What Features to Look for in Metal Detectors?

metal detecting
IMG Source: itsaboutmen.com

What Makes a Good Metal Detector?

You’ve decided to get a metal detector but don’t know yet what to look for in a certain brand, product, or model. As you all know, metal detectors are portable electronic devices that allow you to locate various metal items below the ground, or sometimes underwater.

It is powered by batteries to develop a magnetic field, so it can detect metal objects below the surface. There are sensitive wires such as the receiver, which reacts to the magnetized metal items, which then sends a tone to a headphone or speaker, or display on the screen. These signals would then alert the operator of their nearby target.

Basic Components of Metal Detectors

IMG Source: relic-hunting.com

Metal detectors are primarily made up of the battery case, and electronic box on one end. The long handle or brace is the operator’s arm which you use to search and detect metal targets underground. The insulated wire then extends from the box, then wraps into the shaft, which connects to the round disk which is the coil. This disk is actually covered by

a shield (sometimes plastic made) which is then attached to the handle’s shaft at a certain angle. This position allows you to hold the search device parallel to the surface.

Features to look for in Metal Detectors

Different metal detectors offer a wide range of features, according to an intended use, or specific purpose. You should learn these features, so you know which ones to apply so you can be successful in finding your intended metal objects.

1) Coil Technology


The coil is primarily an essential part of the metal detector. This is actually the component in the device that sends magnetic signals it picks up underground. The magnetic field allows the device to magnetize the metal items, so it is identified by the receiver. There are several types of coil technology used in the metal search devices.

VLF coils– The name stands for Very Low Frequency, which majority of metal detectors operate. It can generally be used on dry surfaces, wet grounds, and sometimes in shallow waters. The coil is quite versatile and uses a single, fixed operating frequency. A multiple frequency VLF metal detectors, on the other hand, uses multiple frequencies, usually depending on the categories of metal being searched.

Pulse Induction– These metal detectors are ideal in places that you like to detect such as deeper grounds or deep water. However, it is not sensitive to small pieces jewelry, gold, or other tiny valuable items. It is also not sensitive to ground interference, so these coils have the advantage in soils with high mineral content; since the detector device will not be confused by extraneous types of metals.

2) Coil Size

IMG Source: okmmetaldetectors.com
IMG Source: okmmetaldetectors.com

The depth in which you use a metal detector’s search is actually proportionate to the search coil diameter. This means the larger the size of the coils, the larger fields of detection it will produce. On the other hand, a smaller size of coils can only produce smaller fields. Generally, the field size will be proportionate to the object size that will be detected. The large coil sizes may actually miss small and tiny metal pieces.

Here is a simple guide:

  • The small coils, around 6 inches or below, are perfect for hunting in places with small debris, fragments, or pieces of gold.
  • The medium coils, around 7 to 9 inches are ideal for general-purpose hunting since they give you a good range of coverage.
  • The large coils, around 9 inches or higher are best for searching big objects, large caches or very deep searches.

3) Target Identification

treasure hunting target identification
IMG Source: smarterhobby.com

The device’s target ID feature usually distinguishes metal objects that were picked up in the reading. It usually gives the operator the choice whether to dig or not to dig the item.

Some metal detectors have categories in their target ID categories that can identify nickels, quarters, dimes, pennies, foil, iron, etc. The feature is useful if you intend to search for metals and coins at messed up places with trash mixed up with the targetted item. These places could be old houses, buildings, or structures with a lot of different types of nails, iron bars, small metals, among many other.

The target ID of the detectors can be programmed to search for certain metal types, or avoid specific metal items. The target ID features should give the operator the visual cue to identifies the item.

4) Tone ID

Manufacturers also include Tone ID in their metal detectors that sound various audio tones, depending on the object’s conductivity. For example, items with foil, nickel, or iron may bring out low-pitched tones; objects like screws, caps or pull tabs may emit medium-pitched signals. For valuable coins and treasured metals, high-pitched tones will be emitted.

5) Power Level Indicator

IMG Source: metaldetector.com
IMG Source: metaldetector.com

These devices operate on batteries, so if you use it for a certain period, power goes down. Metal detectors also include battery indicators that show the device operator how much power the battery has. You should carry extra batteries in your bag if you go out for metal search in regular periods. Most of the time, low batteries affect the accuracy of the readings.

6) Multiple Modes

IMG Source: md-hunter.com
IMG Source: md-hunter.com

Metal detectors generally operate on different types of modes. The common types of modes included in the devices are a pinpoint mode, full-discrimination mode, all-metal mode and tone-discrimination mode.

7) Operating Frequency

metal detector
IMG Source: detectoare-metale.ro

Another feature in metal detectors are the operating frequencies, which are listed in kHz or kilohertz. This refers to the signal that transmitted and then received by the metal detector for every given second. The devices usually operate at low frequencies, which brings sensitivity and good overall depth detector. Metal detectors with high frequencies usually become more sensitive to natural gold and smaller metal items. However, they can’t distinguish categories of metals. These devices are often used by users who are into gold prospecting.


When making the decision for buying a metal hunting device, you certainly want to know the best features and components. You don’t want to buy something, that doesn’t meet your needs; more so which will not be useful for an extended period. As with any product, they have their pros and cons. The guide we’ve shared should provide you the best features to look for in metal detector products. Of course, you have the power to choose what brand or price range you would like to get.