Guide to Metal detecting: the basics

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Sachin ReddyWritten by:

What is metal detecting and why do so many people do it?

Metal detecting is considered by many as so much more than just a hobby. Basically, it consists of trying to find metal objects using specialized equipment called metal detectors. As the name indicates, a metal detector is basically a piece of equipment that can detect metal objects and send signals to its holder. Even if the objects are buried on the ground or deep in water, the right metal detector will find them for you.

If you have the right equipment, metal detecting can be done on the ground, sand, water, or any other type of soil or environment. Moreover, and depending on your goal, some materials (like gold or silver) and items are more desired than others, and a good metal detector may help distinguish between what is worth digging up and what isn’t.

This is an increasingly popular hobby all around the world. Every year there are more people doing it, for various reasons.

There isn’t a right or wrong reason to start metal detecting. The motives that make people start metal detecting can be quite variable. Some are collectors that expect to find coins and other artifacts, others are historians or share a love of History and finding ancient objects, some just do it for the money they get after selling their findings, and others just love exploring, physical exercise and outdoor activities.

What do you need to start metal detecting?

Contrary to what you may think, metal detecting can simultaneously be a very basic and a very complex hobby. Depending on your level of commitment and experience, there are many things that can be done using a metal detector and many different ways you can go hunting.

Nonetheless, if you’re a beginner trying to figure out how to start this new hobby, there are a few basic things you’ll need to know and have.

The right mindset

This is the most important thing you need in order to start metal detecting (and the best thing is it won’t cost you a thing).

This hobby requires patience, persistence, and willingness to study, but it candeliver so much more in return. Here are some basic tips on how you should think about this new activity:

  • Be willing to use the trial and error method;
  • Be prepared for not always finding what you’re looking for;
  • Practice as much as you can;
  • Do your research (metal detecting laws in the area, the history of the places, how to use your metal detector to its full potential, among other questions that may arise);
  • Choose the right place and timing (avoid places with too many people, choose the calmest moments of the day, and be wary of the weather conditions);
  • Ask experts for advice.

The right equipment

You may read plenty of expert advice and tips saying you need all kinds of complex equipment for metal detecting. And while some pieces of equipment actually make the task a lot easier, that doesn’t mean you can’t hunt without them. In fact, if you’re just beginning and don’t know where to start, know that there are only a handful of things you’ll need at first. Start with that, and as you gain more experience and are sure you want to pursue this activity at a more serious level, then you can start thinking about expanding your equipment according to your needs.

Metal detector

This one is pretty obvious, right? Afterall, you can’t go metal detecting without an actual metal detector.

For first-timers, it’s advisable to use an entry-level metal detector. In order to choose the best equipment for you, you need to consider answering a few key questions:

  • What is your budget?
  • Where are you planning to start hunting?
  • What are you going to search for?
  • How serious are you about metal detecting?

Answering all these questions will give you a fairly good idea about which equipment to buy. If your budget is low and you’re trying out to see if you like the hobby, buying really expensive equipment isn’t the best idea. If that is your case, start with a really simple and affordable metal detector. For example, you can find very good entry-level metal detectorsfor less than $200.

The detectors for beginners are usually all-purpose detectors, meaning the technology isn’t especially directed to finding a specific type of item or object. This is usually enough for mostfirst-time hunters, but if you’re planning on searching for gold, for instance, you’ll need to find a specialized metal detector (usually known as a gold prospecting detector).

Also, make sure you choose waterproof equipment if you’re planning on searching anywhere near water (either salt or freshwater).

In terms of detector technology, very low frequency (VLF) detectors are usually the most affordable and are effective for beginners to use. Pulse induction (PI) detectors are usually better in terms of performance but are also usually more expensive.

Extra equipment

The metal detector is the most important thing you need (aside from the right mindset), but you can also bring a few extra things that will make the task easier:

  • Extra batteries for the detector (rechargeable, if possible);
  • A bag to store your findings;
  • A case to carry your metal detector;
  • A small shovel or hand digger to help you dig up the items;
  • Food and water, if you’re planning on staying outdoors for more than 2 hours.

These are not extremely essential but can make your whole experience a lot more comfortable. If you feel like trying out other pieces of equipment, you can also acquire a pin pointer to help you better locate your items (there are also detectors with included pin pointer functions).

And that’s it, all that you need to start your metal detecting practice in a very simple yet effective way. Once you gain more experience, you can add more specialized equipment and even replace your entry-level metal detector.

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