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We all know that feeling of getting online for the first time to seek out our first metal detector.
The price range is vast and models so different that it’s overwhelming to even think about where you need to start.
How much do you spend on a metal detector?
How do I know it’s not a kid’s toy?
What will I find with a budget metal detector?
Even when you find the right one, are there legalities to consider?
This complete article will not only inform you of the best beginner detectors that are worth it, it’ll also point you towards getting started the right way with tips and tricks to speed along the learning process.
Best Beginner Metal Detector
There’s a grey area within the metal detecting industry when it comes to entry-level models. Many may be attracted to detectors that cost less than $100, and they think they’ll get a good buy into getting started into the hobby. However, if you’re looking for real results while learning vital skills along the way, cheap detectors just won’t do.
So, what will entry-level mean for you?
If you’re a beginner to gold prospecting, you’ll want to look at specially designed gold detectors that usually start around $700. If you’re looking to buy a metal detector for diving, you’ll need a submersible model made for underwater use. Get the gist?
However, most beginners are looking for detectors that are under $300, something that can find coins, and is lightweight and portable to be picked up for trips to the beach, touring well-documented hunting sites, and for whenever the mood strikes.
The detectors in this lineup are geared for those new to the hobby, they fit the budget, and they’re designed as all-purpose metal detectors – the perfect metal detecting gift. What can you find with a budget metal detector? Coins, jewelry, relics, and maybe even gold nuggets if you’re lucky.
Best Beginner Metal Detector Reviews
1. Nokta Makro Simplex+
The Simplex+ is our most expensive model in this lineup and will attract beginners who have a generous budget to start with. As the most high-end detector within the cheap range, the Simplex+ is good enough for the intermediate and expert user, too.
Pros & Cons
✔️ 4 Search Modes
✔️ Auto & manual GB
❌ Battery life
Being extra picky, we’re pointing out that the Simplex provides only up to 12 hours of operation. But, it’s plenty of time for a day of treasure hunting. As a submersible detector, it can be used underwater to a max of 10 feet, has an LED flashlight as a visual aid, a backlit graphic display, and a vibration feature which is helpful while being underwater or for the hearing impaired.
The Nokta detector has four pre-loaded search modes: All Metal, Field, Park, and Beach. Three audio tones help to distinguish between metals and with Iron Audio, you can turn down the signal volume on iron targets without having to notch them out. Speaking of discrimination, you have 20 notch segments within the Target ID scale that allows you to customize your hunt.
All search modes except for Beach allow for automatic ground balance, but Beach mode puts you into manual ground balance, so you have full detecting confidence in wet sand and conductive mineralized soils.
The Simplex+ has a very versatile platform with an adjustable length of 25-52”. It’s very lightweight at 2.9 lbs. With additional features such as adjustable sensitivity, pinpoint, and frequency shift, there’s a lot that can be done. It also comes with an 11” DD searchcoil, headphones, and a 2-year warranty.
2. Garrett ACE 300
Garrett is a brand that many look to for ultimate performance and competitive prices. The ACE 300 is set at an affordable price point that has more than enough for the beginner while also keeping the mid-level user happily engaged.
Pros & Cons
✔️ Digital Target ID
✔️ Improved iron resolution
✔️ 5 detection modes
✔️ Made in USA
❌ Factory-set GB
The ACE 300 has some upgrades that its predecessors did not offer. One such upgrade is frequency shift that will prove to be helpful for competitions and/or reducing EMI interference. Another upgrade is enhanced iron resolution. With a numerical 2-digit Target ID scale and even more iron segments to provide identification and notching, it’s more efficient at filtering out junk items.
There are five preset search modes. The Zero-Disc is an all metal mode with zero discrimination. Custom allows you to tailor your own program and save changes. Then, you have Jewelry, Coins, and Relics with preset parameters to make detection easier for the beginner.
The ACE 300 is not submersible but the searchcoil and shaft are waterproof. You can search in shallow water – just don’t get the control box and its connections wet. You might also need to know that there is no adjustable ground balance as it has been factory-set by the manufacturer for average conditions around the country. This means, you won’t be able to efficiently use it on hot rocks, black sand, and in saltwater.
If you’re worried about its build, it might help to know that the ACE 300 is made in the USA as are all Garrett metal detectors. It’s also backed with a 2-year warranty. Not bad for the price, eh?
3. Fisher F22
The Fisher F22 is the ideal detector for getting out and on the go the minute you turn it on. With preset features, the beginner is ready to get detecting without having to deal with the hard stuff.
Pros & Cons
✔️ Searchcoil design
✔️ Target ID
✔️ Iron audio
❌ Preset GB
The F22 is the new and improved version of the very popular F2. If you’re looking for high-performance without the high price, this may end your search. The F22 has a numeric Target ID scale that provides the user with an idea of the detected target’s conductivity and what it is. With a frequency of 7.69 kHz, it’s an exceptional coin shooter and its Target ID scale also indicates the type of coin found.
With Iron Audio, you have even more value in this budget detector. You can adjust the volume of the signal for iron targets without having to notch them out. This ensures the detector is constantly working at maximum performance and speed without the delay of discrimination at work.
The Fisher detector comes with a new triangular design. Its narrow shape helps with target separation and for getting into tight spaces especially in rocky terrain. The 9” searchcoil is also waterproof, so it can be used in shallow water for revealing those hidden treasures.
With only preset ground balance, the challenge of having to do it yourself is taken out of the equation. This should be fine for most cases, but there is no ability to adjust it when ground conditions become noisy with concentrated quantities of minerals.
One of its best features is its super-light weight of 2.3 lbs. It’s not only ideal for use between multiple types of users of all ages, it’s also great for long detecting sessions. There is no strain and fatigue. Save your strength for the digging part since the F22 makes it easy to swing all day long.
4. Bounty Hunter Land Ranger Pro
First Texas Products is the parent company of Bounty Hunter, and they have a concrete reputation in the metal detecting industry. The Land Ranger Pro is a flagship model for the brand, and its price point puts it at the top of its class.
Pros & Cons
✔️ Target ID
✔️ Enhanced V-Break
✔️ Adjustable settings
✔️ 7 Detection Modes
✔️ Good for experts
❌ No accessories included
The Land Ranger Pro sets the standard high for entry-level detectors. It has multiple features that you just won’t find on a budget detector, and for it to be priced so low means more value for you. The entire cost of the Pro model goes right into quality, so no accessories are included.
While this would be an excellent choice for beginners, it will also satisfy the needs for many intermediate and expert-level detectorists. With Target ID, you can quickly determine what type of metal is detected, and it’s rated for positive detection to a depth of at least 10”.
Enhanced V-Break takes audio response capabilities a step further in providing tones according to the setting along the Target ID scale that you set it for. This allows you to further customize what signals you want to hear with certain tones when you’re homing in on specific targets.
The seven detection modes consist of three discriminate programs and an all metal mode while the remaining three are audio tone modes. You also have adjustable user settings that includes sensitivity and auto and manual ground balance.
It’s a coin-shooting metal detector, but it has exceptional specs and features that allows it to be effective for finding all types of targets. As a beginner, you’ll grow with the Land Ranger Pro, and as a pro, you’ll find it’s a lightweight, affordable, and high-performing detector that’ll be sure to please.
5. Bounty Hunter TK4 Tracker IV
The Tracker 4 is about as cheap as it gets before you enter the “toy” category. It’s extremely popular and its reputation is held in high regard today as it was when it first hit the market.
✔️ Easy to use
✔️ Target Meter
✔️ Audio tones
✔️ Search modes
❌ Analog detector
Some may think the analog system of the Tracker 4 means it’s an outdated detector. This may be true if you’re looking for digital tech and relying heavily on a visual display, but many appreciate the advantages a target strength meter provides. It may not be 100% accurate, but it does provide some visual indication that the detector has hit metal.
The Tracker 4 also provides two audio tones in Tone mode. Iron is automatically discriminated, low tones indicate small items, and high tones may indicate large or highly conductive targets. A broken tone sounds off for trash items.
As an all-purpose detector, you have three search modes: All Metal, Tone, and Discrimination. It’s extremely easy to use with two knobs and a switch. You don’t have to use headphones as it has a built-in speaker. While the control box isn’t waterproof, the shaft and searchcoil are.
For the price, it has all the basics a beginner needs to get detecting immediately. If you anticipate buying a higher end detector down the road after you’ve developed some understanding of detecting, keep the budget low for a first-time buy – it can be handed down to the kids when you’re ready to upgrade.
6. RM Rico Max GC-1037
- 💰💰[4 Modes of Operation]- RM RICOMAX metal detector can detect metals including iron, aluminum, gold, bronze, silver and their articles in ALL METAL Mode. The DISC & NOTCH Modes make you can ignore unwanted metal improving the detection efficiency. Pinpoints the location of target accurately in P/P Mode.
The Rico Max is designed with the basics plus some. It has digital tech, adjustable settings, and all the hard stuff has been taken care of.
✔️ Target ID
✔️ Adjustable settings
❌ No adjustable GB
The Rico Max GC-1037 model is an entry-level detector made for all-round metal detecting, but it’s strength will lie with coins. It has a Target ID display labelled for coins and reflects segments for Iron, 5c, P-Tabs, 1c, 10c, and 25c. The Target ID scale has a range from 0 to 99. You’ll be able to detect metals of all types and will quickly learn how it works.
It has All Metal, Discrimination, and Pinpoint as its search modes, so beginners will be able to save a few bucks from having to purchase a separate pinpointer. The display is easy to read since it has a large size, and the backlight with adjustable brightness is a noteworthy feature worth pointing out.
Like most other searchcoils these days, it’s completely waterproof, so it can be used in shallow waters in creeks and washes to locate lost items that will soon be yours to claim. However, it will struggle to perform where there are high quantities of minerals in the ground. With no adjustable ground balance in play, you’ll either have to turn down sensitivity or move to quieter ground.
The Rico Max is a beginner model and will help you get up to speed with finding the good stuff. There isn’t a huge learning process required with this model, so you can get out the door as soon as you get you hands on it.
What to Look for in a Metal Detector for Beginners
Where to start? While not all entry-level metal detectors are created equal, most with a price range above $100 will suffice to get you through the learning curves. This is your introduction of how and where they’ll work and what techniques are required by the user to improve successful detection.
Recreational Detectorist VS Serious Hobbyist
Most detectors in this price range are considered budget due to their low price tags and limited features. They’re excellent options for the reactional detectorist that aims to fill their vacation and camping time with a fun activity like metal detecting. These detectors come with the basics that will keep an entire family engaged in enjoyment, and due to the light weight, adjustable shaft length, and easy to use interface, they can be passed along to multiple users. The need for prior experience is little to none, and they’re typically ready to go out of the box.
However, if you’re a beginner looking to seriously get started in the hobby, you may want to be more specific with your detecting goals before you actually buy one. If it’s the gold business, you should look for an entry-level gold detector. If you’re looking for higher-end, all-purpose metal detectors, your starting budget should be around $300-$400. These upper entry-level metal detectors offer more adjustable user settings that allows a beginner to grow with their detector. They’re usually good enough to last several years as a go-to detector before your advanced skills require higher performance.
If you can decide what your goals are and how much you’re willing to spend from the get-go, you’ll be able to narrow down which part of the market will suit you best.
Beginner Metal Detector Features
Beginner detectors are general-purpose models. They can be as basic and entry-level as the ones in this lineup, or they may have additional features that allow customization, but their focus is typically on three types of objects: coins, jewelry, and relics (artifacts).
As basic functions go, entry-level models will have at least one audio tone, preset ground balance, and some level of discrimination. With digital tech being more affordable these days, even the cheapest metal detectors will have a digital interface.
The next step up in the entry-level market will include additional audio tones, adjustable sensitivity, and notching. The top-end of the same market will typically offer more adjustable features that includes auto, manual, and tracking ground balance, frequency shift, iron audio features, and enhanced discrimination/notching.
The more features, the higher the price. However, the higher price is justified if your goals are to seriously get a leg-up into the detecting hobby.
Basic Metal Detector Terms
To understand what the function of the basic features are, here’s a quick list of common terms you’ll come across within this guide.
- Audio/Tones – This is the sound the detector makes when it detects a metal target. Entry level models will usually provide at least two tones, one low and one high, that allows you distinguish between different types of metal, for example: low for iron, high for all other targets.
- Detection Modes – These are the preset programs within the detector that set the parameters for detection. Basic models usually have an All Metal mode where detected targets are indicated with the same tone and there is no discrimination. A discriminate and pinpoint mode is customary, and sometimes, target-specific modes may be built-in, like Coin, Jewelry, and Relics modes.
- Discrimination – This is the detector’s ability to allow you to discriminate for certain types of metal. You can set the discrimination setting to ignore items like iron and screw caps and only alert you on items like coins.
- Frequency – This is the number of times electrical energy is pumped into the ground to detect objects. This energy is measured in kHz (kilohertz). Beginner detectors will have a frequency range between 5-12 kHz. They are typically calibrated to detect coin-sized objects at depth ranges of 2-8”.
- Ground Balance (GB) – This is a feature that allows the detector to be balanced to the phase of the ground. Minerals in the ground can cause the detector to provide false signals or for it get noisy. Advanced detectors will provide automatic and manual ground balancing while beginner models will have preset GB. Preset means it’s been set at the factory to provide optimal performance for average ground conditions. So, you won’t be able to adjust it for highly-mineralized ground. Beginners should understand the limitations of their detector when they’re doing research on their prospective hunting grounds.
- Iron – This term represents a lot of things within metal detecting. Iron is a ferrous object that detectorists usually want to filter out since finding nails and junk items are not part of their detecting goals. Iron is also used in various features that indicates the detector can either provide further information about the target, provide enhanced discrimination on iron targets, or to provide different tones for iron detection.
- Notch – This is like discrimination, but it takes things a step further by allowing the user to accept or reject various parts of the Target ID scale. If you want to detect only coins, you can notch out iron and aluminum to receive only signals from quarters and dimes.
- Searchcoil – This is the attachment that generates a magnetic field to detect objects. They come in different shapes and sizes that have an inherent effect on sensitivity and depth detection.
- Sensitivity – This is the detector’s ability to sense a distortion in the magnetic field which is transmitted to the control box. The higher the sensitivity, the likelihood of detecting an object is higher. However, there are other factors that can inhibit the use of high sensitivity.
- Target ID – This feature is different for various models and manufacturers. However, the concept is generally the same. In beginner detectors, you have either Notch ID or Target ID. Notch ID provides a value within a specific target metal category and Target ID provides a value of a target’s conductivity that can land anywhere within the range of 1-99. Knowing how the detector displays this data will help you to interpret what the possible object is before you dig.
Metal Detecting Tips for Beginner
Buying the first metal detector you come across may prove to be a detriment in your metal detecting goals. It might make sense to get the tools needed before you embark on your journey, but truth be told, your journey starts long before you pull the trigger on your buy. Here are few tips to follow before buying a metal detector.
- Know what it is you want to find. Is it gold nuggets? Are you after a cache of long-lost loot? Will coins and other items bring you pleasure?
- Know where it is you want to hunt. Knowing the geology of the area will be extremely helpful to know beforehand. You can look for the features you’ll need that can handle the challenges that some terrains will inevitably pose.
- Seek out expert advice. Don’t be afraid to ask what other people are using for that area and what settings they’ve used to be successful.
Once you’ve bought your detector, continue learning.
- Read the manual. Every detector is different and if you don’t know how to maximize a detector’s features, you’ll end up losing interest or mistakenly thinking your detector is faulty. User error is the likely issue most of the time.
- Practice. There’s no better way to learn the craft of successful metal detecting than by getting out there and doing it yourself. You can train your ears to hear the slightest changes in tone and become familiar with Target IDs and what it can tell you about a target type, size, and depth. You should also practice pinpointing as this can be difficult to perform out in the field. Coin tests and getting in tune with how your detector works will prove to save time in the hunt.
- Patience. There is a lot to learn and it takes practice and patience to master your skills. You’ll find that even veterans consider themselves students as they’re always learning new tricks and tips to improve their success rates.
Is it Worth Buying a Metal Detector?
With as cheap as metal detectors can be, they’re worth it even if it’s just for recreational fun with family and friends. If you’re looking to become a serial hobbyist and hope to be prospecting for gold sometime soon, you must ask yourself how much time are you willing to put into it? Like any other product in the market, a purchase is only worth it if you’re willing to put the effort into maximizing its performance and improving your skills.
What is the Best Metal Detector for the Money?
Personal preference will determine which is the best detector for you. The one that performs to or even exceeds your expectations will always be the best buy for the money. Generally speaking, the Nokta Makro Simplex+ and the Bounty Hunter Land Ranger Pro certainly stand out against the crowd. With features that other detectors can’t boast of and with price tags within the entry-level market, they would make a great beginner detector for any newbie.
What is the Hobby of Metal Detecting Called?
“Metal detecting” is sufficient enough to term the hobby. “TH’ing” is also seen across the board as a term for metal detecting as Treasure Hunting. However, it’s not so much the hobby that garners nicknames as it is the people who do it. “Detectorists” happens to be the most accepted term, however, here is a short list of other common terms.
- Hobbyist, serial hobbyist
- Coin shooter
- Diggers, gold diggers, sand diggers, dirt diggers
- Gold prospector, prospector
- Relic hunter
- Treasure hunter
Where is it Legal to Metal Detect?
The real question to ask is where can you metal detect and dig? There are many sites from parks, gold fields, and beaches to old mines, state/national parks, and even cemeteries that can be legally explored. While many of these sites allow metal detecting, they may not allow digging.
Every region and state will have different regulations and policies in place. You must plan out your hunt and get in touch with local officials to ensure the legalities before you metal detect and dig.
Do I Need a Permit for Metal Detecting?
It depends. You must check with local officials for the area you plan on metal detecting. It’s also important to ask if digging is allowed even if metal detecting is permitted. A permit may be issued if it’s required. Other times, a permit may not be required, but compliance to a code of ethics is.
This may entail filling up holes after they’ve been dug and wearing metal detector headphones to respect others in the area. There may also be time limits or hours for the specific park or area that must be taken into consideration. Every state has their own set of regulations in place to address metal detecting. Be sure to do the necessary research first before heading out the door.
Warning: Raises Excitement Levels
Metal detecting for the first time is thrilling, and from the get-go, you’ll find it’s extremely addictive.
Good thing metal detecting promotes fun, exercise, and it can also be financially rewarding. With a beginner metal detector, the learning curve is a lot less steep than if you were to start with a high-end model. They’re designed with preset features to reduce the hardships that come from manual adjustments. They’re the most economically-wise choice for a beginner who is still evaluating what they want out of detector as they learn what it takes to be successful with the hobby.
There’s a thrill hearing the detector beep and digging up the object is part of the experience. While the first few nails and pull tabs might excite you with the fact the detector found something, there will come a point when it’s not enough – you want to find the good stuff.
Stick with the best metal detectors and you’ll be finding all sorts of shiny things that will motivate you for years to come.
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Last update on 2021-05-21 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API