Detector Selection

Selecting a Metal Detector

There are different kinds of metal detectors on the market. Some are general purpose machines, used for finding coins, relics (belt buckles, buttons), etc. Others are specific for finding gold. So, the first thing you should do is to determine what you will use your machine for. Will you go to parks or the beach looking for coins and jewelry? Will you only use it to look for gold nuggets? Once you have identified how you will use it, then you can start looking at the different models.

A detector will run from $250 to over $1,000, depending on the features. You can purchase them for less, but you may end up disappointed with it and leave the hobby, or you will purchase a more expensive one.

The more expensive models have more features and typically, can find objects deeper in the ground. Remember though, just because you have an expensive detector, does not mean you will find lots of objects worth keeping. First, you must learn the machine. An expensive machine in the hands of an inexperienced user is no match to a cheaper machine in the hands of an experienced user.

Here are some features of metal detectors to compare when shopping:

Depth: this is how deep the detector will find a buried object. This also depends on the soil the object is buried in. Some soil is heavily mineralized, which makes it difficult to detect objects. This can be offset though, by another feature:

Balancing: also known as ground balancing, this is the process of canceling out or adjusting for minerals. Some detectors require you to do this manually, others have built in features that do it automatically for you.

Modes for detecting: some detectors allow you to set them for coins, relics or jewelry. Others allow you to search in one or more modes.

Alerts: the basic detectors will have just one sound for all metals. More expensive ones have different sounds for different metals. Some will display visual information, such as a number, for the metal found.

Discrimination: this feature allows you to 'tune out' certain undesirable metals. If you are looking for coins, you may want to skip iron.

Sensitivity: this feature lets you set how sensitive the unit is to ground minerals or 'trash'. It is synonymous with discrimination.

Screen or display: this shows you what the machine knows about what it has found. This could be items such as type of metal, size of the object, depth, conductivity (usually a number) etc. The most expensive machines will display the most information.

Power source: most detectors use AA batteries and some also have rechargeable battery packs. If the detector uses only rechargeable batteries, you may want to get an extra set for when they go dead right in the middle of a hunt.

Weight: detectors can vary by a couple of pounds, which can become an issue if you hunt for hours at a time.

Another good source of information on what detector to purchase are forums. You could ask the question about what detector to purchase or, search the archives for a similar question and read the thread. Bear in mind you may get opinionated answers by people who are 'sold' on their particular detector, so take them with a grain of salt. Often though, you will get responses from people who own more than one kind of detector and will describe the advantages of one over the other.

Listed below are some threads taken from the Kinzli forum concerning this subject.

What kind of metal detector should I get
« Thread Started on 10/18/04 at 14:56 »        

My father in-law and I are looking at getting metal detectors we are wondering what kind of metal detector will work as a good all around detector. We would like to be able to comb the beaches, parks and look for gold. Is there a metal detector that will do both? Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.   

Re: What kind of metal detector should I get
« Reply #1 on 10/18/04 at 16:24 »              

Welcome TFink!!

It seems that you are wanting a machine that will effectively hunt in a variety of environments. My own vote would go to the White's MXT. It is easy to learn to use, is very effective at gold nugget hunting (from what I'm told), is a great overall land and relic machine, and is good on dry sand at the beach (less effective in wet sand). Others will have different recommendations, I'm sure, but I don't think you'll go wrong with an MXT. Between that and my Detectorpro Wader which I use in the wet sand and water, I feel like I have all my bases covered.

If you do end up considering the MXT, definitely look into getting one of the DD or Excelerator coils. In many environments, they will improve performance over the stock coil. Personally, I really like the White's 6x10 DD coil, but there are many others that are great to choose from depending on what kind of hunting you are going to do.



Welcome Tfink: Dan gave you some good advice on a MD. I use the DFX by White's it a great MD, but has a large learning curve, works great on the wet sand also. What I'd suggest would be to read as much as you can on the various detectors, try to find out if there's a local MD Club that meets in your area and attend a meeting and ask some of the members about their MD's. Visit a local dealer to get the feel of the weight of each unit. Some are heavier than others. For pricing check out the dealers on the internet and compare with your local shop. One advantage of buying from your local dealer is the support he can give you in using the MD to it full potential. Hope this gives you some insight on choosing a MD. ONE WORD OF CAUTION, THIS HOBBY IS A LOT OF FUN AND ADDICTING. HH Vern2sjc

Hi T. You can't go wrong with a Whites'. I would suggest finding someone in your area to show you how to use it. It's a hard leaning process to learn by trial and error, like I did. Don't be shy to ask questions on the Forum, great bunch of people on here. HH, Jerry

Hi Tfink.
I was asking the very same question just a few weeks ago. After much research and lurking around forums like this one , I decided the Whites MXT is the best choice. It does all three (Coin, Relic, and Prospecting) with relitive ease of use. But I guess the all take time to learn. I am getting really good at digging up pull tabs! I mean REALLY good!! I hope that someday I can say the same about silver and gold! Good luck..

Hi, Tfink, I agree with the others on the MXT. I got my first detector (an MXT) last year and have been using it a lot. There is some learning needed for beginners, but you don't have to program a computer to make it work. I would suggest purchasing it at a reputable store where you can get help if you need it and the warranty is available. Ebay purchases are more for knowledgeable users. I'm having fun, and I agree that getting a double D coil and/or a smaller 5 inch coil are worthwhile purchases. I live in an area with lots of mineralized soil and the smaller coil works much better. There is a forum available for MXT users if you want more specific information. Email me if you'd like the URL. And welcome to the best forum for Calif. metal detecting.

Re: What kind of metal detector should I get
« Reply #9 on 10/19/04 at 14:01 »              

Hi Tfink (used to go to school with a Pfink)

I have a White's XLT it was pretty easy to start. Just turn on and go. Later when I got used to it then I started changing the settings.

White's also just came out with a new line called Prizims. I have heard good things about them and they are about half the price of the XLT/DFX/MXT ones.

P.S. Vern is right.

Just another Dan       

I would suggest looking at some of the low end " turn on and go" machines built by most all of the larger makers. They will keep your investment low and they are easy to use. Using some of the more sophisticated detectors at the onset of your detecting may result in much frustration. I think that a low end detector in competent hands will find more than a more sophisticated detector in incompetent hands, and incompetent is what most detectorists are when they first start out. After using the low end detector for a few months you may want to move up to another detector that better suits your needs.

Here is my 2 cents worth. Buy your machine from a local shop that agrees to give you both hands on instruction in the field, not 5 minutes behind the shop. If they are "too busy" get recommendations for an online dealer to get your machines from and locate a Pro in your area to teach you how to setup and use your machines. In my area it runs about $150 for half a day. It will be money well spent, you can start out with confidence instead of confusion and frustration. HH, JJ

Another thread

« Thread Started on 3/3/04 at 23:01 »          

I am a newbie for sure. I was wondering what makes a detector best? If I find things with my Radio Shack version of the Landstar by Bounty Hunter, is that only part of the story?

Today I found a 3/4 inch long heavy duty staple, the type you might find in a cardboard box, at seven to eight inches below ground in several inches of rock over clay and loam. Isn't that good? (no, not the staple, the depth). The unit has been dead on for the most part in indicating what I may find if I feel like digging, at least 80 - 90 %. I have found many types of objects (as I'm sure all of you did in your first several outings, at least until you knew you could trust your machine signals, or you were to tired to dig unless it was reasonable to be silver or coin). Am I just missing hundreds of goodies with this unit, or is there a real phenomenon about price and value?

Any comments?

Thanks for honest replies

Dave in Sunnyvale

Hey Dave the Radio Shack machine is okay for a couple of inches. I use to have one when I first started and was not happy with it, I knew there was stuff deeper and older but couldn't reach it. Since I knew I would stick with this hobby I upgraded to a Whites QII and liked it, I was getting more depth and a more accurate on target ID. Finally I upgraded to the Explorer and have been happy every since. I think if you are planning on upgrading to read about and ask question's on the other machine's out there. That's one thing I wish I had done before making any purchase, that's one great thing about this forum, a lot of the people on here have been doing this for 20+yrs and have used quite a few of the machine's out there. Good luck and HH, Tom

Re: Detectors
« Reply #2 on 3/5/04 at 15:04 »        

I used to own a bounty hunter as well, it was a good unit. finding a staple or any iron or steel object at great depths is easy for even the simplest detector, because as the metal decays it forms a halo around it making the object bigger [to the detector] than it actually is. Precious metals do this too but not nearly as much. take a ruler with you next time ,and bury a quarter and see just how far it will go, then a dime ,try some gold too. it will give you an idea as to the depth. but keep in mind the money you bury will not have the halo effect, so your results wont be quite accurate but close. Look at it this way, even if your not getting the depth that others are getting, there is plenty of coin and jewelry within your range. my old bounty hunter was a great performer, and if they are still making them the way they used too, it should be fine. some detector shops will rent or loan out detectors or maybe you could borrow a more advanced one and see if you like it better. try hunting the same areas you have already hunted . good luck . jeff    

Yup, I'll concur with the other posts. I have a RS land star clone and hunted with it for a bunch of months. It is quick and simple and convenient and I did just fine with it.

In early December I bought a Sovereign XS2 and in the months since I've returned to a bunch of the same spots. Sure I found things I'd missed the first time, but I didn't suddenly find that there was a layer of goodies just inches out of reach that I'd been missing for months.

However, the range of noises and squawks and squeals from the Sovereign absolutely gives a much finer indication of what is in the ground than does the three tones of the land star. It reaches deeper as well. But its certainly more complicated and makes me think more and twist more dials. I happen to like this!

Another thread

What's the best MD out there?
« Thread Started on 1/2/04 at 16:44 »          

I started metal detecting about 3 years ago and until I discovered this forum I never found anybody to discuss metal detecting with. I would add that MD is becoming an obsession with me. I bought my one and only machine, a Fisher 1236 x2, without really knowing what I was buying. Reading about all the great old coins people are finding makes me want to get a better detector. I found a 1921 Silver dollar at the beach once, but have never found a wheatie or any other silver coins. From what I gather a lot of people seem to like the Explorer. I want to buy an excellent detector that I can use on land and that I can also bring into the surf as well as use snorkeling or scuba diving. Any advice on what my next metal detector purchase ought to be would be appreciated. Thanks.


Hey Marc Dean & Tanya do good with the Minelab Excaliber. It's mainly for water hunting, but they have made some great find's with it on land. Also white's makes a good one the PI and can be used on land and water. I think tesero has the sandshark. That's about all I know, Jeff, Dale or Paul should be able to give you some better advice as to which one's are better. HH, Tom

Marc, detectors that you can take snorkeling and also use on land limits you quite a bit.

There are 2 that I can think of that will cover both reasonably well...the Minelab Excalibur and the Fisher CZ20.

Minelab is apparently coming out with a new version of the Excalibur, so you might be able to find some of those cheap in the near future. IMHO, they work very well, but so does the CZ20. They're both very heavy though, and will tire you if you want to use it on the turf.

The Explorer works great on the turf and on the beach, but isn't waterproof. It has the depth meter, visual ID, and lots of great features.

If you're only getting one machine, and you want to take it scuba diving, I'd get an Excalibur.

Another thread

Posted Dec 7 2005, 11:42 AM

Pretty much the same old story. I loved metal detecting when I was a kid, had some radio shack special that I got for my 9th birthday. Now my doctor says I need to get more exercise and I thought why not get back into metal detecting. I live near San Francisco and have access to plenty of beach areas.
My question is, is it worth my time to get either a Bounty Hunter prospector or Famous Trails Discriminator II? A local store has both of them on sale for $99 right now for Christmas. The BHP normally lists for $199 and the Discriminator lists for around $249. Are either of these suitable for starting out again?

I don't Know if money is an issue with you , but I would go with at least a tesoro Vaquero $425.00.Good all around machine for around here. Lifetime guarantee, 1 drop in 9volt , ground balance it yourself and lightweight. It goes deep would be ok on dry sand at the beach (I don't know about the black sand). If you already like detecting you're probably going to get Super addicted and want to upgrade anyway. With this machine you may never upgrade. If you don't have that kind of money. I'd go with a used, older simpler , machine find a bunch of clad and then buy the machine of your dreams. Sometimes the folks on this forum sell some good machines at good prices. I know there's a few dealers out there that have a few 'oldies but goodies" they might give you a deal on in hopes that when you have the bucks to step up you will remember them. They will also be glad to "Show you the ropes " with it. Also there are guys and gals on this forum who are way more knowledgeable about this than me, hopefully they will post . I would pass on a new machine that can be reduced from $199.00 to $99.00. Good Luck and Happy Hunting !!

For a low end detector that WILL work-the White's Prizim II or the Garrett? Ace 250. Both are the best of the bottom end. Don't go Wal-Mart or Radio Shack!

Welcome to the forum . If you are really going to enjoy this sport , the lowest priced detectors probably wont do it for you . For a little more you can buy a machine from a company that really backs their products and wont leave you completely Frustrated . I use Whites and I am very happy . In a little over a year I saved enough to upgrade to a better machine . This is a fun hobby and it pays for itself . Hope you find a good machine at a good price , try to stay away from the really low end detectors . Get the best you can afford and you wont be disappointed . happy hunting .

Thank you for the replies everyone. I have decided to wait a little bit and probably try and find a Garret Ace 250 used after Christmas. I am hoping I will be able to find someone who got an upgrade from the fat man in the red suit and is willing to part with their used one.

My first and prob still one of my favs is the minelab musketeer advantage around $336.00 brand new. I'm going on my first year as of Jan 24 and I have CLEANED up with this lil bute hope this helps HH Ride Um

I bought a Tesoro Compadre (around $150) for my Grandson last year after he started with a Radio Shack $50 detector. It's a really good machine. Lightweight, gets great depth. And the best part is I believe when he gets ready to upgrade, I can peddle it and get most if not all of the money back! OR I may just decide to keep it as a loaner for people who want to go detecting with us but don't have one!


Another thread

Posted December 7, 2005 8:33 PM

I will be moving to Arizona next May and I want to try my hand at metal detecting. Would like to find "stuff" but will be primarily using this new hobby for exercise, getting out and seeing the desert areas. My question: Money is not a problem. Sooo, should I go all out and get the top of the line or start slow and get a middle price unit and go from there? I look forward to all your answers and guidance.


I'd go for a mid-priced unit, that has an up to date technology, and a lifetime warranty, also a manual ground balance for the mineralization you will likely encounter in Arizona soils. The unit I'm talking about is the Tesoro Vaquero. Roughly $425, a good all around detector. DJ Davey

Make sure you buy from a dealer. someone that can show you how everything works, and help you with any problems. also a great place to meet other people in the hobby. have a great day and good luck on your purchase!!


The new Whites MX6 OR Minelabs Quatro are a little bit higher than mid price. They both cost about 700. If money is not a budgetary concern, I go with the Minelab Explorer OR possibly the DFX... then there is also the Garret GTI 2500. The Explorer will set you back about 1200 dollars and the DFX about 900. Most people seem to prefer Minelab over Whites. I am a Whites user myself and quite content.

The aforementioned machine all have "turn on and go" programs. If your concern that you may not continue to detect, a person has a Whites Di OR XL ? Pro for 375 dollars in the for sale forum... not a bad price for what used to be a top of the line detector for Whites. 

You have a chance to find gold nuggets in Arizona and it is nice to have automatic ground balancing that will handle the red soil/mineralization there. A White's MXT is an excellent choice for ALL kinds of detecting, coin and jewelry, relics and gold nuggets.

If your are moving to Arizona and are going to be coin shooting and looking for Gold, the Tesoro LoBo Super Trac is a very good choice. I have been using one for the past 2 years and have done very well. I mostly look for Gold but it will find coins at good depth. AZ

Another thread

The "BEST" Detector - A Message For Beginners

"Which is best?" No such animal actually. There are a lot of good detectors on the market these days, and most of them will do what they claim (within reason).

There really is no "best" detector for every situation and detecting interest. You need to carefully consider what kind of detecting you will be doing, what kind of ground conditions you expect to encounter, terrain, vegetation "problems", salt water or fresh water beaches, wet or dry areas, and so on.

There are some detectors more suited, but not necessarily "better", for different conditions and expectations. While you may not expect a coin detector to detect large objects several feet in the ground, one of the two-box type detectors may work for that purpose. On the other hand, one of those type detectors cannot realistically be expected to detect a small coin.

If your primary interest does happen to be in hunting for old (and new) coins, for example in parks, school grounds, parking lots, old drive-in theaters, etc., you will have a somewhat large and confusing assortment of detectors by several manufacturers to choose from. Your best bet in this case is to stick with the better known companies who have proven their stuff over time by remaining in business for several years. Reading posts such as these on the Tesoro forum will also provide you with abundant information to consider in making your decision.

Beginners to the hobby may want to consider a simple "turn-on-and-go" detector with a minimum of controls and adjustments to give them an opportunity to get a feel for detecting without being overcome or confused by all the technical aspects of the more advanced machines.

Most manufacturers have what can be classified as basic, intermediate, and advanced machines available. Most of the turn-on-and-go machines would fall into the basic classification, however this does not necessarily mean that they are any less capable of good performance in comparison to the more advanced models.

As you move into the "intermediate" range, you will notice more knobs, buttons, etc. which give the operator a bit more control over the machine, where the basic machines may have most of these adjustments "pre-set" internally by the factory at what they believe is a good "average" for most conditions.

While this "pre-setting" makes for a much easier to operate machine, there are certain conditions, which you may encounter where you may want or need a certain amount of adjustable control over your machine that you cannot easily get using a pre-set machine.

The most common of these "conditions" will most likely concern variances in ground mineralization and machine sensitivity. Normally only the more advanced models will have manual ground balancing capabilities, sensitivity and threshold adjustment, and so on. Even the most basic of the discriminating detectors will have user adjustable discriminating levels for various "trash" concentrations.

As you move into the advanced level of detectors, you will notice that these machines have more user adjustable features such as the above mentioned manual ground balancing, sensitivity, threshold, discriminate level, mode of operation, and possibly even motion - no motion operation and S.A.T. or self adjusting threshold speed (more common to the specialized gold detecting machines).

The infinite combinations of tuning with these machines and the user "control" over these adjustments make them popular with the more serious and experienced detectorists and closer to a universal or "all-purpose" machine than the turn-on-and-go pre-set models.

Once you have determined your level of interest or need in detecting, it is time to do some hands-on testing at your local metal detector dealer's shop.

Most areas of the country have one within a reasonable distance, and most dealers are more than willing to walk you through a demonstration of a few models to help you decide which is right for you. Be cautious, however, of letting any dealer "push" any particular model on you as "the best".

What is best for you and your particular hunting interests is ultimately YOUR decision, and you should use the machine that best suits you and that you are most comfortable with.

Some dealers "push" or "hawk" whichever detector happens to make him the largest dollar profit without really taking your needs into consideration. Too often, the highly touted machine he is hawking this particular week may be a factory closeout model or something he has some extra "incentive" in moving. Seldom will you find a good, popular metal detector "on sale" for some unusually low price or in some wholesale catalog at 80 percent off retail.

A good detector will sell itself by it's own reputation. You also should always consider the reputation of the company and the warranty it provides for its product line. Ask around, talk to other detectorists, READ THE FORUMS, send to the various company's for product literature and study it all with an open (but logical) mind, but base your final decision on what YOU want, need, and like best.

Once you have made your purchase, it is best to read and LEARN the operators' manual thoroughly before you make your first outing.

This is not to say before you start handling your machine. "Doing" is a necessary part of the learning process, and you should perform each and every suggestion made in your operators' manual as you study and learn the features and capabilities of your detector.

Learning by doing is fine, but UNDERSTANDING as you learn will give you much added advantage once you are out in the field. Make it your goal to learn everything you possibly can about your machine, what it can do, and just as importantly, what it cannot do.

Lastly, don't expect more than is "reasonable" out of your metal detector.

It will not find "treasures" that are not present in the first place. But the more time you put in detecting, the better your chances become of finding those more valuable items that ARE being found all over the world on a daily basis.

Just like any endeavor, the more time you spend at it, the better you will become, and the more ground you cover, the better your odds become of finding the rare or unusual.

Good luck, and I hope this will help some of you along the way......

Ralph Bryant

blinking logo

See also: Crucial Concepts, which covers:
 * Discrimination
 * Target ID
 * Sensitivity
 * Search depth
 * Ground balance, and
 * Operating frequency