Search Scan Electronics has been in business for less than a year; however, its already earned the reputation of a company that has incorporated years of treasure hunting experience into the design of its metal detectors and accessories. Ronnie Hyer, Joe Cooper, and Howard Minzenberg, who head up the Search Scan team, say that their goal is to produce products that are simple in design yet offer treasure hunters topnotch performance in the field at a reasonable price.
The 450 VLF is their first land/ water metal detector, and hundreds of hours were spent in its design and field testing to ensure users will receive years of trouble-free performance from it.
The 450 VLF is a silent search discriminator featuring automatic ground balance circuitry and waterproof construction designed for both land and water use.
The 450 is mounted on a modified S-shape rod, and at just under three pounds, is the lightest all-weather metal detector currently available. The armrest incorporates a built-in stand which keeps the detector upright when recovering a target on land. The stand is wide enough to keep the detector from rolling over even when searching on a sloping hill or uneven ground, yet does not catch on your clothes as some other stands have a tendency of doing.
The control housing is held securely to the shaft with a set of spring clips. The housing is easily removed for hip mounting, and the bracket has a built-in belt loop which makes the conversion quite simple. While the search coil is hard wired into the housing to prevent leakage, the length of the cable is more than sufficient to allow for extended use in the hipmount configuration if desired. A pair of Velcro strips come with the 450 to secure the cable to the shaft when hipmounting the control housing.
The control housing itself is one of the more innovative features of the detector. Search Scans staff realized that elimination of any possible water leakage into the electronics was required in order to build a truly successful water detector. The housing, which measures only 3-1/2 inches by 7-1/2 inches by 1-1/4 inches, actually has two separate compartments to accomplish this goal. The compartment which holds the electronics is sealed with an ultrasonic welder which prevents any water from reaching the internal components. The battery compartment, located in front of the housing, is sealed with a unique lid and 0-ring assembly to prevent leakage. The battery leads are not connected directly to the circuit board but rather to a pair of brass posts and this design prevents damaging the detector if the battery compartment were to flood inadvertently.
The single knob on the face of the 450s control housing serves a dual purpose it turns the detector on and varies the amount of discrimination to be used while searching. When the control is set at the 1 oclock position, the 450 will detect any metal object that the coil passes over.
As the control is turned in the clockwise direction, targets such as nails, pull tabs, and bottle caps will be rejected. It is important to remember that when searching areas where gold jewelry may be found, that the lowest possible setting should be used to avoid possibly missing a valuable ring. As with most detectors, if you are discriminating out pull tabs, nickels and many gold objects will also be rejected.
There is no sensitivity control on the 450 which means it has been preset at the factory. In some highly mineralized areas or salt water beaches, some chattering will be heard; however, in areas such as school yards, parks and fresh water lakes, it will operate with virtually no background noise.
The 450 VLF comes with a slim-line 8-inch concentric search coil filled with urethane. The coil features an open design which allows for extended hunting by reducing the drag experienced when searching in the water. It is connected to the shaft with a nylon isolator rod to eliminate any interference that may be caused by having metal near the coil.
Since it has been designed to be used in shallow water as well as on land, the 450 comes with waterproof headphones hardwired into the control housing. The headphones feature the same design as Search Scans land-based Ultrafones and are extremely comfortable even when worn for extended periods of time. The volume level is not uncomfortable and signals can be heard even with high background noise present such as waves on the beach or nearby boat traffic.
The 450 VLF is powered by a single 9-volt battery, and will operate for approximately 20 hours when using alkalines, slightly less with a standard carbon battery. While ni-cads can be used with no adverse effect on overall performance, a rechargeable kit is not currently offered by the factory.
I was attending a 9-week work related training course in central New York when the 450 VLF arrived for testing. The first thing that I noticed after unpacking the detector was the small size of the control housing. It appeared to be solidly-built; however, I was somewhat skeptical as to how well it would actually perform based on the apparent size of the circuit board it contained.
Selecting several pieces of jewelry and some coins, I proceeded to perform an air test to see how it responded to the various targets. I was surprised to receive solid signals on the coins and larger rings at depths of up to 8 inches, and even the thin rings gave a respectable signal 5 inches from the coil. While it would not give a repeatable signal on the two thin gold chains I checked, I have found that chains are extremely difficult to pick up with almost any detector.
One feature that became immediately apparent was that almost no motion was required to receive an audio response from a target which allows for accurate pinpointing despite the lack of a true non-motion all-metal mode.
The first site I took the 450 VLF to was the public beach on Lake Neahtawanta in the town of Fulton, NY. The beach had been in use for over 40 years and I was hoping this would allow me to recover some older coins and possibly a piece of jewelry.
Arriving at the beach early one morning, fellow treasure hunter Chip Pardee and I got our gear together while discussing plans on how to hunt the site. Wading out several feet from shore we began searching parallel to the beach. Chip quickly mentioned that the bottom seemed to have a high concentration of ferrous trash such as nails and bolts which he was unable to reject without increasing the discrimination control on his detector above 6.
I headed in his direction and was surprised that with the 450s discrimination set at 3 I would only receive an occasional chirp when passing over the trash targets. I continued searching the shallow area; however, Chip gave up and headed out into deeper water hoping that the amount of trash would be less further out from shore. Listening for solid, repeatable signals, I began to recover coins from amongst the trash.
After finding several clad coins and memorial pennies, I received a signal that took several tries to recover. Finally, I had the target in my scoop and as the sand sifted through the holes, I saw a greyish coin which turned out to be a 1942 silver Washington quarter. Over the next hour I recovered a handful of coins including 6 wheat cents and a Mercury dime, a car key, and a gold plated ring; however, except for part of a soda can and a large bolt, I had not wasted any time digging trash which littered the area.
Just before we planned on leaving I walked out towards the ropes which marked the adult swimming area.
While there were fewer signals in the deeper water, several coins and a large fishing lure found their way into my pouch. Nearing the rope, I received a clear signal and removed three scoops of sand before the 450 indicated that the target was out of the hole. Shaking the sand from the scoop, I looked down and saw a class ring glinting in the morning sun. With swimmers starting to arrive at the beach, we decided to call it a day.
As an interesting side note, I stopped off at the local junior high school to see if they could identify the rings owner from the initials engraved inside of it. The secretary was able to tell me the name of the student and gave me the parents phone number. I contacted the father, Douglas Keib, who told me his son had lost the ring the first time he had worn it and was excited to hear it had been recovered from the lake.
The ring had a strong sentimental value to his son as his grandmother who had paid for half of it was now terminally ill. I met with Mr. Keib the following day and returned the ring to him. As a plus for our hobby, the local newspaper featured the return of the ring on the front page.
The next site I took the 450 VLF to was Sylvan Beach, an old amusement park/resort area on the eastern shore of Oneida Lake that dates back to the late 1800s. It has been hunted extensively over the years, however, the beach is over 2 miles long and good finds are still being made on a regular basis.
The beach slopes off very gradually, and other treasure hunters had mentioned that the better finds were further out from shore and deeply buried in the fine white sand. I walked out and started searching in chest deep water which was actually several hundred feet from the beach. After nearly 25 minutes I received my first signal that turned out to be a memorial penny not the most encouraging way to start the day! Working out a little further, I found a few more coins over the next 45 minutes including 2 wheat cents and a 1944P silver war nickel. All of the coins had been at least 1 or 2 scoops deep in the sand and produced solid signals. Despite being late August, the water temperature was only in the mid 60s and without a wet suit, I was beginning to get chilled. As I started to work my way back towards the beach I received a faint signal that I almost passed up. Fanning some sand away with my foot, I re-checked the area. This time the signal was stronger and I began to recover the target. Seeing the flash of gold in the bottom of the scoop, I reached in and picked up a thin ring made of 2 inter-twined strips. It was stamped 0.750 inside which meant it was l8KT. While it didnt contain much gold, it was a nice find that my wife was sure to appropriate once I returned home.
Another site that I visited several times was a small beach on one of the Finger Lakes just west of Syracuse. The beach had a diving platform anchored a short distance from shore and the bottom dropped off quickly to a depth of 5 to 8 feet. Because of this, I decided to try diving the area and see how the 450 VLF worked when completely submerged. After recovering a few older coins on my first dive, I returned several times before I left the area. The thin layer of sand on the bottom covered a mixture of clay, rocks, and a large concentration of ferrous trash including nails, pipe fittings, old cans, and wire. Despite these conditions, it became easy to distinguish the crisp signals of good targets from the broken, scratchy signals produced by trash targets with the discriminate control set at 4. Some of the better finds made at this site over a four-week period included a 1908 Barber quarter, a 1902 Barber dime, a number of wheat cents from the teens and early twenties, a few local transportation tokens dating back to the early 1900s, a heavy sterling silver religious medal, and six rings including three silver ones and a heavy 14KT gold mans wedding band that weighed almost 8 dwt. While the 450 was not designed for dive use, it worked well and the volume was loud enough to hear signals over the bubbles coming from the regulator.
Arriving back home in Georgia, I was interested in seeing how the 450 performed in the mineralized red clay we have throughout most of the area. The ground in my test garden was fairly dry, and I knew this would affect how well the 450 would be able to detect some of the deeper targets. Setting the discrimination at 6 oclock, I checked each of the targets. Coins up to 5 inches deep and a small gold ring at 4 inches produced solid, repeatable signals.
A 69 caliber minnie ball at 7 inches and a silver half at just over 6 inches produced scratchy signals; however, they were discernible from the occasional pop and chatter caused by the mineral content of the soil.
Due to the time constraints involved in completing this field test I was not able to spend a great deal of time searching areas near my home; however, I did try the 450 at a schoolyard and a small park located a short distance from my office. In each case I was able to find a small handful of keepers including a few wheat pennies and a 1947 Roosevelt dime that had been there for some time. The discrimination circuitry worked well, and I was able to avoid much of the trash in the areas I searched.
The 450 VLF has been designed for treasure hunters that want a quality metal detector for use in shallow water or under adverse weather conditions at a reasonable price. Its weight and single-knob operation allow it to be used for extended periods of time without fatigue, and its sensitivity will enable even beginners to find deeply-buried targets that may have been missed by previous searchers.
The 450 VLF sells for $479.95 and comes with a one (1) year parts and labor warranty. A search coil skid plate is available for $9.95 and is a recommended accessory if one plans to spend much time searching sandy or rocky beaches.
For more information on the 450 VLF or the other products currently produced by Search Scan Electronics, write them at P. 0. Box 152, Fairhope, AL, 36533 or call them at (205) 928-9040 and mention that you read about their new water-detector in Lost Treasure.