Every year there are more detectors to choose from. Every year there are more people asking “which detector should I buy?” My answer to them begins with a question; Where do you live and what will you hunt? I am sure that they may question my need to know where they live but no one can attempt to help someone with that question unless they know which soil types and mineralization levels the detector will have to overcome. The next question is generally met with difficulty because someone will want to hunt gold nuggets and want to hunt salt beaches too.
My advise to you is to pick one field of endeavor and attempt to learn how to be successful there. Metal detecting is primarily successful due to the hunter and not the machine. Stay with one machine until there is nothing else you can learn from it. That will keep you busy for quite a while. Almost everyone wants to hunt either relics or coins and then do the beach also. That is too much for you to take on at one time and too much for one detector to permit you to do.
People generally fall into one of two groups. There are some of us who want to go to the hunting grounds and stalk the prized objects like a bird dog on the scent, leaving the world of complicated equipment and just match a good detector with a hunter intent on using all his skills to free the object from its earthly bounds. Another group generally enjoys the hi-tech digital displays and lots of knobs and buttons to use the best, newest technology to help them find the treasures. Then there is the group like myself who started with hi-tech and ended up hunting another simpler way.
I wanted a machine to do it all for me and just tell me if it is a good target, and tell me the depth of the target. I think that I wanted to start with that because I felt like I didn’t really know anything about how to find goodies. Over time I learned that the hunters skills can tell him ANYTHING that the sophisticated hi-tech detector can. In the long run I decided that the hi-tech models just slow you down watching the display and depth indicators and aside from that I found that I am more personally satisfied by hunting with my skills alone. I guess it may be like the wild game hunters that hunt with bow and arrow or black powder.
In the end I see a combination of hi-tech with the simple machine which will provide the purist with the satisfaction but still permit him to observe the most refined readouts not so much from depth readings, or programmable detectors with very complicated displays but will provide, as necessary, an indication of target identity refined to such selectivity to provide the hunter with a small, simple readout of target composition which would not be displayed in neon but just indicate a fine number which would allow the hunter to determine the difference between something like a silver quarter and a clad one. The machine would provide raw information and the sophisticated hunter would provide the comprehension of the analysis by a large number of ways. For instance it depends on the age of the site, the mineralization, the depth, and the history of other finds in the area. These cannot be accounted for by a computer for everyone everywhere! Once a hunter hunts these areas he becomes familiar with what he can expect to find. He will know what kind of trash is there and what he can do to adjust to difficult mineralization and just what he expects to find.
Your decision depends on which group you fall into and exactly where and what you are going to hunt. A good tip for you is to talk to anyone that you see hunting around there and ask them about these things. Ask them what is a good detector for that area. Attend a local club and ask what they hunt with then look at the finds of the person who is the most successful and find out what he hunts with and any tips you can get, if you cant find any other experienced detectorist use the web and read as many metal detector reviews and field tests as you can.
Most of us start just hunting coins. Nothing fancy, not looking for silver coins but just a chance to get out and look around and start picking up coins. That can be very satisfying and many people stay with it. Sometimes we come from an old historical area where there are lots of very old coins to be found and while this is fun we must consider that like Civil war relics the old coins will be cleaned out someday soon and then will we evolve or will we just return again to the old hunting grounds where good old coins could be found to walk around and be satisfied with one every now and then. Some may hunt and produce yearly finds in the thousands of dollars. What would you choose to do?
You see, you thought you would just go down to the store on the corner and buy one that you could use everywhere looking for anything. Better to think it over and then take a look at yourself first and decide what you want, to dazzle the crowd with your hi-tech lights and whistles or just to find a quiet peaceful hunt where the detector can become an extension of yourself. The hunter and machine, integrated and productive where pride may not be impressing someone with you status by buying the fanciest beeper on the planet but the pride of finding that balance between machine and man that always permits man to achieve his best and not to rely on someone else’s expectation of his needs.
To sum it all up I would say that if you live less than 100 miles from the coastline then sometimes you will want to do some metal detecting on the beach. This will require a machine far unlike most of the others. Most machines will just chatter more or less when you approach the wet sand but some are designed for salt and work well. If you live in the old states that saw Civil war activity then you will want to relic hunt at sometime or another. If you live near the gold fields that it is natural for you to hunt gold nuggets. You can hunt for coins everywhere. Now you get the idea! You will hunt what is there and not what you want to hunt! Get used to that and unless you expect to travel a lot you will only be hunting these targets. You will discover that there is one detector that excels as a relic detector or an underwater detector and although many may come close only one will excel. In every field there are certain detectors that will exceed all others in searching for your goodies. Ask others and you will soon know. I have many people who ask me and I would rather not answer for you because you can find out quick enough by yourself and perhaps choose better than I could for you. It is very expensive to purchase a detector only to discover that it will not perform what it must for you to hunt in your area. Take the extra time to investigate before you buy and save yourself some money. Then when you discover what you need don’t buy the cheapest version but buy a good (mid priced) detector to start with and chances are you will be satisfied for a long time.