Note: Article Reprinted from Detecting365 Tip of the Month for the Middle Tennessee Metal Detecting Club.
All serious metal detectors are highly configurable with a myriad of built-in modes, settings and adjustments that can be made, plus the ability to switch out coils. Sure the manual and defaults can get us started right out of the box, but I’ve found that mastering my detector’s capabilities requires that I learn how to set the detector up manually for different situations.
NEWS FLASH: THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS “MAGIC SETTINGS”
I used to use what I call “magic settings”. I searched the forums and spoke to “experts” that used my machines to see how they set their machines up for maximum depth and performance. I set my machine up the same way. I did well, so I always ran the detector with those settings.
At some point I came to the realization that no single set of settings is always 100% optimal because the nature of the sites we detect vary wildly in amount of trash present, amount it has been detected, and the nature and average depth of remaining targets – just to name a few factors.
What took me to a “Hole Notha Level”, or HNL, was learning how each of the available settings on the detector affected the performance. Then, via experimentation, I learned to tweak these settings for different conditions.
By setting my detector up in a manner tailored to the nature of the site at hand, I can increase its performance. If I need more depth and to hear very deep targets better, I can tweak it for more depth. If I need to pick non-ferrous targets that are not necessarily very deep out of heavy iron and trash, then I set it up differently to do that.
“Magic Settings” are a great place to start. I have several sets of settings that I start with and make necessary adjustments in the field as necessary.
SURVEY THE SITE
In order to setup a detector to work best on a given site, first we need to know what we’re dealing with.
If you are unfamiliar with a site, taking 15 minutes to detect the site will give you a good idea for how trashy, how much iron, nature of targets and how much the site has previously hunted. This will give you a good idea of how you should select and set up your equipment.
SETTINGS AT YOUR DISPOSAL
Vary with each detector. Discrimination, sensitivity, ground balance, frequency/channel, and audio response are some common ones. Some detectors have specific features such as the ability to amplify the audio for deep targets, or how to display multiple targets during a single sweep (i.e. display strongest target or strongest accepted target), or compensation features for hunting in trash. Unless the manufacturers made a design error, most of the detector’s settings are adjustable for a reason. Understanding them requires consulting the manual and experimenting with them. I’m amazed at how often I turn up something I didn’t know or I misunderstood when I go back and read my detectors manual.
USING MULTIPLE DETECTORS
Since each detector has its own strengths and weaknesses, if you have the luxury of owning multiple detectors, you may consider opting to use the detector that performs best considering the conditions of the site at hand. For example some detectors may get extreme depth, while others may respond better in trash or heavy iron.
Another advantage of using multiple detectors is you can set each up for a specific general use such as “hunting in trash” or “searching a hunted out site with sparse, deep targets” and just turn the appropriate detector on and go.
USING DIFFERENT SIZE COILS
It is interesting to me how different coils can make the same detector feel completely different, and not just in depth detection. A 5-6” sniper coil is great for getting targets in heavy trash and nail beds that you otherwise might not snag.
An oversize (15-17) inch coil may not only provide additional depth, but may provide clearer audio signals and target identification. They can be extremely heavy. I like to say one of mine feels like detecting with a brick tied to the end of a cane pole, but otherwise is awesome. You can, of course, use a sling to handle the weight.
Some coils handle electrical interference better than others and allow you to run at a higher sensitivity if needed. I try to select a coil that I feel gives me the best chance to win given the nature of the site.
“IF IT AIN’T BROKE, DON’T FIX IT”
My mentor once gave me that incredible, simple advice. Call it superstition, luck or whatever you will, but any of us that detect enough to get into dry spells/slumps knows that when you are in the zone, you don’t want to do anything to adversely break the streak. As long as you are finding stuff, you have no need to radically modify your settings, switch machines, or randomly purchase the latest detector.
I make necessary adjustments during a given detecting session. Modifying sensitivity and frequencies, for example to handle interference. Or switching detectors or coils to hunt a trashy area of an otherwise relatively clean site.
If you are hunting a site several times, additional adjustments can be made as you change the nature of the site. I’ll cherry pick a “virgin site” with one set of settings, for example, and move to different settings, detectors, and/or coils as desirable targets become harder to come by.
Sometimes adjustments may also be useful just to try something different when you aren’t finding anything.
MOVE ALONG. NOTHING TO SEE HERE.
No detector settings are going to magically make great targets suddenly appear in the ground if they aren’t already there. Sometimes the best play is to find another place to detect.
I am always attempting to discover new tricks to add to my arsenal from other detectorists, working out in my test garden, and experience out in the field. One of the things I am currently experimenting with is manually jacking up the ground balance setting on one of my Fisher, which seems to give me a bit of additional depth at the cost of poor target identification. This has yielded some good finds on some very pounded sites.
One of the great things about metal detecting is the journey to continually improve our skills by learning our detectors like the back of our hands and continually improving our effectiveness out in the field. We can certainly be effective by using manufacturer recommendations or the recommended settings of other users, but we can take it to an HNL by mastering our detectors to the point where we understand how to adjust them for specific site conditions. Best of luck on your next hunt!
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