Handheld metal detectors often appear in film and television, usually as comedic devices or symbols of hopeless causes. In reality, searching with a metal detector can often lead to the discovery of lost rings or keys, coins and other items, and foster a spirit of exploration. Whether you own a metal detector or plan to rent one for a day of treasure hunting, you must understand the best ways to use the device to achieve your desired results.

In this blog, we provide the seven best practices for using a metal detector to help you find what you’re looking for on your next quest.

1. Choose the Right Model for Your Task

When you choose a metal detector, consider your physical needs as well as the conditions you intend to work in. For example, you want to opt for a smaller, lighter unit if you experience muscle fatigue or if you plan to bring a child with you on your hunt.

Similarly, you want to pick a metal detector strong enough for the task on hand. If you intend to work in wet sand, you’ll need a detector that is designed for those conditions.

2. Hold the Detector Parallel to the Ground

Metal detector use doesn’t feel natural to many people. However, holding and moving the device properly can have an impact on your results. Follow these guidelines:

  • Keep the detector parallel to the ground while in use
  • Sweep in a repeating pattern to cover the biggest area

If you intend to use the metal detector more than once, practice as often as possible. The more time you spend using a detector, the better your form will become and the more sensitive your ear will be to the beeps.

3. Keep the Metal Detector Dry

While some metal detectors can handle damp conditions, very few can survive immersion in water without damage. Avoid putting the head or body of the device directly into water.

If you plan to use the detector near salt water, stay aware that salt can interfere with the device’s signals. You may need to set the detector’s sensitivity lower in order to balance the signals.

4. Learn the Legal Codes of the Area

Many urban areas have restrictions on where metal detectors can be used. In some areas, you may need a permit before you go prospecting.

If you plan to turn metal detecting into a long-term hobby, consider joining a local club or association for treasure hunters. These organizations can help you ensure that you stay within the confines of the law as you use your metal detector.

5. Minimize Any Damage to the Ground

Until you pinpoint the exact location of a target, avoid damaging the ground you’re working on. Breaking the ground unnecessarily can affect the earthworks and decrease the archeological value of historical sites. Whenever possible, work on previously disturbed ground such as plowed pastureland.

6. Report All Finds Appropriately

If you find a quarter with your metal detector, you have no need to tell anyone. But what if you find a rare artifact on private land? What if you uncover an archeological artifact? What if you stumble across human or animal remains? Finds like these must be reported to the appropriate authorities, which may include landowners or, in the case of remains, local police.

7. Stay Out of Protected Areas

As you work with your metal detector, exercise responsibility and respect. Never trespass on private land. Instead, contact the appropriate landowner and discuss an agreement that outlines when you can search on the property and what happens to any significant finds.
You are responsible for determining significant property lines. If you will come close to a protected area, such as a national park or historical site, study the exact boundaries beforehand. You may find it useful to use topographical maps, GPS coordinates, and other landmarking equipment to track property lines.

If you borrow or rent a metal detector, be sure to discuss the rental agreement with your supplier. Some metal detectors work better in certain climates or with gentler handling. For example, some types have the exterior to withstand long hours on a wet and windy beach, while fragile models may become less dependable in those conditions.

You may also want to have an in-depth discussion with your supplier before you invest in a metal detector. Becoming informed on your device’s capabilities and specifications can improve your results and help extend the model’s life.

Regardless of whether you plan to conduct regular searches or spend a single afternoon hunting on your next family vacation, use these best practices to improve your metal detecting experience.

For more information on hunting for valuables, whether they sit in your pocket or on a beach shore, read our other blog posts covering gold, silver, coins, and more!