OK, youve been treasure hunting for some time now and are really comfortable with what your detector is telling you. You can tell the difference between a screw cap and Indian Head penny and can even gauge how deep a target is before you recover it. Or, you might have just picked up your first detector and are starting to learn the nuances of your new acquisition. Well, the purpose of this months column is to provide you with some information on additional equipment that can help you find more in the time you spend in the field.
Now before you say to yourself I dont need to buy anything else and turn the page, Im not talking about spending $100's on a new detector (although if you are still using that 20-year-old Ol Faithful you might want to consider that option, but thats a another column).
Lets start with your detector itself. Manufacturers typically equip their detectors with a searchcoil that will provide optimal performance under most conditions; however, it will not really excel in all applications. The normal coil that comes with a detector today ranges from 8 inches to 9.5 inches in diameter. Optional coils are available which are optimized for specific conditions or applications.
For example, if you frequent extremely trashy sites such as well-used parks or old foundations, you will experience what is known as target-masking. If there are multiple targets under the coil at the same time, such as a Seated Liberty dime, a few nails and a wad of tinfoil, the signals from the trash targets can override or mask the signal from the good target and, as a result, you will wind up leaving the dime for the next treasure hunter. A small coil 6 inches or less in diameter will allow you to pick out good targets from amongst the trash, thereby allowing you to find valuables that other detectorists have passed over for years. Recently, a friend of mine that just started metal detecting purchased a 5-inch coil for his detector and went to a city park that has been hunted for more than 30 years by virtually every treasure hunter within 50 miles. Some of the oldest areas were also the most trash-filled and this is where he opted to try out the smaller coil. By moving slowly and checking questionable signals, he was able to recover more than 30 coins dating back to the mid-1800's, including Indian Head pennies, Shield nickels, Barber and Seated silver coins and a few local trade tokens, over a three-week period. An interesting point that he mentioned was that more than half of the targets were less than 5 inches deep and could have been easily detected by almost any detector that had gone through the area. The heavy concentration of trash had masked them from detectors using larger coils.
On the other side of the spectrum are coils larger than the one that came with your detector. These coils range in size from 10 inches to 15 inches or more. Again, they have their niche in terms of when they will allow you to find more than with the standard coil. If a standard coil suffers from target masking in trashy sites, a larger coil would obviously NOT be the ideal choice in these areas, since the masking would simply be more pronounced. However, if you have a site that has been heavily hunted and is relatively trash-free, the additional detection depth provided by the larger coil can reach down to the valuables that were just out of reach from your standard coil. Larger coils are also well-suited for searching wide open areas such as ocean beaches or battlefield areas where your success rate will increase proportionally with the amount of ground you can cover in a given amount of time. Many of the larger coils are built using light-weight materials resulting in a coil that does not weigh much more than the standard coil you have been using.
The last point regarding search coils that you should consider is selecting one using a different internal design than the one that came with your detector. Virtually every manufacturer today, with the exception of Minelab USA, uses a concentric coil design. This produces a cone-shaped signal which is projected into the ground. The primary advantage of this coil design is the ease of pinpointing; however, as the signal goes deeper into the ground, the actual detection area gets smaller and smaller. As a result, one needs to overlap each sweep 50 percent or more in order to avoid missing the deeply buried targets we all are looking for. Many of the manufacturers also offer optional coils that utilize the Double-D design. This design is more difficult to pinpoint with, but offers 100 percent coverage with each sweep as well as responding better in high trash areas. You might want to see if a Double-D coil is available for your specific detector and give it a try.
Lets take a look at some of the other low-cost accessories that can significantly increase both the quality and quantity of your finds.
The fist item you might want to consider is an electronic pinpointer. Many of you may feel that you are proficient enough in pinpointing targets your detector has located; however, there are times when even the best of us spend a considerable amount of time trying to find a target due to its size, color that blends in with the soil, or having multiple targets in the hole. In these cases, a pinpointer will allow you to quickly locate the target and resume hunting meaning more targets recovered in the same amount of time in the field. There are a number of electronic pinpointing probes on the market ranging in price from around $30 to over $100. Since each one has a different style or mode of operation, it would pay for you to check a few out before you make your selection.
Headphones are another item that most detectorists dont even give a second thought to. Hopefully most of you recognize the importance of using a set of headphones and use them on a regular basis. They enable you to hear the fainter signals that typically indicate smaller, deeply-buried targets, conserve detector battery life and allow you to politely ignore the incessant questions you invariably get when hunting public areas. But all headphones are not created equally. In addition to the wide assortment of headphones produced by both the metal detector manufacturers and treasure hunting accessory companies, there are dozens of headphones made and sold for non-treasure hunting applications that work just as well as the specialized ones. Each model of headphone will produce a slightly different signal when connected to your detector, so selecting a specific set will be a matter of personal preference. For example, my wife and I both use different brands headphones and this was based on trying out several different types to find those that were both comfortable and produced audio signals that were easy to distinguish. Check out your local metal detector dealer as well as sources such as Radio Shack, Wal-Mart, K-Mart, stereo stores and the like. I have actually taken my detector into Radio Shack to try the various headphones before buying a pair this is definitely a purchase that you want to try-before-you-buy if at all possible.
The last items I want to touch on in this column are those that are intended to help you master your detectors little nuances. These include brand or model-specific books and video tapes. The truly successful treasure hunters are not always the ones with the latest and most expensive equipment, but rather those that know how to adjust their detector and understand what it is telling them. To demonstrate this point, a few years ago I took a friend who had just bought a low-end starter unit to a military post that dated back to the early 1900's. After a few pointers we went our separate ways and started hunting. An hour later he came back and was extremely frustrated. With two coins and a full pouch of trash to show for his efforts, he was even more discouraged when he saw the handful of wheat cents, silver coins and artifacts I had recovered. I offered him the use of my detector and with that offer, he felt certain his luck would change. An hour or so later he came back with the same results and, again, I had made a number of nice finds using his detector. After talking about what had happened, he realized that understanding his detector was the KEY to being successful in the field. Most manufacturers have books and videos that cover the operation of specific models they produce which can greatly reduce the amount of time needed to become proficient in their use. There are also a number of books written by independent treasure hunters that have mastered a specific brand or model which can bring you to the next level in terms of in-field success. Contact the manufacturer of your detector(s) for suggested titles and look through the advertisements in Lost Treasure for book dealers who can supply you with the independent titles.
Good hunting and my next column will provide you with some leads to productive sites that most treasure hunters wouldnt even consider hunting.