A few years ago I did a field test report on a detector marketed under the Discovery label and marketed by Radio Shack called the Discovery 2200. While putting the report together, I was a bit surprised to find out that the company that actually builds them, First Texas Products, is actually the world's largest manufacturer of metal detectors! In addition to building detectors they market themselves under the Bounty Hunter brand, produce private-label models for a number of companies including Radio Shack, Wal-Mart and Sam's Club among others. This report covers the top-of-the-line model marketed under the Bounty Hunter line known as the Time Ranger.
Features The Time Ranger model incorporates many features requested by detector users for various types of hunting. It was developed to be a detector that would meet the demands of treasure hunters including coin hunters, beach hunters, relic hunters and cache hunters to name but a few. While it can easily be used as a "turn-on-and-go" detector, it has the versatility to allow even the more advanced hunters to "tweak" it to their specific needs.
The Time Ranger is a single-frequency VLF detector that operates at 6.9 kHz. The control housing is mounted on a standard S-handle which keeps the face of the control housing easily accessible while evenly balancing the weight of the entire detector.
The Time Ranger weighs less than three pounds with the stock eight-inch search coil and batteries (it uses two 9V batteries which produce 20-25 hours of operation).
The face of the control housing may initially look intimidating; however, the controls are easy to understand and the LCD provides a wealth of information that can be used to determine if a detected target is worth recovering or not.
The Time Ranger is controlled through the 10 touch pads located on the face of the control housing. The obvious controls include POWER and SENSITIVITY ([+] / [-]). The remaining touch pads are used to select the desired search mode and then make adjustments that may be needed for specific conditions encountered. There are three general modes that the Time Ranger can be operated in: 1. Discrimination with target ID indications. 2. Non-motion all-metal pinpoint. 3. All-metal self-tuning without target ID.
There are three factory preset discrimination search modes accessible via the PROGRAM SELECT touch pad and a fully user-programmable discrimination mode accessed via the DISC/TARGET touch pad. The factory preset modes were developed to meet the needs of most hunters without the need of any adjustments for various type of hunting; i.e., accept or reject specific, pre-defined target categories. To customize what's accepted or rejected, simply select the DISC/TARGET mode and use the ACCEPT & REJECT touch pads to select the desired targets. Once completed, simply press the DISC/TARGET touchpad and you are ready to hunt.
The LCD screen provides a ready source of information not only on what has been detected but what settings have been selected. The top portion of the LCD contains an arrow that appears beneath one of the nine target ID labels located above the LCD screen to help identify the detected target. (Note: The IRON segment actually consists of four separate, discrete sub-segments which relic hunters will find useful in hunting sites containing iron targets). Beneath the area where the arrow appears, a digital number will appear to further aid in identifying specific targets. A little practice on known targets will help one be able to differentiate between targets that might otherwise ID the same on the upper scale (as is the case with many target ID detectors). For example, while copper pennies and clad dimes fall in the same category on the upper label, a copper penny registers as "86" while the clad dime registers as "90" enabling one to differentiate between the two targets.
Other useful information provided by the LCD screen includes the current SENSITIVITY setting, target depth (in 2" increments up to 10" deep based on coin-sized targets), battery strength and an indicator labeled GROUND MONITOR. This indicator shows the relative mineralization present in the ground as the coil is in motion. While it does not make any adjustments for you, it will alert you to changing ground conditions that may require re-balancing the detector to obtain optimal detection depth.
An interesting piece of information is provided momentarily as the Time Ranger is ground balanced (when using the Smart Trac function) and that is a numerical value that represents the ground balance setting selected by the detector based on the ground conditions; i.e., the higher the number the more mineralized the ground. The manual provides some innovative uses for this information which may help certain users in specific applications.
Other features which serve useful purposes in the field include the SNIFF and BLANKER options accessed through touch pads. The BLANKER feature allows you to ignore a category of targets (see the category scale above the LCD screen) simply by detecting a target in that region and pressing the touchpad. An "R" will appear beneath the selected category indicating that targets in that section will no longer produce a response. This can be used to easily eliminate a specific type of target such as a particularly common style of pull tab in a park.
The SNIFF feature allows quick programming of the Time Ranger to only detect a specific type of target by pressing the SNIFF touchpad and passing the coil over the target. Only targets that are extremely close to the sample used will now be detected. This is useful when looking for a specific target such as a lost piece of jewelry or even when competing in a competition hunt and searching for say only prize tokens specifically rejecting other items.
Pinpointing targets is easily accomplished by selecting the ALL METALL/SMART TRAC touch pad and then slowly criss-crossing the area where the target is located and centering the coil over the spot where the loudest signal is obtained.
The Time Ranger has a standard 1/4" headphone jack on the housing and its use will extend battery life while ensuring weak signals are not overlooked.
Field Test After the obligatory bench testing and pass through the test garden that I run all new detectors through, I was ready to take the Time Ranger out in the field and see how it performed. The area in South Carolina I'm currently living in has some interesting "patches" of ground where ground conditions can change from mild to almost non-hunting in a matter of a few feet and then just as quickly change back again, so there would be some sites that would put the Time Ranger through its paces.
Starting off at a few off the nearby schools with mild ground conditions, I spent some time using the three Preset Discrimination search modes and found those did exactly what they were intended to do in terms of rejecting specific amounts of trash while detecting "keepers" at depths of up to seven inches (doubt there was anything deeper that I'd missed). At one middle school, I ran into an area near the fence surrounding the track / football field that was littered with pull tabs and screw caps; however, selecting PRESET #3 allowed me to recover close to $3.50 in change without, most importantly, receiving a signal from a single piece of trash.
Heading west several miles I visited an old home site (nothing remained but a foundation hole) that had produced a few keepers in the past but was highly mineralized and made many other detectors troublesome at best. Selecting Preset Program #1 and setting the Sensitivity at "8" according to the LCD, I started hunting near the front of the old home. I received a fair amount of chatter caused by the mineralized ground so I dropped the Sensitivity to "6" which quieted things down considerably.
I could see from the Target Detection indicator that the Time Ranger was passing over a number of targets that were being rejected based on the selected discrimination levels and was doing so with a minimal amount of false reading. It took a few minutes but I received a solid signal that registered in the "1c/10c" region of the meter and showed a depth of 8". Cutting a plug, I recovered a flat button from the early 1800's at about the indicated depth.
After detecting a few more "interesting but valueless" targets at similar depths, I switched over to the Smart Trac al-metal search mode. Since the target ID capabilities of the Time Ranger are disabled in this mode, I had to switch between the all-metal and discrimination modes to ID a target but it simply involved tapping the appropriate touchpad and sweeping the coil over the target. The Smart Trac mode was very stable and allowed some extremely small targets such as an earring to be detected at three to four inches deep.
I visited a few popular but trashy sites in nearby towns to see how the smaller four-inch coil worked and was able to recover more than 30 coins--many of which had been there for some time--from areas that I and others had given up on due to the overwhelming number of targets; i.e., trash, in a small area.
In these cases, I opted for the Target Programming Mode which allowed me to reject virtually all targets up to "1c/10c", and by slowing down my sweep speed, was able to get clear, repeatable signals for the good targets intermixed amongst the trash.
Unfortunately, I did not have the opportunity to get down to the ocean beaches of the Carolina coast to see how the Time Ranger handled the salt water and black sand due to the time constraints of this article; however, I intended to do so and will add the results to the on-line version of this report.
Summary Many people have associated the Bounty Hunter name with entry level detectors or those with mediocre construction and performance; however, the Time Ranger proves these assumptions are not based on the current Bounty Hunter line-up.
As a "turn-on-and-go" detector, good finds were made with ease and with some "tweaking," even the more challenging & well-hunted sites turned up a surprising number of keepers.
It is light-weight and quite simple to operate, even when getting into some of the advanced features such as SNIFF, BLANKER and SMART TRAC. It has been a while since I spent much time in the field with a Bounty Hunter; however, the Time Ranger was quite enjoyable to use.
The Time Ranger is available from your local Bounty Hunter dealer as well as a number of national outdoor and sporting goods stores. The list price is $649.95 and it comes with both the eight-inch and four-inch search coils and, as do all Bounty Hunter models, a five-year warranty. An optional 10-inch coil is available for more coverage or deeper detection depth.
For more information on the entire Bounty Hunter line from First Texas Products or the name of a dealer that carries the line, contact them at (800) 413-4131, write them at 1100 Pendale Road, El Paso, TX 79907 Or visit their website at http://www.Detecting.com. Be sure to mention that you read about the Time Ranger in Lost Treasure magazine.