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Results Of Nugget Detector Survey

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A week ago I started an informal survey on seven US metal detecting oriented prospecting forums including this one.

The survey was not meant to prove anything per se. I was basically just curious to see what the detectors were that were employed to actually find gold nuggets in the last year.

The survey has many shortcomings. It only polls people who were on the US forums in the last week who cared to respond. The forums have tended as a whole to be Minelab oriented and so it is not surprising results might skew in that direction. Still, I got a large number of responses and so some conclusions can be drawn.

I eliminated duplicate and joke responses. I eliminated a couple borrowed units. It was winnowed down to just detectors that found gold for their owners in the last year. Everything else was pretty straight forward. The only thing of note is I put a couple Gold Bug SE responses under the Gold Bug Pro because they are basically the same detector. The SE was just a precursor model. Everything was compiled on a spreadsheet and totaled.

114 people responded as having used 220 detectors to find gold nuggets. That is an average of a couple detectors per person but the reality is a lot of people owned three detectors, and then quite a few just one detector. In general you could say many nugget hunters own a couple PI detectors (or a PI and a GPZ) plus a good VLF detector. If you really want to generalize things your could say people own a couple Minelab PI type detectors and a Fisher VLF. The Gold Bug 2 and the Gold Bug Pro were the runaway favorites in the VLF category.

Tesoro is conspicuous in their absence. Only one Lobo ST listed. I was a bit surprised to see not one Garrett AT Gold listed. Except for a few ATX units Garrett is pretty much a no-show. White's does a little bit better but still only just over a dozen units out of 220. The TDI PI models are the most popular alternative to the Minelabs with 8 listed.

As I noted Fisher totally dominates the VLF detectors with the Gold Bug 2 and Gold Bug Pro. And I was surprised at the very large numbers for both the SDC2300 and GPZ7000. The GPZ in particular due to it being very expensive and out for only the last 6 months. The adoption rate is phenomenal in my opinion.

Here are two sets of results. The first is simplified for easy digestion. I have lumped similar models together and not listed onesies and twosies. The second list is the full per model breakdown. Make of it what you will, and thank you for participating!

Simplified Results:

51 GPX5000/4500/4000

33 GPZ7000

33 SDC2300

32 Gold Bug 2

15 Gold Bug Pro

13 GP3500/3000/GPExtreme


5 White's GMT/GM3/VSAT

5 Nokta FORS Gold

4 Makro Racer

4 X-Terra 705

3 Garrett ATX


Full Results:

33 GPZ7000

33 SDC 2300

32 Gold Bug 2

31 GPX5000

15 Gold Bug Pro

11 GPX4500

9 GPX4000

6 GP3000

5 GPExtreme

5 FORS Gold

4 Makro Racer

4 X-Terra 705

3 Garrett ATX

3 White's GMT

3 White's TDI

3 TDI Pro


2 GP3500

2 Fisher F19

2 CTX3030


1 White's SPP

1 Troy X5

1 XT17000

1 SD2200V2

1 SD2100V2

1 Tesoro Lobo ST

1 White's GM3

1 White's V/SAT

1 Minelab F1A4

1 Garrett Scorpion

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Wow. I didn't think the 7000 would outnumber the 4500 and 5000. Especially after only being out a short amount of time.The GB2 is still a very popular machine. Cool survey.

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Good job Steve, and interesting results. It would be interesting to see the breakdown of weigh by each detector vs just pieces. While gold is gold, one whopper is obviously worth more than lots of dinks.

Also, noticeably missing are finds by the GP3500. I know there are quite a few out there. Maybe they have become seldom used backups for those who have something newer.

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It is by no way a comprehensive survey so no doubt you should avoid drawing too many conclusions regarding machines with only a few responses. And as you note some people may be only finding a couple dinks, others pounds. I think the obvious conclusion is the serious guys are not shy about investing in serious horsepower in the form of top end detectors and usually more than one.

Lets face it. If all you expect to do is get out and detect a few times a year and find a few nuggets, investing over $10K in detectors makes no sense. For people that measure their gold in pounds it is just the opposite. Cutting corners on equipment can be costly.

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Gosh Steve, the XT-17000 is still out there... Also the Garrett Scorpion. The Gold Bug-2 is still the

King of the dinks and the Gold Bug SE and Pro are doing well as I would expect as some of the users

are using the phase numbers & bargraph readings to markout hotspots of bread and butter nuggets

as found in metallogenertic areas within the top 12-inches of soil. The GMT also has this ability but it

mostly overlooked. The early version of the TDI is a sleeper.... Just my armchair opinion as I have not

been able to go out and seriously beep since January 2010; but if I were younger and physically able

I would be swinging the X-Terra 70 and the TDI (hole) Gold Bug SE and Lobo SX but my time has


Steve why don't you conduct a survey of the depths the nuggets are recovered at... I would bet it

would be in the upper 12 inches for those detecting in the deserts... Keep swinging and give your

Dad my Best... Mine has been gone for nearly 60 years and I think of him frequently. jim

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  • 2 weeks later...

Hi Jim, sorry so long to reply but I have been (you guessed it) out prospecting. I am all surveyed out but you are right I am sure about desert gold and how most of it is near surface. People keep puzzling over why newer machines are not finding more big nuggets down deeper and the sad truth is in many cases they just are not there.

Best wishes to you and your extended family!

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