FIELD TEST

Garrett Metal Detectors Gtax 550
By Bill G. Revis
From Page 36
February, 2001 issue of Lost Treasure

Charles Garrett, an avid treasure hunter since his youth, designed and built his first metal detector in 1964 and hasnt looked back since, evolving into a standard bearer in the field of metal detecting. Over the past several decades, he and the whiz kids at Garrett Metal Detectors have created one innovative design after another, producing series after series of machines to fit every need and pocketbook.

One of the most successful series created by Garrett, almost a decade ago, is the GTA/GTAx series, with exclusive one-touch operation and Graphic Target Analyzer that made IDing a snap and allowed even the novice to own and operate a microprocessor controlled ID detector without having a degree in engineering to figure it out.

Garrett has once again created improved versions of these trusty machines the new Garrett GTAx 550. The GTAx 550 is designed for the most popular segment of our hobby coinshooting and a nifty coinshooter it is.

The 550 is a user-friendly, microprocessor-controlled, multi-notch, dual mode, automatic ground balancing, target analyzing detector with belltone audio, last mode switching, automatic pinpointing, depth-audio-threshold settings, battery pack hipmount, and the extremely sensitive Crossfire II coil that is hot on coins, rings and small jewelry.

These detectors are equipped with the ergonomically designed ramrod grip for hours of effortless hunting and ease of operation. With their punch-on-and-hunt ability, they are a delight to use. Novices can unpack this machine, assemble it, and be out hunting while other detector purchasers are still sitting at home trying to figure out how their machine works.

Features

Starting with the eight touchpads that connect to the brains of the GTAx 550 they are:

POWER/HOLD TO RESET This pad turns the machine on and off and returns it to factory preset after any settings have been made.

PINPOINT/COIN DEPTH This fires up the automatic pinpoint and indicates coin depth on the lower scale of the display.

SET DEPTH This is the sensitivity (depth) setting and is controlled by the + and - touchpads to raise or lower sensitivity.

SET AUDIO Using the + and - pads you can raise or lower this to your desired level.

ACCEPT/REJECT This pad is used to set your notches to accept or reject any given target or series of targets.

LAST MODE Switches the detector back and forth between the two modes, A and B.

- and + These pads control the threshold level, set the depth, and set the notches by moving the cursor in the upper scale.

Now we will take a look at the Graphic Display that keeps you informed at all times as to what is happening, what mode you are in, what target you have located, and what your battery condition is.

TARGET ID GUIDE Icons listing coin denominations, rings, and trash items are shown at the top of the screen and are singled out by a cursor when the coil passes over any of these objects.

UPPER SCALE Indicates levels of settings, target found, maximum pinpoint signal strength when target is centered, and shows cursor locations for setting notches.

LOWER SCALE Shows coin depth when pinpointing and indicates discrimination (notches).

Field Test

Now that we have discussed the many features on this detector, lets take it out and see what it will do. Operating this machine is as simple as switching a light on, just raise the coil about a foot off the ground, punch the POWER touchpad, wait for two beeps, and youre off and running. You are now in factory preset MODE B which is the coin mode. If you are new to detecting, I would suggest you hunt in this mode for at least 10 hours or so before you play around with other settings.

The 550 is equipped with a Belltone signal and a standard signal. The Belltone produces a pleasant ringing sound over coins or anything of the same conductivity. Over trash, a standard signal is emitted, but watch your ID on these signals as a nickel and some silver dollar-sized targets will give the same signal, as will some rings.

I headed out to an elementary school in the suburbs that I hit on a regular basis and there would be a surprising find. This school has a very large bark chip playground where I have picked up a few silver dimes in the past. I started at the edge of the playground, as I usually do, and worked one side, moving in as I went, and picked up a few clad dimes and a nickel. Then I ventured under one of the three monkey bars and right at the end of the first one I got this big, dull signal that indicated right in the middle of the display. I dig everything in bark chips, so I started to uncover this target and the sun flashed on the edges of three big silver coins. My heart jumped up in my throat as I thought, Some kid got into his dads coin collection, brought these silver dollars to school to show off, and lost them.

My excitement quickly waned as I fully exposed three silver dollar tokens from Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. It wasnt what I had hoped for, but, nevertheless, a very interesting find and exciting for a moment. I searched thoroughly under the bars and the other two sets hoping to find some more of these big coins, but that was it. After that my finds seemed meager, but I managed to pick up close to $3 and nail a couple of dimes at 6-7 inches in the soccer field, proving the 550 has excellent depth. No silver this time, just the tokens, the clads, and a few trinkets.

My partner, Mike, joined me at a park we had never hit before. It was a medium-sized park and didnt look too prosperous, but would give up a couple of surprises and alert me to a pleasant quirk the 550 has.

Starting at the edge of the park, we worked our way towards the playground and bathrooms, picking up several coins along the way, and wound up on a steep bank that sloped up to the houses and shrubbery that bordered the park. Mike made some good finds and I was steadily picking up quarters and dimes on this bank, with one quarter at eight inches.

Mike moved to another area as I continued to glean the bank and the flat in front of it. As I scanned, I got a belltone and an ID for a half dollar at five inches. I probed, but couldnt hit it so I cut a plug and there, sticking out of the side of the plug, was a big sterling silver band with Heidi engraved on it in block letters. IDing this as a half really threw me, but it wasnt over. Not 10 feet away from that find I got another belltone with an ID of half at six inches. To my surprise, the plug I pulled out contained a small, thin, 14K white gold wedding band. It dawned on me that the 550 was a real ring-getter. My partner also picked up a nice mans woven sterling silver ring and we both left with about $4 each plus rings.

Space does not permit me to list all the sites we hit, but I wound up with about $23 during this test, plus rings and trinkets.

Summary

I have tested many Garrett detectors and found them all to do pretty much as advertised and the 550 is no exception. It is a very sensitive machine with good discrimination, great depth, and right-on pinpointing. I performed some air tests and got quarters at 8-9 inches and dimes at 7-8. My deepest coin in the field was a quarter at eight inches. I didnt play with the Zero Discrimination much, but it does go deep should you need it.

If you are looking for a first detector, the GTAx 550 would be an excellent choice to start with and stay with. If you are an old-timer, this is a good machine for full-time use or a great back up. For the price, its difficult to match the features and performance of the 550 with anything else out there. Its a delight to use and with 36 years of detecting under my belt Id be happy to hunt with it all the time. With its great depth, ease of operation, dead-on pinpointing, and accurate ID, this is a machine that would be hard to pass up.

The GTAx 550 retails for about a nickel shy of $500 and weighs 3.9 pounds, lighter if you hip mount the battery pack which holds 8 carbon, alkaline, or rechargeable AA batteries with a life of 25-35 hours. The 550 comes equipped with the 8-1/2 inch Crossfire II coil, but can be equipped with the optional 12-1/2 inch coil or 4-1/2 inch Super Sniper coil.

For more information on this dandy machine, contact Garrett Metal Detectors, 1881 West State Street, Garland, TX 75042-6797, or call 972-494-6151. If you are on the Internet, buzz them at sales@ gmdi.com or visit their website at www.garrett.com and dont forget to tell them you read about this nifty coinshooter in Lost Treasure.
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