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A Review and Guide for VLF Beach Metal Detectors

Updated on October 6, 2012
Beach combing for metal objects is a favorite pastime for many.  It is important to have a metal detector that withstand the corrosive effects of the water and can discriminate objects well in wet sand.
Beach combing for metal objects is a favorite pastime for many. It is important to have a metal detector that withstand the corrosive effects of the water and can discriminate objects well in wet sand. | Source

Beach Metal Detectors Overview

Beach combing with metal detectors to find lost rings, necklaces and coins has become quite popular over the last decade. If you are in the market to purchase one and participate in this sometimes lucrative hobby, you will note that the number of available models is enormous. Metal detectors come in an array of styles, with different technologies and widely variable price ranges. Whatever the make you choose, if you are going to use a detector on the beach, you need to have a unit that is proven to work well in wet sand and can compensate for the background mineral content of the ocean water.

The older models of metal detectors use either single or dual frequencies method for detecting conductive objects. known as VLF, or very low frequency. This method (VLF, or very low frequency) is less preferred by some for metal detection on the beach because it can be difficult to discriminate objects because of the background mineral content from sea water.

Newer models of VLF detectors have improved circuitry to help overcome the background noise caused by mineralized sea water. Ground adjust controls are required to compensate for the background feedback. Some detectors have an automatic ground adjust, while others have manual controls.

Below, I review some of the top VLF metal detectors that deserve the moniker "beach metal detectors". These include models where you can submerge the detectors to search in shallow water and down to 250 feet in depth. Tables are included to help you compare the different models as well. Later, in another article, I will review other models that used advanced technology (Pulse Induction and Broad Brand System) in another article, detectors which naturally overcome the background noise of mineralized sea water.

VLF Metal Detectors for the Beach

A VLF metal detector emits one or more frequencies and detects objects to a depth of 10-12 inches. They consume less electricity than other types because they are sending from 1-2 signals into the ground vs. several signals, so the batteries last longer. They are less expensive than other type of detectors and they are usually the type of detector that beginning hobbyists consider. However, as mentioned earlier, you need to tune out the background noise that comes from the mineralized sea water. You may also need to adjust the sensitivity control. One of the models listed below, the Tesoro Tiger Shark, has a salt water mode for easy switching. For manual adjustment, it is done at the high water line along the beach where the sand is saturated. Some units are better this for overcoming mineralization, and they are mentioned below in the table. Read the instructions for your unit to get the best results.

Using more than one type of detector. Some pros suggest have a VLF detector for searching in dry sand and a PI detector for searching wet sand. This is said because the VLF detector can be used to quickly scan an area and the PI detector can be used for deeper work in areas that show promise. BBS detectors also work deeper than VLF units.

Pricing. Pricing for new units are given below along with other specifications. Note that you can sometimes find bargain deals for these models occasionally, or with earlier models like the CZ-20, on Ebay or other web sites.

Fisher CZ-21
Garrett AT Pro
Tesoro Tiger Shark
Price range (new)
6 lbs (2.2 kg)
3.3 lbs (1.4 kg)
4.5 lbs (2.0 kg)
Search modes
3 normal, 3 Pro
Iron discrimination
Via 200 Hz low tone
low tone, 40 segments
Depth/sensitivity levels
Concentric, 10.5"
Double D, 8.5 x 11"
Concentric, 8"
5 and 15 kHz
15 kHz
12.5 kHz
3 tone discrimination, pinpoint
4 tones, pinpoint
monotone detection
to 250 feet
to 10 feet
to 200 feet
4 - 9 VDC
4 AA
8 AA
2 years
2 years
Limited lifetime

Of the three models mentioned above, the Tesoro Tiger Shark is the simplest to operate. It is also suitable for diving, as is the Fisher detector. The Garrett detector would be suitable for snorkeling as it is limited in its depth rating. If you are on beaches with significant iron content, it may be best to choose either the Garrett or the Fisher detectors for their tonal differentiation of iron signals. If you are tone deaf, choose the Tesoro unit.

Two other VLS detectors worth considering are the Minelab X-Terra 305 and 705. Both are suitable for beach combing, but not for snorkeling, as only the coil is waterproof. The 305 puts out two frequencies and has 12 discrimination levels, while the 705 has three frequencies and 28 discrimination levels. If you are interesting in gold prospecting the 705 would be your choice. The Minelab X-Terra 705 has some great reviews in user forums. It is priced at the levels of the Garrett and Tesoro units mentioned above.

The Tesoro Tiger Shark in Action on the Beach

Purchasing Recommendations for Metal Detectors

Due to dealer agreements, manufacturers won't permit advertising of the detectors at less than list price. If you contact the sellers by phone, they can give you a better price. Just find the authorized dealers first, as there are some counterfeit units that are made in China and other Asian countries.

In order to give you a better deal, dealers often sell the units with packages or lots of "free" stuff. These packages include digging tools, detector pinpointers (essential), covers, headphones and more. Two tools that are recommended are the Garrett Propointer and the Lesche Digger. Finding the target with the detector is only the first step, the Propointer will get you to the object, or the needle in the haystack.


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    • Randy M. profile imageAUTHOR

      Randy McLaughlin 

      7 years ago from Liberia, Costa Rica

      Hi Bob - I would like to roam the hills of Britain with you doing some prospecting for treasures. But, for now, I will content myself with beach combing in Costa Rica, finding the lost items of vacationers. I may do a little in Texas in the near future, maybe I will find some old coins (by U.S. standards, not Roman). Thanks for stopping by!

    • diogenes profile image


      7 years ago from UK and Mexico

      I was just discussing these with a friend who enjoys the pastime. But I want one to use in the fields and maybe dry sand occasionally. We have the "Whites" range here which he recommended. I will wait now till after the British winter...we have great opportunities here with the long history of Roman occupation, etc., sometimed find hordes of gold!



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