Having had the opportunity to conduct field tests on many of the top-of-the-line detectors introduced over the past 15+years, I have tended to focus on what new & innovative features each detector brings to the table and in doing so, have overlooked the entry-level buyer who is simply looking for a quality detector that will find targets with a minimal amount of effort. Recently I've tested several metal detectors targeting this market segment and was pleasantly surprised at the performance provided in some of these lower-priced units. First Texas, which builds detectors marketed under the Bounty Hunter name as well as numerous private label units for companies such as Radio Shack, Wal-Mart, Sams Club, Fingerhut and Cabelas, recognized the need for a low-cost detector that will actually allow people to find targets and has built their line around this philosophy. The Lone Star is the newest addition to the Bounty Hunter line and offers several features that are not typically found on detectors in its price range.
The Lone Star is a turn-on-and-go VLF detector with a motion search mode. First Texas has incorporated many of the features they developed for their other, higher-priced detectors into the Lone Star. These include a 6-segment visual target ID system, a 3-tone audio target ID system, variable sensitivity, notch discrimination, interchangeable search coils and a headphone jack.
The control housing is well laid out with an easy-to-read LCD display showing probable target ID as well as the search mode selected. The detector is controlled through the use of 3 touchpads and two knobs used to adjust the sensitivity and discriminate levels. The touchpads are used to select the desired search mode; i.e., ALL METAL, DISCRIMINATION, and AUTO NOTCH. The SENSITIVITY control doubles as the ON/OFF control. When the detector is turned on, a self-test circuit checks the LCD display and gives a series of audible signals that provide an indication of battery strength. The DISCRIMINATE control is used to determine what targets will produce a signal and which are rejected. The LCD display provides an indication of what type of target has been detected via the 6 distinct segments; i.e., Iron/Foil, Nickel, two Scrap segments which will include pull tabs and screw caps, Zinc Penny and Penny/Dime/Quarter/Half/Dollar. The AUTO NOTCH circuit is one designed specifically for coin hunters. By pressing that touchpad, no adjustments of the Discriminate control are required and virtually all commonly-found trash is automatically eliminated so that coins can be easily detected even in trash-filled sites. As with any metal detector, care should be used in setting the discriminate level as good targets can be rejected if the control is set too high. As shown on the control housing faceplate, gold items can (and will) register in the SCRAP portion of the meter. If you are planning on hunting the beach where gold jewelry can be found, it would be advisable to use the DISCRIMINATE search mode and set the Discriminate control no higher than the 11 o'clock position to ensure you do not inadvertently leave a valuable goody for the next detectorist to recover.
The Lone Star is powered by two 9V batteries that provide about 20+ hours of use and rechargeable batteries can be used with no impact on performance. Battery life can be extended by using a set of headphones and their use is recommended to ensure signals are not inadvertently missed due to outside noise. There is a LOW BATTERY indicator on the face of the control housing that will illuminate when the batteries need to be replaced.
The Lone Star comes equipped with an 8 open searchcoil and optional coils - a 4 and 10 - are available to enhance the detector's capabilities.
Living back in the South is ideal for conducting field tests since the weather rarely keeps you from heading out and doing some detecting. With temperatures in the mid-60's and recent rain resulting in moist soil in the area, conditions were perfect to put the Lone Star through its paces.
There are a number of community playgrounds and parks within 5 miles of my house so finding a spot to try would not be a problem. The first one had a large play area as well as two ball fields, a volleyball court and several picnic tables set under the trees on the edge of the park. Opting for AUTO-NOTCH as the search mode based on past experience at this site (high concentrations of trash), I turned the Lone Star on and set the Sensitivity to the 3 o'clock position. As I started to sweep the coil across the grass, I received a number of false signals which indicated the sensitivity was set too high for the ground & trash conditions. Reducing the sensitivity to the 12 o'clock position eliminated this problem and I was able to hunt in relative quite except for when a good target was detected. [NOTE: If a signal is received that will not repeat when the coils is swept back and forth over the area, it is most likely a piece of trash that the Lone Star is trying to reject until you really master the detector, focus on solid, repeatable signals to avoid becoming frustrated with recovering unwanted targets!]
Signals were fairly plentiful and pinpointing was quite easy - accomplished by wiggling the coil back-and-forth slightly and seeing where the center of the signal seemed to be. The time I spent practicing in my test garden before venturing out for the first time paid off in being able to recover targets in a minimal amount of time. Both the visual and audio target ID's were accurate and with few exceptions, the only targets that produced clear, repeatable signals along with stable meter indications turned out to be coins. An occasional crushed soda can or identifiable piece of metal were the only targets that tended to fool the Lone Star's discrimination and target ID circuits but even more expensive detectors would have had the same issue. I spent the better part of 4 hours at this park and was quite pleased with my haul which included almost $7 in change, a few keys, a pair of Matchbox cars and a ring which initially looked like a winner but the AVON stamp inside let me know what I really had.
I spent the next few evenings after work checking out several other community parks and did well at each one. The great thing about parks and playgrounds that are in constant use is that even if other treasure hunters search them, the goodies are always being replenished. At a few of the cleaner sites I selected the DISCRIMINATE search mode and ran the discriminate control at the 11 o'clock position. While this did result in recovering a number of pull tabs and screw caps (that registered in the SCRAP region of the meter), I did pick up a few items that would otherwise have been rejected including several buttons, a few aluminum charms and some amusement arcade tokens.
The last two sites I took the Lone Star were older home places that had been abandoned for many years based on their appearance. These would be a good test of the Lone Star's abilities since they were quite trashy and the older targets would more than likely be deeply buried. The first one proved to be a real challenge due to the trash content and after 45 minutes of trying to pick good targets from amongst the trash, I took the 2 wheat cents and a 1964 silver dime I had recovered and headed back to the truck. The Lone Star was able to find targets here but it required patience and as much as I hate to say it, I knew there were easier sites nearby so I packed up and left in search of one.
The last site was much cleaner and less overgrown. I hunted much of the front yard without receiving a single good signal. Near the edge of the yard I did pick up another wheat cent from 4 inches and a brass skeleton key at around the same depth. Both of these sites would warrant additional attention with one of my detectors with a little more detection depth; however, I had found a few old coins with the Lone Star proving it is capable of finding more than just recently-lost clad coins.
The Lone Star was a fun detector to use for its intended application; i.e., a starter or backup detector. It required no complicated adjustments, and the combination of the discrimination and target ID circuits produced a number of keepers with only a minimal number of trash targets in some fairly challenging sites. As I've said before about other entry-level units, It won't replace your more advanced detector but that was never its intent and for the price, it provides a lot of value for the money. The Lone Star sells for $219.95 which makes it well suited for use as a backup detector, a unit to get a spouse or child interested in the hobby or even for competition hunts and comes with a 5-year warranty. For information on the entire Bounty Hunter line from First Texas, check out their website at http://www.Detecting.com, call them at (915) 633-8354 or write them at 1100 Pendale Road, El Paso, TX 79907 and mention that you read about the newest addition to the Bounty Hunter line in Lost Treasure!