By Steve Herschbach
I find myself in the position of having a large number of metal detectors recently acquired or headed my way. I plan to review these detectors soon on various forums and have published my thoughts on various detectors for many years.
Many people may be familiar with who I am but many are not and so I decided it was a good time to do a full disclosure statement. I do think it is important for people to know why I publish detector reviews and what my motivations are.
I got my first metal detector in 1972 and have been detecting ever since. I got into prospecting for gold around the same time, and the two activities have provided focal points in my life. So much so that a partner and I founded a company in 1976 to sell prospecting equipment, including metal detectors. That company, Alaska Mining & Diving Supply of Anchorage, Alaska, went on to become one of the largest retailers of its type in the country.
That means that for most of my life not a single day has gone by without me thinking about metal detectors and prospecting equipment. I continued to use the gear myself not only prospecting but coin and jewelry detecting. One of my main work responsibilities was deciding what equipment to stock and because of this I had the perfect excuse to try and and use hundreds of metal detectors over the years. I could simply borrow them and use them for free, or buy them at dealer cost. I have not paid retail for a detector since 1976. The only limitation on my ability to try a detector was my own interest in it.
It is not unusual for me to grab six or eight detectors and take them all out and test and compare. My excuse often was business but the truth has always been it is because I am interested in metal detectors to the point of obsession. I like using different detectors and learning about them. I like figuring out how to best apply one to a given situation. Always, I am on the lookout for better machines for myself. Everything else is just happy side effect or excuses for doing what I do. Metal detecting is my thing.
I am also a computer nerd and was the IT guy at AMDS. I built the company website and ran the network. I think the Internet is one of the best things to ever happen to metal detecting. I joined various forums and found I could trade information with like minded people from all over the globe. I have come to know people I would never have met prior to the Internet. I read all I could find and shared what I knew. I learned who to pay attention to and who to ignore.
I made a key decision early on. I wanted people to know who I was. I was not interested in hiding my name or my motives and so I went the other direction. I have always used my name and never post under a pseudonym or nickname. I always wanted people to know where I was coming from and that I was in business. The truth however is that I never let business get in the way of my integrity in reporting my personal opinions about metal detectors. I had the benefit of being a multiline dealer and so could talk about all brands because in our business, we did not care what brand you bought. My goal was always just to promote metal detecting and metal detectors. The particular brands never mattered.
The main thing though is for me it never was this versus that or any particular desire to find the perfect metal detector. I simply do not believe there is such a thing. It is like wanting to declare one car the best and all others worthless. The goal is to get from point A to point B. Every car can get you from here to there. But they look different, they sound different, they act different, they cost different amounts. People own various models for various reasons. Metal detectors are no different and that is why they all sell and they all have their fan clubs and followers.
With that being the case, who am I to say my detector is better than your detector? In my opinion, if your $49 made in China detector truly serves your purpose and makes you happy then it is every bit as good as any detector I own. As a retailer, if there really was such a thing as a perfect detector I could just hang one on the wall, and sell every person that one detector. My goal was always to try and figure out what my customer wanted and what detector, at the lowest cost, could do everything they wanted. Honestly, I got very, very good at it. I became a walking talking metal detector catalog stuffed full of facts and figures and if I ever got stumped by a question, it did not happen twice in a row. I have over 20 years of posts on the internet that by and large is just me trying to help answer prople's questions.
My partner and I engineered a sale of our company to our employees in 2010. I also due to some great success with a mining property at Moore Creek, Alaska was able to purchase a new home in Reno, Nevada. I sold everything in Alaska and moved to Reno, and a major goal in doing so was to be able to continue prospecting and metal detecting while I am still physically fit enough to really get out and do it to the max. Reno is centrally located in the western US and makes a perfect base for heading in just about any direction looking not only for gold, but for coins, jewelry, and meteorites. About the only type of detecting I do not actively pursue is relic hunting, as all the laws pertaining to that put a damper on my desire to get involved much in it.
I did not retire so much as just focus my life around my prospecting and metal detecting more fully. I finally was able to devote more time to another interest, writing, to help supplement my income. Another retirement income strategy is my website at www.detectorprospector.com where I derive some income from Google ads. I always enjoyed building websites and my goal is to over time make it a fabulous resource on prospecting and metal detecting, and hopefully make a little money doing so. I also have numerous books in my head that will finally see the light of day.
I have always got along well with people at the various metal detector companies and over the years I sometimes was sent a detector to try out and keep for my own use. I found that being a known, visible person on the Internet made companies sometimes desire to put a detector in my hands. Frankly, I can find about anything with any detector made so it makes sense. I have found that my officially no longer being attached to a company has removed any last feeling that maybe I am trying to sell people something, or maybe it is just coincidence, but in the last couple years it seems like everyone wants to send a detector my way.
In the last two years I have received free detectors from Fisher, Garrett, Minelab, and White's. I just received one from a newer company, Nokta.
Now, I do not always get stuff for free and I do not count on it. If I am interested in it, I get it one way or the other. I still have my company contacts and can get new stuff at dealer cost if I want it. That means I can get it, use it, and generally sell it for what I have in it. I have a pot of money wrapped up in detecting gear that just kind of rotates. I buy some and then I get too many so I sell some. The key thing is I am not actually spending household money, so my wife does not care. I just rotate the funds. I even buy a used detector now and then. The bad news for the manufacturers is they cannot escape me even if they wanted to. If they do not send me a detector, I will get it anyway. Big hint guys - you do not actually have to give them to me. Well, maybe some you do!
This may seem whiny but it does get to be a bit of work. I am getting jaded and so I am getting less kick from trying new detectors out than I used to get just because they all are so capable these days. They all do the trick one way or the other and so it all can get to be a bit ho-hum at times. When I get sent a detector for free I do have a certain responsibility to go use it and report on it that does get to seem a bit too much like work at times so I need to be careful about that. I have found it never pays to make fun too much like work.
Sorry if I am boring you with all this but I plan on this being a sort of definitive statement I can point to in the future should people ask. Or accuse. Or whatever. I just want to lay it all out so you know where I am coming from. And this is it.
There is no perfect detector. There is no ability to put them all in a pile and declare one a winner. Metal detecting involves looking for nearly infinite different types of targets in almost infinite different types of ground conditions. There are other variables like electrical interference, and proximity of one type of target to another. The key thing as others have pointed out is you never know what it is you did not find. What is in the ground your detector missed?
So you detect a 20 foot by 20 foot area, and your detector finally cannot find anything else. Then you try another detector, and you find some things the first detector missed. Does that mean the second detector is better? No, because if you did it in reverse, the same thing would almost always happen.
Whenever you use a detector you chose a frequency or combination of frequencies, a coil, and various settings, all that combine to work on a certain set of targets that are in the ground. Changing nearly any of those parameters results in a few targets previously detected now getting missed, and other targets previously missed now being detected. The biggest offender is discrimination of any sort. Rejecting any undesired target can cause other desirable targets to be missed through what we refer to as target masking. Target masking is when a rejected target hides or "masks" another target near or under the rejected target.
Nugget detecting is a particularly pure form of metal detecting, in that the goal is to find all metal in the ground. Or so you would think. Due to the huge volumes of junk out there people do still rely on discrimination to eliminate trash items and find gold nuggets, and so target masking still is an issue. But in many cases prospectors really do want one detector that will suck every metal item out of the ground.
Even that is much harder than it appears. The ground itself represents a target that must be dealt with, and worse yet are the so-called hot rocks that go off like a good target on a metal detector. Dealing with ground effects and hot rocks introduces its own type of target masking. If you reject a certain type of ground, there are nuggets that will be missed because the ground rejection method employed also rejects this nuggets. You only need to air test a detector on a nugget then bury the nugget in the ground and test again to see this in action. Only in the rarest of circumstances can detectors find targets as far in the ground as in the air due to the effects of ground minerals. Size matters a lot, as a detector made to find large nuggets at absolute best depths tends to not do as well on tiny nuggets and vice versa.
It is all about trade offs. The detector engineers have an end goal they are trying to achieve, and almost always seeking to do one thing perfectly means giving something else up in the way of performance. This means the only way to truly detect any given plot of ground is to dig absolutely all targets, and to use multiple detectors with differing characteristics to find things with one the other will miss. In nugget detecting this can be practical at times. It may even be practical for beach or relic hunters. It will almost never work for urban detectorists or people who look for non-ferrous targets in the midst of undesired ferrous stuff as the sheer volume of junk targets makes digging everything impractical.
So here it is, my full disclosure. First and foremost, I do not care what detector anyone purchases or if they purchase one at all. My goal is to simply share what I know and to offer what advice I can best offer. My only motivation from a monetary aspect is in promoting my website where I derive some revenue from Google ads, and hopefully to entice people into reading my magazine articles and purchasing any books I may write. I do appreciate and thank the metal detector manufacturers for any free detectors I receive, but all it buys them is a guarantee I will use the detector and report on it. It does not buy my opinions or my integrity in reporting what I think. However, my mother did raise me well and so I do strive to be polite.
Like most people I tend to find magazine reviews a bit bland. They are useful and informative, but they take being polite too far. I think I do nobody, most of all a detector manufacturers, a service by not pointing out places where improvement can be found. I also cannot stand it when people criticize without offering solutions, and so I practice constructive criticism. I want the manufacturers to know where they can do better and I wish always they would be more responsive. The truth is I and nearly anyone who is given a detector to test rarely influences the main design of the detector, which is 99% set in stone by the time any of us see it.
Seriously, don't you all wonder why detectors are the way they are and why silly design things happen? It is because when I get a detector to test all they really want to know is if it basically just works. But if I point out that a certain design feature is weak or needs improvement, especially from a physical standpoint, it almost always is ignored. The basic design in done already. Now, you would think then that perhaps the asked for improvement or commentary might get taken into consideration on the next go round, but that never really seems to happen either. It is why after all these years there is still room for new manufacturers to jump in and give people what they want. Which I believe simply is light weight powerful detectors able to tackle multiple tasks that can be updated and modified via software. The idea should be that perfect detector that really can do it all just by pushing a button or flipping a switch.
I digress. Since I wholeheartedly believe that all detectors have strong points and serve certain purposes well, my goal in testing and comparing detectors is not to declare one a winner and one a loser. My goal is to figure out when I should use one over the other for certain tasks based on the particular strengths of the detector. And then share that with people by trying to best help them get the best out of their detector.
I will pick on Garrett and Minelab since I have a Garrett ATX and Minelab SDC 2300, both courtesy of those respective manufacturers. Thank you guys and gals at Garrett and Minelab! Now, these detectors are similar, but in my mind they are also totally different. My reports on the ATX are very enthusiastic as are my reports on the SDC 2300. Is that because I am fawning over the detectors to please the manufacturers? Sorry, but in my world it would never occur to me. I find life to be easier when I just say what I think. I really, really like both of these metal detectors. I am a big fan of pulse induction detectors and have been lucky enough to see ground balancing pulse induction detectors slowly grow into a force in the industry. They are rude and crude in some ways but very powerful, and getting more refined all the time.
The Garrett ATX and Minelab SDC 2300 are both good detectors. One is not better than the other. Both detectors have strengths and weaknesses and can very well serve individuals with slightly different goals and pocketbooks. If I am to do what I see as my job properly it is for me to try and explain where they each excel and to help anyone that owns one or the other get the best out of it. But do I care if you buy one or the other or something else entirely? Nope, not at all.
Am I afraid if I say the wrong thing Garrett or Minelab might get mad at me and never send me a free detector again? There are things I worry about in life, but that is not one of them. I have no problem telling Garrett publicly I think the ATX weighs too much or Minelab that the SDC 2300 is priced beyond the reach of many people. It just is what it is folks, and trying to pretend otherwise is a game I am not interested in playing. What I really am attempting is to influence the manufacturers in some small way to make the detectors that I want personally. If that benefits anyone else that is nice but ultimately I am being pretty selfish about the whole thing. I am trying to tell the manufacturers what I want and I am trying to get them to listen to me. Being in a position to sway public opinion gives me a stronger hand to play in that regard.
The bottom line is if I irritate somebody by saying what I think and they decline to send me a detector I want to check out I will just get the silly thing anyway and report on it anyway so in the end it will make no difference at all.
In that regard I finally worked myself up an interest in the XP DEUS and since they never saw fit to just send me one (and believe it or not I am too shy to ask) I went ahead and bought one at a price few will ever see and have it on the way. The whole thing with several detectors got my interest up on the White's V3i again and so I just bought one on eBay that only has a few hours use and transferable warranty. I suppose I could have tried to wheedle one out of White's but they have been so generous to me over the years that would have been a bit embarrassing for me. Kind of like going out with my hat in hand and asking for a buck, if you know what I mean. So I just got one for what I can sell it for at some point, same difference to me.
I am not trying to set myself up as some kind of final say in all things metal detecting. I am only one guy with one opinion. I have my own built in bias as to what works best for me doing what I do, and all detectors I look at get seen though that filter. My best advice is to seek out and read multiple reviews of any machine you are interested in on the internet and kind of average them out. Beware the new posters who pop out of nowhere when new machines come out. You can always use forum searches and Google to find out which posters have been around the longest and by reading some of their posts find out if their interests mirror your own. It is kind of like seeking out a movie reviewer who likes the same movies you like.
Well, again, I apologize for the length of this but I just wanted to get it out there and said so you all know exactly where I am coming from and why I have all these detectors and where I get them and what is in it for me. The bottom line is I love metal detecting in all its aspects and enjoy not only doing it but using the detectors and yakking it up with any and all that are similarly interested. I am very fortunate to have found a passion in life and a little niche where I am happy as the proverbial clam. I can only wish that each and every one of you are half so fortunate as I in that regard. If you made it this far, thanks for reading, and happy hunting!
If anyone has any questions about any of this that I have not made clear, please just ask. I have nothing to hide and will answer any and all questions as honestly and as clearly as I can. Thanks.
I spent about a month learning my Makro Gold Racer this summer. I went out almost every day. Most of the time I worked bare red soil over siltstone (ground balance values about 67) in and close to old pocket gold diggings in the Klamath Mountains. I didn't find any gold this year, but next summer I hope to do better.
I have a few questions. Your answers might well help me succeed.
1) Would you advise I change the following protocol: In All Metal mode I ignore anything less than ID 5 or greater that ID 90 (lots of hot rocks here). I'm not inclined to dig anything that shows a dominate signal above ID 65 or anything that mostly grabs onto ID 20/21. However, most of my targets show multiple IDs (mostly in the teens and 20s with a few IDs above 70), and I dig any of these that show a few indications in the 40s or 50s amid the other IDs.
2) Do you feel you get useful information from careful attention to differences in the audio response? I discard responses giving the null-beep-null pattern even though I have seen some using a test nugget. Otherwise I ignore differences in the audio.
3) In one of your posts you dismiss using the Gold Racer in highly mineralized ground. I will have to deal with a lot of this next summer. Would you discuss the issues you had with highly mineralized ground?
She came a 4-6 inch snow last night so the obvious thing to do today is to see how the Makro Gold does in the snow---- right?
One thing the snow does do well---- is protect my skid cover and keeps the coil a comfortable distance off the screaming aluminum shards ( i am saving those for Steve)
I notice no change in the mineralization of the ground due to the snow--So... I would like to add that to the benefits of the Makro Gold--- it can really handle snow well.--
Now I am back in the safety of the 5th wheel--- and it looks like the rest of the day will be a chili day!!!!
I have a link showing how the Makro handles the snow---these videos are too big to load directly to the post ---so you will have to put forth the effort to click on the link---lol
It is well worth it---- https://goo.gl/photos/iU4d6dsdmhX7QPqq5
So there you go californiagold---- that's how we do it in the snow belt!!!!!
By Steve Herschbach
My main plan this year is to put as many hours as possible on the GPZ 7000. That is definitely job one starting in April. I also will be using the Garrett ATX for in water beach detecting. The ATX will also be used with the 20" coil as an alternative to the GPZ in areas where I want more ground coverage than the GPZ 14 coil provides.
For hunting gold nuggets or coins in trashy locations I will be leaning on the Nokta FORS Gold and for in town jewelry detecting my White's V3i/Big Foot combo. For 2015 however it does look like the GPZ and ATX will be doing the heavy lifting.
What about you? What detector or detectors will you be counting on most for 2015?
By Steve Herschbach
I am pretty happy with 2015 looking back so not a whole lot different I plan on doing for 2016. Hopefully more detecting days.
The main resolution for the new year however is a rule to keep a lid on my detector collection. So in 2016 I am only allowed one model from each of the manufacturers at any one time. And before I can get a replacement the existing one has to get sold first. I worked on getting there this year and ended the year where I need to be. The CTX sale (thanks Rob!) at the last second got me to my goal.
Fisher F75 Ltd2
Makro Gold Racer
Minelab GPZ 7000
Nokta FORS Gold+
Out of those I am going to sell the Nokta FORS Gold+ soon as being extraneous to my needs and will wait for the Nokta Impact instead. The F75 I may replace with the F19 or maybe just wait for whatever it is new that Fisher has cooking right now. So my core units starting out for 2016 are the ATX, Gold Racer, GPZ 7000, V3i, and Deus.
I can't honestly say I NEED even this many detectors, but part of the game for me is checking out what new stuff comes along. This rule lets me keep doing that but will prevent me going crazy and loading up with stuff I really do not need. After all, I can only use one at a time, and there is only so much time in every year to go detecting. In any given year just two or three of my detectors see any serious hours of use.
I would be happy to do as well on jewelry and gold nuggets in 2016 as I did in 2015 so the only area I want to focus on a bit more is putting myself on sites where gold coins might be found. Another reason why I got another Deus - for hunting old camps and other habitations from days of old.