Hot Dirt Relic Hunting And The Unvarnished Truth Regarding VLF Induction Balance Detectors (and Other Opinionated Musings By Chase)By Chase Goldman
I recently posted a day I spent continuously digging over 80 minie balls from an apparent Civil War camp firing range. I was not the only detectorist that was digging in the midst of that range hillside that day. I was one of only two who were using a PI detector (GPX 4800) in that hot Culpeper area dirt. Scattered around me were detectorists using AT Pros and Maxes and a lot of Deus and Equinoxes and a Tarsacci was present.
I have heard a lot of hyperbole and debate regarding "the best" VLF detector to use in hot dirt and my conclusion having owned and used the Deus, Equinox, Tarsacci, and GPX (pre 6000) in multiple hot dirt situations that no VLF is going to touch the GPX at depth under those conditions. There just is NO comparison and now I have objective evidence of that truth. I was using a GPX 4800 with an 11" Commander DD coil with iron rejection set at 7 on the GPX. The iron was not thick as thieves but it was present and iron reject worked well to give me a clue that I was probably about to recover a nail or piece of farm scrap instead of a minie ball. What was apparent was that I was easily "shooting fish in a barrel" that day as I recovered over five times the number of keepers as anyone else that day in that same field whether it was Deus, AT Pro/Max, or Equinox. Based on my experience, that pretty much seals my opinion of VLF machines in hot dirt. Yes. You will recover targets, but you will not touch a tuned-in GPX in experienced hands even if you are highly proficient at using your VLF machine. I was constantly checking signals with my hunting partner who was using Deus to confirm this.
Without going into a lot of detail but with hundreds of hot dirt swing hours on the following four machines, I can come to some conclusions:
Tarsacci is no doubt the deepest VLF in hot dirt with its ability to ID non-ferrous at depth (Note: I only have experience with the 8x11 stock coil, not the "Beast" coil, but frankly, in hot dirt, ground noise is going to dominate with the larger coil footprint which will limit additional depth performance vs. stock. On the beach or mild soil conditions, the Beast will no doubt get you an additional couple inches easily vs . the stock) The ultimate depth (the depth at which you know you have a target but cannot necessarily discern ferrous vs. non-ferrous) is also deepest but probably on par with the Equinox. But the advantage Tarsacci has over Equinox is that it will ID non-ferrous deeper while the Equinox may see the same target but ID it as probable ferrous or simply give an erroneous TID. The actual depth performance is variable depending on degree of mineralization and the target type. One thing about using the Tarsacci in hot dirt is that it is important to get salt balance right in hot dirt, which is not exactly straight forward for two reasons. Hearing the nuanced audio noise minimums that indicate proper terrestrial hot dirt salt balance is tricky business and the operating frequency affects "salt" ground noise effect with higher frequencies (which are preferred for relic hunting metal compositions) being noisier than lower frequencies. So you are frequently faced with a tradeoff there. But any claims of PI-depth by the Tarsacci in hot dirt are just way overblown. It is really no contest the GPX will dominate unless there is so much iron that the GPX starts blanking out. In that case, I just might not use the Tarsacci (read on to see why). I chuckled to myself when I read a post on here about a Tarsacci user taking a deep plug and still not hearing the target with the pinpointer. Believe me that happened on probably 70% of the minie balls I recovered using the GPX and my Carrot. That is not some unique indicator of over the top detector performance. That's just what happens when your detector hits on a deep target, especially a large deep target as was the case in the post in question. Believe me, ALL those minie balls, even the ones at greater than a foot of depth in hot red clay were just banging on my headphones but were not immediately audible on my pinpointer after the first plug was pulled.
Equinox retains its reputation the most versatile detector under these challenging conditions. If I could only have one detector, it would be a close contest between Equinox and Deus. Without a GPX and going into a hot dirt site, I might choose the Tarsacci as my primary weapon of choice (unless there is thick iron), but I would have no problem pulling the Equinox and having at it. Put another way. If I could only have one detector in the truck at all times it would either be the Equinox or Deus, but not the Tarsacci. The Tarsacci tone limitations and lack of signficant depth performance ADVANTAGE in mild dirt sitautions vs. Equinox or Deus, means that if I wanted to do a coin or jewelry shoot in a park with lots of modern non-ferrous trash, I would really not have a great time hitting that park with the Tarsacci vs. my trusty Deus or Equinox. Equinox would probably be my number one single detector choice as it has equivalent depth for a similar given coil size vs. the Tarsacci and probably greater depth than Deus. I especially like swinging it with the new 10X5 Coiltek elliptical and it is staying on my Equinox for the time being.
If the situation involves hot dirt AND thick ferrous or non-ferrous junk targets, then the Deus is my weapon of choice. The Equinox comes close with the new Coiltek elliptical now, but the Deus still rules. The Tarsacci can get it done too, but the tone limitations make it a more difficult proposition since the audio feedback you are getting is poor even with the excellent mixed audio implementation. Deus can just navigate machine gun iron better and with Pitch audio or Gold Field mode give you the audio you need to pick ferrous from non-ferrous. If modern non-ferrous junk is the problem, then the expressive Deus full-tone audio nuanced audio distortion patterns work well to highlight aluminum can slaw and slag.
So there you have it, my conclusions based not on exhaustive test garden A VS. B VS. C testing but based upon my real world experience over a variety of sites and conditions:
Hot dirt for max depth with occasional ferrous: Number one choice is the GPX (pre-6000) followed by the Tarsacci which is a very distant second. If it is raining, then the Tarsacci comes out so my GPX doesn't melt like the wicked witch of West if it gets wet. Somewhat justifies the high cost of the Tarsacci vs. Equinox and Tarsacci Value vs. the GPX (pre 6000). GPX 4500/4800/5000 iron reject and target sensitivity are ideal for relic hunting vs. the Gold-focused GPX 6000.
Overall Most Versatile Hot DIrt or Not and best overall value for the price: Equinox.
Overall Hot Dirt plus ferrous junk or non-ferrous junk master: Deus.
Salt Beach Nod (Black Sand): Tarsacci has the chops to handle any beach wet salt sand type (including black sand without dialing back transmit power like the Nox) and appears to be the most effective in moving salt water. Equinox is my choice if hunting the wet plus the dry (especially if the dry has a lot of modern trash). Deus is dry and damp sand only and only if I don't have an Equinox in the truck. GPX can handle dry and damp too for max depth but is mostly overkill unless the beach has a lot of deep, old targets hanging out on top of the buried hard pan/shell layer.
Hard core, submerged water hunting: Excal II or waterproof PI (e.g., Impulse AQ or ATX or waterproofed TDI).
Fresh Water: Similar to above salt beach. Tarsacci is more "honest" about its submersion capability than Equinox. Have yet to hear any report of a Tarsacci "drowning".
Grab and go coin shooter in a park or field setting: Equinox with the 10x5 Coiltek. Deus if modern trash abounds (but it Is close) or one of the value detectors below.
Brash Proclamation: The day of the expensive, slow ML FBS silver slayer (CTX, eTrac, Explorer) is probably nearly over in light of the capabilities and promise Multi IQ brings to the table in terms of speed, affordability, and ferrous filtering/non-ferrous signal processing headroom and sophistication. I am confident ML will come out with a Multi IQ-based successor to the less versatile CTX that will have the speed and value of the Equinox with the additional discrimination, high conductor target depth and target ID sophistication as the CTX/eTrac.
Capable Value Priced Detectors: Simplex, Vanquish (though lack of adjustable GB is a big drawback), Apex.
Value Comment: I find it hard to fully justify the price points of the Tarsacci and Deus (and the high end ML FBS detectors still in production) today in light of the capabilities and value that detectors like Equinox and even Simplex/Vanquish/Apex bring to the table. However, the Tarsacci has some key, niche performance features present in no other VLF and the Deus/Orx feather light ergonomic platform and strong performance and ferrous handling is still a strong seller - it has extended the ability of several folks I know to enjoy the hobby despite increasing physical limitations that come with age. The Orx is an excellent value versus the Deus but is missing some key essential tone features which only enable it to be a serviceable relic hunting backup alternative to my Deus despite the fact that it's raw performance is on par with Deus.
Captain Obvious observation: No one detector VLF or PI does it all.
The compact Deus is always in the Truck in the event I happen upon a swing opportunity. Heading to a general relic site, the Deus, Equinox, and Tarsacci ride along. Heading to a hot dirt relic site, the GPX hops on board too.
Equinox Relics (mild dirt)
GPX Hot Dirt
Deus Hot Dirt
GPX Hot Dirt
Tarsacci Hot Dirt
Equinox Hot Dirt - Eagle Minie ball Cartridge Box Strap Breast Plate and similar (but not quite the same) sounding melted aluminum slag and can junk. I dug all the junk pieces knowing that they were likely junk in the hopes of snagging a plate or similar relic. It was tedious and frustrating but did eventually pay off.
Equinox Epic Hot Dirt Hunts in Pennsylvania.
One Crazy Deus Hot Dirt Day in Pennsylvania.
Combo of Deus, Equinox, and GPX finds in hot dirt near Culpeper. The US Cavalry bit boss was found at nearly 1.5 feet with a GPX and ML 11-inch Commander coil operating in Cancel Mode!
By Rick N. MI
I really like the coil. It has a sharp detecting edge and is fast. It was nice out. Was 55F. I went to field next to an old school house where I've gotten old coins before. I went to a different area. There was emi and used 15 khz and it ran smooth with sensitivity 24, 2 tone, recovery 4 (should have used 6, lots of iron), Iron bias F2 0. The single tones run so smooth.
Only one keeper, maybe drawer pull?
By Glenn in CO
Well our club held it first club outing last week since the pandemic began last year. The club has had Zoom meetings every month for those who wanted to keep in touch, but everyone was itching to get together and enjoy some relic hunting. The club trip leader announced that this outing would be the thirty-fifth time the club has been to this site, the last time was 2018 and many coins (Seated Quarter, Indian Heads, Shield Nickels) tokens and relics were found. This club outing V-Nickels, Shield Nickels, Seated Dime, Indian Heads, Wheat Cents, tokens and relics were found. You would think after thirty-five times to this site it would be some what hunted out, but the site keeps producing or is our metal detectors technology getting better? Mostly Equinox's, Garrett's, XP Deus's , Whites were being used. My wife was using a XP Deus and I was using a Nokta Kruzer with a five inch coil. Looking forward to the next club outing the first part of June and other outings for the rest of the year.
Club members getting ready to head out to the Ghost Town
Beautiful day to be relic hunting
Here are some of the tokens and relics I and my wife found
Another lovely day here, winds at 30 with gusts to 45. It was sunny and fairly warm so I got a quick hunt in on the hill behind my house, I am now calling it Mason Jar Hill because I have found about 50 mason jar lids there, I think it was a dump. It was bush hogged recently giving me an opportunity to search it more. I don't keep any of the lids, they are all rusty and corroded. I doubt anyone would care.
I was only there about an hour before I got tired of the wind and the deer flies. Usually deer flies are suppressed by the wind but lucky me, not today! There were some spots on the hill that were out of the wind.
Nice green 3oz jar, I think I damaged it digging for whatever else I was after. Heavy glass. Mangled token marked "Good for 50¢ in merchandise", sadly the vendor could not be read on the back. Old zipper pull, 1919 wheat, and a piece of decorative metal.
Here is what the jar is, I found it.
Got a lot more to do here, it's only about a half acre but it's all hill. Trash was mostly handgun bullet shells and the ever present Mason jar lids. The lids ID from 21-32, so I have to dig them all. 😵