How to Use a Metal Detector: Tips from Experienced Treasure Hunters

by Chad Eicher

How to use a metal detector

It is not enough to choose and purchase a suitable metal detector model. To use it correctly and effectively, you need to get used to it and learn how to interpret its indications correctly.

Having purchased the cherished device, you need to read the operating instructions provided by the manufacturer thoroughly.

Do not neglect this manual by skimming through the main sections with design features and control functions.

The document contains recommendations for use, common problems, and how to solve them. After carefully studying the instructions, it will be much easier for you to understand how to use a metal detector.

Assembling the Metal Detector

Before assembling the metal detector, check that all parts of the device specified by the manufacturer are included in the package. If some parts (coil, rods, washers) are missing, contact the seller.

Metal detectors can be assembled in different schemes depending on the model. Let’s take a look at the assembly using the Garrett Ace 250 as an example – this is a very popular and common model, loved by both beginners and professionals.

  • Remove the paper spacer from the lock washers, insert them into the lower rod, and then connect the coil to the rod.
  • There are holes in the search coil; you need to insert a bolt into them, then manually tighten the two flywheels.
  • Take the upper rod, insert it into the lower rod, insert the resulting structure into the control panel frame by pressing two buttons, and connect the body assembly to the rod. Adjust the length of the assembled node.
  • Wrap the coil wire around the rod with the first turn being made on top of the rod.
  • Insert the cable plug into the housing connector and tighten it manually.
  • Slide the battery cover back and install the batteries if they are not present.
  • Adjust the elbow support by removing the screw on the bottom of the armrest and turning the cuff.

As you can see, there is nothing complicated in assembling a metal detector; all that remains is to learn how to use it.

Setting Up a Metal Detector

Setting Up a Metal Detector

Again, back to the user manual, which details all the metal detector’s features and specifications. It’s a good idea to try these parameters at home for a start. You will need small to medium-sized non-ferrous metal items. It can be a gold piece, a copper coin, aluminum foil (you will probably find this in the kitchen), or a zinc nail.

Set the device to the lowest sensitivity level and zero discrimination. Now move metal objects in front of the coil at a distance of about 4-6 inches while watching the display and the sound’s tone.

If you have already studied the information on how to use a metal detector, then you know – the higher the tone, the more likely you are to find valuable coins made of silver, copper, and brass; a low tone means a small find of gold or nickel, a medium tone means tabs and corks from aluminum cans.

Learn about metal detecting frequencies

If you intend to search for gold, you should know: jewelry is often found in low and medium tones, so you should not immediately exclude unnecessary discrimination segments from the search. First, you need to study the device properly.

Conduct several of these tests with objects made of different metals, alternately tuning the detector to different discrimination modes. This simple method will help you get the initial experience of using a metal detector.

How to Use a Metal Detector: Step by Step

1. Scanning Technique

When working with a metal detector, the main thing is not to rush, move the metal detector slowly from side to side, gradually moving forward. Keep the metal detector level. Raise the coil slightly in front of plants, bumps, and other obstacles. Each new sweep should be equal to half the diameter of the search coil.

2. Search Methods

Search With 50% Sweep Overlap

Such scanning is performed in the dynamic mode of the metal detector. With every step – a wave and a gradual forward movement. First, go around the “length” of the field, then move along the “width.” Move parallel to the first passage.

Grid-like Route

In this method, everything is the same as in the first; only we slightly change the route scheme. After exploring the long side of the field, move across, that is, perpendicular to the previous route. With this method, you will quickly go around the entire area. During the passage, you can find valuable objects and start digging or go further. Treasure hunting is a thorough and difficult task!

3. Division of the Site Into Search Zones

To not get confused in the search and not to go to the same place several times, you should divide the site into sectors. You can mark places that have been checked with flags or a cord. Determined the area to be checked, marked the beginning, and end with two pegs, and pulled a cord over them all the way.

As you move on to the next site, remove the cord from the previous one, and pull it onto a new area. Mark the places where the detector emitted the strongest signal with a red flag, and less strong ones – with white. When you finish exploring the territory, you can start digging in the places where you have red flags.

4. Determination of the Location of the Object

If your metal detector has let you know that you have found a treasure, do not rush to start digging right away. You can waste your time and find nothing. If the metal detector is equipped with a depth gauge, it will be easy for you to measure the object’s depth.

In order to find the exact location of the object, several operating modes of our detector are used:

  • Dynamic mode “All metals.” In this mode, the metal detector beeps only when it is moving. The travel speed of the coil must be the same.
  • Static mode “All metals.” The movement is not important here. If the coil stationary and making a sound hence, the treasure is located directly under it.

To pinpoint the object’s location, move the coil as if drawing the letter X. Mark the point where you hear the maximum sound. Then sweep the search coil back and forth, perpendicular to the first movements. If the detector responds to different points, then move the metal detector until all sounds are combined at one point. The object’s exact location will be at the intersection of all visual lines, where the maximum sound will be. When you find this place, leave a mark, and you can start searching for the treasure.

5. Digging a Plug

The search for the treasure came to the main point – digging a “plug.” Be extremely careful here. Usually, many objects are located near the surface. When digging, carefully examine the ground with a metal detector so as not to miss anything. A good treasure hunter will always fill up the unearthed places after himself. Read our guide on best digging tools.

6. Practice

Practice using a metal detector before looking for treasure. Explore all its settings and modes of operation. Try to create an “artificial” treasure. See how the detector will react.

A novice treasure hunter’s behavior when searching is always different – it is characterized by sharp swings of the coil to the sides, down and up. This is wrong. Learn to control a metal detector from the very beginning. The coil moves smoothly, without sudden swings, at the same distance from the ground. Remember, the closer the coil is to the ground, the deeper the detector sees.

Change the device’s parameters and watch the readings on display – how it determines the type of finding at low or high sensitivity. It is good to search for deep-lying targets at a low sensitivity level, and at a high sensitivity level, small targets lying on the surface are perfectly detected.

Check the capabilities of your detector. After a few preliminary tests, you will understand how to use a metal detector and begin to “feel” it, which is the most important moment in treasure hunting.

Photo of author

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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