How a $91 Metal Detector Saved the Day!

How a $91 Metal Detector Saved the Day!

I got a text message from my husband, Kevin, on Tuesday last week, saying that he had lost his wedding ring while working at the ranch. He’d been digging post holes to rebuild a section of fence that had been damaged during our April Fool’s Day fire, and while he was on his knees flinging the final few rocks from inside the hole, his platinum wedding band had flown off. The rock he threw hit a tree about 15 feet away, and he figured that the ring had taken a similar trajectory. Kev had already spent two hours searching, part of it on his hands and knees. The area where he had been working is composed of what we refer to as native pasture, which generally means an uncultivated area with large clumps of grass, sporadic trees of varying sizes, somewhat packed earth, lots of rocks in all sizes, and large prickly-pear clumps.

His ring could honestly have been anywhere.

Kev was confident that he would find it soon, but I wasn’t so sure.

I can remember losing a high school boyfriend’s senior ring next to his backyard pool; it was as if the ring had been swiped when we hadn’t been looking, although no one had been there to take it. We searched for hours, and never did find it. My completely unscientific and irrational feeling about dropping anything valuable is that the ground opens up and swallows items more quickly depending upon their size and worth.

After spending another hour or so that day looking, Kev finally came home in defeat; he figured that maybe if he went out at the right time the next day, the sun would catch his ring and he’d be able to see it. We thought about renting a metal detector in San Angelo, the nearest larger city, but sometime between breakfast the next morning and when he headed out to search again I decided just to purchase one; after all, it’s not like we wouldn’t have other uses for it if it worked!

I’ve always felt that while the most expensive tool might not necessarily be the best one, the least expensive probably won’t be either. I figured that a metal detector in the $200 range might be a good middle ground, but when I came across the $90.99 Bounty Hunter TK4-PL Tracker IV Metal DetectorHow a $91 Metal Detector Saved the Day! on Amazon [affiliate link], its 135 largely positive reviews made the decision easier for me.

I placed the order Wednesday morning, and Kev spent another 3.5 hours searching that day. He told me later that he was using his pocketknife to move prickly pear while combing; he’s lucky he didn’t get jabbed. Kev was certain that he had the area the ring might be narrowed down to a certain triangulated piece, but it was still a pretty large bit of earth to search.

And then it rained on Thursday.

Thursday evening, when we got home from a very wet and chilly 7th grade football game, the metal detector’s box was on the front porch. Kev quickly put it together, but mentioned that he was worried about it being so light. I told him that had actually been one of the selling points for several of the Amazon reviewers, because you would get less tired while using it; I think he thought it made the detector less trustworthy and possibly cheap.

This is a guy who is used to handling air-drills and power tools, mind you, so I suppose it is all relative.

I thought the metal detector looked fine, but I had ZERO experience with any metal detectors, so I really wasn’t a good judge.

Kev picked up two 9-volt batteries in town the next morning, and then came home to crack the manual and figure out how to use it. I loaned him my platinum wedding band, along with a silver and a gold band, so he could practice finding ‘lost treasure’.

The Bounty Hunter® Tracker IV Metal Detector will detect treasure in extreme ground conditions – from saltwater beaches to highly mineralized inland sites. This rugged model is so efficient and user friendly, sensitivity is maintained without operator adjustments to the circuitry. The entire line of Bounty Hunter® metal detectors operate on two 9-Volt batteries and are designed to be lightweight and ergonomic for easy handling and comfortable use. Their standard motion all-metal mode detects all types of metal, while the progressive discrimination control eliminates iron and other unwanted items. As the metal detecting coil nears a target, the Tracker IV two-tone audio feedback aids in distinguishing between valuables and undesirable metals. This model also comes equipped with a ¼” headphone jack compatible with most headphones for privacy while treasure hunting. In addition, Bounty Hunter® equips all their metal detectors with a preset ground balance that neutralizes the response to mineral content in the ground.

How a $91 Metal Detector Saved the Day!

Most hobby metal detectors use VLF Induction Balance technology. Here’s how they work:

  • The search coil (also called search head or loop) contains two electrical induction coils which are like antennas. One coil transmits a rapidly alternating magnetic field, illuminating the region surrounding the search coil. If metal is present, its electrical conductivity distorts the magnetic field. If iron metal is present, its magnetism also distorts the magnetic field, but in a different way, allowing the metal detector to distinguish between ferrous and nonferrous metals.
  • The other coil is a receiving antenna which detects changes in the magnetic field caused by the presence of metal. Electronic circuits amplify this weak signal, analyze it to determine the changes which occur as the search coil sweeps over the target, and then convey the information to the user in the form of a visual display or audio tones. Most modern metal detectors perform many of these tasks in software running on an internal microcomputer.
  • The iron minerals which are present in most soils also distort the magnetic field, obscuring the weak signals of small or deep objects. This can cause the object to go undetected, or to be misidentified when it is detected. Much of the technology that goes into modern metal detectors is devoted to the task of eliminating the unwanted signals from iron minerals in the soil, while not losing the signals from metal objects.

Using a metal detector is pretty simple. With it turned on, you swing the search coil (the area at the end of the shaft) over the area that you wish to search. When you pass the coil over a metal object, audible as well as visible notifications are given that there might be something there worth examining. You then have to decide based on the type signal given as well as its strength, whether or not you are going to start digging.

The Bounty Hunter® Tracker IV Metal Detector Specifications:
• Depth Detection: 8″ for coin-size objects; 3′ for large objects
• Operates on Two 9-Volt Alkaline Batteries (not included)
• Low Battery Indicator
• Visual Target System: Intensity Meter
• Preset Ground Balance: Neutralizes the response to ground mineral content
• Modes of Operation: Motion all-metal mode and progressive discrimination
• Audio Feedback: Internal speaker or headphones (not included)
• ¼” Headphone Jack: Compatible with most headphones
• Coil System: 8″ Open Waterproof
• Lightweight and Ergonomic: Adjustable height, padded armrest, S-rod system, detector stand

On Friday, Kev set out once again to look for his ring. He quickly worked over the area that he had originally plotted, and other than a few false hits — ones that turned out to be old wire and other ancient ranch detritus — he didn’t have any luck …until he broadened his search. About 25 feet from where he had originally flung the rock, he found his ring. Only a small portion of it wasn’t buried in the ground, and it’s likely that he would have never found his ring had there been another rain … and if we hadn’t bought the metal detector.

So will this particular metal detector help you find a buried trunk of pirate’s treasure? Probably not. But it absolutely will alert you when there are small metal objects buried six inches or so underground. My opinion is that this is the best $115 we’ve recently spent; it’s already more than paid for itself, and I have so many other things I would like to do with it … right after I find my missing gold earring that is somewhere in our back yard!


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About the Author

Judie Lipsett Stanford
Judie is the co-owner and Editor-in-Chief of Gear Diary, which she founded in September 2006. She started in 1999 writing software reviews at the now-defunct; from mid-2000 through 2006, she wrote hardware reviews for and co-edited at The Gadgeteer. A recipient of the Sigma Kappa Colby Award for Technology, Judie is best known for her device-agnostic approach, deep-dive reviews, and enjoyment of exploring the latest tech, gadgets, and gear.