Pinpointer metal detectors are handheld devices that really up your game and save you both time and energy. Most metal detectorists would agree that you should have one in your arsenal (though not an absolute necessity if budget is an issue)
Metal detector pinpointers do just what their name implies – they pinpoint the location of the target that your large metal detector coil found. Think needle-in-a-haystack.
What is a pinpointer for metal detecting? A Metal Detector Pinpointer is actually a metal detector itself, but the main difference is the coil size. Your big detector looks deep in the ground. The pinpointer is much more localized. You use it within the larger identified target zone, as it’s designed to ferret out items about an inch away from the tip. Many include higher sensitivity levels to help locate jewelry and coins.
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Here are the key parameters to consider when selecting the right pinpointer for you…
Price-wise they start at about $50 and go upwards above $150. You can also buy them as part of a larger package which may include things like covers and headphones made for the pinpointer. Do some research and try not to buy cheap knockoffs. You’ll regret it before too long.
Popular and Recommended Pinpointer
The trusty orange Garrett ProPointer AT waterproof pinpointer is the go-to model for most detectorists, whether you’re a hobbyist or a professional.
Alert modes are either audio or vibration, sometimes both. If you don’t like the alert sound, look for one that gives you a choice of vibrate-only. You can also find some with a lighted alert mode which is very handy for detecting at night.
Some pinpointers can pair with wireless headphones so you can keep the noises to yourself… handy in public spots or group hunts. Z-Lynk is a popular system wireless protocol that’s up to 6 times faster than Bluetooth and 4 times faster than many other wireless headphone kits. If you have a detector and a pinpointer both using Z-Lynk, you can hear both in the headset.
If you’ll be near or in water, a waterproof (versus water-resistant) pinpointer is your safest bet. Some of the more popular waterproof models are good down to 10 or 20 feet, some even down to 200 feet such as the unique Nokta Makro PulseDive 2-in-1 Scuba Detector and Pinpointer. Consider your situation and budget when deciding.
Pinpointers and gold nuggets
Up until several years back, metal detector pinpointers were not that useful for finding gold nuggets. The nuggets and flakes are quite small and any iron content (including mineralized soil) in the ground would hide the presence of gold.
More recently, advancements in technology have overcome that to some small degree and pinpointers are more useful now than previously. You do need to be quite close to the gold to get an alert, and it helps if the pinponter has a non-ferrous mode, and the gold is 1/2 gram and up. The
See my Recommended Gear page for a look at two models that are quite capable of pinpointing gold.
Take a look here to see how the metal detector pinpointer helps find the gold nugget:
How to Carry Your Pinpointer
A belt holster is best. You want to be able to grab it easily, quickly turn it on (a quick button press), and lay it down without fear of breaking it.
What’s Inside a Pinpointer?
Not surprisingly, the inside of a pinpointer mimics the layout of a normal metal detector. The big part at the top, where you hold it, contains the battery and “control box” (actually a flat circuit board.) The circuit board is typically rectangular inside the handle with a long, thin extension that fits inside the thin pointer end. That serves to place the small detector coil right at the end of the pinpointer probe.
Locating targets is half the picture. Actually getting them is the other. Pinpointers will isolate the location and help make sure you don’t damage the target with your shovel while digging for it.
The small size is a huge advantage. Even though many high-cost detectors include a pinpointer mode, the large coil can still get in the way in tight spots. It doesn’t allow you to get right into the dirt or sand and really pinpoint things.
The pinpointer can be used on the plug you’ve removed as well as the hole it came from. If you’ve ever watched Gary Drayton on “The Curse of Oak Island”, you know what I mean. Pinpointers are super-tools, which can reduce your average recovery time by a third!
Without a pinpointer, one of your only options is to grab clumps of the dirt you dug up and pass them under the coil of your metal detector. No more with a pinpointer. They also help when you’re over a large root system because you can probe around and in-between the roots to isolate the target’s location.
How to Use a Pinpointer
- Use your metal detector to locate a target
- Dig where you believe the target is located
- Pull the dirt, sand, or grass plug out of the hole and place it nearby
- Re-scan both with your metal detector, it could be easily found right away
- If not, pull out your pinpointer and turn it on
- Keep it away from your detector since they could false alert on each other
- Know what your manual says about startup. Some have a brief sequence to go through and setup for mineralization, etc.
- Place the tip of the pinpointer in the hole or on the removed material (whichever you suspect contains the target) – this only takes a couple seconds before you know which one to proceed with.
- Move the pinpointer until the beeps get very close together. Remember that many pinpointers can detect to the side as well as down. Use that to your advantage in deeper holes. Running the pinpointer around the sides of the whole will help you determine what side your target is on.
- Since it’s sensing a shallow depth compared to your detector, if you get nothing at this point, re-scan with your detector. Then re-scan with the pinpointer after digging more material out.
- Once the item is found, wipe off the pinpointer, turn it off to save battery life, clean as necessary and put back in the belt holster
How it all looks in real life!
Other Features to Consider
Read reviews to make sure the pinpointer you choose is rugged. You’ll be poking around dirt, sand, clay, rocks, etc. You don’t want the probe to wear out early. Also, it will eventually drop on something. You need a rugged design to avoid breakage.
Some models have an integrated scraper tool, automatic tuning, and a lost alarm in case you leave it behind. This works by timing any inactivity and setting off an alarm so you have a chance to find it.
Battery life of pinpointers is about 30 hours. Look for a model that has an auto-shutoff feature in case you forget to turn it off.