What kind of metal detector should I use for meteorite hunting?

The question most often asked over the past month was one that I alluded to in last month’s introduction. It seems that most everyone inquired as to what type of metal detector was the best to use when hunting for meteorites. To complicate the matter slightly, a few people stated that they would also like to use their metal detector for gold, coin or relic hunting. I’ll try to unravel some of the mystery behind which type of metal detector to use, but remember this is strictly my opinion and other experienced hunters may differ on this matter.

Let’s be honest here, if coin or relic shooting is really what you want to do, then you will probably need a machine specifically tailored for that. There are plenty of manufacturers that have designed good coin or relic machines including, Tesoro, Whites, and Fisher. However, if gold hunting is your thing, then there is little doubt that MineLab makes some of the best gold detectors around. Be prepared to pay for a quality gold machine though, a top of the line gold machine from MineLab can cost upwards of $3000.

Mike Morgan with his MineLab 3000

Over the years I have found that when it comes to very experienced meteorite hunters and their metal detectors there are two main groups. Those that tend to use the previously mentioned Gold Master or GMT, made by Whites Electronics, and those that prefer the Gold Bug 2, which is manufactured by Fisher. Over the past nine years I have bought and used both types of metal detectors very successfully. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that they are the two machines that I would recommend one use when wanting to track down those elusive space rocks.

The Gold Master 4 or “GM4” as it is more commonly known was the very first machine that I owned. Like most everything else this detector has its positive and negative sides. One thing that I really like about a Whites manufactured gold machine is its tone. When you hit a target with the Whites detector it really screams. It’s like music to my ears every time I hear it squeal because that tone tells me in no uncertain terms that I have a target that’s worth digging.

One negative aspect about the GM 4 or GMT is the meter. Although very useful the meter protrudes about 3 or 4 inches from the box. It seems to get caught on everything in sight, especially in very rugged or wooded terrain.

In addition to the GM4, I have also owned the GM2, GM3 and also the V-Sat. All are good machines but are a little outdated since Whites came out with the GMT. The GMT is much more sensitive for those small targets and also has built in automatic ground balance. Auto ground balance can be a nice feature when hunting for gold but when hunting for meteorites it is possible to completely balance out small meteorites.  It is for this reason that it may be best to use the optional manual ground balance when meteorite hunting.

The Fisher Gold Bug, like the GM2, GM3 and GM4 is also slightly outdated. Fortunately, a few years ago Fisher made a big splash with the introduction of the Gold Bug 2. It is a very good machine that seems to be a little more sensitive than the Whites detectors. Some say that the Gold Bug 2 is superior because of its higher frequency and others say that the electronics are simply better. I for one am not quite sure of the reason that the Gold Bug 2 is more sensitive but do agree that it is.

After buying a Gold Bug 2 a few years ago I noticed that it took longer to master. I believe it was because I was used to hearing the definitive “zip-zip” of a Whites machine, and the tone of the Gold Bug 2 is so different. While more sensitive for small targets the Fisher Gold Bug 2 seems to have a tone that is a little deeper. It took some getting used to but in the long run was worth the extra trouble.

One aspect of hunting for meteorites with a metal detector that should be addressed is the weight of the machine. Walking for up to 8 to 10 hours while lugging a heavy metal detector can be taxing. This is the reason it is imperative that whatever detector you decide to use that it be hip-mountable. This will take the weight off of a weary shoulder and put it on your belt. You may be surprised at how only a few ounces on  your arm can slow you down over the course of a few hours. Luckily, both Whites and Fisher offer hip-mountable detectors.

Hunting for the Portales Valley Meteorite with Skip
Wilson (using my Fisher Gold Bug 2).

After a metal detector has been chosen one may ask, which size coil works best? The general rule when speaking about loop size is the smaller the loop the more sensitive it is to small targets. Conversely, the larger the loop, the deeper it will punch into the ground but will be less sensitive to small targets. Since it is my experience that meteorite’s don’t tend to be very deep, a small 9’ elliptical loop works just fine. But, if you’d like to be sure that you don’t miss larger/deeper targets then the 14”coil is best.

A wily old nugget shooter once told me that he’d rather know how to use a sub-par machine than have the  best metal detector and not know how to use it. That being the case make sure to learn the nuances of your metal detector. Waiting till you get out into the field to kick start your machine is probably not wise. Believe me, taking the extra time to learn the basics like tone recognition and ground balance before hand will pay big dividends in the field.

Even though several of my meteorite hunting buddies use the MineLab 3000 and find meteorites quite successfully, it is a very expensive machine. Well worth it if you’re going to spend a lot of time prospecting for gold as well as meteorites. For me, meteorites are all I endeavor to find, and the Gold Bug 2 or GMT are what I’ve always relied upon. In addition to being good, relatively inexpensive metal detectors, they are also good “starter” machines for gold hunting.

Earl Hammond finds a Glorieta with his MineLab

Please email questions and topics that you would like to see covered in future articles to: Meteoritemall@yahoo.com
website: www.mr-meteorite.net 

Good luck and happy hunting!

Ruben Garcia
Phoenix, Arizona