Gold can be found in two forms. It can be processed into jewelry or other stuff. Or it can be raw: nuggets or flakes.
The first type can be found with any standard metal detector. However, for nuggets prospecting, you need a specialized device.
In this article, I’ll talk about some of the best metal detectors for gold prospecting. Then, I’ll tell about what machines you need to find jewelry.
Here’s a quick overview of some good prospecting machines
- Fisher gold bug: 19 kHz Operating Frequency, LCD screen,
- Fisher gold bug 2: high operating frequency 71 kHz, removable control box (hip mounting)
- Garrett AT Gold: fully waterproof, 18 kHz
- Tesoro Lobo SuperTRAQ: 17.5 kHz only, no screen
- Minelab GOLD MONSTER 1000: VLF, 45 kHz
Best metal detectors for gold prospecting
If you’re looking for nuggets, then you need an advanced tool. These machines are more expensive than the ones I’ll list in the second part of this article.
They may pay for their cost if you find many large nuggets.
But this needs a lot of work, persistence, and experience… If you’re low on budget you can buy panning tools.
They’re way cheaper and they can do the job if you want to hunt creeks…
Anyway, let’s go back to the gold detectors.
First, I’ll start by showing you some of the best devices on the market. Then, I’ll tell you what features an ideal prospecting detector must have.
This will give you some insights on which one you should pick. So, let’s roll…
Fisher gold bug
The Fisher gold bug has a nice looking screen. You can know the nature of the buried metal before digging it by reading the digital ID.
Its operating frequency is 19 kHz to make it more sensitive for small nuggets.
It has a 1/4 headphones jack.
In addition to usual pros (extend the battery life, not annoying bystanders), headphones help you hear the tiny changes in the audio signals.
The stock coil is small. Its diameter is only 5 inches, which is suitable for nuggets prospecting.
You can also install the optional 11” DD coil if you want to cover more area and get more depth.
The gold bug requires a single 9V battery. The indicator on the upper left corner will tell you its status.
It can last for 20 hours if it’s alkaline and for 8 hours if it is a rechargeable battery.
Fisher gold bug 2
The interface of the Gold bug 2 looks a little bit outdated. It doesn’t have an LCD screen like many of its competitors.
However, it operates at a very high frequency (71 kHz). So it should be sensitive to small nuggets.
This also means that it can be used close to the previous model without any risk of interference.
The control box can resist dust and moisture. It is also removable and you can mount it on your hip.
This feature will reduce the load on your arm. If prospecting is your full-time job, you’re going to like it.
Nothing worse than swinging a heavy detector for eight hours a day.
The gold bug 2 is fitted with an elliptical 10 1/2″ search coil. There are two other available options.
You can mount a 6.5 or 14” coil if you want to. Each one of them has pros and cons.
Garrett AT Gold
The interface of the Garrett AT gold is very similar to that of the ACE 300.
It is fitted with a 5*8” DD coil. The ground balance can be adjusted manually or automatically to deal with ground mineralization.
The AT gold is fully waterproof, it can be used up to 10 feet underwater.
Technically it can work in salt water but it wasn’t designed for that. So use it only in freshwater.
Its frequency isn’t as high as the previous model. It’s only 18 kHz.
The device runs on four AA batteries. Its length is adjustable. You can go between 42″ and 51″.
To ease the recovery of the nuggets, the AT gold has a built-in pinpointer.
Tesoro Lobo SuperTRAQ
The Tesoro Lobo SuperTRAQ has computerized ground minerals tracking system. You have three knobs and two switches to adjust the settings.
It doesn’t have a screen. So you’ll have to rely only on the audio signals.
The amazing thing about this machine is that it comes with a lifetime warranty. This means that the manufacturer is very confident about the quality of his product.
The Tesoro Lobo comes with a 10” elliptical search-coil. Coils with other sizes are also available.
You need eight AA batteries to power it up. Depending on many factors such as their quality, you can use this machine for 20 or 30 hours before having to replace the batteries.
What’s special about prospecting devices?
In this paragraph, I’ll tell you what features an ideal prospecting device should have and why we can’t use any beginner’s all-around device for this type of hunting.
I hope this paragraph helps you pick the best metal detector for gold.
Processed gold (chain, bracelet, watch…) is big enough to be detected easily by any entry-level machine.
But, if it’s raw it can be as small as a match-head and even smaller. And because the tiniest amount of gold is precious, you don’t want to miss these flakes.
Therefore, the detector should as sensitive and accurate as possible.
Entry-level devices are not that precise. Only an advanced machine can do this task.
Nuggets are usually found in places with high mineralization that can interfere with the detector giving you false signals.
The machine will go haywire and it will become unusable.
To solve this problem, metal detectors were fitted with what is called ground balancing capability.
It allows the machine to ignore these parasite signals and focus only on those coming from the buried metal object.
Since the soil composition changes drastically from one place to the other, ground balancing needs to be adjusted accordingly.
Beginner’s devices can’t do that, because this setting is preset to work with dirt having a standard composition.
This why you need a specialized tool. Ground balancing can be adjusted automatically or manually.
Because the gold is so expensive, the tiniest piece of it has a lot of value. So you want to find these.
That’s why you need a device that has a high operating frequency. The higher the frequency the higher the sensitivity for small nuggets.
The frequency of many of gold detectors is ranging somewhere between 18 kHz and 71 kHz.
This is way higher than the frequency of regular machines (8 kHz only on average).
I hope this helped you understand more about prospecting detectors. In the following paragraph, I’ll talk about detectors that can be used to look for processed gold.
But that’s not all, I still have some pro tips for prospectors. So stay tuned!
Which search coil is the best?
If you want to become a professional prospector, you need to have a variety of coils to get the most out of your machine.
Scan the same spot with each coil to make sure no nuggets are left.
The search coils available on the market come in different shapes and sizes.
Each one of them has a particular use. They’re like a spoon, a fork, and a knife. Each one of them has a different usage.
Generally, small coils are more sensitive to small metal objects and they can be used in tight spots.
However, the area they scan and the depth they can reach is limited.
Large coils can go deeper and scan a larger area per sweep but they’re less sensitive to small nuggets and they’ll have to deal with more minerals.
Where to prospect?
As I said earlier, having the right tools is only one part of the formula. You still need to go to the spots where you can find the money making good stuff.
If you’re a beginner, don’t worry. The pros did half of the job for you.
I’m sure you’re wondering how? Right?
Ok. Here’s how…
Have you heard of the term “gold rush” before?
Since you’re reading this post, I guess you did.
People used to come from all over the place looking for treasures. Back in the day, they didn’t have metal detectors.
They used primitive prospecting technics like panning. After processing the load, they will trash what they think is useless.
However, the piles of trash they dumped are full of gold, which is hidden inside the small rocks.
All you have to do is go to these spots and hit with your coil. That’s it.
Didn’t I tell you that the pros did half of the work for you?
You can also find gold veins inside the walls of abandoned mines. In the past, they didn’t have the technology to find them.
But, now you have a brand new detector and you should be able to find them.
Prospecting devices depth range
The depth a gold detector can reach depends on the size of the nugget. The larger the nugget the deeper it can be detected.
For example, you can’t detect a grain-sized nugget if it is more than two inches deep.
Larger ones with the size of a coin or more can be detected even if they’re 10 inches deep.
Detectors for processed gold
Gold can be used to make all sorts of stuff. You can find rings, watches, necklaces and even gold bars in a treasure cache.
If you’re looking for this type of gold, most entry-level metal detectors should do the job.
Bounty hunter TK 4
If you’re looking for something reasonably priced, go for the bounty hunter 4.
You can set the discrimination to ignore iron trash and focus on gold.
Doing that is easy, you only have to adjust the discrimination level and mode.
It will also beep when it detects silver, coins or anything with high conductivity.
In order to be able to detect small objects made out of gold like (necklace head), you have to adjust the sensitivity as high as possible.
It has a loudspeaker, you can also use any headphones if their plug’s size is 1/4″.
Using headphones is recommended if you want to extend battery life. By the way, the detector needs two 9V batteries.
Ground balance is preset so it’s not the best choice for prospecting in a highly mineralized area.
In that kind of places, you need a device with automatic or manual ground balancing.
The advantage that the Fisher F22 has over the competition is its weatherproof capability.
The crushing majority of the entry level-detectors have waterproof search coils. But, the rest of the detector isn’t water resistant.
The control box of the Fisher F22 can withstand rain or being splashed.
The coil’s connector has an O-ring and the headphones jack can be covered with a rubber cap to prevent water from getting in.
It has a nice looking LCD screen which helps identify the nature of the buried metal along with other info.
The second part of the legend on the screen’s upper part is named Gold.
If the detector indicates that something is within that range, it doesn’t mean necessarily it is.
It can be anything with a similar conductivity.
It’s a helpful feature if you master it. If you think the buried metal that you’ve detected is precious, dig it. If not, you can keep going.
In addition to the visual indication, this metal detector can emit four different tones to give you an idea of what the target can be.
Garrett ACE 300i
The Garrett ACE 300 has a waterproof search coil. Its size is 7″ x 10″. You can mount a larger coil if you’re looking for deep big objects like treasure caches.
The depth indicator will tell how deep the target is. However, keep in mind that this is an estimation based on bottle cap sized objects.
For large objects, like a jar full of ancient gold coins, the reading on the depth indicator can tell you that it’s shallower than what it really is.
To locate the target precisely, you can use the pinpoint button.
The ACE 300 runs on four AA batteries. You can make them last longer by using 1/4“ headphones.
Headphones with good quality soundproofing or noise canceling help you better focus on the audio signals coming from the machine.
This metal detector has a handful of preset discrimination modes. You can select the jewelry or make your custom mode if you’re looking for gold.
Having good tools is one important part but it’s not everything. You need to have a good methodology to increase your chances of finding something precious.
You have to think about scenarios and spots where people can lose jewelry.
For example, people can lose rings when they throw a ball in a baseball field. I have a detailed guide for metal detecting sport’s fields here.
Metal detectors have hard times distinguishing between rings and pull-tabs. So you’ll have to dig a lot of trash before finding what you’re looking for.
If you’re looking for a treasure cache full of gold, I suggest you lower your expectation. This doesn’t happen often.
And you lack the most important thing in the process. That is the treasure map!
*I didn’t mention PI (pulse induction) machines in this post because they’re usually very expensive.
*I’m sure many of you heard of stories of people finding shipwrecks full of treasures, especially Spanish ships traveling from the new world to Europe.
I didn’t give many details about this type of treasure hunting in this post because you need to be a professional diver.
And you need a lot of expensive tools such as an underwater detector, a boat, historical maps…
You also need a team and a lot of money to spend when searching.
This why I only spoke about finding jewelry and inland prospecting.
To conclude, if you’re looking for jewelry pick the bounty hunter 4. It’s an affordable solution that will do exactly what you want to.
If you’re looking for nuggets, then you need a more advanced machine (and of course more expensive) like the Garrett At gold.
If you have any question, leave them in the comments below.