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Metal Detecting Depth

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Hello All,

I am new to metal detecting and looking for some advice. Metal detecting is something I've always wanted to pursue as a hobby, but just never really committed to making the investment. I have a few detectors in mind Minelab Equinox 800 or 600 and Garrett GTI 2500 also open to suggestions but those three seems like decent choices for intermediate.

My question is how deep can a standard metal detector detect?
There's a bit of backstory here but as a kid, I watched the movie Encino Man. For those unfamiliar the movie is about two teenage friends digging a hole in their backyard for a swimming pool. Hilarity ensues when they unearth an ice-age caveman the rest of the movie is a little fuzzy, but they acclimate their new friend to the modern world. Anyway, after watching this movie I convinced my mom to let us dig a giant hole in the backyard! For some reason she agreed. Probably because it kept us busy and out of the house. So flash forward a bit we have a decent sized hole dug in my backyard. Keep in mind I'm 9-10yrs old (so things seem much larger) but as I remember it the hole was at least 8ft x 5ft and probably 3-4ft deep. This was how I spent my summer vacation, everyday I would go outside and just dig! Then, one morning I hit something! Excited, I ran into the house to inform my mom. What I hit was the side of a metal trashcan. The sort of trashcan Oscar the Grouch lived in on Sesame Street. The can was buried sideways and I brushed away enough dirt to tell it was trashcan but the can was still completely buried. My mom freaked out and forced us to fill the hole (whatever was buried that deep was not meant to be dug up!) After 25yrs the house is now mine and the thought of what could be buried there still intrigues me (hundreds of gold bars perhaps 🤔). The home was constructed in 1940, but built on the property of another home which was constructed much earlier probably 1910s. The older home has been destroyed for years and was demolished to built 8 townhouses/condos. However, the old lady who lived there had been in the house since birth and died at age 98. The townhouses/condos were built in 2007 which suggest a 1910 or earlier date for that home. The old woman did tell us about the area when before all the countless other homes were here. How you could see in any direction for miles. Now you need a drone for that and its nothing but developed land for 50-60 miles in all directions. If I had to guess a date for the trash can 1930s era would seem to align well.

The short version, there's a metal trashcan in my backyard that I would like to relocate and excavate. However, I am not sure how deep the object actually is at most I would guess its 3ft to maybe 3.5ft. Could a metal detector locate a large object at this depth?

I've been searching online for an answer to this question but cannot find any conclusive information. From what I can gather the detect-ability of an object varies considerable and seems based on the objects size. Most coins, for example, are fairly small and anything beyond 30cm (1ft) is probably on the edge of not registering a signal? However, if the object is larger the detectable depth will increase? So if you're searching for a pirate style treasure chest it could be buried much deeper and still be detected.

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The problem with 2-box detectors (which it sounds like would be your best choice for this particular target) as are detailed in the post Steve linked is that they are good at basically one thing -- finding deep, large metal objects.  Most metal detecting is conducted looking for smaller objects (coins, jewelry, military buttons, small gold nuggets, etc.).  If you were to go buy a 2-box for this project you'd likely either end up selling it soon after or let it sit in the closet for a long time.

If you have a metal detecting club in your area, IMO best would be to join and after getting acquainted & trusted, tell the members what you're trying to do.  If someone among them has a 2-box s/he may let you borrow it or even come over to your place and help you find the can.

It sounds as though you are also/mostly interested in other forms of detecting in which case your money is better spent on a standard style detector.

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Hi ,

With a standard style detector like the recent Minelab Vanquish 540 V12 (12X10inches coil) , a big coin will be detected at max around 30cm /12inches no more. For a big target like a trashcan probably around 2 feet max. I say probaby because I have never done this test it is just an estimation... 

If you know the trashcan approximate location an idea would be to remove 1 foot of dirt say on a 8X8 feet surface above the target  ,then sweep the detector again at the bottom of the hole ( using the ALL METAL mode if the trashcan is made of iron  ) then you would have a good chance to locate the target if it is is buried at 3 feet ...

Concerning the Vanquish 540 I took that example because it is quite cheap machine ( 400$ in the US ? ) , it is powerful , simple to learn , which comes with a big coil which could do a good job for what you are looking for ... And of course you can use it for coin / relics searching , as said by GB_amateur above .... 




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Even after 25 years, that section of ground should be a lot softer than the surrounding undug ground. Get a "privy" probe and poke around until you find a relative soft spot. Now, if you plan on joining us demented and addicted metal detectorists and make it a hobby/obsession, let us know what kind of detecting you plan to do beside your back yard and we can better advise you on a good detector to buy. One might even help with your back yard treasure hunt! Good Luck!

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