A Beginner’s Guide to Metal Detecting

You’ve seen them at the beach or maybe at your local park: modern-day treasure seekers scanning the ground with metal detectors. For most people who do it, metal detecting is a fun hobby. After all, you never know what it’ll turn up: money, a lost ring . . . your own keys!

But some people use metal detectors to do historical research (and maybe find a few relics) while others actually hope to find something of value. In fact, one of the largest gold nuggets ever found in California was discovered by a hobbyist using a metal detector. Now known as The Mojave Nugget, it weighs more than 10 pounds! (For a list of other amazing finds, read this.)

No matter what you’re hoping to find, metal detecting can be a fun way to explore familiar landscapes. Here’s how to do it:

Beginner’s Guide to Metal Detecting

1. Choose a metal detector and familiarize yourself with its settings. The type of metal detector you use depends on what you plan to do with it. High-quality metal detectors can be expensive so it might be better to buy a cheaper version first. We’ve included a list of the top eight metal detectors at the end of this post. (Our first pick is an expensive option for beginners.)

2. Gather additional gear. Besides a metal detector, you’ll also need a pair of headphones (that plug in to the detector), a small shovel or trowel (to dig up what you find), and gloves.

3. Practice using the metal detector in a familiar place such as your own yard. Hold the metal detector in front of you about 6 inches off the ground. As you walk in a straight line, slowly sweep the metal detector back and forth in a half circle. Stop when you hear a beep and focus on that spot, sweeping the metal detector back and forth. If you’re able, use your trowel to dig up the spot. (Be careful not to dig holes in public places such as parks.)

4. Find a place you want to hunt and get permission. Many public parks prohibit metal detecting so it’s a good idea to research before you go. Private property and land can often be a good place to go metal detecting but make sure you get the property owner’s permission first. They might even be able to tell you good places to hunt!

Bonus Tips:

  • Expect to find more trash than gold nuggets (or other treasure).
  • Carry a bag to collect what you find.
  • Try hunting in the spring or after it rains. These are two of the best times to be out with a metal detector.
  • Bring extra batteries or power.
  • If you specifically want to hunt for gold, you’ll need a metal detector designed for this purpose. The final metal detector on our list is a good bet.

8 Metal Detectors Worth Buying