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 –


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 –

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!


Is there a treasure hidden in SE Oklahoma?

Treasure? Well, I’ve looked 3 times and I sure haven’t found one! Honestly, I guess the first two times didn’t really count because we didn’t get to what I would call ‘ground zero’ to search. Either through lack of preparedness, roads that didn’t match the map, or fences where we didn’t expect to find any, our terrestrial based efforts could never get us to the right spot to begin our search. But somewhere near the old military road there is supposedly a cave with guns and gold in it!

If you go up the Little River from Pine Lake, there are still the remains of a river crossing on an old military road dating back to the early 1800’s, in Pushmataha County, Oklahoma. The legend goes that some guys were camping, one split off to hunt for squirrels, became lost, found a cave just before a storm hit, found his way back after the storm passed with a few treasure trinkets from the cave, and they all went back every year for the rest of their lives, with one even dying in those very woods, still on the quest! Now you have the cliff notes! The legend is easy to find through a google search, and Okie Treasure Hunter (Jamie Dodson) has a great write up in his blog about it.

So on my birthday in October 2011 or so, we appropriated an old Ranger bass boat and headed up river to find our fortune. The weather was perfect, a little cool, sunny and not a cloud in sight. Perfect for exploring dark woods looking for a small entrance to a cave. We had multiple detectors, backpacks full of gear, flashlights, and were armed to the teeth. Did you know SE Oklahoma is meth country? Well it is, and most of the trash you’ll find in those woods seems to come in the form of chemical containers or outright lab trash. While you hate to encounter that in the woods, it would be way worse to stumble onto an active operation, so according to a suggestion from local law enforcement, we were armed just in case.

Our research had been a two-pronged approach, first trying to determine if the people actually existed, and then using topo maps and google earth to help find the most likely terrain that would support the narrow box canyon leading to a cave that was central in the story. Being so close to the old military road, the tale made at least some sense because everybody, not just the military, would have been using that road at one time or another. It would also have been completely normal for boxes of Springfield rifles, still in brand new grease, to have been transported down that road. Further, we knew from information about people’s habits at that time, that if the river was high or the time late in the day, travelers would frequently just set camp till conditions improved to cross the river. Everything seemed to make decent sense as to why a treasure would be there at least. In the interest of full disclosure, I will tell you that we didn’t research the people of the story very heavily. We all just wanted an adventure and this one was close!

There’s nothing like a treasure hunt. Searching the woods for visual clues, navigating to points of interest picked out on our topo maps, encountering wildlife along the way, the quietness and darkness of the woods…just being on the quest. In the course of our 2 day hunt, we would normally split up, each carrying a radio to stay in communication, already having agreed to meet back at the boat in 2 or 3 hours depending on how early we made it to our hunt area. It was easy to see how a cave could stay so well hidden amongst the layers of leaves, dense tree growth, and terrain changes. Our main focus was to find a small box canyon, not much wider or deeper than maybe 10-15 feet. The only problem was that the terrain didn’t support such a feature in the area the lost hunter supposedly found the cave, unless it was an actual feed channel for Terrapin Creek. We later remarked at just how difficult it was to effectively search in the first place, then try to figure out if possibly the direction taken by the lost hunter was even remembered correctly by him.

Each night back at camp we pored over the topos, planned new spots to hunt, and relived the day’s adventure. Sitting up late around the campfire, we heard coyote howls, and deeper howls that my buddy swore was bigfoot. It didn’t help any that we would hear knocking sounds intermittently, which really freaked my buddy out! Yes, that area is prime bigfoot territory! People go there just to look for the world’s hide-and-seek champion. Slightly intriguiged, I commented that I’d ask him if he knew of any caves nearby, lol! Just business mind you, go back to hiding and we’ll pretend this never happened!

Each day was mostly the same routine, split up, search, mark areas off our maps, and grumble about not being rich already. After 2.5 days, we never found the cave! In typical fashion for Oklahoma, and the second time Okieland tried to kill us with weather, conditions took an extremely nasty turn, resulting in a high speed boat ride downriver, almost making it back but still doing about a 1/2 mile in drenching, cold rain, crazy close lightning, and gusts of wind that practically lifted us out of the boat!

Dejected, we were all ready to head home. Had we engaged in a fool’s errand? Maybe. What we did know was that we had so much fun it almost defied description. We discussed how much area we just couldn’t cover, and the possibility that we could just hunt for things lost along the road and probably have better luck. That will definitely on the list next time, especially considering I found an old rusty pocketknife-most likely carried by whatever famous outlaw you can imagine-beside the old road next to a massive oak tree!

Looking back and having lived through it once, I know I’d like to go back. The two friends I went with are no longer involved in treasure hunting, and we’ve lost contact. That’s just the way it goes sometimes. So it’s time to round up some new Argonauts and try again. Y’all know how to reach me.