This is my latest "Nugget Detector Guide", now published for over fifteen years, updated August 2021 with some of the latest model information. Each model has a short description, followed by a very PERSONAL OPINION. Copyright 2002-2021 Herschbach Enterprises - Please do not reuse or repost without my express permission.
This is offered as a simple guide for those wanting a comparison of the various nugget detectors available new with warranty, along with some kind of real opinion about them. That's all it is, folks, so take it or leave it for what it is worth. It's just that listing specs is of little help to people, and so I take my best stab at providing some guidance for those newer to detecting. These are only my opinions based on my experience with various detectors over the years. While I do have a lot of experience, I must throw in the caveat that I have not used all detectors under all conditions. What may be considered a good detector at one location may not be so good at another location due to differences in ground mineralization and the gold itself. Detector performance is site specific and so your mileage may vary. Never forget that when reading comparisons on the internet.
Although many detectors sold today can potentially find gold nuggets, I've chosen to only list current models from major manufacturers that are sold and marketed primarily as prospecting detectors or that at least have a specific prospecting mode. I no longer list general purpose VLF detectors running under 18 kHz because they are too common and that being the case they offer nothing special to the potential gold prospector. If you are interested in other general purpose detectors that might make good prospecting machine but are not listed here, look at my more comprehensive reviews list. Many discontinued prospecting detectors are also listed there.
Please, if you own one of these detectors, and I call it like I see it, don't take offense. Any nugget detector made will find gold in capable hands, and the owner is far more important than the detector model. I'll put a good operator with almost any detector on this list up against a novice with whatever is deemed "best" and bet on the experienced operator every time. The person using the detector finds the gold. The detector is actually one of the less important factors in nugget detecting success or failure.
A quick note to those who know nothing about these machines. These are metal detectors. There is no such thing as a "gold only" detector. These detectors will also find lead, copper, aluminum, and other metals. These units are best used to look for relatively larger pieces of gold at relatively shallow depths. Concentrations of gold dust are not detectable. Some of these units can hit gold that weighs as little as a grain (480 grains per ounce) or less but only at an inch or two. Only the larger nuggets can be found at depths exceeding a foot. Only world class nuggets weighing many ounces can be detected at over two feet. The vast majority of nuggets found are found at inches, not feet. About Long Range Locators (LRLs)
WARNING ON COUNTERFEIT DETECTORS - The market for nugget detectors far outsells coin and relic detectors worldwide, with huge sales in third world countries. This has made many of the models below very popular with counterfeiters. Here are some Fisher and Minelab examples. If you shop these models there are two simple rules. First, you are safe if you stick with approved dealers. Second, if the price seems too good to be true, beware! All legitimate dealers have a limit on how low they can advertise, the Minimum Advertised Price (MAP). Review prices at the approved dealer list, and if you find the detector advertised as new at a significantly lower price by somebody not on the list, the odds are very high you are looking at a counterfeit detector. Legitimate dealers are prohibited from advertising at those kind of prices, and a price too good to be true is your number one warning you are about to be ripped off.
The detectors are listed in order based on the lowest price normally advertised on the internet as of the date below.
Steve's Guide to Gold Nugget Detectors - Updated August 2021
Before I start, a quick note about recent events in the metal detector industry. A few years ago we lost a major manufacturer in the form of Tesoro. That lead to the Tesoro Lobo SuperTRAQ being dropped from this list. 2020 saw one of the true industry stalwarts fall by the wayside. White's Electronics was acquired by Garrett in October. It is unknown at this time what the end result of that will be, but for now I am dropping the White's nugget detectors from this list as no longer available new with warranty. For now, see my detailed reviews for information on White's models.
Fisher F19 ($449, 19 kHz) - This detector is a later, more advanced version of the Fisher Gold Bug Pro (see below), with added features. There is an excellent threshold based all metal mode plus a dual tone discrimination mode. The F19 has both ground grab and manual ground balance, plus adjustable tone break, just like the Gold Bug Pro. Extra features are added to enhance the coin, relic, and jewelry capability, such as notch discrimination with adjustable notch width, volume control, separate ferrous tone volume, and a LCD meter backlight. These extra features may even find use while gold prospecting. The Fisher F19 can use any Gold Bug compatible coils plus those made for the Teknetics G2 series, providing for a huge number of possible accessory coils. This detector can be had with several stock coil options, including a 7" x 11" DD coil, or 5" x 10" DD coil. Weight including a single 9V battery is 2.6 lbs.
Steve's Opinion - First Texas, the manufacturer of Bounty Hunter, Fisher, and Teknetics metal detectors, sells quite a few identical or near identical metal detectors under different brand names and model names. Due to oddities in their marketing scheme, some more powerful models are often available at lower prices than other less capable models. Currently the 19 kHz Gold Bug name carries a premium price, while other identical or more capable models sold under other names can often be had for less money. That is currently the case with the 19 kHz Fisher F19 models and the identical Bounty Hunter Time Ranger Pro model. The bottom line is this. If you can find a Fisher F19 with 5" x 10" elliptical coil for under $500 at a legitimate dealer (see counterfeit note above) it is easily my current recommendation for an extremely capable entry level VLF nugget detector with general purpose capabilities. I recommend this detector over the Fisher Gold Bug and Gold Bug Pro models below, not only because of the extra capability, but because it can be had stock with the 5" x 10" DD coil, the best general nugget hunting coil for the FT 19 kHz series. It can only be had as an accessory coil on the Gold Bug models, driving their out of pocket cost even higher. If you want a real deluxe set of extra coin and jewelry detecting features, see the equally capable Minelab X-Terra 705 below for only $50 more.
Fisher Gold Bug ($449, 19 kHz) - Not to be confused with the Gold Bug from the 1980's, this new model runs hotter than that old model, and offers full LCD target identification. The target ID makes the Gold Bug good for more than just nugget hunting, and it finds favor also with jewelry and relic hunters. This model normally comes with a 5" round DD coil to enhance the sensitivity to small gold but other stock coil options are available. The Gold Bug features an easy to use ground balance "Grab" function. Do not confuse this detector with the Gold Bug Pro (see below), a nearly identical detector that adds a manual ground balance control. Weight including a single 9V battery is 2.5 lbs. Many accessory coils are available for the Gold Bug.
Steve's Opinion - It used to be that this basic 19 kHz model was desirable for it's low price. Now, you can get the Fisher F19 above with a better coil and far more capability for the same price. Pass.
Minelab X-Terra 705 Gold ($499, 3, 7.5, 18.75 kHz) – This detector has a unique design feature. The standard unit comes with a 5" x 10" DD 18.75 kHz coil. Accessory coils are available not only at 18.75 kHz, but also at 3 kHz and 7.55 kHz. You can literally change the frequency of the detector by changing the coil! The X-Terra 705 has a large number of features and operating modes making it suitable for almost any type of metal detecting, be it for coins, jewelry, relics, or gold nuggets. Weight including four AA batteries 2.9 lbs. Over ten accessory coils are available for the X-Terra 705 (Minelab, Coiltek).
Steve's Opinion - I like the X-Terra 705. It has a very powerful all-metal Prospecting Mode. The X-Terra 705 offers both ground tracking and manual ground balance; I like having both options. I particularly like its very compact and lightweight design. What really sets the X-Terra 705 apart however is all its other features. The X-Terra 705 is a good choice for somebody who wants all the coin and jewelry detecting options important to urban detectorists. It has discrimination and tone options equaling far more expensive detectors. This is the machine for somebody who really wants all the features a top end detector offers and still have a good prospecting detector. 2021 Note - a new lower internet price of $499 (down from $699) makes this detector an alternative to the Fisher F19 above. For $50 more the X-Terra adds quite a few extra bells and whistles for the coin, jewelry, and relic hunter, especially in the realm of target tone id options.
Nokta/Makro Gold Racer ($509, 56 kHz) - The Gold Racer is based on the original Racer model released in February 2015. The Gold Racer at 56 kHz was unique when released in having all the features normally associated with coin and relic detectors yet it's running at a very high nugget detecting frequency. This makes it more of a general purpose detector than a dedicated nugget detector. The Gold Racer comes with a 10" x 5" DD coil and has three accessory coil options. The weight including four AA batteries is 3.0 lbs.
Steve's Opinion - I like the Nokta/Makro Gold Racer as it really is something new instead of just another mid-frequency do-it-all detector. The compact lightweight design appeals to me as does the high frequency sensitivity to small gold nuggets. It is the only machine in it's class that can run a large (15" x 13.5" DD) high frequency coil and as well as having a concentric coil option. Best of all it offers a full range of discrimination features not seen in other high frequency nugget detectors, all at a very aggressive price. Worth a very close look, especially if a large coil option is important.
Fisher Gold Bug Pro ($549, 19 kHz) - Essentially the same as the Gold Bug above with the addition of manual ground balance. The target ID makes the Gold Bug Pro good for more than just nugget hunting, and it will find favor with jewelry and relic hunters. The manual ground balance gives expert operators the control they desire to get the best depth possible. This unit normally comes with a 5" round DD coil to enhance the sensitivity to small gold but other standard coil packages are available. Weight including a single 9V battery is 2.5 lbs. Many accessory coils are available for the Gold Bug Pro.
Steve's Opinion - The Pro is the final version in this series which saw several early variations including the Gold Bug above. It is a excellent choice for prospecting, relic, or jewelry detecting and does fine as a coin detector also. However, you are now paying a premium for the Gold Bug name, and the more capable Fisher F19 at the top of this list can be had in a better configuration at a lower price. Unless you just want the name, pass.
Nokta/Makro Gold Kruzer ($636, 61 kHz) - Nokta/Makro started shipping the new Gold Kruzer model in June 2018. The Nokta/Makro Gold Kruzer is a variant of the Nokta/Makro Gold Racer above that has been boosted to 61 kHz from 56 kHz and put in a waterproof housing good to 5 meters (16.4 ft). The Gold Kruzer comes with a 10" x 5" concentric coil and a 4" x 7.5" DD coil. The weight including LiPo batteries is 3.0 lbs. There are four coils available for the Gold Kruzer.
Steve's Opinion - The Nokta/Makro Gold Racer has been one of my favorite detectors because until recently there was nothing running in this frequency class that had full target id and other options normally seen only in coin detectors. The Gold Kruzer takes it all to the next step by being waterproof in excess of ten feet. There are no other detectors running at a frequency this high that are fully submersible with built in wireless capability and therefore this detector may find favor with freshwater jewelry hunters as well as prospectors. The Gold Kruzer is worth keeping an eye on and is a better value than it appears at first glance due to the dual coil packaging. Note 2021: the Nokta/Makro Gold Kruzer package has been reduced from $749 to $636, dropping it just under the AT Gold in price. This aggressive price drop in a waterproof 61 kHz dual coil package makes this model very hard to resist. I would not even consider a Garrett AT Gold personally compared to the Gold Kruzer at this price.
Garrett AT Gold ($638, 18 kHz) - A totally new concept in metal detecting from Garrett Electronics. This full featured detector has everything you would expect from a dry land detector - LCD display, full control set and functions, speaker, interchangeable coils, and light weight. But it is submersible to 10 feet! Even the speaker is waterproof. Note that the unit itself may be submerged but if you want to put your head underwater you will need optional submersible headphones. Weight including a four AA batteries is 3 lbs. The stock coil is a 5" x 8" DD elliptical. Many accessory coils are available for the AT Gold.
Steve's Opinion - The Garrett AT Gold was an innovative concept when it was introduced, and was the only waterproof nugget detector option at the time. The industry has caught up and even surpassed Garrett now and unless the AT Gold comes down in price it's hard to recommend for somebody interested primarily in a nugget detecting VLF. Only for Garrett fans really, otherwise newer models like the Nokta/Makro Gold Kruzer above are better deals. See also the soon to be re-released Garrett Goldmaster 24K below.
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Garrett Goldmaster 24K ($679, 48 kHz) - White's Electronics went out of business in 2020, and was purchased by Garrett Metal Detectors. This makes Garrett now one of only two remaining U.S. metal detector manufacturers. I place them at first place in that role, due to the overall consistency of their existing product line, now augmented by the White's purchase. The White's line will be largely dropped as out of date for todays market. However, the last White's model produced, the Goldmaster 24K, is a superior product, and extremely competitive in its class. I personally had settled on it as my preference over other 30 kHz plus dedicated prospecting detectors, due to the overall physical design, tuning options, and affordable coil selection. Garrett has just introduced the 24K back into the market at a very attractive price. The popular aftermarket coil manufacturer, NEL coils, has just announced support for the 24K. I'm happy to see Garrett finally make some moves again in the prospecting market, and admit to having a biased view on this one. I'd like to see at least one U.S. manufacturer stay competitive, and I like the moves Garrett is making in that direction.
Nokta/Makro AU Gold Finder ($679, 56 kHz) - The Nokta/Makro AU Gold Finder came out in 2016 and is basically a Nokta/Makro Gold Racer (see above) put into a different housing that emphasizes simple knob controls. The housing is IP56 dust and water resistant. The AU Gold Finder comes with a 10" x 5" DD coil plus a 5" round DD coil. The weight including four AA batteries is 3.1 lbs.
Steve's Opinion - The AU Gold Finder is an interesting option in that it specifically is made to look and handle more like older style analog detectors for those who prefer such things. The simple knob design is intuitive and putting everything in a sealed box allows the detector to be chest or hip mounted, a rarity in today's detectors. Bottom line, a good prospecting detector and a good value with two coils, overlooked by many due to a very limited number of dealers stocking the unit, and the limited coil selection.
Fisher Gold Bug 2 ($699, 71 kHz) – The Gold Bug 2 is the highest frequency detector on the market, for extreme sensitivity to the smallest gold nuggets. In moderate to low mineral conditions, no detector will pick up a smaller nugget than the Gold Bug 2, especially if it is paired with its 6.5” accessory coil. The lightweight and tough hip mountable design is great for rough terrain. The Gold Bug 2 is a manual ground balance unit. Weight including two 9V batteries 2.9 lbs. The unit can be purchased stock with either the 10" elliptical coil or 6.5" elliptical coil, or both. Two accessory coils are available for the Gold Bug 2.
Steve's Opinion - An excellent example of a niche machine that excels at one task. The Gold Bug 2 has extreme sensitivity to small gold combined with what I feel is one of the best physical designs of any nugget detector on the market. The Gold Bug 2 is lightweight, tough, and convertible from rod mount to chest or hip mount. Its main drawback is that it is harder for beginners to learn than newer units since it has no automatic ground tracking or ground "grab" options.. But if mastered and paired with the small 6" coil the Gold Bug 2 is a superb small gold machine. The Gold Bug 2 has a particularly effective "Iron ID" mode that not only rejects iron targets but many iron hot rocks. I consider my Gold Bug 2 my "go to" detector if I simply want to find some gold. I can hit tiny pieces weighing less than 1/10th grain with the 6" coil. 8/2021 Note: The Gold Bug 2 has just been reintroduced with a LCD screen displaying the ground balance setting, but is still the same detector, just with a control update.
XP ORX ($748, 14, 28, 56, 80 kHz) - XP has just released this new product for general sales. The new XP ORX emphasizes gold prospecting and coin detecting in the promotional material. The XP ORX appears to be a version of the "Africa only" Depar DPR 600 made for sales in Europe, the U.S., and elsewhere. The ORX has been refined from that early effort by the addition of the ability to use the new X35 coils.
Steve's Opinion - With XP switching the old low frequency coil models over to the newer X35 coil series it appears that XP intends for the ORX to be the high frequency option with an emphasis on gold prospecting, and for a lower price than the Deus model. The coils are the same as those used by the Deus and I expect the performance on gold nuggets to be identical also to what the Deus offers with the high frequency coil option. This machine is available with wired headphones for $649 and well worth considering at that price, but I have listed it here with the popular wireless headphone option. I think the ORX is a great little nugget hunter personally (I love the compact design), but it seems to be overlooked my most serious prospectors and getting more attention as a low cost alternative to the XP Deus for coin and relic detecting.
Minelab Gold Monster 1000 ($899, 45 kHz) – The Minelab Gold Monster 1000 came out in 2017. The model is replaces the Minelab Eureka Gold as a much lighter and less expensive detector. Main features are a hot 45 kHz frequency combined with automatic ground tracking and even an automatic sensitivity option. The Minelab Gold Monster comes with both 10" elliptical and 5" round DD coil plus rechargeable and standard AA battery packs (AA batteries not included).
Steve's Opinion - I have been a little surprised how I took to the Gold Monster 1000. This has been based more on its grab and go simplicity than anything else. It has excellent sensitivity to small gold and and dual coil package for a good price. The main issue for beginners is to resist over-driving the sensitivity which can lead to false signals. The big selling point for the Gold Monster is the minimum control set and almost totally automatic operation. Some professionals however may chafe at the lack of audio threshold and the very same limited amount of control that appeal to others. I’m personally do not like the screw together rod at all, a stand out flaw for an otherwise excellent detector. Still, the ease of operation is a huge plus for beginners, and this has made the Monster a very popular option.
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Minelab Equinox 800 ($899, 5, 10, 15, 20, 40 kHz plus Multifrequency) – The Minelab Equinox 800 has just been released and is only now becoming available in quantity. It includes a dedicated Gold Mode with up to 40 kHz operation and offers the first true multifrequency nugget detecting capability.
Steve's Opinion - The Minelab Equinox 800 and the Equinox 600 to a lesser degree are proving to have some major sensitivity to gold nuggets in mineralized ground. I have been very impressed with what I have been able to make the Equinox do as a gold prospecting detector. The stock 11" coil is less than ideal for nugget detecting, but the new 6" coil is proving to be very stable and have extreme sensitivity to very small gold. I am not recommending all prospectors run out and get an Equinox. It is primarily a general purpose detector. However, if you want a capable general purpose detector that is quite capable of finding gold nuggets, the Minelab Equinox has serious possibilities. It's actually my go to machine for VLF gold prospecting at this time as I enjoy exploring all the options the machine offers. Equinox nugget detecting tips.
A note on Pulse Induction (PI) detectors. Pulse induction detectors are a more powerful option for prospectors compared to the models above. Their main advantage is the ability to handle highly mineralized ground and hot rocks more effectively than the induction balance detectors listed above. Unfortunately PI detectors have rudimentary discrimination compared to VLF units. It is best to view PI units as all-metal, dig-it-all detectors. They do have some limited discrimination capability, but it is not why you get a PI unit. Depth in extreme mineralized ground and an ability to ignore difficult hot rocks are the selling points. In addition, some PI units have poor sensitivity to small gold compared to VLF units, and so someone with less expensive VLF unit can run circles around someone with a PI unit at low mineral locations. I tend to consider PI units as elephant hunting guns, best used when larger nuggets are known to be lurking in an area. New PI detectors like the SDC 2300 are challenging my perception in that regard however. Some areas demand PI detectors regardless of gold size due to extreme mineralization and/or hot rocks. My basic recommendation for most people is use a VLF when you can, and use a PI when you have to. You first clue to when this will be is when you can't get your VLF to work properly due to ground and hot rock conditions. In much of the US a good VLF is perfectly suitable and often a better choice than a PI. However the western US and most of Australia have places where a PI is an absolute necessity.
Garrett ATX ($2120, Pulse) - This model takes the AT series to a new level with pulse induction. It features an extremely compact military grade housing submersible to 10 feet. Even the built-in speaker is waterproof. Note that the unit itself may be submerged but if you want to put your head underwater you will need optional submersible headphones. The ATX features a unique collapsible/folding design for stowing and backpacking. It is powered by eight AA batteries. The ATX comes with a newly designed 10" x 12" DD coil and weighs 6.9 lbs. Four accessory coils are available.
Steve's Opinion - The ATX is a very versatile detector and fully capable of almost any task a person wants to use it for. The ATX is a superior beach detector and one of the less expensive pulse induction nugget detectors currently available. It is sensitive to gold nuggets weighing as little as 0.1 gram and yet has very respectable depth on larger gold nuggets. I think the ATX has a performance edge over the TDI SL but at twice the price and twice the weight it has not set the prospecting world on fire. The main problem is the heavy waterproof housing driving the price up so high that in Australia the ATX does not compare favorably to the much more popular Minelab models. In the U.S. it has settled into being most used for beach and relic detecting. I have tried for years to convince Garrett to make a light weight, less expensive dry land version of the ATX but so far to no avail. At this point unless having a waterproof detector is critical to your needs, spending the little more money to get a Minelab GPX 4500 makes more sense.
Fisher Impulse Gold - Placeholder for new gold nugget prospecting model due out in 2021 or 2022.
Minelab GPX 4500 ($2699, Pulse) - This Pulse Induction (PI) unit essentially ignores ground mineralization and most hot rocks. The GPX 4500 is designed specifically for nugget detecting and so it has many adjustments for mineralized ground not available on other PI detectors. The 4500 weighs 5.3 lbs. not including the harness mounted battery, which weighs another 1.7 lbs. The detector comes with both an 11" round DD coil and 15" x 12" mono coil. Over 100 accessory coils are available for the GPX 5000 (Minelab, Coiltek, Nugget Finder)! And more coils are being released every year.
Steve's Opinion - Minelab reintroduced the GPX 4500, a prior model to the GPX 5000 below. Currently it is being offered with two coils for only $2699 which represents a fantastic amount of performance for less than half the price of the GPX 5000. The main thing lacking on the GPX 4500 that the GPX 5000 offers is the Fine Gold timing. This is a setting that eliminates the most troublesome hot rocks and ground while still getting most of the gold. You also get the Salt Gold and Coin/Relic timings plus the Enhanced timing has been improved on the 5000. However, $3000 more for these differences is a bit much and in my opinion the GPX 4500 now represents the best "bang-for-the-buck" option available for those wanting a powerful pulse induction prospecting detector. 2021 note: it appears Minelab is discontinuing the GPX 4500. There are available still and Minelab still lists them on their website as a current model, but dealers are saying it's going away. That would remove an great value choice for prospectors and I for one hate to see it happen. Grab one while you still can.
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Minelab SDC 2300 ($3299, Pulse) - This model is unique as Minelabs first waterproof pulse induction metal detector. A key feature is that the detector is physically packaged in the proven F3 Compact military housing that is waterproof to ten feet and folds down into an incredibly compact package only 15.7" long and weighing 5.7 pounds including four C cell batteries.
Steve's Opinion - I have used the Minelab SDC 2300 I must say I am impressed. The waterproof compact design is perfect for hardcore backpack style prospecting. The main thing however is that the SDC 2300 comes as close to VLF type performance on small gold as you can get while being almost impervious to the ground mineralization and hot rock issues that plague said VLF detectors. In fact, the SDC 2300 will find gold nuggets smaller than most good VLF detectors can detect even under favorable conditions. The SDC 2300 is also one of the simplest detectors to use and master on the market. The main caveat is that the detector is optimized for small gold with the hardwired coil and so other ground balancing PI detectors are a better option for large nuggets at depth. It is also nearly twice the price of the Garrett ATX above and so you are paying quite a premium for a little better performance on small gold. Still, for novices in hot ground that can afford the price, the SDC 2300 is almost impossible to beat for the price, if the goal is just to go find some gold, any gold at all. If the budget allows, however, I would pass and go to the new GPX 6000 below, which offers even better performance, while retaining the SDC ease of operation.
Minelab GPX 5000 ($3999, Pulse) - This Pulse Induction (PI) unit essentially ignores ground mineralization and most hot rocks. The GPX 5000 is designed specifically for nugget detecting and so it has many adjustments for mineralized ground not available on other PI detectors. The GPX 5000 is the culmination of over 10 years of innovation in pulse induction technology. The GPX weighs 5.3 lbs. not including the harness mounted battery, which weighs another 1.7 lbs. The detector comes with both an 11" round mono coil and 11" round DD coil. Over 100 accessory coils are available for the GPX 5000 (Minelab, Coiltek, Nugget Finder)! And more coils are being released every year.
Steve's Opinion - It is simple. The Minelab GPX 5000 is the safe choice for best all around pulse induction gold prospecting performance. It has been out for many years, is well proven and reliable, and has a vast selection of coils and accessories to cover almost any situation.
Minelab GPX 6000 ($5999, Pulse) - The Minelab GPX 6000 is a new pulse induction model that is just now getting into end user hands. The GPX 6000 is exceptionally light and well balanced compared to previous Minelab models, and promises to set new standards for ease of operation. The GPX 6000 weighs 4.6 lbs. and has three coils available at launch, an 11" round mono, 14" round DD, and 17" elliptical mono. The detector has built in Bluetooth wireless headphone capability and quick release Li-Ion batteries.
Steve's Opinion - This is the high powered Minelab gold detector I have wanted for many years, and I was on the development team. The SD 2300 is great, but I want something in a standard housing with multiple coil options. The GPX 5000 is great, but I want a built in speaker and battery system - no harnesses and bungees. The GPZ 7000, I want something lighter and less expensive. The new GPX 6000 satisfies my wish list and then some. I will not speak for users in other countries, but I highly recommend that new PI shoppers in the United States pass on other options, and get a GPX 6000 as their first high power PI. The GPX 6000 easily outperforms the stock GPZ 7000 on the vast majority of the gold that is left to be found in the U.S. The GPX 6000 also handles salt ground conditions and even salt water beach conditions, that will shut down a GPZ 7000. There is just too much going for this detector to consider anything else at this point, except for lower price options due to budget constaints.
Minelab GPZ 7000 ($7999, ZVT) - The new Zero Voltage Transmission technology from Minelab takes gold prospecting to the next level. The new platform represents a break from the past SD/GP/GPX series in more ways than one, with a new weatherproof housing design based on the Minelab CTX 3030. The GPZ 7000 weighs 7.32 lbs. and comes with a waterproof 14" x 13" coil. There is one official accessory coil available at this time, plus one officially sanctioned aftermarket coil. Brave souls can check out numerous hacked Russian coil options.
Steve's Opinion - The GPZ 7000 is an amazing detector, and still vies with the GPX 5000 large coil combos for depth on the largest nuggets, while easily eclipsing the GPX 5000 on small nuggets and specimen gold. However, the weight, price, and limited standard coil options now make it impossible for me to recommend the machine to all but the rarest new purchasers in the U.S. If you have a GPZ 7000, great, no reason to panic. But if you are in the market for a new high power gold prospecting PI, and are going to be hunting in the U.S., I highly recommend you get a GPX 6000 instead of the GPZ 7000. Or wait a year or two or ??? for the replacement for the GPZ 7000.
If I can offer one final word of advice, it would be to pay particular attention to what experienced nugget hunters are using in any particular region. Do not assume you are going to outsmart them and find some model they have not already tried and set aside as less than optimum. Serious prospectors in any particular location will end up focusing on certain units that do the job. In areas of extreme mineralization this is usually a PI detector. In areas with less mineralization and lots of ferrous trash VLF units often are preferred. If you can discover what models the locals prefer it will give you a head start in knowing what to use yourself. Above all, whatever detector you finally choose, dedicate yourself to mastering it. It takes at least 100 hours of detecting to become proficient with a detector model. Any less, and you are still practicing. Knowing your detector well is more important than what particular model of nugget detector you own.
So there you are. Hopefully this helps some people out. I can be found daily on the Detector Prospector Forums and would be pleased to answer any questions you have on metal detecting and prospecting. Also check out Steve's Guide to Metal Detecting for Gold Nuggets.
~ Steve Herschbach
Steve's Mining Journal
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