Everything seems to have its own lingo, and metal detecting is no different. Before we can dive in and start digging up treasure, it might be a good idea to learn the lingo. This will allow you to walk the walk and talk the talk. Can you dig it?

You can skip this part if you already consider yourself to be a metal detecting linguistics major, but if you think canslaw is a canned form of coleslaw, then you might want to keep reading. Knowledge is power they say.

Air test

This is something a lot of people will do the moment they get their first machine. They may set the machine up on a table and start waving metal objects in front of the coil. Other people will try and determine how well a metal detector works by doing the same thing. This is called performing an air test. You just wave a metal object through the air in front of the coil.

This is not a good indication of how well a metal detector will work. Everything changes once an item has been buried in the ground. See Halo Effect below.

All metal

Most modern metal detectors have some sort of discrimination capabilities. This allows you to filter out some of the junk metal targets. All Metal is hunting with no discrimination at all. Your metal detector will alert you to any type of metal under the coil.

Black sand

Black sand can be a great sign that you are really close to gold, but it can wreak havoc on some metal detectors. The black sand is not sand at all. It is actually very small pieces of iron oxide or magnetite.

This is also known as heavily mineralized ground. You may need to make adjustments to your metal detector in order for it to function properly in high ground mineralization, and some machines may not even work at all.


It is always great finding bling. Bling is any form of jewelry that is made from precious metals, but the best bling is jewelry that is loaded with precious stones. Bling can make your heart skip a beat!


This is something that every metal detecting enthusiast dreams about. A cache is a hoard of valuables that have been hidden. The cache could consist of hundreds of old coins, or a collection of items. Finding a cache can be like winning the metal detecting lottery!


Grab a big bowl and a fork and get ready for dinner! Canslaw is on the menu tonight. Canslaw is small pieces of aluminum cans that get magically scattered around your favorite hunting grounds. It is almost as if someone scattered these little pieces everywhere just to make you work a little harder for your treasure. Could it be the canslaw fairy?

Have you ever seen a lawnmower run over an aluminum can? It makes canslaw. Dredging equipment also makes canslaw. You will learn to dislike canslaw very much.


Clad is another thing that you will just have to get used to because you are going to be finding a lot of it. Clad is any modern money that is made from non-precious metals. At least you can spend this stuff, and its better than filling your finds pouch with canslaw!


The round part at the end of the metal detector. It is also called the loop in certain parts of the world.

Coin ball

Coin balls are always great. They are small round chunks of earth with a coin inside. Kind of like candy, but much better and healthier for you too.

Coin shooting

Target practice is a great way to ensure that your aim is always spot on. Most people prefer cans, bottles and paper targets. Coin shooting is when you practice your aim on small coins. I am just pulling your leg here. I wanted to see if you were still paying attention.

Coin shooting is the art of using a metal detector to locate nothing but old valuable coins. It can be a very addictive form of metal detecting, especially when you start pulling old silver coins out of the ground. Once you pull a gold coin out of the ground, your life will never be the same again.

Coin spill aka pocket spill

This is when the entire contents of someone’s pockets are spilled resulting in multiple coins in one very small area.


This is a term that you will hear when people are talking about metal detecting on the beach. This is when a large portion of sand has been removed from the beach. It looks as if the entire beach was cut with a large knife.


The tool that you use to dig up your treasure. Owning a metal detector is not enough. You will also need some accessories to help you retrieve your treasure.

Discrimination (Disc for short)

There are some metal detectors that have the ability to tell the user what type of metal their piece of treasure is made from before they even dig it up. By using this information, it can be easy to ignore metal objects that are most likely trash.

If you are new to metal detecting, then you will be very surprised by the amount of trash that is buried right under the surface of the ground. Sometimes there is so much trash that it makes it almost impossible to locate the good targets among all the trash. This is when discrimination comes in really handy.

There is also a downside to using too much discrimination. You could be missing out on some very valuable targets. If you discriminate aluminum pull tabs and foil, you will also be discriminating fine gold. Always use your best judgment when using discrimination with your metal detector.


Using electricity to create a chemical reaction. In this case, people use electrolysis to help them clean pieces of treasure without causing any sort of significant damage to the treasure.

False or falsing

When a metal detector gives an indication of buried treasure when there is really nothing there. It is giving you false signals. There are all sorts of things that can do this. The most common is user error.

Swinging a coil too fast, or in an erratic pattern will always cause false signals. Bumping your coil against the ground or anything else for that matter can cause your metal detector to give false signals.

Electromagnetic interference can also cause false signals. Cell phones, cordless phones, routers, power lines, and electric dog fences are the most common cause of this problem. Highly mineralized ground can also cause false signals.

Ferrous targets

Any buried or recovered piece of treasure that contains iron. You are most likely looking for non-ferrous targets like: gold, silver, platinum or palladium. You get the picture.

Don’t automatically assume that an iron target is trash. There are plenty of great relics out there that are made from iron and there could be good targets being masked by the iron targets. See Iron Masking below for more details.


Anything you find with your metal detector!

Finds pouch

The place where you store all your finds while you are metal detecting.

Grid or gridding

The term “gridding an area” comes from a method that archaeologists use to recover historical items. When an archaeologist makes a good discovery, they will immediately make a grid of the area using markers and string. This breaks down one large area into several smaller areas. Each smaller area is then meticulously searched.

This same concept can be applied to metal detecting what may be considered a really good spot, but without the markers. It is easy enough to go very slow in a very tight, very specific pattern that ensures not one inch or centimeter of ground is missed.

Ground balance

Some areas will have more minerals in the ground than others. Ground balancing your metal detector is the process of adjusting your metal detector to the minerals in the ground at your current location. There are metal detectors that do this automatically, and there are some that require you to do a manual ground balance.

Halo effect

Metal items that have been buried for extended periods of time create what is called a halo effect. These metal items create an ionization field or halo that amplifies the target. The halo effect can be very obvious for older buried coins.

You may get a very strong signal with your metal detector, but as you start removing earth, the signal gets fainter and sometimes it will even completely disappear. You may even think you had a false signal. If you keep digging, you will find that the piece of treasure is still in the

When you removed the earth, you also broke the ionization halo and now your metal detector can’t “see” the buried treasure. That is where using a really good pinpointer comes in. Don’t know what a pinpointer is? Don’t worry, it’s in this list too.

This entire concept is up for debate. Some people say it does happen and some say it does not. I have seen it happen myself on several occasions.

Hammered site

This is an area where everyone and their entire family have already spent a good amount of time metal detecting. The chances of finding really good treasure are slim, but there is always a possibility that everyone else may have already missed a thing or two.

High tones

A high pitched tone that a metal detector makes when locating certain targets. With a lot of metal detectors, this means silver!

Hot rock

I really don’t care for hot rocks. Hot rocks are rocks that have metallic properties. To your metal detector, these rocks look like a piece of treasure. Some metal detectors will allow you to discriminate out hot rocks, but remember using too much discrimination will often mean you are leaving behind some good stuff.


Anything you find while metal detecting that you keep. Gold and silver would be keepers. Cans and rusty iron are not, unless of course they are relics.

Low tones

The exact opposite of high tones. On some machines, low tones mean you have hit the mother lode. It could be gold, platinum or a crummy old pull tab.

Iron masking

Masking is not good. Masking happens when iron is in close proximity to a good piece of treasure. The iron effectively masks the good target. Your metal detector only responds to the iron. Nine times out of ten, the good target is ignored.

But there are metal detectors that can still locate good pieces of treasure even if they are right on top of or underneath smaller pieces of iron. With these metal detectors, masking is less noticeable! Hooray! Gold for everyone who is lucky enough to own a metal detector like this.

I have and still do find plenty of great pieces of treasure that are buried right underneath huge chunks of iron without ever knowing they were there. If the iron is really big, your metal detector will not be able to see the treasure underneath it. At least not with current metal detectors on the market today.

I made a rule for myself. If at anytime I am detecting and I locate an iron target that is bigger than a nail, (I can usually tell how big a target is with my machine.) I dig it up. Who knows what it could be, and who knows what could be underneath or even in it.

I was hunting an area not too long ago that was loaded with civil war relics. My metal detector alerted me to a big iron target. My mind wandered, and I thought it could be a gun or a sword. I quickly started uncovering the target. It was not a gun or a sword. It was an old chunk of pipe.

I was a little disappointed in my find, but that pipe was not the only thing buried in that spot. Right under the iron pipe, I uncovered several civil war bullets and other relics that were being masked by the iron pipe.


Notching is using a form of discrimination to accurately identify only certain types of metal. Notch is also the nickname of the guy that created the video game called Minecraft.

Nulling or null signal

Some metal detector brands create a constant sound. This constant sound is called a threshold. When the threshold sound stops or completely disappears, it nulls. This is usually the result of a large piece of iron. This is the perfect example of masking. Any good targets are masked by the null or lack of sound the metal detector makes.


A small hand held metal detector that you use to pinpoint the exact location of a buried piece of treasure once you have removed a big old chunk of earth.


Using a metal detector or a pinpointer to determine the exact location of a buried piece of treasure.


When you are metal detecting an area of nice land, you always want to cut a plug. Cutting a plug is the art (yes cutting a good plug is an art form) of using a digging tool to remove a plug of soil in order to get to the piece of treasure buried below it.

A good plug will go right back in the ground, and no one will ever be able to tell that you were even there. Unless the plug you just created was on top of a chimpmunk’s burrow. Then you might have one angry chipmunk!

Pounded site

Same as hammered site.

PI or Pulse Induction

This is a type of metal detector that reacts to all metals. They are known to go very deep and they are not affected by highly mineralized ground. They can see ferrous and non-ferrous metals right through any type of mineralization. They are great machines. Every serious metal detector enthusiast should own at least one.

Pull tab

Get used to seeing this little guy because there is really good chance you will be digging up quite a few of them when you start searching for treasure. This is the part of a aluminum can that you use to open the can. It can be the type that you actually pull off to open the can, or it
can be the small piece that you use to open the can. Pull tabs….. Ugh


A small tool that is used to help you locate a coin buried in the ground. It looks very similar to an icepick or a screw driver. Using a probe to locate a coin buried in the ground can be difficult, but it is the preferred method of recovery when you don’t want to disturb the grass. It creates a very small hole that is virtually unnoticeable.


Buried pieces of history that may not have monetary value based on the metals they are made from. Relics still hold a significant place in history giving them a historical value.

Repeatable signal

Before you start digging, you always want to make sure that you get a good repeatable signal. When items are buried really deep, or when a coin is laying on its side, you may need to swing your coil over the target from different angles in order to get a good repeatable signal. This refers to the audio or visual indication that your metal detector is giving you. If the signal is repeatable, then start digging!

Ring or rang up

How a piece of treasure shows up on your metal detector with either a visual or audio signal, or both.


A setting that allows you to really crank up the power of your metal detector. A higher sensitivity means your metal detector will locate targets deeper, but it will also mean there is a greater chance of it falsing. The goal is to locate the perfect sensitivity setting that recovers deep targets without producing false signals.


The audio or visual clue your metal detector gives you indicating there is a metal object buried under the coil.


The distance your coil moves from left to right, or right to left if you are a lefty.


The piece of treasure that you are trying to recover. Targets are a really good thing!

Target ID

Some metal detectors will use a visual indicator to help you determine what your target is before you even start digging it up. This is the target ID. It could be a numerical value, or it could be a visual on-screen meter.

Target separation

Some of the more expensive metal detectors on the market today use a high tech feature called target separation. This allows the metal detector to respond to more than one target in a very small area. Target separation can be a very good thing once you learn how to effectively use it.

Test garden

An area where people plant items to test the efficiency of their metal detector. While this sounds like a good idea, it can not give you a 100% accurate representation of the capabilities of your metal detector. See Halo Effect above.


The constant hum that some metal detectors make when in use. The threshold changes when a target is under the coil.

Tone ID

The audio signal that comes from your metal detector. The specific tone can help you identify the target before you even think about digging it up.

Tot Lot

This can be a really good place to hunt. Tot lot is another word for playground.

Troy Ounce

A unit of measurement that is used to measure the mass of precious metals.

Visual ID

Some metal detectors feature a small screen where visual clues will help you determine what might be buried beneath your feet. These are visual IDs.


There is a really good chance you will find plenty of these. These are pieces of metal that can’t be identified. This does not mean that you should toss them in the trash. Just because you don’t know what it is doesn’t mean someone else won’t know. You could have something very valuable.

Congratulations! You are now a metal detecting linguistics expert. There are some other metal detecting terms that are directly related to specific types of coins, but since this publication is world wide, I decided not to include them.