Treasure Hunting

How to Use A Metal Detector: Tips and Tricks to Get Started

Want to take on a new hobby? Perhaps you’ve heard great things about metal detecting.

Metal detectors can be used as a leisure device or as a means to earn a living.

Whatever reason you have, learning how to use a metal detector properly is the first step you should focus on.

For that, we’ve got your back.

What Do You Use to Metal Detect?

If you wish to try looking for trinkets below the ground, what do you use to metal detect?

More than anything else, you need a device called a metal detector to look for treasures buried underground.

It’s impossible to find anything just by digging in random places. Thankfully, a metal detector can help pinpoint the location of the metal and determine if it’s valuable or not

To make sure you’re spending your money on the right unit, here are the factors to keep in mind when looking for a metal detector:

1. The Features

Metal detectors have different features, and your choice depends on where and how you plan to use it.

Beginner metal detectors contain the most basic components, including:

  • Target identification
  • Ground balance
  • Sensitivity
  • Discrimination
  • Search depth

2. The Targets in Your Area

It’s not enough that you learn how to metal detect; you need to determine what type of targets you have in your area, too.

If you’re close to the desert, you won’t need a metal detector with waterproof features.

Then, there are metal detectors meant for gold, coin, and jewelry hunting, so it’s better to do a bit of research to buy a model that fits your preference.

3. The Price

There are metal detectors that are too expensive for people who only plan to use it for recreational purposes.

Figure out how you plan to use it and pay attention to its features before looking at the price.

Metal detectors with more advanced features are more expensive, while beginner models are cheaper.

There are metal detectors that are aimed for kids, too, which are a lot cheaper compared to regular models.

Metal Detecting Basics

Learning how to metal detect is easy and won’t take much of your time. In fact, you can simply watch a couple of online videos, and you’d know exactly what needs to be done.

Still, it’s better to fully understand metal detecting basics so that you won’t have a hard time figuring out what you should do.

For those new to this, here are some tips and tricks you should follow:

1. Buy a Beginner Model First

If you’re only trying to dip your toes in the water, don’t buy a model with advanced features just yet.

Instead, choose one with simple and straightforward functions.

Once you’ve mastered using this, then you can move on to a more complicated one.

2. Learn How to Read a Metal Detector

Learning how to read a metal detector is not too difficult.

As long as you know the three important indicators of your device, you can figure out how to use metal detectors properly.


Metal detectors will produce a sound once the coil’s magnetic field finds a target.

The tone would depend on the model of the metal detector, but you will naturally get used to this as you use it.

When the coil finds its target, it will start beeping in a low tone. If you move away from the target, the metal detector will stop beeping.

The tone will become louder as you get closer to the target.

Visual Display Indicator (VDI)

Another way to read a metal detector is through the visual display indicator (VDI).

It would indicate distinct numbers that determine the target that your metal detector found.

There are models with values from 0 to 99, and there are some with negative numbers.


Most metal detectors will indicate the depth of the metal. However, detection depth is only an estimate, and you’ll have to dig it on your own.

A basic metal detector can detect metals up to eight inches below the surface. It will give you an estimate once it finds a target.

Metal detector on grass

3. Prepare a Basic Kit

Although your metal detector is the most essential device when metal detecting, it is not the only thing you need.

Aside from learning how to use metal detectors, you should also prepare the following:


You will dig through dirt and sand, so you have to keep your hands safe. There are instances where you might accidentally hit a rusty metal while digging.

Durable gloves will protect your hands from rusty metals and other things that might hurt you.


Always bring headphones with you when using a metal detector because the sounds from the forest or the area you are metal detecting can drown out the low tones.

By using a headphone, you can hear the beeping sound of your metal detector clearly.

Digging tools

You cannot dig through hard soil without the right tools. Prepare a small trowel to help you out, but you can bring a sand scoop or a lesche digger for soil.

Coil cover

You need a coil cover to protect the coil from damages.

It’s very cheap, and it can prevent scratches and dents that would affect the effectiveness of your coil.

How to Use a Metal Detector

Now that you know all of the basics, the final step would be learning how to use a metal detector efficiently.

Step 1: Assemble Your Unit

Metal detectors come with an instruction manual, so assembling them is pretty straightforward.

The setup would be different depending on the model, but most beginner metal detectors only require you to do the following:

  • Attach the search coil to the lower shaft
  • Assemble all the shafts
  • Attach the armrest
  • Connect and wrap and coil cable

Step 2: Choose Which Detection Mode to Use

If you’re using an entry-level detector, it’s already on the default “All-Metal” mode, which means that the device will target all types of metals on the ground.

If you are using one that allows you to choose a search mode, you need to choose based on the terrain of your hunting ground.

There are detection modes that would only target gold, and there are some that would only target coins, jewelry, and more.

If you are looking for a specific metal, use a more specific detection mode.

Step 3: Adjust Advanced Settings

Beginner-level metal detectors have preset user settings, which means you don’t need to make any adjustments.

For more advanced metal detectors, choose if you want an automatic or manual ground balancing.

Then, you have to set the discrimination. You can also adjust the sensitivity of the device, depending on the type of metal you are targeting.

Make sure that you completely understand the settings before you adjust any of the advanced features.

You can stay with the basic settings until you figure out what the other advanced settings do and adjust it properly.

Step 4: Start Detecting

Once you’ve adjusted all the settings on your metal detector, go back to the main display.

There, it would indicate all of the essential elements for metal detecting like the target ID, depth indicator, DISC segments, and more.

Before you even start detecting, practice how you swing your metal detector. Here are a few tips that you can follow to effectively use your detector.

  • The search head should be a few inches above the ground.

You should never let the search coil touch the ground. However, it has to be low enough for the signal to penetrate the ground and reach the precious metals.

  • The detector must be at least two feet ahead of you so that you can easily pinpoint the area where the metal is found.
  • Walk in a straight line while holding the detector and sweep it in a semi-circle.

This would allow you to cover more grounds so that you won’t spend too much time searching in the area.

  • Once you hear a beeping sound, don’t rush.

Take it slow and pay attention to the sound coming from your detector to easily find where the metal is located.

Step 5: Do a Systematic Search

If you want to make sure that you didn’t miss any metal in the area, do a systematic search and take note of the spots you already searched.

Once you’ve walked on a straight line and you already reached the end, step two to three feet to the side and go back to where you came from in a straight line.

This will create an overlap to make sure that you didn’t miss other objects in the area.

It is not a bad idea to do a random search, but a systematic pattern would allow you to find all the objects in the target area.

You will less likely miss an object, and you can find all of the metals that your detector is capable of detecting.

Using a Metal Detector

Metal detecting is not a lucrative profession.

Although a lot of people do it to make a living, you won’t become wealthy by doing this, unless you can dig something worth thousands of dollars consistently.

Metal detecting requires patience and persistence because it’s tough to find precious metals worth something.

You may end up finding coins or broken jewelry that would only earn you a few bucks, but don’t lose hope and continue trying.