7 Common Metal Detecting Mistakes

Metal detecting is a fascinating hobby that blends the thrill of treasure hunting with the joy of outdoor exploration. 

Imagine walking on a beach or through an old historical site and unearthing a relic from the past or perhaps even a precious metal. 

The allure of discovery is what draws many to this activity. But, like all hobbies, especially those involving equipment and varied environments, there are bound to be some pitfalls. 

Beginners and even seasoned detectorists can occasionally make mistakes.  

Whether it’s choosing the wrong equipment, not understanding the nuances of the device, or being unprepared for certain terrains, these errors can sometimes mean the difference between finding a treasure and going home empty-handed. 

This GoldXtra guide aims to shed light on some of the most common metal Detecting mistakes made in the world of metal detecting, ensuring that enthusiasts are better prepared and more informed.

7 Common Metal Detecting Mistakes

  1. Starting on the wrong foot
  2. Target specific error
  3. Before buying the metal detector
  4. Underwater metal detection missteps
  5. Mistakes made by kids
  6. Maintenance mistake
  7. Setting adjustment errors

1. Starting on the Wrong Foot:

Metal detecting is an exciting venture, offering the chance to uncover hidden treasures that tell tales of the past. 

But for those just stepping into this world, there are common pitfalls that can deter the journey. 

Let’s dive deeper into some of these beginner’s mistakes and offer some handy tips to navigate them.

  • Lack of Research:

    One of the most common mistakes made by beginners is plunging headfirst into metal detecting without a strong foundational knowledge.

    Read the user manual thoroughly, as it provides a roadmap to your device. But don’t stop there.

    Dive into online tutorials, which often offer visual demonstrations, making learning more intuitive. Furthermore, joining local metal-detecting clubs can be invaluable.
  • Impatience:

    The thrill of unearthing a hidden relic or a shiny old coin is unmatched, but it’s essential to remember that such discoveries may not happen immediately.

    You might not strike gold on your first outing. Metal detecting is as much about the journey as it is about the destination.

    Embrace the process, enjoy the beauty of the outdoors, and cherish the anticipation of what lies beneath.

    Over time, with practice and persistence, you’ll develop a knowledge for detecting, and the findings will start coming in.

  • Ignoring Permissions:

    The excitement of a new spot to explore can be tempting, but it’s crucial to remember that not all lands welcome metal detectors.

    Many beginners, in their excitement, overlook the need for permissions. Whether it’s a public park, a beach, or private property, always ensure you’re allowed to detect there.

    Research local laws, and if needed, obtain the necessary permissions.

  • Using Complex Settings:

    Modern metal detectors come packed with a range of features and settings.

    While it’s tempting to use all the advanced features, it can be counterproductive for a beginner.

2. Target-Specific Errors

The world of metal detecting is vast, with different terrains and targets offering unique challenges.

Whether you’re seeking coins from an ancient civilization or gold nuggets, each hunt demands a tailored approach.

Let’s delve into the common mistakes associated with different targets and ways to overcome them.

You can also read about avoiding 5 common mistakes while unearthing treasure.

  • Pocket-sized Treasures: Coins and Small Relics
    • Mistake: Keeping the detector’s coil elevated from the ground minimizes its sensitivity, especially for deeper, smaller objects.
    • Pro Tip: Maintain a consistent, proximity between the coil and the ground.

      This ensures you don’t miss out on any historical coins or tiny artifacts that might be lurking just below the surface.

  • The Allure of Gold: Gold Hunting Blunders
  • Mistake: Using a general-purpose detector in gold-rich areas, which often have high mineral content, can result in missed opportunities.

  • Golden Rule: Opt for detectors explicitly crafted for gold prospecting.

    These are designed to perform efficiently amidst high mineralization, ensuring no nugget goes undetected.

  • In Pursuit of Big Finds: Large Treasures
  • Mistake: Disregarding faint, deeper signals or not excavating adequately.
  • Treasure Tactic: Remember, larger treasures, especially ancient ones, have been buried for years and are usually found deeper underground. 
  • Always investigate subtle signals and be prepared to dig a little deeper.
  • Beneath the Waves: Underwater Detection Mistakes
  • Mistake: Taking a non-waterproof detector for a dive or being perplexed by the altered signals underwater.

  • Aquatic Advice:
    • Always check your equipment’s specifications. If you’re diving into underwater detection, invest in a waterproof model.
    • Familiarize yourself with how signals differ underwater due to varying conductivity. Practicing in shallow waters can be a good starting point.

3. Before Buying a Metal Detector

Metal detecting can be an exhilarating adventure, leading you to unexpected treasures and stories from the past. 

But just like any journey, there can be mistakes. Here’s a look at some common mistakes made during different stages of the metal-detecting journey and how to navigate past them.

Pre-Purchase Blunders:

Before starting your treasure-hunting journey, there’s the task of choosing the right tool. 

Here are some typical mistakes and how to avoid them:

  • Lack of Research: Just like you wouldn’t buy a car without some investigation, don’t buy a metal detector without doing your homework.
  • Solution: Check out reviews, watch online tutorials, and maybe even try a few models out if possible.
  • Ignoring Your Needs: Not every detector is suitable for every kind of treasure hunting.
  • Solution: Define what you want to search for, like coins, jewelry, or relics, and then choose a model that fits those needs.
  • Overbudgeting: Spending too much on a feature-packed model when you’re just starting out can be overwhelming.
  • Solution: Determine a budget and stick to it. As a beginner, you don’t need the most expensive model; just one that’s reliable and fits your basic needs.

4. Underwater Detection Missteps:

Taking your search underwater is exciting, but it comes with its own set of challenges. Here are some common detection mistakes underwater:

  • Using Non-Waterproof Detectors: This seems obvious, but many forget to check if their device is waterproof before taking the plunge.
  • Solution: Always ensure you have a detector specifically designed for underwater use.

  • Ignoring Depth Limits: Even if it’s waterproof, each detector has a maximum depth it can function.
    • Solution: Always check and adhere to the depth specifications of your device.
  • Speedy Searches: Underwater signals can be weaker or distorted, so rushing through can lead to missed treasures.
    • Solution: Move slower than you would on land, giving your detector ample time to pick up signals.

5. Mistakes Made by Kids:

Metal detecting can be a captivating hobby for kids. It combines the joy of a treasure hunt with the outdoors, sparking their curiosity and adventurous spirit. 

However, young enthusiasts often tread unfamiliar grounds and are bound to make mistakes. Let’s dive into these common mistakes by kids.

  • The Speedy Search: Impatience
    • Mistake: Overwhelmed by excitement, children often rush the process, digging swiftly at every sound.
  • Solution:
    • Introduce them to the world of metal detecting with stories of patience leading to big rewards.
    • Educate them that metal detecting is a blend of patience and excitement, and slow, deliberate moves often uncover the best treasures.
  • Overlooking the Whispers: Skipping Over Signals
    • Mistake: Kids tend to focus on the loud, clear signals, ignoring the subtle, fainter ones that might hint at deeper or smaller treasures.
    • Solution:
      • Conduct fun learning sessions where they can understand the various tones of their device.
      • Set up practice digs using small items to help them recognize the importance of faint signals.
  • Safety Slips: Overlooked Precautions
    • Mistake: In their quest, youngsters might forget basic safety measures, be it using tools or wandering off in search of signals.
    • Solution:
      • Always ensure a guardian accompanies them on their expeditions.
      • Equip them with safety gear, such as gloves, and establish ground rules, like staying within a specific area.
      • Emphasize the significance of being cautious around water bodies or unfamiliar terrain.

Guiding Your Metal Detecting Journey: Avoiding Maintenance and Setting Mistakes

Metal detecting can unlock a world of buried treasures, but only if your device is in top shape and correctly set up.

To help you out, we’re shedding light on common oversights in metal detector care and adjustments.

6. Maintenance Mistakes

Ensuring that your metal detector stays in optimal condition is crucial for a fruitful hunt. 

Here’s a rundown of common maintenance mistakes and how to correct them:

  • Neglecting Regular Cleaning:
    • Mistake: Not cleaning the device after every use, leading to dirt build-up and potential malfunctions.
    • Solution: Always wipe down your metal detector after use. If it’s waterproof and has been submerged, rinse with fresh water to remove salt or any chemicals.
  • Ignoring Battery Care:
    • Mistake: Leaving batteries in the device for long periods without use, causing leakage or corrosion.
    • Solution: If you’re not planning to use your detector for a while, remove the batteries. Always replace old batteries before they’re completely dead.

  • Avoiding Regular Check-ups:
    • Mistake: Not testing the device regularly to ensure it’s functioning correctly.
    • Solution: Periodically turn on and test your metal detector, even during periods of non-use, to ensure it’s still operational.

7. Setting Adjustment Errors

Getting the settings just right can significantly improve your treasure-hunting success. However, many users stumble in this area. Here are common mistakes for settings:

  • Sticking to Default Settings:
    • Mistake: Using the factory default settings for all terrains and targets.
    • Solution: Adjust the settings based on where you’re detecting (beach, park, etc.) and what you’re looking for (coins, relics, gold). Different situations call for different settings.
  • Ignoring Ground Balance:
    • Mistake: Not using the ground balance feature, leading to false signals and missed targets.
    • Solution: Ground balance your detector to the mineralization of the soil. This can drastically reduce false signals and improve target detection.
  • Over-Reliance on Discrimination:
    • Mistake: Setting discrimination too high, potentially skipping valuable finds.
    • Solution: Start with lower discrimination settings. While this means you’ll detect more junk, you won’t miss out on potentially valuable targets.
  • Neglecting Sensitivity Adjustments:
    • Mistake: Keeping sensitivity too high or too low for the conditions.
    • Solution: Adjust sensitivity based on your environment. Higher sensitivity isn’t always better – in areas with a lot of electromagnetic interference, reducing sensitivity can yield clearer signals.


In the vast and adventurous world of metal detecting, the journey is filled with excitement, anticipation, and the hope of making that one big discovery. 

However, as we’ve seen, it’s also riddled with potential mistakes that can dampen the experience. 

By being aware of these common pitfalls and understanding how to navigate them, detectorists can significantly enhance their chances of success. 

It’s essential to remember that every mistake is a learning opportunity. 

With each error, there’s a chance to grow, refine your skills, and become a better treasure hunter. 

So, arm yourself with knowledge, ensure you’re using your equipment correctly, and most importantly, enjoy the journey. 

After all, metal detecting isn’t just about the finds; it’s about the stories, experiences, and memories you create along the way.

Howard rockse

Hey there, I am Howard a deeply committed individual who likes to share my knowledge and insights in this field, having spent over ten years as a metal detectorist.

My experience with GoldXtra has allowed me to provide trustworthy and informative advice to both new and experienced metal-detecting enthusiasts. I’m committed to assisting others in exploring and enjoying the world of metal detecting with the same enthusiasm and dedication that I have.

Howard Rockse
Senior Content Writer at GoldXtra

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