Best Metal Detector For Beach & Saltwater

by Chad Eicher

What is the best metal detector for beach and saltwater?

Choosing the right detector is important when searching in surf, sand, and shallow water. A beach hunter has an advantage because each new tide brings in more lost treasures.

Besides the right tools, you need knowledge and skill to be a successful detectorist. The best metal detector for beach won’t do much in the hands of someone who doesn’t know how to use it.

This guide will help you find the right product for your needs among the best metal detectors for beachcombing.

Top 5 Metal Detectors for Beach & Saltwater 2023

1. Garrett AT Pro – Best Metal Detector For Beginners
2. XP DEUS – The Most Feature Rich Metal Detector
3. Fisher 1280X – Underwater All-Purpose Metal Detector
4. Garrett AT MAX Waterproof Metal Detector – The Total Package
5. Minelab CTX 3030 Waterproof – The Primo Metal Detector


If you’re eager to learn..

➜ Why XP DEUS is our top pick for the best beach metal detectors

➜ What features do you need for beach metal detecting

➜ Which types of metal detectors are best for salt water and sand

Then definitely keep reading.

1. Garrett AT Pro Metal Detector – Best For Beginners

Garrett AT Pro

Garrett AT Pro is one of the least expensive items on our list, but it doesn’t suffer from any serious flaws. That, in itself, is a great advertisement for this product. It offers reliable performance from a trusted brand without a huge expense. This makes it great beach metal detector for beginners. It’s waterproof to 9 feet, which is great when the tide is high.

This one can tolerate seawater very well and adjust its ground balance automatically. This is a significant advantage for our purposes, but we do wish the headphones were also waterproof. You can buy waterproof headphones separately, which does help things a little bit.

Garrett was the first company to offer computerized metal detectors, and they still make some of the best. This one has a robust and multi-faceted display that makes it easy to know what is going on at all times. These controls are a little complicated, but worth the effort of learning.

Overall, it’s a very fun and easy-to-use beach metal detector.

➜ Check out a detailed review of the AT Pro metal detector

Pros
  • Not very expensive
  • Waterproof search coil (9 feet)
  • Trusted brand
  • Comes with some very nice headphones
  • Ground balanced for saltwater
Cons
  • Included headphones are not waterproof
  • Requires four AA batteries

2. XP DEUS Metal Detector – The Most Feature Rich

XP DEUS

XP Deus is one of the most lightweight, ergonomic, and convenient models that we have seen. Its price is a little high, but it offers a lot of quality for that extra money. It’s absolutely loaded with features…So many, in fact that we don’t even have the space to cover all of them.

This model doesn’t have a cable winding around its stem, nor does it have any protrusions sticking out from its frame. All of this, combined with its smooth and glossy surface, make this an excellent choice for beaches. Those wireless headphones only enhance this advantage.

XP Deus has a good warranty, lasting five years and covering both parts and labor. You are unlikely to need this warranty, but we do see a couple of small flaws. Among the most significant, this model seems to discharge its battery a little more quickly. Thus, it might not be the right choice for an all-day trip.

➜ Read our detailed XP DEUS review

Pros
  • Very lightweight
  • No-snag design
  • 5-year warranty
  • Can use 35 different frequencies
  • Wireless headphones
Cons
  • Pretty expensive
  • Battery life isn’t the best

3. Fisher 1280X – Underwater All-Purpose Metal Detector

Fisher 1280X

Fisher 1280X is the only model on our list that is suitable for diving, which gives it a significant advantage right out of the gate. Of course, not everyone prefers underwater metal detecting, so this advantage won’t appeal to everyone. Still, this product makes a great all-purpose choice as well.

Although there is no LCD screen, we like the simple control scheme of this product. You have only three knobs and the indicator light, so it shouldn’t take a long time to learn this tool. It comes with a set of waterproof headphones and two different coils (a ten-inch coil and an eight-inch coil, respectively). As if that weren’t enough, this is the cheapest metal detector on our list.

We do see a few small issues, of course. 8-10 inches is not that big for a search coil, so it would be nice to have something bigger when searching large areas. Also, this thing requires eight AA batteries, so make sure you invest in some rechargeable cells before buying this detector.

Pros
  • Submersible up to 250 feet
  • Easy-to-learn and straightforward control scheme
  • Available with several different coils
  • Very precise target discrimination
  • Cheapest model on our list
  • Automatic frequency/ground balance adjustment
Cons
  • Requires eight AA batteries
  • Search coils are a little small

4. Garrett AT MAX Waterproof Metal Detector – The Total Package

Garrett AT Max

Garrett AT Max isn’t just a detector, but a package that includes several handy accessories. Its price is fairly reasonable, being right in the middle of our range. We love the wireless headphones, as they work very well.

The pinpointer is pretty accurate and comes with a belt sheath for easy carrying on your beach pursuits. When you need to get a more precise fix on your target, this device becomes quite valuable. All in all, it can save you a lot of unnecessary digging.

This one is meant for convenience, as most of its features will adjust automatically. You don’t need to worry about fooling with frequency or ground balance, although you likely will have to toy with the settings somewhat.

That brings us to the only real flaw of this product. The controls are pretty hard to learn, and many buyers have reported confusion and frustration. However, if you’re willing to put in the time, you can’t go wrong with AT MAX. We also find this one to be a little too heavy and awkward, but it isn’t too bad.

Pros
  • Comes with a very nice pinpointer
  • Very good discrimination
  • Display is backlit for night use
  • Made for enhanced depth targets detection
  • Proprietary ground balance feature
Cons
  • A little heavy and awkward
  • Difficult to learn

5. Minelab CTX 3030 Waterproof Metal Detector – The Primo Option

Minelab CTX 3030

Although CTX 3030 is the most expensive item on our list, it is also the highest in quality. We were unable to find a single negative review of this item, which speaks well for its effectiveness. Despite being very high-tech, this one looks pretty durable and is waterproofed securely.

Minelab CTX 3030 detector comes with all kinds of accessories, including an extra coil, headphones, a battery charger with adaptors, and a wireless module that allows you to use the headphones without plugging them into the detector. The only extra accessory you’ll need is a sand scoop.

The display is highly advanced and reminds us of a computer or a smartphone. You can even pick up wi-fi on this thing! We like the five preset search modes because it usually means less time spent fiddling with knobs and buttons.

The only real problem with this product is its high cost. Although it offers a fantastic level of quality, most people cannot spend this much money on a metal detector. Thus, this one will only be a cost-effective choice for the most serious users.

Pros
  • Includes everything you need and more
  • Very advanced display
  • Rechargeable lithium battery
  • Waterproof and durable
  • Five preset search modes
Cons
  • Higher price tag

Best Metal Detector for Beach Buying Guide

For a variety of reasons, people lose a lot of items at the beaches. These might be useless items like sandals and cups or perhaps more valuable items. The tide has a way of snatching away objects that are not properly secured, and this is a fact that you can use to your advantage. Let’s consider some of the common questions that you might ask yourself when shopping for a metal detector.

How Often Will I Use This Thing?

As with any hobby, there are some that are much more serious than others. While some might go out metal detecting every weekend, others might go months between sessions. Either way, you need to think about these things before you choose.

If you are planning to use your metal detector frequently, you will certainly want to spend a little more money on a high-end model. With more frequent use, that expensive tool is more likely to pay for itself with a valuable beach finds such as coins and jewelry. You will also want to concentrate a little more on comfort if you plan to use this detector for hours or days at a time.

Learn more about the metal detecting hobby

For those looking for an “occasional-use” beach metal detector, the question is not easy. On the one hand, high-grade options would be silly for an infrequent user. On the other hand, you can only lower the price so much before you begin compromising the quality.

Where Am I Likely To Use This Thing?

Nature presents many challenges, and these challenges differ from place to place. Since this article is focused on the beach hunting, we will be focusing on that kind of environment. When choosing the best beach metal detector, there are two qualities that you need: Waterproofing and proper ground balance.

waterproof detector

The need for waterproofing is obvious, even if you don’t plan to use your detector underwater. This is where you need to be careful to avoid detectors that are “water-resistant” rather than being waterproof.

Ground balance is a little bit more complicated. Metal detectors work by using electromagnetic fields, projecting them into the ground, and detecting the reaction to the fields. Unfortunately, certain objects in the ground can interfere with this process, and some ground is far more difficult than others.

The best way to work the shorelines with your metal detector is to scan parallel to the shoreline while hugging the water’s edge. Always scan in a straight line.

You need to find a metal detector that is suited for wet sand because it’s one of the most difficult mediums to find anything. Some metal detectors will go crazy with false alarms when used over wet sand.

You can deal with this problem by adjusting the ground balance. This tunes the electromagnetic field’s frequencies, allowing you to use different settings for different types of ground. Some models will adjust their ground balance automatically while others require manual tuning. For most beginners, we would definitely recommend the auto-balance options.


Which Type Of Metal Detector Should I Get?

Like any other type of machine, a metal detector can be found in several types. While all of them use electromagnetic fields and frequencies, they have different ways of doing so. Let’s consider this from a beach metal detecting standpoint and attempt to find the best beach metal detector. There are three main categories from which to choose.

1. Beat Frequency Oscillation Detectors

These are definitely the most common options that you will find. The first metal detectors were built using this kind of technology, and it remains popular to this day. These detectors work by using coils that consist of copper wire wrapped around some ferrous metal (iron or steel).

These devices work by measuring electromagnetic feedback. An electric charge is sent through the coil, which then generates an electromagnetic field. This field is projected into the ground and reflected to the second coil. This second coil looks for any telltale variations in the magnetic feedback loop.

2. Very Low Frequency Detectors

These are the most sensitive detectors out there, so it’s not surprising to learn that they are usually more expensive. They work a lot like the oscillation detectors, but they are a lot more precise.

The main weakness of a standard metal detector is its lack of frequency variation. Oscillators tend to put out one frequency, which limits the precision of the feedback. VLF detectors use a special electronic component to filter out ground signals and other false readings. By using and detecting a greater number of frequencies, often this kind of detector finds things that the others miss.

3. Pulse Induction Detectors

Pulse Induction (PI) is probably the most modern form of metal detector, which tends to be reflected in its price. These detectors are normally used for deep searching, as they can send a signal much farther into the ground. Instead of emitting a constant electromagnetic energy field, these devices send an EM pulse into the ground.

Pulse Induction metal detectors are used primarily for heavily mineralized environments such as salt water and beach sand. The high salt content can be eliminated by using PI metal detectors.

One of the advantages of this system is the fact that it only needs one coil. A single detection coil acts as both receiver and transmitter. That is good because fewer working parts will usually translate to greater durability. These detectors are frequently used to scan customers at commercial locations.

See our list of the best PI metal detectors

So, Who Is The Winner?

As a general rule, you should always get the best detector that you can afford. An LVF detector is probably a little excessive here, as the objects you seek aren’t likely to be buried that deeply. However, a standard oscillation-based detector will usually give too many false readings in the surf.

Therefore, we would say that a pulse induction model is probably the one that will give you the best results. Of course, not everyone can afford one of those, so compromise where necessary.

Our recommended metal detector for beach is the XP Deus. Although a little pricey, its features are worth every penny. Lightweight, very sensitive, excellent discrimination.


What Features Do I Need?

There are all kinds of features that are often included with metal detectors. These might include:

Target discrimination: Filters out many false positives

Automatic or manual ground balance adjustment: Adds versatility for different environments

Identification of specific metals: Prevents needless digging for trash

Sensitivity control: Gives you more control over the power of the EM field

Depth adjustment: Adjusts the size of the EM field for different depths

All of these features add something, whether it’s a convenience or the ability to work in specialized environments. However, you will need to consider the advantages of these features and determine if you really need them.


How Much Am I Willing To Learn?

Most metal detectors have a little bit of a learning curve. Unless you plan on buying your detector from the toy department (protip: never do that), you will have to take some time and familiarize yourself with this tool.

Make sure you don’t ignore either the loudest or the faintest detector signals. Always determine their source. Find tidal pools and long, water-filled depressions. Watch for streams draining back into the ocean as the tide recedes.

Of course, you have to decide how much of a learning curve you are willing to tolerate. Some detectors have very complex and confusing control panels, and these are a terrible choice for a beginner. Basically, you need to choose a tool that suits your level of experience and skill.


Conclusion

You couldn’t ask for a more rewarding hobby than metal detecting. While many people do not find buried treasure, we can guarantee that you will at least find something interesting.

Whether it’s gold, silver, artifacts, or coins and jewelry, the world is full of treasures waiting to be found. If you have enjoyed this article, we hope that you will return soon. This technology is always growing and improving, so it pays to stay informed.

➜ Best detectors to metal detect underwater

➜ Check the guide to choosing the best metal detector

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are ‘affiliate links.’ This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, metalpursuits.com might receive an affiliate commission at no additional cost to you

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Article by

Chad Eicher

Detectorist Chad is passionate about metal detecting since he got his first metal detector as a gift when he was 12 years old. He created Metal Pursuits to share his knowledge and create the ultimate metal detecting resource on the web.

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