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Bob Sickler Field Test/Evaluation- SHADOW X2
(Bob Sickler is a well known author in the field of metal detecting and has written and published
several books including "Detectorist", one of the best selling books about the hobby.)

My Two Cents Worth
by Bob Sickler
I make a living for my family primarily as a graphic designer. A few years ago, I was asked by the Tesoro Electronics metal detector company to help them with their advertising. It was a difficult decision to make given my ideals concerning metal detector brands. Many of you know me as the author and publisher of the book DETECTORIST, A How-To Guide to Better Metal Detecting which generically supports no brand of metal detector. Well, it still does and I still believe it takes a knowledgeable person, a decent detector, and a productive site to produce a successful hunt.
Why did I choose to go to work as an independent contractor for Tesoro? They have a great product like most manufacturers, but it was their outward voice against anti-metal detecting legislation issues that face every detectorist, regardless of brand name. As a company, they have long been very active in word, written word and deed to protect everyone's right to enjoy the hobby of metal detecting... Without using it as a tool to promote their product.

So what does all of this have to do with a new metal detector called the ShadowX2? Troy Galloway, a prolific relic hunter, had the great idea of creating a customized line of detectors. Tesoro accepted his design ideas, private label marketing approach and decided to build the ShadowX2 to Troy's specifications. Tesoro recommended that he hire me to handle his advertising and graphic needs.

The whole time I have been working independently for Tesoro, I never used or owned any of the new detectors I was creating advertising for. In my mind, I didn't want to feel like a paid endorsement and still don't. But, I was feeling a little strange helping a company sell their product without really knowing how it would work in the field. I have owned older Tesoros and tested them as a field test editor for several hobby magazines, but I knew nothing of how their new line performed in the dirt. The older machines were fabulous coin and relic hunting machines. Currently, many of my friends have asked for my opinions on the new Tesoro MicroMAX line and I honestly had to say I didn't know.

My last time out metal detecting was the impetus to find out more about the products I was helping to sell. "Old Faithful" was starting to feel heavy as the years go by. It was a full-featured, high-powered detector that was hipmounted, but it still has the ability to contribute to my ever-constant reaching to retrieve my ever-sagging pants! I even went so far as to rig a crossbelt on my hipmount belt to support the weight of my detector, pouch and tools. All this did was make my shoulder ache after two hours. I'll be honest, the small compact detectors didn't appeal to me at first. Like everyone else, I was under the assumption that bigger was better, yet I have forever wanted a high-powered unit in a tiny package. It used to be that the more batteries a detector had, the more powerful it was. This is no longer true today with the advent of subminiature components and surface mount technology. Fact is, these circuits are so efficient, they require less current and voltage to do the same or better job.

During the course of working for Troy Custom Detectors, I hinted to Troy that I would like to borrow a ShadowX2 for my own private field evaluation. It would be fun to try a detector I had a hand in dressing up. Since the detector had already caught on with the general public, units were naturally going out Troy's door at a pretty good rate. Several months later my unit for testing would arrive. In the box was a note from Troy... "Happy hunting my friend!" He was appreciative of the work I did for him and it was his special way of saying thank you.

In The Field...

I was up to my ears in graphic design projects serving other clients in the non-metal detecting community and I just couldn't seem to make time to use this new detector staring at me from the corner of my office.The day came though... A beautiful sunny day without humidity! I spent some time bench testing the ShadowX2 to get a feel for the discrimination capability and sensitivity. What struck me with impact was the fact that this entire detector weighed nearly less then just the pole and 10" searchcoil of my old hipmounted detector! The only wire that now connected me to the detector was the flexible coiled headphone wire. No more searchcoil wire to accidentally step on and fatique. The 2 lb. weight, size and balance of the ShadowX2 is extremely comfortable. I wisked my worn 14K wedding band under the specially designed 7-inch "pancake" searchcoil with the sensitivity set to "8". This little loop and the detector's microcircuit had real punch! I got a loud, clear air signal at a measured 8". If it could give me 75% of this depth in mineralized ground, I'd be thrilled! Thoughts of hiking with this detector were inspiring knowing that I could now break a detector down into three small parts and it could be easily carried in a backpack with my tool belt and earphones... Hey, I would even have room for my lunch!

Out the door I flew and I headed for an old cellar hole down the road. An hour and a half to test the ShadowX2 was all I could spare before I had to return home to finish a project deadline. The surrounding lawn around this house foundation was a favorite site because of its proximity to home and the many nice coins it produced over the years. Fact is, if I could find anything at all here, I would be grateful since previous trips produced little after many hours of hunting. Add to this, many friends joined me here on different hunts. How nice it was to reach into the trunk of my car, grab the detector, tools and headphones and be ready to hunt in about a minute flat! I set the discrimination level to "1-1/2", sensitivity to "8", plugged in the headphones and started swinging. It felt a little strange not going through the manual ground balance ritual and tweaking all of my other usual knobs. I was beginning to feel actually insecure without the hum of threshold tuning I have been accustomed to for so many years. The ground here normally balances out around 6-7 with a 0-10 control range on my usual detector. The ShadowX2 ran very quiet over this ground. So quiet, I had to check my ring over the searchcoil at different times during the hunt to see if the detector was still working! I headed for the back lawn of the foundation were the discards were most plentiful and concentrated. The little searchcoil breezed through the mowed hay effortlessly. My first signal was loud, sharp in edge-character and remained characteristically iron in all directions of sweep. It signaled with the coil nearly 1-1/2 feet above the ground. I enabled the "Coin Check" feature for reference and the signal went to a sharp "tick". I pinpointed the target with ease using the fast autotuned pinpoint mode. A plug was removed and down about 2" was a two-by-four inch long section of ornate cast iron stove wall. In old sites such as this, it is good practice to dig most signals at first to determine their conductive content. Older sites can have a variety of low-conductive coins such as nickel three-cent pieces, "V" nickels and highly oxidized Indian Head cents. Use the ShadowX2's "Coin Check" feature carefully if you do not wish to reject coins of this type.

My next signal in this spot was quick to respond with a loud, smooth edge-character sound of a coin. Coin Check was enabled and the signal went quiet. The pinpoint mode yielded a very soft, smooth, and fairly quiet signal. Down 5" lay an oxidized 1906 Indian Head cent. More sweeping and digging yielded two modern oxidized rifle shells that the Coin Check easily ignored at two inches deep. The next targets were small caliber lead pistol bullets which gave surprisingly good signals at the depth of about 4 and 5 inches respectively. A weaker signal was next that Coin Check also ignored, it turned out to be an early automotive tire valve cap. A stronger signal came next, but it had a double-beep audio in one direction; Coin Check rejected it. Five inches of dirt was removed to reveal what appeared to be a brass shotgun shell end. As I was brushing dirt away from the object, the center gave way and my find turned out to be an old gold-plated brass wedding ring with a wide band. Along the side of the man's sized band was a straight saw cut giving evidence that the ring may have had to be cut off the wearer's finger. This would account for the double signal. My next clear signal came from the depth of about six inches and was another heavily oxidized Indian Head cent dated 1878.

Various other targets gave their reports in the short time I gave myself to hunt that day. Some with a broken character whose signal was inconsistent. To these, I moved the searchcoil off to the side and "burned" the loop over the audio center. The signals disappeared. These targets were verified by digging and were small highly rusted iron objects and smaller stove fragments. This same test was also applied to the coin signals and the audio remained constant, even with the searchcoil at high speed sweep. My last signal of the day was fairly strong and loud, but it had a distinct breakup in one sweep direction. Under a four inch deep plug was a 19mm diameter brass button with a rusted tin back. The front of the button pictured a railroad locomotive with the motto, "S.O. & Co. N.Y."

Observations and Opinions...

What really impressed me greatly about the ShadowX2 was the searchcoil. This slim little 7" loop was lightweight (even with a coil cover) and packed more punch than some 10" loops I've used. Obviously, Tesoro's sensitive circuitry plays a large part here too. This loop is designed to have a larger detection pattern than most loops its size by the way the concentric windings are configured. Bigger loops are fine for even more depth, but they also put most of us into the "let's hunt forty acres in forty minutes" mode. Little loops force us back into hunting carefully again. Because of their size, they reduce excessive target masking when discrimination is used. The 7" searchcoil is a good compromise between the heavier 10" and the sometimes too small 4".

To some folks this may sound stupid, but having a detector that looks good and feels good actually contributes to the operator's mental outlook on the hunt. Constantly struggling with a too heavy, complicated and distracting detector can really take its toll on your ability to concentrate on your sweep and your surroundings. Troy's idea of an all black detector greatly reduced my distraction in the field, something I really like. I had the fun challenge of creating logos and panel decal graphics to complement this color scheme. Troy tells me most people can't walk by a display table without picking up the ShadowX2. That's a real compliment to a graphic designer!

You're probably thinking to yourself... Whoopie, two Indian Head pennies, an old ring, and a brass button. How can he judge a metal detector with only 1-1/2 hours in the field! The fact is, finding this much in a heavily worked area filled with iron objects and negative mineralization in that short of time is a big deal to me. It's not how much everything is worth at the local coin dealer anymore. I have been using metal detectors for thirty years now and if anything, I'm harder to be impressed. I find Tesoro's discrimination circuitry excellent in the field. If it completely rejected iron, you might miss some important low-conductive items when relic hunting. The discrimination circuit audio has the ability to sound smooth on higher conductive targets and abruptly sharp on large and small rusted iron targets. The ShadowX2's Coin Check feature would have its best advantage in park environments and competition hunts where modern trash is overly time consuming to verify by digging and where modern copper and silver coins would be the main objective. The best decision maker is still your digging tool though. I found the ShadowX2 very quiet over mineralized ground compared to many other motion discriminating detectors I've used in my area. Little, close to no falsing at all was experienced in my local soil.

I like the idea of control knobs that do not turn easily. This is a real plus to the deep woods coin and relic hunter. If the sensitivity and discrimination controls were easily misadjusted by contact with heavy brush, you would have no warning, especially with silent search tuning. The fast autotuned pinpoint mode is efficient for people who have trouble manually detuning larger signals. However, I would like to see a small switch to disable the autotune feature when defining extremely small targets. Care must be taken not to hover the searchcoil excessively over tiny targets. The possibility exists that they could be tuned out of audio range. The ShadowX2's simplicity is an asset to both the beginner and the experienced hunter alike. The rubber booted pushbutton switches are a nice touch. I can't tell you how many detectors I have had fail to change modes in the field because of dirt jamming unprotected mini-toggle switches. I do feel the speaker is a little unprotected in light rain though. The speaker is, however, made of waterproof Mylar. My only concern would be water leakage into the circuit area via the speaker grill. Personally, I would make a black tape cover for the speaker grill since I use headphones exclusively. But, it's a good idea to include a loudspeaker on a metal detector. One hiking trip miles into the woods and one branch that yanks your headphone cord into uselessness will support my claim quickly.

I really like the larger, more comfortable handgrip and the larger padded armcup. Comfort to me in the field is everything. The whole detector swings effortlessly. I even found the pole adjustment hole spacing compatible with my height and reach. At first, I didn't think I would like the headphone jack placement on the backside of the control housing. My headphones have a molded 90 degree jack and this worked out great. The headphone cable stayed out of the way of my hands and the control panel knobs. Checking target signals still in the hole was easy and didn't yank my headphones off. What really hit home was the fact that I was getting excellent depth and target separation in mineralized ground from a detector that was powered by only one 9-volt battery! The battery drops into the housing... No wires to fatique, break and stop your hunt. You could use rechargeables easily. Since the rating for one battery is 20+ hours, it would be no problem to keep extra batteries in your shirt pocket or tool belt and have backup power inexpensively for quite some time. Let's not forget the Tesoro Lifetime Warranty! The term of a warranty to me represents a company's confidence in its product and its commitment to the customer.

It's tough finding much wrong with a detector that is a breeze to handle in the field, runs on one battery, looks good, feels good and makes deep finds quickly in places where other detectors have already been. Regardless of my personal affiliation with Troy Custom Detectors and Tesoro, this is a detector of the type I will definitely be using for my own hunting now and in the future. I predict other companies and individuals will follow this winning combination. Remember, try before you buy and draw your own conclusions. It's another nice day today... I'm out of here!

Late News! I had another chance to slip away from work and hit another favorite cellar hole near home after writing the above. Within fifteen minutes, I dug a small sterling silver pendant heart, an antique gold-filled signet ring and a 1918 Lincoln cent. The first two finds were made very close to the foundation walls were square nails and bits of roof tin abound! I continue to be impressed by the ShadowX2.
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