Like Indiana Jones trying to discover The Lost Ark, the metal detector game can get pretty complex. Finding the right one for you depends on precisely what and where you are looking to hunt. It sometimes requires Indiana’s degree of patience, problem-solving aptitude and willingness to explore the environment.
And it involves searching for metals hidden under the ground, from coins and jewelry to relics – whether that be materials made from silver, nickel, iron, copper or even gold. (Please note that if you’re hunting for gold an entry-level detector will not sophisticated enough to have any luck. That requires detectors specialized for gold hunting such as the Fisher Gold Bug Pro.)
If you aren’t looking for gold an entry-level detector will get you in the game. You want to make sure that the detector you choose is comfortable to use, as you may be swiping across environments for hours at a time. Repetitive motions can cause injury over time, so generally lightweight is good for a beginner who is still learning the ropes.
Another caveat you need to consider is whether you intend to hunt in areas with high mineralization (also known as “hot ground”). These terms mean that there are high percentage levels of iron in the soil (this is the case in specific regions such as in the Pacific North West and Virginia). Highly mineralized ground may cause a false signal – essentially having a masking effect against the detection of valuable metal objects that are hidden just inches within the ground. Generally, entry-level detectors don’t do well with these environments.
Beginner detectives also struggle with being with salt water. So if you are searching around beaches, on wet sand say, the salt may confuse the detector in a similar way to iron. These environments require mid-level metal detectors that have automatic ground balancing features – countervailing false feedback coming from minerals. Those models generally start from about $500. (Please also note that it’s usually a bad idea to take a beginner detector into wet areas. Although the coils are waterproof the control box isn’t – and if you lose grip in a moment you will destroy the detector.)
Toy detectors VS real detectors
Most detectors have roughly similar designs – they are made up of:
- a round coil at the base (which is what detects metal – using electromagnetic waves)
- the control box (this allows you to adjust settings)
- and the shaft (a long neck that connects the control box to the coil)
However, you may come across cheap versions that are sold in toy shops or your local Wal-Mart. Note however, that a rough price marker for a true detector should be around $150 – detectors priced below this are toys rather than
professional instruments and cannot be used for serious metal hunting (they will have very unreliable weak signaling and you will end up simply wasting your time).
What you’ll need is an entry-level professional detector designed for beginners, but packing the punch to sniff out metal accurately and get you reliable results. In this article I’ll go through a selection of the best, most popular general- purpose beginner metal detectors so that you can begin your journey.
1. Fisher F-22
This may be the best metal detector for beginners. The F22 is Fisher’s replacement of their previous model the F2, which was very popular for beginners. One of the coolest features of this detector is that it’s rainproof (although the control box cannot be submerged in water) – so the Fisher-22 is your best friend in dry or wet conditions.
Another cool feature is something called iron-audio (which happens to be an uncommon feature for entry-level metal detectors) – this is simply a secondary tone that sounds, separate to the regular metal detection tone. That lets you know on the fly if your target has iron composition, saving you precious time from constantly checking your LCD screen.
The control box gives you 4 detection modes (discrimination modes): jewelry, coins, artifacts and custom mode, with 4 separate tones to indicate target identification. Very importantly (to your shoulders) this is an especially light detector at only 2.3 ibs. The large 9-inch concentric coil lets you target large areas with each swipe. There are also 10 levels of sensitivity. Comes with a noticeably long 5-year warranty.
- For detecting coins, jewelry, and artifacts
- Features pinpoint mode
- 10 adjustable sensitivity levels
- Weather resistant
- Detects metals up to 9 in. deep
2. Garrett ACE 300
The successor in the ACE line – the 300 is an upgrade to the ACE 250 with: extensions to its targeting ID database (now includes US coin denominations), a larger coil (10” – giving you superior coverage per swipe), better maneuverability, and improved audio functions. A cool added feature is that the frequency being searched for can be adjusted – you can eliminate particularly big interferences (such as from other detectors during group hunts). An overall higher frequency of 8 kHz means improved sensitivity to metal targets.
Features 5 search modes plus the pinpoint feature, which lets you narrow down on the exact area where your target is by only registering a sound when the base spot, a small specific part of the coil’ directly below the handle in some cases, is directly over the target (saving you from doing more damage/sifting/digging than necessary). Also has 8 sensitivity levels. Comes with a 2-year warranty.
3. Tesoro Compadre
Minimalist US-made design – instead of a digital LCD screen on the control box there’s has one super-simple central knob. It’s got a lot of good ratings and this may partly be down to its intuitive ease of use. The only setting you need to think about is the discrimination level. For example, when hunting a site with lots of rubbish just twist a single knob once to increase discrimination.
This detector excels at discovering coins and can do well with relics. In terms of weight it scores a 10/10 – it’s extremely lightweight. So if you want to go easy on your shoulders you’ve got your pick. It even comes with a lifetime warranty (including free repair free of charge if you have any issues with it 8-years after initial purchase).
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So that’s it – 3 super reliable and popular choices for entry-level metal detecting. If you want a weatherproof metal detector with lots of great features (including iron-audio), and great reviews, you really can’t go wrong with the Fisher-22. That would be my select pick for a beginner. But if you have other specific needs (such as even lighter weight, which the Compadre may win at) then perhaps one of the others may suit you better. Wishing you good returns on your hunting journey!