Almost every serious gold nugget hunter has heard of the SD series of detectors made by Minelab. To be more specific, a large majority of the serious nugget hunters I know are already using one of the three SD models, either the SD 2000, SD 2100, and now the new SD 2200.
In fact, at one site during my field test, it looked like an SD promotion since there were four different nugget hunters, all using SD's. There were two SD 2200's, one SD 2100, and an SD 2000 in use amongst the four people. Oh yes, all found gold, some really nice gold, but let's discuss that later.
The SD 2200 Machine
Unlike most typical metal detectors designed for gold hunting, the SD series are not typical VLF-type detectors. Minelab refers to the operation of the SD series as "Multi Period Sensing." In my opinion, this means these detectors are a sophisticated high-powered pulse detector.
The SD 2200 package, like its predecessors, is expensive, having a suggested retail of $3,450. One big question that goes through people's minds is, "Is the SD really worth the cost?" Well, talk to most owners as I have and the general consensus is yes, simply because it provides extra depth capabilities and ignores most ground and hotrocks.
Besides the SD 2200 machine itself, Minelab includes in the package one 11-inch DD search coil, a pair of headphones, a hefty battery, and a backpack (to carry the battery). Also included are two battery chargers, including a 110 V charger for home use and a 12 V charger that can be used in an automobile, a hat, a bag (to carry found trash/treasure), an arm rest cover, and a bungie cord to assist in reducing the weight of the detector while searching.
Each generation change of the SD has shown distinct improvements and changes of controls over the previous model. The new SD 2200 is no exception. For example, this new detector has two new automatic features, automatic ground balance and a "Tune" control. The latter is designed to reduce many forms of interference by merely pushing a button. One other significant new feature was the addition of Iron discrimination.
A total list of the SD 2200 controls include the following: Power (off/on switch), Threshold control, Audio (three position switch; Shallow, Normal and Deep), Tone control, Tune push-button, Balance (three position switch; CH 1, Both, CH 2), Search switch (Fixed or Tracking, ground balance), Iron Discriminate (three position switch; Disc, Disc plus ID, and All Metal), and Level Adjust control (for Iron Discrimination).
I began testing the SD 2200 at my home. Instead of the typical coin targets I normally test for, I cleared an area in my backyard and buried pieces of lead, obscuring some of the buried targets with typical hotrocks I had previously found in gold-producing areas. I then compared responses from the targets using the new SD and of a couple of popular gold hunting machines including Minelab's 18000.
In all cases the SD 2200 clearly outperformed the VLF instruments. The SD 2200 simply ignored the rocks and detected the targets. On targets such as a 357 caliber slug, the SD 2200 did not display a tremendous depth increase over the VLF's. It did display a depth advantage of somewhere between an inch and two inches where hotrocks were not involved.
On some of the targets hidden under the hotrocks, the VLF's ignored the lead targets even though they were within detectable range. The SD, on the other hand, easily responded to the hidden pieces of lead. It was obvious that where this new SD detector really excelled was finding the targets hidden under hotrocks. What was apparent was the more severe the conditions, the better the SD 2200 seemed to perform over other gold machines.
Black sand and hotrocks are two of the major problems for a nugget hunter. Although I didn't test the black sand advantage of the SD, Pat Whitehead, who has found almost 2 ounces in a short time with his SD 2200, did. He related how well the SD 2200 performed in severe black sand environments, especially when compared to typical VLF's.
A couple of big drawbacks of the SD came to light quickly during my initial testing. They were the weight of the instrument and its ease of swinging of the coil. Simply stated, this instrument was both heavy and bulky. Carrying the battery supplied was awkward and heavy, since it was to be carried in the backpack supplied. To help overcome the battery weight problem, I elected to purchase the optional smaller battery and the hipmount pouch that I used during most of my field testing.
Going for the Gold
True testing of the SD 2200 required I hunt in gold-producing areas. For me this was a perfect opportunity to visit some of the areas in Arizona that have been good to me in the past. Unfortunately, I only had a week's time to field test this instrument.
One of the two main areas I visited was a location known to have both gold nuggets and meteorites. I hoped to find both with the SD 2200. After three days of hard hunting, I did not find any gold, but did find one meteorite. Ironically, I found the meteorite, not with the detector but by simply stepping on it. I should point out the SD 2200 is designed to find gold, not meteorites. However, I was hoping there was sufficient iron content in the meteorites that they would respond positively. Unfortunately, as I found through testing, the type of meteorites found at this location responded very similar to basalt (a typical hotrock), something the SD 2200 is designed to ignore, especially when set to the tracking mode. My father did find one meteorite with his SD 2100, but it gave only a faint response. With time running out, I headed for my second selected area to hunt. Since my dad wasn't having any luck either, he decided to meet me at that location the next day. I had already made plans to hunt with a couple of fellow nugget hunters there.
Upon my arrival, Pat Whitehead, who as mentioned above uses an SD 2200, Tony Pancake, who hunts with an SD 2000, and myself discussed several possible sites to hunt. We finally decided to try a nearby site which we visited the next day.
After a few hours of serious hunting, I decided to deviate from the specific area known to produce nice gold nuggets. My meandering turned out to be the best thing I could have possibly done. In less than an hour, I had detected a fairly weak signal in what was an old tailings pile. Expecting to find a nail or trash, I was stunned when, after digging a hole about a foot deep, I uncovered one beautiful half-ounce gold nugget.
About an hour or so after my first great find, I got another reasonable signal. Digging down about 7 or 8 inches or so, I recovered a nice solid heavy lump. Rubbing the unknown object gently quickly brought out the color of gold. I couldn't believe it, I had just found my second half-ounce nugget.
Although Tony and Pat had each found one small nugget (about a pennyweight in size), I was holding the two prize finds. My "king of the hill" position was short lived. A short time later, Pat came up the hill and informed me my dad had just "kicked my butt." I walked down to where my father was sitting, looked at the manhole he had dug and asked to see his prize. He quickly popped his newly found ounce nugget into my hand he had found with his SD 2100.
A short time later Tony found a nice quarter ounce plus nugget and one more small nugget with his SD 2000.
The second day at this site began with Pat disappearing for quite some time. Later he returned with a 7 pennyweight beauty he found with his SD 2200. Late in the afternoon, I stumbled into another great signal, which ultimately turned out to be my third nugget. This third nugget weighed in just short of a half-ounce. That was the last great find of the trip.
Conclusion and Comments:
The new SD 2200 provides significant improvements over previous models, including automatic ground balancing, push-button noise reduction, and iron discrimination.
When compared to other gold hunting detectors, the SD 2200 is expensive, somewhat awkward to swing and is heavy. However, it clearly finds gold deeper than other detectors, especially in really hostile environments containing black sand and hotrocks. For serious nugget hunters, the added depth and other enhancements clearly outweigh the negatives.
It is a pleasure to use simply because one doesn't have to fight the abundance of false signals normally associated with nugget hunting. Gone are the strong reactions to large pieces of magnetite; the SD basically ignores them. If the detector responds with a reasonably strong signal, one can be almost assured the object is not a rock, but a piece of metal, hopefully gold.
For the really serious gold hunter, the SD 2200 is one detector to seriously investigate. Simply stated, it does a great job of finding gold. As such, I can heartily recommend this detector to the serious nugget hunter who wants a truly deep seeking machine.
For more information about Minelab's SD 2200 or any of Minelab's other metal detectors, contact Minelab by phone; 1-888-517-2066, or e-mail hominelab [dot] com [dot] au, or visit their website at http://www. minelab.com.au.