Garrett Freedom 3 Coin Commander
By Jack Reid
From Page 52
April, 1988 issue of Lost Treasure
Garrett's new Freedom 3 Coin Commander is the fourth of the manufacturer's Freedom series, and has significant advantages over the earlier models. It features increased depth and sensitivity, more sophisticated pre-set ground balancing and, for the first time on the Freedom series, notch discrimination and Garrett's famous Belltone Coin Alert audio target identification; until now found only on Garrett's more expensive, detectors.
The detector I field tested arrived directly from the factory well packaged in a cardboard container designed to protect it from the shocks of shipping. Assembly was fast and easy and required no tools. First, I attached the coil finger tight to the lower end of the stem with bronze mounting hardware consisting of a new head through bolt, washer, lock washer and wing nut, all of which are supplied with each unit. The lower six inches of this section are fiberglass to minimize the possibility of the stem generating false signals.
Next, I inserted the upper (metal) end of the lower section into the upper section through a slip nut located at its lower end. At this point, I adjusted the stem length so that it was comfortable for searching with the coil parallel to the ground and about an inch above it. I then turned the lower shaft until the snap lock located at its upper end popped into the nearest of six holes drilled 11/2 inches apart in the upper shaft and tightened the slip nut hand tight.
Dangling coil cables are a no-no with today's sensitive detector, so I wrapped it reasonably tightly around the stem and plugged the cable into the receptacle at the lower end of the control box. The plug is so formed that there's only one way it will connect and I couldn't have done it wrong, even in total darkness.
The last thing was to hand tighten the coil-mounting hardware just enough so that I could use one foot to maintain the coil parallel to the ground when searching uneven terrain. In less time than it has taken me to write about it, the Freedom 3 was ready to go.
Garrett's stem arrangement worked out very well in practice. Two of us used the detector in field testing and there is just enough difference in height and arm length between us so that it was necessary to re-set the stem length each time we traded off. At no time did either the slip nut or the snap lock bind, although they held the stem perfectly rigid in use. Moreover, thanks to the washer and lock washer combination supplied with the mounting hardware, the wing nut didn't tend to back off, although we searched for a time in tall grass. My original setting was good for the entire field test.
The Freedom 3 is of the increasingly popular S-stem, arm-rest configuration, with the curve of the S forming the handle. The handle appears to be a neoprene form shrunk onto that part of the stem and is very comfortable to hold, even in cold weather. The control box is mounted directly above the stem at this point.
One unusual feature which I like, and which Garrett began with the now discounted Freedom 2, is the location of the battery case. Rather than being a part of the control box, it is incorporated into the detector stand at the upper end of the arm rest. In this position, it's very effective in balancing out the weight of the standard 12 ounce, 7 1/2-inch coil.
All of the control knobs are located on a panel at the upper end of the control box. They are a dual control discriminator, combined on/off switch and sensitivity control (marked DEPTH and the audio volume control. The two discriminator controls and the sensitivity control each have suggested starting points indicated by arrows marked on the panel. All of the control shafts are sufficiently stiff that the controls are not likely to be inadvertently moved during searching.
The speaker is at the center of the
panel. The earphone jack, which on most detectors is mounted somewhere' on the control box, is instead mounted on the front of the Freedom 3's battery case at the upper end of the stem. I like this feature particularly because I was able to bring the connecting wire up to the phones behind by arm instead of having it dangle in front, as if it were a necktie.
The two control knobs at the left side of the panel are used to operate Garrett's dual control notch discriminator. This is a very important feature of the Freedom 3. Here's how it works.
The lower knob sets ferrous discrimination. At its best, nails, foil and bottle caps won't create any change in the threshold, but nickels and small silver and gold rings will produce a beep. The upper knob sets non-ferrous discrimination. When properly set, all other coins and large rings will set off the Belltone Coin Alert, which is bell like in sound and distinctively different from the beep. The notch, where the audio drops out, indicates pull tabs and screw tops. Ideally, any target that creates an audio response is worth digging and the bell tone indicates a real prize.
The arrow on each knob's scale is the factory suggested setting and a good place to start. There are, however, a great many variables, such as soil mineralization and moisture as well as the size and composition of the target and how long it has been in the ground, so it may be desirable to use settings other than these. It takes some practice, both on the bench and with known buried targets, but the end result will be reasonably accurate audio target identification and the elimination of much of the frustration that goes along with carefully digging up a lot of trash.
The knob marked DEPTH has three functions: on/off switch, battery tester and sensitivity control. When the knob is fully counterclockwise in the OFF position, turning it clockwise puts the power on. and automatically allows an audible test of the two batteries that operate the transmitter. Three beeps indicate very good batteries, two indicate that they are practically discharged but still useable, and a single beep tells you to change transmitter batteries. ,
The third battery, which operates the audio system, should be replaced when turning the volume control, marked AUDIO, fully clockwise fails to produce a sufficiently strong threshold hum. Once this control has been set to a just audible threshold, turning it slightly counterclockwise will permit silent search. This takes a really fine touch, however, to avoid wiping out faint signals from deep targets, and there's always the possibility that the knob can be inadvertently turned further counterclockwise, despite the stiffness of the shaft.
All three batteries are contained within the battery case at the upper end of the stem. A small printed circuit, which forms the connector ties together the two which operate the transmitter circuit. The third, which powers the audio, is below them. A door, which is gasket equipped to keep moisture out, is held by a screw which is both knurled and slotted.
The moisture protection afforded by the gasket makes it possible to tighten the screw just finger tight so that no tools are required to loosen it yet still have protection. The screw is captive, meaning that it won't fall out of its hole when the cover is off, thus avoiding loss.
Instructions for changing batteries are in the manual that accompanies each instrument and also on a decal applied to the bottom of the battery case, another valuable feature.
The Freedom 3 offers two operational modes: motion discrimination and non-motion all metals. The motion mode is the search mode and non-motion mode is for pinpointing. Changing from motion to non-motion is accomplished by squeezing in and holding the Master Control Switch, a spring loaded trigger switch mounted to the 'handle. The switch is within a flexible pouch molded into the neoprene handle covering to provide protection from moisture.
Pinpointing can be done in two ways. One is to "X" the target location with the trigger switch squeezed in. The audio volume increases when the center of the coil is directly over the target. Detuning increases the accuracy. Once the approximate target location has been determined visually by X-ing, the coil is laid on the ground with the center marking on the top of the coil over it. Squeezing in on the switch and holding it and then moving the coil around while still in contact with the ground will at some point produce a sharp beep. The center marking is then precisely over the target This works very well with the Freedom 3 and is ideal for pinpointing coins.
The first thing I tried with the Freedom 3 was to locate the gas pipe leading into my home. This is a black iron pipe slightly more than one inch in diameter, buried a measured 18 inches below ground with a layer of two-inch common brick on top. Sweeping slowly with the ferrous range control on zero produced a good beep. This is not to say that the Freedom 3 is good for 18 inches in all circumstances; the gas pipe is a pretty healthy hunk of iron. Every detector I've field tested has been able to do it, and any one that couldn't I'd consider to be weak, which definitely is not the case for Freedom 3. The pipe discriminated out at about 2 on the Ferrous Range Elim. scale.
Next, I tried it on my test garden, which has various coins, frequently encountered junk items and a few not-so-often found buried at distances mostly from three to eight inches. With the dual trash rejection controls set at their factory-suggested starting points, the discriminator did just about what it was supposed to do. I was also able to adjust swing speed for the best response, which was s-l-o-w, about the same as was best for Garrett's Beach Hunter.
There is a marked resemblance between the Freedom 3 and the Beach Hunter (the dual discrimination and sensitivity controls are identical), so a friend and I took the Freedom 3 out to a beach to find out how well it would do. it turned out to be a most valuable and revealing test. This beach was in Southern California' and we got there early on the Monday after the last big beach weekend of the year. We intentionally selected a picnic area where it was reasonable to hope for a good mix of coins and junk.
It had been windy the night before, and the chances were that at least some salt spray had blown off the sea onto the beach, even as high up as we were. In any event, DEPTH (sensitivity) at the suggested setting produced a rough threshold and frequently a false signal at the end of a swing and it was necessary to turn the knob somewhat counterclockwise to eliminate both conditions. It would be desirable to search with Depth set at MAX all the time, but it frequently just isn't in the cards. However, my experiments with the test bed revealed that the Freedom 3 maintained a very acceptable depth even with the control backed off more than half way.
We searched the area with both discriminator controls set at the factory marks and very quickly started finding targets: clad coins, nickels, pennies, a few items of cheap jewelry, some junk and of course the ever-present pull tab, but not in large quantities. Turning the Ferrous Range Elim. clockwise to about 4 1/2 (4 is the factory-suggested setting) eliminated the pull tabs, but the nickels from then on were few and far between.
We could have kept doing this and wound up with a fair amount of clad coins and perhaps a ring or two, but checking out the discriminator w s more important. So, we searched the area again, but with both discrimination controls set at minimum - below 1 for Ferrous and below 6 for Non-Ferrous effect in all metals, and dug every Signal.
Sure enough, we dug up a lot of trash, mainly bottle caps, pull tabs and foil. There were a few coins mixed into this, but they were all nickels, the ones we'd lost tuning out the tabs. There weren't any rings or anything else of value. The notch discriminator had done a very acceptable job of what it was designed to do. Separating tabs and nickels is a problem with any detector, but at least the Freedom 3 didn't lose them all.
We had similar experiences in other locations. Particularly impressive -was the Freedom 3's ability to distinguish ferrous and non-ferrous targets. One place we searched was an old railroad .that was dismantled during the 1930s. We'd searched it before but came up with nothing more than old spikes and other railroad iron left behind. We took the Freedom 3 there and began searching an area we had given up on after we had gotten tired of retrieving bent spikes.
At first, we got nothing more than the expected beeps from more old iron. But, after what seemed and interminable time, we heard the distinctive "boing" from the Belltone. Our find was a quarter that was so badly worn that we couldn't make out. the date. It was a Washington type, so it was probably dropped by one of the workmen during the dismantling. The quarter wasn't a great find, but the important thing is that the Coin Alert had separated it out from all the iron still down there. We're going back again with the hope of finding coins dropped by the original builders in the 1800s.
The Freedom 3 is lightweight and very well balanced. At first, I was disappointed that it isn't convertible to a hip mount, but I found that in use, the counterbalance effect of the battery box at the end of the stem makes this unnecessary. The convertible feature necessarily involves an extension coil cable and/or cable clips and these would be superfluous with the Freedom I
I was also disappointed, in the beginning, that I wasn't able to operate the control knobs with the same hand while holding. the handle, but the detector's automatic features worked so well that the control knobs rarely needed adjustment. The only control in continuous use was the Master Control Switch, which is part of the handle - thus providing, for practical purposes, one-hand operation.
I think that anyone looking for a lightweight detector that is simple to use and at the same time has advanced features would do well to consider the Freedom 3. I feel that at $500 it's moderately priced, considering its capabilities and numerous features.