Metal detecting is a fun outdoor hobby that is a great way to start adding to your collection of historical artifacts. And you never know, some of your findings might even be worth something. But as a new metal detecting enthusiast, choosing the right device to start hunting for treasure can feel impossible.
There are tons of metal detectors on the market, but the trick is to focus only on the top metal detectors for beginners. Devices that are geared towards entry-level hobbyists are easy to use, lightweight, high in quality, but also affordable. We've covered some of those beginner-friendly models here in this list of best metal detectors for beginners.
How Metal Detectors Work
One of the most reputable manufacturers of metal detectors, Minelab, says that metal detectors work by “transmitting an electromagnetic field from the search coil into the ground. Any metal objects (targets) within the electromagnetic field will become energized and retransmit an electromagnetic field of their own."
Once the object has been targeted, the metal detector part called a search coil receives the retransmitted electromagnetic field and alerts the user. Some metal detectors are even capable of discriminating between different targets, like small gold nuggets, coins, and larger relics.
Choosing a High-Quality Entry Level Metal Detector
Operating Frequency & Sensitivity
Answering the question “what is the best metal detector for a beginner?” can be difficult, but a good starting point is to consider a detector’s operating frequency. Frequency is a major factor in how well the targeted objects can be detected. High-frequency detectors are better able to detect smaller objects, like coins and gold nuggets.
Detectors that transmit low frequencies are less capable of detecting small objects, but they can detect large objects that are buried at a greater depth. Beginners will do just fine with a frequency that ranges from 5 to 10 kHz, but high-end specialty models will have a wider frequency range than this. Sensitivity allows you to increase or decrease the depth radar for detecting objects, so look for a device with high sensitivity at a maximum depth.
Mineral resources in the ground can impact a metal detector's performance. Just imagine taking your new detector out for a spin in an area with high levels of iron in the ground. Iron and other minerals in the ground are highly responsive to a detector's transmissions, which can mask the targets you're looking for, like coins and relics. Proper ground balance prevents this from happening.
A detector with a ground balance setting removes the responding signals that are created from ground minerals, so you won't be distracted by "ground noise," and you can focus on targets that actually matter. There are three main types of ground balance - manual, automatic, and tracking. A beginner will do well with an automatic ground balance detector since it’s quick, simple, and accurate.
Metal Detector Features
Unless you want to spend your time digging up soda cans and bottle caps, you'll want to find a detector with discrimination features. Discrimination is a detector's ability to identify buried objects based on the type of metals it contains. With discrimination, the detector will ignore targets that you would consider junk and only focus on the real treasure (this is called notch discrimination, or notching).
Some of the most basic metal detectors for beginners don't come with an attached LCD screen, but having an LCD on your device is extremely helpful. It will display features like target identification (like the object's shape and size) and depth indication (how deep the object is buried). Having these features displayed on a clear screen will not only make metal detecting easier but also more enjoyable.
Your intended hunting location does make a difference in which metal detector for beginners you purchase. Will you be looking for relics on your own land, on the beach, in the park, or will you receive permission to take your hobby to historical sites? In areas with high iron levels, you’ll need to focus on the device’s ground balancing. For metal detecting near a river, lake, or ocean, look for waterproof features.
In addition to where, think about what you're looking for. What are you hoping to find - coins, jewelry, precious metals, military relics, all of the above? Most of these items will be picked up by an entry-level detector. But if you're looking for minuscule specialty items like gold nuggets, you might want to upgrade to the best metal detector for gold instead.
Frequency of Use
So we’ve covered the what and where, but what about the when? Even if you’re feeling gung-ho about metal detecting at this moment in time, there’s a chance that you won’t use the device as often as you intended. This is true of any new hobby, so try to be realistic about how often you’ll be hunting for treasure. Only after you’ve tried out the hobby for a while with a beginner-friendly detector should you invest in a high-end specialty model that costs thousands instead of hundreds.
Ease of Use
Whether you’re buying a single-stage snowblower, a new laptop, or a metal detector for beginners, ease of use is always a consideration. Experienced treasure hunters will have no trouble operating a complicated specialty detector, but as a beginner, you should focus on a detector that is easy to use. Look for a newer model that comes with clear buttons and a display screen, but also consider the device’s size and weight; a 2-lb detector is much easier to use than a 6-lb device.
Price & Warranty
One of the main perks of being new to the hobby of metal detecting is that there's no need to spend thousands on a specialty detector. Some of the best metal detectors for beginners cost between $200 and $300, and they even come with all the essential features like ground balance and discrimination.
No matter how much you spend on an entry-level metal detector, your new purchase should come with warranty coverage. Each manufacturer offers a unique warranty policy, so look for a warranty that covers your detector for at least 2 years, if not more.
5 Best Metal Detectors for Beginners Reviewed
1. Fisher F22
Our top Pick
Up to 9”
4 (Jewelry, Coin, Artifact, Custom)
Our top pick for the best metal detector for beginners is the Fisher F22 Weatherproof Detector with a submersible coil. It's perfect for detecting coins, jewelry, and artifacts with the ability to detect metal up to 9 inches deep. Beginner metal detector hobbyists love that the F22 comes with 10 adjustable sensitivity levels and features like notch discrimination and target pinpointing.
According to the F22 User Manual, owning this metal detector means that "no longer will weather be a force that stops you from enjoying your sport. Treasure hunting enthusiasts from around the world were involved in the development of this revolutionary new detector. This manual has been written to help you get optimal use of your detector so we hope you will read it."
This metal detector operates with 2AA batteries and lasts between 25 and 30 hours before needing a battery change. It comes with 4 operations modes: Jewelry, Coin, Artifact, and Custom. It’s an easy to use turn-on-and-go metal detector that any beginner will enjoy. The custom settings allow users to set their own tones, but no matter what, you can count on super fast retone speed and impressive target separation.
You’ll be able to easily identify buried targets with the Fisher F22 thanks to the detector’s 9-Segment target categories and enhanced target-ID feature. Even the pros prefer Fisher metal detectors for their versatility and cutting edge technology. The F22 is the perfect starter detector for every beginner detectorist. It has everything you need for successful hunting, but it’s still simple and easy to use.
The only recurring complaint towards the F22 is that the depth indicator isn’t always spot on. Although every other feature is highly accurate, the depth indicator is sometimes off by an inch or two. But this isn't too big of a deal, especially considering the fantastic value of this beginner-friendly metal detector.
2. Garrett Ace 400
Garrett Ace 400
Best Gold Metal Detector for Beginners
Knob Control (Low to High)
Up to 12”
For those of you looking for top-rated metal detectors for beginners that are capable of detecting gold, there's no better device than the Garrett Ace 400. This is the perfect choice for entry and mid-level detectorists, whose primary goal is to find buried gold. As the best beginner metal detector for gold hunting, you can expect better sensitivity and a higher frequency range (up to 10 kHz).
One thing we love about the Ace 400 is its electronic pinpointing feature, which works to precisely locate and target an object. After locking in on the target object, the detector uses notch discrimination to figure out the metal’s conductivity. This helps to determine whether the target object is something valuable, like a coin from the past, or just junk, like a soda can pull tab.
So what makes the Ace 400 better at detecting gold than other metal detectors on this list? It's very simple; the Ace 400 offers better sensitivity to low and medium conductivity levels, and gold has a low to medium conductivity when compared to other metals. When hunting for treasures with your buddies, you'll be able to adjust the frequency of the Ace 400 to eliminate any interference from other metal detector devices and power sources.
When you purchase the Ace 400, you’ll receive tons of extra accessories, including a protective search coil cover, a pair of ClearSound headphones, an adjustable arm strap, a search coil hardware kit, and a detector rain cover. There are just two minor downsides to this metal detector. The first is the short warranty compared to the Fisher F22. The F22 has a 5-year warranty, while this one just offers 2 years of coverage. The only other negative is the heavier weight, but the 2.9 pound-design is still manageable.
3. RM RICOMAX
Best Waterproof Metal Detector for Beginners
Up to 7.1”
VLF (Very Low Frequency)
All of the best metal detectors for beginners have a waterproof or, at the very least, a water-resistant search coil. But this doesn’t mean that they’re all built for in-water treasure hunting. For that, you’ll want to invest in the RM Ricomax, the best waterproof metal detector for beginners. The Ricomax was built for both kids and adults, so it’s the ideal choice for beginner detectorists of all ages.
This feature allows you to find the exact metal you are looking for more accurately. The Ricomax comes with a waterproof search coil and stem, and this allows you to explore for metal in a variety of locations, even if that means completely submerging the metal detector underwater. Just remember that the control box isn’t waterproof, so only the bottom portion of the device can be submerged. Speaking of the control box, you’ll love everything that the LCD has to offer.
Everything is displayed on the LCD screen, including detection mode, battery condition, sensitivity level, and volume level. When the detector lands on a target object, you'll see its shape, overall size, and buried depth. Ricomax users claim that all of these values are highly accurate, which is surprising to some since this detector is one of the most affordable models on the market.
4. Minelab X-TERRA 305
Best Value for Money
Up to 12”
All avid detectorists know all about the Minelab company. Minelab is known for manufacturing some of the best metal detectors in the industry, including several top-rated metal detectors for beginners. The best beginner-level Minelab detector is the X-Terra 305, and there's even more good news… it won't break the bank.
This detector uses Minelab's signature True Digital VFLEX technology, which allows you to easily change your device's frequency by switching out the coils. It's compatible with both medium and high-frequency coils ranging from 7 to 18.75 kHz with options for 6 accessory coils for added versatility. Another cool feature is that it’s up to you to decide how target signals are represented; you get to choose the specific target ID ringtone for each type of metal.
In terms of ground balance, the X-Terra 305 has it all. Minelab says that the "accurate Ground Balance capability with manual adjustment of 0 — 20, allows the user to adjust to ground mineralization easily."
The depth indicator updates continuously, so you never have to wonder how deep the target object is buried. This is even the case in the pinpoint mode, which allows you to rapidly recover the object if you've lost track of it. Another cool feature of the 305 is the target volume adjust, which allows a user to receive more definitive audio information for each target.
The device is ultra-lightweight, weighing just under 3 pounds, so it's easy to handle (even if you've never held a metal detector before). All in all, this is a no-nonsense device that's perfect for entry-level treasure hunters seeking high performance and easy operation.
5. Bounty Hunter TK4
Best Cheap Metal Detectors for Kids
Knob Control (Low to High)
Up to 8”
Similar to Minelab, Bounty Hunter is a well-known name among metal detecting gurus. The company has released some high-end devices that are perfect for specialty detectorists. But Bounty Hunter also focuses on delivering affordable detectors for budding treasure hunters. The TK4 is the best choice if your kids want to get in on all the treasure hunting action.
This is a rugged detector that was designed to detect metal in extreme conditions. It detects coin-size targets up to 8 inches deep and larger targets up to 24 inches deep. It can detect gold, silver, brass, aluminum, iron, and steel. Although this is also perfectly suitable for adults, the adjustable length means that even children and teens can handle the device with no trouble at all.
The TK4 comes with a lot of cool features, including 3 operation modes, 2-tone audio discrimination, an 8-inch waterproof search coil, automatic ground balance, and a built-in speaker. Even kids can figure out how to use the knob control interface to maximize detection depth, eliminate undesirable targets, and switch between search modes.
Bounty Hunter says that the device's "renowned discrimination circuitry, easy-to-use technology, and proven treasure performance has made the Tracker IV the number one selling hobby metal detector on the market."
If you're trying to make this a family-friendly hobby, investing in the TK4 is the perfect starting point to start bonding through metal detecting.
Features of Entry-Level Metal Detectors
Low to Medium Mineralization Handling
According to Metal Detectors South Africa, ground mineralization is "the amount of magnetism in the soil due to particles in the soil having the 'characteristics of metal' and produce a magnetic response picked up by a metal detector."
This is why it is essential to find a detector that can handle ground mineralization, at least on a low to medium level.
Basic Ground Balance
Ground balance is similar to mineralization handling; it relates to how a metal detector interacts with minerals in the ground. Instead of continually signaling you about the presence of ground minerals, a detector with ground balance will cancel out all unwanted signals and only give alerts on metal items that you would want to find.
Discrimination & Notch Discrimination
You'd be surprised to find that most of the metal that is buried beneath the Earth's surface is just junk. Bottle caps and soda can pull tabs are all over the place, and there's nothing more frustrating to a metal detector hobbyist than digging up these invaluable pieces over and over again. Luckily, a metal detector can decipher between valuable and invaluable metals based on conductivity - this is called notch discrimination.
A search coil is an essential aspect of every metal detector. It works to transmit the electromagnetic field from the detector into the ground. Once an object is targeted, the search coil then receives another electromagnetic signal in response, helping you to detect and locate the object.
One of the most common questions regarding metal detectors is "how deep do they go?" The answer depends on a few things, like the size of the coil, the number of minerals present in the ground, and the size, shape, and material of the targeted object.
But no matter how deep your specific metal detector can go, choosing one with a depth indicator is handy. This feature displays the depth of the object on an LCD screen so that you know how deep to dig before finding the buried treasure. Depth indication isn’t as common in metal detectors for beginners, but it’s a handy feature nonetheless.
Target identification won’t tell you precisely what you’re digging up, but it will give you clues and hints on what it might be. A metal detector with target ID responds to different targets in unique ways - it will react to a coin differently than it would to a small golden nugget. More advanced metal detectors will tell you the metal conductivity of the object, which ultimately tells you the metal type.
What Can You Expect To Find
This depends entirely on your metal detecting location, like whether you’re focusing your efforts on the beach, in a park, or on a piece of historic land. If you hunt for treasure on the beach, the most likely items to find are watches, jewelry, and coins. But if you bring your metal detector to a historic Civil War site, you'll find relics from the past.
The main thing to remember as a beginner metal detector hobbyist is to begin your search in a place where people have congregated. This would include places like parks, beaches, playgrounds, picnic areas, outdoor theaters, and spots where history has been made.
Metal Detecting Code of Ethics
Before you start metal detecting just anywhere, it is essential to know that laws in your area. Metal detecting isn’t legal everywhere; some places require a special permit, while others ban it altogether. For example, metal detecting in Fort Smith National Historic Site isn’t just illegal; it's a felony. So first thing's first, confirm that you are legally allowed to metal detect in your intended spot.
Once you've done that, you must keep in mind that you are bound to the metal detecting code of ethics. The first rule of metal detecting is to follow all local, state, and federal laws relating to the hobby. Next, remember to respect private property and always get permission when treasure hunting on someone else's land. Here are a few more helpful rules to follow for proper metal detecting etiquette:
Getting Started with Metal Detecting
So you've finally received your brand new beginner-friendly metal detector in the mail. Now what? There's no need to go into too much detail on metal detector schematics for beginners; all you need to do is read the user manual before you start treasure hunting. Once your new metal-detecting device is up and running, that's when the real fun can begin.
In the beginning, you need to realize that you're likely to find more trash than treasure. The more time you spend searching, the more you'll find, so try to be patient and have persistence. If you're looking for historical relics, don't start hunting just anywhere, but instead focus on local historical spots that legally allow metal detecting.
Care & Maintenance
Once you've practiced and figured out how to use a metal detector for beginners, the next step is to care for and maintain your new device properly. Whether you've purchased the best gold metal detector for beginners or a small pinpointer device, proper storage is key.
While storing for long periods, always remove the battery and keep the detector in a dry space that isn't too hot or cold. After each use, it's a good idea to clean the metal detector's search coil. This part is prone to getting dirty, so clean it with a damp cloth (it's OK, the search coil is almost always waterproof).
Frequently Asked Questions
Where is the best place to find top deals when buying these entry-level metal detectors?
How deep can gold be detected?
Do I need to get permission to metal detect?
Can I metal detect on public land?
Where are good places to begin metal detecting?
Out of the 5 metal detector reviews for beginners we covered, the Fisher F22 is the cream of the crop. This metal detector has it all - a submersible search coil, 9-inch depth reading, 10 adjustable sensitivity levels, and 4 unique search modes. You get all this and more for an affordable price - some Fisher F22 users even claim that this is the ideal choice for everyone, not just beginners.
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