Is Harbor Freight Metal Detector Any Good? An Honest Review

  • By: Chris
  • Last updated on December 20, 2022
  • Time to read: 10 min.
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If you’ve found yourself here, welcome!

I’d bet you’re either new to metal detecting or looking to buy a metal detector for someone brand new to the hobby.

Harbor Freight is a tool store chain offering everything from air compressors to wet saws for local contractors and DIY enthusiasts.

Not to be left out of all the fun, Harbor Freight has also dipped its toes into the outdoor adventure world of metal detecting.

So, if you’re wondering if the Harbor Freight metal detector is any good, you’ve come to the right place!

Harbor Freight 9 Function Metal Detector Review

Harbor Freight 9 Function Metal Detector Review
The Harbor Freight Metal detector provides a lot to consider when making a purchase.

Before we keep you in suspense any longer, let’s give you the verdict now before going any further.

Is Harbor Freight metal detector any good?

Yes, the Harbor Freight 9 function metal detector is good for all newcomers and beginners to the hobby of metal detecting. It’s low priced, has a limited but reliable depth, and is easy to use and set up right out of the box.

Now, you could buy this 9 function metal detector and walk away satisfied, but be aware that there are some obvious limitations to this device. In fact, you could spend roughly the same amount or less on a different metal detector backed by a much more reputable brand.

the choice for harbor freight metal detector is yours
Get familiar with the device and all its capabilities before making a decision.

In the end, the choice will be yours.

But to get an honest review of this metal detector and really see if it’s the right one for you, keep reading. You won’t be disappointed.

Just wait one second!

Before we take a deeper dive, here’s a quick glance at some of the deciding factors behind this model.

  • Easy to assemble and use
  • 0 - 10 discrimination modes
  • Sensitivity adjustment
  • Usable in shallow water
  • Limited depth detection
  • Analog device
  • Takes time to understand the ideal settings
  • Flimsy shaft

Ok, let’s get into it.

Harbor Freight Metal Detector Physical Features

Harbor Freight Metal Detector Physical Features
The physical features of this metal detector include an adjustable shaft and armrest.

For a compact metal detector for a shoestring budget, the Harbor Freight 67378 model comes with some essential features to get you started on the right foot.

As far as its physical capabilities, you can expect to open the box and assemble your new detector in just a couple of minutes as the shaft and corresponding parts will screw together easily.

The stand is adjustable and the armrest is an added attempt to provide a more comfortable experience for the user.

But, I’d be lying if I said you’d be comfortable a couple of hours in.

Unfortunately, the handle design lacks the ergonomic feel of some other popular models. Although, if you’re detecting for hours on end, you’ll probably be looking to upgrade anyway.

handle design is not comfortable
The handle of the Harbor Freight metal detector is not built for long-term use.

The Harbor Freight 9 function detector comes with an external cable that can easily get in the way if you don’t secure it from the get-go. To do so, simply twist the control box clockwise and you’ll see the cable begin to align itself with the stem.

Viola, no more cable issues!

Additionally, this metal detector comes with a headphone jack (headphones not included), is fairly lightweight, and is powered by 6 AA batteries (also not included).

Harbor Freight Metal Detector Technology Features

Harbor Freight Metal Detector Technology Features
The Harbor Freight metal detector comes with many of the desired features available.

Now, let’s talk about some of the technological capabilities of this Harbor Freight 9 function metal detector.

As it’s already implied in the name, this unit comes with 9 different functions that can be controlled through the analog control box.

If you don’t know what I mean by analog, basically, all the fine-tuning needed will be done through modifications on the dials and knobs. There is no LCD display screen to give you the depth and ID of your target.

If that’s what you’re looking for, we recommend reading our comparison of cheap vs expensive metal detectors. Even our cheaper recommendations have more punch than this analog device.

analog device for harbor freight metal detector
Nothing wrong with analog, but you lose out on the visually pleasing benefit and comfortability of a digital device.

The 9 functions included in the Harbor Freight 9 Function metal detector are:

  • Sensitivity Adjustment
  • All-Metal Indicator
  • 0 – 10 Metal Discrimination
  • Tone Adjuster
  • Volume Control
  • Mode Selector
  • Automatic Ground Balance
  • Lower Battery Indicator
  • Target Locator

In order to use the target locator to pinpoint an object, you must be in the all-metal mode before hitting the red target button for location.

Unfortunately, this won’t tell you what kind of metal you’ve found. It could be a piece of junk iron, a used vape pen, or it could be those keys you lost at last year’s summer BBQ.

lost keys at summer BBQ
The all-metal mode will pick up everything and anything within the range of the magnetic field.

In order to narrow down the found metal, you need to experiment with those tone and discrimination settings.

The 10 discrimination levels help to identify the kind of metal you have found. Level 0 begins with iron, then moves up to nickel and gold. And at the last level, 10 sets you on aluminum discrimination.

While this is an excellent feature to have, it does take some getting used to. Many of the more advanced metal detectors don’t give you as much trouble as this kind of “broad search and checking off boxes” method the Harbor Freight machine uses.

The sensitivity adjustment is a knob that you can use to increase or decrease the strength of the magnetic field.

searching a highly mineralized area
Areas like the beach will give your metal detector fits without using some kind of discrimination or sensitivity control.

To give you an idea, when searching a highly mineralized area like a beach, you’ll want to lower the sensitivity, or else the signals will be coming at you like a machine gun.

Not really, but you get what I mean.

But if you’re just getting started and aren’t sure what kind of area you’re in, it’s best to practice and begin with high sensitivity. You can always lower it as needed.

In my personal opinion, its built-in sensitivity is just ok. I’ve used other models that can pick up smaller pieces from further away, but this one does the job.

The Harbor Freight metal detector also comes with an automatic ground balance which is a must for any kind of serious detecting.

This setting will help to cancel out any interference that might be coming from the ground itself.

low battery indicator light
It’s never a good idea to start a new hunt when your low battery indicator is on.

The low battery indicator is a nice touch. No one wants to be in the middle of a great detecting session only to have their batteries die on them.

An added bonus (although not really unique) is the built-in speaker, so if you don’t want to use headphones, you don’t have to. But, be warned that the speaker will drain your batteries, while the headphones won’t use up as much power.

Just something to consider.

Harbor Freight Metal Detector Depth

While you might be able to stretch 6 inches or so out of it, the average detection depth you’ll get from the Harbor Freight metal detector is 3 inches.

Harbor Freight Metal Detector Depth
The average expected depth for the Harbor Freight metal detector is 3 inches.

For the low price and a device not made by one of the leading manufacturers, a 3-inch depth is about right.

However, for the same price range, you can get double the depth from a more popular and well-known model like the Bounty Hunty Gold Digger.

It just all depends on what you are looking for. But if depth is at the top of your priority list, I’d keep looking for a better metal detector.

Harbor Freight Metal Detector For Gold

Harbor Freight Metal Detector For Gold
Sure, you’ll find some lost gold jewelry, but I wouldn’t count on discovering any nuggets.

If gold is your intended target, the Harbor Freight metal detector can find it.

But will it? No.

Unless you’ve got some gold buried just out of reach, then the depth and discrimination needed to detect real gold in the ground isn’t a part of this machine’s makeup.

In most cases, the gold you’ll be finding is usually the kind found in lost jewelry. These items are the ones just below the surface or even lying on top, waiting for your metal detector to ping their location.

If you really want a gold detecting metal detector, you’ll have to be willing to spend for it.

Our best metal detectors for gold article is a good place to start if you’re interested in learning more.

Harbor Freight Metal Detector Tips

Harbor Freight Metal Detector Tips
If you’ve made your purchase already, below are some tips to get you ahead of the curve.

We’ve gone over some of the more important features of the Harbor Freight metal detector. But say you’ve already bought this device, or just waiting for the store to open.

Well, we’ve got some tips for you on how to get the most out of this detector.

  1. When that low battery light comes on, don’t put off replacing the batteries. Unless working with a full charge, you may experience inaccurate readings.
  2. The first step in avoiding false signals is to remove your own jewelry! Your rings, watches, and even steel-toe boots can have you seeing ghosts.
  3. Generally, you want to set your sensitivity level higher, unless you’re in a highly mineralized area. Whenever there are more minerals in the ground or higher levels of EMI, lower sensitivity is better.
  4. Be wary of not adjusting your volume before putting on your headphones. Your ears will thank you for the consideration.

How Do You Set a Harbor Freight Metal Detector?

How Do You Set a Harbor Freight Metal Detector
Setting up your Harbor Freight metal detector involves testing the detection of different metals.

Assuming you’ve got a Harbor Freight metal detector in hand (or soon will), let’s go over how to get it ready for use.

As always, be sure to read the instruction manual that comes with your device.

Once you have the unit assembled entirely, the first step of setting up your new metal detector is to test how well it performs at detecting and ignoring different metals.

For this, you will need to experiment with different settings and some test objects of various metals.

Each test will be conducted the same, except for the position of the DISC/TONE control will be turned to the appropriate metal which you want to ignore.

harbor freight ignore iron
Adjusting the DISC/TONE control will determine which metal you want to ignore.

For instance, if you want your Harbor Freight metal detector to ignore all iron objects, you want to turn your DISC/TONE control to the 9 o’clock position. This is the first metal identified and level of the discrimination settings.

Everything other control will stay the same for each metal. The volume and sensitivity (SENS) control should be dialed up halfway. And the MODE switch should be set to DISC.

With iron being the designated target to ignore, select an iron object to test your modifications. Wave the iron object over the search coil about 2 or 3 inches away.

There should be no sound emitting from the built-in speaker. If that is the case, now try sweeping a different metal object (copper, silver, etc.) over the search coil.

wave metal over search coil
Test how well your new detector can discriminate each kind of metal in the ground.

If a tone is achieved, then you have properly set up your metal detector to discriminate any iron readings.

This process can be repeated for every metal that the Harbor Freight metal detector is preset to discriminate against.

How to Use Harbor Freight Metal Detector

Now that your Harbor Freight metal detector is all set up, it’s time to learn how to use it.

To use the Harbor Freight metal detector, you just need to turn on the machine and turn up the volume, set the MODE switch to All-Metal, and turn the SENS (sensitivity) knob all the way up.

How to Use Harbor Freight Metal Detector
Be sure to read the manual before your first time out in the field.

Searching for all-metal and highest sensitivity is allowing you to find any metal at the maximum depth range.

Sweep your metal detector back and forth at a steady pace, about an inch or two off the ground.

When you get an audio tone output, hit the red button for the target location and when you are directly over the metal object, your metal detector will output a consistent tone to notify you.

You can then use the discrimination settings as you did to set it up. This will help you determine what metal you have found and tell you if digging it up is worth it.

Does the Harbor Freight Metal Detector Work?

Does the Harbor Freight Metal Detector Work
The Harbor Freight metal detector does work. Just set your expectations appropriately.

So, does Harbor Freight metal detector work?

Yes, of course it works. It’s an affordable, entry-level metal detector that does exactly what it promises.

As long as you take the time to learn each setting and how to best operate it, you can certainly get some solid use out of this device.

It has 9 functions that every metal detector should have. And while the depth is the best, it’s a consistent device that you can rely on.

it is not the best metal detector for low price
Know your options before making a purchase. There are more powerful detectors available for the same price.

But, is it the best? No.

Is it even the best of the cheapest metal detectors? No.

But it will work.

Wrapping Up

So there you have it. An honest review of the Harbor Freight metal detector. I really have nothing negative to say about it. It performs exactly as I expected.

Will you wish it did more? Probably.

But if you’re just starting out, it’s not a bad option to go with.

If you catch the bug quickly and start fantasizing about finding buried treasure or undiscovered gold nuggets, you’ll definitely start thinking about an upgrade.

I hope you’ve enjoyed the review. And if you think you might want to spread your wings a bit more, be sure to read our review of the best metal detectors for beginners.

Until next time!

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