Metal Detecting Tips & Tricks for Beginner Detectorists

Sometimes it’s the little things that can make or break a hobby or an experience. You want to set yourself up to have some great hunts when you’re first detecting –- it’ll help you stay interested in the hobby if it’s exciting for you.

Discover Detecting

But how do you do that, exactly?  Well, here are a few tricks I’ve learned that will help you get started out on the right foot.

Below, please take a moment to view a few of the most popular metal detectors on today’s market by using our interactive guide:

Garrett AT Max$$$Waterproof to 10 feet
Fisher F22 Fisher F22$$9″ Triangulated Concentric Coil
Garrett Ace 400 Garrett Ace 400$$$8.5 x 11" DD coil
Minelab Vanquish 540$Search Modes: Coin, Relic, Jewelry, Custom, All Metal

Find the Perfect Detector

Your detector will become a part of you. It’s like a Jedi with his lightsaber. It has to feel comfortable – it has to feel right. You’ll be carrying that detector for a long time to come so you need to be careful in the selection process.

I’d like to tell you that when you hold the detector that’s right for you, you’ll just know. It doesn’t work like that. You need to have some understanding of what features are important to you. You can do that through research or by seeking out another detectorist.

The main thing you need to do is match up your detector’s features with your needs – maybe that will mean a high quality metal detector or maybe it won’t.

If you buy a detector because you think it’s cool that it can be submerged in water for up to 10 feet, but you don’t even know how to swim, you’ve just wasted your money on a feature that will do you no good.

If you want to hunt for gold, you need to look for a metal detector that is best at finding it.

Pay attention to details like this when choosing your detector.

Start with the Basics

Before you drop hundreds or thousands of dollars on detecting equipment, take a step back and ask yourself if you need it. People in the 1970s weren’t decked out in fancy equipment when they were detecting – they carried a digging implement and their detector and that was it. And it was enough.

These days, it’s easy to get swept up in the never-ending gear parade for detecting. In just a few minutes on your computer, you can buy gloves, pouches, bags, scoops, pinpointers, various sizes of coils, and a dizzying array of shovels and knives. It’s easy to get caught up in the hoopla.

Before you decide what you need, go out on a hunt with just the basics and see how you do. You might find you’re happy with just your machine and shovel. If not, you can always add things later when you have a better idea of which items will be useful to you.

Below, please take a moment to view some of the best-selling metal detectors currently on sale at Amazon:

1) Garrett AT MAX
2) Bounty Hunter TK4 Tracker IV
3) Bounty Hunter Gold Digger


If you’re looking for something in particular while metal detecting – for instance, civil war relics, you’ll need to do some legwork. You might get lucky and find a Civil War bullet during an outhouse dig like I once did, but to stand a real chance at finding specific relics, you’ll have to do the research.

Here are some of the primary places your hunt will begin:

Libraries: Look for local historical books, or scour through old newspapers that have been digitally saved.

Historical societies: No one can remember local details like the older people who generally run historical societies. They can give you the scoop on undocumented local lore and legends that might prove valuable to you – the stuff you won’t find in any book.

Old local maps: If you can get your hands on old maps for your town, you’ll be able to find the location of long-forgotten parks, public land and schools. You’ll be able to find older items there than you will at a more modern park.

Online: You can learn a lot about your town, or areas that had Civil War battles, by searching various websites.

Clubs: If you can find clubs that go back 100 years or so, ask current members where their original headquarters were. Most organizations have moved several times during their evolution over the years.

Find Private Property

Before you head to the nearest park to start hunting, you might want to consider going somewhere that likely hasn’t been picked over as much. While you can still find great things on a previously hunted site, you shouldn’t spend your first few hunts trying to pick up someone else’s sloppy seconds.

You should go to fresh territory. Maybe that will be your own property, or maybe it will be a family member’s land or even a stranger’s property. If no one has ever hunted on the property you are about to detect on, that could be the hunt of your lifetime.

Get It in Writing

Gone are the days you could seal a deal with a simple handshake. These days you need it in writing. If you ask for permission to dig on a friend’s yard, you’re fine with a gentlemen’s agreement.

If you are digging on a public site that you need permission for or if you are digging on school grounds, it’s best to get your approval in writing – whether it’s an email or just a signed form.

In case there’s any problem while you are digging or if a police officer shows up and questions your right to be there, you can whip out your piece of paper and you won’t have to do anything further.

Age Matters

When you’re metal detecting, age is a good thing. You want to find old items, and to do that, you need to be at sites that have history. Start with the oldest houses you have access to, and you’ll likely find all kinds of things. They might not all be valuable, but they’ll be interesting and you’ll have fun looking them up on the internet to figure out their age.

Follow Your Hunches

You see a spot you want to try out, but have no idea why? Go for it. With metal detecting, you never know what will pay off, so follow your random hunches, especially ones that are based on common sense.

When I was hunting at one site, the landowner thought I would be better off sticking to the dirt driveway alongside of the house and the backyard. I dug everywhere he thought I should and I found some great things.

I told him I wanted to try the other side of the house, which hadn’t been used as much according to him. He thought it was a waste of my time, but he agreed to let me try. I wanted to try that side because there was a big, old beautiful tree there. I could picture people 100 years ago sitting under that very tree during hot summers for shade.

After a few minutes under that tree, I found a silver ring. My hunch had paid off, and the property owner was dumbfounded.

Make Friends

One of the best ways to get and remain excited about metal detecting is by checking out the finds other people are making.

I recently connected with a lot of metal detectorists through Twitter. Seeing their daily finds – some of which has been found in other countries — has been motivating for me. As a resident of the U.S., I’m thrilled if I find something from the 1800s. Although you can find older things here in the U.S., it often pales in comparison to the items they find in Europe while metal detecting.

Almost every single day on my Twitter feed, I see pictures of unearthed Roman coins and so much gold it is mind-boggling. Every time I see these items, I find myself heading out to my vehicle to steal a few minutes of hunting time. Will I find a Roman coin while I’m out there? Probably not. But I might find something of value or find something that I’ve never found before. I’ll expand my horizons, get some exercise, and most importantly, feel like a kid again.

Always Be Prepared

I’ve had some great impromptu hunts. They’ve been made possible by the fact that I always have my metal detecting bag in my trunk. It’s full of everything I need, and being prepared has paid off when I’ve been at parties, meetings and even at work.

When I mention metal detecting to people, there’s usually one person at every setting who is interested and wants to learn more about it or see a detector demonstration. Some of those demonstrations have turned into offers to go to that person’s house and hunt their property.

I was once ready to whip out my detector outside my office because my boss thought she had lost a ring outside while smoking a cigarette. As I headed out to my car to get it, she found the ring had fallen off into her purse. Even still, I earned the appreciation of my boss for my willingness to help her.

Be a Careful Digger

In my early days of detecting, I unearthed a few bottles at a dump site. This was the first time I had dug bottles out of the ground, and I was surprised at how time consuming it was. Digging bottles requires extra care because they are so fragile.

Because I was so new to the hobby, I didn’t realize where there’s one bottle, there’s usually more. I dug deeper in the hole to extract the bottle I saw and as I shoved my digging knife deep into the soil around the bottle, I heard a sickening crack.

I had struck another bottle in my attempt to dislodge the first one. I had broken a piece of history, and, even though it turned out to be a common, low-value bottle, I still felt sick about it. I learned an important lesson that day – slow down and dig with care. Even hard metals like coins can be damaged if you strike them with your digging knife.

And then, there’s the risk of hurting yourself, as you can view in this video from a user on YouTube below.  So, again–be very careful!  Watch out for yourself and your friends or family you may be detecting with!

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