As a 40 year treasure finding hobbyist, I have used almost everything out there in the metal detector world. My first detector was a BFO but I also had an army military detector of the tube type. I have owned gold detectors metal detectors manufactured by more than 15 companies, most of which are no longer in existence. Medeford, Jetco, Relco, Gardiner, Goldak, Metrotech, Heath Kit, Wilson-Newman, were some of my early detectors along with BFO's by Garrett, White's, Fisher, Bounty Hunter and others. Technology was limited in the 60's and 70's but silver and gold abounded and finding thousands of coins and relics each year was very easy. Technology improved dramatically in the 80's and VLF/TR instruments could go deeper and provide ground control/sensitivity options with both all metal and motion configurations that made the 80's a super treasure finding era. My lowest coin find year in the 80's was over 3,600 and my high was more than 8,500. I was working full time as a teacher/counselor, had a night school job and put in 20-40 hours a week working in various ministry capacities with my church and still found more than 50,000 coins with more than 7,000 being silver. Not bad for a very busy fellow.
What made that time frame so productive was great research and some powerful, now deemed vintage, metal detectors. My favorite of all time is the Fisher 1260. Not far behind it is the Garrett Master Hunter 7 & 10 units and White's 6000 Series 2 & 3. The Compass Relic Magnum 7, the Bounty Hunter Red Barons, and Tesoro Silver Sabre were also productive units for my coin shooting. The Fisher 1280 and CZ 20 were my best water machines during that time frame and produced more than 200 gold rings in the 80's. I continued using this same technology through most of the 90's finding about 40,000 coins and another 200 gold rings. I would probably not have changed the technology I was so successful with, but I developed a major neurological challenge called Hereditary Spastic Parapelegia in 1994. This is a gait disease and has caused me to change to lighter, high tech machines and to concentrate on water hunting where walking/diving are easier on me. I refuse to let this challenge take away my favorite pastime/hobby! I am just not able to hunt long periods of time with my old favorites and have sold most of them on eBay and made the shift to the newer technology. I feel that I am able to discuss the advantages and disadvantages of old vintage as well as the newer digital machines.
My first years of using TR-only detectors (Transmitter-Receiver) were marked with a great deal of success because I hunted in some areas with high-iron trash accumulations. These detectors were very quick in response and ignored iron targets. I worked around railroad grounds that were easier to hunt with TR detectors than any other type. I still use a high frequency TR when I go back to those areas. In the later seventies the VLF/TR instruments gave the capability of going a little deeper and to ground cancel also. The vast majority of these instruments required motion for the ground cancel operation and were non-motion in the discriminate mode. Many of the machines that came after this type required a large learning curve to master their full capabilities. Many detector users dropped out of the hobby because it took so much time and effort to effectively operate these vintage detectors, particularly the upper level detectors of most major companies. This led me to recommend most newbies to the hobby to start off with quality lower-level/cost equipment in getting started. My favorite machines to recommend then were the Fisher 1210, 1212x and the Tesoro Silver Sabre. These and others had excellent depth and required very little time in getting to know or learn their operation and allow the user to quickly meet with success in finding good targets. Today, I would recommend the Fisher F2 or the Garrett 150 or 250 Aces. These take a small learning curve and are dynamite new high tech instruments that sell for $150 to $250.
The differences between the old vintage machines and the new modern detectors is more a matter of preference. The newer machines will give a little more depth and provide more user info but the older TR's allow better detection of a good target near a rejected target and will outperform newer machines in working in areas with high junk iron content. In other words there are times and situations where new will outperform old and vise versa.
Which detector type should you use today? I personally still prefer the vintage analog detectors, but you can spend more money for the state-of-the-art new detectors and in many cases come out a winner. There are millions of good targets going into the ground each year and I am thoroughly convinced that there are more masked targets from previous centuries than the combined total of all targets that have been recovered. Here's to "diggin it"! Larry
First and foremost, you want to find a metal detector that is already known to be very good for finding nuggets of gold. A great many detectors are for multi use purposes, and some of these might not be the best choice for your intended purpose, in mineralized areas. You really need to steer clear of the old BFO and TR detectors since these now are the detectors of the past. In recent years, massive advances have been achieved with regards to the technology of metal detectors. Ideally, you want to purchase a good VLF or a PI detector to gain good results. On the market today there are at the very least a dozen or more great gold metal detectors and your budget will likely have a play in which one is best for you.
Certainly in mineralized areas strongly consider the pulse induction, PI detectors.
Now, as regards accessories, there are many on the market that can aid you vastly as you search for your ideal and suitable gold detector. If you pick the right ones these can greatly increase your gold metal detectors overall performance. One must have, is a good set of high impedance headphones. If at all possible, what you want to try and do is to to match the impedance of the headphones to your actual gold detector. You will find that some work great with some detectors, whilst on others, the results will not be so good.
Another worthwhile accessory is an audio booster or signal enhancer which will help to increase faint target sounds, but be aware also that these can increase the background noise whilst you are out in the field conducting your gold metal detecting.
Nearly all detector manufacturers produce a variety of search coils, i.e. the round device that you move just above the surface of the ground and/or terrain. These can vary in size and also in configuration (DD, DD pro, Mono and Salt). As a general rule of thumb, the smaller circumference loops work best for tighter areas and smaller gold which is close to the surface. Larger coils have the advantage of allowing you to cover more ground, although they have less sensitivity to smaller pieces of gold, the advantage with these though is the depth to which they can detect gold nuggets lower down or deeper, this does depend though as I said on the size of the coil and the target. Recent advances have made some detectors very advanced pieces of equipment in their own right and there are now some very good ones on the market, the MineLab 4500 springs to mind straightaway if you have the budget for this one.
You will also need a decent digger, often called a prospecting pick, this will enhance your digging speed considerably. Consider first a lightweight pick as the less weight you need to cart around the more ground you can cover at the end of the day. A metal handle or a wooden handle makes little difference, just make sure if the latter that the handle is not going to snap on you at the worst possible time, unexpectantly as this can be rather infuriating and time consuming should it happen to you.
Acquiring a super strong magnet is also very helpful in area that have a lot of iron trash. A strong good sized magnet will save you so much time when digging in an area where there is lots of iron rubbish.