Metal Detecting Tips and Tricks

by Michael Bernzweig

Metal Detecting Tips and Tricks

Just as you are learning how to use your new metal detector, a landowner approaches and says, "Hey, get off my property with that thing!" You quickly realize that there must be some rules about where you can and cannot use your metal detector. These rules and a whole lot more will be discussed in this article to help you learn how to use your metal detector.

Some amazing discoveries can be produced by metal detecting, which is a fun and exciting hobby. Whether you're looking for buried treasure or just want to find some old coins, a metal detector can be a great tool. 

Follow these steps when using a metal detector:

  • Choosing the right detector
  • Doing your research
  • Knowing the rules and regulations when detecting, and
  • Using the right metal detecting technique

You can use a metal detector as one of the best ways to explore the outdoors; you can use a metal detector as one of the best ways to do so. By following these simple tips, you can make the most of your experience as you learn to metal detect.

Choose the Right Detector for Your Needs

There are multiple metal detectors on the market, and each can be used for a different purpose. When choosing the best metal detector for you, it's important to consider what you will be using it for. If you're looking to find large objects, then you will need a different detector than someone who is coin shooting or looking for smaller objects like an old coin.

There are two main types of metal detectors: Very-Low Frequency and Pulse Induction metal detectors.

  • A VLF detector is used to find a variety of objects, including coins, copper wire, relics, jewelry, and most commonly, gold. They use a low frequency to find objects buried underground.
  • On the other hand, a PI metal detector detects buried metals by reflecting a pulse of energy. For best results, use this detector in areas with high mineral content in the soil, as it can be fooled by objects that contain metal but are not good conductors of electricity.

Gold metal detectors, for example, are made to find gold nuggets and other precious metals. The frequency of these gold prospecting detectors is set to a higher range so that they can pick up on these small pieces of valuable metals. Coin detectors, on the other hand, are made to find coins and other treasures buried underground. These detectors have a frequency that is specifically calibrated to find smaller objects. While prospecting for gold, you might enjoy trying your hand at gold panning. Aside from hobby models, there are also industrial models used for locating a hidden metal contaminant or two in foods.

Some of the most common and effective hobby metal detectors for beginners include:

  • Garrett Ace 400
  • Nokta Makro Legend
  • Fisher Gold Bug Pro Metal Detector
  • Bounty Hunter Platinum Pro

Garrett metal detectors are produced in Garland, Texas. The company was founded by Charles Garrett.

Do Your Research

Before heading out on your first metal-detecting adventure, it's important to do some research on the topic. Knowing where to look and what type of metal detector to use can make all the difference.

To learn more about metal detecting, there are numerous online resources available, including metal detecting forums and websites. These resources can provide you with information on where to find good spots for metal detection, as well as what types of metal objects to look for.

In addition, it's important to familiarize yourself with the local laws and regulations on metal detecting. Some areas have specific rules on where you can and cannot detect, like in a national park or state parks, so be sure to know them before heading out. These areas may require you to fill out a metal detector permit application before doing any detecting.

When hunting for treasure, it's important to choose an area that is likely to have something buried underground. Popular spots include parks, beaches, and abandoned buildings.

Metal Detecting Technique

Your technique is key when metal detecting. There is a difference between the type of detector you have and the type of soil you are detecting.

To use a metal detector:

  • Stand in a comfortable position 
  • The stem should be adjusted so that the transmitter coil and receiver coil hover just above the ground when you hold the device.
  • Swipe the machine from side to side while walking slowly. 
  • Raise the search coils during a sweep to produce false readings. 
  • Continue sweeping in smaller paths and then a circular motion to isolate the area after a target ID is revealed by a beep.

The most common technique is to slowly sweep the detector back and forth across the ground. The detector's magnetic field will cause any metal objects in the ground to create an electric current. When you hear an alarm or tone from the detector, stop and take a closer look at the area. You may have found something metal!

Another technique is to use a discrimination setting on your detector. This will help you to weed out unwanted metals, like aluminum cans or foil, from the objects you're looking for. 

When digging for buried treasure, use a small shovel or spade to carefully uncover the object. Be sure not to damage it or the roots of any plants in the process! If you are detecting on the beach, consider a beach scoop for recovering your targets.

Know the Safety and Security Rules When Detecting

Responsible metal detecting is the most important part of participating in the hobby. The metal detectorist code of conduct is basic safety and etiquette for anyone using a metal detector. Here is a metal detecting tip or two to remember:

  • Respect private property - always ask permission before entering someone's land.
  • Be aware of your surroundings - avoid trespassing and being in areas you're not supposed to be.
  • Leave the area as you found it - don't disturb the ground or vegetation.
  • Take only what you can carry - leave any treasures you find for others to find.
  • Be aware of metal detectors laws in your area - make sure you know where you can and cannot detect before heading out.

Remember that when you're out with your metal detector, you're an ambassador for the hobby. There is no point in tarnishing the reputation of our pastime, and we shouldn't pass up the chance to educate anyone who asks about it. Do not trespass on private property. Before going onto any land, ensure that you have permission to remove the metal object you have uncovered.

Understand Your Equipment

Search Detection Mode

Metal detectors have a discriminate mode and an all metal mode. When using the discriminate mode, junk targets will be removed. The all metal mode is used to pinpoint the exact location of your targets. More advanced metal detectors include a notch filter discriminator to selectively choose which targets to filter out. More basic metal detectors include a simple discrimination mode that will just filter out a broad range of targets. Preset search modes at low frequencies will penetrate the ground deeper for relics and low conductivity targets like iron. Higher frequency modes will not go as deep but are best for finding high conductivity targets like silver and copper. The all metal mode is also commonly referred to as a non-discriminate mode.

Ground Balance

Most mid and upper-level hand-held metal detectors include a ground balance feature. In areas with mineralized soil, it is important to ground balance before metal detecting. A properly ground balanced metal detector will be able to filter out ground minerals so that your handheld metal detector does not give false signals. The ground balance procedure can be automatic or manual, depending on the brand and model you own. Saltwater beaches, areas with very mineralized soil, and gold-bearing areas require ground balancing. This will reduce false ground signals from ruining your day. Proper balance will help you avoid ground mineralization interference.

Sensitivity Setting

Once you have set up your detector's sensitivity adjustment, you can begin metal detecting. When you increase the sensitivity adjustment, the metal detector will become more sensitive to smaller targets. You will also be able to locate deeper targets. If you decrease your sensitivity, you will not be able to locate targets as deeply or as small. If your sensitivity is too high, you will pick up interference from other metal detectors operating at the same frequency or devices nearby. Other devices such as radio towers, electrical lines, dog fences, etc., may also cause issues. With your sensitivity properly set, you will be able to find the valuable targets you are searching for even if they produce weak signals.

Learn the Metal Detector Sweep Technique

Practice sweeping your metal detectors search coil over an area where no object should be detected. Once you have identified a clear or metal free area, you are ready to start. You can now ground balance your detector in this area. Using a correct swing technique will help you find more desirable metals no matter your location. Whether you are hunting a wide open field, flat ground, or a baseball field, the proper swing is important.

Use Different Sweep Techniques

First, practice sweeping from left-to-right, right-to-left, back-and-forth, forward-and-backward, and in circular motions. Each of these techniques will be important in your searches as you begin finding targets and pinpointing them.

Detecting Coins

As you are searching for coins, keep your coil on the ground and sweep slowly from left to right. Be sure that you are not lifting your coil off the ground at the end of each sweep. If you find yourself doing this you are trying to cover too much ground. Pick a narrow path and stay focused. Once you have located your coin, hit the pinpoint button. Now be sure to make an x with your search coil and criss-cross the target, and listen for the loudest signal. That is the center of your target.


Similar to searching for coins, when searching for Jewelry, you will want to follow a methodical path. Be careful when digging for jewelry, as you will not want to damage it. Gold and precious metal finds can be elusive. You may need to scrub your coil close to the ground as you are sweeping. Many times you might hear a very faint sound. Keep after it if it is a repeatable sound as you sweep from side to side.


As you are sweeping your search coil in pursuit of historical relics, you will notice some louder broader signals. It is not uncommon to start digging and to find the target suddenly disappears. If the target is made of iron, it may have corroded to the point that it falls apart as you begin to disturb the ground. Finding just one or two good relics like Civil War buckles, buttons, breastplates, and mini balls will make an effort all worthwhile.


A large hidden treasure can be made of gold, silver, and other types of metal objects, including precious metals buried in a vessel. For example, some common types of containers that a treasure would be buried in include a treasure chest can or a jar filled with coins. Deep treasure detectors can locate any type of metallic object and will each have unique sweep patterns and speeds. Treasure hunters will want to follow the directions that came with your device.

Find Your Hunting Grounds

Identify Potential Locations

Look at maps and aerial photos to identify areas where people have been digging holes to find the best locations for metal detecting. Check for signs of recent activity such as disturbed soil, broken branches, footprints, tire tracks, etc. Search for old wells, abandoned mines, quarries, etc. Top sites might include beaches, parks, old schools, fairgrounds, public parks, and more. Be sure to check out our giant list of the Top 50 Spots for Metal Detecting Near Me List . Here are the top 5 spots from that list:

1. Amusement Parks

Parks have typically been used for years, decades, and even centuries by people in local towns and cities. The amount of foot traffic that has gone through many parks means there are likely trinkets to be found that have been dropped over the years.

2. Local Schools

Similar to parks, schools have often been used for years, and the grounds around them could be littered with all manner of treasures. Coins, jewelry, and other lost item or two are likely to have been lost, making schools a great location for metal detecting near me.

3. Old houses

A wealth of treasure possibilities can be found around old houses. Depending on when the property was built, the former owners may have dropped or buried items, including coins and jewelry, around the property. The old floorboards, foundations, and porch are ideal spots to check. Be sure to thoroughly search walkways and driveway.

4. Local Public beaches and swimming spots

Beaches are always ideal locations to go hunting. They are frequented often by people and, despite being searched regularly, can turn up new findings.

5. Churches

You may need permission to search churches and dig around them. Once permission is granted, a buried treasure trove of items could be found, including old coins. Money was used by visitors as donations to the church. You may find a few stray coins around the church.

Research Local Laws & Regulations

As you are metal detecting in various areas, you will want to be sure to identify the local and national laws. In our guide to beach metal detecting tips, we noted, "This is a great question and will vary from state to state. In the United States, some state laws prohibit detection in certain public areas. Some laws prohibit hunting in national seashore areas. Some laws vary from town to town, depending on local ordinances. To avoid problems, you should always speak to your local authorities or metal detecting clubs before embarking on your beach hunt. Pay attention to local postings and signage as well. You will always need to ask permission when hunting on private property. Beaches in certain areas have additional regulations." As we noted in our tips for metal detecting in your neighborhood, "Each time you go on a hunt, make a record of the coins you've found and their date. Circle the sites with coins dating earlier than 1965, and you'll have a record of your best-digging sites."

Know the Rules

We at Detector Electronics Corp. encourage responsible conduct and strict adherence to all local, state, and federal regulations, as well as unconditional respect for the rights and property of others and for those we all share. Although these values and standards aren't explicitly stated in each article you read on our site, they are fundamental to our philosophy, efforts, and goals. Be sure to read and abide by the Treasure Hunter's Code of Ethics.

Get Permission

When you are metal detecting on private property, be sure that you get permission from the land owner. It is as simple as researching the owner of the land and asking for permission. In many cases, land owners may be excited to see what you find and find value in unearthing the artifacts for future generations to enjoy.

Be Prepared!

Make sure you know all the details before going out into the field. Make sure you understand the legalities involved. Know who owns the property you plan to search for. Be aware of any special considerations. Have everything ready, so you don't waste time searching for things you already found.

If you do find something valuable, do your best to track down the original owner. Many times, some simple steps like checking yearbooks for inscribed items, checking locally lost and founds, and posting an ad online will help you reunite the item with the owner. The joy and happiness shared by the owner will many times outweigh any financial gain you might forgo by returning the item.

Leave No Trace

Be sure to leave the area better than you found it. Make sure your holes are covered and filled in. Many metal detector enthusiasts will take extra time and care to refill their plugs, knowing that their good behavior will keep great hunting sites open for future detector visits.

Clean Up After Yourself

If you dig up anything, clean it off quickly to identify the target. Don't throw away items unless they are obviously trash. Take pictures if necessary. If you do find trash, be sure to discard it properly. Do not toss it back in the hole, as that will be frustrating for other detectorists who may frequent the site in the future. What did we learn today? As we can see, using a metal detector is not just about setting your controls and adjustments. The true spirit of using a metal detector properly involves being a good ambassador for the metal detecting community. So you ask, how will this affect our future searches? As you turn on your detector at each new location, remember the learning lessons of proper settings, sweep technique, and the rules and ethics of metal detecting. Metal Detectors are an essential tool for anyone who loves treasure hunting.

Be Patient

If you are looking for gold, silver, or other precious metals or relics, then you should be patient while metal detecting. It takes time to find these metals. You can also get lucky and find them without any effort at all. But if you want to make sure that you have found the right spot, then you should be careful and patient. As you begin your search, you will see that there is a lot of digging involved. You may hunt for hours locating only junk targets and modern coins. All it takes is one swing of the detector to locate valuable items. At the end of the day, stay focused and be patient. The rewards of your hard work will come in time, maybe not on this trip but with persistence. Remember, the more junk targets you dig, the better your chances of finding that one valuable keeper that you will have for years to come.

Stay Safe

Find Buried Utilities Safely with a Metal Detector.

To prevent damage to underground utilities during construction, utility locating involves locating underground utilities (electricity, gas, telephone, cable television, fiber optic, etc.). Call 811 to find a licensed and trained professional for Locating Buried Utilities with a Metal Detector. If you are looking for buried utilities such as water lines or gas pipes, you can use an industrial metal detector to locate them. A metal detector works by detecting the presence of ferrous metals like iron and steel. These metals are common in underground infrastructure so that they can be detected by the device.

Benefits of calling 811 before Locating Buried Utilities

When excavating on a site with buried utilities, such as gas, electric, or water lines, you should call 811 before any excavation work begins. An 811 service connects people with utility companies so they can get help before excavation takes place. It also provides a way for utility companies to locate underground infrastructure. Call 8-1-1 before you start any excavation project, such as digging up your lawn, driveway, sidewalk, etc. You can use this service to determine where underground utilities are located and to avoid damaging them during construction projects.

1. Avoid unnecessary digging and save time and money.

2. Make sure underground utilities are not damaged.

3. Take precautions to avoid injury.

4. Protect your underground infrastructure investment.

5. Prevent water damage.

6. Prevent property damage from flooding.

7. Stay safe from electrocution.

8. Give yourself peace of mind.

Copyright Detector Electronics Corp. 2021 - Revised August 2022