Going Coastal with Your Metal Detector

All valuable or historically significant metal detecting finds are great, but there’s something special about the prospect of finding coins from a shipwreck or locating old pirate booty. That’s the Holy Grail of metal detecting for many detectorists.

That’s the lure of beach hunting – you’re hoping against the odds that you’ll walk away with a piece of eight in your pocket at the end of the day. I know that was my ultimate dream the first time I went metal detecting on a beach.

The reality was far different than my fantasy. Two hours later, with a handful of pop caps, one child’s barrette, two aluminum cans, and enough false signals to test my sanity, I admitted defeat and went off to play in the surf without my detector in hand.

I had no clue where I went wrong, but after returning from my vacation, I did what I should have before I went on my trip – I studied up on using a metal detector at the beach.

What I learned is that metal detecting on beaches is an entirely different game than hunting in your backyard or local park. These tips will put you on the path to having a more successful first beach hunt than I did.

Your detector may not be suited for hunting in the sand.

I learned this lesson the hard way. My low-end metal detector was not well-suited for the challenges of hunting in the mineralization I found at the saltwater beach I was at. What happens if you bring a metal detector that doesn’t do well with mineralization is that you’ll get lots of signals. That doesn’t sound bad at all, right?

Well, it is when many of them turn out to be false signals that are the result of your detector reacting to the salt and mineralized black sand.


What you need is a machine that offers a great discrimination mode that filters out some of the trash you’ll likely find on the dry part of the beach, and one that offers ground balancing which will help eliminate some of the false positives in the wet sand.

If you spend more time at the beach and in the sand than David Hasselhoff did while filming Baywatch, you’ll want to make sure you have a unit that can handle the special challenges a beach dig introduces.

Luckily, they do exist, but they don’t come cheap. You can expect to pay about $300 to $600 to find a good machine that does a capable job of eliminating the false positives and finding the signals you’re truly after.

Pay attention to your scoops and shovels.

Your handy digging knife won’t do you much good on a beach hunt, and neither will the little garden trowel you have on hand. As you try to scoop the sand out of hole, more sand will start to cave in. You can dig furiously and end up no closer to finding your treasure than you were when you began.



What you need is a scoop made just for sand searches. The scoop traps the sand in and filters it out through little holes all over the container. After sifting for a few seconds, all you’re left with is the metal you were trying to find.

Beware the water!

Before you start splashing around in the water searching for the long-hidden treasure you’re sure you’ll find there, be certain your detector can handle the job.

Although many of the search coils on metal detectors are waterproof, the control boxes often aren’t. Stay in very shallow water if your unit isn’t submersible. If you trash your machine in the water, your first beach hunt might end up even worse than mine did.