Metal Detecting Basics - How To Get Started In Metal Detecting

If you are thinking about taking up metal detecting and want to know the basics about getting started then you have come to the right place.

You need two things to get started in metal detecting, the first is the equipment required and the second is somewhere to go detecting. Some people say that you should find somewhere first, but to be honest there is always somewhere to go, so lets look at the equipment required first.

Your First Metal Detector

This is a fairly big topic in its own right but lets just focus on the fact that you are just starting out metal detecting. What if you don’t actually enjoy it? The truth is that many households have a metal detector in a cupboard, shed or garage lying unused and gathering dust, because one day, someone thought that they might want to get into metal detecting, but for some reason it just didn’t happen. So you probably don’t want to jump right in with a top of the range expensive machine, another good reason for not getting a top of the range detector is, that they are really aimed at and designed for experienced metal detector users, who understand how to tweak and tinker with the machines settings. As a newbie to metal detecting you want something fairly simple to use but effective.

Fortunately there are some really good entry level detectors out there that are just switch on and go but are great at finding buried coins and artefacts. You could buy second hand of course, but if you do, keep to a simple but effective machine. If you set your budget to say a maximum of £350 then you can get a great starter metal detector that will last you a few years at least. Don’t be tempted to buy some random oddly named detector off Amazon. They list a lot of cheap Chinese imports that might look the part, but are little more than toys. If the main metal detector dealers don’t stock them, then there is probably a very good reason why they don’t. If you want to know exactly which are the best ones to choose from then read my guide here – The Best Metal Detectors For Beginners.

So in addition to a metal detector, what other equipment do you need?

Spade – The ground can be pretty tough when you are out detecting so a cheap flimsy spade won’t last you long, but there are some great ones out there one from Black Ada maybe or an Evolution Pro Cut SE which most metal detector dealers in the UK stock. Just bear in mind the weight though, you are going to be carrying it around with you all day. For me the weight of my spade doesn’t matter because I just drag it behind me as I detect, but some people carry them over their shoulder, so a heavy one might not work for them.

Pinpointer – I find a pinpointer essential, but not everyone uses one. A pinpointer is a handheld probe that you use to inspect the hole and the clod of earth that you have removed to find the item, they can save you a lot of time. A good one will cost somewhere between £80 and £130. AGarrett make an orange one that is very popular, commonly nicknamed the Garrett Carrot because of its shape and colour but other popular makes include Quest, Nokta and XP.

Hand Digging Tool – once your spade has dug out the hole you want something a bit more precise to extract your find. There are several brands out there but do be careful some of them are very sharp and you could easily cut yourself. Also use them with care, you don’t want to put a scrape down the bust on a gold sovereign do you? Use your pinpointer to locate your find and then try to extract it with your fingers first. If you need to use your digging tool then insert it a bit away from the find, you are trying to break and loosen the soil without coming into actual contact with the item.

Coin Pod – There are a number of pocket size containers out there that can be used to safely store your finds until you get home. I do still cringe when i see some detectorist keeping there finds in their pockets like loose change! A plastic foam lined container of some sort will keep your finds safe.

Shoulder or waist bag – There are a large number of bags out there designed to keep all your essentials to hand as well as being somewhere to store your scrap finds. Some also have sections to hold your pinpointer and hand digging tool. Personally, I rarely use one, I keep my pinpointer and digging tool in holsters on either side of my belt and wear multi pocketed trousers to contain everything else, however if I collect too much scrap they can be falling down by the end of the day!

Backpack – Some people detect wearing a backpack that contains spare clothing, spare batteries and food and drink, but that is a personal choice down to the individual.

Metal Detecting Clothing – Again it is personal choice, lots of detectorists wear camouflage clothing but it isn’t a requirement, your clothing needs to be tough and hard wearing but otherwise wear whatever you are comfortable in but dress for the weather and a hat and sunscreen are recommended in hot weather.

Okay so now you have all the gear but where are you going to be detecting?

Where To Go Metal Detecting

Most people first try out their metal detector in their own garden, but that is just your first time out. Where else can you go metal detecting?

Beaches – Although beaches are technically private property, you are able to detect on most of the ones in the UK without requiring permission but do check first.

Farmland – Farmland is privately owned so you cannot detect on it without the owners permission and farmers do get asked all the time so you might have to ask a few before someone gives you permission. Don’t be tempted to detect without permission it is illegal and does create a bad impression for our hobby.

Public parks and recreation areas – Just because they are a facility for the public to use it doesn’t mean that you can just go and detect there. In the UK metal detecting is often forbidden in public parks, if not you either need to get permission or apply for a permit. In the USA it seems to be a common thing to hunt in park and playgrounds (tot lots) but in the UK it is not allowed unless you have permission.

Public footpaths and rights of way – Absolutely not, the fact that a path is open to the public dosn’t give you a right to detect, the land that the path crosses is owned by somebody. If you don’t have the land owners permission then you cannot detect on it, you only have the right to use the path to cross the land.

Woods and Forests – Again no, not unless you have the express permission of the owner

Moorland – Again, not without the owners permission

You can probably see a common theme here. The point is that certainly here in the UK every single piece of land is owned by somebody and without the owners express permission you cannot detect on it. You cannot assume that you have permission and you cannot chance it and detect somewhere without that permission. So how do you get permission?

Organised Detecting Days Out

Well you could let somebody else get permission for you. By this I mean that there are plenty of Facebook groups that pay farmers and other land owners to allow them to detect on their land. These groups then charge you an amount for a days detecting usually somewhere around £15-£20, but it saves you from having to get permission yourself. However bear in mind two things. One is that you will be detecting with anything from 30 to 100 other people, it can be a fun social day out, but it can also seem highly competitive with people racing to get the best spots and detecting right next to you. Sometimes it feels like a competition or race. The other thing to bear in mind is that these groups are claiming vast amounts of land meaning that there is potentially less land for you to get as your own permission, but they are a great way to get into detecting.

Getting Your Own Metal Detecting Permission

But why not get out there and get your own permission that you can have all to yourself? Some people dread the thought of driving up to a farmhouse and knocking to ask for permission especially if they are a bit quiet, timid and shy, but honestly it isn’t difficult.

Yesterday I popped out and drove 10 minutes from home, I drove into a farmyard and there was the farmer just standing there looking at me wondering who I was and why I was there. I walked over to him, said hello, introduced myself, said that I was local and was interested in the history of the area and could I detect on that stubble field over there. He said yes and said I could detect on all of his 100+ acres. I asked him if should phone him or give him a knock each time I went, he said no, to just come and go as I please. 10 minutes there, 10 minutes chat, 10 minutes back, half an hour in total to knock on one door and get enough land to detect on for the rest of the year. It really is that easy, and this farm is on a busy main road with hundreds of cars passing each day containing people driving off to pay £20 for one days detecting and I just got a years detecting to myself for nothing.

So there we have it, the basics of getting started in metal detecting

One of the fields on the permission that took me 10 minutes to get over 100 acres of land to detect on
One of the fields on the permission that took me 10 minutes to get over 100 acres of land to detect on