Metal Detecting

Metal Detecting for Beginners: Complete Guide to Get Started

Are you thinking about going Metal Detecting for the first time? Read our complete guide on how to metal detect for beginners where we cover the basics.

To many people, people walking around scanning the ground with metal detectors look pretty silly, but you shouldn’t knock it before you try it.It’s actually a really exciting and downright addictive way to pass the time.

Not only can you find some really interesting historically significant items, but you may even score some pretty valuable treasures. In fact, for some people, metal detecting is quite a lucrative hobby.

If metal detecting intrigues you and you’re thinking about joining in on the fun and adventure, it’s important to prepare yourself before you head out. Sure, you could just grab any old metal detector and start scanning the ground to see what you can score, but if you want your newfound hobby to be as enjoyable – and successful – as possible, being prepared is an absolute must.

In this guide, you’ll learn all the basics of metal detecting for beginners. We cover:

  • The history of metal detecting
  • Why metal detecting is a popular pastime
  • Equipment you’ll need
  • How to choose the best metal detector for your needs
  • Where to metal detect
  • Metal detecting decorum
  • How to get permission to scan
  • Tips for responsible digging
  • Cleaning your treasures
  • Helpful tools and accessories

So, sit back, relax, and get ready for your introduction to the exciting world of metal detecting!

Metal Detecting can be a rewarding hobby
Metal Detecting can be a rewarding hobby

The History of Metal Detecting

Metal detecting can be traced all the way back to 1881, when Alexander Graham Bell (yes, that Alexander Graham Bell, created the world’s first metal detector.

The famous inventor made the device to search for the bullet that an assassin shot into President James Garfield. Bell called his crude metal detector the “induction balance”. Unfortunately, the device was unable to locate the bullet in Garfield.

Fast forward to 1925 and the first portable metal detector was developed by Dr. Gerhard Fischer, a research engineer. Dr. Fischer’s work with aircraft radio detection inspired his idea for a portable metal detector.

He shared his vision with another famous inventor and scientist, Albert Einstein, who encouraged Fischer to proceed with his idea. In 1931, Gerhard Fischer patented his idea and founded Fisher Research Laboratory to mass produce and market hand held metal detectors for use by the general public.

Alexander Graham Bell
Alexander Graham Bell

While Dr. Fischer did obtain the first patent for his handheld metal detector technology and design, there were several other inventors who worked on refining and perfecting the technologies that are still being used in today’s modern metal detectors. Charles Garrett was one of those people.

Professionally, Garrett was an electrical engineer, but in the early part of the 1960s, he took up metal detecting as a hobby. Despite trying several different devices that were on the market at the time, he couldn’t find a metal detector that could do everything that he wanted it to; hence, he started working on his own design.

After conducting extensive research, he developed a highly advanced machine and founded Garrett Metal Detectors.

Thanks to the ideas and contributions of several professional and amateur enthusiast and ever-evolving technologies, the modern hand held metal detector was eventually created. Today, the technologies continue to change and new, highly advanced models are constantly introduced into the market.

The future of metal detectors is anyone’s guess, but one thing’s for sure: metal detecting is here to stay!

Best Metal Detector for Beginners
Read: Best Metal Detector for Beginners Reviews

Why Metal Detecting is a Popular Pastime

There’s no doubt you’ve see people metal detecting before. You can see enthusiasts scanning their devices over the grounds of beaches, parks, and historical grounds across the world. But why is it that so many people seem to love metal detecting? Why is it such a popular pastime?

Those are difficult questions to answer, as each person’s purpose for metal detecting is different. However, with that said, some of the most common reasons that most people enjoy this pastime include:

  • To uncover history. Countless historically significant items have been found buried underneath the ground with simple hand held metal detectors. There’s something so exciting and rewarding about finding a piece of history that you can actually hold in your hand!
  • To locate treasures. Antique and modern coins, precious metals; so many valuable treasures have unearthed thanks to the help of metal detectors. Those monetary value of those treasures vary from mere pennies to thousands of dollars (if not more), but regardless of the value, a metal detector can lead you to real treasure!
  • To be physically active and enjoy the outdoors. It’s no secret that physical fitness is important, but for many people, going to the gym and other forms of exercise are boring or just too taxing. Metal detecting is the perfect way to stay in shape. It not only gives you the chance to get outside and enjoy nature, but it’s also a great way to stay in shape. Walking is an excellent aerobic activity that provides numerous health benefits, and when you’re metal detecting, you can walk miles without even realizing it!

While many people assume that financial gain is the main reason why people enjoy metal detecting, in reality, for most enthusiasts, the thrill of finding hidden treasures from the past and exercise are the main attractions.

There’s nothing quite as exciting as hearing that blipping sound and digging up your first find! Even if it’s a small coin or a trinket from yesteryear, most people find that once they unearth that first item, they’re hooked and can’t wait to see what else they can find!

It's a thrill finding your first old coins
It’s a thrill finding your first old coins

Equipment You’ll Need

If the idea of finding buried treasure, participating in an enjoyable and exciting form of exercise, and potentially finding something really valuable has you intrigued, before you start scanning the ground, it’s important to discuss how you get started with this exciting (and even addictive) hobby.

It goes without saying that you’re going to need to invest in a hand held metal detector. There are literally endless options to choose from that offer varying degrees of technologies and are sold at several different price points.

While you might be tempted to buy a high-end model, for beginners, we suggest starting with an entry level device. Those detectors that offer the latest technologies are great, but besides costing a pretty penny, using them can also be a bit difficult to figure out.

When you’re just getting started, an entry level, basic model is really all you need. If you discover that you really do like metal detecting and you want to upgrade, you can buy a more advanced model later on.

Some great brands to consider include:

  • Fisher
  • Garrett
  • Minelab
  • Teknetics
  • Whites

There’s a lot of other metal detecting gear. Diggers, scoops, pouches, gloves, probes (the list goes on and on), and while those items may be useful for more advanced metal detectors, when you’re just getting started out, a basic metal detector is really all you need.

Best Selling Metal Detectors

SaleBestseller No. 1
RM RICOMAX Professional Metal Detector GC-1037 [Disc & Notch & Pinpoint Modes] Metal Detector Waterproof IP68 with High Accuracy [Advanced DSP Chip] Metal Detectors for Adults with Headphones
  • 💰💰[3 Modes of Operation]- RM RICOMAX metal detector has three distinct modes make you can optimize from in detecting metals. ① All metal mode - the metal detector notifies you whenever it sees any metal. ② Disc mode - you can utilize this metal detector to discriminate other types of metal for a specific one. ③ Pinpoint – This mode aids in the detection of metals by beeping.
  • 💰💰[Ease of Maintenance]- The underwater metal detector is an IP68 waterproof unit with a 10” search coil is shielded with plastic, and the shaft that the coil is connected to is made of aluminum. Also, this metal detector waterproof can be easily cleaned and save.
  • 💰💰[Hyper Digital Display]- ① 20% bigger LCD display screen that you can utilize in the finding of hidden metals. ② Nine brightness adjustment settings of this metal detector make you could use it in a different type of situations. Note: Two 9v batteries are not included.
  • 💰💰[User Friendly Design]- RM RICOMAX metal detector has a dimension of 48 x 10 x 10 inches, and it weighs 2.31 pounds. Besides, it has a 3.5mm headset jack that can be used with conventional headsets. It’s such a unit one can utilize with maximum comfort and freedom.
  • ❤❤[No Risk Investment]- We are confident about our RM RICOMAX metal detector. All our metal detectors were manufactured under strict quality standards and 100% checked before shipment. we offer LIFETIME call center support, any questions please contact us, and for sure we will find the right solution for you.
SaleBestseller No. 2
Bounty Hunter TK4 Tracker IV Metal Detector
  • Rugged metal detector ideal for detecting treasure in extreme ground conditions
  • Motion All-Metal mode, Discrimination mode, and 2-Tone audio mode
  • Preset ground balance neutralizes response to mineral content in the ground
  • Disc/notch control distinguishes between targets and unwanted metals
  • Rugged metal detector ideal for detecting treasure in extreme ground conditions
Bestseller No. 3
Garrett AT Pro Metal Detector
  • WATERPROOF TO 10 FEET OR 3 METERS Ideal for use in both fresh and saltwater AT Pro will ground balance to saltwater.
  • Includes NEW Garrett MS-2 Headphones
  • Includes Batteries Installed.
  • As seen on the TV Show Diggers
  • Includes Garrett 2 Year Warranty
Bestseller No. 4
Fisher F22 Weatherproof Metal Detector with Submersible Search Coil
  • Weatherproof all-purpose metal detector
  • Visual target-id by category
  • Weatherproof
  • Operates on 2 aa batteries (25-30 hours)
  • Fe-tone (adjustable iron audio)

How to Choose the Best Metal Detector for Your Needs

With so many different types of metal detectors, shopping for your first one can seem a little overwhelming. So, how can you be sure that you’re choosing the right device for your needs?

Here are a few factors that you should take into consideration to help you determine which metal detector will work best for you:

  • Where are you planning on hunting? While it’s true that entry level metal detectors can be used to detect treasure on most types of land, some work better for certain environments than others. For example, if you mostly plan on beach hunting, you might want to consider investing in a metal detector that is specifically designed for use over the sand. (More on popular metal detecting locations below).
  • What type of items are you aiming to find? Coins, artifacts, precious metals, such as gold or silver? (More on this topic below).
  • How familiar and comfortable are you with technology?
  • What type of experience do you have with metal detecting? Have you been out before with friends, perhaps, or will you be hunting for the first time ever?
  • How much are you looking to spend?

While taking these factors into consideration can definitely help guide your selection, the reality is this: all metal detectors – no matter how rudimentary or advanced – are designed to do the same thing: locate metal objects.

So, what’s with the different price tags and what makes some models more advanced than others? It’s the different types of technologies and extra features.

To further clarify, let’s say there’s a gold nugget buried under the ground. You’re using a machine that costs $100 and someone else is using a machine that costs $1,000.

Both metal detectors are going to be able to locate the gold nugget. Here’s why the two devices differ: While the $100 metal detector will be able to locate the piece of gold, if there’s a metal bottle cap near the nugget, the $100 detector won’t be able to determine what you’re aiming to find.

In this case, the $1,000 metal detector would likely be able to indicate that there are two different targets; one being treasure and the other being junk.

This is just one way in which less expensive entry level metal detectors are different from higher-end, more expensive devices.

Good Entry Level Metal Detectors

So, with all of that said, which metal detector should you pick when you’re just getting started out? Here’s our picks for some great entry level devices:

  • The F22 by Fisher
  • The ACE 300 by Garrett
  • The X-Terra 305 by Minelab
  • The Eurotek Pro by Teknetics

Best Selling Metal Detectors for Beginners

Bestseller No. 1
NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC Junior Metal Detector –Adjustable Metal Detector for Kids with 7.5" Waterproof Dual Coil, Lightweight Design Great for Treasure Hunting Beginners
  • FIND BURIED TREASURE – The 7.5” waterproof dual coil has adjustable sensitivity to help avoid false positives. The detector will beep and flash an LED light when it locates metal and has a detecting depth of up to 6 inches deep for small coins and metal objects.
  • GREAT FOR KIDS – A telescoping arm provides length adjustment while a padded arm strap and comfort grip make this metal detector easy to use for kids of all sizes. Makes a great outdoor gift for boys and girls!
  • LIGHTWEIGHT AND PORTABLE – The detector weighs just 1.4 lb (0.6kg). With the coil folded and arm support removed, it measures just 24-inches, and extends up to 39 inches long. Use at home, or pack it up for easy travel to any of your favorite treasure hunting spots!
  • FULL-COLOR LEARNING GUIDE – Learn the history of metal detectors, how the coils on your detector work to find metal buried underground, and much more in our detailed learning guide.
  • SATISFACTION GUARANTEED – The National Geographic STEM series provides kids high-quality educational toys that are a whole lot of fun! If your experience is anything less than extraordinary, let us know so we can make it right for you.
Bestseller No. 2
MARNUR Metal Detector Kit for Kids and Adults with Waterproof Search Coil Backlight LCD High Accuracy Adjustable Sensitivity Height DISC Notch Mode Full Accessories Treasure Hunt Easy Operation
  • 🌏【Accurate Metal Detector】MARNUR metal detector can detect various metals such as iron, aluminum, tin, copper, silver and gold. Three mode buttons provide you with more professional metal detection support. DISC mode can filter out your unwanted metals (iron, zinc, etc.). NOTCH mode aims to neglect the targets that you want to exclude. SENS mode can adjust 7 levels of sensitivity, which enables you to detect metals as deep as 8 inches below the surface and focus on the target.
  • 🌏【Large Diameter Waterproof Search Coil】The larger the search coil diameter, the stronger the search ability. The Metal Detector features a 9.84-inch large diameter search coil that increases the chances and accuracy of finding a target. The search coil of the metal detector kit is waterproof (water resistance rating of IPX7), so that you can detect underwater, hunting treasure on beach, stream, puddles and so on. Note:LCD control box is not waterproof.
  • 🌏【Backlight LCD Display】MARNUR metal detector has large backlight LCD screen, which allows clear reading even in low lights condition. The detection mode, sensitivity level, battery status and volume are all clearly showed in the screen. When low battery indicator lights, please replace the batteries.
  • 🌏【Practical & Ergonomic Design】Adjustable height (24''-34'') makes the metal detector suitable for both adults and kids. It is an ideal choice for family treasure hunt. Headphone jack of the metal detector allows you to detect without disturbs in a noisy environment. The metal detector's handle is made of soft foam and is ergonomic, providing a comfortable feel for long-term use of it.
  • 🌏【Complete Metal Detector Accessories】MARNUR metal detector kit has full accessories, including a multipurpose folding shovel (with a storage bag), a handheld rake, two 9V batteries, a carried bag, and a dust-free cover. The light-weight and compatible metal detector is your perfect addition for travel, vacation, camping or hiking.
Bestseller No. 3
Canway Metal Detector High Accuracy Adjustable Waterproof Metal Finder, LCD Display with Light, 10 Inch Waterproof Coil, 7 Target Categories, Depth Indication, Audio Prompt, with P/P Function
  • Adjustable Humanity Design: the metal detector from 33" to 40.6" adjustable stem applicable to kids and adults. The arm rest design saves more effort which gives you a comfortable state.
  • High Accuracy Detecting: you can tell what type of metal you've detected just by distinctive Audio tones. And the pinpointer function enables to pinpoint a target accurately. It also can ignore Junk metal and improve your detecting efficiency by setting the disc range.
  • Intuitive LCD Control Box: Ours metal detector equipped with large back-lit LCD screen to display depth(up to 8 inch deep), operating mode, sensitivity level, battery condition, and volume level, you can distinguish between 7 target categories and eliminate unwanted metals. LCD Screen is very intuitive and convenient.
  • Suitable for Different environments: 10 inch waterproof search coil enables to detecte to under water. Perfect for outdoor like beach, stream, yard. (Note: the control box is not waterproof).
  • You Will Get: 1x Metal Detector, 1x Shovel, 1x Carrying Bag, 1x User Manual. Any problems or questions, contact us any time. We will help you solve in time.
Bestseller No. 4
allsun TS20B Waterproof Metal Detector Junior Beginner Kids Underwater Beach Yard Ground Handheld Metal Detector LCD Adjustable Length Gold Hunter Searching
  • ▲〖SUPERIOR WATERPROOF METAL DETECTOR〗 is the finest for the casual explorer or beginner metal searcher. Many people buy this for their kids as it's light weight and very easy to use. NOTE: The measurement range is about 4cm in the air for a 5 cent coin.
  • ▲〖 LCD DISPLAY〗lets you find everything easy or just larger objects. And LCD lights allow for nighttime searching. It is designed to find metal,search gold & silver jewelry, coins and other metal in the ground. Power supplied by 1 piece of 9V, 6F22 battery or equivalent.
  • ▲〖ADJUSTABLE HEIGHT〗You can adjustable height of metal detector -adjust the metal detector's length for comfortable use. Makes a fantastic gift for birthdays, holidays, Christmas and for friends, family, and co-workers.
  • ▲〖DIY ASSEMBLING〗Cultivate your kids' manipulative ability.(Please put all parts together before exploration). It can be used to find missing or lost coins, pieces of jewellery and other metal objects.
  • ▲〖INTERESTING EXPLORATION TOOL〗Making this tool great for science and outdoor exploration! The metal detector is great for both boys and girls and will provide hours of learning, fun and entertainment.

Where to Metal Detect

Once you have your first metal detector in hand, you’re probably wondering where you should go to search for your first piece of treasure. The truth is, you can search anywhere; even your own backyard (in fact, you might be surprised at what type of treasures you’ll find right on your own property).

Besides your own yard, where else should you consider scanning the ground with your metal detector? Some of the most popular places that people search include:

  • Public parks
  • Public school grounds
  • The beach
  • The woods
  • Private property

It’s important to note, however, that before you start scanning, you need to be 100 percent certain that you are allowed to metal detect in the area that you’ve selected.

If you are metal detecting in a location where you aren’t allowed to and you don’t get the proper permission, you could end up facing some pretty serious consequences. Don’t risk it; check in with your government offices to ensure that you are allowed to metal detect before you just start scanning the ground. Just because a place is “public”, that doesn’t mean that you’re automatically allowed to metal detect, as a lot of public spaces prohibit this type of activity.

This is particularly true of federal, state, and county public locations. The same thing is true for public schools; always make sure you ask.

As for beaches, they’re pretty much open to metal detecting; however, privately owned beaches or beaches that are owned and operated by state and federal governments may prohibit this activity.

If you’re thinking about metal detecting on private property, again, the first thing you want to do is ask permission. Imagine a land owner’s horror and dismay if they found someone unexpectedly scanning their grounds? You could end up getting in pretty big trouble.

To summarize, there are a lot of places that you can metal detect, but as a general rule of thumb, always make sure you get proper permission before you get started.

Australia: Metal detecting is popular around the world
Australia: Metal detecting is popular around the world

Metal Detecting Decorum

It’s important that you are mindful of the land where you plan on hunting and the people who surround you. If you aren’t, in the best case scenario, you’ll end up getting some pretty nasty looks; in the worst case, you could be hit with serious fines and possibly even jail time.

How can you be sure that you are being a mindful, respectful metal detector? Here are some general decorum tips that will guide you on your hunting prospects:

  • Be respectful of all property, including public, private, and historical sites.
  • Never, ever hunt on any property – other than properties that you rightfully own – without first getting permission.
  • Do not, under any circumstances, inflict any type of destruction on any property you are hunting on. This includes buildings, signs, fences, lamp posts, and any other structures.
  • Always fill any holes that you may dig.
  • Follow all legislation – both on a local and a national level – that are related to the finding and reporting of any and all treasures that you find.
  • Any trash or debris that you create should be completely removed from the area when you are finished with your hunts.
  • Lastly, you should always adhere to the Golden Rule; that is, you should always practice proper manners and conduct yourself in a proper manner that will respectfully portray all other individuals who engage in the act of metal detecting.

As a general rule of thumb, make sure that you always leave the locations where you are hunting like they were when you approached them; if not in even better condition.

How to Get Permission to Metal Detect

As we’ve mentioned multiple times, you need to make sure that you get the proper permission before you start metal detecting on any property, other than property that you legally own.

Getting permission might sound simple, but for a lot of people, it’s awkward, and that’s understandable. Walking up to someone’s door and asking if you can walk around their property with a metal detector does seem a little weird.

Furthermore, some property owners might hesitate to allow you to hunt on their land because they might fear that you’ll damage their property, and that’s understandable, too.

So, how do you go about asking for permission? They key is to make sure you are confident, kind, and knowledgeable in your approach. You want to convey that you’re a “professional”, even if you’re only an amateur.

To that end, you might want to make up some business cards or a flyer that highlights your name, contact information, what you intend on doing, and your purpose for metal detecting. You could then knock on a property owner’s door and present the card or flyer; or, if you feel really weird doing that, you might want to consider sending it via the mail. If you opt for the latter approach, make sure that you ask the property owner to reach out to you with their response.

Make sure to ask permission before metal detecting
Make sure to ask permission before metal detecting

Tips for Responsible Digging

Now let’s discuss digging responsibly. On properties that are two acres or less, you should only use a hand digger (sometimes called a digging knife).

We like the digging tool made by Lesche. It features a serrated edge on one side, which makes digging through all types of roots a breeze.

When you’re digging for a target that you find, it’s referred to as a “plug”. This is the method that you should use on well-maintained lawns; school grounds and public parks, for example. Here are some tips to help you dig a plug with ease:

  • Once you locate a target, place your digger about 3 to 5 inches from the location.
  • Working in a counter-clockwise fashion, cut away at the ground. You don’t want to cut out a full circle, but rather a horseshoe. To avoid killing the roots of the grass, dig at least 3 inches into the ground.
  • Once you’ve made a horseshoe-like shape, pry up the ground with your digger.
  • Flip the plug so that it’s grass-down, using the part of the plug that you didn’t cut as a hinge of sorts.
  • Place a towel next to the ground right in front of the hole you’ve dug.
  • If you can’t locate the target, use your digger to remove more soil, placing that soil on the towel.
  • Remove your target from the ground.
  • Place any dirt on the towel back into the hole.
  • Flip the plug back over the hole.
  • Tamp down on the top of the plug, applying firm, yet gentle pressure with your foot.

Best Selling Diggers

SaleBestseller No. 1
DR.ÖTEK Metal Detector Digger Tool, Sturdy Heavy Duty Double Serrated Edge Digger, Gardening Accessories with Sheath Belt Mount
  • The perfect companion for treasure excavation: Great garden accessories suit for all your digging projects.
  • Double Serrated Edge: Wider range of Jagged helps you cut cleaner and deeper plug. Quickly and easily get down to your target.
  • Comfortable ergonomic design: soft rubber handle. A handy belt holder loop sheath comes with the digger. Easy to take down and flexible mount.
  • Quality Material:Extremely sturdy alloy steel with the heat-treatment. Not fade and not deformation. More durable than normal carbon steel. No more worries during your treasure hunting.
  • Size: 13.4’’×3.5’’×5’’ Weight:1.32(lbs)
SaleBestseller No. 2
SE Prospector's Choice 12" Serrated Edge Digger - GP3-SS30DT
  • 12" serrated edge digger is the perfect companion for gardening and excavating treasures
  • Material: heat treated carbon steel
  • Serrated edges cut clean and deep plugs
  • Sheath with belt loop included
  • Oversized comfort grip
Bestseller No. 3
Garrett Edge Digger with Sheath for Belt Mount
  • Product Type: Outdoor Living
  • Package Dimensions: 7.112 L X 7.874 W X 31.242 H (Cm)
  • Made From High Quality Materials
  • Package Weight: 0.454 Kilograms

Cleaning Your Treasures

Once you’ve recovered your targets from the ground, the next thing you’re going to want to do is clean them. They’ve been under the ground, so they’re going to be covered in soil.

To properly clean your, use the following tips:

  • Bring a soft-bristled toothbrush with you on your metal detecting excursions. Use this to brush off any loose dirt on the surface of your finds.
  • Once you take your treasures home, use dish soap mixed with warm water and a soft-bristled toothbrush to clean them off. We strongly recommend that you avoid using strong chemicals or abrasive cleaners, as doing so could damage the items you’ve found.
  • Alternatively, you could use a rock tumbler. It’s important to note, however, that this method of cleaning should only be used for items that are of lesser value.

It’s important to note that if you aren’t sure of the value of the objects you find, especially if you plan on selling them, you should avoid cleaning them. This is particularly true of rare coins and precious metals, as improper cleaning could significantly reduce the value of the item. For these items, wrap them in a towel and bring them to a professional to have them appraised.

Helpful Tools and Accessories

Now, let’s take a look at some helpful tools and accessories that you may want to invest:

  • A pinpointer, which is used to pinpoint your target, telling you the exact location of the item in your plug.
  • Diggers, which we’ve already covered above.
  • You won’t need them if you’re only planning on hunting for fun, but if you want to get serious about metal detecting, headphones can come in really useful, as they will help you locate your target with better accuracy.
  • Coil covers, also known as scuffs. They come standard with some brands of metal detectors, but not others. If yours doesn’t come with this accessory, you should consider buying them, as they protect the search coil of your metal detector from scratches and scuffs.
  • Pouches and bags are helpful, too, as they can be used to carry your tools and your finds.

Summing It Up

In this guide, we’ve covered the basics of metal detecting for beginners. Now that you have this information, go ahead and suit yourself up with a metal detector and the appropriate tools, then head out and have some fun!

Jake is an explorer, he loves all types of outdoor pursuits such as hunting, fishing & hiking. Jake has been a full-time writer & blogger for many years now and he's here to share his passions with the BeActiveOutdoors readers. Contact Jake@beactiveoutdoors.com

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