Talking The Talk – Metal Detecting Terminology

Talking The Talk – Metal Detecting Terminology

No one wants to spend half of the day finding can slaw yet we all find our share of it.  We’d rather be finding some Civ or roundness in the hole. I mean what is better than finding some juice in our new nectar sector?  Heck even finding some Nitro is better than finding a handful of Leaverights, wouldn’t you agree?  If you’re a veteran detectorist you probably know exactly what I just said, but if you’re new to the hobby you are probably wondering WTH I just wrote!  That’s understandable, every hobby or sport has its own lingo or terminology that takes some time to get used to. Metal detecting is no different!

In the beginning all of these new terms can be confusing and overwhelming.  Don’t worry though, by the end of this article you will have a greater arsenal of dirt fishing faux pas in your pock that will impress even the  most dedicated swingers amongst us.  You’ve probably already heard a few of these terms but soon you will have more detecting terms in your pouch than you can swing a loop at!

I’ve tried to categorize these terms into five categories but most of them apply to just about any type of metal detecting.


Coil or Search Coil: The round loop at the end of your detector.
Digger: The tool used to dig your targets. Usually a hand tool.
Discrimination or Disc: In layman’s terms, Discrimination allows you to eliminate specific metal targets.
Display: The target identification screen on your metal detector.
Frequency: The number of complete alternating current cycles produced by the transmit oscillator per second.
Ground Balance: Adjusting the detector to the mineralization in the soil.
Hipmount: Mounting the control box of your detector with a belt on your waist.
LCD or Liquid Crystal Display: Used on a metal detector as a graphic visual indicator same as a meter/needle indicator.
Loop: Metal Detector coil.
Notch:  Filtering circuitry which allows a “window” of desirable targets to be accepted within the entire rejection range of unaccepted targets.
Pinpointer: Hand held metal detector used for target recovery.  Helps find targets in the hole.
Probe: A tool to pinpoint the target while still in ground.
Pouch:  Bag or Pouch to hold detecting finds and trash items.
Scrubbing: The search coil is pressed and held in contact with the ground while searching. Used to gain additional depth.
Sensitivity: The capacity of a metal detector to perceive changes in conductivity within the detection pattern.
Target ID: A meter or display that shows you what your target might be.
Tone ID: Different sounds identifying different types of metal.

Beach Hunting Terms:

A Cut: An area that is usually covered, that is now exposed.  Somewhere that the water has “cut” or eroded into the sand.

Beach Hunters: Metal Detectorists that mainly hunt beaches.
Dry Sand: The sand where people lay their blankets and lawn chairs.
Wet Sand: The high tide line to the low tide line, at low tide.
Blanket Line: The first 10 ft in the dry sand, from the high tide line.
Gridding The Beach: Detecting using a pattern as you walk along, most common is “straight” lines in one direction, then criss-crossing from the opposite direction.
Hot Rock: Usually a black volcanic rock, meteorite, or a rock that gives  a metallic signal.
Erosion: A part of the beach that will strip right down to bedrock.
Black Sand: Iron particles that are so small they look like sand.

Coin Shooting Terms:

Buff: A Buffalo Nickel.
Clad: Any U.S. coin that is “sandwiched” with alloys of different metals.
Coinshooter: A detectorist that mainly hunts for coins.
IH: Indian head cent.
Injun or Indian: An indian head cent.
Merc: Mercury Dime that is actually a ‘Winged Liberty Dime’.
Mint Mark: A mark placed on coins to let you know where the coin was minted.
Rosie: Usually refers to a silver Roosevelt dime.
Roundness: Usually a coin in the plug but can represent any round target.
Walker: Walking Liberty Half Dollar.
Wheatie: Wheat back cent.
Zincoln or Stinkin Lincoln: 1982 and newer Copper Plated Zinc Pennies.

General Terms:

Air Test: A test performed by moving various sized metal samples beneath the metal detector search coil to check the detector’s features and target response.
Beaver Tail: The old-time, triangular-shaped pull tabs that were actually pulled off of the can when opened.
Cache: A large amount of coins or jewelry buried together in a container or in the same hole.
Can Slaw:  Bits and pieces of aluminum cans.

Dirt Fishing: The hobby of metal detecting.
Find: Something you found metal detecting.
Finds: The total targets that you found during your hunt.
Freestyling: Knocking on doors, driving around,and hunting immediately after getting permission.
HH: Happy Hunting, a term used to wish someone luck in their hunts.
Grid: A set pattern used to cover the most area when detecting. Usually in a # # # pattern.
Hunted Out: Refers to any treasure hunting location that seems like a great place to detect that isn’t yeilding many, if any finds.
Juice: Juicy good target in the bottom of the plug.
Keepers: The targets that you keep whether good or bad.
Leaveright: An unwanted or exceptionally large  find that makes you Leave’r right There!
Loner: A detectorist that doesn’t belong to a club, or that primarily detects alone.
MDing: Metal Detecting.
Metal Detectorist: A person operating a metal detector in the field.
Nectar: A term for any sweet find.
Nectar Sector: An area where multiple good targets are found.
Newbie:  Someone new at the hobby.
Nitro: A very nice looking piece of jewelry that turns out to be fake, almost causing a heart attack When first dug.
Non-Ferrous: Not of iron. Metals of the precious class like gold, silver or copper.
Overlap: The amount of search coil “overlap” on each swing.
Pinpointing: Finding the exact target location with respect to a search coil’s designated center.
Plug: The chunk of dirt and grass that is opened when retrieving a target.
Pock: Pocket or finds pouch.
Seeded hunt: A hunt where the the finds have been scattered or planted. Sometimes a contest type of hunt.
Skunked: Not finding anything good.
Swing Time: The amount of time you spent detecting.
Target: Refers to any object that causes an audio or visual response in a metal detector.
Target Masking: When large or high concentrations of trash metals suppress weaker, positive responses from deeper or smaller targets.
Test Garden: A small test garden where one buries coins & other metal items to test out their metal detectors depth and other features.
Tone ID: Circuitry producing different audio tones for each target’s conductivity range, i.e., low tone for nickel, high tone for coins.
Topsoil: The first 4 inches of ground.
Tot lot: Any Children’s Playground.

Relic Hunting Terms:

A Drop: A bullet that has never been loaded, and looks like it was never shot. Likely dropped by a soldier.
Civ: A slang term for any civil war item found while detecting.
Cologne: Any find that is from the Colonial era.
H.O.I: Hunk Of Iron.
Honey Hole: A good detecting spot that keeps producing targets, and finds.
Relic: Any item found that is a remnant of days gone by.
Relic Hunter: A detectorist that mainly hunts woods, homesteads or battlefields in search for relics.
Rev: A revolutionary war item found while metal detecting.
Round Ball: A round Civil War musket ball.
Three-Ringer: A type of Civil War musket ball with three grooves on it.

Then there is My Personal MD term that I coined: Incidental Civ: When detecting an area you don’t know the history of and you dig an item from the civil war. Incidental Civ!

Final Thoughts
Obviously there are other terms used to describe the hobby of metal detecting, but these are the most commonly used.  Now you will have a better understanding of what others are talking about when you hear them say that they “Gridded the tot lot at their honey hole for fresh drops.”  I’m sure a few terms were missed, so if you have a few to add, Leave A Comment and share with the rest of us!

Happy Hunting Everybody!

Image Credit: Detecting.Us

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