How To Dig The Perfect Plug When Metal Detecting

In this guest article, Clive, an avid metal detectorist, shares his top tips for digging the perfect plug – and why he rates the Mini Root Assassin shovel so highly in his efforts to strike gold!


Target Acquired!

A metal detector’s beep can really set your pulse racing. Perhaps it’ll be the big one this time.

Detecting a target is the name of the game, but unfortunately that also means digging a plug!

Digging a plug sounds easy, but in reality it’s time-consuming and tough on the knees, especially if your target is protected by a network of plant roots and stones.

To help you out, here’s how to dig the perfect plug…


Etiquette Is Important

It’s good manners, not to mention a good reflection on the metal-detecting community, to make as little mess as possible.

Digging or throwing around clods of grass and mud creates an eyesore, and the uneven ground could hurt someone if they trip over the hole. The Treasure Hunter’s Code of Ethics states ‘Will Fill All Excavations’, so let’s always keep on side.


Size Matters

Start with a plug measuring around 8 inches in diameter. You can extend it if the target is elusive, but keeping within these dimensions means there are fewer roots to content with and clean-up is quicker.


How Much Depth?

In dry areas such as chalk the target is likely lying closer to the surface, whereas soft ground means more slippage.

If your metal detector has a depth gauge you’ll have a pretty good idea of dig depth, but if not just keep going. It’s worth periodically testing the soil pile too in case that magnificent gold coin slipped your notice.


Perfect Your Technique

Digging a hole at lightning speed not only makes a mess it can damage your find.

It’s best to mark out a small circle and lift three sides of the turf – much like opening a tin can.

Making sure you’ve got enough depth so grass roots aren’t disturbed means the area will recover rapidly. An inch or so should cover it.

Once you’ve lifted the lid on its hinge, slowly and methodically dig out the soil beneath. Pile loose soil on a plastic bag or sheet to keep things tidy. It’ll slide straight back into the hole easily too. You’ll need to cut through roots and remove stones as you go, but keep at it.

Once located, ease your target out. This bit is truly exciting and you may want to tug it free, but slow and gentle wins the race.

Once your target is recovered, do a victory dance and check the hole for anything else.

No go?

OK, fill in your hole, replace the turf plug, and push it down gently with your heel.

Onwards to the next target!



Two tools can make plug digging simple and help you stick to the Treasure Hunter’s Code of Ethics without time-consuming, back-breaking work.

  • A Pinpointer

Many of the great tried and tested metal detector brands make excellent pin-pointers, but here’s my advice on the best ones.

A pinpointer helps find out exactly where the target is located before and during the excavation, which means less kneeling, less digging and less mess.

It isn’t much fun digging around in an area measuring a few feet across, especially if the soil is wet, heavy or full of roots.

  • A Spade

You can dig a hole with any trowel or small spade, but one designed to do the job will save you time and effort.

I rate the Mini Root Assassin. It’s a small metal detecting shovel measuring 32” and weighing just 2.2lbs, but because it’s made from industrial grade steel it’s plenty tough enough.

The sharp tip and serrated edges cut through dry soils and roots as it pushes in and as it pulls back – just like a saw. It digs a plug so efficiently you’re done in minutes with barely any mess.

So, there you have it, my guide to digging the perfect plug! Now, it’s over to you…!

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