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All About Metal Detecting Beaches

All About Metal Detecting Beaches

All About Metal Detecting Beaches

This article will attempt to sum up as much useful information on metal detecting beaches as possible. We can start with understanding some general beach concepts, and how to read the beach.

What’s a Groyne and what's a Cut?

It’s definitely not located between your legs! A groyne is a man-made embankment that keeps beach erosion in check. Metal detecting on the side of the lower groin where the sand is shallower and hard-packed can be helpful.

Photo by Simon English on Unsplash

A cut can be a gradual slope, or a steep drop in the beach. The beach in the photo above has a bit of both. The waves will create the cut, or trough, as they go out, so it is important to check the water line for these cuts as well. Other features to look for are rippled areas in the sand at low tide, and small rolling features that may have even caused pooling. 

Photo by Besir OZ on Unsplash

The importance of a cut is that as the tide goes out, it erodes the beach, exposing deeper layers of material underneath. The exposed layers will often hold older, heavier, and more valuable metal items. 

Where Do I Look?

Photo by Thomas Summer on Unsplash

First, what type of beach are you looking for? If you’re looking for older treasure, research old topo maps to find beaches that have been populated for a long time. If you’re just hunting for any gold or silver jewelry and coins, research popular beaches and be sure to find a time to go when they won’t be crowded.

Check to find swells and larger high tides. Then visit your designated beach at the low tide that follows the larger high tide. Negative low tides can be valuable too as they give you more access to the tide line. 

Many people recommend metal detecting the beach after a winter storm, because the massive waves rake the top layers of sand off the beach and expose deeper heavier targets. However, sometimes the ocean throws sand over the beach in a storm, which is not to your advantage. Get to know your beach by visiting it after these larger tides and storms. 

Targets will present themselves a multitude of ways. It is recommended to look at the base of the cut, on the wall of the cut itself (if it’s steep), and at the edge of the water. 

Look for hard-pack sand, sand that is distinctly firmer than other sand, so your feet won't sink into it at all. Also look for pebbles, cobbles, shells, and shingles mixed into the hard-pack sand. 

Detect in a zig-zag pattern below the cut line, toward the water line, and back again. Look for heavier items, lead sinkers, larger coins, big iron, silver and gold, this is a sign you are in the hard pack (dense sand or gravel) area where the goodies sink.

After finding a series of targets, be sure to note your trail, oftentimes targets will begin to form a distinctive line pattern that you can give more attention to. If you find something old or valuable, grid off a 20 X 20’ foot area around it, you may be in a hot spot! 

Finally, if you are hunting in the summer when there are lots of people and fresh drops, try checking the towel line, where people would likely lounge and shake their towels when they leave. 

Photo by Azat Satlykov on Unsplash

 What Are The Best Beach Settings? 

It is difficult to make general assumptions on what settings to use when metal detecting the beach. There are so many detectors available now that have the capability to handle the highly mineralized beach environment, including wet and black sand. 

If speaking generally about metal detecting the beach, it is important to hunt with the threshold set up some, in order to hear faint nuances that could be deeper targets. Some detectors have pre-set programs that are designed to better help your detector handle the beach. However, hunting in all metal mode is advisable if you are customizing your set-up. If you’re being picky, you can switch over to a discrimination pattern from all metal mode to cross check your targets. 

Ground balancing can be tricky as well. It is important not to hunt in auto ground tracking if that is a feature you have on your detector. Instead, perform multiple manual ground balances, especially if you’re walking from water, or wet sand, or black sand, to normal sand, and back again. You will want to constantly be accommodating the changes in mineralization. 

Many beach hunters will report that they dig everything. The reason for this is because gold items will ring up in the same TID (target Identification on your visual display) range as trash like aluminum, pull tabs, foil, and some iron. Chains can be especially difficult to pinpoint and detect, and they often sound off in odd ways like some foil does. 

The other reason for the ‘dig all’ approach is that good targets will sink to maximum depths. At these depths TID numbers are useless and some detectors will even report good items as deep iron. In order not to miss these deep targets hobbyists say: slow down, dig the iffy signals, and when in doubt, dig. 

Finally, invest in a good stainless steel long-handle scoop. You need a scoop that won’t break after hundreds of outings, and anything besides steel will most likely let you down. 

What Is The Best Metal Detector For The Beach? 

Unfortunately there are so many unique all-around metal detectors out there now that it is difficult to make an assumption that one detector is ‘better’ than another. That said, there are detectors that are specifically designed for hunting on the beach, these are called PI (Pulse Induction) metal detectors. In order to not report the highly mineralized sand, PI machines send pulses into the ground vs. sending a relatively constant signal. PI machines do not have any discrimination, so it is important to consider how trashy your beach (including iron) if you intend to use one. 

If your beach is particularly trashy, it might be more advisable to invest in a waterproof to semi-waterproof VLF metal detector.  A VLF detector is more adept to identify a target's conductivity, which enables VLF machines to better discriminate and give you more visual and audio feedback about what the target is made of. 

Single Frequency vs. Multi Frequency Metal Detectors For The Beach

Photo by NICO BHLR on Unsplash

Multi-frequency detectors are not necessarily better than single frequency detectors. 

You must first consider what frequency the single frequency machine operates on, how well it processes target information, and how good it is at combating heavy mineralization. 

Multi-frequency metal detectors have the advantage of being able to process more information about a target by utilizing a full spectrum of frequencies. Having greater processing ability also allows multi-frequency machines to have more advanced discrimination, which may make them suited to handle your beach conditions. 

There are also hybrid metal detectors out there that allow you to shift between multi-frequency, or select from a number of single frequencies. These machines might be more advisable to invest in if you know your beach conditions are highly variable.