A beginner's guide to metal detecting

Metal detecting. You’ve seen Suggs getting stuck into it on WW2 Treasure Hunters. With his co-presenting pal Stephen Taylor, the Madness man digs up and explains all sorts of military goodies that help bring the Second World War to life. If you’ve watched the show (if not - why not?!), you’ll no doubt have considered picking up a metal detector and trying it out yourself.

What’s stopping you?

You don’t have to focus on finding things just from the forties. You’ve got the whole of British history waiting to tell a million stories and it’s all right there underneath your feet.

Don’t worry that you’re a novice. We’ve got your back. Here’s a quick beginner’s guide to getting started as a metal detector...

So what is metal detecting exactly?

Let’s start with a nice easy question, shall we? Metal detecting is the process of, well, detecting metal. You wave a piece of specially-made equipment over a section of ground you suspect may be hoarding treasure (or at least something of some historical interest of significance). 

The metal detector transmits an electromagnetic field. When the field hits something made of any kind of metal, an electromagnetic field is beamed back and registered on the device. In other words, ‘BEEP BEEP!’

What you need to get started

First of all, of course, you’ll need a metal detector. Like anything, these things range in price and your budget will inform your choice. Buy the best you can afford, though. Don’t skimp. 

For tips on the best or most suitable make and model, some research is wise. There’s plenty of good information online. Try some forums for the best advice.

Next up, you’ll want a robust pair of headphones. They’ll help you hear the beeps better and - crucially - make you far less annoying to the people around you. Get yourself a small but well-made shovel to dig with too. And make sure you’ve some sturdy boots (NOT STEEL TOE CAPPED ONES). 

One final item you may want is something called a ‘pinpointer’. It’s basically a small handheld metal detector that will help you ‘pinpoint’ and hone in on your finds.

Oh, and pack some sandwiches. And maybe a flask. You’ll be gone longer than you think.

Some top tips and tricks

Before you go huntin’, here are a few words from the wise. Well, words from us, anyway:

  • Start local. As a beginner you’ll need to get into the swing of things. You can get to know your detector and pick up a technique in your own garden or a local park.
  • Rubbish is all part of the fun. Accept you'll likely find a lot of useless old garbage before you detect anything interesting. All the old cans and things you dig up - take them home and discard them properly. Don't leave them on the ground or re-bury them.
  • Get friendly with other detectorists. Other local enthusiasts can clue you in as to where the best spots are. You may even make a pal to go hunting with.
  • Keep records and rotate. It’s a good idea to note down your finds and your searched areas. For posterity’s sake, but also to make sure that you’re not - quite literally - going over old ground.
  • Hunt when the ground’s soft. Spring makes for soft ground, for instance. As does rain.
  • Found something? Keep looking! When you stumble across something interesting, don’t just trot off home. One find could mean two. Or three. Or four! It’s probably fertile ground...
  • Take it slow. More haste, less speed. You don’t want to miss anything good, after all.

This isn’t a comprehensive guide for any of you would-be metal detectors out there, naturally. We’d like to think of it as a bit of a start. A nudge in a hunting direction. 

So why not try it? Give a treasure hunting a go for yourself… And if you find anything valuable? Well, just remember who encouraged you to take it up in the first place, eh?