Metal detecting is an awesome hobby that more and more people are discovering each year. “Dirt fishing” as many call it, is one of the most addicting things I have ever come across. There is nothing like the thrill of finding those old coins, historical relics and valuable jewelry left in the ground from times past. It really is an exercise in history, often requiring a fair amount of research, and lots of persistence to uncover the good stuff.
When someone enters the hobby of metal detecting, they soon discover an overwhelming number of metal detector models to choose from, as well as user opinions about each one. It would be easy just to take a trip to the local electronics or sporting goods store and pick up one of their budget detectors, but the truth is, you would probably end up dissatisfied and discouraged with the lack of success in the field. These “toy” detectors just aren’t built to search deep and handle the frequent use by an avid treasure hunter. In the world of metal detecting, you really do get what you pay for, and all metal detectors are not created equal. But, the good news is, you don’t have to spend thousands of dollars for a good detector to get started.
There are several outstanding entry level metal detectors available for under $500. These machines are built tough and are backed by rock-solid companies in the metal detecting industry. If you are serious about the hobby, but don’t want to break the bank to get started, you won’t go wrong purchasing any one of the top three general purpose metal detectors covered here.
Get a Fisher F4 Now!
Dr. Gerhard Fisher, an immigrant German electronics engineer, is credited with being the father of modern metal detecting. He was the first to develop and market a metal detecting machine called a “metallascope” in 1931. Since then, Fisher Research Labs has continued to produce excellent quality metal detecting equipment and has remained a leader in the industry.
The Fisher F4 model is a great machine for general purpose metal detecting. It is extremely light weight at 2.9 pounds and has a very small learning curve. The great thing about this machine is that it comes stock with an 11” by 7.5” elliptical DD search coil. This coil has a large detection field and is quite sensitive making it great for hunting large field areas. Another great feature is the ability to manually ground balance the machine. This can be extremely important when using it over highly mineralized soil. This machine is equipped with an easily readable LCD display for target ID, depth and battery life.
The F4 has the ability to discriminate out certain target types which is great when hunting in trashy areas. The ‘Notch’ feature is also very easy to adjust and can knock out any selected target range. The “Pinpoint” feature on this machine is dead accurate once you learn how to use the DD coil. The F4 can give up to four audio tones for target identification which complements the visual display.
The Fisher F4 gets amazing battery life from 2 X 9-volt batteries and operates at 5.9kHz, which is the lowest frequency of the detectors listed here. However, the lower frequency does not hamper the F4’s ability to sniff out the goods. There are also several optional search coils for this machine such as a 4”, 8” and 10” concentric coils to cover every hunting possibility. The Fisher F4 is an awesome and versatile machine for the price, and is sure locate many valuable finds for its owner.
Pros: Extremely easy to learn, Large super-sensitive DD Coil, Manual ground balancing.
Cons: Headphone jack on bottom of control panel
Street Price: $399
Minelab X-Terra 305
Minelab is one of the first names in metal detecting. Generally known for its contribution of high-end detectors such as the popular E-Trac, Minelab also produces some of the best entry-level detectors on the market. Such is the case with the Minelab X-Terra 305.
The X-Terra 305 boasts dual operating frequencies of 7.5 kHz and 18.75 kHz making this machine capable of picking up hard targets such as very small pieces of gold. The higher frequency is also much better in highly mineralized soil commonly found while prospecting. This machine also features manual ground balancing to make it more effective in different soil conditions. The 305 is also a light 2.9 pounds making it easy on the arms and back. Unlike the F4, the 305 is stock equipped with a 9” open round concentric coil, but an optional DD coil is available.
The Minelab X-Terra 305 has a more than adequate visual LCD display that aids in target identification and has multiple audio tones as well. Although not quite as easy to configure as the F4, the 305 has adjustable discrimination ability that becomes easy with a little practice. The X-Terra 305 also allows for adjustment in the volume level of the tones, which is a nice addition. Pinpointing with the 9” concentric coil is a breeze and makes recovering finds extremely easy. There are 5 optional search coils available for this machine in both frequencies for added versatility.
The Minelab X-Terra 305 runs off of 4 X AA batteries and the dual frequency ability make this machine a beast in this price range. This machine offers features found in detectors costing over a thousand dollars and is sure to bring hours and hours of hunting pleasure.
Pros: Dual frequency capability, Manual ground balancing, volume adjustment
Cons: Higher learning curve
Street Price: $399
Garrett Ace 350
Garrett is a well-known and respected company in metal detecting. Their detection products are used by countless security and law enforcement agencies around the world to keep people safe in places like government buildings and airports. Garrett also manufactures some of the best and most popular hobby metal detectors in the world. The Garret Ace 350 is an exceptional addition to the Garrett line and an incredible price.
The Garrett Ace 350 may not sport quite as many features as the other two detectors covered, it has plenty of power and ability to find goodies. This machine operates at a respectable 8.25 kHz and is equipped with an 8.5” X 11” DD search coil. The only real drawback to this machine is the fixed ground balancing, making it a hard choice if hunting in mineralized soil. If the ground balancing was manual controlled, this machine could be every bit as good as the Fisher F4 in any type of soil. The Ace 350 also has an LCD display for target ID and has 6 search modes: Jewelry, Custom, Relics, Coins, Zero, and Pinpoint. The machine also has adjustable discrimination and sensitivity controls, but lacks the fine-tuning of a threshold adjustment.
The Garrett Ace 350 also features a depth indicator and 3 different audio tones for assisting in target identification. As with any DD coil machine, pinpointing takes a little practice, but once you get the hang of it, it is deadly accurate. This detector operates on 4 X AA batteries and is only 2.8 pounds. Garrett offers 3 option search coils for the 350 making it another versatile tool for treasure hunting. The Ace 350 is really what you would call a “turn on and go” metal detector. It is extremely easy to operate and will have you digging treasures in no time.
Pros: Price, Large DD search coil, Ease of operation, Higher frequency range.
Cons: Fixed ground balancing, lack of threshold adjustment
Street Price: $297
Compare the Top 3 Metal Detectors Under $500
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Metal Detecting Accessories
Akash838 on February 09, 2012:
really its so great..
Natasha from Hawaii on February 05, 2012:
I used to work at a hobby shop where we sold Garret's and White's metal detectors. I agree that Garret's are a great buy. In my experience, you get more value per dollar than with other hobby-grade brands.