Vaquero Field Test

by L. David Keith

By the time I received my Vaquero for field testing, I had high expectations for testing it in the Virginia soil at the 2004 GNRS. James Gifford had given me just enough information about the new Tesoro to get my blood pumping. But would it run with the big dogs? That remained to be proven.

Upon opening the box, I was very pleased at not only the appear­ance of the Vaquero but also its ultra-light weight (2.2 lbs). The Vaquero is comparable to the Tesoro Eldorado uMax, both in design and look. However, that's where similarities stop. It took only minutes to assemble and install the one 9 volt battery and 9x8 coil. Having been familiar with the Eldorado, I didn't stop long enough to read the manual (I would do this later). I wanted to see just how “turn-on-and-go” this new addition to the Tesoro family would operate. I turned on the Vaquero and heard the familiar “dit-dit-dit” of the battery check. This feature gives an audio status of your battery condition—a feature I have grown to like very much. After placing a number of Civil War relics, various coins, and common trash items on the ground, I walked over to a metal free area and ground balanced the Vaquero. Within 20-30 seconds, I had a nice smooth threshold established. I began sweeping over the various targets in the All Metal mode. What I immediately noticed was that the larger/closer the target, the stronger the audio response. I also found this to be true when using the Pinpoint mode. This can be a big advantage when determining the size or depth of a target. Soft feath­ered sounds are going to be either very small shallow targets or small to medium sized deep targets. Larger targets that are deep will respond with a larger “halo” or area of response.

Next, I started to check all targets with minimal discrimination. Square nails and other iron responded with a very sharp or staccato sound, as did non­ferrous targets that were under the coil at 2 inches or less. However, by rapidly sweeping the 9x8 coil over nails and small iron, they began to break up, giving a choppy broken signal. As I began to increase the discrimination, I was able to remove small iron and nails at the Iron setting. Some larger iron broke up or dis­appeared completely at one notch past the Iron setting. After testing my various tar­gets, I was able to determine where most common targets would discriminate out, giving me a good solid idea of target ID. And this being done without the aid of a Target ID meter!

After arriving in Virginia for the GNRS, we were given a lot of informa­tion as to the layout of the 3,000 plus acres and the history behind the site. It had been fortified and occupied since the American Revolution. Troops had been there from the l770s, War of 1812, and the Civil War. Two main forts were on property (overlooking the James River) along with lots of military camps. This I felt would be a golden opportunity for field testing the new Vaquero! When day began, I chose to operate in Disc mode at the lowest setting just above All Metal mode. My first signal was a good strong audio response-no need check in Pinpoint mode. I remained in the Disc mode and dug a .69-caliber round ball at 7 to 8 inches. Pinpoint was dead on. My next target was a piece of 3-inch Parrot shell, about 5 inches by 1.75 inches at 11 inches in the ground. Again, a nice clean response in Disc mode. It did break up somewhat when I swept the coil perpendicular to the target, but is sounded good enough to dig. I continued throughout the day digging bullets, buttons, shell fragments, brass items, fuses, and other civilian and military items. Some of the shell fragments were from 100-pound Parrot shells and 10” cannonballs fired from US Navy warships into Confederate camps. These tended to be rather large, some weighing in at nearly five pounds! I had no problem avoiding the square nails, even with low discrimination. Being a relic hunter, I like to find iron relics. I dug pieces of knives, horse tack, gun parts, etc. I was very pleased at being able to swing the Vaquero all day without fatigue. I don't remember ever changing arms at any time. My battery remained strong throughout the hunt.

After attending the GNRS in Virginia, I made a trip to west Tennessee in mid-November to the Shiloh Relic and Coin Hunt. This is a one-day event fea­turing two hunts-one in the morning and one in the afternoon. Both hunts feature thousands of buried Civil War relics, coins (silver and clad), and about 40-50 prize tokens. The hunt is held twice per year on the Southern Cross farm, owned by Civil War artillery collector and author, Riley Gunter. This was my third rip. On my previous hunt in May, I found one of the coveted tokens in which I won a nice dug relic: Crossed Cannons Artillery insignia. While waiting for the opening gun (Riley fires one of his Civil War can­nons), I quickly checked my Vaquero's ground balance and set the Disc knob to mini­mum. Some tokens are made of iron and you do not want to reject any iron above a nail. Minimum discrimination will accomplish this very well. I had chosen to start at the far end of the field, and with the firing of the gun, I was off! I didn't have to sweep but a few feet when I heard the loud familiar beep-beep of a shallow target. A fast plunge of my digging shovel, and I found myself working the dirt with my fingers, which yielded a nice Civil War “minie ball.” A few feet farther and I repeated the scenario. I continued to dig to the top of the ridge, finding dropped and fired minies every few feet. Once at the top, I began to realize I was digging too deep for the shallow targets. Pinpointing was so accurate in the Disc mode that I never took the time to check my targets in the push button Pinpoint mode. The open “D” center of the stan­dard 9x8 coil gave me fast accurate loca­tions on all targets. My problem was burn­ing up time trying to locate my targets in the 4 to 6 inch plugs I had been digging. I decided to only tap my shovel with my foot, only going 2-3 inches in the ground. Then all I had to do was pull backward and there would be my target.

My first coin was a clad Kennedy half dollar. This was a very loud signal and was probably the deepest target I found, about 5 inches deep. I continued digging Civil War bullets and brass relics until I came to a spot with many dig holes evident. Participants are required to fill their dig holes, but I could see evidence of previous digs. The area had long ago been the site of a Civil War era homesite, so iron square nails and trash were every­where. I began to slow down and immediately found good targets all around me. I dug 14 silver quarters and about 2 dozen minie balls! Several pieces of brass were related to the homesite and not the compe­tition hunt. Nice bonus finds. Although I did not find any tokens, my normal average of 65 bullets jumped to an even 100 for the day. Add to this 15 coins (1 clad, 14 silver) and an assortment of brass relics (buttons, knap sack hooks, rifle sling hooks, etc). I had a great day!

My personal opinion of the Vaquero is two thumbs up! It is one of the best Tesoro models ever pro­duced and will remain in my personal inventory for years to come. It has excel­lent discrimination, very accurate pinpointing, and astonishing depth. Although I didn't dig any what I would call “super deep” bullets, I did find a number that were in the 10 to 11 inch range and all responded with a good audible signal. I kept the Frequency Shift in Freq 2 at all times. I had no problems with interference and the Vaquero operated smoothly. My most impressive find was a Union cuff “Eagle I” button at nine inches. I accurately measured this find, as I was stunned to get such a good response from such a small target.

All in all, I find the Vaquero to be an excellent metal detector. Whether you're coin, relic, jewelry hunting, or jumping in one of the many competition hunts around the country, the Vaquero does an excellent job on all facets of metal detecting and has a smooth learning curve. This is one extreme detector! Way to go Tesoro! I'm going to take a trip out west soon and try the Vaquero on gold nugget detecting. I have a feeling it won't let me down.

Good hunting!

* - Reprinted with permission from Tesoro, "Metal Detector Information" - 21st Edition