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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 is for finding gold. 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. This is a simple guide that will hopefully help you make an informed decision about your purchase and it’s based on real life experience. Keep in mind every “gold detector” is really just a metal detector with a fancy name of “gold detector”. There is no unit that will only find gold, yeah I wish too. All of these units will find, ferrous metal (junk), relics, copper, silver, bullets, aluminum, etc.

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 as far as performance is concerned.

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.


  • Here I am recovering a small gold nugget with the GP Extreme

    Here I am recovering a small gold nugget with the GP Extreme

    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. I’ve been using the same GP Extreme since 2003 and even tried a GP 3500 for 18 months. Facts are the Extreme was better for how I hunt so I sold the 3500.The 3500 was (and is) a worthy machine beyond doubt.

  • 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 years now and it still finds gold. If it broke I’d try a TDI or buy another used Minelab.


  • I found this Nice 5.5 Gram Gold Nugget with my Fisher Gold Bug 2

    I found this Nice 5.5 Gram Gold Nugget with my Fisher Gold Bug 2

    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, found gold with it on the first use and have been using it for years ever since. Note, I am not using the “Pro” model but a friend has one and at the end of the day my opinion the only real difference is the digital display on the Pro, although there are others like ground balance options.

  • The author using the GMT on a Gold Bearing Stinger

    I’m using the GMT on a Gold Bearing Stinger

    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. From what I understand the prospector I sold it too has done well as a detector prospector with it.

  • 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.
  • Nokta Fors Gold The Nokta Fors Gold Detector is a new gold detector on the market designed to find both small and large gold nuggets as well as gold specimens. The Fors Gold is manufactured in Turkey by Nokta Metal Detectors. I’ve met two other prospectors here in the U.S. that were using a Nokta Fors Gold and both of them gave not only the detector itself good reviews but also Nokta Metal Detectors customer service. That’s great for anyone looking to buy a Fors Gold.
  • XP DEUS If you studied Latin you know that “Deus” means “God” or even a deity. Kind of a ballsy name for a metal detector. So far only a few people have sung this units praise as a prospecting metal detector. We’ll have to wait and see.

Most of 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. So the question is for 2015, shell out $10K for a Minelab GPZ 7000, but a another PI or VLF? I can’t answer those questions for you. But If I were a new detector prospector I would either buy a Fisher Gold Bug (Standard or Pro) or a used Minelab PI like a Extreme, 5000, etc. at a bargain price. Remember, put the hype aside. Disclaimer: I am not paid by any detector manufacturer, I do not receive free (or super low cost units to test) nor do I receive compensation in the form of stock from any metal detector company…just another electronic dirt digger like you.

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!