Ground Balance, Relic Hunters!  Speak It!

Ground Balance, Relic Hunters! Speak It!

“Army with harmony.  Dave drop a load on ’em. GB, how can I explain it?  I’ll take you frame by frame it – To have y’all jumpin’ shall we singin’ it?  G is for Ground, B is for Balance. You down with GB ? Yeah you know me.  Who’s down with GB ?  Every last homie.” – Naughty by Nature (adapted)

Traditionally, as part of my regimen, when I’m swinging my F75 or Deus, or any of the number of machines I’ve used in the past, I’d do the old “butter churn”, jacking the detector’s coil up and down at the beginning of a session and then forget about it.  I’d even settle on a certain number and knight that number king of Middle Tennessee (Sir 57 on the F75). “It’s always around 57 in these parts.”

It wasn’t until I sat down with legendary Mississippi artillery shell hunter James R. that I considered GB more seriously.  I was asking him for tips on hunting for artillery shells.  He’s dug a boatload of them,  I’ve dug a bunch of frags and sabot, and pried out a complete Borman sticking up out of the bottom of a creek bed, but to date I have not actually dug a complete shell, though I’m certain I’ve walked right over them.

So James says something like “Well man.  It’s all about Ground Balance.”

“Well man, It’s all about Ground Balance” – James R.

And he went on to wax poetic about how critical perfect ground balance is to get maximum depth required to reach heavy shells that have sunk deep into the ground over 150 years or so.

The principles of Ground Balance he went over were just like the ones stated in the manuals – the sections I’d scanned over quickly albeit.   I’d always looked at Ground Balance as just another startup step, like letting up the landing gear after you get a plane off the ground.  “Ground Balance.  Check.” But GB is much more important than that if you want to absolutely max out your machine’s performance.  After several hours in my test garden messing with Ground Balance, I was able to make some adjustments that took me to an HNL (Hole Notha Level).

You want to get that extra three inches of depth?  Ground Balance.

You want to hear that silver dime at ten inches that is in close proximity to a big nail?  Ground Balance

You ever been detecting and get in a zone, feel like you can just hear and see under the ground? Ground Balance

You ever go back to a site you have hunted out and it seems like the ground has opened up, and more signals are available then were last time?  Now certain conditions such as ground moisture and electrical conditions can affect, but more than likely your Ground Balance is more accurate this time.

You want to actually find something on a site that has been previously heavily hunted?  Ground Balance

I learned very quickly that poor Ground Balance on today’s heavily hunted sites is like walking around beating the ground with a broom handle.  You are probably killing your depth, target ID, and your time.  And mediocre Ground Balance can be just as bad on a site that has been heavily hunted in the past.

If you don’t already know this, or your haven’t taken it to heart, Ground Balance is simply how the detector cancels out the freaking ground.  Picture a Civil War belt buckle buried in a five gallon bucket full of nails, or better yet at 35 feet deep.  That is poor ground balance.  Now picture the same Civil War belt buckle suspended in mid-air in the center of  a fish aquarium.  That is good Ground Balance.  Which plate are you going to find?

Basic GB
So sure, ground balancing the machine at the beginning of each session is a good idea.  Also, knowing generally good ground balance numbers for your area is also a great idea.  But the news flash is that this is not good enough for hunting today’s heavily hunted sites.  Our ground balance needs to be exceptional to maximize our chances of getting home with something to clean in the sink.   So what else?

Better Ground Balance
I’m usually hunting a site that has been hunted scores of times in the past, so I need every last quarter-inch of depth, and every single advantage in trash and iron I can get.   So I run my sensitivity jacked up with little or no discrimination, at the expense of poor target ID, in order to “get there”.   What I’ve learned, however, is that my machine Ground Balances better if I turn the sensitivity down, GB, then crank it back up.

Re-Ground Balance
As a general rule, I ground balance the machine every few minutes, especially if I’m not finding anything.  I make notes of how the numbers change when I do.  I’m comfortable if the Ground Balance

GB Based on Changing Conditions
Fill dirt.  Clay.  Moisture.  A thunderstorm is moving in.  Temperature drops.  It gets dark.  A strange-looking cat crosses the street.   If anything changes, then I will Ground Balance the machine in a couple of different spots until I’m confident it is set correctly and accurately.

Validate Ground Balance
If I dig a ridiculously deep good target such as a Civil War bullet at 14 inches plus, I make a note of the Ground Balance number and am more prone to stick around that number on this site, because I know it works.

Jacking the ‘Balance
I’ve experimented in the test garden with plus and minus ground balance in certain situations, like trying to hit fairly shallow targets with iron.  As a result, if I’m in a nail bed using zero or minimal discrimination, I’ll GB in clear ground first, then tweak the GB manually plus or minus 2 or 3 points until I feel the high tones are clearest in between the low grunts of the iron.   This is an advance technique that requires training your ears and working it out in a test garden.

Stay Vigilant 
If I’m finding stuff, I’m less paranoid about ground balance.  After all, my number one rule is that if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it. If I’m not finding anything on a good site, especially if my hunting partner is, or I know for a fact the goods are here, I am more watchful on Ground Balance.  I don’t want to be the guy that might as well be walking around wacking a broom handle into the ground.

Auto GB
The MineLab e-Trac automatically ground balances itself in real time, making automatic adjustments on the fly.

My favorite Ground Balance Videos:

F75, the Old Warhorse:

AT Pro:

XP Deus
Beware – many detectorists just set GB to “Tracking” on the Deus.  This is an expert setting, however, and there is some debate on whether this can cause issues in heavy iron.  I recommend starting with 90 and working it out manually out in your test garden.   Remember the better the GB, the better detector stability and depth:

CTX 3030

Photo Credits
Miramax Films



Discuss This Article