When most treasure hunters in the West hear the name Minelab, they think of the excellent line of detectors specially designed for gold nugget hunting. Unfortunately, as many owners of these nugget-hunting machines have found out, their detectors lack wide ranging adjustable discrimination necessary for all aspects of relic and coin hunting.
Now, Minelab has introduced an excellent mid-priced detector called the Musketeer, designed with the relic hunters in mind. Just as important, the Musketeer makes an excellent coin hunting instrument also. Equipped with an 8 inch DD coil, this detector uses the same style coils as several other Minelab models including the FT 16000, Klondike, El Dorado MK11, and the Sterling.
Powered by 8 AA batteries, the Musketeer is best described as a turn on and go instrument. Operator controls are minimal 2 operator adjustable controls and 2 toggle switches. The controls, which are common in nature, are a discrimination level control and an ON/OFF/sensitivity control. The latter, the sensitivity control adjusts the sensitivity of both the pinpoint and discrimination modes, something not found on many instruments in a similar price range.
The two toggle switches serve the purposes of selecting between the pinpoint (all metal) mode and the discrimination mode, and retuning the instrument.
One nice feature found on Minelab instruments including the Musketeer is the 3 piece shaft design which makes for more compact breakdown when storing or transporting. Instead of the plastic housing found on many of Minelab's nugget hunting instruments, the Musketeer control housing is of metal design capable of taking reasonable abuse (not recommended of course). Like most of Minelab's instruments, the Musketeer's control housing has the unique slide on mounting arrangement making removal from the shaft as simple as any found.
When I opened the Musketeer's shipping box, I found a nice surprise. Along with the detector, Wilma Beaumont of Down Under Treasures had included the three optional coils available for this detector for testing also. The sizes included 6 inch DD, 12 inch elliptical DD, and a 9-inch of concentric design.
I found the assembly of the Musketeer, which took just a few minutes, reasonably simple. I should note that during the assembly I remembered something I had learned during the previous assembly of a Minelab instrument. to hold on to the control unit when installing the coil cable connector. The first time I assembled one, I inadvertently pushed the control unit off the shaft while installing the coil cable plug. This is a possibility due to the unique mounting bracket arrangement.
Once assembled, I adjusted the shaft length for a comfortable balance and checked the controls. One thing I noted was the control unit was mounted a little too close to the operator's hand for my comfort. A person with large hands could find the controls awkward. Outside of this one condition the detector seemed quite well balanced and comfortable to operate.
My initial testing began without first reading the whole operator's manual. As a result, I began by turning the unit on and turning the sensitivity control maximum clockwise. The results of my initial testing were nowhere near what I expected.
I quickly determined that either I had done something wrong or there was a problem with the detector. As it turns out, the poor sensitivity was caused by me and my setup. On the Musketeer, turning the sensitivity control to the maximum clockwise position (maximum sensitivity on most detectors) adjusts the Musketeer for minimum sensitivity.
I would have realized this little bit of wisdom if I had taken time to read the whole operator's manual (something recommended to all treasure hunters including myself). Embarrassed by my stupidity I readjusted the detector to maximum sensitivity, and ran a couple of quick tests. To my surprise, I was able to get a detectable signal from a dime at about 11 inches in an air test. Very impressive for a mid-priced unit.
Air tests are one thing and are great if a person is looking for low flying targets, but the real test is how did this detector perform on buried targets. I began by attempting to detect my favorite test target, a dime buried at 6 1/2 inches. The signal came through both loud and clear in both modes of operations.
Further testing of other buried targets proved this detector did an exceptional job in terms of depth. For example, my test nickel buried at 9 inches was detected consistently in both modes also.
One of the aspects of this detector that took a little getting used to was the audio response of the pinpoint (all metal) mode of operations. Instead of the normal threshold signal heard in the pinpoint mode, this detector was remarkably quiet. In fact, it could be considered silent search in both modes since a signal is normally only heard when a target was encountered.
The audio response of the pinpoint mode, even on deep targets, was also unique in the fact that signals, which normally are reasonably weak responses, came through as loud and clear signals. Instead of target responses dropping off in signal intensity as normal, they remained maximum until almost maximum depth capability. This was a little strange but once I was accustomed to the way the targets sounded, I began to like the feature.
The discriminate mode also worked very well with adjustments similar to other conventional motion detectors. Increasing the discrimination level cause lower conductive targets to be rejected. I did note at times there was a little instability or random noise in the discriminate mode when the detector was set at maximum sensitivity. However, this didn't concern me since I have found it common on many extremely sensitive detectors I have tested. Adjusting the sensitivity control slightly eliminated the problem without any noticeable depth loss.
The testing over the known targets was repeated using the optional coils supplied. Right off the bat, I knew I would like using the 6-inch DD coil. The sensitivity appeared to be very close to the 8 inch but was lighter and easier to maneuver around objects and searching between known trash targets. I found the 12-inch coil to also be very sensitive, but also somewhat heavy. I suspect this coil would be more commonly used when hunting for large deep targets or searching over a smaller area or time frame.
A repeat of the tests using the 9-inch concentric coil showed some slightly different results. Although the air tests were similar, this coil displayed a noticeable ground response in the pinpoint mode if retuned too high above the ground. To eliminate the problem, the detector had to be retuned with the coil resting or nearly resting on the ground.
The different response from the concentric coil didn't surprise me since I expected it to react differently than the DD types. In fact I have found this to be a common situation with all other brands also. The reason is, the two types of coils have different characteristics.
Normally, one would adjust the ground balance control slightly or, in the case of Minelab's automatic ground balancing instruments, let the electronic circuitry do this. However, the Musketeer is a fixed ground balanced instrument and there is no way to make the adjustment.
I should mention this situation with the 9-inch concentric coil probably won't be noticeable in many if not most parts of the country where the soil conditions aren't severe. However, since it is obvious in the area where I test and may be noticeable in others, I thought I would mention it so people won't wonder if there is something wrong. What is important is that even in the severe mineralized ground in my area, the sensitivity didn't seem to suffer significantly.
IN THE FIELD:
Since the Musketeer is a relic hunting instrument I elected to try the detector in an environment common to such hunting. The area selected was a nearby ghost town.
At the site, the discrimination circuitry worked very well rejecting most trash within several inches of the surface, but with the detector set at maximum sensitivity, extremely deep trash targets did seem to give more frequent positive indications. What this appeared to reflect was, when the Musketeer was uncertain of the target, the target responded positively.
I found this unique feature of the Musketeer a plus since I know from experience many good targets buried deep will respond as junk. I am willing to live with digging extremely deep trash more often to find those older more rare items. Also, I found I could increase the accuracy of the discrimination by simply reducing the sensitivity slightly.
Hunting this area didn't reveal any unique items or even a single coin, but this didn't surprise me since the area has been hunted to death. What I did find was several non-ferrous objects found up to depths of over 7 inches. Targets included pieces of lead, watch parts, and a few whatcha-ma-call-its (no idea what they are).
The area was hunted primarily with the standard 8-inch and optional 6-inch coil. Both displayed similar depth. However, as stated earlier, my preference was the 6-inch coil primarily because this area was extremely trashy and I could maneuver into the junk better and find the various non-ferrous targets hidden between rusty pieces of trash.
Over the field test, the Musketeer was exceptionally quiet and pleasing to use. Although signals from good targets were scarce, they came through as loud distinct responses. I also, found the Musketeer to be quite comfortable and easy to use for long periods of time.
Simplicity is the word that best describes the operations of the Musketeer whether using the pinpoint or the discriminate mode. Also, the detector is pleasingly quiet in both modes.
Simply stated, the mid-priced Musketeer is an extremely sensitive detector matching many of the more expensive detectors for depth. Although this detector is advertised as a relic hunting instrument, it works extremely well for coin hunting.
It is easy to recommend the Musketeer to any serious treasure hunter who wants exceptional depth at a reasonable price (suggested retail price $439.00). For more information about the Musketeer or any other Minelab instrument, one can contact: Down Under Treasures P. O. Box 92080 Henderson, NV 89009 or Phone: 1-800-995-1936. Fax 1-702-565-5454.