Do You Need a License For a Metal Detector?

Depending on the place you are going to hunt, you might need a license for a metal detector. Using a metal detector is a great hobby, but to ensure you don’t end up in an unwanted situation, you should know the law. In this article, I’m going to share some of the most important information regarding the US metal detecting laws with you. 

At the end, I’ve proactively included the best metal detector brands list for you to have a look at the top options on the market in 2021.


The Importance of Responsible Metal Detecting

Before starting your adventure with metal detecting, be sure that you follow the regulations.

If you plan on using a metal detector in another country while traveling, be sure that you are aware of the law and its implications.

Some places have special regulations to prevent the destruction of nature or historic heritage, as well as a host of other reasons.


Do You Need a License to Use a Metal Detector?

Yes, some states require a license to use and own a metal detector.

Once you get approved and licensed, hunting becomes much easier as there are many sites that you use without additional permission.

No matter the types of metal detectors you use, you need a license to operate them in the USA.


Metal Detecting Laws

Fans of metal detecting are affected by the same laws as history buffs, treasure hunters, and rockhounds.

There are two federal laws that you must bear in mind while going on a hunt:


According to these two documents, metal hunting on federal land is almost always forbidden.

Those regulations were created with the thought of protecting the history of certain places.

While hunting, you also have to remember that you must obey state laws, which vary from state to state.


Federal Laws

The Antiquities Act of 1906 was created before metal detectors were invented.

Why does it apply to us as metal detecting enthusiasts? It states that any kind of excavation, injuring, or appropriating of historic or prehistoric monuments or ruins that are located on lands that the Government of the United States controls or owns are illegal acts.

The second law mention above makes it illegal to dig, disturb, or pick up anything that is 100 years old and located on federal property.

Consequently, metal detecting is banned in all national parks and US federal lands.

While going for a hunt, be sure that you do not enter any of those places with a metal detector in your car. You could be arrested just for having it in your trunk.


State Laws

In 34 states, you need a special permit to use a metal detector. 16 states don’t allow using it for recreational purposes on state property.

The 34 states that allow metal hunting have additional limitations within state park boundaries.

I strongly advise you to check the regulations with a park ranger and always stick to the rules. Special regulations may also apply to navigable rivers, state highways, wildlife management areas, etc.


Metal Detecting Laws – In General

Generally speaking, according to regulations, hunting on any federal and state land is usually off limits.

The exception is a situation where you get special permission.

Some states and counties also prohibit using metal detectors in public parks.


Metal Detecting Laws – State Park Regulations

In the table below, you can find information about metal detecting the applicable state park regulations to bear in mind.

Alabama Yes Need permission from park manager
Alaska Yes Only allowed in some parks. Check with local office
Arizona Yes Need permission from park ranger
Arkansas Yes Beach areas in some parks require permits from the park office
California Yes Need permission from park office
Colorado Yes Need permission from park manager
Connecticut Yes Allowed on beaches. Other areas only allow surface collection. No digging.
Delaware Yes Only on beach areas
Florida Yes Only on beach areas with permission from park manager
Georgia No
Hawaii Yes Only on beach areas
Idaho Yes Most parks allow metal detecting, but you cannot remove found objects from the parks
Illinois Yes Need permission from park office
Indiana Yes Only on beach areas and with permission from the Park Manager
Iowa Yes Only on beach areas
Kansas Yes Most beaches, excluding those that are federal lands
Kentucky No
Louisiana No
Maine Yes Need permission from park office
Maryland Yes Only beach areas, but need permission to use metal detectors. Point Lookout and Calvert Cliffs beaches are off limits
Massachusetts Yes Need permission of the park supervisor to use detector on beach and campsites
Michigan Yes Verify with local authorities. Some parks are completely open, some closed, some with restricted areas.
Minnesota No
Mississippi No
Missouri Yes On beach areas only. Need permission from DNR
Montana Yes Allowed, but you cannot remove anything from parks.
Nebraska Yes Allowed on some beaches below vegetation line
Nevada Yes Needs permission of the park office
New Hampshire Yes Most areas allow metal detecting
New Jersey Yes Needs permission of the park superintendent
New Mexico No
New York Yes Only on beach areas with permit from the park manager
North Carolina No
North Dakota No
Ohio Yes Only on beach areas with permit from the park manager
Oklahoma Yes Needs permit from the park office
Oregon Yes Needs permit from the park office
Pennsylvania Yes Needs permit from the park office
Rhode Island Yes
South Carolina Yes Only beach areas with permit from park official
South Dakota Yes Needs permit from the park office
Tennessee No
Texas No
Utah No
Vermont Yes Needs permit from the park office
Virginia Yes Needs permit from the park manager
Washington Yes Allowed in 67 parks with permit
West Virginia
Wisconsin No
Wyoming Yes Needs permit from the park superintendent


Where Can You Use a Metal Detector Legally?

Depending on the site where you want to hunt, you might need to contact an entity for the permit to use a metal detector.

If you’re as enthusiastic as I am about the past time, it’s worth it.


Private Property Hunting

If you want to hunt in your own backyard, you don’t need anyone’s permission to do it.

However, this rule doesn’t apply if your private property is also:

  • A historical site
  • A tribal burial ground
  • An archaeological site


If that’s the case, you must probably know about it, but if you’re not sure, verify this with authorities first.


Metal Detecting Outside of Your Private Property

As a metal detector lover, you have most probably already checked every inch of your land.

If you want to expand your search, be sure that you obey all regulations.


Hunting on Someone’s Else Property

In case you want to enter someone else’s property to hunt, you need clear permission from its owner.

Would you want to see someone searching for stuff on your land? If you were to just appear with a metal detector on someone’s property you might be treated as an intruder and the person can call law enforcement officers to solve the issue. I’m sure you don’t want that.


Hunting at a Park

Parks are great places for a metal hunt. Before you go hunting in this place, contact local officials. In most cases, they can give you special permission to search.

Remember to check the table above to verify if the state allows you to search in state parks.


Other Places in Which You Might Need Special Permission

Generally, just imagine that if you want to hunt outside of your fence, you likely need permission to do so.

Some of the other places that might require permission are: 

  • Ghost towns
  • Disused amusement parks
  • Ranches and farmlands
  • Some beaches and lakes
  • Resorts


How To Ask for Permission to Hunt on Someone’s Land

I know that asking for permission to hunt is not always a good experience.

However, if you want to use your metal detector legally, you have to learn how to face the owners of lands you want to search.

I want to share a few tips with you that help me to get more ‘yes’ than ‘no’ answers.


Be polite

Whether you’re dealing with a super nice owner or someone you would rather avoid, never lose your grip. Sometimes the most grumpy owners are willing to allow you to search their property if you simply keep being nice.


Share what you are going to do

Be clear about the techniques you’re going to use. Try to avoid metal detector hunter jargon.

Terms that might be obvious for you might be confusing for landowners.


Share information on interesting facts about the property

Are you going to search a historic property? Do you know any story that makes this particular place interesting for you? If yes, share it with the owner.

The person might appreciate that you did your research and understand why you want to search better.


Leave the property better than you found it

If you find trash, pick it up. Be sure to not leave any damages behind you.


Get it on paper

Before you start your search, be sure to write down all the granted permissions. The document should include information about when and where you are going to hunt.

You can also include the type of equipment you are going to use. The file should include information about what you are going to do with the finds and contact details for you and the landowner.

Always keep this paper on you while searching in case of attempted intervention by a suspicious neighbor or law enforcement.


Is It Illegal To Use a Metal Detector on the Beach?

Once you get permission for using a metal detector, you may hunt in various places. Beaches are usually a great place for hunting.

While the good news is that you can hunt on them, some regulations may apply.

Before hunting, check the policies of the beach you want to search.

Each beach has its own regulations you must adhere to. Some of them allow hunting in the water, while others don’t.

There are some general rules that every metal detector enthusiast should remember: 

  1. Never hunt in restricted areas.
  2. Stay between the marks of low and high tide.
  3. Don’t enter any vegetation areas.


While public beaches are quite readily available for metal detectorists, you might face some limits with privately-owned beaches.

If you want to search on the land of a private owner, remember to ask for permission to do so and make it official with documentation.

If you decide to hunt on the beach, you should carefully pick your metal detector. I recommend this one. It is waterproof, so you can expand your search beyond the land.


Public Places to Metal Detect Near Me

There are various places that you can go hunting around you.

That includes:

  • Your own backyard
  • Parks
  • Lakes and rivers
  • Beaches
  • Fields


If you use geolocation on your phone or computer, you can always search Google, using the phrase “public places to metal detect near me” to receive updated information about places that are available in your area.


Where Can You Legally Metal Detect Without Permission?

The only place that you can metal detect without permission is your private property.

In other places, everything depends on what the local laws are. If there are no state laws that regulate this matter, reach for the federal or county laws.

I can assure you that in most places it is not so hard to get a permit. Usually, they are also free, so you don’t have to worry that your hobby is going to be expensive.

Once you get a permit to go for a hunt, remember to follow common sense.

A permit doesn’t mean you can do whatever you want to. Respect the place that you explore and leave it in good shape when you end your hunt.


Why Is Metal Detecting Illegal?

Metal detecting is an amazing and rewarding hobby. As you already know, in most states you can use a metal detector if you obtain federal, state, or local permission.

However, in most places, you have some limitations. Some countries have made metal detecting illegal.

Here are some reasons why that has happened:


People Misuse Metal Detectors

A metal detector is a great tool but it can be used for the wrong purposes. If someone searches for items, they might want to take them for themselves when they shouldn’t.

In this situation, the state or even the country can lose some priceless objects.


People Destroy Nature

Some areas are strictly out of bounds for any digging or even walking. They can include national parks, dunes, or places with vegetation or endangered species of plants.

When people do not follow the rules, those protected places can be completely destroyed.


Political Reasons

In some countries, authorities simply don’t want people to search for anything in the ground.


List of the Countries That Prohibit or Strictly Limit Metal Detecting

Country Notes
Belarus While the law allows some use of metal detectors, for amateurs, it is practically forbidden
Belgium Individuals cannot look for archaeological artifacts
China Metal detecting strictly forbidden
Comoros Islands Metal detecting strictly forbidden
Cuba Metal detecting strictly forbidden
Cyprus Metal detecting strictly forbidden
Ethiopia Metal detecting strictly forbidden
Iceland Metal detecting strictly forbidden
Israel Searching for historic artifacts is forbidden
Jordan Metal detecting strictly forbidden for private individuals
Libya Metal detecting strictly forbidden
Malta Metal detecting strictly forbidden for private individuals
Moldova Metal detecting strictly forbidden since 2011
Mongolia Metal detecting strictly forbidden
Morocco Metal detecting strictly forbidden
Namibia Searching for historic artifacts is forbidden
Philippines Searching for historic artifacts is forbidden
Portugal Metal detecting is officially prohibited but there are a few treasure hunting clubs that have permission to use metal detectors
Poland Forbidden even on a person’s property. You can get special permission from archaeology institutes, but it is very hard
Russia Searching for historic artifacts is forbidden
Saudi Arabia Metal detecting strictly forbidden
Sri Lanka Metal detecting strictly forbidden
Sweden Metal detecting strictly forbidden
Tunisia Metal detecting strictly forbidden


Quick Best Metal Detectors List

Now that you know about the laws and regulations you have to have in mind while going for a hunt, let’s have a look at the best metal detectors that you can get in 2021:

Metal Detector Pros Cons
Garrett ACE 300 Metal Detector 
  1. Comes with three free accessories
  2. Waterproof
  1. A bit expensive
Esright Metal Detector for Adult
  1. Great price
  2. Waterproof
  3. High sensitivity
  1. None
Weanas Metal Detector for Adults
  1. One of the cheapest options on the market
  2. Waterproof
  1. Doesn’t have many accessories included in the price.



I hope this information made the hunting regulations clearer for you. The golden rule that I’ve been echoing is very clear.

If you are not sure what laws you should follow, contact local authorities. It is better to ask twice than having to end your metal detecting in a very unpleasant way.

Man with backback and metal detector on dry grass
So, what did we talk about on this page?
Shimon Leizerovich
Shimon Leizerovich
I like to Find Gems and Treasures Around My Area, So Enjoy From My Biggest passion, Metal Detecting. I fall in love with the Metal Detecting area, and it connected with me to another hobby I had as a child, that to find gems and "treasures" around me and my area.