Buying and Using Your First Metal Detector

Buying and Using Your First Metal Detector

Before You Buy

Before you buy your first machine there are a few things you should think about:

How much time do you think you will spend metal detecting?   If you plan to detect a lot of hours a week then go for a machine that has more features than a machine where you will only be spending the odd few hours on a Sunday.  The more features a machine has the more it will cost so if its just a bit of fun you want then go for a basic machine.  Do you want a basic switch on and go machine, or do you want more features?

What is your budget?  Remember as well as buying the machine itself, there will be other costs for accessories you may need like headphones, digging spade, beach scoop, control box rain covers and batteries.

Where do you intend to use it?  If you live on the coast a machine for beach detecting maybe a good choice for you. There are machines specially designed for wet sand detecting called PI machines (Pulse Induction).  Most machines are designed for inland detecting and they also perform well on the dry sand of a beach.. There are also some machines that will do both, inland and wet sand. So keep this in mind before you buy.


  • Consider the weight of a machine, some are heavier than others and will effect how long you can detect.
  • Decide if you want to buy brand new or second hand. Weigh up the pro’s and con’s.
  • Join a metal detecting forum online.  There you will meet fellow detectorists who will give you unbiased advice on all aspects of metal detecting.
  • Read reviews on the internet to give you some idea what controls a machine has and what they do.
  • No one machine suits everyone, there is a vast range out there.  Think about a machine that will meet your own needs.

Buying Your First Machine

Forget about buying one of those cheap ones in toy shops, really, that’s all they are, toys.  You will soon get fed up with them. Expect to pay around £150 ($250 US) for a good basic starting machine that will find you stuff.

Don’t get caught in the money trap.  A £300 ($500 US) machine can perform as good as a £600 ($1000 US) machine. Just the latter has more ‘bells and whistles’ and that’s what you pay for.  Ok if you want more bells and whistles mind.

If buying new, buy from a reputable dealer.  That way you will have a warranty on the machine with good after sales service.

Best to buy within the UK (or your country of residence)  just in case of problems that can occur with machines and need to be returned.

Some machines are switch on and go, others need setting up and programing.  How good are you at modern technology?

Check out the kHz ratings in the specifications on different machines. Basically, the normal kHz rates for our detectors are 3 kHz to 19 kHz. The lower end say 3-6 kHz machines are better at finding larger and thicker coins and are not effected  so much by ground mineralisation, but the recovery speed is slower. The higher end say 16 kHz-19 kHz are better at finding small thin coins and the recovery speed is faster. The middle range 7 kHz – 15 kHz are neither the fastest or the deepest, but do not suffer from some of the problems of the other two ranges. In fact, this middle range kHz are responsible  for most of the finds ever made.

Using Your First Machine

Now the day has come when your new machine arrives and you set it up.  Don’t rush out detecting willy nilly to test it.  First you have to understand it and see what it does, read the instructions and then the best place for testing  is in your own garden.  Do a test bed and bury a few coins a couple of inches deep and sweep over them and listen to the signals.  Then bury some trashy stuff like a bottle top, nail or a rusty bit of iron.  Listen to the different signals and get used to the controls.

Now you can go out proper detecting.  Try and find an area that’s not overloaded with signals as that will drive you barmy.  Find a field or the dry sand of a beach,  that will be less contaminated making it easier to learn.

Keep your machine in All Metal Mode for a while and dig every signal.  That way you will see what the different sounding signals are relating to which objects. You can slowly learn the discrimination and sensitivity controls later.

Don’t expect finds every time you go out.  You will have bad finds days like us all. The usual pattern is at first you will spend hours only finding trash items, drink cans, old rusty iron, silver paper, bottle tops or maybe an odd decimal coin or two. Then as you get more experienced, amongst the trash you start finding average finds like old pennies, buckles, buttons or some other artifacts. These are finds that inspire you and before long your finding nice old coins, interesting artifacts, great pieces of history.  Then one day, you dig up something that makes you feel total excitement, I mean real excitement to get you dancing and that’s the hint of silver and gold.

Keep your coil as low to the ground as possible. If your swinging your coil three inches above the ground, you are losing three inches depth under the ground.

Remember: Slow and Low.  From my own experience and confirmed by many detectorists slow and low is the way to go.  At first when you start the instinct you get is to race around like a headless chicken trying to cover the field as fast as you can trying to find stuff, then after half an hour you think there’s nothing in this field and try another one.  You can miss a huge amount of ground like that, also a lot of finds.

One way that’s accepted is on a new field do the Union Jack method.  Detect all around the edges and then detect corner to corn.  On a large field split it into sections by taking notice of any markers like gates, trees etc on the fields edges.  If you hit any hot spots, cover that area well.

Remember to slow down. This cannot be stressed enough. You have to slow down in order to allow your machine to process the signals.

Patience, Persistence, Knowledge.

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