Detectors…My Take!

I get emails via the “contact me” link almost every week asking my advice on detectors. Which one to buy, which one do I use and which one is the best. I try to reply as best I can but it’s really difficult now given my limited in the field excursions.  Likewise as I’ve gotten older (okay senile) my views and my preferences have changed dramatically.

I understand the urge to spend more thinking that you will be ahead of the competition but that’s not always true. You will only wind up taking your new detector to the same old sites, “maybe” finding a few more goodies, but if you spend more time and effort finding “new” sites that detector you have now will work just fine and you will be one happy tekkie hoiker.  To spend money or to spend time researching and asking questions….that should be your quandary.

I put the following together a few years ago and I think it still holds up. I did add a few more goodies at the finish….


The Beginner

IF you want to get started in this pastime how involved do you want to get? Is this a serious interest or merely a curious one? Next, how much are you willing to invest to get started? Metal detecting is no different from any other hobby. Golf, fishing, photography….all great pastimes, and all involve an initial investment. I was once a fishing fanatic, and the more involved I got, the more money I spent. It was my passion, a way to rid myself of worries and stress, and while I hated the alarm going off at 5 AM, a couple of hours on a trout stream, with the mist rising and the sun just coming up, was pure magic and a great start to my day.

IF by chance your interest in metal detecting stems from watching one of the treasure hunting TV shows, save your money. What you see is not the real world, nor are the prices placed on the finds even close to accurate, and if you think the participants make their living treasure hunting, think again. One or two might be associated with a manufacturer and be paid to use their products, but otherwise I doubt they live on their TV star salaries.

IF you are interested because you are sure that your now deceased Uncle Zeke buried gold in his backyard, rent a detector and go find it. No need to spend a lot of money. Uncle Zeke probably didn’t bury it deep, if he buried it at all, and while I have no doubt that caches exist, so do rumors and tall tales.

IF you’re a numismatist and want to find old coins, jump in, join the club. That’s what got me started, and there’s still a lot of money in the ground, despite what some are saying.

IF you want to be a beach bum, and find things in the sand and surf, go for it. Lots of fun, fresh air, and with the current price of gold at around $1,200 per ounce, you just might bring in a few extra bucks. Just don’t quit your day job! The worse that can happen is you come home empty-handed with visions of bikini clad young gals etched in your brain. If you decide to go this route be sure purchase a water proof, multi-frequency model detector.

IF you just want to metal detect for the fun of it, hell yeah do it, but purchase a low-end detector. Most all the MAJOR manufacturers offer “turn on and go” entry-level models that are well made, capable of finding neat things, and are very affordable. Do NOT however buy a detector from a large department store chain. They simply sell them, probably know nothing about how they work, and if you have a problem, you’re “shit out of luck”. Deal with a local dealer, who will be there to demonstrate and offer assistance if and when you need it.

For the Experienced…

IF you are already a treasure hunter of sorts and you are ready to move up to a better detector than consider the following:

  • How much money can you “afford” to spend (and afford is the key word). Don’t go into debt buying a metal detector. Remember it’s a pastime, a hobby, something you do in your “spare” time.
  • Consider the type of hunting you do now and narrow your choices. In other words, are you a relic hunter, coinshooter, beach hunter, prospector, etc..  If you think you want to give them all a try consider a model that offers the ability to tackle each of them.
  • Start looking at those models that will add features you don’t currently have now and that allow for versatility such the availability of extra coils, programmability, different frequencies, automatic and manual GB, etc..



  • Don’t fall into the trap of thinking you have to have the most expensive, top of the line model. It’s only as good as the places you take it. Buy a detector you can afford, learn it’s characteristics, nuances and abilities and then go kick everyone’s ass.
  • Shop around for the best price and buy local if possible. A local dealer will be there if and when you have questions and possible problems.

 And For the Professional Treasure Hunter…

IF you are a pro (you wear camo), have an unlimited source of money, and want to expand your arsenal over and above your $2,500 detector, you might want to consider adding:

  • A pinpointer. Available from all the manufacturers, Mattel and sources in upper Slovenia. Pinpointers come in every color imaginable including pink and polka dot. They even offer camo for hoikers like you so you can lose it quickly and have to buy another.
  • Teeny water bottle to squirt on your finds in case you can’t tell if it’s a 12 or 28 gauge shotgun shell cap.
  • A little plastic box with cushion to put all your better finds in.
  • Every damn coil that will work on your detector. You will find them exciting for about two days and after that they make great wall ornaments.
  • A short shovel so you don’t have to bend over. These will also put you in good stead when knocking on doors and dealing with the groundskeeper at the local park.
  • A Trowel like digger with jagged edge. Gets the homeowner’s attention when they ask why you are digging up their lawn.
  • A canteen. You can put water in case you get thirsty and it adds to the Navy seal image you’re after.
  • A 50 shell bandolier.  Serves no purpose but adds the finishing touch to your professional appearance.

And so you know I am trying hard to get into the camo thing…..really. How do I look? Kick ass and nasty?

Thanks to Joe Grasso for photo...

Thanks to Joe Grasso for photo…

Okay back to reality….

Research, attend a local club meeting, ask questions online, rent one, try ’em out, take your time, try to make an educated decision (if there is such a thing) and always remember….if you don’t walk over it you won’t find it so you might want to spend your time, not your money, thinking about where to use one.



Before I tell you what the best metal detector on the market is, you need to tell me which automobile is better. “Ford” or “Chevrolet” and why? Then you have to tell me which company makes the best golf clubs….”Calloway”, “Ping” or “Titleist”?  Next, which is better? “Canon” or “Nikon”? “Coke” or “Pepsi”? “Coors” or “Budweiser”? You do know where I am going with this right?

As far as I am concerned there’s no such thing as a “best detector”. The best detector “should be’ the one you can afford and the one you are most comfortable with. Spending a lot of money might get you more bells and whistles,  a little more depth, but it will also put a dent in your bank account, get you a 200 page user’s manual and a sore arm to boot. I have been through the “need to have the latest and best” phase and now realize that’s all it is….a phase, an imagined need.

Ask any detectorist today what detector they think is best and they will probably tell you it’s the one THEY are using at the moment. After all if they like it, you certainly will too. Well, um, not necessarily. I am willing to bet that same detectorist has gone through a lot of different makes and models over the years, and the one he is using now is simply the latest gal he’s taken to the dance….

What do I use today? Well, not the top of the line model, not the entry-level model, not the one with all the bells and whistles, and not the one that goes down fifteen feet. The metal detector I use is lightweight, comfortable, easy to understand, needs little if any in-the-field adjustments, and because of that it’s the best one on the market today (to me). So the next time somebody asks me about which detector is best, I’m gonna say “I got your best detector, right here pal!”

Now do yourself a favor and try not to make all this stuff rocket science…it isn’t. It’s a hobby, a pastime, nothing more. Just go do it for crissakes and stop worrying about which detector you “think” you need to have. And most important, have fun will ya?

PS: I used and touted the MXT way back when and I think my take on it has proven to be correct. Just look around. One of the reasons I liked it? It had knobs and switches. Yup, old school. I like to see my settings quickly and that’s hard to do with touch pads. Having said that I am currently using the MX Sport and loving the hell out of it. Go figure….






Filed under Metal Detecting

23 responses to “Detectors…My Take!

  1. Wise words indeed, Ricardo, the problem now is getting a newbie to take notice. But as in fishing there’s a whole load a guys who’ve, ”got the gear, but got no idea”.

    Er…where d’ya get one of them thar 50-round bandoliers? BTW, I always carry a ex-USMC canteen (in a cammo pouch) loaded with single malt.

    ‘Hoiker’ Howland

  2. Paul T

    Well said my friend. I could not have stated it any better.

  3. Dick; I like it…good post!! I use a very, very, expensive machine myself, which discriminates out pretty much everything, and since it kinda hurts now to bend over and dig anyway, it meets my needs in that regard. I have tried cheaper machines, but they will always end up targeting SOMETHING, so I had to move up to a top-of-the-line model.I have also purchased almost every coil my detector will take, not so much to use out in the field, as to lend to other detectorists who will then owe me favors as a result. It has taken me years to figure this all out, but I still have people doubt my system. All kidding aside, thanks for a good post, Dick! – Jim

    • Hi Jim,

      Glad you home and on the mend. You had me taking notes about loaning coils and saving up the favors…. Take it easy and have one for me (if the docs have okayed that).

  4. Mar

    I have always wanted to go on the beaches and treasure hunt instead of collecting sea shells with my girl pals….
    So I guess I have go do this on my own and the thing is finding a reliable easy to handle detector that isn’t expensive ….any suggestions? In no hurry ….
    😊 Thank you

    • Well Mar, not sure what you consider expensive but I would look at the White’s Treasure Master. It’s a machine that offers a separate beach program as well as tonal ID, a neat feature for the beginner. And yes I am partial to White’s products. They are well made, dependable and there’s not better customer service in the industry.

  5. Joe

    Good post, Dick. As much as us detectorists may think this is a large hobby, in reality, it is a niche pastime when compared to things like bicycling, fishing, running, etc. On top of that, there’s only a very small minority of individuals that detect who would be considered “junkies.” I’d venture to say most people that comprise this hobby simply enjoy getting out in nature, finding interesting doo-dads, being able to exercise their body, etc. These folks are content hunting maybe once or twice a month, and the pursuit is just another passing interest of theirs. For this group, basically any inexpensive machine will do, as for them, it isn’t so much about the finds as it is the enjoyment factor.

    While the junkies obviously enjoy the hobby too, since we devote more time & energy into the pursuit, we are also expecting more of a return, finds-wise. Which is where the higher dollar machines/equipment come into play; more depth, better separation, etc. For instance, I shoot pool occasionally, maybe a few times per year. Average player, nothing more. I’m certainly not going to spend $700 or $800 on a pool cue. Or even $200. But I know lots of guys who do, though, they are billiard freaks who play everyday…or close to it. They expect/demand more out of their tools.

    Most of the money made by the manufacturers doesn’t come from those expensive CTX’s, V3i’s, etc. Rather, it comes from the entry-level units like the Ace’s, Bounty Hunter’s and so forth. Mass market appeal. There’s a LOT more weekend warriors in this hobby, versus the guys who put out 4 or 5 Youtube videos every month.

    A good number of people get into this pastime looking to strike it rich. Or they may THINK they’ll find it enjoyable, but after realizing 95% of what we dig is junk, and that there’s a lot of work involved, they quickly become discouraged and move on to greener pastures. So…

    In my assessment, just like yours, for most people, most of the time, a simple, inexpensive, entry-level detector is all that’s needed, and should serve most of their needs in the hobby.

    But for us junkies, yeah, we do like to spend on our toys, lol.

    • Hi Joe, thanks for taking the time to comment and your views. You make a good points, but I have a couple of questions….

      You said “I shoot pool occasionally, maybe a few times per year.Average player, nothing more.”… Hmm, yeah right. Then you said “I’m certainly not going to spend $700 or $800 on a pool cue. Or even $200….” Hmm, but you wager that kind of money? LOL….. Just busting your chops.

      • Joe

        Dick, you have more questions than Columbo! Please tell me you’re not wearing a tattered raincoat now, lol.

        Let me turn the tables on you…

        Would you ever consider spending $1,500 or more on a detector? If not, is it because you feel it isn’t necessary, or more so out of principle?

      • No, yes and no….. der ya go Joe!

  6. Bigtony

    Dick, that is good advice and new folks should just re-read it a few times. One other item I tell newbies in this hobby – consider a used detector that was top of the line in previous years. They still work well and allow you time to decide if you like the hobby or not.
    I love the Duck Dynasty look alike photo, pretty cool.

  7. John Devereux

    As a relative newbie I’ve bought various machines including the MXT Pro after reading your views on here. After much research I now own a V3i as well. Stuck a Detech Ultimate coil on it adjusted some settings got from some forum and it is now my go to machine. Only thing I alter on it now is the RX gain. It seems to work well on the pasture I’ve got permission on and I’ve had some nice finds which have been recorded on the PAS scheme we have here in the UK. I’ve also recently purchased a TDI SL which I’m using on the beach and I’m also going to give it a go on land and see what it finds me. I really like the Whites machines as they seem pretty rugged. Part of the interest for me is technical coming from an electronics background. I’ve not bought new. The Whites machines have come from a dealer in second hand machines and have been virtually new and still under warranty. I’ve bought and sold a few via flea bay getting rid if they just didn’t feel right for me. Great hobby, just wish I’d gotten into it earlier.

    • Hi John, thanks for sharing and glad to hear you have become a White’s fan…..

      Maybe you could share those V3i settings sometime. As for the gain that to me should be the most often used control on a detector. You hope you can increase but seldom can you settle for the preset. I love to coax out the fringe items (whispers) by turning the threshold just under audible and turning the gain up. It’s usually noisy but you can often bring up a more accurate readout (numerical) and save yourself unnecessary digging.

  8. Coin25

    Dick, ain’t that a kick in the butt….that is what I do too. I think it’s funny because it is reverse of what we have been told. Maybe I would have kept my Whites heavy box had I known back then.

  9. Great post Dick, and some good advice for the newbies.

    I still have my trusty E-trac, matter of fact, I now have a second one as a back up machine. I thought about buying another model/brand for a back up, but why? I know my machine and to me, that’s key.

    My first machine was a White’s Prizm IV, it was a good machine for a decent price. When I realized detecting was going to be more than a hobby, I tried to buy another more expensive White’s model from the same dealer, but he talked me out of it. He didn’t take me seriously (probably because I’m female) and said “For what you’re doing, all you need is the Prizm”.
    I left that store frustrated and embarrassed, and ended up purchasing my E-trac, which is now like an extension of me. That said though, if it had been a White’s, I would probably feel the same way about it. I feel strongly that folks should learn the machine they have, and not run out and purchase every new detector on the market.

    I’ve seen newbies show up at a hunt with 3 or 4 machines, and then listened to them whine because they didn’t find anything. Sometimes they get lucky, and find something great, but usually it’s the same group of folks that have been detecting for years with the same machine, that at the end the day dump out a pouch full of cool stuff.

    I don’t understand the little box with cotton, or the water spray–I’ve been told it’s “Foo foo juice”? At a recent hunt someone asked if they could see my flat buttons, so I let them look, and wasn’t paying much attention until I saw him spraying my buttons with a little bottle of water! I was so pissed, and I didn’t care if he knew it. I gave the buttons to the land owner because at that point they were worthless to me.

    I have to defend my long T-handle shovel, as it has saved my knees, but I do have a short, low profile version for public places.

    Pinpointers are a must for me, because I do not have your skills, nor do I think a screwdriver like probe would help me find most targets, as I usually hunt in the woods, where there are a lot of roots, and the targets are deeper.

    Camo is necessary for any detectorist though. I’m surprised you don’t have a closet full of it. I’m especially keen on pink camo, because when I wear it, it identifies me to others right away as a serious female Detectorist who is not to be messed with. It also helps me blend when I want to keep a low profile while hunting flower beds…

    • Allyson I very much agree with the learning your detector thing. I went from detector to detector over the years but it was never a quick process and I always missed those that I traded in or sold. I do miss the simplicity of the older detectors. They allowed more time for “listening” which like pinpointing and probing seems to be lost art. Then again that’s the old guy talking.

      I’ve thought about the camo thing and whether or not I’d be wearing if I were just getting involved and I really don’t think so. I’m not one to go with the crowd (in case you didn’t notice) and have no desire to feel macho. Just seems like the wrong image for the hobby as well and no matter how tough everyone thinks they look they are still just waving a little plastic plate on the end of a rod.

      You know I thought I saw someone in the flower bed the other day and now it makes sense. Thanks Allyson, have a great day and have one for me.

    • Ed B.

      I have to ask….how does a shovel save your knees? Don’t you still have to bend down to retrieve the target after you dig the plug?

      • Well, when I started in the hobby, kneeling down to dig and retrieve my targets had me at the point of severe pain, laid up in bed hardly able to walk for a few days. Bending over did not have the same effect, and when using the long T-handle, I do not have to kneel to dig the hole. I just make a divot with my foot pushing the shovel down, then bend over from the waist and retrieve the target, and ta-da, no knee pain.

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