Have you seen posts on social media littered with cool items that others are finding, and thought you could get a metal detector and get into the hobby? It looked easy on YouTube. It seemed like you just swing the coil a bit and find jewelry, old coins, or historic items. Some of you run right to the beach or historical property, thinking that it is the best place to learn. Some feel it will be so simple that you don’t read any manuals or do the research to see if your new metal detector even works in the soil conditions that you want to detect. Then you swing a bit and realize you are only getting trash, tin cans, rusted nails, and pull tabs, and you wonder why is everyone else finding cool things but not me.
Buying a Metal Detector
If you go to Amazon, some detectors have 100s to 1000s of reviews that state they are a great machine. But are they good for your soil or sand, and what you want to detect? For example, just because it says it works on the sand or has a picture of someone using it at the beach doesn’t mean it will work on your local beach. Before buying a detector, ask local metal detectorists what to buy, and why. You can find detectorists near you by joining local metal detecting groups on Facebook, calling a local metal detector dealer, or going to a metal detecting club meeting. I have seen too many newbie detectorists have false hope that they will be successful with detectors that are truly junk but hyped up with false reviews from Amazon. I have also seen them buy the wrong type of metal detector for their local soil or sand types.
Metal Detector Settings and Practicing Using Them
To be good at metal detecting, you need to learn your detector. After you have bought a quality detector that is ideal for your local soil, you need to learn its strengths and weaknesses. You need to know how to adjust the detector’s settings and figure out what each change affects, and why that is important. At this point, you should know how to ground balance, the stock settings, and how to discriminate. Grab coins, jewelry, and some garbage, such as a bobby pin, rusted nail, bottle cap, and a pull tab, and throw it in a patch of grass to learn the tones. Play with your metal detector. Spend time getting familiar with each button, mode, and sound using real objects. Try different swing speeds. Then bury those items and swing over them. See how the tones/sounds and numbers change when they are on the surface versus buried several inches down. By the time you are finished, you should recognize the unique sounds of a penny, a rusted nail, a pull tab, as well as a ring.
Finding the Right Location to Detect to Be Successful
Those who are getting bucket list finds, the ones who are finding the jewelry, the old coins, and cool relics are successful because they are doing their site research. If they are beach detecting, they have learned what kind of weather, type of sand, and sand patterns to detect to find jewelry. For those interested in old coins and relics, they spend countless hours before they walk out the door looking for old sites, doing map overlaying, taking old historic maps and lining them up with new maps, reading history books, talking to local old-timers, looking at city records, and more. It isn’t about walking out the door and detecting; it is about the research you do beforehand that makes you successful. Doing your research pays off because, if there is nothing lost, there is nothing to be found. If there is nothing there in the past, there is nothing to detect in the present.
Some of my favorite sites to use for those of you who are metal detecting in the United States are:
Adjusting Your Metal Detector Settings for What You Are Detecting
Now that you have spent time learning all the settings on your detector, did your research on where to detect and what you are detecting for, you should be able to adjust your settings. Fine-tune the detector, such as changing how many tones you detect with, change the discrimination as well as the recovery speed. These will all be personal preferences and specific based on the site and types of items you are detecting. Just remember, seasoned detectorists say it takes around 100 hours on a new detector to be proficient at using it.
Keep Your Metal Detecting Expectations Realistic
When you see all the cool finds on social media that others are recovering, you are also not seeing the amounts of trash they find as well. The pull tabs, the bottle caps, the can slaw, and so on. Even the best of best detectorists, who can discriminate almost everything, dig up trash thinking it could be an old coin, jewelry, or relic. You will be digging up trash and lots of trash. No detector can discriminate everything but gold. Don’t expect on your first outing, or first few outings, that you will dig up cool finds. As I mentioned before in past articles, this is a hobby of patience, not a get-rich-quick hobby. Keep in mind, social media is full of the more eye-catching finds, not the piles of garbage that were found along the way.
Find a Metal Detecting Mentor
Finding a metal detecting mentor will greatly speed up the learning curve. To find one, tiptoe and do it respectfully. Don’t go into metal detecting groups and ask key detectorists if you can tag along the next time they go detecting. This will give you a bad rapport. Instead, find your own spots and ask them to tag along to help you assess the site you found. You need to give as much as you take. The best way to show appreciation to an advanced detectorist that you want to learn from is to tell them about a spot you researched and invite them to come to help you assess the area and see how to detect it. In time, that mentor might invite you to their spots.
If you are doing all the above steps, you will get better finds. Don’t get discouraged, but be more calculating in your approach. There is a science to detecting, it isn’t just walking out your door and swinging. Happy hunting, and share your finds in Focus Speed’s Metal Detecting Facebook Group.
Joanna Jana Laznicka, a Czech-Canadian residing in Southern California, is passionate about all things associated with metal detecting. She mainly detects on the West Coast, from Southern California to Northern British Columbia. As the founder of Focus Speed, her goal is to bring quality content to metal detectorists.