Most of us have thought of seeing a “Metal detector for sale” sign in the window of a shop, finally delving in and investing in one, and locating that piece of excellent treasure that sparks a lifelong desire to use your metal detector. Let’s leave the fantasy at the door and think logically for a minute, and find you the best metal detector on the market to optimize your time, and maximize your success rates when hunting down valuables.
It takes a bit of time to get used to using a metal detector, which is why we’ve not only showcased the best detectors that you can get, but we’ve also created a detailed guide on how to identify the key aspects of your detector, and put every feature to use. If you’re ready to take on the role of treasure hunter, then let’s get started.
The Best Metal Detector
You’re hunting down treasure that’s been forgotten beneath the surface, which is why Bounty Hunter is what you need on your arm. This lightweight unit comes with a designated arm rest, and an excellent dial menu for fine-tuning your settings depending on your environment. Where most inexpensive models only operate on one-tone frequencies, the TK4 operates on two, so you can get a bit more distinction between different objects. There’s an average of three feet of depth (though it’s variable, read our guide below for more on that), thanks to the low 6.7 Khz frequency. The preset ground balance settings are tweaked to perfection, so you won’t pick up trace amounts of minerals in the soil when you’re hunting for semi-precious metals. Bounty Hunter’s TK4 model is inexpensive, and you’ll find a lot of guides online that tell you the cost directly correlates to the quality. We’re here to say that this is a great metal detector for beginners, and the value is top notch. They could be charging a lot more for this unit. Make sure you may also check our guide to the best moisture meters.
Precise discrimination and sensitivity dials
Low 6.7 Khz operating frequency
Two-tone audio mode for added precision
Average of three foot depth readings
Preset ground balance features prevent mineralized soil detection
- BrandBounty Hunter
- Weight3.7 pounds
Usually when you get into big brand names like this, there’s a lot of discrepancies on quality. National Geographic metal detector proves to be an excellent value, while still offering some of the top features that you should be on the lookout for. First and foremost, the coil is completely waterproof: there’s nothing better than knowing that a quick tide rushing in on the beach won’t damage your unit. There’s a few less features on this than our top pick, such as limited detection modes, but you still get three as well as four sensitivity settings. The whole thing is alarmingly lightweight, making it fantastic for extended use without fatigue. For that, there’s also a nylon wrist strap that’s fully adjustable, so you can maintain your comfort while keeping your eye on the prize.
10” coil is 100% waterproof
Total weight of 2 lbs (without attachments)
Backed by a two-year manufacturer warranty
Three detection modes + four sensitivity settings
Adjustable nylon wrist strap
- BrandNATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC
- Weight2.3 pounds
Bounty Hunter took our top spot for exceptional models like Gold Digger. If you’re looking to get into treasure hunting without spending a fortune, this is a proper introductory model with an excellent operating range of two feet. Bounty Hunter doesn’t want you wasting your time finding scraps, like most common inexpensive off-brand metal detectors give you: that’s why they’ve included a trash elimination mode to prevent pinging out literal trash. You’ll also get a fairly basic pair of headphones with your purchase, so you can isolate all the feedback and ensure you’re not missing a single signal. Everything from the lightweight design to the ergonomic handle makes this a breeze (and a treat) to use, and the rock bottom price tag is just the icing on the cake. You may also like to check our guide to the best infrared thermometers.
Trash elimination mode prevents scraps from getting detected
Average two foot depth readings
Includes a pair of stock headphones to listen out for pings
Ergonomic handle is comfortable and reduces fatigue from extended use
- BrandBounty Hunter
- Weight3 pounds
URCERI would have made it higher on the list if not for their one flaw, which is the maximum detection depth of 7”. While that’s not great, most of the treasures you’ll find on the beach are within 5” beneath the surface anyway, so this is still an excellent choice for beach-goers looking to learn the tricks of the trade. You get a bright blue LCD multilevel readout, displaying different feedback to notify you of every minor change. There’s also a pair of headphones in your package, which allows you to set the three-way audio feedback as well, assigning different ping sounds to different types of potential loot. URCERI GC-1028 High Frequency Metal Detector is a lightweight unit, feels excellent on your wrist, and they even include a small field shovel to help you out when you come across your first piece of treasure.
Fully waterproof 8” coil
LCD multilevel display screen
Includes field shovel and headphones
Disc notch setting sets the difference between garbage, and treasure
Maximum depth of 7”
- Weight6.7 pounds
It’s time to amp it up. Garrett’s Ace 400 model takes you into a new playing field by upgrading your coil, and giving you a slightly deeper channel of feedback. Operating on a 10 Khz frequency, this unit comes with numerous modes and discrimination adjustment options to fine-tune this to your liking, and optimize it for the changing environments you’ll be treasure hunting on. The only downside to this unit is that the coil isn’t waterproof, but they do include a fully waterproof cover, as well as a readout rain cover to keep everything high and dry. That covers the screen and all the buttons, so you don’t have to call it quits because of a little rain. Garrett also includes a two-year warranty on just about every aspect of this unit, so you’ll have nothing to fear while you’re hot on the trail of your first treasure find. Don’t forget to also check our guide to the best multimeters.
Five search modes w/ 10 Khz operating frequency
Adjustable discrimination settings
Includes rain cover for screen and headphones with purchase
Fully waterproof coil cover included with purchase
Includes a full two-year warranty
- Weight5.35 pounds
These are the sort of things that are usually add-ons for your metal detector, but Garrett has found a way to make an entire metal detector in this little pin pointer (dubbed by the community, “The Garrett Carrot”). There’s not much to Garrett 1140900, but the reason everyone loves it is because it’s completely waterproof. You can take this thing down to at least ten feet underwater without issue, and put the 360-degree search field to good use. Even underwater, you’ll still be able to hear the audible pings through the waterproof speaker. If you’re worried about your field shovel getting rusty, you needn’t worry: Garrett includes a scraping blade on the side of the detector, so if you’re a few feet underwater at the beach, you can just use your unit to dig down.
Quick retune option for variable environments
Waterproof down to ten feet underwater
Includes a woven belt holster
Comes with a scraping blade to help sift through soil and sand
- Weight9 ounces
If the top six models we’ve reviewed so far don’t have enough options for you, you’re about to flip for Fisher’s F22 model. You get a total of ten different adjustable sensitivity levels, allowing you to adapt to nearly any environment that you encounter in your search for treasure. Speaking of which, that journey can go on for as long as you like, because Fisher boasts an impressive 28-hour average battery life, running on a couple of AA’s. There’s a total of 9” in depth detection, and a wider angle of coverage thanks to the oval-shaped coil system. The only thing we recommend is buying a nylon strap to put over the arm rest, since this model is a bit heavier than others on this list. It’s built on quality, kitted with a ton of options, and highly reactive when you pop on the pin pointer mode.
Total of ten adjustable sensitivity levels
Pinpoint mode helps you zone in on high readings
Oval coil covers more ground
Average of 28-hour battery use
Highly customizable audio modes
- Weight3 pounds
QSI metal detector was designed to keep the Bounty Hunter line of metal detectors nice and cheap, while still offering a ton of value to the treasure hunter in charge of using it. For the exterior build, you get a fairly large coil (not waterproof) on a lightweight line, which includes a high functioning LCD display, comfortable grip and wrist rest. When you get into the nitty gritty of it all, there’s progressive discrimination modes and three different audio pings to help you differentiate your findings, and a depth selection controller on the screen to fully customize your experience. Bounty Hunter slapped a beautiful five-year warranty on this model, so even though we both know it’s not going to fail you, it’s nice to have that extra bit of insurance on hand.
LCD display indicates battery level
Three-tone audio feedback for loot differentiation
Padded wrist rest and grip
Fully waterproof 8” coil
Five-year manufacturer warranty
- BrandBounty Hunter
- Weight2 pounds
Eight inches beneath the sandy shores, there could be untold treasure (people lose jewelry on the beach all the time). If you’re trying to keep the budget low and take this on as a hobby, we totally understand, and so does RM RICOMAX. They not only keep the price low on this unit, but they add in a lifetime warranty so you can be certain that you’re investing your money properly. You get a fully waterproof coil that you can dig into the sand or dirt as you please, as well as a series of adjustable disc, tone and sensitivity settings to customize your experience. This unit can be a bit heavy, so we recommend getting a padded strap to keep fatigue at bay. Once you pick something up, slap on the pinpoint mode, and locate the exact spot of your treasure.
8” average detection depth
Fully waterproof 8” coil
Lifetime warranty from the manufacturer
Precise disc, tone and sensitivity settings
Pinpoint mode to lock in during detection
- BrandRM RICOMAX
- Weight2.31 pounds
Last but not least, it’s never too early to get the little ones started on a lifelong hobby. Bounty Hunter’s junior model comes with a great miniature mockup of most adult-sized units, but with a bit more child-friendly options to play around with. For one, the grips are designed with different sizes, so children of multiple ages and sizes can use this. You’ll get three IDs on screen to target specific loot and materials, as well as a battery life indicator to lend a helping hand. The LCD unit is designed with a child-friendly method of reading each feature, and while this certainly isn’t priced as a toy, it’s in line with Bounty Hunter’s average low prices.
Super lightweight for little hands
Multilevel grips support a wide range of ages
Three target ID groups
Long-lasting battery w/ on-screen indicator
- BrandBounty Hunter
- ModelJunior T.I.D.PL
- Weight1.1 pounds
Metal Detector Buying Guide & FAQ
We’ve looked at ten of the best metal detector brands and models on the market, but now it’s time to help you narrow down your choice from this top-tier selection. From breaking the myth on “gold detectors” to discussing frequency and range, this is all you need to know to make an informed decision, and finally get out there and enjoy treasure hunting for yourself.
How We Chose Our Selection Of Metal Detectors
Battery Life – You don’t casually go treasure hunting for fifteen minutes: you research the right area, find a good spot, and spend hours trying to come up with a scrap of treasure. After that point, it’s like gambling: it’s hard to put down, so clear your schedule for it. If you want to stay out for long periods of time, a quality battery with a long charge life is absolutely paramount to your success.
Modification – Augmenting your metal detector with helpful accessories is going to be a wildly invaluable feature, so make sure that it’s not some one-size-fits-all solution. Everyone is different, and as your expertise with using a metal detector increases, you may find that your current loadout isn’t enough.
Coils – Coil, or coils: some units are single coil, while others are dual. The point is that some coils have a limited frequency range, such as single units, but dual units will eat up that battery life a lot quicker. Dual coil models are usually used in professional treasure hunting where you’re relying on it as a source of income.
Frequency – The maximum coil range you should look for is 100 Khz, and the minimum being about 3 to 5. We discuss frequencies more in-depth below, but just know that having a variable range will come in handy if you’re someone to visits multiple areas to go treasure hunting.
Weight – If you’re finding it too difficult to lug around your metal detector, then it’s just going to be a pretty ornament in the corner of your garage. The coil is generally the heaviest part, and since you’re just sweeping it across the ground, it’s not too big of a deal. The difficult part is finding proper weight distribution so you’re not tiring out your arm. This is where arm straps come in handy.
Features To Look For In Metal Detectors
Discrimination – Some metal detectors have a variable discrimination property, which allows you to change how sensitive the settings are. The higher the discrimination is set to, the less likely you are to find metallic pieces of garbage on the ground.
Ground Balance – This is one of those features that isn’t often talked about, but makes a huge impact in the performance of your metal detector. Ground balance identifies materials in the ground, such as heavy salts or minerals, and changes its sensitivity based on the readings. This means you won’t spend your time digging a hole when there’s nothing to be found.
Target Identification – These vary from system to system. They display a certain number, or target identification system reading. In your informational packet or instructional material that arrives with your metal detector, you’ll be given a legend that tells you what each target ID number means. It’s recommended to keep this handy or save the codes in your phone so that you can easily recognize what you’ve found before digging things up.
Operating Frequency – Your operating frequency is far more imperative to function that many people realize. They just want to know, “Is it short-range or long-range?”—there’s a lot more that you need to be concerned about. You’ll find your metal detector in a range of 1-100 Khz on average. The lower it is, the longer the wavelengths are, which means they penetrate deeper through the surface. Higher wavelengths move faster and don’t penetrate the surface as well, but may detect smaller objects at surface or near-surface level. If you can adjust the operating frequency or get a two-coil system, this will give you the best of both worlds.
Sensitivity – Overly sensitive units are usually branded with an overwhelming amount of customer reviews, stating that it picks up just about anything and everything. We chock some reviews up to the users not knowing how to properly manage their metal detector, but there’s strength in numbers. You don’t want a model that’s overly sensitive and detecting metal traces in sediment: you’re after big game that’s larger than a standard pebble.
Search Depth – There’s no industry measurement of search depth: you’re strictly going on the manufacturer’s word without some sort of certification to back it up. That’s because this technology is imperfect, and you could be crossing over absolutely anything when you’re using a metal detector that the manufacturer cannot know about. It doesn’t mean they’re trying to bamboozle you, it’s just a matter of fact when buying a metal detector.
Tone ID – This is literally the tone that the metal detector plays, which you’re supposed to identify. Base models will only send out one single tone when it detects something, and that could be anything. More advanced (usually more costly) models will have a range of tones to let you know about size and depth when available.
Screen vs. No-Screen Metal Detector
Seasoned pros will tell you that no-screen detectors are the best way to go. We can’t speak for all of them (even 1/5 dentists still stand apart on what toothpaste to try, right?), but audio-only metal detectors seem to provide better results.
LCD screen-in metal detectors don’t rely on sound nearly as much. Frequencies have to his a certain threshold to register on the screen, because many of these LCD metal detectors are trying to sell you on accuracy ratings. If they make those ratings more exclusive, then you’re going to encounter less discrepancies. LCD units have their place, but if you’re someone who likes to literally leave no stone unturned, audio-only detectors may be the way to go.
Metal Detector Warranty Information
Treasure detector warranties are very touch-and-go. It all depends on the brand you choose, because some are trying to put a cheap product in your hand, and cover next to nothing when internal issues arise. Most warranties don’t cover accidental damages, such as when you’re in the throws of treasure hunting and bump into something or drop the detector.
Top rated metal detectors are usually a bit different. You can tell a lot about a company by the transparency of their warranty, and how easy it is to obtain that warranty information. Look for two-year warranties on metal detectors, and carefully look over the exact stipulations of that warranty. A good warranty doesn’t have to cover everything, but it should cover defective parts, labor on repairs, and shipping methods that result in damages when you open the package. Be sure to photograph any and all issues to make the warranty process faster.
Types Of Accessories For Metal Detectors
Good metal detectors can be augmented. They don’t need to come with all the attachments to prove their worth. You can also make use of cheap metal detectors by outfitting them with some souped-up accessories. So long as the coil is good and it detects well, the rest is just the icing on the cake. These are some of the add-ons you can use with your metal detector
Pinpointer - These usually have small LED flashlights and hook onto the coil of your metal detector. These can help you see in low visibility situations, and sometimes come with abrasive ends so you can begin literally scraping the surface on your potential find.
Adapters - If your headphones don’t use a standard 3.5mm jack, you can get adapters that plug into your metal detector headphone input, and provide an alternate output. These work wonders for 1/4” headphone jacks.
Carry Pouch - You can attach just about any pouch to a metal detector, but some companies, like Minelab, makes pouches that fit properly onto just about any detector. These universal packs have specifically sized pockets to not only store possible loot, but additional batteries or other essentials you may need while treasure hunting.
Fastening Straps - Some detectors come with straps to go over the arm slot, and some don’t. No matter: you can pick up a cheap set of straps for pennies on the dollar, and they’ll help secure your arm in place. No more fatigue, no more pins and needles.
Metal Detector FAQ
Q: What is a metal detector?
A: Metal detectors use an output of low and high frequencies to locate buried metals in the ground. Metal detectors transmit frequencies into LCD screen displays, or send our an audible ping (usually into a set of headphones to isolate the sound and prevent exterior noises from interfering), to designate the size and depth of what has been found.
Q: What can I find with a metal detector?
A: The best rated metal detector models on the market usually detect brass, tin, lead, silver, bronze, iron, copper, nickel, aluminum, and in some cases gold. Gold can also be found, and isn’t that tricky for your detector to pick up. Since you’re constantly sold on the idea of getting a designated gold detector machine, we’d like to state that those are actually worse for finding gold, because the target of those machines is mineralized ground where gold might be found, but usually does not detect gold by itself. Gold is a metal, and gold is detectable by general metal detector machines.
Q: How deep will a metal detector search?
A: Even if you have the world’s best metal detector, there are variable beyond your control. Most two-box systems are considered to be the best type of metal detector machine, because they’re typically able to locate deeper objects and smaller objects at a consistent similarity. There are a lot of things that can get in the way of your machine functioning properly, such as:
- Wet ground after a rainfall
- Shallow power lines
- Erosion and slopes burying objects deeper than you’d think
- Metal type/blend
Metal detectors, such as our top pick, generally have a maximum depth of between three and five feet. Searching through solid ground is difficult enough as it is, so you’ll be hard-pressed to find any unit that searches deeper than that. If you do find units that search deeper, you’ll be paying an extremely high cost for them (four figures, some in the low five figure range).
Q: In relation to the size of search coils, is having a bigger coil better?
A: Whether you have a large or small coil, your metal detector is still viable to locate treasure buried beneath the surface. Every detector is different, every angle used while scanning is slightly different, and the treasure is the biggest variable in this entire situation. There’s no solid guarantees, but on average, smaller coils are more sensitive and help to detect smaller objects, and larger coils have more depth to ensure that you don’t miss anything.
Q: What is the benefit of using headphones with a metal detector?
A: These are perhaps the most important aspect of a quality metal detector. Traditional detectors use an audible ping that represents the depth and distance of a potentially detected object. While there are modern systems that use LCD screens to display information, many seasoned professionals still believe that you’re more likely to spot every minor detection by using headphones and your ears than you are with a display.
Headphones also mean you’re not using the internal speaker system for your metal detector, which helps to save you massive amounts of battery power. It’s recommended to get headphones with independent volume controls (usually a scroll wheel somewhere on the wire) since most metal detectors don’t have a way to control the volume on their own.
Q: Are metal detectors safe to use if I have a pacemaker?
A: Yes, you can use a metal detector if you have a pacemaker. When you search for metal detectors and pacemakers in the same inquiry, you’re going to come across a lot of questions about TSA airport metal detectors for boarding. These are a different story, because you’re focusing the frequency far away from your body.
Airport metal detectors may interfere with pacemakers because you’re surrounding yourself with the output. While it is safe to use a treasure hunting metal detector while having a pacemaker, do be careful not to inspect the bottom while it’s turned on, just to avoid any potential problems with severe heart conditions.
Q: Do I need a license/permit for a metal detector?
A: No, you do not. Licenses haven’t been required for metal detector use since about 1980 (est.), but depending on the area that you visit, you may need a permit. In most cases, highly populated beaches and tourist trap areas require a permit. It’s not only a way for them to make a little extra money, but it’s a way to privatize treasure hunting so there isn’t as much competition. While permit costs don’t have to be too high, it still helps you by facing less competition. To find out if you need a permit or to file one, visit the local municipality government website for the area you’re interested in treasure hunting at.