The one thing all metal detectors have in common: they sound a tone when metal is targeted. And what a joyous sound it is! There is such a thing as silent search mode, but aside from that, you can count on hearing an audio tone when there’s either treasure or trash underfoot. According to hobbyists who have owned multiple metal detectors, the tone varies depending on the manufacturer. Regardless, you will get used to identifying the tones your detector makes. When you first get a detector, it’s a great idea to bury coins, bottle caps or other items in your own backyard just to hear how each target sounds. You may have already noticed that a coin generally has a solid and repeatable signal, whereas junk gives a broken, clipped tone that changes every time you scan it.
Good Targets vs. Junk Targets
It’s important to learn the sound a coin makes right away. Coins usually produce a solid, distinctive sound that’s hard to miss. It will probably start and stop suddenly, going quickly from silent to full volume- then back to silent as you move away. This should happen with each sweep of the search coil. Also, on a metal detector that has target ID with numerical values, coins typically register the same value when you turn and scan from a different direction.
Junk targets, such as pull-tabs and iron will have a choppy, broken sound. The reason for this is that pull-tabs and other junk are asymmetrical. Going east to west may give a solid signal, while going west to east may sound choppy. That’s a good indication that the item is oddly shaped. As far as numerical values, junk targets give you one reading when you first scan them, and a different value when you turn 90 degrees or swing in the opposite direction. If you’re getting a lot of chatter or static in your headphones, check that you’re not under power lines or by a transformer. Adjusting the sensitivity down will help to properly operate in these areas.
Pinpoint Your Target Before You Start Digging!
So, once you’re metal detector sounds a tone, it’s time to start digging, right? Not so fast. It will be much easier to find your object if you pinpoint it first. Pinpointing is the process of precisely locating your target in the smallest possible area. And you can use your metal detector to pinpoint if you don’t have a separate pinpointing tool. They say that 9 out of 10 serious detectorists use a pinpointer such as the famous Garrett Pro Pinpointer or the waterproof Pro-Pointer AT and Makro Pointer. But if you’re a beginner, you can start by pinpointing with your metal detector. Many newer model detectors feature a “pinpoint mode.” If this is the case, switch to this mode to locate your target. The more accurate you can get, the smaller the amount of dirt you’ll have to dig to retrieve your target.
You’re listening for the audio clue to help understand the exact location of potential treasure. As the center of your coil gets closer to the target, the audio tone will be louder. When your coil moves away from the metal, the audio response will be quieter. Some detectors with pinpoint mode will change pitch in relation to your target, too. So, the pitch and volume of the tone will get higher when you’re in close proximity. If your metal detector doesn’t feature pinpoint mode, it’s o.k. There are several other methods that work for pinpointing. The PLUS method involves moving your detector in the shape of a “plus” sign to best find the object. First, move your coil from left to right to get the strongest audio tone. Then change directions with your coil by moving it front to back. It’s pretty easy—if the sound gets stronger, you are moving your coil closer to the target. Another method is the 90 degree switch. When you locate your target, start pinpointing until you hear the strongest signal. Mark this spot—then, move 90 degrees in either direction. After moving 90 degrees, start sweeping your coil again. You are creating an X in the ground with your swings and your target should be directly in the center of the X.
Should I Act on a Weak Signal?
All beginners are excited to start digging up treasure, but grow quickly tired of all the aluminum junk getting in the way. That’s when listening to your audio tones is important. But what do you do with a questionable audio signal? It may not sound like the rest or you may not be able to get it to repeat. To dig or not to dig—this is the question. Experts say you should consider the alternative. What if it happens to be a piece of gold? Before you walk away, try to get a stronger signal. Sometimes all you need to do is move 90 degrees in either direction. Often, you’ll find that the questionable target is much stronger when you swing your search coil from another direction. If you signal is still very weak, try turning up the sensitivity on your metal detector to see if your tone gets louder. On a side note: if there seems to be a lot of trash in the areas you’re searching, a smaller coil may be better.
Tell us about your Metal Detecting Finds!
Have you had any beginner’s luck metal detecting so far? Tell us about it at “My Metal Detecting Finds.” You can inspire others to start this amazing hobby, AND you’re eligible to win a great prize from MetalDetector.com. Don’t forget to post a photo of your treasure, too. If the readers vote your story as their favorite, you win!
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