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Are you planning on metal detecting while on vacation?
Do you often travel to the beach and wonder what treasures lay buried beneath the sand?
Wonder no longer.
A metal detector designed for the beach can help you unearth jewelry, coins, and relics lost by their unwitting owners or washed-up pirate loot that was meant to stay hidden.
However, not any old detector is up to the task. The beach is tough ground to cover. Here’s why it’s challenging ground, what you need to look for in a beach detector, and how much you should spend.
Best Metal Detector for Beach
Working at the beach and in saltwater are two different things. Your all-purpose metal detector may handle dry sand quite well, but wet sand, black sand, and saltwater changes the game. These high mineralization areas pose some of the most challenging terrains for metal detectors, and it’s why single frequency VLFs will always struggle at the beach in saltwater. But, we’ll get into the techs and specs of it later.
For now, here’s a quick list to some of the best detectors you should check out if you’re willing to dip your toes into the high-end market.
They’re very expensive models and each have their own advantages and disadvantages. But, if you know what you want and you’re experienced enough to maximize its technology for beach detecting, you can’t go wrong with any one of them.
As for this lineup, all detectors are priced under $1500 to suit the realistic budget constraints of the average buyer. You must check them out to determine if it’s submersible and diving depth, discrimination prowess, or pulse induction tech that would suit your needs best.
Let’s take a dive into this round-up!
Best Beach Metal Detector Reviews
1. Minelab Excalibur II
The Minelab Excalibur II is an underwater champ, and if you’re looking for a detector that’s cheaper than PI but better than single frequency, multi-frequency it is.
Pros & Cons
✔️ Coil boost
✔️ 200-ft depth
✔️ Can be used on land
❌ Battery confusion
The Excalibur II is a high-performing metal detector that can be used both on land and underwater. It’s rated to be submersible to 200 feet, so if you’ve always wanted to go shipwreck diving and hunting, now’s your chance.
It has Minelab’s BBS and RCB technologies to provide incredible multi-frequency performance. There are 17 frequencies that are put to use simultaneously to improve productivity in finding more of the good stuff. Receive coil signals are also boosted so that you can hear the faintest signals thanks to the increased sensitivity and reduced noise interference.
While it sounds really high-tech, which it is, it’s actually simple to use. Because it’s an underwater detector, it has a knob interface which is easier to use than a visual display with multiple menu settings and buttons. The downside is, you’re relying strictly on audio signals. Although this is normal for water hunting, you’ll need to use the same auditory skills for land hunting.
The Excalibur II is worth the money. It’s extremely versatile and has solid quality and performance. No wonder it’s coined as the best beach and underwater hunting metal detector there is.
2. Fisher CZ-21 Quick Silver
The CZ-21 is a dual-frequency metal detector running at 5 and 15 kHz. Lost rings, jewelry, and old war relics will be found from the shorelines to the depths of the sea. How deep? Really deep.
- 250 ft depth
- 10.5” searchcoil
- Ground balance
- Touch sensor PP
- Non-interchangeable parts
So, you can’t change out the searchcoil or the submersible headphones. Special waterproof connections make sure of that, but most submersible detectors share that same flaw with their own manufacturer patented connections ports. It’s not a huge complaint because when you’re asking for maximum performance at depths of 250 feet, you’ll need those leak-proof designs to protect the electronics.
The CZ-21 is also extremely suited to use on land. It weighs in around 6 lbs, can be ground balanced to various types of mineralized soils, and it uses Fourier Domain signal analysis to cancel out saltwater signals. A feature great for trashy beach hunting is discrimination. With dual-frequency and not pulse induction, you have that.
It can boost signals on weak and deep targets without blowing your eardrums out on strong and shallow targets. The control housing can be attached to your hip so that you have an extremely lightweight machine in your hands. You can pinpoint with ease with the touch sensor PP button – scratch that. It’s not a button but a circular, metallic pad – even with gloves on.
The short of it is, we like the CZ-21. Now all you need is a really good sand scoop and sunscreen!
3. Minelab Equinox 800
The Equinox 800 is one of the best Minelab detectors for its price under $1000. It has excellent value for its many features. If you want the best bang for your buck when you head out to the beach, the Equinox will be hard to beat.
Pros & Cons
✔️ Adjustable user settings
❌ Battery life
The Minelab metal detector has Multi-IQ which is a multi-frequency technology. With its ability to both compensate for salt and detect good objects while discriminating, the Equinox 800 is a valuable tool. It has five frequencies that are 5, 10, 15, 20, and 40 kHz. Not only can use them simultaneously to get the best results, you can also use them individually.
With 50 notch discrimination segments, you can bet you’ll have excellent performance in high trash sites and mineralized soils. That means trashy beaches, wet sand, iron-rich sand, and saltwater are no longer off limits. You won’t have to dig up every hit as you’ll know more before you dig.
As a high-end detector, it’s expected to have many expert-user features – Minelab lives up to expectations. It has auto, tracking, and manual ground balance, adjustable threshold and recovery speed, and auto and manual noise cancel. Needless to say, you can do a lot to fine-tune your detector.
It’s also waterproof for up to 10 feet. It might not be your diving detector, but it’ll get you past the shoreline and into the water without worry and fear. For the price, the Equinox 800 is worth every cent.
4. Nokta Anfibio Multi
The Anfibio is worth its salt if you can come to a true understanding of its capabilities. Knowing how to work VLF at the beach can make all the difference in your detection success.
Pros & Cons
✔️ Selectable frequency
✔️ EUD function
✔️ Single Menu Display
✔️ Beach mode
❌ Long charge time
The first thing to understand is that the Anfibio is not a multi-frequency detector regardless of what marketing terms have been used. It’s a VLF detector even though it has multiple frequencies that can be used. This means only one frequency can be used at a time. These frequencies are 5, 14, and 20 kHz.
Even though it’s a single-frequency detector, you have the advantage of accurate discrimination, a dedicated Beach mode, and submersible benefits. Speaking of Beach mode, it allows for operation in wet sand and saltwater. You can use adjustable sensitivity and ground balance to further help with beach hunting. It’s waterproof for up to 16.4 feet underwater which gives you an advantage for hunting beneath the waves.
To push its detection limits, there is an EUD (Extreme Underground Detection) function that works like an All Metal mode without discrimination and a single tone for all objects. It’s supposed to be used in high-mineralization conditions, and if you’re skeptical, maybe you should give it a test drive for yourself.
While you can get a full day’s worth of detecting in, it takes a long time to come to a full charge, approximately 4-6 hours. If you’re setting out for a few days of hunting, make sure to plug it in every night.
For a detector that can be used for many different types of hunting, the Anfibio is a dual-purpose detector that proves its worth.
5. XP ORX
Another single frequency VLF deserves attention. The XP ORX is a detector with many advantages and few weaknesses. If your target objects are gold and coins, you should consider the ORX.
✔️ Selectable frequency
✔️ High frequency
✔️ Wireless components
✔️ Auto & Manual GB
✔️ Submersible possibility
❌ Not submersible
The ORX has a lot going for it as a land-based detector. It has exceptional features that would make it a winner in everyone’s books. However, even though the searchcoil is the only waterproof component, it is possible to submerge the detector if you purchase the underwater kit that allows up to 5 meters of depth. Still, as is, you can’t take it beneath the waves unless you spend more.
It’s single frequency unit where the searchcoil itself is the detector and it communicates with the control box via a digital radio link. The 9.5” searchcoil in this package is designed to provide three frequencies for individual operation: 15 kHz, 30 kHz, and 80 kHz. They’re very high which is excellent for small and low-conductive targets… think gold.
While it’s not designed specifically for the beach, it does have auto and manual ground balance with a dedicated Salt Mode within the ground balance menu. With this mode, you can hunt in salt lakes and wet sand and you can ground balance between a range of 0-30.
The ORX is known as the little brother to the XP Deus. It’s not as feature-packed and it lacks an expert menu, but that may be the very thing that attracts you to the ORX.
6. Garrett Sea Hunter Mark II
Saltwater, underwater, and diving – you can do it all with the Sea Hunter Mark II. Can it get better? It sure can!
Pros & Cons
✔️ Pulse induction
✔️ Diving compatible
✔️ Trash Elimination Mode
✔️ Long battery life
❌ 1-year warranty
The Sea Hunter is, well, made for the sea. It might be one of the cheapest pulse induction detectors in the market, and if you’ll be spending most of your time in the water, it’s the Garrett detector you want at your side.
It has a very versatile assembly, so it can be extended for use while you’re scanning the shoreline, or it can be retracted into a compact unit for diving. Yep, you can go diving for up to 200 feet with it. Saying the Sea Hunter is merely waterproof is an understatement.
The control box is equipped with knobs for easy use while under water. Even the headphone jack and headphones can be submerged underwater. As a PI, don’t expect high levels of discrimination. It does have a Discrete Trash Elimination mode that allows some elimination of items up to pull-tabs, but we all know that PIs work best with no discrimination. It does mean more digging, but that’s the trade-off for more depth and sensitivity.
Unlike some PIs that can only provide maybe up to 12 hours of operation, the Garrett detector has long lasting battery life of 18-22 hours. Can it be used on land? Sure can. Even though it has limited discrimination and is basically your one-tone, dig-it-all machine, it’s a detector worth having for the sand and the water.
7. Garrett AT Max
The AT Max is a high-performing, all-terrain metal detector, so it has a lot to offer. As an amphibian unit, you shall have no fear approaching the water’s edge.
Pros & Cons
✔️ Max depth detection
✔️ Wireless tech
✔️ GB to saltwater
✔️ Multiple searchcoils available
❌ Not specifically for saltwater use
The AT Max is completely waterproof up to 10 feet, so it can be submerged. Just take care that you have waterproof headphones before you take a dive in.
The Garrett detector has wireless tech, so it can be used with wireless headphones if you’re the type that dislikes the cord when it gets in the way. When the Z-Lynk system pairs with Garrett headphones, it provides up to 6x faster responses than Bluetooth as it provides instant signals since there’s zero delay.
Even though the detector is not specifically designed for saltwater use, it can be ground balanced to saltwater. It has a ground balance range of 0-20 to work with in these conditions, but if it’s black sand, you’ll need to play with sensitivity to reduce the chatter.
The AT Max is also known for its max depth detection with users digging up good objects at 12-18”. Of course, searchcoil size has its role, so it’s even better news that there are multiple searchcoils that are compatible with the detector for either greater depth or better performance for small nuggets.
Made to hit the many terrains you may hunt, the AT Max is up to the task. It’s your go-to detector for all things metal.
8. Aquascan Aquapulse AQ1B
There’s shoreline hunting and then there’s getting into the water beyond the breaking surf. Two different types of beach hunting. What you’ll need if you’re about to get serious with depth is the Aquapulse AQ1B.
- Pulse induction
- 15” searchcoil
- 100m depth
- Other applications
The Aquapulse isn’t a new kid on the block even though this may be your first exposure to it. It’s a longtime, proven metal detector that’s ideal for diving and getting underwater. Rated to 100m depths, the AQ1B is serious about getting beneath the surface.
Since it’s a pulse induction metal detector, it will work extremely well in saltwater. Even if there are high concentrations of black sand making things noisy, the adjustable threshold dial will clear that up. There’s not much compromise on weak signals or small targets to be scrutinous about.
While it’s a champ for underwater use, it won’t be your primary land detector since it weighs 12 lbs with the 15” searchcoil. While you’ll cover a lot of ground, that’s still some serious manhandling to do. Fortunately, you can use a different coil as the Aquapulse searchcoils are interchangeable with the AQ1B control module.
Whether you’re diving for Spanish gold, recovering relics for historical purposes, or even surveying pipelines for work, the Aquapulse AQ1B is made for the job.
What to Look for in a Beach Metal Detector
Detectors made for the beach have features that can help you determine where on the beach they will work and what performance expectations they can provide. There are two types of environments you must consider: dry beach and wet beach. Let’s explore this further.
Dry VS Wet Beach
Almost any land-based detector will work on dry sand. Of course, there are other things you must consider like depth, trash concentration in the area, and sensitivity to various types of targets. A detector may be marketed as one made for the beach, but it may only be able to provide performance on dry sand.
Wet sand close to saltwater and saltwater itself can cause the detector to behave erratically. This is evident with the excessive noise and/or constant false signals from salt and/or black sand (iron). In this type of soil, many detectorists without the ability to ground balance to saltwater will turn down sensitivity to reduce the chatter. However, this will compromise detection of good targets that may be small, have low-conductivity, or are buried deep.
If you’re looking to detect past the towel line and along the wet shore or even in the water, there are some things you must consider:
- Waterproofness or ability to submerge detector into saltwater
- Ability to ground balance to saltwater
- Ability to discriminate iron (especially on beaches with black sand)
- Whether you have or are willing to buy another detector
With all that said, let’s investigate the best types of metal detecting technologies for the beach as it may help you decide what features are important and what you can do without.
VLF, Multi-Frequency, or PI
Which metal detecting technology should you choose?
VLF (Very Low Frequency) single frequency detectors will work fine on dry, white sand. You can reduce sensitivity to try to hunt at the beach, but you will compromise depth and Target ID may prove to be inaccurate. But, they are the cheapest type of metal detectors in the market, and they provide excellent discrimination for iron and trash targets. When should you choose VLF?
- Dry, white sand
- Limited budget
- Using it as an all-purpose detector for other areas than the beach
- Want to discriminate iron and trash for less digging
Multi-frequency detectors are more expensive than VLFs, but they have multiple frequencies working simultaneously. This allows for detection of many types of targets at various depths, can penetrate mineralized ground more efficiently, and they can still provide accurate Target ID and discrimination. When should you choose multi-frequency?
- Dry, wet, white, and black sand
- Have the budget to spend a little more
- Using it as an all-purpose detector for other areas than the beach
- Want to discriminate iron and trash for less digging
PI (Pulse Induction) detectors are considered specialty detectors and are known for their excellent depth detection and inherent immunity to many types of ground minerals. However, they’re usually very expensive and they have little to no discrimination benefits. This can be tough to work with when hunting in black (iron-rich) sand or beaches with a lot of trash. There will be a lot of digging with a PI, but the advantages may be worth it. When should you choose PI?
- Dry, wet, white sand
- Dedicated for beach or gold prospecting use
- Already own another detector for other uses
- Excellent for saltwater
- Offers most depth detection
- Excellent performance in high-mineralized areas
How much should you spend on a beach detector?
If you’re looking to spend as little as possible, the VLF provides the best prices. However, you’ll be limited to the dry areas of the beach. It’s best to start off with a more expensive model in the upper entry-level budget of $400. Look for automatic and/or manual ground balancing and iron audio or enhanced discrimination.
However, most dedicated beach detectors will start around $700, and there are many models available up to around $1500. Of course, you can always spend more if you’re after a specialty detector or one that has expert features and offers the best performance for many types of detecting beyond the beach.
Beach VS Underwater Use
Can all beach detectors be used underwater?
No. There’s a difference between a beach detector and an underwater water detector. Underwater detectors are rated to be submersed to a certain depth. They have fully waterproof platforms, may lack an LCD display, may have potentiometers, and LED indicators for visual purposes. However, underwater detectors may not be able to handle mineralized soils like at the beach when dealing with saltwater and black sand. They may perform excellently in freshwater, but it doesn’t mean it will provide the same level of performance at the beach or even on land.
Beach detectors may work great on dry sand, but once it goes beyond the towel line, performance may be compromised. It doesn’t mean it’s not any good, it just lacks the capabilities to handle the conditions. Consider the type of detector technology before you decide to hunt in the surf. Beach detectors that are “waterproof” may only mean the searchcoil and shaft can be submerged under water, but the entire platform may not be submersible. If you want a beach detector that can be submerged, it’s important to look for this feature.
As you can see, underwater and beach detectors can have similar capabilities, but they will vary in function depending on the features on they have. Beach detectors can be used underwater if they’re submersible. Underwater detectors can be used for the beach if they’re able to handle saltwater and/or wet and black sand.
Can I Use a Metal Detector on the Beach?
You can use any metal detector at the beach, but performance will be determined by the metal detecting technology and additional features your detector has. Most will be able to provide accurate detection on dry sand, but good hunters know the best finds are usually close to or in the water itself. This calls for a metal detector designed specifically for the beach as they can balance to saltwater, provide accurate Target ID in mineralized soils, and are submersible. However, saltwater can damage a searchcoil, so it’s always highly recommended to wash down the searchcoil after use even if it’s designed for saltwater use.
Can Metal Detectors Get Wet?
If it’s waterproof – yes. However, there’s a difference to a metal detector that is waterproof and submersible. Most metal detectors have waterproof searchcoils and shafts, so naturally they can provide waterproof protection when detecting in shallow water. Extreme care should be taken to prevent any leaks into the control box, connections, and attachments.
Submersible metal detectors can be submerged underwater including the control box. However, not all submersible detectors come with waterproof headphones, and not all wireless headphones are submersible. It’s important to double check if your gear and the connections to the control box can get wet.
How Deep do Most Metal Detectors go?
Most VLFs are rated as surface exploration detectors that can provide successful detection from 2” to 10”. Of course, many other factors are involved in detection and depth from the target itself and where and how it sits in the ground, the detector and its capabilities, and ground conditions.
Multi-frequency and PI detectors are usually capable of acquiring signals on targets at greater depths. But, apart from detecting technology, you must also consider frequency, searchcoil size, and user settings as they can all affect detection depth.
Is it Legal to Metal Detect on the Beach?
Generally, yes it is legal to metal detect on the beach. However, each state has their own regulations to beach metal detecting, and you must do the research first before heading out there with a metal detector in hand. Some beaches may require a permit from the park office while others will allow open detecting on sand but not in the water. There may be some restricted areas of the beach such as lookout points, cliff, and cave areas. You must also consider private and/or leased properties that may surround the beach where metal detecting is not permitted unless you have been granted permission by the owner.
Do I Need a Permit for Beach Metal Detecting?
It depends on the metal detecting regulations for that state. If in doubt, it’s best to contact the park office to acquire more information into obtaining a permit. If a permit is not required, additional information should be sought out to what practices are allowed. For example, you may be allowed to detect on dry sand, but detecting in the water may be restricted. Each state is different, so it’s best to seek out what the regulations are for the state and beach in question.
Don’t Forget the Extra Gear!
If you’re planning on getting wet, don’t forget your lifejacket.
Tides and the currents can be deceiving, so do your research on your prospective beach before you decide to get wet. Having the right gear from water shoes to wet suits will help, especially when hunting in the Winter season. A sand scoop will work wonders when sifting through treasures and junk.
Always take care to practice safety measures when detecting at the beach. No treasure is worth it if you end up becoming a lost relic yourself. And, as always when detecting at the beach, don’t forget the sunscreen.
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Last update on 2023-12-07 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API