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Metal Detector For Maine Prospecting

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I was looking to see if anyone had suggestions about a detector I could go with for prospecting here in Maine. I have seen one topic on this site about this subject, someone who had a Makro Racer. In my experience VLF of any sort don't work around here, there are so many large hot rocks and hot soil they don't stand much of a chance. I'm nearly certain you will need a PI detector to find anything in the good areas(less touched). I have seen many nuggets in this area, even in the heavily hunted Swift River. I have not personally seen anything over 1/2 ounce, but I'm certain there are some. There are plenty of "picker" sized nuggets but most of the gold is in very small pieces.

I'm not certain even if I bought a nice PI detector it would be worthwhile, hence why I am here! I've heard many times the largest amount of the gold is eluvial or even the alluvial from old river beds. I've seen people pulling 1/8-1/4oz nuggets out of the clay near, but not in, the river, well outside the high water mark.

So there are nuggets up here, not loaded, but here. The terrain to the areas untouched are harsh, so I was looking for a lighter detector. Very steep jagged landscape.

In the end, my question is, with so many hot rocks is it worthwhile to buy a decent PI to detect pickers and maybe some nuggets, or spend the same amount and just buy a dredge? If it's worth the while, any suggestions on a detector under 3k?(not sure if I should bother with waterproof or not)


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mindat Swift River, Maine

Swift River Gold Panning Area

A Collector's Guide to Maine Mineral Localities

Worthwhile is up to the individual budget and how much desire you have to find gold with a metal detector. If you can swing it I personally recommend a Minelab SDC 2300 at $3750 as the best value option even though it is more expensive than other options. It is a simple to operate, robust metal detector with sensitivity to small gold unexcelled by any other commercial PI. It will ignore nearly all troublesome mineralization and hot rocks. It is waterproof and folds up into a very compact package that will fit in a common rucksack. Professional prospectors everywhere will attest to the ease with which it cuts through mineralization to find gold while being easy for a novice to operate. The SDC has a hard wired 8" coil so not coil options are available.

The least expensive and lightest option is the White's TDI SL at only $1189 and 3.5 lbs (not waterproof). The performance is not much of a step up from a mid-frequency VLF but it will ignore hot rocks and ground that will give a VLF extreme difficulty. The low price and light weight make it an attractive option, as does the wide range of very affordable accessory coils.

You can find a rundown of these and more models at my Guide To Gold Nugget Detectors

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I pretty much broke it down in my head to those two detectors and the ATX. The SDC would be amazing, but with the price tag, lack of coil selection, and the fact I don't plan on prospecting all the time I think it would be overkill as I'd want something I can also use elsewhere!

The TDI SL seems alright with the nice coil selection but like you said, most people aren't super impressed with it. Plus, it's not water proof, so I can't use it near the river without risk.

The ATX seemed to be the better choice for me being middle ground, however, I've seen a lot of posts about the ATX not working as well in hot rock locations, as you lose a lot of depth/sensitivity when you balance out the rocks(which is kind of the point) and the magnetite is horrid where I've seen the most gold pulled out. Plus, the weight...

Though I think I want waterproof, the only thing Id really need that for is if it rains or I drop it in the river. Swimming+detecting never really worked for me.

I love all the choices out there, I hate the choosing.

Thanks, Steve!

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I have the Garrett ATX myself for various reasons. In my opinion it is second only to the Minelab PI detectors in performance. The ATX is only slightly behind the SDC for small gold sensitivity and a bit behind the Minelab SD/GP/GPX detectors on large gold. People saying it loses performance when ground balancing out bad ground or hot rocks clearly do not understand how ground balancing works. All detectors by eliminating ground or hot rock responses also lose performance on certain gold to varying degrees. The more aggressive the ground and hot rock rejection, the more impact on various gold types. The main reason I have an ATX actually is I have not found any ground or hot rocks yet it can't handle. Will the performance be affected? Of course. Anyone who thinks they have a detector unaffected by ground mineralization is kidding themselves.

The main problem with the ATX is not its performance, it is the 6.9 lb weight and insanely overpriced accessory coils. The stock coil is slightly sensitive to hard knocks causing false signals but this has been overplayed on the Internet. The bottom line is I have a lot of confidence in my ATX and its ability to find gold. I plan on putting mine to much more use this summer. I don't talk about the ATX much anymore because people believe want they want to believe and I am not out to change people's minds on stuff. The bottom line is it is a sleeper unit capable of great things in the right hands. I just wish I could get Garrett to repackage the machine in a dry land housing more appropriate for prospecting and with a standard coil selection.

I had actually included the ATX at $2120 in my original response to you but deleted it. Then we would have to also talk about the GPX 4500 at $2699 and then next thing you know it is back to a list of detectors and too many choices!

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Thanks for all the input, Steve. I'll likely go with the ATX due to it's ability to help me hunt beaches/prospect/relic hunt, as all of these things are within 1.5 hours max in any direction. The weight will likely be a smaller issue, but I know the coil selection will be the elephant in the room. The prices for them compared to ML/White's equivalent is ridiculous, almost lunacy. I'd be down for ordering one if Garrett made packages with the coil(s) I wanted when I bought the machine. But I can't see spending 450$+ on a coil to help me in my particular area whilst ML and White's comparable ones are 1/3-1/2 the price. If only Garrett understood the struggles!

Thanks again!

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You are welcome. You nailed why I kept my ATX instead of my GPX 5000. The Minelab GPZ 7000 is my primary unit. The ATX backs it up for areas where I run into salt ground or hot rocks that the GPZ struggles with, but the ATX handles with ease. The GPX would also, but I also use the ATX for beach detecting and have done very well with it. The SDC unfortunately floats like a cork and frankly I am uncomfortable putting one in salt water surf. The ATX I have had in rough surf for days - no worries there when it comes to waterproof integrity. For anyone wanting a machine to use both in salt water a lot and prospecting a lot, the ATX is the go to detector. Relics I do not do but I know it holds its own there also.

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4 hours ago, TheMaDFlAsher said:

I'll likely go with the ATX...

A couple things to consider given your choice:

1) Used ones sell frequently on Ebay for $1500 and occasionally less.  One advantage to buying used is that often you can pick one with the exact coil you want, instead of the factory/box stock coil.

2) Steve wrote an article in the January 2016 ICMJ Prospecting and Mining Journal titled "Detector Prospecting Accessories" and the second paragraph begins "One of the first things to consider but that many people ignore is ergonomics."  He goes on to describe methods of reducing the arm/elbow/wrist/hand stress.  In fact on the first page (page 10) is a picture of Steve loaded down :laugh: with a Garrett ATX.  I don't know for sure, but think the ATX is the heaviest treasure detector on the market.  (I qualify 'treasure' to set it apart from military land mine detectors.)

3) To continue on the ergonomics topic, although on the webpage Steve references above he indicates the ATX control box is not hip-mountable, I seem to recall somewhere links/references to article(s) where others have done so (without Garrett's blessing, of course...).  However, balance is also a key component so if/when you remove the control box you still need to alleviate the heavy searchcoil torquing the shaft.

Where there's a will there's a way.  If you're in water you gain the advantage of (upward) buoyant force, but on land, 6.9 lb is nothing to take lightly (another pun :) so I recommend finding a solution equal to or similar to those mentioned above.

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Minelab was not happy when Garrett took the crown at 6.9 lbs for the ATX so they had to come out with the GPZ 7000 at 7.3 lbs! Fix is the same whether it be GPX or GPZ or ATX - a harness and bungee. The ATX underwater is slightly negative - just enough so you can sit it on the bottom and it will stay put.




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