I’ve always heard “The older you get, the faster time passes.” Now that I’m in my mid 40’s I’ve found that statement to be all too true. However, there are exceptions to this rule…. Christmas, payday and waiting for a metal detector to arrive in the mail! I’m the first to admit, I become very “kid like” when I have a new machine on the way to my house. My wife is very “understanding” of this affliction of mine, only succumbing to the occasional “eye roll” when I constantly babble on about treasure hunting, old sites, coins and metal detectors.
The subject of this particular dose of excitement was the new Fisher F4. Fisher Research Laboratories, the oldest metal detecting company in the world, was recently purchased by First Texas Products of El Paso Texas. First Texas also owns the Bounty Hunter and Teknetics brands. At first, a lot of folks in the metal detecting hobby didn’t know what to make of the Fisher purchase…would First Texas continue the long tradition of high performance/high quality metal detectors? Would the “new” Fisher be introducing new exciting models? Luckily for us, the answer to both these questions is a resounding “YES!”
I arrived home from work one afternoon to find a plain brown cardboard box lying on my front porch. I’m sure those of you who metal detect know the feeling all too well… sweaty palms, rapid heart rate and adrenaline rush! I scrambled out of my car and made my way up the steps. A quick investigation of the box convinced me my new F4 had arrived! I fished through my keys, opened the front door and stumbled my way in. A few quick swipes with my pocketknife later and I had the plain brown box opened. As I lifted the flaps to the outer box, I saw the new white Fisher box on the inside. A nice Fisher F4 logo smiled up at me as I carefully opened the end and removed the contents.
Is there any better smell than the scent of new electronics? For me, it’s kind of like “that new car smell”, but better! The F4 was securely wrapped in plastic and foam padding, particularly the upper rod and control housing. I gently removed the F4 and its rods and coils (yes… COILS! There are two of them!). Assembly is fast and easy, (make sure the rod locking collars are completely open before assembling the shaft) and fit tolerances are very precise and secure. I am struck with a wonderful feeling of familiarity when I look closely at the included rods. They are the time proven Fisher “S” rods like you find on the CZ3D and Coinstrike. These rods are known for their light weight and durability. Long time Fisher users will also be happy to see the same heavy plastic arm cup and thick foam grip from previous Fisher detectors.
The toughest decision I had to make during the assembly process was “Which coil do I use first! The 11” double-D or the 8” concentric?” I am extremely impressed that Fisher decided to include two coils with this detector! After a little internal struggling, I opt for the 11” DD due to my past wonderful experiences with a similar coil for the F-75. The mounting ears on the coil make a nice tight fit on the lower rod. The strategic use of the single rubber bushing allows the coil to be secure, but still have “just the right amount” of flex. I wrap the coil cable up the rod in typical fashion and plug the coil cable connector into the back of the detector control housing.
Like most folks, my first act after assembly of a brand spankin’ new metal detector is to take a few “test swings” across the floor. I’m blown away by the light weight and balance of this machine! I’m also very impressed by the lack of any movement or flex in the shaft, even during “vigorous” swinging… nice and tight! I finally decided it’s time to get down to business. I notice there are no batteries in the shipping box, so I assume none are included. Wrong assumption! I open the battery compartment and find two 9 volt alkaline cells installed “backwards” for shipping purposes. I carefully removed the batteries… (Be careful, they are pretty tight!) and installed them. Finally! The moment of truth!
A light press with my right thumb brings the F4 to life. The F4 makes use of membrane type buttons that offer a light “click” for feedback. Generally speaking, I’m no fan of membrane pads, but these feel more resilient and tactile that others I’ve used. The LCD display is clear and sharp with a centrally located conductivity ID number. Along the top is an arc of various common targets, ranging from iron to $1. A LCD “arrow” points to the detected target, making for quick and easy identification. The faceplate itself looks great. The red, gold and black color scheme is very “pleasing to the eye” and all the buttons are logically placed and clearly marked.
I grab a few test targets and swing them in front of the DD coil. The 4 tone audio from the internal speaker is very clear and distinct. The corresponding ID numbers, and target icons seem to be dead “on the money” (pun intended). The F4 seems to be marketed as a “mid range” metal detector, but the air testing I did was comparable to many detectors I’ve had that cost much more.
Every time I get a new detector, my first destination is my “test garden”. I’ve had it planted for over five years with a large variety of targets buried at different depths. The F4 with the double-D coil was able to correctly identify closely located targets with a precision that nearly rivals my F-75. Very impressive! Depth is much better than I expected from a mid-level machine, and I was able to run it at maximum sensitivity in my yard without any false signals. Pinpointing was a breeze with the toggle on/off style pinpoint button. Entering the pinpoint mode changes the central ID numbers into an “inches of depth” reading. The numbering combined with the great VCO audio made it very easy to size up your targets and avoid large trash items.
My next stop was a local school yard. In my opinion, school yards are the best place to learn a new metal detector. Targets are plentiful, and digging is easy. The F4 felt “custom made” for this type of hunting. The 11” DD coil cuts a wide swath allowing you to cover ground quickly without fear of missing targets. One of the beautiful things about a Double-D type coil is the great heel to toe ground coverage. I was immediately rewarded for my detecting efforts with coin after coin. The high tone audio “sang out” to me on copper pennies, dimes and quarters. Another cool thing I discovered is that the visual ID number stays locked on the last target detected, allowing you to hunt by sound, then refer to the meter afterwards.
The F4 has a very unique notching system that allows you to either choose the item you want to reject manually, or by waving a troublesome trash item in front of the coil, then hitting the “notch” button. Both methods work great and completely discriminated out the unwanted target. Another way to use “notch” is to crank up the discrimination as high as you want to go (all the way through “zinc”), then “notch” back in a desired item. This is what I opted to do for my school yard hunt. Discrimination was maxed out through zinc, and nickels “notched” back in. This made for a VERY productive coin hunt! Nickels came in the ID dead on the “30” mark, while still rejecting most pulltabs and pencil eraser bands. For the clad coin hunter on a limited time frame, this mode of hunting is outstanding. Your “coins per minute” count will undoubtedly skyrocket with the sheer volume of ground you can cover, while avoiding the trash items. I ended the school hunt with a nail apron FULL of coins of all denominations including a couple of Susan B. Anthony dollars and a Sacagawea dollar.
I’ve gained more and more respect for the F4 during the 40 hours I’ve logged on it so far. In my opinion, this detector is a great multi-purpose machine that would be an excellent addition regardless of whether you’re a “seasoned pro” or just getting started in the hobby. The F4 is incredibly “quiet” until you hit a target, and the audio feedback with 4 distinct tones is very good. All-metal depth is incredible and quite easy to ground balance.
Durability doesn’t seem to be an issue. I hate to admit it, but while hunting, I stopped to adjust my headphones, leaning the F4 against my side. Before I could catch it, it fell straight to the ground with a couple of bounces on impact. I just knew I had killed it for sure, but it never missed a beat! This tough little detector was no worse for the wear.
Coil availability is a huge plus! The F4 comes shipped with the 11″ Double-D elliptical coil, a 8″ round concentric coil, and available for purchase at a very reasonable price is a 4″, 7 1/4″, and a 10″. An incredible selection that will cover most hunting needs!
On the negative side, I wish Fisher had included Velcro cable/shaft straps like they did with the F-75. I like to be able to secure my cable. I also wish the headphone jack was facing rearward instead of its current position, facing forward. This is a personal preference due to the way I set my detector down when I dig.
My personal opinion is that the F4 is an outstanding metal detector. It is very much a “turn-on-and-go” type detector, but with enough power to satisfy even the most discerning hobbyist.