Gordon S. Gibson

Troy Galloway’s Shadow X5, which is making a big impact on the metal detector market, has a new brother on the block – the Shadow X3. As with any new detector to hit the market, there are a lot of questions floating around about the ability of the X3. For example, I have a Shadow X2 – should I consider moving up to the X3? How does it compare with the X5 in the field? What is the depth of the X3 as compared to the X5? How does it handle iron? The list of queries goes on and on and they are all excellent. So …let’s see if we can answer some of these questions.


From a distance the X5 and X3 look very similar and for a good reason; they use the same control housing and coils. (Actually, both will use a nine-inch and seven-inch coil, but the X3 comes with the seven-inch coil). Another company made the Shadow X2 and they used a different control housing and coil. Coils on the X2 and X3 are not interchangeable. The electronics in the X2 and X3 are different and will give different results in the field.


A closer inspection will reveal that the X2 has fewer controls on the control housing than the X3. If you happen to own a Shadow X2, you would notice that there is one more control on the X3 than the X2, the FREQUENCY TOGGLE. In addition, the TARGET CHECK on the X3 has more functions than the COIN CHECK on the X2.

The BATTERY CHECK on the X2 is automatically engaged when the detector is turned on while the BATTERY CHECK on the X3 is by demand – you turn it on and off at will. It is located on the DISC knob.

The battery compartment on the X3 is radically different and much improved over the X2. The battery compartment door on the X3 has door seals and a Positive Lock Fastener that make the battery compartment weatherproof. In fact, like the Shadow X5, the X3 is completely weatherproof. In the rain the X2 will need a weather cover over the control box.

Both the X2 and X3 operate in the Silent Search Mode and do not have a Manual Ground Balance but use the Fixed Preset Ground Balance feature.

There is one difference in the DISC Mode. When the DISC knob is set to zero on the X2, small iron will still be eliminated. For example, when the DISC is set at the lowest setting, it will not sound off on a square nail. On the X3, the zero setting (which is just above the BATT TEST setting) will identify all iron. I like this feature because it gives a little more flexibility in discriminating choices. The preset setting on the X3 is ‘3.5’. This is the recommended setting for most kinds of detecting as most small iron targets will be rejected and everything else will be accepted. The higher the discrimination, the more target masking will occur plus there will be a slight decrease in detection depth. So – contrary to what most people think - when in a trashy site, lower the discrimination knob rather than increase it. Then, use the TARGET CHECK toggle to separate the targets types.

The TARGET CHECK on the X3 is similar in function to the COIN CHECK on the X2. However, the TARGET CHECK has 3 levels of discrimination and the COIN CHECK only has two. The TARGET CHECK has a ZINC and NICKEL toggle setting and the X2 only has the ZINC setting. At the ZINC setting, everything above a Zinc Penny will be reported with audio while the NICKEL setting will report any target from a Zinc Penny down to the round pull-tab. If, while in the NICKEL setting there is no signal (sound), then the target will be from a nickel down to iron. The bottom limits of the TARGET CHECK are determined by the DISC setting. If you set the DISC knob to just accept nickels, and if the NICKEL toggle is silent, the chances are very good that your target will be a nickel.

Another difference between the X2 and X3 is the FREQ toggle. The X3 has a toggle that allows you to change the operating frequency of the detector. This is very handy when cross talk develops between detectors. This normally happens at competition hunts, but can occur anytime you are searching with another detector near by. Usually, the other detector will be operating at or near 19 kHz. Once nice thing about this feature is that it can be done "on the fly". When you hear the cross talk, which sometimes sounds like a fast putt-putt sound, just flip the toggle and keep on swinging the detector. There is no need to stop and make any more adjustments. This is a very important feature for competition hunting. The X2 operates at 10 kHz and the X3 at 19 kHz. This means the X3 will be more sensitive to lower conductive targets like rings.

Both the X2 and X3 have a pinpoint pushbutton. However the X3 goes a step further … it has a VCO pinpoint pushbutton. The VCO, which means voltage controlled oscillator, is an audio sound that increases in pitch and volume the closer the center of the coil gets to the target. It is an excellent method of locating a target – especially those hard to find targets in the loose dirt. The audio can also be used to determine the depth of the target. The deeper the target, the less volume will be heard. After a few hours on the X3, determining the depth will become second nature to your ears.

The sensitivity setting on the X2 has a high setting of "9" while the X3 has a high setting of "10". The main difference between the two detectors is that on the X2 you may be able to operate at the "9" setting. The X3 sensitivity control is designed so that a setting of "9’ will be so sensitive that you will start experiencing a chirping sound. Remember, you are dealing with an extremely powerful and sensitive piece of equipment. So on this detector, a "9" setting is pretty much the top of the scale. The "10" setting is the "over and above" setting. In most cases, it is so powerful it is not useable.

We have all been told about the cone shaped field that is beneath the coil when the detector is operating. In other words, when operating the detector, the further down you go beneath the coil, the narrower the search field for the target. According to this thought, the bottom of the target search area may be only as big as a silver dollar. We have also been hearing words like "large or huge footprint" when describing the Shadow X3 and X5 coils. What does all this mean to the treasure hunter?

I decided to see what the search pattern under the X3 (and X5) really looked like. I put the X3 on a wooden table with no metal nearby. I placed the seven-inch coil vertically so it was sitting on its edge. I put a piece of large paper under the coil to mark off the detector’s search field. Now I took a quarter and always keeping it facing the center of the coil, I brought it closer to the coil and marked off on the paper with dots where the detector would respond to the coin. I worked the quarter around the bottom of the coil. After doing this enough times to make a pattern with the dots, I could then connect the dots and make an outline of the field under the coil. The result was not a cone shaped field – but a squashed balloon shaped field. (As you can see, I am not an artist, but I think you get the idea.) What this seems to show is that we get a wide search field at deeper depths, which implies that we can cover more ground deeper with each sweep of the coil. Now, that is good news! (It should be mentioned that the picture depicts the field below the coil. Actually, the field will also be found above the coil.)



The main difference between the X3 and X5 is the manual ground balancing. The X3 does not have manual ground balancing. The absence of this feature will eliminate some control knobs; all ground balancing knobs and the mode toggles switches. The Shadow X3 uses the factory preset ground balance and operates in the All Metal Discriminate Mode. (When the DISC knob is turned to the minimum setting, it is actually operating in an All Metal DISC Mode.) A factory preset ground balance will work with outstanding results in at least 80 – 90% of American soils and still perform adequately in the remaining 10%.

The next question everyone asks is – will the X3 go as deep as the X5? Well, let’s see how they compare in depth. Also, let’s add the X2 into that comparison. I do not, nor do any of my friends have a test garden with items planted deep enough for the X3 or X5. So that leaves air tests as the method to compare depth.

First, let me say something about air testing. I am not a big fan of air testing. I realize that the real test of depth is finding targets in the ground. I also appreciate that there are many factors that can affect the results of air testing – TV signals, microwave towers, transformers or power lines, even the computer or ham operator next door. However, if I tested all the detectors at the same time under these same conditions, it would be one way to judge one detector against another. The numbers or results would not necessarily be accurate, but the differences between detector’s numbers should have meaning. So I air tested the Shadow X2, Shadow X3 and Shadow X5 with a nickel (low conductive) and quarter (high conductive). In fact, I actually ran these tests at different times of the day and at different locations. I air tested them in my house, driveway, backyard, and a farm field in the middle of nowhere. I even did the tests at two in the morning when there is suppose to be less electrical interference. The results were very similar. The detector settings were:


  • Fixed Preset Discrimination set at "3.5" on all detectors
  • Sensitivity set at "9" on the X3 and X5. Actually the sensitivity was set until I could begin to hear a little interference and that was in the middle of the "9" segment on the dial.
  • The Threshold on the X5 was set to a slight hum.
  • Sensitivity was set at Max on Shadow X2.
  • All were using seven-inch coils.

These are the average results using the Shadow X3 as the standard.






Test Standard

+ ½ to 1 inch

- 5 inches


Test Standard

+ ½ to 1 inch

- 5 inches

From this chart we can see that the Shadow X5 is about ½ inch to 1 inch deeper than the Shadow X3. The Shadow X3 is about 5 inches deeper than the Shadow X2. There have been many reports of depths of 14 inches or more on coins using the X3 and the 7-inch coil. Be prepared to really be surprised!

Someone asked me once what the difference was between the X2 and X3. I jokingly answered – "…about six inches". I was wrong; it would average out at about 4 inches in depth.

In all tests I ran, the X5 and X3 seemed to be very close in all operational results while in the fixed ground balance DISC mode.

At a recent Treasure Show, I watched Troy Galloway demonstrate how the X3 will give a target sound on a small ring that is sitting on a square nail. I had to try that out myself. First, I set the DISC knob to eliminate the nail and set the SENS to "8". Then I put the ring on top of the nail (which had been hot glued to a target stick) and brought it across the coil. Sure enough – it sounded off very strong. I could pick up that ring 8 inches from the coil. Of course, the X5 will perform the same feat. However, the X2 could not pick up the ring under these conditions.

That was really impressive to me. While I had the target sticks and detectors out, I tried other configurations and the results were the same. In each case, I first made sure the unwanted item was discriminated out and then I could pick out the good item from the trash. This has a lot of implications when hunting and they all are a very big plus for the X3 (and X5). Now this is real target separation!


The Shadow X3 is just wonderful to use in the field. It is very lightweight, stable and has great depth. One place that it really shines is at the competition hunts. I attended a hunt and found that you can swing this detector very fast and still pick up those coins and tokens. It seems to have an incredibly fast recovery speed. When it finds a target, it reports it to you big time. It hits hard on targets. With the 19 kHz operating frequency, there are very few times you will have interference at a competition hunt – but, if you do, you are just a toggle switch away from solving the problem. At a weight of only 2.2 pounds, the old folks can keep up with the younger folks at these events.

The VCO pinpointing is terrific! It is accurate and you can normally find the target the very first time you probe. Actually, it is also very easy to pinpoint a target using the DISC mode and "X’ing" the spot. Also, with a little practice you can determine the depth of the object from the audio of the VCO, which is a real time saver.

The VCO pinpointing can also be used to determine the size of the target. Since I am mainly a coin hunter, I am interested in coin-sized objects. When I get a signal, I move the coil off the target and push the VCO button. As I slowly move the coil back over the target, I listen for the point where the high audio sound comes in. If the object is coin-sized, the sound will begin when the target spot on the ground is inside the open circle in the coil. If the high sound begins outside the hole in the coil, it is larger than a coin.

Don’t think that the X3 is just a competition detector. It does every aspect of treasure hunting very well. For those coin hunters (the cherry pickers) who are after just current coins and lots of them, this is the perfect detector. On my X3, I can set the DISC to 8.5 and it will mainly pick up current U.S. Coins (except the nickel). With this setting I can zip through an area and scoop up all the coins that were dropped. If your coil goes over a coin – you’ve got it! It just doesn’t miss many targets.

The depth of the X3 is excellent. It has a very high "WHOOPEE" factor! In the time I had testing it, I found several coins at the 11 - 12 inch depth range. I have no doubt that it will go much deeper. The main thing to remember on deep coins is the sound of the target is going to be soft. Train your mind to listen for those deep sounds.

One feature that stands out in using the X3 in the field is the target separation. All the testing that was done above in this article is confirmed in the field. Many times I dug a good target that was sitting next to a piece of iron. I was hunting next to an old school house and dug a silver Roosevelt dime that was next to a 1/4-inch bolt. A few minutes later, I dug a wheat penny and discovered an old iron car part right next to the coin. Reports from other Shadow X3 users have supported this great feature. The X3 is the "real deal" in the field.

To me, the seven-inch coil that comes with the X3 is the perfect coil. It is lightweight, pinpoints accurately, works well in trash and has great depth. For you relic hunters it is the perfect coil for freshly plowed fields. There seems to be very little loss in depth over the nine-inch coil and it surely is lighter.

I once got a soft, good signal and dug down 3 inches and found a 7-inch piece of very small (16 gauge) copper wire. It was lying straight, not coiled. I had the DISC set at "3.5" and SENS set at "8". If you have been metal detecting for any length of time, you will recognize how enormous a feat that was in finding that wire. I own a lot of "pricey" metal detectors and there are not many that can perform that act. While we are talking about hard tasks, there are not many metal detectors that can pick up tiny gold chains at great depths – the X3 can - and does it with ease.

Normally, when coin hunting; I set the discriminate level using a nickel. On my X3 the setting to just accept the nickel is 4 ½. It may vary on your X3. This setting will eliminate most iron and foil. For relic hunting I use the 3.5 setting and for "cherry picking", I use the 8.5 setting.

The TARGET CHECK is used to help categorize the potential targets. Over the 37 years I have been metal detecting, I have learned one basic fact. Most people narrow down the quality of their finds by dialing in too much discrimination. If you have the discrimination set correctly for the site you are hunting and the detector sounds off on a target - and you pinpoint it – then dig! You do not need any more information! More information will only do one thing, confuse you and keep you from digging the target. In many instances, not digging would be a bad choice. All of us have been pleasantly surprised at digging a signal that we were sure was a bad target to only find a wonderful prize beneath the soil. That is what makes this hobby so exciting.

If you want to know what manufacturers think of their products – look at the warranty. The major detector manufacturers today offer 2 year, 5 year and limited lifetime warranties. Troy has always offered the lifetime warranty. I can see why he can do that – his detectors are so well made. The minute you turn it on and use it, you can feel the quality. If awards were given out for the best quality in the metal detector industry, Troy Custom Detectors Inc. would receive the gold medal – hands down!


It is obvious that there are several major improvements in the X3 over the X2. Would it be worth it to upgrade to the X3? In my opinion, the answer is a definite – YES! There are just too many pluses for the X3. When you consider all the factors, moving up to the X3 would be the smart play. Just the big increase in depth would be enough to change my mind.

The X5 is for those hunters who want maximum control over their detector. It has additional knobs and toggle switches. If this is not important to you, then the X3 will fit your bill perfectly. For the average hunter, the X3 would probably be the best choice. Just hop out of the car - turn it on – go hunting - with outstanding results. It’s that simple to use.

I do know this: the Shadow X3 is a first-rate piece of quality equipment and will perform with gusto in the field. It is fun and a pleasure to use and will continue to give you enjoyment for a long, long time. It is a terrific value!

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