How to Read a Metal Detector

A metal detector is an electronic device you can use to find nearby metals. There are various metals beneath the ground, each with a different value. Sometimes silver or gold is waiting to be found. However, metal detectors require a good amount of knowledge to fully understand how they work. Learning how to read a metal detector makes a great difference in your treasure hunting.

Once you figure out how to adjust your settings, you can find valuable objects much easier. So let’s dive in.

All it takes is learning the basic guidelines. While there are variations of metal detectors, they all follow a similar format. Here is what you need to know about reading metal detectors.


What Does DISC Mean on a Metal Detector?

DISC stands for discrimination on a metal detector. What it does is avoid low-value objects when you go looking for rare metals.

Metal detectors have a DISC feature where you can select the metals you want them to find. You need to start with a scale first – iron, foil, nickels, gold, pennies, and silver.

DISC uses a very low frequency, or VLF, to transmit a signal to the ground. Due to the polarity of the magnetic field, you can detect metallic objects beneath the ground.

If you use an older model, you can set the dial to detect only specific metals. Newer models allow you to manually type in the settings.

For example, you might avoid iron since it’s a commonplace metal. You can set the DISC so it doesn’t send you signals. By doing so, you can focus on rarer objects instead.

When you go to hunting locations, you can use DISC to prevent interference from ground mineralization. Iron is the mineral you want to avoid since it tends to be everywhere.

Keep in mind the DISC feature is not the same as the sensitivity one. DISC processes signals for metallic composition. Sensitivity determines the strength of your signals.

By increasing the sensitivity of your metal detector, you can find objects deeper in the ground. With DISC, you can decide which objects to look for, such as gold and silver.

Overall, DISC makes it easier for you to find rare collectibles.


What Do the Numbers on a Metal Detector Mean?

On a scale of one to 100, numbers represent the measurement of conductivity in your metal detector. Since different types of metals have their personal conductivity, the numbers make it easier to identify their typing.

In terms of conductivity, iron ranks lower on a scale. Meanwhile, aluminum gets higher numbers due to being very conductive. These numbers provide you more keen observation.

However, the numbers can get mixed up due to the conductivity of several different metals. It all relies on the size and weight of the objects themselves.

Be mindful of the soil composition in your hunting grounds. The numbers read are reliant on signals to separate targets underground. Public sites are good places to use these indicators.

The numbers on your metal detector ultimately depend on the manufacturer and their product. Every metal detector has its unique display screens for visual purposes.

Target identification uses numbers to notify you of specific ranges. Iron, silver, and gold have their own sections, indicated by a low or high number.

The more expensive a metal detector is, the more likely it possesses advanced technology for better readings. It’s due to the circuitry of the display screen.

Simple models use only numbers to indicate conductivity. Meanwhile, higher-price models use detailed measurements for accuracy and precision.

Always read the manual of the product you buy. A number that reads 66 might be a silver dime for one product, while another uses 88 instead.


What is Gain on a Metal Detector?

Gain refers to the sensitivity of your metal detector. You control the strength of your signals and the various responses to the surrounding environment.

Beneath the ground lies smaller metal pieces. Whether they are made up of ferrous or non-ferrous, one might miss them if the sensitivity lacks strength.

When metals are deep underground, you need to send stronger signals. To do so, you turn up the sensitivity of your metal detector. It makes it easier to identify hard-to-reach areas.

If you want to find smaller objects with irregular shapes, rise the gain level for better sensitivity. You have a higher chance of detecting these types of metals.

However, there are factors to consider with your gains. Even the smallest changes in the environment can make big ones for your metal detector.

When you increase the gain, you also turn up the volume for potential interference. A metal detector with high gains might be caught up with ground noise and other nearby detectors.

You need to find the right gain level to prevent interference. If you run yourself in a rut due to background noise, try to lower the gain. Be aware of your surroundings at all times.

When you are on hunting grounds with higher sensitivity, make sure you’re the only one within the area. Otherwise, there are potential intrusions with their metal detectors.

The size of the coil also determines the effectiveness of the gain. Use lower sensitivity for bigger coils and higher sensitivity for smaller coils.


Metal Detector Number Chart

A metal detector number chart indicates a specific metal type. It’s based on a numerical value, where the higher the number is, the rarer and more valuable the object.

Different companies use their number charts, but the general outline is the same. Iron is usually the lowest metal, while gold is the highest.

These charts use VDI, also known as the visual discrimination indicator. It gives you both a number and the type of metal found beneath the ground.

Generally, a numbers chart uses a scale from one to 100. On any given chart, the low-rated objects tend to be unusable junk, such as eraser tips, nails, and foil.

You can use these number charts to tell the difference between common and rare coins. A Jefferson nickel might rank in the mid-50s, but a silver quarter ranks in the highest percentile.

Here is a visual demonstration of what a numbers chart looks like. It’s entirely based on the conductive relationships between the detector and objects beneath the ground.

  • 0 – Iron, commonly found everywhere
  • 0-8 – Foil as a regular metal
  • 28 – Nickel worth five cents
  • 35 – Gold coin worth $2.50
  • 45 – Silver coin worth three cents
  • 50 – Gold coin worth five dollars
  • 70 – $20 dollar gold coin
  • 82 – Silver quarter
  • 90 – Silver dollar coin


Always consult with a manual on the metal detector you use. It should give you a comprehensive guide on what your number chart means.


How to Read Gold Detectors

To increase your chances of finding gold easier, you need to rely on a combination of your DISC, sensitivity level, and target identification. Doing so allows you to only search for gold.

How it works is you first need to set your DISC, so that you only register gold on your metal detector, instead of commonplace iron.

Make sure you are out in an open area, away from potential frequency disruptions. You want to avoid public settings; instead, head out to a natural stream within the woods.

Now, you can set the sensitivity control. Be aware of the soil composition, as well as the size of the objects you’re looking for.

When you search for gold, you should hear a high-pitched beeping sounding. By comparison, a lower pitch indicates low-value objects such as plastic.

Should you pick up a signal, make sure the number indicator is a higher one. If it isn’t, there may be a mixed composition of metals together.

You want to be ground balanced. It’s a variable setting that determines your mineralization signals. Finely tune your detector with a range of five to 15 kHz for the best results.

Ground balances let you match the frequency of your metal detector with the frequency of the ground. Make sure the sound effects are the same whether you go up or down.

Now, you can find golden nuggets easier with ground balance. If there is any metal in between your detector and the ground, it lets you know by making sounds.


What Do the Different Beeps on a Metal Detector Mean?

Different beeps on a metal detector specify a targeted metal. It lets you know which metals are which, making it useful to identify the one you want.

Metal detectors use audio cues to notify you whenever a metal object is nearby. These are also known as tones. They vary depending on the product and manufacturer.

Anytime you hover the coil over the ground, it uses beeping noises to track down various objects. These sounds range from low to high.

When you head over to a hunting ground, adjust your sound properly. There are ways you can tell the difference between a valuable coin and junk metals.

No matter the product, coins typically produce a loud high-pitch tone. You may notice right away when it goes from silent to immediate noise.

Junk uses a broken sound effect, which is generally rough and turbulent. If the object has an odd shape, it may produce asymmetrical sounds instead.

Low pitches indicate the lower value, while higher pitches suggest valuable metals like silver and gold. For better accuracy, you need to pinpoint the specific object.

When you hover over an object and it makes a sound, locate your target in a precise manner. It should go from repeated beeping sounds to a consistent hum.

Move your metal detector back and forth to find objects easier. The louder the sound effect, the more likely an object remains in that particular area.

If you find weak signals, search the area for stronger ones before you leave.


How Can You Tell if Metal is In the Ground?

You can tell metal is within the ground if your metal detector finds it through electronic signals. Detectors transmit an electromagnetic field to search for specific metals, such as aluminum.

Metal detectors utilize a sensor probe to sweep over the ground. Once it makes a beeping sound effect, it lets you know there is metal underneath the area.

In terms of distance, a metal detector mostly covers 10-20 centimeters deep within. Some upgraded models reach even farther underground, at 30-45 centimeters.

There are two factors in finding metal within the ground: how much depth your detector uses, and the object you are trying to detect.

The former method requires a reliable product. Meanwhile, the latter is determined by size, shape, orientation, and composition.

Moreover, the size and shape of your target objects make them easier to detect. With a larger surface area, you can detect these objects due to disruptions within the electromagnetic field.

Orientation refers to a target object at either a horizontal, vertical, or diagonal position. It’s easier to find horizontal objects due to their surface area.

The final component is composition, which is the type of material you’re looking for. Metals with high conductivity have better detection rates even deep underground.

Iron composes much of the ground you walk on. As a result, it’s one of the most common metals you can find with a metal detector.


Use Your Metal Detector to Your Advantage

Now that you know how to read metal detectors, you can enjoy a trouble-free experience in treasure hunting. It takes time, but the effort is worth the wait.

Metal detectors use DISC features to categorize the metals you want to find. You can also raise or lower the gain levels for the right sensitivity.

Be aware of your surroundings and try to find the ground balance between your device and the area below. Make sure to match the frequencies for accurate finds.

You can read the number chart of any given product you buy since metal detectors vary by the manufacturer. Check the manual for more information on what the chart means.

Treasure hunting with a metal detector can be a fun event. Once you learn how to do it, everything should come naturally.

red metal detector on grass
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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.