I currently use four different metal detectors, four different brands. I could definitely be just as effective with one or two machines and an extra small coil, but I’ve ended up with these and make them work for me.
I would like to explain my thinking on when and how I use each of these machines. Please note that I am not recommending anyone buy these specific detectors. Each can be used completely differently and effectively from the way I use them, and a variety of detectors can serve the same purposes, and be adjusted to work in different scenarios. Keep in mind I am primarily a Civil War relic hunter and a coin-shooter. Also, here in landlocked middle Tennessee, I am not a beach hunter!
My primary go-to machine for a civil war relic hunting is the e-Trac. It is outfitted with a European D-Tech thirteen inch coil. I found eight Civil War plates last year, and all but one with this setup. I feel that specific coil is a “plate magnet”. Whether that is true or not, any confidence we can obtain in equipment goes a long way in this hobby.
I have a giant, heavy seventeen inch coil for getting extra stuff out of heavily hunted, iron-infested sites. It is too heavy for me to carry all the time, but awesome for “pulling a rabbit out of a hat” in a tough site with some iron that has been heavily hunted. I also have small five inch coil for attacking high trash sites like tear-outs where the majority of the finds are less than 3 inches or so in heavy debris and trash. What is cool is not having to pinpoint with the small coil. The coil is so small you just dig where you get the signal – its under the coil! This coil is too small to use all the time – hunting a field with it would be tedious, to say the least.
I like to run the e-Trac two tones, almost no discrimination, and sensitivity manual 24 when possible. I’ll crank it up on hunted out sites, and drop it down in tough soil or heavy iron with mostly shallow, masked targets.
I have thousands of hours on the e-Trac, so it is like a trusty golf club to me. It is particularly good at helping me identify tricky targets masked by iron.
I pull out the F75 with stock coil when I need extra depth in a site that has been hunted heavily or is clear of heavy trash and shallow targets. I’ll also pull it out as a change of pace machine when I’m in a slump.
I run the F75 in all metal, sensitivity typically around 85+ for maximum depth at the expense of accurate target ID. I cannot run the F75 with any discrimination whatsoever – drives me mad and makes me want to put a bullet in it. The F75 feels unapologetically sensitive. It is deep and noisy. The noise bothers many detectorists until they start digging 18″ bullets, for example. I dig most of my insanely deep keepers with the F75. It will sniff out small items at well over a foot, and once you learn how in your test garden, it will give you just enough information to tell the deep target is not a nail or iron, for example.
These two detectors are “thunder” and “lightning” for me. Between them I’ve been able to pull a variety of tough great targets out of the ground. The way I use them, the e-Trac is stronger in iron, and the F75 is deeper for me – even using the stock coil versus a larger coil on the e-Trac. Truth is I could probably do without the e-Trac before I could do without the F75, because the F75 is so much deeper on bullets and coins in “hunted out” sites than the e-Trac.
I recently obtained a used XP Deus with a 9 inch coil mostly out of curiosity just to fool around with the wireless design. The processor is way faster than any of my other machines and it has a lot of potential I don’t use yet.
What I’ve found is the Deus is a monster in the Middle Tennessee woods, hills and underbrush. It folds up to fit in a backpack with my Lesche mini-Sampson shovel and I can hike with it. My headphones don’t get ripped off my head by underbrush, and it is featherweight, dead silent and fast. I can maneuver it through underbrush and swing it ridiculously fast without missing anything. Any trace of sound I hear is a target. I don’t get a lot of depth with it yet, but it is incredibly fun to hunt with, and it rules the woods.
The AT-Pro is the most popular detector out there according to last year’s D365 reader poll. At less than $600, it rivals machines three times its cost. 2014 Middle Tennessee Master Hunter Johnny Pryor absolutely excels with one.
I use my waterproof AT-Pro solely for water hunting. I grabbed a used one when I almost drowned my e-Trac. I love not worrying about dropping it. It rules the water. I reserve it for water hunting, and haven’t taken the time to max out it’s capabilities for other types of hunting.
So there you go. That is a rundown of how I’ve taken four different machines and various coils and have adapted them for a variety of different detecting conditions. This is why there is not answer for the question “What is the Best Metal Detector.” It depends on what you are hunting for, where you are hunting, and under what conditions you end up in on a given site.
Some of you are probably shaking your heads as you use one or more of these machines completely differently, for a different condition, and probably more effectively than I do. My tip and point here is that a metal detector is just a tool, like a hammer. It doesn’t actually find or dig anything. It is a tool that enables us to identify and dig buried coins and relics. We have to make our machines work for us.
The important thing is that we recognize the different types of detecting: field hunting, iron hunting, trash hunting, creek hunting, hitting hunted out ground, and woods hunting, just to name a few. We have to master each of these separately, even if all are done with the same machine with different settings and techniques. If I were using a single machine, I’d incorporate different settings (sensitivity, discrimination, etc) for iron and trash, then those settings I use where I’m trying to max out depth, for example.
Taking advantage of the strengths of different machines and coils for different conditions and applications can provide big advantages.
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