What Is a Pinpoint Metal Detector?

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Cory Haasnoot

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Pinpoint metal detectors can greatly increase the efficiency of your metal detecting sessions. However, it takes a little experience to use these tools properly. Knowing what pinpoint metal detectors are available and their features can help you determine which pinpoint metal detector is right for you.

Pinpoint metal detectors are accessories that give the electronic metal detector a more accurate measurement of where the metal object is after the initial hole is dug. Metal detectors find objects underground, but the pinpointer gives treasure hunters a better idea of exactly where they are. 

Pinpoint metal detectors can make you a much more effective treasure hunter, but it helps to know exactly how they work. Read on to learn more about pinpoint metal detectors and why they’re so helpful in metal detection.

How Do Pinpoint Metal Detectors Work?

PinPointer Metal Detector with Coins and a ring found.

Pinpoint metal detectors are different from traditional metal detectors in that they are designed with a very narrow search coil. This helps treasure hunters narrow down the location of any targets in a dug-out area once metal has been verified with the larger detecting radar.

Pinpointers work by using a sound indicator and linking the sound of the pinpointer to the strength of the found object’s signal. In other words, the faster or louder the pinpointer indicates, the closer to the object you are.

Advantages of Using a Pinpoint Metal Detector

Pinpoint metal detectors are a useful add-on for several reasons. Here are just a few of the benefits of having a pinpointer on your metal detector:

  • Precision searches: Traditional metal detectors can point you in the right direction to find an object underground, but pinpoint metal detectors let you search in a much smaller area.
  • Dig smaller holes: Without a pinpoint metal detector, you might end up having to dig a large search area to have a chance at finding the object your detector is pointing out. A pinpointer means less digging and more discovery.
  • Faster searches: Pinpointers help you find what you’re looking for quicker. With less time spent digging and sifting, you’ll recover your target in no time.

Pinpoint metal detectors are well worth the investment for anyone serious about metal detecting as a hobby. They can make the search more enjoyable and allow you to recover more objects in the process.

Types of Pinpoint Metal Detectors

There are two major types of pinpoint metal detectors. The first type of pinpoint metal detector is a small portable handheld model used alongside a full metal detector. The second type of pinpoint metal detector is a built-in functionality for a larger metal detecting unit.

Suppose you’re planning on using your pinpoint metal detector for more precise digs on land. In that case, you might want to consider getting a built-in pinpointer on your metal detector just for the convenience of having both functions in one tool. On the other hand, if you’re planning on metal detecting in the water, a smaller standalone pinpoint detector is the better option.

Is a Pinpointer Necessary for Metal Detectors?

You can undoubtedly go metal detecting with a metal detector that doesn’t have a pinpointer, but there are some serious disadvantages to doing so. For example, you might accidentally damage an object you’re trying to dig up if you don’t know its precise location. Even with small items such as coins and watches, glancing off of them with a shovel can scratch or break them.

Pinpoint metal detectors are also a smart choice if you’re interested in seeking out small objects in general. This includes many of the targets you’d be looking for with a metal detector, such as the following (Source: Metal Detecting Life):

  • Coins
  • Rings and other small pieces of jewelry
  • Small metal toys
  • Marbles

Many of these items are small enough that they can be difficult to find in a large search field but large enough that they’ll sustain damage if you dig down in the wrong spot. If you’re after ancient coins, old bullets, or just a lost class ring or two, a pinpoint metal detector can help you keep your find in one piece.

Will a Pinpointer Metal Detector Pick Up Gold?

Gold Coins and Bars

Pinpointers can pick up gold and are used by some treasure hunters to find gold nuggets, but there are a few issues that pinpoint metal detectors have historically had when it comes to finding gold. Here are the problems that pinpointers run into:

  • Iron-rich soil: The soil that most gold is found in is iron-rich, which can cause a lot of false positives while you’re looking for a target. The average metal detector for hunting coins isn’t sensitive enough to hunt in iron-rich soils.
  • Small pieces: The size of the gold nuggets found in goldfields is usually so small that using a metal detector is not always the most efficient way of seeking them out. Metal detectors can’t pick up gold dust or smaller quantities of gold that can be processed from the soil through other means.

The biggest challenge in using pinpointers to find gold is that most of the targets you find with a metal detector will turn out to be trash. Your ratio of pop can tabs to actual relics will be pretty slim, so the chances of finding a gold nugget with a detector are low out of the gate.

If you get a metal detector geared towards gold detecting and you know where to look, you might still have a shot at finding gold. But chances are if you’re metal detecting, you’re going to find a lot of other stuff before you ever strike gold.

Can You Metal Detect Without a Pinpointer?

It’s possible to dig without a pinpoint metal detector. However, you’re taking a bigger risk than you’ll accidentally damage your targets. It’s also less efficient since you will be searching in a larger dig area.

Since you have to dig down before you’re able to use a pinpoint metal detector properly, you have to take some risk in damaging your target regardless of whether you have a pinpoint detector or not.

Even though it may take you longer to search the same amount of area without a pinpoint, you can still successfully acquire the same targets if you look long enough.

Is It Worth It to Buy a Pinpoint Metal Detector?

The main reason it’s worth the money to buy a metal detector with a pinpointer is that an entry-level pinpoint metal detector can be purchased for less than a hundred dollars. This is a relatively low entry point investment-wise when it comes to a hobby that you can enjoy for years to come.

Metal detectors can last from 10-20 years with proper maintenance, so it’s a smart idea to purchase the nicest one you can afford if you’re serious about getting good results.

How to Choose a Pinpoint Metal Detector

Once you’ve decided to buy a pinpoint metal detector, the next step is choosing the one that’s best for you.

Metal detectors come with a wide variety of features, and you should avoid buying a metal detector based on any one person’s recommendation. Instead, comparison shopping is how you get the best product for your money. If you go through the trouble to figure out which features are most important to you, you can prioritize them in your search.

Here are a few questions to ask yourself before you start looking through pinpoint metal detectors (Source: MetalDetector.com):

  • How serious are you about metal detecting as a hobby? If you’re only planning on pulling out your metal detector a few times a year when you hit the beach, you won’t want to invest a ton of money in a detector. On the other hand, if you’re serious about getting into regular metal detecting, you might want to spring for a better model.
  • Where are you going metal detecting? If you’re hitting up goldfields to do some prospecting, you’re going to need a different kind of pinpoint metal detector than if you’re going to do metal detecting in rivers and lakes or along the seashore. Consider the type of soil you’ll be searching in and you will want to learn how metal detectors work well with it.
  • Who is using the metal detector? If the metal detector is just being used by you, you can fit the length of the pole to your preference. If you intend to let children use the metal detector too, you’ll need to look for a metal detector with adjustable arm cups. Getting an adjustable metal detector can make it easier to share the hobby with others.

Once you figure out your goals for using a metal detector, it makes it easier to seek out the features you’re looking for.

Features to Look for in a Pinpoint Metal Detector

As you’re looking through different pinpoint metal detectors, there are a few features you should pay particular attention to. Assessing these traits will generally give you a good idea about the quality of the metal detector. (Source: Bob Vila)

  • Ground balance setting: Good pinpoint metal detectors will have a ground balance setting that allows the detector to focus on certain metals. This makes it easier to seek out specific targets or avoid trash targets.
  • Sensitivity control: Also known as its gain control, the sensitivity control on the pinpoint metal detector is the depth that the metal detector penetrates. You can learn more about how to get more depth with a metal detector here. Detectors with an adjustable sensitivity control allow you to decide how deep you want the detector to ping.
  • Quick reactivity: Hobbyists should look for metal detectors that boast a quick reactivity since this allows them to catch several potential targets in one sweep. Reactivity refers to the metal detector’s ability to locate a new target after pinging the last target.

It can be tempting to jump on the first metal detector you feel drawn to in your price range, but try to resist the urge. Take notes on at least three to five that catch your eye and compare the features they have to decide which one would be the best match.

Digging Deeper: Is a PinPointer Really Necessary For Metal Detecting?

Best Pinpoint Metal Detectors

The following are the best pinpoint metal detectors on the market and are available from Amazon. Not all PinPointers are alike but these 3 are the best of the best.

Garrett Pro-Pointer AT

This is another metal detector waterproof in up to ten feet of water, so it’s a good option for snorkelers. The fluorescent orange color of this pinpointer makes it easy to find if you drop it in the water. This detector also features a Fast Retune setting that helps filter out the environment.

Garrett 1140900 Pro-Pointer AT Waterproof Pinpointing Metal Detector, Orange

This is a metal detector that’s waterproof in up to ten feet of water, so it’s a good option for snorkelers. The fluorescent orange color of this pinpointer makes it easy to find if you drop it in the water. This detector also features a Fast Retune setting that helps filter out the environment.

Minelab Pro-Find 35

Minelab PRO-FIND 35 Pinpointer

Minelab makes some of the best metal detectors and their Pro-Find 35 PinPointer is no different. The Pro-Find offers fully waterproof protection. You get 5 levels of sensitivity that will better alert you to what you are detecting. You will never miss a target with its excellent audio and vibration technology. Find the treasure amongst the junk with its Ferrous Tone Id that alerts you if what you are finding is valuable or not. Check out the Pro-Find 35 on Amazon!

Nokta Waterproof PinPointer

Nokta Pointer Waterproof Pinpointer Metal Detector, 11.6 kHz Frequency

The Nokta Waterproof PinPointer is another solid choice for the serious metal detectorist! This pinpointer is waterproof and will detect up to 5 inches into the ground. The hardshell case ensures durability. It’s ergonomically shaped so it fits well in your hand. There are 10 manual settings so you can adjust the pinpointer to whatever condition you find yourself in. The Nokta is an excellent pinpointer to add to your metal detecting arsenal. Check out full details on Amazon.

Digging Deeper: 19 Best Pinpointers For Under $50 That Work

Can You Use a Pinpoint Detector Without a Metal Detector?

Technically it’s possible to use a pinpoint metal detector as your only metal detector. It’s not very efficient or effective to use a pinpoint detector without first doing a sweep with a full-sized metal detector, but it can be done.

The biggest challenge to using a pinpoint detector as your main metal detector is that you’ll need to be on your hands and knees. This can be painful after long periods.

Pinpoint detectors can make useful metal detectors for those who seek metal objects on the seabed or while snorkeling in lake shallows. This allows the treasure hunter to detect close to the substrate without putting a physical strain on their knees and back.

What is a Pinpoint Metal Detector Conclusion

Pinpoint metal detectors aren’t that much more expensive than regular metal detectors, and the technology included in pinpoint radars can make metal detecting a much more satisfying hobby. Using a pinpoint metal detector, you’ll be able to find even small objects that would take hours to locate otherwise.

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Author: Cory Haasnoot

Cory Haasnoot is an author, entrepreneur, metal detecting enthusiast, antique, coin collector, and founder of Treasure Seekr.