How to Use a Metal Detector


Do you want to learn how to get started in the exciting hobby of metal detecting? Just imagine what it would be like to find a lost treasure. Now is the perfect time to get started and we can help guide you through the process of how to use a metal detector, understanding the laws and finding the best places to use your detector.

Metal detecting is a fun hobby that can get you outside exploring. When most people think about metal detecting they picture an old guy out walking by himself swinging his metal detector back and forth. But metal detecting isn’t just for old men. Men and women of all ages, as well as children, enjoy the addictive hobby.


Why Do People Go Metal Detecting?

Have you ever wondered why people get into metal detecting? At first, most people start it as a weekend hobby then they get the fever. There are several different reasons that people get into metal detecting and once you learn how to use a metal detector you will understand the thrill of the hunt.


Some of the main reasons people learn how to use a metal detector:

  • Enjoying the outdoors while getting some exercise.
  • Finding pieces of history that have been buried for hundreds of years.
  • Coin collectors love to find old coins.
  • People can make money off their finds.
  • To find valuable metals like gold and silver.


Parts Of The Metal Detector

When you are learning how to use a metal detector it is important to know the parts and their functions. There are 4 major parts.


  • Control Box

The control box houses the main circuitry components, microprocessor, batteries and speakers.


  • Search Coil

Also known as the “antenna”, “loop”, and “search head” the search coil is the piece at the bottom that detects the metal.


  • Stabilizer

The stabilizer is an optional component that’s main purpose is to keep the metal detector steady as you sweep it back and forth.


  • Shaft

The shaft joins the coil to the control box. It is usually adjustable so that you can make it more comfortable to use.


Different Types Of Metal Detectors

There are basically 3 different types of metal detectors.


  • BFO Metal Detectors (Beat Frequency Oscillator)

BFO metal detectors, also known as Beat Frequency Oscillator, are the most common metal detector for beginners that are just learning how to use a metal detector.

It has 2 coils, one in the control box and one at the head. BFOs use radio waves along with magnetic fields.

If the radio waves come into contact with metal, it will create a magnetic field that interrupts the radio waves. This interruption is how the user knows when the detector has located metal.

BFO detectors are preferred by a lot of users due to the fact that they are easy to use and are inexpensive. However, they are not as accurate or reliable as VLF or PI metal detectors.


  • VLF Metal Detectors (Very Low Frequency)

VLF, also known as Very Low Frequency, detectors are the most popular type that people purchase and are great if you are just learning how to use a metal detector.

They use two coils to recognize metals that are buried. These coils emit and receive a magnetic field and if metal is in the area it will send a signal to the control box. An alert will be emitted by way of a tone through the speaker.


  • PI Metal Detectors (Pulse Induction)

PI metal detectors, also known as Pulse Induction, use pulses instead of frequency signals. They only have one coil that sends and receives pulses. These types of detectors are able to penetrate deeper than VLF metal detectors.

This type of detector is preferred by more serious users.


How To Use A Metal Detector


When you first learn how to use a metal detector you might be under the impression that all you have to do is turn it on and move it back and forth over the ground, but that is not the case. So, what do you need to do to get started?


  • Practice Sweeping

Sweeping is how you move the detector over the ground. When you are first learning how to use a metal detector practice your sweeping technique.

It is important that you learn to keep the search head close to the ground while making slow sweeps. It shouldn’t touch the ground, but it should be very close.

If your sweeping technique is bad, the metal detector will not be able to do its job correctly and you will not get the hits that you are looking for.


  • Test Different Metals

Before you go out searching you should run your metal detector over different metals that you have buried. This will help you test the detector as well as your sweeping skills.


  • Learn The Sounds

When you are first learning how to use a metal detector you may not know the sounds. By testing your detector over different types of metals you can familiarize yourself with the sounds that you are looking for.


  • Have Patience

Patience is the key to making finds. If you are just learning how to use a metal detector, you might get impatient and start searching too fast. You have to remember that every time that you go out won’t result in a substantial find.

Sometimes you will only find junk and other times nothing at all. Slow down and be patient and search methodically. Once you do make a hit carefully narrow the area down.


Don’t Make A Mess

Be responsible when digging up your finds. You should rarely need anything larger than a small hand digger. Only dig small holes and always leave the area the way you found it.

Also, if you know that the site has historical significance do not disturb it. If you do, you can get in trouble. Also, do not disturb vegetation or animals and if you dig up trash please throw it away.


Know The Laws And Regulations

You just can’t go metal detecting anywhere that you want. There are laws that prohibit it in certain areas. When you are learning how to use a metal detector, you may want to take it to your local park, but always check to make sure that it is permitted.

The same goes for private property. If you really want to use your metal detector somewhere that is restricted, make sure that you get permission before doing so. It is a good idea to get it in writing just in case any issues arise.


Stay Safe

Safety should be your number one concern. You need to pay attention to your surroundings and plan accordingly. Here are some things that you can do to stay safe:

  • Tell someone where you are going or take a friend along.
  • Always have a compass handy in case you get lost.
  • Use insect repellant.
  • Use Sunscreen.
  • Stay away from wild animals.
  • Watch out for poison ivy and other poisonous plants.
  • Keep a first aid kit handy.
  • Always have permission.
  • Watch the weather.
  • Take food and water along.
  • Watch out for other people.
  • Pay attention to what you are digging up. You can easily cut yourself.
  • Carry a small knife.
  • Plan ahead and be ready for anything.


You never know what you are going to discover when you are out exploring. Maybe it will be just a piece of trash or maybe it will be a treasure of historical significance. Who knows?

So, what are you waiting for? Learning how to use a metal detector is fun and can lead to countless adventures.


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