I’ve been metal detecting for a while now and I love it. I love everything about it. I love researching sites to hunt. I love talking to home owners about their history and the history of the location. And I love being outdoors and digging up history from the ground. All aspects of this hobby bring me joy. I have already gone through three metal detectors in the time I have been in the hobby, and each one has brought a new and fun element to my metal detecting. But I have to say up front, that the Garrett AT Pro is a fabulous machine. Let me show you why this is the case.
Garrett AT Pro Control Panel
As I currently write this you can purchase the Garrett AT Pro for $500-$600. Garrett built the AT Pro like the 250 and the 350 lines. The readouts are similar, but sport very different functions once you dig in. Here is a picture of the AT Pro control panel:
Let’s start with the Mode/power button. If you hold this button for a second, it will turn the unit on. You can turn the unit off by holding the same button until you hear a beep. This also cycles through the six modes that the Garrett AT Pro comes with. The include Basic Custom, Basic Coins, Basic Zero, Pro Custom, Pro Coins, and Pro Zero. I will explain the differences in these modes shortly.
This button simply allows for manual increases or decreases in the iron discimination on a scale from 0-40.
Now this is a cool feature that I will go into more later. Iron Audio allows for detailed iron audio information. If you are a relic hunter, you will love this feature!
This is what you think it is. Increasing sensitivity allows you to crank up how sensitive the AT is. Trashy areas make high sensitivity difficult.
The pinpointing on the AT is very good. You hold the button and move over the object. Doing this multiple directions gives you a very good idea of the size and shape of an object.
Notch Discrimination/Manual Ground Balance
This allows you to take out various, non contiguous (ie, not directly together on the bars at the top of the read out) bars to “notch” that area out. If you wanted to exlude only quarters, you could do that. This would work in an area with tons of washers that keep reading quarter signal. This button also allows you to manually ground balance your machine. And again, more on that later!
Allows you to notch out the discrimination.
If you hold this button and pump your coil up and down, the AT pro will auto ground balance. You can also hit this button quickly and use the Notch Discrim/GB buttons to manually adjust your ground balance number. This is really helpful!
The target ID is a super function. It allows you to pair audio cues with a target ID. For instance, most silver shows up in the 90s (unless it’s jewelry). This can also be true of aluminum cans and so forth. You then have to use your knowledge in association with other things.
This is helpful in areas where you want to see how deep an object is to further discriminate. Of course, this can also keep you from digging shallower items that could be good. Again, field knowledge is the key here.
AT Pro Beginners
If you are a beginner detectorist or a beginner with the AT Pro, I would highly recommend that you start in the Basic Coin Mode. This will get you going as fast as possible. You will notice how much of a coin hound this machine is! The other thing you will notice (if you are in an older yard) is how much of a silver hound this thing is. Next, I would play around with the Basic Zero mode. This starts with zero iron discrimination. So, just know you will be hearing a lot of iron in this mode. You can also increase the iron discrimination to filter out iron if you are not a relic hunter.
Now, having said this, you need to learn ground balancing. This is a crucial aspect of detecting. You should always ground balance at the location you will be hunting. For the beginner, I would simply let the AT auto ground balance for you. Again, this gets you going as quick as possible in the beginning. Once you get to know your detector and your patience returns, you can learn manual ground balancing and the pro modes.
But where is a beginner to start? Start in your own yard. It doesn’t matter if your house is newer. You will be amazed at what you find. Start there and then ask friends and family if you can hunt in their yards. This will get you started in private, bountiful locations. You will be hooked in no time!
AT Pro Operation
Typical Ground Use
Most people will completely ignore both the manual and the video series that Garrett has done to educate people. (note: there are other videos out there on salt water operation that you should watch!) Now, that’s okay if you learn best by doing and supplementing as you go. It is not okay if you never learn how to correctly operate your machine. Trust me, you will lose out to other hunters if you do this. I cannot stress this enough.
The first thing you want to do in any area is ground balance your machine. Soils differ from location to location. This is especially true if you are going to the beach. If you don’t ground balance, your machine will give you unexpected results and you will lose targets. As I stated earlier, auto balancing is pretty good for most situations.
Swing and Path Technique
Make sure your arm cams are adjusted for comfortable operation. When swinging, make sure your coil remains close to the ground through the entire arc! I cannot tell you how many detectorists I meet have terrible form on their swings. If you are really wanting to hunt a location carefully, be disciplined and grid the area out. This means you run in parallel lines that exhaust the space. Overlap your lines to ensure coverage. And make sure you constantly slow yourself down! Way too many detectorists fly through areas. Slow down. Again, slow down. You will be tempted to move faster, thinking it will mean more targets. It doesn’t. Even though you cover more ground, you completely lose form and the discrimination and the signal that you need to identify signals correctly. Trust me, I have tried both ways and am always shocked at the results of slowing down.
This is also a crucial skill: learning to dig clean and effective holes. Get yourself a great digging tool like the Lesche. It is virtually indestructible and includes a serrated edge that makes cutting roots easier. I have been using my Lesche a long time and i wholeheartedly recommend it. Now that you have it, it’s time to learn how to use that. I must use this word of caution. Make sure wherever you dig that the area does not include shallow electric lines. People sometimes ignore codes and your death could be the result! Ask the owner if there are such lines before digging. Also check for any yard lighting or other electrical items that could be sourced by such lines.
It is best to put any dug dirt on a dig towel or tarp. This keeps your hole location super clean and the owners pleased. This also engenders goodwill to our hobby. Trust me, there are many people who shed a bad light on this hobby. Locales are starting to put regulations prohibiting metal detecting in public areas because of these bad apples. Don’t be one of them! When you dig your holes, dig clean “incision” lines. Some people flip the sod flap over and then just move it back when done. Some people, like myself, dig the entire plug and pull it out of the ground. You can then scan the plug for the object. If it’s not there, it’s in the hole. Make sure you use your digging tool sparingly when it is still in the hole. As an aside, always use gloves. Glass is pretty common and you don’t want to cut yourself. Also, make sure your tetanus shot is current. It is easy to scratch a coin or other find if you start digging around the hole too much. I simply work from the edge and slowly move the dirt up and scoop out with my hand. This keeps my metal blade use to a minimum.
As you practice you will become very efficient at digging clean holes that get you at the treasure. This is what you want. Never, and I repeat, never try to get at a treasure at the expense of someone’s property. It’s not worth it, unless they are completely okay with this action. Some farmers, for instance, don’t care if you are in a field and dig and dig. They just want you to replace your holes when you are done.
Typical Water Use
I have only used the AT Pro once in salt water and it was a great learning experience. If you are a seasoned salt water hunter, you will probably think these statements are very novice because they are. You are probably using a dedicated salt water machine anyway. However, the AT Pro really appeals to the inland, freshwater hunter. The price point is extremely good for this type of hunter. This way you get the best of all worlds. You can hunt virtually anywhere.
Salt Water is challenging. You have to ground balance a lot. The more you move into the surf, the more you will have to ground balance. You will probably also have to back the sensitivity off. It is best to hunt parallel to the surf so you aren’t ground balancing all the time. You will quickly see the complexities of surf hunting. The beach is super dynamic. It will be changing the entire time you will be on it! Also storms completely change the beach. I was fortunate to hunt before and after a storm. The difference was amazing. It was a totally different beach after the storm. If you hunt in the water, you will need a beach scoop. I was shocked at how expensive these are. Fortunately, guys on youtube have posted ways to build your own. It’s fun and rewarding.
There are also some Garrett Salt Water Videos, like this one:
My Experiences and Some of My Finds
I bought the Garrett AT Pro because it was a huge value to me. It would enable me to do all the hunting I could ever want. It’s not called the AT, All Terrain, for nothing! This allows me to go into water and submerge my AT Pro up to 10 feet. I also have really come to love the Iron Audio feature. This allows me really understand iron infested areas where I hunt. I have grabbed some amazing coins in iron that I would have completely missed otherwise.
Of course, to get the goods, you have to research, learn your machine, and hunt in a disciplined way. Otherwise, you will be frustrated at your finds. Do the work and you will be very very happy. I have researched heavily. I have knocked on doors and I tell everyone I know about my hobby. This opens doors. This also comes back to responsible digging. If you get an open door, but treat their yard like crap, they won’t invite you back or give you referrals. Respect people and their property. Okay enough of that.
I have hunted in salt water, fresh water, and plenty of terrains. I have hunted steep hills, hard dirt, clay soils, sandy soils, etc. This is one versatile machine. Once you have hunted in the basic modes, get to the pro modes as quickly as you can! They feature much better recovery between signals and offer great audio cues when hunting. The 15 kHz frequency is really good at getting you those smaller jewelry and other items. I have recovered some crazy small items at great depths.
Now, the proof is in the pudding. Let me share just some of the finds that the AT Pro has made in the time that I have had it.
The first place I hit with the AT in pro mode was a mid to early 1800s home that I have hunted relentlessly. I really didn’t expect much in the way of finds. When I moved to front, I was amazed to get a silver ring, a mercury dime, an Indian Head Penny and a very old flat button:
This was the first time I had gotten silver. Man, does this thing sing when you get silver. It’s a beautiful high tone. After you get a few of those, the audio and the ID is undeniable. You will love it. Of course, me being me, I was still skeptical. So, I started rehunting places I had pounded. The results were again striking.
I recently went back to a farmhouse that I had hunted with little results. The place has been hunted hard and some of the land has changed. I took the AT Pro and scored this amazing 1824 Large Cent:
Boy, now I was becoming a believer. But I still wanted to make sure. I went back to another farmhouse where I haven’t had a lot of luck. First, I had only gotten wheat pennies and no silver. I thought there had to be silver in that ground, as the place dates to the 1920s. Also, they have an older place in the field that I found on an old map. All I had gotten out of that place was iron with no validation that it was indeed a home. So, I head back and yep, got a mercury dime and this sweet 1845 large cent out near the older home in the field. I also got a very old flat button again and a couple of wheats that I had missed. I was ecstatic and a believer in the AT Pro’s abilities:
Now, I started frantically going through my lists from previous years and rehunting those locations. I don’t have time to post all those finds. I’ll just end with a more recent find from yet another old farmhouse. It was a day of barbers:
I hope this at least somewhat convinces you of what this detector can do. I wish I could go through my entire inventory and share all my finds with you. There are so many forum posts out there from people who have gotten this detector and are pleased as punch.
Before I end this long post, I wanted to share just a few tricks and tips that I have learned.
I was on a forum not too long ago when someone mentioned that we should experiment with the ground balancing. Basically, the idea is this: use auto balance in your hunt location. Then use manual ground balance to move down until the AT Pro chatters at you. Once it does, move it up until the chatter stops. Now, you will not want to do this in a trashy area. In fact, I would recommend you only do this in a place where the finds have become exceedingly hard to get at. What this process does is run the AT Pro very hot. What that means is that it will lock onto objects that are deeper and/or smaller. The first time I used this technique I was shocked at how the ground came “alive.” I found tiny lead shot that were very old. And I know for a fact that I had gone over those areas numerous times with numerous detectors without so much as a blip, not even a faint whisper. I had hunted very, very carefully before. Now, those signals were clear as a bell. Incredible.
Smaller Can Be Better
If you are hunting in trashy areas, you need a smaller coil. Yes, the AT Pro is really great a target separation. But in super trashy areas, you need all the edge you can get. There is an incredibly trashy park near me. This park has tons of history, but, sadly, the locals just abuse this place. I have gone back over there with incredible results with a smaller coil.
Know Thy Target IDs
Once you start using the Garrett AT Pro, you will begin learning what IDs usually associate with what object(s). I know that if I get a very repeatable 53, it’s usually a nickel. By the way, the AT is a nickel hound as well. If I get a signal in the mid to upper 80s, that can be a large cent. Upper 80s tends to be quarters. 78ish is usually a piece of copper junk or a newer penny. 82ish is usually dimes or pre 1982 pennies. Yes, you can distinguish between those pennies! Especially if a signal is deep and 82ish, I dig it everytime. Signals in the 90s are typically silver, especially if the pinpoint shows a smaller object. Aluminum cans and large pieces of metal can also show in the 90s. Now about those precious metals VDIs, or target IDs. Here is a chart that was put out by a member on the findmall AT Pro forum:
What you can see from this chart is that jewelry and such can be very difficult. So, it then becomes a matter of what you want to find and your time management. That is a decision you have to make. Which leads me to my next tip, which I think is a very good one.
Discriminate On Jewelry Where You Find Them Most
I have made this decision because, for me, it’s a time management issue. Your goals may vary and you can adjust your strategy accordingly. It’s harder to find jewelry in locations without digging lots of trash. That’s just the nature of it. If you are in a public park and you want to find jewelry, just count on getting lots of pull tabs, etc. That’s because jewelry’s VDIs can be similar to that of trash. If you are on private property, you may be able to find it more easily, depending on the amount of trash on the site.
I love silver and gold. However, I hate digging trash. So, when I was contemplating buying the AT Pro, I had a revelation. I decided that I would expand my net when hunting fresh water. In effect, I would dig every target when hunting in water. The reason for me is that most folks near freshwater do not hunt in the water. They do not want to spend the money on water machines and so they hunt the beach. You can differentiate yourself by buying the AT and hunting in the water. Don’t believe me? Here are two videos to whet your appetite:
I recommend the Garrett AT Pro without any reservation. It really is hard to find another detector with this kind of value proposition.