Understanding and Selecting Walk Through Security Metal Detectors

By Michael Bernzweig

Walk through metal detectors fall into one of two general categories. The first style of walk through metal detectors provides multi zone detection. The second style provides multi zone detection with additional pinpoint capabilities. Basic multi zone featuring greater than security 6 zone models provide more detail of the target location.

To understand the difference, I will provide a quick example. Let's say that an individual walks through the opening of the metal detector with a concealed weapon located at their ankles. Both multi zone detectors will locate the target. The difference between the two is that the multi zone detector with pinpoint capability will be able to identify the location of the target on either the left or right side of the individual. More advanced multi zone detectors like the Garrett PD 6500 will pinpoint the specific location from head to toe and on the left or right side.

Pinpointing the location of the target quickly is important so that your security system personnel can respond swiftly. Larger crowds require greater throughput. If you are scanning a large volume of individuals, a multi zone metal detector will let you process more individuals quicker. It is possible to add a Thermal camera option as an add-on for popular units. For example, the Garrett SmartScan thermal screening add-on is available for the Garrett for PD 6500i and Multi Zone models.

Multi Zone Walk Through Metal Detectors:

What are the typical locations and uses for a walk through metal detector?

At one time, security metal detectors were primarily seen just in airports and correctional facilities. Today we see walk through detectors in a variety of locations, including police stations, nightclubs, schools, public and private buildings, and corporate workplace security. They are also used in manufacturing facilities, warehouses for loss prevention, nuclear facilities, transportation terminals, courthouses, historical landmarks, sporting events, arenas, and concerts. One of the first places to pick up a walk through detector from us was a roller skating rink, and that was nearly 25 years ago.

Choosing the best configuration.

Will your detector be set up at one location or do you plan to move the detector from location to location? If you are moving the detector often, you will want a lightweight, portable walk through metal detector or one that can be moved easily.

Setup and operation:

Modern security walk thru detectors are easy to set up and operate. Each unit will come with a detailed manual and instructional setup video. Digital electronics are easily adjusted through a touchpad and LCD display. The walk through metal detectors come with factory preset programs. You can adjust the detectors for your specific location or the type of object that you are looking to locate. Based on the level of sensitivity that you choose, the detector can be adjusted to locate various targets.

Controlling the flow of traffic is important when setting up your metal detector. You will want to be sure that all individuals that enter or leave the building are directed through the detector. It is a good idea to have a basket or tray set up next to the metal detector for individuals to place any metal objects in. Watches, coins, keys, belts, and other large metal objects must be removed before walking through the detector. The better organized you are, the better your throughput will be.

Do I need a security metal detector wand?

You can think of the walk thru detector as the general screening device. Once you have identified that an individual has a concealed item, you will need to pinpoint it precisely. A metal detector wand will let you locate the target quickly. Security wands will alert you to the target with an audible tone, target identification light, vibration, or a combination of the three. The wand metal detector is a required accessory for use with the walk-thru gate.

Metal Detector Security Wands featuring Audio and Vibration Alerts:

Metal Detector Security Wands featuring Vibration Only Alerts:

How Do Walkthrough Metal Detectors Work?

Walkthrough metal detection systems, or door frame metal detectors, are security devices that people must pass through when entering a building. The machine is made up of an archway and two vertical posts connected by a horizontal bar. 

Walkthrough metal detectors work by using sensors to detect the presence of a metal object on a person’s body and sets off an alarm if any metal is detected. The sensors in the metal detector can be either electromagnetic or magnetic.

When a person walks through the archway of a walkthrough metal detector, the sensors create a magnetic field or an electromagnetic field around the person. If the person is carrying any metal objects, the metal will disrupt the magnetic field or the electromagnetic field. This disruption will cause a classic metal detector circuit to set off an alarm.

The Benefits of Walkthrough Metal Detectors

In the United States, some of the most common places that use walkthrough metal detectors are airports, special events venues, courthouses, and schools for weapons detection. By securing your facility, you are providing the best level of customer service possible.

Security inspection checkpoints are often high-traffic areas, so the security screening process needs to be as efficient as possible. One of the benefits of walkthrough metal detectors is that they can screen a large number of people in a short amount of time. While a walk through metal detector collects data about the number of visitors that pass through, it is important to note that no personal information is collected about individuals.

Another benefit of walkthrough metal detectors is that they can be used to screen people without their knowledge. This is because walkthrough metal detectors do not require physical contact between the security guard and the person being screened. 

This is in contrast to pat-down searches, which can be seen as invasive and are often disliked by people who are subjected to them.

Because of their superior pinpoint technology, these detectors can be used conveniently and effectively for:

  • Weapons detection
  • Vehicle security at event spaces
  • Concealed weapon & contraband detection
  • Airport security
  • Public buildings
  • Private properties

The National Institute of Justice (NIJ) is the research and development agency of the United States Department of Justice. The NIJ standard is the only nationally accepted performance standard for walkthrough metal detectors. 

In order to meet the NIJ standard, a walkthrough metal detector must be able to detect a 6.35 mm (0.25 in) caliber pistol at a distance of up to 2.54 cm (1.0 in) from the surface of the body. The NIJ also has standards for duty gear, such as handcuffs, body armor, and batons.

Security professionals who are looking for a high-quality walkthrough metal detector should make sure that the model they are considering meets the NIJ standard. 

Features of Walkthrough Metal Detectors

Unlike classic metal detectors, which beep when they detect metal, walkthrough metal detectors are designed to emit a loud alarm when they detect metal. This is because the goal of a walkthrough metal detector is to screen a large number of people in a short amount of time, and a loud alarm is the most effective way to do this. 

Walkthrough metal detection security systems offer superior detection features like:

  • Access control
  • Uniform detection
  • Casters/Wheels
  • 33 detection zones
  • Thermal cameras
  • Aluminum detection heads

All of these features will allow for weapon detection in close proximity without having to pat down the individual. These detectors and other related products can be shipped directly to your facility. When it comes to security, there is no such thing as being too safe. Walkthrough metal detectors are a great way to screen a large number of people in a short amount of time. They are also less invasive than pat-down searches, which can be seen as intrusive.

Rolling out your security plan:

While it is a significant investment, do not get too caught up in the cost of acquiring your walk through metal detectors. Your largest expense will be the annual cost of security personnel to operate the equipment. While you may already have staff on hand, you might find that you will need to allocate funds to increase staffing. Armed with a good knowledge of your organization and the available types of security metal detectors, you are now ready to choose the best equipment. We are here to help you put the pieces of the puzzle together. Feel free to speak with one of our Security Product Specialists to discuss your specific needs.

© 2008 Detector Electronics Corp - Revised August 2022