Metal Detecting is a Sport

2nd May 2016 — 51 Comments

sportGarrett is currently advertising ‘treasure hunting’ as a sport. This fact has dismayed many English detectorists who regard their metal detecting as a hobby. What do YOU think?

I now don my Devil’s advocate hat, state that the Garrett company is 100% correct in what they say, and will provide the evidence that may convince you. All I ask is that you read these arguments then make up your own mind.

It’s a well known fact that to take part in any sport you need skill and ability. Here’s just a few examples. They are not all mine, but  have been inspired by, borrowed, and adapted, by an entertaining piece I once read by Maurice Darling in an old detecting magazine. The Searcher January 2002




  1. Snooker – Using a straight stick to knock a coloured ball into a hole, even after smoking endless cigarettes and consuming copious amounts of beer during the game. (It used to be like that!) You gain points by causing your opponent to foul

  2. Pool – Same as snooker, except that you use a smaller stick and fewer balls. Beer is readily at hand. I have a friend who was an expert at this game of pocket billiards – as the game is also known in America

  3. Rugby – Rugby is a free-flowing game that features a combination of strength, speed and strategy to move a ball into an opponent’s territory. Rugby is a full-contact sport. Be prepared to donate a pint of blood every two weeks

  4. Fishing – the challenge here is to find and catch a fish. Having accomplished this, you then throw the critter back. Actually, the only skill you need here is to stay awake and not fall in the water

  5. Football – you attempt to put a ball into the back of the other team’s net. If you do this then the only other skill you need is to be able to run the length of the pitch and give all your team mates a kiss after skidding along on both knees. Practice pulling your shirt over your head as you fall to the ground

Metal detectorists are capable of all the sports above with few problems, but our hobby is far more demanding. 


from a Current Garrett Advert


  • You need to be able to laugh at yourself and have a sense of humour Take a good look in the mirror before your next outing and tell me what you see. The sense off humour comes in when you have just dug a signal, made a hole five feet deep and moved enough soil to fill a quarry, only to be rewarded with a scrap of silver paper.

  • Next, you need the speed of an Olympic sprinter and be able to jump a four foot high barbed wire fence whilst wearing green wellies. You might think this is impossible, but when you are being pursued by a prime Herefordshire bull with his head down and smoke coming from his nostrils, you will find it quite easy.

  • Have the willpower! Maurice asks you to picture the scene. January. Cold. Early in the morning. Sleet lashing at the window; the bed is warm and your partner looks like a page three girl. Despite the temptation, you drag yourself out of bed, pull on you clothes – still damp from the last time – and off you go!

  • Be modest – Please resist the urge to dance and scream like a banshee when you unearth a hammered coin. This only infuriates others when all they have is a pouch full of lead and ring pulls.

  • Always be generous with your congratulations when a club member next to you makes a good find. This can be very hard when he keeps holding them up, laughing at you and asking if you’ve found any good ring pulls lately. Resist the urge to smash his detector over his head. Notice I referred to ‘his’ machine.


  • You must be an optimist. You’ve just spent a day which has yielded nothing, but you return to the same site again and again because things ‘might be better’.

  • And lastly, another important gift is the ability to tell a white lie without a blush or guilt showing on your face. You have just come home with the very latest top of the range, state of the art piece of electronic magic that will do just about everything except take the dog for a walk. Your nearest and dearest asks how much it was, but you pretend not to hear. When she asks a second time (this is where the straight face comes in) you answer is that it was about a £100. But now there is a word of warning. Women have something called intuition and its odds that you will be out of luck – this is when you bring your Olympic sprinter mode into play – and get out of the door quick!

So, as we can all see, detectorists need many skills and abilities. They must also be waterproof, thick-skinned, fit and slightly crackers. I’m sure that you can add to these qualities. Are they sports people or hobbyists? Make up your own mind … you should know what I think!



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51 responses to Metal Detecting is a Sport

  1. Well done old man….what does “slightly crackers” mean?

  2. Certainly ain’t a commonwealth sport! Cheers John!

  3. I metal detect for therapy. I work in a stressful fast-paced, labor-intensive job. The 3 to 5 hours I spend on the weekends relaxes me slows me down and gives me quiet time to converse with my Creator. The birds the bugs and the reptiles entertain me. The treasures I find lead me into research of the history that surrounds me, when days were simpler less stressful and people were more like people. It is also a self-serving time which pays for itself. That my good man is how I describe my passion.

  4. I only have expertise as a land hunter and I say it is a hobby whether you are participating or talking about it. All you have to do is be legal,ethical and have fun.

    It may be a sport to some but they will never be able to prove their 3 thousand dollar machine is more productive than a 3 hundred dollar machine. They will never be able to prove they have the best method of retrieving a target or getting the site with the most potential.

    Sports are more fun to watch than to participate in. Reaching into the ring and throwing a few jabs doesn’t make you a sportsman. Only a hobbyist can do that. 🙂

  5. An interesting viewpoint although very male biased. There are lots of women involved in detecting and I like many others see this as a great way of immersing myself in something that I enjoy and takes my focus away from a very busy working environment. I participate in sport, although not one of the ones mentioned and although focus and concentration is needed for detecting it is far from the demands of a honed athlete!
    Come on John get yourself into 21st Century blogging and recognise that the diversity in our society is as rich and varied as the finds we unearth.

    • I am aware that I don’t understand this PC thing Shona, and don’t mean to upset anybody. Will you accept my apologies if I have (albeit inadvertently) offended? I am aware that there are women in detecting, but they are a minority. In mitigation I have highlighted women (nearly wrote ‘the fair sex’) in my writings on several occasions. ‘The Lobo Ladies’ more than one time. Allyson Cohen has featured also.

      Because my blog is errr … old fashioned in outlook, I will still pay a penance of your choosing. BUT, I ask you if you could write a paragraph on netball, synchronised swimming or other womanly pursuit, I will add it to my blog.

    • Shona,
      I have had a serious talk with John and threatened him that should he err in the future he will be locked outside to devour some of the multitude of slugs which are currently decimating my plants. 😉

  6. A very contentious meaning about our “Hobbyist Pastime” never in a thousand years will it be a “Sport”.
    Just imagine “John Winter, Out Standing in his Field, The On-Line Scribblings of a Sports Reporter and Ex-Metal Detectorist”.
    It doesn’t sound right in fact it is crackers.

  7. I class meself as barmey …I get up …I go out ….I come home….. I find nothing ..well the 1st 3 are so true but the last is a white lie …as although my pouch may be empty of finds …you cant beat what I find from my day out ….friendship …laughter ..bantor …and a very tasty bacon roll or 2 …you only get that from a hobby

  8. for me detecting is neither of the above, it is a way of life.

  9. I am very passionate about my Hobby.
    I don’t normally comment on others comments but i will say that a $300 machine will not do any good on the Australian goldfields. When you are looking over the same goldfields that others have been detecting since 1980 you need a better machine than they had, or be a better operator or both. A wet English field might be a different story.

  10. The hobby has for many decades been classed as an outdoor pursuit by the Sport and Recreation Alliance a move done via the NCMD who are members of the SRA. So i guess it may be classed as a sport. The benefits of membership of the SRA are many giving access to lobbyists as well as legal advice on matters affecting the hobby.

  11. Wetsy, Drysy or Couldn’t Care Lessy?

    A Wetsy loves detecting in wet weather – definitely ‘Crackers’!
    A Drysy enjoys detecting in the dry & loves the Sun on his/her back – definitely ‘Sensible’
    A Couldn’t Care Lessy goes out whatever the weather – ‘Cracked’ and definitely ‘Mad’ about the hobby of detecting.

  12. FAO PHIL BENNET – tried to contact you via email, but that address you left doesn’t seem valid and bounced back. Please try again, but this time via

  13. Oh this is a good one and has got the debating going.
    Hmmm it’s got to be a hobby surely? To me a sport has a winner and a loser, whether it’s a fish escaping being caught or you’ve scored more goals than your opponent.
    Certainly from my fairly limited experiences our Hobby isn’t like that, we generally encourage one another, there is no trophy at the end of the season and there is no score line or winner or loser.

    I know on NRH (and probably other forums?)we do a find of the month and we declare a winner, but that is down to individuals voting and nothing to do with a score line or league.

    So it’s a HOBBY 🙂

    Thanks John that Devils advocate hat suits you 😉

  14. Well, you’ve stirred the pot all right! Judging by the responses, sport, hobby, spobby or hobort it’s a passion all right. Might I say LOL? Labour of Love, that is! Thank you John!

  15. Hobby, pastime, sport, activity. Call it what you will, as long as I can do it, nothing else matters. I can’t see it becoming an Olympic event though

  16. It must be a hobby…..I’ve been doing it on and off for the best part of 40 years. There’s no sport where you can be just as good at it now as you were 40 years ago. ok, maybe a little slower but I still get the results and the thrill and excitement of it is the same now as when I started all those years ago.

    If I had to describe the main quality needed to do this “hobby” it would be patience. This is reflected in the fact that I had to wait most of those years to find a gold coin and then two turn up in these last 12 months. I’ve had all manner of other finds dating in age back as far as 5,000 years (a stone age axe head dating to 3,000 BC) and my oldest coin is Roman As dated 96 BC.
    Better stop rambling on………..getting a bit like you John but I do love your ramblings.

  17. Not so much a sport possibly a hobby,but certainly “A Way of Life”.

  18. No way its a sport!!!
    Unfortunately the marketing guys are at it again to generate income.
    Sorry but the guys across the pond have lost the plot again.

  19. Its a hobby hobby for me and a passion, a sport never, once a race has been run its over and the trophy delivered when we find something interesting the story has only just begun then the research takes over and the Id of the item. definitely a passionate hobby


  20. Well well well,,, I can just see this as an Olympic sport now, lool , . Can you imagine 30 different countries putting up their best ( defectorists ) , commentators coming out with lines like ( he’s the best in his field, but what’s he gonna be like in this one ??? )
    Everyone in camoflage , it would look like a small army invading the isle of Arran ,,and would they be able to stop at half time for a well earned bacon roll mug of tea and a fag , sit there with the other contestants , musing about ( this fields been done to death!!! And I reckon the Russians are planting stuff an digging it up,, !!! . And then there’s the medal giving , gold noble or sovereign ?? Silver , hammereds, and bronze plates , where will all end ?? All I want to do is go out wander around with a sense of purpose aimlessly and find something or nothing in particular , what say you ???

  21. Pocket billiards has a different meaning where I live.

  22. I don’t know if it was that pocket pool comment that jarred my memory but we have organizations here on this side of the pond that are the go-to resource for these queries. They want to represent the detectorist,whether they are a sportsman or a hobbyist. Doesn’t matter if they travel in a carload of 4 loaded for bear knocking on elderly people’s doors or in a group of 5 taking shovels in the park during the day.

    They are to be thought of when these important questions come up. So I checked in with one of them by visiting their homepage and the FMDAC states–

    ” The Federation of Metal Detector and Archaeological Clubs Inc. (FMDAC) was organized in 1984 as a legislative and educational organization and incorporated, as a non-profit, non-commercial, non-partisan organization. ”

    Feeling confident that this group would certainly have the answer I was seeking I continued reading and sure enough just as I thought—

    ” To preserve the sport / hobby of recreational metal detecting and prospecting. ”

    Oh well…….:) 🙂

  23. Lol love it John he he to true,but like most of our kindred hopefuls it is a hobby and a grand one at that ring pulls and all.

  24. Sport has to have a competitive element. For the average one man detectorist it is not a sport but a hobby, unless you take into account a private fun competition between detecting partners. However when it comes to rallies and club digs the situation changes, for there normally are prizes at stake, or the best coin or artefact of the month or year, when often trophies are awarded. In these instances it is more like a sport with the object of winning against the competition.

  25. If detecting does become a sport soon the camo clothing will be emblazoned with sponsors advertising patches (this may have already started) and then we will all look like Nascar drivers or professional bass fishermen, at least in N. America.
    Next drugs will become an issue making urine testing a must…..Nah. Lets keep it as a hobby please

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