T-shirt, jeans, plastic shovel, beep/dig unit…I’m almost invisible !

    But I know….

    Cheers !


  13. danhughes1

    My take on camo – I refuse to wear it because of its social/political message. Otherwise, I’d consider it because I want to be as inconspicuous as possible when I’m detecting where strangers may happen by. That’s also why I’d shun a bright yellow detector. I remember when Garrett and Compass machines were green and Tesoros were brown, and that was nice because they didn’t scream for attention. Never understood the reasoning behind White’s blue-box-with-huge-bright-red-meters color design.

    I like anonymity in the field; I generally wear khaki or faded green or other earth-blending clothing. If it keeps just one bratty kid from noticing me, it’s worth the trouble.

  14. jbkeefer

    Twigs in my hat….hot tip!

  15. bill burroughs

    After being in the game for 40 plus years also you hit the nail on the head the name of the game hasn’t changed just people

  16. I’ll wear whatever I want to wear while detecting! If someone is that concerned about what I wear out detecting, then they can have my address to buy my clothes that they pick out. Seriously, that’s like 3rd grade problems worrying about what the next kid is wearing.

    I agree, detecting isn’t rocket science. Research and location will trump equipment every time! If the targets aren’t there, your DetectorMax9000 won’t find them, regardless of what the machine costs!

  17. Rob, you can most certainly wear what you want. Hell go bare ass, I don’t care. I was merely expressing my opinion.

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