Treasure Tactix | Digger Vs. Shovel

Treasure Tactix | Digger Vs. Shovel

So you’ve done the research, weighed up the options, saved your money and purchased your first metal detector. One of the very next questions you’ll probably ask yourself if you haven’t already is: What kind of digging tool to use metal detecting?. To help you get the most out of the hobby and your gear, we’ll take a deep dive in this article about the best types of digging tools for metal detecting and their different applications.

Even if you’ve already got a heap of detecting digging tools, we’ll be going over the different types of diggers used in each scenario and how they can be critical for target recovery speed and minimising damage to sensitive grassy areas.  We can't overstate how much impact the choice of digging implement will have on your success and the hobby as a whole! So read on to find out more in this edition Treasure Tactics regarding the Shovel and the Digger.

Looking to buy?

It might seem trivial...“Any old Garden Trowel will do!” I hear someone in the back yell. Technically this is true, if you're on a tight budget, just getting started or maybe you don’t want to go all in on the bells and whistles since you aren’t sure if you’ll really like detecting yet.(Spoiler Alert: We’re confident you will!).  There’s nothing wrong with being resourceful and using what you can pull together at home (images of a modified garden trowel with serrated edging come to mind), however there are quite a number of benefits to taking it to the next level with some upgraded and purpose built tools which we’ll get into below.

The contestants: Shovel VS Hand Digger


In the blue corner we’ve got the metal detecting Shovel. While there are many different types of shovels, we’ll be thinking about the ones oriented towards metal detecting and digging in grass and soil.

Generally speaking, the most ergonomic and easy to use digging tools for metal detecting are the “detecting shovels”. A purpose built, long handled digger with a footplate to push on and well designed serrated tapering blade to cut through roots and soil like butter. These types of purpose-built tools are great for digging larger, cleaner, deeper plugs (depending on the size of the blade) over and over quickly in the hands of a proficient detectorist. They’re also better at preserving one's joints if that’s a concern for you as well, as it requires less kneeling, bending down and it generally makes it easier to cut plugs. 

Because the metal detecting shovels can dig larger plugs with fewer cuts, the chance of hitting the target with the blade is reduced because less accuracy is needed.  There is nothing worse than scratching a valuable historic coin with your digging tool!

“Well okay then, seems like I should just buy a shovel then right?” Ah, not so fast! These shovels are naturally bulkier and heavier, although the Nokta Makro Premium shovel is collapsible.

There are other potential downsides that involve matters of respect and consideration in the field.  For the sake of the hobby, other detectorists and the general public, we believe there are certain areas including sensitive/busy parks where hauling around a big detecting shovel is not a great idea and could invite problems for yourself and the metal detecting hobby. 

Of course when it comes to pricing, with Shovels and Diggers of comparable quality it’s shovels that tend to be more expensive owing to their size, build and usage.


In the Red corner it’s the metal detecting Hand Digger and again we’ll be thinking about purpose built Diggers for metal detecting in the dirt and grass.

For ergonomics there are similar and different considerations. To start with, we likewise recommend a purpose built tool with a hand plate, serrated blade and an easy to grip handle. Other quality-of-life features to look out for here are sheaths which allow you to carry the digger on your belt as well as painted measurements on the tool to measure depth of retrieved targets.

These smaller form factor implements are an extremely useful and versatile detecting tool whether you’ve got a shovel with you or not as they provide a number of unique benefits. Hand Diggers are smaller and require more precision than metal detecting shovels, which can be preferable when you want to retrieve targets more cleanly and accurately (such as at a park). Their size also makes these detecting tools more discrete and less offensive to the general public than walking around with a big shovel would.

As for price, as stated earlier hand diggers are the cheaper option when of comparable materials and quality, owing to their smaller size.

The Winner?

When it comes down to it, the bottom line is that there are a number of considerations when deciding which tools to buy or which tools to use.  In general though, we keep both of these metal detecting tools in our arsenal as  they both excel in different areas where the other might be less convenient.  For deeper targets we prefer the  Metal Detecting Shovel but when we are detecting well manicured lawns or in public areas we will opt for the smaller detecting Hand Digger (aka: Digging Knife) which makes smaller holes and is less offensive to the general public.

Check out our range of Digging Tools today, and feel free to contact our professional, knowledgeable and experienced team here anytime.

Thank you for reading!

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