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How to Set Discrimination on a Metal Detector

Buried treasure can be found all around high traffic areas such as popular beaches and hiking trails.
detector de metales image by Marco Antonio Fdez. from Fotolia.com

Chances are on your first time out hunting with a metal detector you may only pick up a few bottle caps or some old rusty nails. To avoid this common occurrence, some metal detectors are equipped with discrimination settings to filter out unwanted items. Discrimination is the metal detector's ability to differentiate between types of metallic alloys, according to WhitesElectronics.com. Setting your discrimination filter appropriately will greatly increase your chances of finding that buried treasure that you're looking for.

Identify your detector's discrimination settings. These will vary widely between models but are all universal in how they can be used. Some will have audible tone settings, while other detectors may have audible and visual readings. Settings may read "Filters" or "Discrimination." Some detectors will have both of these features. Some may have filter settings such as "relic" or "gold," which must be independently set and are different from the discrimination settings. All will have discrimination settings with a range between high or low that must be set prior to using the detector.

Set your discrimination setting to slightly lower than halfway between high and zero to start. If you have a filter setting, turn it off. Don't turn the discrimination setting all the way to "zero." Zeroing out your discrimination is a mistake most beginners make because the lower the setting the more things you'll find, but chances are you'll be digging up trash.

Place different alloy metallic objects onto a piece of wood such as a table or a board, away from other metallic objects. Try to find a gold ring or object, silver ring or object, a nail, a bottle cap or a can tab, a penny, and a quarter.

Place one object at a time on the table and pass your metal detector coil over the object. Hold the coil at least 6 inches away from the object, as you would when walking with the detector.

Listen to the tone of each object, and adjust your discrimination setting a bit higher, then a bit lower. Listen for the most clear, crisp tone for the object while changing settings, and look at the reading screen if applicable. Make a note of which tone you hear for each object and which settings work the best for each object. This way you'll know what to set the detector discrimination for based on what you'll be looking for in the future.

Things You'll Need:

  • Nail
  • Silver
  • Gold
  • Penny
  • Quarter
  • Bottle cap or can tab
  • Wooden board or table


Since all detectors are manufactured differently, thoroughly read your instruction manual to get the best use of your detector.


  • Get the appropriate permission to use the detector on private property or in state or national parks.
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