FIELD TEST

Minelab Electronics Musketeer Xs Metal Detector
By Joe Patrick
From Page 12
May, 1998 issue of Lost Treasure

I was invited to field test the new Minelab Musketeer XS metal detector. This good news excited me, as I have been a highly successful Minelab Sovereign user for many years now and couldnt wait to see if the new Musketeer XS could further enhance my detecting skills and success.

Although the Sovereign is one of my favorite detectors to use, I have a ready arsenal of other detectors that I use for different types of detecting or for specific sites. I was curious to see if the Musketeer could provide additional features or depth to further enhance my existing detecting weaponry."

Unlike the Sovereign, which is a multi-frequency detector the Musketeer XS is a single-frequency, relatively low, 5 kHz VLF unit. Most detectors currently available are single-frequency VLF types, so the unsettled question in my mind was, Is this any different than what is already available?

As you will see in the following field test, the answer to my question is both yes and no. In many respects, the Musketeer XS is similar to many other currently available S-pole-configured VLF single-frequency detectors, but in other ways, it is quite unique!

Features

To those readers who are already familiar with the appearance of the Sovereign, the Musketeer XS is very similar. It uses the same style control-box housing, detector box-to-pole mounting system, rear-mounted coil connector and battery compartment. The major differences are with the electronic circuitry and searchcoil design.

A unique 8-inch (actually 7-1/4) waterproof, widescan Double-D, open-center searchcoil is used and it is one of the most durable, well-constructed coils I have ever seen or used. Although slightly heavier than most typical searchcoils of other detector brands, its additional weight is easily offset by its superior quality and performance!

Every aspect of this coil design is well done, from its solid mechanical construction to its ultra-strong connecting cable, effective strain relief and heavy-duty coil connector. It seems that whoever designed this coil was obsessed with total quality and perfection.

Unfortunately, I cannot say the same thing about the searchcoil mounting bolt, which was extremely difficult to insert through the rubber (teardrop) coil washers. I actually had to use a 3/8 inch wrench to thread the bolt through.

The Musketeer XS is powered by 8 AA cells that are mounted in two 4-pack holders that attach to a drop-in adapter by means of two 9-volt-type snap connectors. Although it looks as if a lot of design effort went into the drop-in battery system, I think it falls short of what could have been accomplished. Its not that it doesnt work, but it somehow, to me, seems too adaptive. (Note: The optional nicad battery pack eliminates this configuration.)

Controls

The Musketeer XS features three front-panel rotary controls: Sensitivity," Ground Adjust and Discriminate and two toggle switches. One toggle switch selects the operating mode - All Metals or Discriminate - and the other selects the Ground Adjust Enable," non-motion Pinpoint or Threshold Reset function. The Sensitivity control is also used to power the unit on and off.

The Ground Adjust control features a variable and Fix position to enable proper ground balance for each site detected. In the variable position, ground balance is accomplished by raising and lowering the searchcoil 1-15cm above the ground while simultaneously rotating the Ground Adjust control and listening for the point where the audio threshold level just disappears.

Overall, the Musketeer XS has an effective combination of features and controls that can be well used to detect most typical sites.

The Musketeer XS features a crisp, fast-response audio tone that punches through quite well. To me, its audio quality is reminiscent of the Teknetics Mark I which is a detector I highly admire and respect.

A 1/4-inch headphone jack and front-panel speaker are provided to match the audio preference of any user.

I found the detector performed best at a moderate, yet comfortable, sweep speed. Too slow and it didnt discriminate as well or hit as hard on deeply buried targets.

Pole-mounted, the Musketeer XS is somewhat front heavy. I detected with my unit hip mounted and I found it to be comfortable and accessible to use in this configuration. An optional hipimount carry bag is available and I highly recommend its purchase and use for those detectorists who prefer or do not mind hip mounting.

The Musketeer XS retails for $460 and is covered by a two-year control box and one-year searchcoil warranty.

Field Use

My first time out, and first hour of using the Musketeer XS, was somewhat perplexing. I was detecting a circa 1930's city park that has been very productive over the years, but hard-hit. The site is littered with trash of all types and, in spots, steel-mill fill-dirt consisting of slag and iron particles that makes detecting extremely difficult.

I was getting bombarded with signals with almost every sweep, even though I was running a high discrimination setting and moderate sensitivity level. I actually thought the detector was not discriminating properly and was not certain if it was a defective detector or just a bad design.

After checking and digging some good-sounding signals, I discovered they were aluminum screwcaps. I had thoroughly bench-tested the detector previously and knew that screwcaps were totally rejected with a Discriminate level of about 8. Why were they still being so well detected? Apparently, the highly mineralized soil had shifted the discrimination point slightly upward. I increased my Discriminate level to 9 and had no further problems with screwcaps!

Solving this problem, I carefully ground-balanced the detector again and resumed detecting. The result was significant! The detector was now running smoothly and discriminating properly. It was not the detectors fault after all!

In less than three hours, 22 coins were recovered from this hammered park, including a silver 1941 Mercury and a 1957 Roosevelt dime that came from areas that I, and others, have detected many, many times!

The Musketeer XS was easy to operate, discriminated well and had depth enough to be quite effective. It did admirably in the heavy trash, responding positively to good targets amid a broad assortment of nails, foil, pull-tabs and screwcaps. Once properly ground balanced, it operated smoothly with few false signals or ground chatter.

The Old Homesite

One of the most interesting and enjoyable forms of detecting for me is when I get a chance to detect old, abandoned homesites. These are so unpredictable and yet often provide some of the most fascinating and rewarding detecting available. You just never know what will show up!

I have several of these types of sites within walking distance of my home and I selected one for another test day with the Musketeer XS.

This site is the typical abandoned homesite consisting of an old stone foundation, water well and spring, and two old apple orchards. Having found coins and items in the orchards on previous hunts, that is where I began my search.

I ground balanced and then adjusted the detector to my homesite mode, which is low discrimination and high sensitivity, and began running ever-widening circular search patterns around the base of the larger apple trees. It didnt take very long to get my first solid hit. Pinpointing and centering the target, I retrieved from a depth of about 5-6 inches an ornate basket-weave pewter button in pristine condition.

Continuing with my search, I eventually came to the top of a stone retaining wall located just above the spring.There, I heard a weak signal that was repeatable with every sweep and my hopes were up for an old silver coin. Digging to a depth of about 7 inches, I saw the dark outline of a small coin. Carefully shifting the soil through my hand, I retrieved a somewhat green 1901 Indian Head cent.

I continued detecting for several hours and, in addition to the above finds, unearthed five wheat cents, some metal clothing buttons, a cast zinc toy horse with rider, an iron Model T? wrench and a very worn, but unusual Balke-Collender merchant token.

The Musketeer XS did an admirable job at this site and was easy, enjoyable and effective to use.

Conclusion

The Musketeer XSs design, quality and performance are definitely above average! These, to me, are the most important qualities of any good, productive and reliable metal detector.

The very minor packaging problems mentioned above can be, and should be, easily resolved and I would not let them stop me from purchasing this otherwise exceptional metal detector.

The new Musketeer XS now becomes the fourth Minelab detector model I have had an opportunity to use or test. Based on my use of and experience with Minelab metal detectors, if asked to describe them with only one word... that word would be performance!

For additional information on Minelab metal detectors contact: Minelab U.S.A., 1878 E. Apache Boulevard, Tempe, AZ 85281. Phone: (602) 517-1849, or FAX (602) 829-7550.
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