UPDATE! I wrote this article back in 2014, so obviously there are new detectors on the market since that time. — This entire list will be updated to bring it up to date for available machines for Sept 2017 and beyond.
Appreciate the interest in the list and will provide some affordable, reliable and field tested machines here – I’m on it…
So, you are looking to buy a metal detector but you don’t know where to begin.
Well, hopefully I can help some. First thing you need to figure out is where you will be doing most of your metal detecting? Parks, Woods, lakes, or beaches?
If you are planning on detecting on land, then it’s just a matter of figuring out what your budget is going to be. For a lot of people, detecting is something that seems like fun, but they’re just not sure if they will stick with the hobby or not. This is a wise thing to think about, because in my opinion, you are either a treasure hunter, or you’re not!
I am asked from time to time what detector I would suggest for a new detectorist wanting to get into the hobby, and a few detectors come to mind.
One thing to consider when buying a new detector, is what exactly it is that you want in a detector. Do you want a machine with a Target ID screen that gives a digital readout of the target ranges, or do you just want a machine that beeps when it’s over metal?
For me, I wanted that Target ID screen. I knew that I’d have to learn how to differentiate between the tones of various metals, but I also wanted a read-out to give me additional information to help determine whether or not to dig. I eventually learned that the most important thing a person can learn about a detector is the tones. Screens are an additional tool, but if you rely on them too much, you will pass up good targets. No matter what metal detector you decide to get, you are going to have to train your ears and learn that detectors language or tones.
Since I am a land hunter 100% of the time, I can only suggest land detectors. I have used most all models of Bounty Hunters from the cheapest to the most expensive, A Whites QXT, Teknetics Delta 4000, Fisher F5 and Fisher F2 which has been my main machine for the past few years.
During my time in the hobby, I have learned one thing, and that is if you want to be successful with any metal detector, you are going to have to practice with it a minimum of 100 hours in the field. It takes that long to become comfortable with a machine to where you can almost predict what a target is before you dig it, based on the nuances in the tones that you hear.
When I was researching metal detectors, one of the main things I looked for was a great value, that can run with the big dogs of the hobby, that wasn’t too expensive, yet had the bells and whistles I would need, and none of the features that I wouldn’t need or want.
As a new detectorist, I would suggest starting out with a beginner, or mid-level metal detector that doesn’t cost too much. That way, you don’t spend too much money on a detector if you decide not to stick with the hobby.
Based on the above criteria, I narrowed down the detectors that I was considering based on my budget. I had around $300 to spend, and so I limited myself to a few machines in my price range that I felt fit what I would need as a new detectorist.
So what are the machines that I would suggest? Well there are a few, in no particular order:
The Fisher F2 Metal Detector is affordable, easy to learn, and discriminates better than any machine I’ve ever used. The Fisher F2 is light-weight at just 2.6 pounds and I’ve been able to swing it for over 5 hours at a time without any negative effects. The F2 also has a target ID screen with both Disc and Notch features, meaning that it can be manually adjusted for just about any style of hunting. I’ve found relics, jewelry, coins, and other neat items with the Fisher F2.
If you follow my blog, you can see that the F2 can find anything that the high end machines can find if the target isn’t too deep. The F2 can find small targets to around 8 inches deep, and larger items around 12 inches. Some would say those numbers are inflated, but I am basing these numbers on experience and what I have actually seen first hand in the field. The F2 offers 4 tones, with foil and iron being a low tone, nickles as a medium tone, pennies as a mid-high tone, and coins as high tones. Gold sounds like a low tone, and silver is a high tone, things you will learn along the way.
Another machine I might suggest to a land hunter is the Tesoro Compadre. Known as a “beep and dig” style detector, the Compadre flat out loves jewelry! With a frequency of 12 kHz The Compadre is perfect for finding small gold. An all around detector, the Compadre is also a great relic machine. Priced around $160, the Compadre is a machine that is both affordable and capable in the field. You don’t have the luxury of a target ID screen, but what you do get is a lot of detector for not a lot of money.
As stated above, my experience has shown me that training your ears is more important than any info a person can get from a screen. The ID Screens should be used as an additional tool to help you to decide if you want to dig or not. Those screens will lie to you sometimes, so you have to train your ears from experience digging a lot of targets and comparing the tones. Eventually you can tell the difference in a nickle sound and a pop tab tone. You can’t find that information in any guide or manual, you just have to learn it. Just like driving a car, you can read the manual all day long, but until you get in the drivers seat, you’ll never learn how to drive!
A popular machine that gets a lot of suggestions for newer detectorists is the Garrett ACE 250. Garrett is a leader in the detecting industry, and their machines are both durable and capable of finding all types of metals. When I was looking for a machine, I gave the ACE 250 a look too. Browsing detecting forums, it was obvious that the 250 is a capable machine that can find just about anything in the right hands. One thing that made me look at the F2 over the 250 is the 4 tones of the F2 versus the 2 tones of the 250. I personally wanted more input from multiple tones to help determine types of targets based on tones. As stated though, in the right hands, the Ace 250 is a very affordable and versatile machine that will get you into the hobby and have you finding goodies the first day out.
Recently, I upgraded to the Fisher F5 metal detector. I wanted to stay with what I already knew, and upgrade to a machine with manual ground balance and threshold controls. The F5 offers the ability to quickly adjust your machine for changing ground mineralization conditions. For a beginner, this machine offers several features of the higher dollar machines yet still offers the ease of use that doesn’t overwhelm a new detectorist.
If you are looking for a mid-level machine, look at the Fisher F5, it has manual ground balance, threshold and Gain adjustments (Helps keep the machine stable and lowers the chatter) Has 4 All-Metal modes as well as adjustable tones, Phase lock to easily ground balance your machine on the fly, a concentric-elliptical coil that offers more ground coverage per sweep, and even has a frequency shift that allows you to balance your machine should you encounter electromagnetic interference from other machines or power lines. The F5 also has a Target ID Confidence Bargraph which indicates how sure the detector is on the target ID.
All of these machines offer ease of use, they are light-weight, easy to learn, affordable, very capable, and will get you into the hobby and help you find good stuff the very first time out. They are intuitive machines in that the learning curve isn’t very big. As stated, 100 hours is the suggested time frame for learning any metal detector. It takes that long to learn the nuances of your machine, and to get where you are comfortable using it. Likewise, these machines wont break the bank while you decide if you are going to stick with the hobby or not.
The machines mentioned here are, for the most part, detectors that can help cut your learning time down, while not overwhelming you with too many settings as you learn how to metal detect. In time, and you will know when, you can upgrade to a detector with more features and begin your learning process again.
Think about it, in school you have to learn the ABC’s, Then learn how to spell a word before you can write a sentence. Detectors are the same way. You must lay a firm foundation first, and then you can build upon that and expand your knowledge.
Personally, of all of the machines that I have used, the Fisher F2 or F5 are the best in my opinion. Using the Fisher F2, a new detectorist can be up and running in as little as 2 minutes!
Check out my article on How To Set Up The Fisher F2, and you will see that it is a very capable machine for several types of detecting. The learning curve is small, and at the end of the day, that matters. No one wants to spend half the day trying to figure out the settings on a detector. Heck no, we want to get right to finding the goodies, and after all, that’s what it’s all about!
Thanks for reading my novel, I hope that ultimately it has helped you narrow down the choices of which detector you should get!
Remember, always fill your holes and learn how to dig proper plugs so that we can all continue to enjoy the hobby of metal detecting in the future!