First off, I’m a relatively new metal detectorist, only upgrading to my Nokta Makro Simplex+ in August 2020 after getting into the hobby with an old favorite, the Bounty Hunter. From then till now, I’ve had 106 metal detecting trips in the San Diego area and have even made one trip farther up in Orange County.
I’m primarily a beach hunter, and this has provided me with a unique set of challenges. San Diego has a relatively large amount of metal detectorists, and these numbers are constantly growing. Many hunters are getting into the hobby with higher-end machines, which admittedly have the edge over the Simplex+. I realized very early on that if I wanted to be successful with the Simplex+ and find the “fun stuff,” I’d have to put in a lot more work and hunt a lot smarter. Southern California is notorious for its mineralization on the beaches and the dreaded “black sand.” The Simplex+ does struggle at times, but it is possible to find the targets! Having hunted a lot in the wet, I have been pleasantly surprised to find that on most beaches, my detector performs amazingly when I’m knee to waist-deep in the water. However, I do realize that’s not always going to be the case.
San Diego’s low tides often expose vast areas that will be full of targets, thanks to the amazing weather we have here. Just turning on the Simplex and swinging it over these areas will produce a symphony of bleeps more akin to Space Invaders than your standard metal detecting. However, I’ve found that dialing down the sensitivity to 2-4 bars and having your ground balance manually adjusted to zero helps eliminate most of this “chatter.” The trade-off, of course, is that you sacrifice depth and might not hear every target that you pass. I had read that using “Field Mode” with these settings would help give a little more depth, but that’s not been my experience, so I’ve consequently fought a lot of chatter and suffered quite a few false signals.
Nokta Makro, Simplex Setting for Black Sand
The modes I’ve found most versatile are “Park 1” and “All Metal Mode,” which are my default settings on most days. When I’m submerged in the water, I only use All Metal Mode as I can often push the sensitivity quite high. However, once I’m in that sweet spot at low tide where the water hits your ankles but leaves you with shiny sand (you know the spot?), I drop the sensitivity and swing low and slow in Park 1. I’ve learned that by slowly gridding the beach from the edge of the dry to the waterline and back, you’ll cover most targets. When hitting black sand, however, everything gets turned upside down and becomes incredibly difficult. And that’s even before trying to avoid “hot rocks” that ring up as anything from low iron to beautiful quarter signals. The hack I’ve discovered for black sand is to rather counter-intuitively raise the ground balance to 100, which has admittedly been somewhat hit or miss, though at times, successful.
Once I had learned some of my detector’s limits, I knew I needed an edge to put me in the right places at the right times, so this is where I put in most of my work:
- Research and reconnaissance.
- Go to the beaches at peak times, watch the live surf cams, note important dates that would draw crowds to the places that you hunt.
- Observe where people gather in the water or on land and see where they are most active.
- Remember these spots and return either at low tide when they will be exposed or at sundown when most people leave the beach.
I also carefully watch the weather and surf reports to see when the swells will be largest at high tide, causing “push-in” events (these sometimes yield amazing things that have been lost long ago but have only now been dredged up by the waves).
I found this hobby at a time when I (like most people during this pandemic) needed something to center myself and transport me from daily worries. Being able to get out and walk miles while in this semi-meditative state of anticipation, concentrating on the sounds of the detector waiting for that signal, has helped me greatly through these difficult times. Not to mention: every now and then you get prizes! No matter how bad the hunt goes and how much trash you dig, remember: it only takes one good find to make it an amazing trip, so why not also make it enjoyable cleaning the beach while enjoying a good walk in the sand? Get out there!