Your First Metal Detector – Which One?

I’ve been asked a lot of questions in my life. Anything from personal secrets to whether or not I had any hidden money anywhere that I had not disclosed – true story; IRS agent, and I said, ‘if I had hidden it, why would I tell you?’. Yes, I had legal protection already in place, lol! ANYWAY, I’ve faced some hard questions, but I’m not sure any of them are harder than when people ask me, ‘which metal detector should I buy?’. This question makes me want to run for the hills!

To begin maze, start HERE:

There are a lot of really good metal detectors on the market right now. I’ve only had experience with a few of them, and I do have strong recommendations based on that. However, I do realize all those other detectors out there really shouldn’t be underestimated, and I’ve wished many times that I could get my hands on them just for a test run. Features such as precise discrimination, ease of operation (important with all the menu driven systems on detectors these days), weight and ergonomics, the ability to go underwater, adaptability to hunt for various targets in the unique environments that all pose challenges to the electronic operation of any machine….and the biggie-COST.

A Previously Enjoyed Companion – No Stigma!

Man oh man…look at HER! Lightweight, sleek, looks fast just sitting still…but she has some marks and blemishes. Looks like somebody else has ‘been there, done that’ with her. Hmmm. Sure looks fun though. Why are you blushing? I’m talking about a used metal detector here! What were Y’ALL thinking about? LOL..

Yesterday’s models of metal detectors are still fantastic machines, highly capable of unearthing whatever treasure you seek. The technology of ‘detecting’ has not advanced much in terms of ability¬†to detect metal, but in features that give you the ability to separate the unwanted metals from the ones you’re after. Keep in mind, the huge advances in that particular capability already happened a few years ago, and the current offerings are refinements to that amazing capability. But still, how do you figure out which detector is right for you?

If You’re Looking For Treasure, You Have To Be Willing To Part With Treasure

The reality is, it starts with your budget. This may be a ‘save up for someday’ proposition. After all, hunting for treasure CAN pay you back quite well, but most of the time it doesn’t, and that’s why 99% of people in the detecting world are ‘hobbyists’! Not only that, you may just decide that the work involved isn’t as much fun as you envisioned. Will you find some cool stuff? Heck yes you will. Will you be able to pay for your machine with what you find? Yes/maybe/not sure, but usually not right away. Will you just be able to go straight out and dig up old silver coins, gold jewelry and neat old tokens? Again, not usually right away-there’s a learning curve here! What I mean by all this is, BE REALISTIC. Don’t break the bank to buy the fanciest machine you can get, thinking that you will find riches and pay yourself back in short order. Has that happened? Yes. For how many people? VERY dang few.

So be willing to start small. The world of detecting is huge, and I haven’t even mentioned accessories yet!

What Is Your Quest?

Do you want to search for gold nuggets like I do? Lost treasure hidden in some cave or forest somewhere? Sunken treasure? Civil War relics? Old coins in parks or old homesites? You need to define your dreams. Sure, we want to do ALL of these things, back to back adventures preferably. However, if hunting lost jewelry on the beach is your dream, but you live in the middle of the country, that ‘special purpose’ machine you just bought is gonna sit, collecting dust, till you save up enough to go to said beach, and hopefully find a handful of jewelry like you saw some guy do on the internet. This is the exact reason so many great detectors end up for sale! So keep it real, consider what types of adventures are within easy reach, not forgetting those ‘someday’ adventures, but not putting your focus on the unattainable to the detriment of the easily attainable. Trust me on this-been there, done that.

By the way, I know the answer to all that stuff I just typed above – you want to do as many things as possible with the one machine you can afford. Well, you’re in luck! The big focus of metal detecting companies for the last few years has been in the ‘general purpose’ machine, go anywhere, do a little of everything, and do it fairly well. Enter the ‘previously enjoyed companion’ you got all worked up about a few paragraphs ago. Why would anybody sell a great, general purpose machine though? Was there a problem with that particular machine? Did it not live up to the advertising promises? Is it of a brand that some people like to bash online as ‘cheap’ or whatever other criticism they can level? It’s scary buying a used electronic device! By the way, ‘consumerism’ is the answer to the question I posed above. Some people have to have the latest and greatest. Others are upgrading to specialized machines for the niche they have chosen, and others might be moving to another general purpose machine that is just a bit better in one of the niche areas than the previous model they had. The last reason is that sometimes people overspend and never really use their detectors like they thought they would. This is good for you and your budget!

Alright, so ‘all hail the general purpose machine’! NOW, which one? I could tell you which one I have, but if you’ve been reading my blog you already know. Do you need that exact machine? That’s for YOU to decide, based on your own criteria and budget. I’m not going to give you an answer here because the blessing is also the curse here-there are so many great machines to choose from! Luckily the internet is here to help! Now I’ll warn you-the decision of which machine is not going to be easy, even after hours, days, weeks and months of research and comparing! That’s because there are so many dang good detectors out there. I can think of at least 5 brands that offer fantastic options, especially if you pick one up for a good, used price. Do some homework, the dividends you’ll gain are just as valuable to your enjoyment and continuation of the hobby as the treasure you seek!

A few great general purpose machines you can find used at great prices –

Garrett AT Pro, Ace series

Minelab Xterra series, Explorer, Safari

Whites MXT, and other models

Tesoro Vaquero, Bandido, Eldorado, others

Fisher/Teknetics F series, Patriot, others

Nokta/Makro many models, I’m not real familiar with these, but people like them

Features you want to consider –

Waterproof

Built in programs

Specific modes for certain types of detecting

Ergonomic design

Customizable programming

Adjustable discrimination levels

Here’s where you go for great information on general purpose machines –

http://www.findmall.com

http://www.treasurenet.com

http://www.metaldetectingforum.com

And there are others I haven’t mentioned. Oh, and don’t blame me if you find yourself calling in sick to work so you can go look for treasure with your new magic wand!

 

If you could only have one detector – why I like the Minelab Equinox 800

First off, perish the thought of only having ONE detector! However, for most of us, one detector is all we can afford. I’m lucky in that I’ve made some really good deals in the last few years that have allowed me to have multiple detectors, but it certainly wasn’t always that way!

If you’re like me, you dream of types detecting you either can’t, or rarely get to do. Reading forum posts or blogs like this, you hear about people finding gold nuggets out west, jewelry at some beautiful beach somewhere, civil war relics, items from previous civilizations, or rare old coins in historic locations. The tantalizing aspect of many of these tales is the ‘just out of reach’ aspect. Myself, living in Texas, Arizona isn’t THAT far away, nor are the east coast beaches, lost trading posts in the Midwest, or even civil war battlefields. However, if I spent a ton on multiple specialty detectors, I wouldn’t have enough money left to take them to those places! Again, I’ll note the exception that I do have one, highly specialized detector that I got a screaming deal on and sold a big ticket item that I also got a screaming deal on, to afford that machine. Due to the near impossibility of ever being able to replace that machine, it would take drastic circumstances to force me to sell it.

A little of everything

Ok, so you find yourself wanting to do a lot of different things with the one machine you can barely afford, but are willing to stretch to get. So how do you decide which one? I’m going to answer this in the best way I can, keeping it as short as possible-ready? Can you hear the drum roll? Here goes..

THE MINELAB EQUINOX 800.

Boom. I can hear the Deus users bristling, the Garrett owners fussing, Whites and Fisher users and every other brand-loyal detectorist just decided to unfollow me – but hear me out!

The first bit of advice experienced detectorists will offer when a newbie asks ‘which machine’ is simply, ‘what or where do you intend to hunt?’ This is a very reasoned and valid question, and if your answer is only one type of hunting – underwater, salt beach, goldfields, relic hunting, or coin shooting in a park, then it would be easy to pick one machine that will ‘smash it’ in those environments. But remember what I started with? IF you want to do a little of all types of hunting, here’s why the Equinox wins, ACCORDING TO ME:

-waterproof to 10′

-multi frequency operation, selectable single frequencies, both low and high

-light weight

-moderately customizable programs

-multiple factory programs that are GOOD for every environment you want to hunt

-ground tracking or manual ground balance

So what does all that mean? Well, if I want to hunt saltwater beaches, the multi frequency operation allows me to do so without the constant chatter and unstable operation that a single frequency machine suffers from. If it’s gold nuggets I’m after, not only is there a prospecting program, but the higher frequency is a necessity in the goldfields. If I’m relic hunting, I may or may not need multiple frequencies, so I can select from one of several single frequencies to better target what I think I may find, such as coins or buttons, etc. The waterproof capability of the machine means I can hunt swim beaches without worry, out to depths past where 90% of people ‘playing in the water’ will go. There are other features to like with Equinox as well, but in a nutshell, this machine has you covered for anything you want to hunt, up to the point that specialized equipment is required. And it does all this with very little user interaction being necessary. Can you fiddle with it and tweak the performance? Yes, you can, but it’s usually not needed.

For those whose hackles are still raised I want you to understand that I’m not saying other machines are BAD. In fact, here’s a list of general purpose machines that I’ve owned and LOVED, but didn’t have ‘go everywhere’ capability-

XP Deus-#1, hands down lightest machine out there, the Aussies would call it a ‘RIPPER’, and totally wireless! Not waterproof. Extremely customizable programming.

AT Pro-great general purpose machine with good depth, fast recovery, extremely capable in most scenarios. Can’t handle mineralized salt beach well, nor extreme goldfield mineralization. Allows slight customization in programming.

Minelab CTX3030-the powerhouse. Does it all minus the specific prospecting programming/frequency. Extremely customizable programming, and the best discrimination of any machine.

Short list, I know! NOW, here are some specialized machines that I’ve owned and loved-

Minelab Excalibur-this is still my all time favorite Minelab machine, no screen, speaks it’s own language, waterproof to 200′, undisputed saltwater beach powerhouse.

Minelab SDC2300-folds up for backpack carry, ergonomics are decent, great in mineralization that even other PI machines struggle with. If you don’t find gold with it, it’s just not there!

Garrett Sea Hunter MKII-crazy deep detecting in saltwater environment, waterproof to 200′

Tesoro Tiger Shark-freshwater gold killer, waterproof to 200′

Others I have owned or tried but didn’t keep-

Garrett ATX

Garrett Infinium

Teknetics T2

Minelab Xterra 705

Garrett Scorpion

Tesoro Silver uMax

Tesoro Diablo

Tesoro Bandido

Garrett Ace 150 and 250

Minelab Go Find 60

Minelab Explorer SE Pro

 

So as mentioned, the Equinox 800 is the ONE detector, if you can have only one, that I recommend. If saltwater beaches or underwater operation, or the goldfields are not interesting to you, there are other great machines that can fill most of the other needs, including many from the above list. Again, remember, even though the machine sells for around $800, the ability to do more types of hunting saves you money-a LOT of money-in the long run! The decision is yours to make, and I recommend lots of research outside this post! Good luck!