There are a few basic features every person using a metal detector needs to learn to get the most out of their detector. One feature that can make, or break, your hunt is the device’s discrimination. 

If you’re not looking to dig every piece of iron in your area, discrimination is going to be your best friend. While some argue it can make you miss potential treasures, many others including myself prefer to use every tool in our toolbox to prevent wasted time and reduce holes dug.

If you’re just getting started or digging into the subject deeper, this article covers some of the basics of how discrimination works and its various implementations.

What does the Discrimination setting on a metal detector Mean?

Metal detector discrimination is the ability of a metal detector to distinguish between different types of metals. This gives the metal detector the ability to ignore junk or specified metals and focus on your preferred target types. If you’re not interested in digging up rusty nails and aluminum pull tabs, discrimination is essential.

While most detectors will have some level of discrimination, higher-end models will often have more advanced features that allow for greater levels of precision. Discrimination can be very useful for finding valuable items, such as coins, jewelry, and even artifacts.

It doesn’t come without a drawback though. Using discrimination can reduce the depth your detector can pick up targets. It can also cause you to miss targets that might have been close to a frequency worth digging. 

Educating yourself more about this setting can make the difference between an efficient hunt and a day filled with digging iron. Below are some additional details you’ll need to know to get the most out of your device.

How Does Metal Detector Discrimination Work?

To understand how discrimination works, it’s important to understand the basics of how a metal detector functions.

Metal detectors work by sending an electromagnetic field into the ground from its search coil. When a metal object enters the field, its magnetic and conductive properties interact with it. Those interactions are detected by the search coil and interpreted by the detector creating a visual and audible response.

The strength of the signal depends on the type of metal and its size and is registered by the detector as a target ID. Discrimination works by analyzing the signal and ignoring objects within specified ID ranges. 

On some devices, discrimination only suppresses the audible response. A target ID will still be shown on the display screen allowing you to explore further if it’s been a slow day.

Types of Discrimination Methods on Metal Detectors 

While all discrimination settings work to accomplish the same goal. There are a few different ways this feature has been implemented. 

Variable Discrimination

This is the most basic form of discrimination and is often found on entry-level models. The user simply selects a frequency and all metals with a conductivity lower than where this level was set will be ignored preventing a response from the detector.

Notch Filter Discrimination 

Notch discrimination offers more control over your discrimination settings than variable discrimination. This implementation arranges the target IDs into segmented groups based on conductivity.

These segments, or “Notches”, can be selectively deactivated or activated to target specific metals or groups of metals based on your search goals. 

Metal detectors with notch discrimination:

Smartfind / Smartfin 2 (previously 2-D Discrimination)

This is Minelab’s advanced discrimination process that plots target IDs on a two-dimensional chart based on their conductive and ferrous properties. Custom settings allow you to filter out specific regions of the chart to ignore unwanted target material.

Metal Detectors with Smartfind or Smartfind 2

I’d like to note that Minelab has removed both the E-Trac and Explorer SE Pro from their website. The only listed device with this discrimination type is the Minelab CTX 3030. It looks like you will have to find the E-Trac and Explorer SE Pro on a  third-party marketplace.

Additional comments on using metal detector discrimination 

Ground Balance Capabilities Significantly Improve Your Metal Detector’s Discrimination Performance

Ground balance plays a crucial role in metal detector discrimination by allowing a metal detector to reduce false signals generated by ground mineralization. As a result, the detector can more accurately discriminate between metal types and determine the size or shape of the object.

By minimizing the impact of ground noise and adapting to different soil types and ground conditions, ground balancing enhances the overall discrimination capabilities of a metal detector. This ensures optimal performance across diverse environments such as saltwater beaches or iron-rich forest soils.

The discrimination ID of your target can be impacted by multiple factors

While there are ranges of IDs to determine your target’s metal composition, you still might be missing a few valuable targets. If the object has rusted (oxidized), is oriented in an odd way, is deep/shallow, or small, it can impact the ID your device associated with it.

If your device has a depth display you can keep this in mind to dig deeper targets near your preferred frequency ranges. If you’re revisiting an old site or a popular area, reducing your discrimination can help you dig these targets that others have ignored.

Frequently Asked Questions

How does discrimination impact sensitivity?

Increasing the discrimination of your metal detector generally reduces its sensitivity. On more powerful devices this is going to be less noticeable but for basic models, you might lose an inch or two of depth.

What is the difference between discrimination and sensitivity?

Discrimination lets you ignore certain types of metal, like aluminum cans, so you can focus on finding coins and jewelry. Sensitivity allows you to adjust how deep the metal detector can search.

Should Beginners use Metal Detector Discrimination?

Every bigger should use their device’s discrimination settings to get the best metal detecting experience early on. Sit down with your device’s manual before heading out on a trip to familiarize yourself with its settings and controls. With a little bit of effort, you can properly use discrimination to avoid a bunch of iron and trash targets to increase the chances of your first valuable find.

There’s also something to be said about reducing the number of holes dug. Every beginner should familiarize themselves with digging techniques and leave-no-trace best practices. If you’re on public property, a metal detector with reliable discrimination capabilities can keep soil disturbance down and reduce the chance that our hobby gets banned in the area.