If you enjoy metal detecting, sooner or later you’ll dig a target, remove it from the hole, and not be able to see it in the pile of soil or beach sand you just removed. You can be looking right at it, and still not see it. This is because some metals will chemically react with the soil, often making them difficult to visually distinguish from the soil. It can be frustrating since you know it’s there, but you just can’t find it.
Most metal detectors have a “pinpointing” feature to help you narrow down the location of a target and get you in the ballpark. Quite often however, the target remains camouflaged in the soil. This is where the handheld pinpointer can save you time and frustration.
The handheld pinpointer is a miniature metal detector. Instead of a large search coil, it has a probe with a very small coil inside near the tip. It only responds to metal objects that are within an inch or two of the tip. To use it, you just move it slowly through the soil pile until it senses the target. Some people will then grab a fistful of soil with their hand and use the pinpointer to confirm that the object is in their hand. To signal you when the probe is near the target, pinpointers will either use an indicator light, sound a beep, vibrate, or any combination of these.
An important purchasing consideration is the sensing distance from the target to the tip of the pinpointer. Since the main purpose of the pinpointer is to get you very close to the target, one that has a range of less than 2 inches (50 mm) is ideal. Some models have an adjustable sensitivity control, which may require adjustment before each use. This feature is desirable to some people, not to others. A fixed sensitivity pinpointer is ready for use immediately after it is turned on.
It is not necessary that the pinpointer be waterproof, but one that is at least water resistant would be an asset. Of course, you could also carry a plastic bag to cover the unit and prevent damage to the electronics should it rain suddenly.
Some pinpointers have an auto-off feature. These units will automatically turn off when they do not sense a target after a fixed period of time. Some people prefer to shut their pinpointer off manually when they are done.
If you are just starting out in the metal detecting hobby, an inexpensive pinpointer will be just fine. It’s a good way to familiarize yourself with how they work, and to learn what features you like and don’t like.
The pinpointer will definitely save you time trying to locate a target that you know is there, but just can’t see. It is a desirable tool to have, but not a necessity.