Not sure what to get the treasure hunter in your life? I can help.
In this guide, I will share some metal detector recommendations. I will also share tools for finding more of the good stuff. Giving a junk metal detector as a gift will only disappoint. Get one that actually works.
Best Metal Detectors
There are hundreds of different metal detectors to choose from.
Some work well, many don’t.
The following list is not meant to be comprehensive. There are good detectors that I won’t cover. But, these suggestions should help as they are based on more than 20 years experience metal detecting.
Best Metal Detector under $100
In this price range, you are most likely to be taken advantage of by greedy companies. You should avoid most metal detectors in this price range.
Many won’t even detect a fifty-cent coin more than a quarter inch away. You would have a better chance spotting the coin on the ground that finding it with the detector. Unfortunately, some of these cheap metal detectors sell for much more than they are worth.
The best one I have found in this price range is the Bounty Hunter Junior metal detector. It is pretty simple to use and doesn’t have a fancy display. The connector on the metal rod that extends the length of the detector could be improved.
But, unlike other detectors costing more, it actually finds coins and jewelry at a decent depth. Usually between 2 and 3 inches. I have two of these for my younger children to use. My boys have fun with them and I don’t have to worry if they get banged around.
Best Metal Detector Under $200
In this price range you start to see better features and get a little more depth. However, despite the nicer displays, the performance usually isn’t much better than the Bounty Hunter Junior, which costs much less.
An exception to this is the Tesoro Compadre. It is a plain no frills metal detector. It has one knob, no display and looks like it was designed 20 years ago. But, despite it’s humble looks, it rocks as a metal detector.
It gets better depth than the Bounty Hunter and has the sensitivity needed to find smaller gold items like earrings and chains. Turning the knob clockwise will allow you to ignore much of the trash so you can focus more on finding coins.
It works well in playgrounds and can take a beating. Despite having owned metal detectors costing ten times that of this detector, I keep a Compadre as my back up. It also packs up small so I can take it with me when I don’t have much space.
Best Metal Detector Under $300
This is where you start to find metal detectors that get good depth and have nicer features and a better display. While they will not perform as well or go as deep as the more expensive models that can cost several hundred or even thousands of dollars, the detectors in this range will work well for most casual or beginner hobbyists. Many people see no reason to spend more than this and still find plenty of coins and jewelry items.
The most popular metal detector in this price range is probably the Garret Ace 250. It has been around for a while and has proven itself as a reliable machine. It lets you pick certain ranges of junk to ignore and gets good depth and is easy to use.
My only complaint is minor. I am not a huge fan of the tone of the beep. But this doesn’t seem to bother most of the thousands of other users.
My runner up at this price point would be the Fisher F2. It offers much of the same functionality but with a beep that I find more pleasant. Performance wise, they are very similar and both companies have produced quality metal detectors for several decades.
Best Metal Detector Over $300
In this price range, metal detectors really start to specialize and typically provide better performance. Rather than discuss them by price, I will break them down by interests.
Best Metal Detector for Old Silver Coins
When looking for old silver, it is hard to beat a Minelab. They make metal detectors that go deep and that combine a wonderful audio with a powerful display and feature set.
Not cheap, the Minelab E-trac is my favorite detector for finding silver coins. The Minelab CTX 3030 is waterproof and outperforms the Etrac. However, it costs almost double the price. The E-trac is more than adequate for my needs.
Also noteworthy is that different areas of dirt have more of the black sand metal particles than do other areas. The Minelab’s tend to perform much better in high mineral areas than the other metal detectors I have used. They also perform better around salt water.
Best Underwater Metal Detector
For some of the same reasons mentioned above. I prefer Minelab’s for use in water, especially salt water. The CTX 3030 mentioned above works well, but I personally like the classic Minelab Excalibur II. It is built like a tank, more affordable and can go deeper than most other detectors on the beach which means more gold and silver.
Best Gold Nugget Metal Detector
Due to the way metal detectors work, nugget hunting detectors tend fall into two groups, those that are good for larger gold to deeper depths and those that can pick up the smallest nuggets at less depth.
For big and deep nuggets, the expensive Minelab SDC, GPX, and GPZ series are king. But, they come at a steep price. It is also important to remember that there are a lot more small bits of gold than there are larger nuggets. Also, not all places that have gold have large nuggets. Many places only have tiny pickers, flakes and flour gold.
For the small gold, the long-time champion is the Fisher Gold Bug 2. It stomps on the competition. If you want the best chance of coming home with gold, this is the nugget hunter to get. It will still pick up bigger nuggets, just not as deep as the Minelabs. The Minelabs detect nuggets in feet whereas the Fisher is typically less than a foot for bigger gold and inches for tiny gold.
A close competitor and sibling is the Fisher Gold Bug Pro which will find almost as small of gold and has features that make it good for relic hunting and for finding small gold jewelry items at parks and playgrounds.
The Gold Bug II and the Gold Bug Pro are my two all-time favorite metal detectors as I love prospecting for nuggets and when I am not in the gold country, I like hitting the playgrounds looking for gold earrings and necklaces that others miss. I received the Gold Bug Pro as a birthday gift and it has become my go to detector for most of what I like to do.
5 Metal Detecting Gift Ideas
If you are wondering what to give someone who already has a metal detector, I can help. These are some of my favorite metal detecting tools and accessories. They would make an excellent christmas gift or stocking stuffer.
- A pinpointer. This helps you find items faster once you have started digging holes. It is basically a mini metal detector that, as the name suggests, pinpoints the location of the metal item. The most commonly used one is the Garrett Propointer. It works well and I used one for a long time. I currently use the White’s TRX Bullseye, which provides some additional options and goes a little deeper. This one should not be confused with White’s original Bullseye, which is not nearly as good. You want the TRX.
- Lesche Digger. It is the last digger you will need for digging in grass and hard packed dirt. It is tuff. Other trowels bend too easily, but the Lesch holds up to abuse.
- A plastic scoop. When searching playgrounds, or for nuggets, or at the beach it comes in handy as you can check if the item is in the scoop.
- Quality Headphones. Most headphones that come with metal detectors are not good and you will not hear the smaller items very well. You can go all out and get a pair of Detector Pro Headphones, which I have owned. Or you might try a more affordable pair of Koss Ur-29 headphones that are almost as good but at a fraction of the price. This is what I currently own.
- A book. You can’t go wrong with a good metal detecting book. For general metal detecting, I recommend: Metal Detecting: A Beginner’s Guide to Mastering the Greatest Hobby in the Work by Mark Smith. For nugget hunting.
With the holidays around the corner, I hope you find these metal detector gift ideas helpful.