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The Best Gold Prospecting Metal Detector

Many people wonder what the best metal detector for finding gold really is. The answer is easy, none. There is no one machine that is the best all around. Why? Gold is found in all types of areas and conditions with metal detectors but mostly placer nuggets and mine tailings.

Gold Nuggets found with gold detectors

Gold Nuggets found with gold detectors

The Best Gold Prospecting Metal Detector

Many people wonder what the best model metal or gold detectors for finding gold really is. The answer is easy, none. There is no one gold detector that is the best all around. Why? Gold is found in all types of areas and conditions with metal detectors but mostly placers (wash, hillside, etc.) and mine tailings.

There are two main technologies in use currently, the Very Low Frequency aka VLF detectors and the Pulse Induction aka PI detectors and each one shines in its own arena with a bit of cross over.

VLFs –  The best choice for gold detectors in mine tailings and if you get the right unit they are deadly placer nugget hunters in experienced hands. In fact a good VLF operator will most likely find more gold nuggets at the end of a year than a PI user but overall weight will most likely be less. Of course this can be reversed in the right areas and conditions. The VLF also offers better iron discrimination and is generally much lighter.

PIs – The best gold detector choice for hunting gold nuggets in heavily mineralized soils not very good in mine tailings. PIs go deeper and can almost keep up with VLFs on small gold. Both VLFs and PIs will find such small gold you’ll be squinting and squatting trying to just see it, for most people its a draw with the sub gram pieces. If you like to dig deep, like real deep then the PI is for you. The PI will give you the best chance at finding a large gold nugget at depth but the discrimination is sub par to the VLF.

When I look back at the last 100 nuggets I found with my gold detectors 70 percent of them could have been found with either a VLF or PI provided the user was experienced and in the right frame of mind. The last 100 were found using both my PI and VLF detectors, a Minelab GP Extreme and Fisher Gold Bug 2. I use a PI roughly 90 percent of the time. If I do not want to be skunked I’d grab the VLF. If I’m looking for a virgin spot it really would not matter, virgin spots can be found with either a VLF or PI model. Any known nugget producing spot needs to be detected with both to get all possible gold.

Lets look at the best gold detectors both ways.


  • The Minelab PI units are famous world wide for their ability to find gold. I’d recommend not getting a newer one but find an older model like a SD series or GP 4000 and older. You’ll save a ton of money if you are a new user and the most important factor to keep in mind, its not just the model that counts. The users experience level, location and frame of mind all come into play. The history of models is oldest to newest SD2000, SD2100 (and V2 variant), SD2200D (and V2 variant), GP Extreme (origonally called a GPX), GP 3000, GP 3500, GPX 4000, GPX 4500, GPX 4800, GPX 5000, SDC 2300 and GPZ 7000.
  • The Whites TDI is really coming into its own and capable of keeping up and outdoing the Minelabs in the right hands. And a new one is the same cost as a used Minelab. The TDI also has a better but much more complicated discrimination system. Don’t count this new contender out I’ve seen it in action and it can find large and small gold nuggets.
  • Garrett Garrett PI units have never been as popular as Minelab but they do hold their ground with the Whites models. I’ve never owned a Garrett so I cannot make any personal experience claims. Garrett’s two main PI gold Detectors are the Garrett Infinium LS (Land & Sea) and Garrett ATX.

Regardless of what PI you choose, Minelab, Garrett or Whites you will not go wrong, I’ve been using the same old Minelab for nearly 10 years now and it still finds gold. If it broke I’d try a TDI.


  • Fisher Gold Bug 2. The Fisher Gold Bug 2 is claimed by some as standard by which all other VLF gold detectors are measured. Sensitive and versatile it can handle mineralized ground for nuggets and really get the gold in tailings. Plus its discriminator works excellent. One of my favorite machines. I’d had  it a few months and use it more and more. Found gold the first trip out.
  • Whites GMT. By far the best discrimination system available for a VLF. Not quite a sensitive on small gold as the Gold Bug 2 stock but it will handle the ground just as well. I’ve had one for 10+ years and have put the coil over a lot of nuggets.
  • Tesoro Lobo SuperTraq. Last but not least is the Lobo. I had a Lobo for a number of years and it will find gold. Its not as good as the Gold Bug 2 or GMT at handing the ground but is very sensitive. A good, solid unit. Detected quite a bit of gold with my Lobo.

All these VLFs are capable gold detectors and versatile as well as being a good choices and we have not even got into the subject of coils, different coils can really increase your success with both VLFs and PIs.

Hope you find this information helpful. Its not an exhaustive guide just my 2 cents based on real life experiences. Am I biased, absolutely…I only like and recommend what really works. As always, Good Luck and Happy Hunting!

11 Comments on The Best Gold Prospecting Metal Detector

  1. rod, again thanks much for your in-put and great advise.
    thanks much, take care and stay safe out there

  2. forgot to mention that i like this new page, very nice.
    thanks much, take care and stay safe out there.

  3. Hi Rod; What is your opinion on the minelab x-terra 705? Am thinking of getting one Cabela’s has it on for $700. Would you reccomend a better pick?? Thanks!! Love the sight great work!!

  4. Has anyone opinions on the Garrett infinium there is no results on searching this site. Which I suppose is telling me something.

  5. Thanks for the input, I live in Arizona and there’s many old gold placer and load mines, I what to search the tailings, quartz veins, as well as prospect the desart gulches and wash areas for gold, I not only want to find smal gold but of course large nuggets, how do you feel about the GARETT AT GoLd detector? I’m STuck on that or the gold bug two, I want to search deep as well and herd that the garett GtI 2500 might be better all the way around

  6. Thank-you mate. It’s hard to get info sometimes and you have made a few things clearer. Hope to send you a drink if I find a big one. Gav, Australia.

  7. Great info for newbees and old timers alike. Cheers!