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Nugget Detectors / Which One Is Best For You??? Tip #2

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Lots of people are selling their older model detectors for the newer models coming out. I guess it’s like having packrat syndrome, must have the shiny and new. This opens up a good opportunity to get some good detector prices for people on a budget.


As a dealer and trainer I get asked a very good question by a lot of customers on what prospecting detector would be best for them. My answer is usually what is your price range and how mineralized is the area you planning on prospecting. If they are new to prospecting and not sure where to even go, I recommend them doing some research on the mining districts closest to them. This is best done by using the online USGS publications site or state geology sites and then by using the MLRS site to see if there is any non-claimed federal ground open to them for prospecting (U.S.A. specific). My usual recommendation for their best chance of finding nuggets is to get a PI detector when in medium to heavy mineralized ground or a VLF with a very good target VDI for low mineralized ground in rubbish littered areas. Usually the PI detectors exceeds there price limit. There are options for used PI detectors at VLF pricing, but this comes with risk by not having any warranty. I recommend only keeping a detector that’s under warranty due to the high price of repairs, but do understand there are some really good prices on used detectors also, such as the GPX-5000.

The following list is just a recommendation from my experience using a majority of these detectors on what will work for nugget hunting. I am not saying price always determines the best performance due to many variables in metal detecting. This is not a debate on detector performances as it is more about what price to expect to pay to get into this hobby. All the VLF’s listed here can or should pass the bic pen sensitivity test. There are many more comparable models out there, but these were probably some of the best priced prospecting detectors I have found for the money.


Detectors for light mineralization where a VLF can work well:


$279,00 Minelab Vanquish 440 w 7 x 10 inch coil Multi Freq. 3 year warranty. lacks ground balance and threshold options. I recommend nugget hunting in Jewelry mode for best sensitivity. Also a multi-purpose detector.

$375.00 Fisher Gold Bug newer Digital w 5 inch coil 19Khz.  5 year warranty.

$449.00 Fisher F19 w 6 x 10 inch coil package. 19Khz 5 year warranty.

$635.00 Nokta/Makro Legend w 6 inch coil package Multi Freq. 3 year warranty. Also a multi-purpose detector.

$636.00 Nokta/Makro Gold Kruzer w 4 x 7.5 and 5.5 x 10 inch coil package 61Khz. 3 year warranty.

$679 Garrett 24K w 6 x 10 inch coil 48Khz. 2 year warranty.

$749.00 Fisher Gold Bug 2 analog or digital w 3 x 6.5 inch coil 71Khz. 5 year warranty. This detector is probably a specialty detector with the most sensitivity for cleaning up the smallest leftover nuggets. If you need more sensitivity then the GB2 then probably recommend the Gold Falcon MD20 pin-pointer 300Khz. 

$1,078.00 Minelab Equinox 800 w 6 inch coil Multi Freq. 3 year warranty. Also a multi-purpose detector. Very versatile.


Many other used VLF models can come in well under $500.00, but with no warranty probably better to buy a new model for the price difference.



For medium to heavy mineralization, a PI is really necessary to have the best success: Weight is usually the downside to PI detectors until the last few new releases. So weight is included on the PI list.


$2,379.00 Garrett ATX w 11 x 13 inch mono coil Pulse. 2 year warranty. Great price.  Weight 5.5 Lbs.

$3,399.00 Minelab SDC 2300 w 8 inch mono coil Pulse. 3 year warranty. Weight 5.1 Lbs. The timings with the small 8” coil seems to handle mineralization pretty well. Very small gold capabilities. Has slight warble in threshold.

$3,995.00 Garrett Axiom w 7 x 11 inch mono and 11 x 13 inch DD coils Pulse. 2 year warranty. Lowest Weight w 11 inch mono 4.25 Lbs.  Great price. Waiting to hear more on the possible heavy mineralization capabilities being talked about. Very small gold capabilities.

$3,999.00 Minelab GPX 5000 w 11 inch DD & 12 x 15 inch mono coils Pulse. 3 year warranty. Weight on arm minus battery pack 5.3 Lbs. with 11” coil. To be wireless you need Docs Gold Screamer pack adding some more weight. Good price.  Lots to offer for coil sizes & coil configurations.

$5,999.00 Minelab GPX 6000 w 11 inch mono & 14 inch DD coils Pulse. 3 year warranty. Weight 4.52 Lbs. w 11 inch mono. Very small gold capabilities. Has unstable warble in threshold using 11 inch mono coils. Headphones do help this situation.


Used older Whites and Fisher PI detectors seem to hold a high value, so I usually stay away from paying a premium for them.

A used GP 3500 can be found for less than $1,400, ATX for less than $1,500, GPX 4500 for less than $1,700, and GPX 5000 for less than $2,000. Most likely non warranty, but these older PI’s were built pretty solid.



Heavy mineralization:


$8,499.00 Minelab GPZ 7000 w 14 inch DOD coil ZVT. 3 year warranty. Weight 7.3 Lbs. NF 12 inch coil is preferred or if not worried about losing warranty then x-coils. Very small gold capabilities.



Maybe Phrunt, JP, or others can describe the best options in NZ & AUS.


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Chris Ralph does a good job explaining this topic well.

Remember: The Fisher F19 is a Gold Bug Pro including some added options for even a lesser price and can come stock with the smaller 6 x 10 inch coil.

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